AST-1 Classic (Whistler)

We offer the highest standard of Avalanche Skills training in Whistler, with a proven history since 1982. If you ski or snowboard in the Backcountry, join our expert Avalanche Educators for your AST-1 course this season! Designed specifically for the needs of skiers and boarders in Whistler, our AST-1 is updated to include learning through our Virtual Classroom combining engaging theory sessions in advance of 2-days of practical field-based learning in a backcountry environment. This combo allows us to deliver one of the best Avalanche Skills Training experiences available.

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Canada West Mountain School is an Authorized AST Provider

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2021-22 Season dates
Nov-April, every weekend plus many mid-week dates. Includes 2.5 hrs of self-directed online learning in advance of field sessions.

If the date you choose is unavailable, please contact our office for wait-list options. You can also set up a Custom Avalanche Course

Pre Requisites:
Must be comfortable skiing/riding blue runs. Intermediate skiing/riding ability. Please contact our office if you are unsure of your ability level. Ski Touring equipment; or, split-board and skins required. No previous avalanche training required.
Avi Kit (2 day)
Lift Access (1-day)
Lift Access (2-day)
  • AST-1 Classic Course - Whistler: $285. + GST
    Included in all Canada West Mountain School AST-1 Classic Whistler courses:

    • 2 days of practical, on-snow backcountry field instruction
    • 2.5 hrs of self-directed online learning through the Canada West Virtual Classroom
    • Avalanche Manual "Avalanche Skills Training Handbook"
    • Avaluator V.2 Manual and decision making card
    • Course student handouts and reference materials
    • AST-1 Certificate issued by Avalanche Canada
    • Access to our "On-Course" Avalanche Safety Gear rentals
    • Use of Snow Science kit (thermometer, screen, loupe, etc)
    • Ongoing free consultation services from Canada West Mountain School
    • 50% off future Avalanche Refresher courses with Canada West Mountain School

    Exclusive On-Course Avalanche Safety Equipment rentals available:
    Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe rentals are available through Canada West for $40. The Canada West "On-Course" Avi Kit rentals will be supplied directly to you on your course - there are no hassles with going to another shop to pick them up or drop them off before the course! Rentals must be booked at the time of AST Course Registration, add "Avi Kit" when registering. CWMS On-Course Avi Kit Rentals include Mammut Barryvox Transceiver, G3 Shovel, and G3 Probe for both days of your course.

    Lift Acces on Whistler/Blackcomb:
    All participants require lift access for Whistler/Blackcomb for both days. Lift access or reservations are not included in the course fee. If you have a Whistler/Blackcomb Pass (Epic, Season, Edge, etc.) you are responsible for reserving your days as soon as possible.

    If you do not have a Pass or cannot secure a reservation, Canada West Mountain School can supply a Backcountry Pass for $59/day (select Lift Pass option when booking), this does not require an advance reservation

    If you have your own pass but cannot secure a reservation, we suggest you continue to try reserving a day through your own pass if you have one, as Vail is constantly updating the inventory available for each day and you may still be able to get a reservation. If not, our Guide will have extra Backcountry passes available for you on the morning of the tour, so you can continue trying to make a reservation up until the last minute.

    NOTE on weather and snow conditions:
    The AST-1 Classic Whistler course Practical Field days will be conducted in all winter weather conditions. If the Lifts from the valley are closed due to any reason outside of our control on the practical field days, CWMS may re-schedule the Alpine Backcountry training portion.

    Please click here for our Refund Policy

  • Intermediate skiing/riding skills and above are required. The AST-1 Whistler field days are conducted in the backcountry regions adjacent to the Blackcomb or Whistler ski area. Students must be very comfortable skiing/riding in control on Blue runs in ungroomed conditions.

    While you will not be travelling on steep or technical terrain on this course, you will be skiing/riding on un-groomed, off-trail slopes. If you are unsure if this course may be too challenging for you, please contact our office directly.

    Previous backcountry skiing experience is not required, though students should be comfortable skiing/riding in ungroomed, powder or challenging snow conditions.

  • Canada West Mountain School has been offering avalanche skills training courses since 1982 - our 2021/22 season Whistler AST-1 Classic is built on more than 35 years of experience conducting Avalanche Skills safety training to the highest standard possible. For the 2020/21 season, we have incorporated an online learning module through our Virtual Classroom, allowing for greater flexibility and improved learning options, as well as to minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

    Our AST-1 Classic Whistler course now has 2 full days of on-snow, practical training in the backcountry! We recognize the added challenges that Covid-19 presents to learning avalanche skills and the best learning experience we can provide will be during 2 days of on-snow training.

    The Whistler AST-1 Classic course focuses on teaching practical methods of understanding, recognizing, and avoiding avalanche hazards, including terrain evaluation, effective decision making, group management, safe route finding, snowpack structure, weather, and avalanche rescue techniques.

    The AST-1 format includes:
    • 7 hours of theory, split between Virtual Online learning and in-person sessions
    • 2 days of practical, on-snow fieldwork

    2 Manuals are included in the course (the "Avalanche Skills Training Handbook" and the "Avaluator V.2" decision making guide) and form an integral part of the learning. Our AST-1 course content and materials have been developed and refined over the past 35 years and are based on the nationally-recognized AST-1 curriculum developed by Avalanche Canada.

    Theory topics include:
    • avalanche hazard recognition
    • avalanche terminology
    • decision making and human factors
    • avalanche mechanics
    • mountain weather
    • snowpack structure
    • basic terrain evaluation
    • equipment requirements
    • introduction to Avalanche Companion Rescue

    The initial theory sessions also will prepare you for the 2 days of practical field sessions, to ensure that your time in the field is used most efficiently.

    Skills and topics covered on the practical field training include:
    • terrain evaluation
    • mountain hazard assessment
    • group management
    • effective decision making in Avalanche Terrain
    • safe route finding techniques
    • snowpack analysis
    • snow testing techniques
    • transceiver searches
    • rescue fundamentals

  • The Avalanche Safety Training (AST-1) Course practical field sessions are based in Whistler, BC.

    Both days of the Practical on-snow field training is held in the Alpine backcountry of the Whistler/Blackcomb ski areas. Specific locations, meeting places, and times will be arranged during the online class sessions. Lift access is required for the on-snow training sessions.

    Our newly developed Canada West Mountain School Virtual Classroom is set up to deliver the content in an engaging and interactive style, and are delivered through a series of Online and Virtual lessons, spread out over a few short sessions in advance of the 2 days of practical field sessions.

    You will receive a detailed package with instructions on locations, logistics, and how to access the course content, as well as the date and time blocks that you can schedule yourself into.

  • All Instructors on our Avalanche courses are Active or Professional Members of the CAA (Canadian Avalanche Association) and hold Level I or Level II Professional Certification with the CAA. Additionally, Canada West Mountain School staff are dedicated educators who are experienced in teaching these skills and conducting well run, professional courses.

    All CWMS staff also attend regular Industry training and have advanced 1st aid training, and many of the Instructors in our Avalanche Training program are also professional Guides certified through the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides).

    Visit Guides and Instructors Page for complete details and background on each of our Guide Team.

    The first portion of the AST-1 course covers the theory required to develop the foundation of Avalanche Safety skills. Due to Covid-19 precautions, our Virtual Classes are set up to deliver the content in an engaging and interactive style and are delivered through a series of Online and Virtual lessons in advance of the practical field portions.

    You will learn the theoretical foundation for AST-1 online, through self-paced learning without joining in a physical classroom with other students. Learning through our Virtual Classroom in a self-paced manner requires about 2-3 hours of your time prior to the field sessions. There may also be a 1-hour virtual Zoom class meeting on a mid-week evening before Weekend courses. When you sign in for the Virtual Classroom, Pre-trip planning details will be available indicating if an optional Zoom session is included. Otherwise, the material will be covered by online segments, email, and phone as needed.

    You will receive instructions on how to access the course content after you have registered for your AST-1 course. We are committed to providing the highest degree of online learning experience and flexibility; we welcome and encourage your ongoing feedback as we embark on this new adventure in learning with Canada West!


    We feel strongly that the practical, on-snow field training is the most important part of your Avalanche Skills Training and have also decided to conduct the weekend course as 2 practical field days for the remainder of the 2020-21 season! This means that you will gain much more time in the field learning, practicing, and applying your Avalanche Safety skills. The most important and valuable learning opportunities for any AST-1 course are the field-based sessions and we are pleased to be able to offer 2 days of on-snow training to our students this winter on our AST-1 Classic courses.

    The On-Snow field sessions will start at 08:00 on the first day of the training, with a morning meeting to discuss the weather, snowpack, and objectives of the group. The practical training sessions are full days of "hands-on" practical learning in the field working on snowpack, terrain, travel, and rescue skills. This on-snow practical field days will take place fully in the backcountry regions of Garibaldi Provincial Park, adjacent to Whistler/Blackcomb ski areas. All students must be fully prepared for a day of backcountry touring on skis or split boards.

    Day-2 meeting logistics will be discussed and finalized on the first day of training.

    The specific meeting locations and logistics details may vary from one course date to another, please ensure you confirm the correct location for your course date!

    Students are responsible for getting to and from the course areas. During the class theory sessions in advance of the field training, you will discuss and plan the logistics for the specific meeting points and times for the Practical Field session of your course, though typically the field session will start with an 8:00 am meeting in Whistler Village, or at the base fo Blackcomb.

    Students are reminded to plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early to the course sessions, to allow for traffic delays, poor road conditions, parking, etc. The Practical Field sessions will start promptly at the times indicated - latecomers will risk missing the field sessions as once the group has departed there are no options to join them in the field at a later time.

    Virtual Class theory sessions provide an overview of the course and cover the following topics:

    • avalanche hazard recognition
    • avalanche terminology
    • avalanche mechanics
    • mountain weather
    • snowpack structure
    • basic terrain evaluation
    • Weather observations

    The Practical Field sessions will be spent in the backcountry regions of Garibaldi Provincial Park, where you will have maximum time to focus on learning and practicing skills, including:

    • terrain evaluation
    • mountain hazard assessment
    • safe route finding techniques
    • snowpack analysis
    • snow testing techniques
    • transceiver searches
    • rescue review and practice

    The final wrap up is an important aspect of Canada West Mountain School Avalanche Skills Training courses, as this allows students an opportunity to "put all the pieces together" after the field sessions have finished. At the end of your course, you are encouraged to discuss with your instructor the content that has been covered, and to have the instructor assess your level of knowledge - we would prefer that you know your abilities now, rather than find out the hard way, later!

  • Avalanche Skills Course Gear List - Canada West Mountain School Avalanche Course Gear List

    Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe are required for each person for both days of the course. Canada West Mountain School maintains the largest rental inventory of avalanche safety equipment exclusively for our students. Our "On-Course" Avi Kit Rentals include a Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe for both days of your course.

    Our exclusive On-Course Avalanche Safety Equipment rental program is available for $40. The Canada West "On-Course" Avi Kit rentals will be supplied directly to you on your course - there are no hassles with going to another shop to pick them up or drop them off! Rentals must be booked at the time of AST Course Registration, add "Avi Kit" when registering as they are often booked out by the time the course runs.

    Additionally, everyone needs to be fully prepared for full days out in any/all winter conditions, the course will be conducted in all weather. Please review the Canada West Mountain School Avalanche Skills Course Gear List well before the course start date.

    Proper backcountry touring skis, bindings and climbing skins are required for all practical on-snow field sessions; or, a split-board and climbing skins. Please contact our office in advance if you have any questions or concerns about your gear.

  • Questions about Avalanche Skills 1 (AST-1) course

    Do I need to bring special gear?

    What happens if the weather is not good?

    Where are the Whistler AST-1 courses conducted?

    How long are the days?