AST-1 (Whistler)

We have been conducting the highest quality Avalanche Skills Training courses for over 40 years and we continue offering the most innovative and cutting edge AST courses in the Whistler, Sea to Sky and North Shore Mountain regions! Our AST-1 Whistler course includes 2 full field days in the alpine to give you the most time practicing outdoors, not in a classroom.  Designed specifically for the needs of skiers and boarders in Whistler, our AST-1 also includes 3-hours of engaging self-paced training in the Canada West Virtual Classroom before your 2-days in the backcountry. This combo allows us to deliver the best Avalanche Skills Training experience available!

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Canada West Mountain School is an Authorized AST Provider

2024-25 Season dates
Nov-April, every weekend plus many mid-week dates. Includes 3 hrs of mandatory 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 (2-day)
  • AST-1 Classic Course - Whistler: $295. + GST
    Included in all Canada West Mountain School AST-1 Classic Whistler courses:

    • 2 days of practical, on-snow backcountry field instruction
    • BONUS DAY - all students on Canada West Mountain School AST-1 courses are eligible to join on a FREE AST Refresher course during March and April. Details to be posted.
    • 3 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
    • 15% off AST-2 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 Access on Whistler/Blackcomb:
    Lift access for Whistler/Blackcomb is required for both days and is not included in the course fee. Students can use their own season pass or any other lift pass they have. If students do not have a lift pass already, Canada West Mountain School can supply a Backcountry Pass, just select the Add Lift Pass option when booking.

    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 to another date or another location.

    Please click here for our Refund Policy

  • AST Classic Whistler courses are held every weekend (except Christmas and the New Year weekends), plus some mid-week dates.

    Please note that alpine field days are pending access via Whistler/Blackcomb lifts in order to access the backcountry. In the event that Whistler/Blackcomb lifts are not operating due to early-season closures or other reasons, the field portions of the AST-1 course will be held in an alternate location, and/or postponed.

  • 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 and harder, 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 2023-24 season Whistler AST-1 Classic is built on 40 years of experience conducting Avalanche Skills safety training to the highest standard possible. All Canada West Mountain School AST courses include self-paced online learning modules through our unique, customized Virtual Classroom, allowing for greater flexibility and improved learning options.

    Our AST-1 Classic Whistler course has 2 full days of on-snow, practical training in the backcountry! We recognize the best learning experience we can provide is to conduct 2 days of on-snow training in the field where you will get the most out of your AST-1 course.

    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 training combining outdoor practice, and on-snow field work in the backcountry

      2 Manuals are included in the course and are an integral part of the course content:
    • the "Avalanche Skills Training Handbook"
    • the "Avaluator V.2" decision making guide"

    Our AST-1 course content and materials have been developed and refined over the past 40 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 mandatory online Virtual Classroom theory sessions will prepare you for the 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.

  • Virtual classroom
    Before your AST-1 course dates, you will complete the self-paced online AST theory materials in our Virtual Classroom. This portion of the AST-1 course helps you develop the foundation of Avalanche Safety skills needed for the 2 field days.

    The Online Course in our Virtual Classroom requires about 3 hours of your time prior to the 2-day course dates. Our Virtual Classes are set up to deliver the content in an engaging and interactive style and are delivered through a series of Online Virtual lessons in advance of the in-person classes and practical field sessions.

    Course planning details and logistics are also found in the Virtual Classroom as well. The course planning and logistics details will be covered by online segments, email, and phone as needed.

    You will receive instructions on how to register and access the Virtual Classroom online course content after you have registered for your AST course.


    We feel strongly that the practical, on-snow field training is the most important part of your Avalanche Skills Training and conduct the weekend course as 2 practical field days! 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 our Whistler 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 near the base of the ski lifts in Whistler 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-1 and Day-2 meeting logistics will be discussed and finalized in advance by email and phone, and are also included in the Virtual Classroom.

    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 of 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.

    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
    Review this list and ensure you are prepared for any winter conditions - Canada West Mountain School Avalanche Course Gear List. Everyone needs to be fully prepared for any/all winter conditions, the course will be conducted in all weather including low temperatures, high winds, and rain/snow. Please review the Canada West Mountain School Avalanche Skills Course Gear List well before the course start date.

    Backcountry Touring gear
    Proper backcountry touring skis, bindings, and climbing skins are required for all practical on-snow field sessions; or, a split-board and climbing skins. Snowshoes are not allowed on Whistler courses; if you plan on using snowshoes and carrying a snowboard you must contact the CWMS office in advance.

    Avalanche Safety Gear and Rentals
    A Transceiver (digital 3-antennae model), Avalanche shovel, and Avalanche probe are required for each person. Please review your transceiver operating instructions before arriving on your course, and double-check battery strength. Everyone should arrive with their transceiver already strapped on (underneath all outer layers of clothing).

    If you require Avalanche Safety Gear, Canada West Mountain School maintains a large rental inventory of avalanche safety equipment exclusively for our students. Our "On-Course" Avi Kit Rentals are only $40 for a 2-day AST course and include a Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe for both days of your course. 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! Please book your rentals at the time of AST Course Registration, add "Avi Kit" when registering as they are often booked out by the time the course runs.

    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?