Avalanches are the greatest hazard facing the winter backcountry traveller. To fully enjoy the backcountry it’s crucial to be able to understand avalanche phenomena, recognize the terrain where avalanches occur and find routes that minimize risk.
If you’re a serious backcountry skier, snowshoer or winter mountaineer wishing to build a solid knowledge base to safely expand your backcountry horizons then this is the course for you. It will be a valuable investment in your mountain safety and significantly increase your avalanche knowledge.
This is a hands-on program featuring extensive practical field experience augmented with one day of classroom theory. The curriculum is designed to give a solid grounding in the essentials and is based on the requirements set out by Avalanche Canada. Your instructors are guides seasoned in touring, heliskiing and forecasting. This program is suitable for those who have taken the AST 1 program in the past, or for experienced backcountry skiers looking to expand their skills.
For snowshoers, new this year, we are offering a Snowshoe Only Avalanche Skills Training level 2 based out of Canmore.
For advanced skiers, we also offer this four-day program in Rogers Pass. This is one of the most exciting backcountry ski locations in Western Canada and is a great spot to learn how to evaluate avalanche conditions to keep safe in steeper terrain.
We also offer an AST 2 based out of Purcell Lodge. This location will have you fully immersed in the backcountry experience by flying you to a remote setting and luxurious lodge.
Day 1: (At the Yamnuska Office in Canmore)
- Introductions, goals and objectives, agenda
Review of AST1 program
- Avalanche phenomena, formation and characteristics of avalanches
- Avalanche Terrain Recognition, introduction to the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale
- Changes in mountain snowpack, snow metamorphism
- Accessing and utilizing the Avalanche Danger Scale and Public Avalanche Bulletins
- Using the Avaluator TM
12:00 pm – Lunch Break
- Safe travel and trip planning
- Review of Companion Rescue: A methodical approach
- Avalanche and backcountry safety gear
- Gear check
- Transceiver review
- Logistics for the Field Days
4:30 pm – Class Ends
Days Two, Three and Four
Each morning will start with trip planning, accessing and discussing the Public Avalanche Bulletin and weather updating. You will be using Yamnuska’s Daily Avalanche Hazard Evaluation© form to assess the conditions and risks for the day.
Program days will be spent in the backcountry on a tour designed for decision making. You will be in real avalanche terrain appropriate for the conditions, suited to group ability and the Avalanche Danger forecast for that day. Days are typically six to seven hours in the field.
Subject matter covered:
- Proper backcountry travel preparation in avalanche terrain
- Use of avalanche ‘danger scale’ and other information gathered by professionals
- Use of the Avalauator 2 TM
- Group management and safety in the backcountry
- Avalanche terrain recognition
- Route finding in avalanche terrain
- Decision making in avalanche terrain
- Snow profiles and stability tests such as the Compression Test and Rutsch Block
- Weather, snowpack and avalanche activity observations
- Snow stability analysis
- Companion Rescue and group rescue skills including avalanche transceiver use, single burials and multiple burials, shovelling and probing techniques
Note: Agenda may vary with field conditions and group abilities
NOTE ON RISK: The course takes place in the backcountry in a winter environment. Conditions can be harsh and you need to be adequately dressed to enhance your comfort and learning. During the day we will be travelling through avalanche terrain, however, we do limit our exposure to avalanches so that we can operate in the program area no matter what the avalanche danger is for that given day. This can be a physically demanding course. Learning will be greatly enhanced if you are a comfortable rider or skier in all snow conditions. All of our guides/instructors carry first aid kits and emergency communication.
Instructors and Group Size
Yamnuska AST2 instructors are ACMG guides and professional members of the Canadian Avalanche Association. They are true practitioners with years of experience in the backcountry, practicing what they preach. We have been instrumental in the curriculum development of the AST2 course and are proud sponsors of the Avalanche Canada.
On field days there is a maximum of 8 participants per instructor.
Canmore courses begin at 8:30 AM at our office in Canmore (Map). Our office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore, Alberta.
Day one will be mostly in the classroom with the possibility of going out in the afternoon for transceiver practice.
The next three days will be in various backcountry locations ranging from Kananaskis Country to locations along the Banff/Jasper Highway as far north as the Bow Summit area. Locations are dependant upon snow conditions.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore and for themselves and guides on the field days. Canmore is a 1 hour (100km) drive west from Calgary.
If you are flying from afar for the program we suggest that you rent a car for your visit. In addition to getting you to the program locations, it will allow you to explore our region a bit after program hours. For example, you can visit Banff and enjoy the hot pools and sample the numerous restaurants.
Accommodation and Meals
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff, including campsites, hostels, all levels of hotels as well as condo style accommodation with kitchens or suites. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly.
Yamnuska guests receive exclusive rates with Clique Hotels & resorts upon booking an adventure with either Yamnuska Mountain Adventures or Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska. (Please note that some rates are non-refundable)
Food is not supplied. On the classroom day, we will take a one hour break for lunch as well as several smaller breaks. Coffee, tea and water are available free of charge at our office. We have a microwave oven that students can use to reheat lunches.
On the field day, it is important to have lots of snack type high energy foods as well as at least one to two litres of fluid. We highly recommend bringing a Thermos type container for a hot drink. Due to the nature of the environment and winter temperatures we will often ‘snack’ along the way and often do not take an extended break for lunch.
Equipment and Clothing
Yamnuska supplies classroom materials, course manual (Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain), Companion Rescue Card and an Avaluator™. On the field days Yamnuska will supply, upon request, avalanche transceiver with batteries, avalanche probe and avalanche shovel. We also supply group snow study kits and snow saw. You will need to bring:
Skis or Split Board
There are two ski systems you can use: System 1 ‘Alpine Touring’ skis are essentially ‘downhill skis’ with a special touring binding which allows the heel to lift whilst going uphill or across the flats and then ‘locks down’ to become a regular downhill safety binding. We recommend this system to anyone with a background of downhill skiing who is not already an advanced telemark skier. System 2 ‘Telemark’ skis. These should only be used for this program if you are at least an advanced-intermediate telemark skier with some backcountry experience.
Snow Boards can be used in this program. If ‘boarding’ you need to be an advanced boarder and you must use a ‘split’ board. A snowboard and snowshoe combination is NOT acceptable on our regular AST 2 programs. However, we now offer an AST 2 for snowshoers only. Please don’t bring a board if you’ve never boarded in the backcountry before. Poles are essential for boarders.
- Skis / Boards: if skis, either ‘Alpine Touring’ or Telemark. We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder.
- Snowshoes (for snowshoe departure only)
- Boots: appropriate for your mode of snow travel.
- Ski poles (even if on snowshoes)
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’ (only required if using skis or split boards)
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment, 30L minimum recommended)
- Avalanche transceiver (dual or triple antennae, digital type only. If you do not have a transceiver or have an analogue type, we will loan you a digital transceiver on request).
- Shovel (collapsible avalanche shovel, loaners available on request).
- Avalanche probe (loaners available on request).
- Sunglasses and/or ski goggles
- Thermos flask and/or water bottle (1 – 2 Liters)
- Pocket knife
- Small Blister and Personal 1st-Aid Kit
- Helmet (recommended)
- Compass with clinometer
- Snow thermometer
Yamnuska supplies but feel free to bring if you have:
- Snow saw
- Snow Study Kit
On the field days, there can be prolonged periods of inactivity in very cold temperatures. Don’t be afraid to bring extra layers. We suggest bringing light clothing of varying thicknesses that can be ‘layered’ to achieve comfort and versatility. The most important consideration for clothing is the ability to regulate temperature as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest. We discourage cotton clothing as it causes rapid heat loss when wet.
- Synthetic or synthetic/wool blend underwear (top and bottom)
- Warm pants (softshell, insulated or fleece)
- Warm shirt (not cotton)
- Sweater or Fleece Jacket
- Insulated jacket or vest
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or nylon)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or nylon)
- Socks (wool outer, synthetic blend liner)
- Wool or fleece hat
- Warm gloves and light glove liner
- Gaiters, only needed if your ski pants are not elasticized at the ankle
Skis, Boots, Boards, Skins & Poles can be rented from:
- Calgary: Mountain Equipment Co-op. – 830-10 Ave. S.W. Calgary (Tel: 403 269-2420)
- Canmore: Gear Up – 1302 Bow Valley Trail (403 678-1636)
Please call our office if you have any questions.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require full payment on registration. Our AST 2 courses are very popular. Many people book the AST 1 and AST 2 at the same time.
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident while here. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for a rescue so long as you have a valid National Park Entry Pass which you can obtain on entry to Banff National Park (cost $9).
Please familiarize yourself with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travellers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the national and provincial parks, however, costs such as air or ground transportation, long term care and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries and other unplanned events. For these eventualities, the Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure’s trip.
*January 4th course is run over two consecutive weekends: January 4-5 and January 11-12, 2020
*February 21st course is run over two consecutive weekends: February 1-2 and February 8-9, 2020
$645 CDN includes 4 days of instruction, books and use of safety and snow study equipment. An AST 2 certificate will be issued on successful completion.*
*To be eligible for the AST 2 certificate participants must first have taken the AST 1 course through an Avalanche Canada AST recognized provider. Yamnuska offers the AST 1 course on most weekends throughout the winter months. Please contact our office if you have any questions.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
Guests should be intermediate/advanced downhill skiers or split boarders and should have had backcountry skiing/riding experience before the course. ‘Intermediate/advanced’ means that you are comfortable making parallel turns on ungroomed blue terrain at a ski hill and that you have the ski skills to deal safely with ungroomed black diamond terrain (you can stop, turn around and then traverse out of areas you can’t handle). This should not be your first backcountry skiing trip and you will need to be efficient in using your ski touring or split boarding equipment. In the Yamnuska context, a minimum would be prior participation on our Intro to Backcountry Skiing, Wapta Traverse, or Intro to Ski Mountaineering trips with additional personal days of touring totalling approximately 5-7 days.
You also need to be in good aerobic shape, as you will have to ‘skin’ up everything you ski down. On the field days, you should expect full days of touring from 7-10km return and 300-500m of elevation gain. This will be with a daypack containing your lunch, water, avalanche gear, and spare clothing. We also offer this program based out of Rogers Pass, British Columbia. See here for details.
For the Snowshoe only Program: You need to be in good aerobic shape, and able to snowshoe up steeper, gladed terrain. On the field days, you should expect full days of touring from 5-10km return and 300-500m of elevation gain. This will be with a daypack containing your lunch, water, avalanche gear, and spare clothing. We also offer this program based out of Rogers Pass, and Purcell Lodge– British Columbia.
Previous avalanche training is not required, however, to receive your AST 2 certificate you must have taken an AST 1 with Yamnuska or another approved provider in the past.