The Alpine Club of Canada

Avalanche Skills Training Level 1

Learn Backcountry Avalanche Safety Essentials from an Expert

Winter backcountry travel is exploding in popularity. More people than ever before are taking their skiing outside of resort boundaries. But lacking education and awareness of avalanche hazard can prove fatal for you or for your partners. Completing an AST1 course is now almost considered a mandatory requirement before venturing into the backcountry. 

Our 2-day course provides a thorough introduction to avalanche basics and a framework with which to make decisions in the field. We cover the standard curriculum (as outlined by Avalanche Canada). By the end of this course you will know how to identify avalanche terrain, complete an avalanche rescue and how to read the avalanche bulletin so you can start planning your own backcountry adventures.

Instead of a classroom day, this winter we will be doing it  through two evening, online sessions during the week before your course. You can choose to do your field day on either the following Saturday or Sunday. This means that you still get a day off while doing the classroom portion at a more convenient time! Click the “Register Now” button to see more details on when the online portions are being offered. 

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Online Evening Classroom Sessions

Field Days:


Price: $279 + TAX

Before registering, please review our Waivers and Liability page.


Please try to register online before calling. If you are having issues please try to have your emergency contact information and course questionnaire filled out before calling.

OR Call: (403)-678-3200 ext 213

Backcountry Skiing Hazards

  • Avalanche
      • Avalanches can occur in the terrain you will be entering. Caused by natural forces, or by people travelling through the terrain  

    What are the risks

      • Anyone caught in a avalanche is at risk of personal injury, death, and or property damage or loss

    Hazard Mitigation

    • Our ACMG certified guides have experience and training to manage this risk
    • Daily risk assessment processes
    • Guest training
  • Terrain
      • Cornices
      • Crevasses
      • Trees, tree wells, and tree stumps
      • Cliffs
      • Creeks
      • Rocks and Boulders
      • Variable and difficult snow conditions
      • Impact or collision with other persons or objects
      • Encounters with domestic or wild animals
      • Loss of balance or control
      • Becoming lost or separated from the group
      • Slips, trips, and falls

    Hazard Mitigation

    • Our ACMG certified guides have experience and training to manage this risk
    • Radios and/or other communication devices
  • Boots and Binding systems
    • Even when set up correctly, a ski binding might not release during every fall or may release unexpectedly. The ski boot/binding system is no guarantee that the skier will not be injured. Non-DIN-certified bindings, such as pin/tech bindings, present a higher risk of pre-release and/or injury as they are not designed to the same safety standards as a DIN-certified alpine binding.
    • Unlike alpine ski boot/binding systems, snowboard and some telemark boot/binding systems are not designed or intended to release and will not release under normal circumstances. Using such a system increases the risk of injury and/or death when caught in an avalanche.
  • Communication, rescue, and medical treatment
      • Communication can be difficult and in the event of an accident rescue and treatment may not be available
      • Adverse weather may also delay the arrival of treatment or transportation out of the field,
      • Alpine weather conditions can be extreme and change rapidly without warning making travel by helicopter, snowmobile, snowcat, dangerous
      • If an injury occurs in challenging terrain movement to an evacuation point may be slow

    Hazard Mitigation

    • Your guide is trained in both backcountry first-aid and rescue techniques
    • Emergency response plans
    • Satellite communication tools
  • Other
      • Slips trips and falls indoor or outdoor
      • Infectious disease contracted via direct or indirect contact, including but not limited to influenza or Covid-19
      • Equipment failure
      • Negligence of other persons, including other guests
      • Negligence of the guide Including failure to to take reasonable steps to safeguard or protect you from or warn you of risk, dangers, hazards, oh participating in ACC activities

    Hazard Mitigation

    • Your guide is trained in both backcountry first-aid and rescue techniques
    • Satellite communication tools

The ultimate goal of our avalanche training program is for you to make it home safely at the end of your future winter excursions. Our AST1 course lays the foundations of travelling through avalanche terrain by focusing on the following topics:

  • Introductory snow science
  • Avalanche formation and release
  • Identifying avalanche terrain
  • Basics of trip planning
  • Optimal use of tools and resources, like avalanche forecasts, to mitigate your avalanche risk
  • Use of appropriate travel techniques in avalanche terrain
  • Introduction to companion rescue

Unlike some providers, we like to take our AST courses into the field where conditions offer the best learning experience. As well as to the ever-popular Bow Summit, this course could also see you doing your field day in various destinations in Kananaskis. At the end of the course you will receive an Avalanche Canada certificate signed off by your instructor. This is a formal recognition of your training.

  • *NOTE: You do not need your avalanche gear for the zoom sessions

    Evening 1:
    Participants meet online at 6:00 pm MST via a zoom link sent out 1-2 weeks before course starts. Sessions will end around 9:00 pm MST. Curriculum topics which will be covered this day include:
    • Introductions, course goals, agenda
    • Understanding avalanches: Formation and characteristics
    • Avalanche terrain recognition
    • Introduction to the ATES (Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale)
    • Changes in the mountain snowpack (i.e. snow metamorphism)
    Evening 2:
    Participants meet online 6:00 pm MST. Sessions will end around 9:00 pm MST. Curriculum topics which will be covered this day include:
    • Assessing and reducing risk
    • Accessing public avalanche bulletins
    • Using the AVALUATOR
    • Safe travel choices and proper route planning
    • Companion rescue techniques
    • Discuss program for Day 3 in the field
    Day 2
    Meet at the Black Prince parking lot in Kananaskis at 9:00 am MST. Today you will be making real-life observations and gaining hands-on experience. Curriculum topics which will be covered on this day include:
    • Meet at the parking area, sign waivers
    • Field observations
    • Companion rescue techniques and practice
    • Managing risk in avalanche terrain
    • Route selection, track setting and terrain related hazard
    • Snow profiles and stability tests
    • Companion rescue scenario
    • 4:30 pm – Course debrief, presentation of certificates

    Our field day will see a maximum participant-to-guide ratio of 6:1 to make for the best possible learning experience!

Entry Level

The Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 Course is open to everyone with an interest in learning to be safer in the winter backcountry. Don’t own your own ski or avalanche equipment yet? No problem, it’s totally okay to take the course with rented snow shoes and beacon/probe/shovel (ACC members get a 10% discount on rentals at Gear Up in Canmore!)


To keep the cost of this camp as low as possible for you, food is not provided on this camp. Be sure to bring along a packed lunch and your favourite snack to fuel the field day!


Accommodation is not included in this course. 


We have a dedicated team of instructors (below) who are excited to provide you with knowledge to start of your backcountry experiences safely. We want to provide the best possible learning experience and give you maximum opportunity to ask questions. So for our field day on Day 3, we bring in an extra guide/instructor where necessary to keep participant-to-guide ratios below a maximum of 6:1. 

The ACC hires guides certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). Visit the ACMG website to learn more about what they do!


If you don’t have everything on the gear list and aren’t ready to invest in your own, there are many awesome local businesses that rent out all of the equipment you will need.  Be sure to reserve your rentals ahead of time to make sure everything you need is available for you when you need it.

  • Coming from the Bow Valley? Check out GearUp in Canmore. ACC members get 10% off all gear rentals!
  • Coming from Calgary? We recommend renting your gear from MEC, the University of Calgary Outdoors Center, or the Norseman.
  • Coming from the Revelstoke? Give Revelstoke Powder Rentals a try.

Doug Latimer

Doug has 20+ years of guiding experience behind him as an ACMG ski guide and an ACMG apprentice rock guide. As well as his private guiding he has spent a number of years working for the UoC where he taught a range of instructional programs in avalanche training, crevasse rescue and backcountry ski and ski mountaineering. He also somehow finds time to run a multimedia production company! On top of all that, we are lucky to have Doug as our lead winter guide, where he shares his fantastic enthusiasm and extensive knowledge throughout our winter programs.

Doug Latimer

Black Prince is commonly used as the AST 1 field day location. To find the trailhead, search in Google Maps on your phone For Black Prince Cirque Trail or follow the directions below.

  • Follow Trans Canada Hwy (1) West from Calgary. Continue for about 40min from COP
  • Turn South at Hwy 40 (at the casino, to Kananaskis Country, Nakiska ski area). Continue for about 40 minutes
  • Turn West at Kananaskis Lakes Trail (742) Hwy 40 is closed beyond this point
  • Stay on 742, the name will change to Smith Dorian Trail. The road will curve North. The Smith Dorian Trail becomes a gravel road. Continue for about 15 minutes
  • Turn West at the small sign for Black Prince Trailhead.

We sell Tugo® Travel Insurance suitable for both ACC Adventures and personal trips:


  • 2 days instruction by ACMG certified ski guides 
  • Audio-visual avalanche presentation created by Doug Latimer
  • Avalanche Canada course materials including textbook
  • Avalanche Canada course Certificate
  • online evening sessions


  • Transportation to and from the field location on day 3
  • Accommodation
  • Meals and lunches
  • Personal gear (see gear list)


  • Local Knowledge – based out of Canmore, AB, we know the Rockies region and the best local caterers, guides and porters
  • Dedicated resources – full-time office staff, ACMG guides and group equipment on-hand to ensure your trip runs smoothly
  • Not-for-profit – any money we make on camps and courses is reinvested into providing services for our members and the mountain community