AST 1 - Certificate Course

Avalanche Skills Training – Level 1 (AST 1)
The AST 1 course follows a curriculum developed by Avalanche Canada . Instructional materials & lesson plans are developed by Avalanche Canada.
Click here to go the for more information.

The AST1 (16hr) class is recommended as the MINIMUM that any backcountry recreationalist should have.

The AST is an excellent introduction to avalanche terrain recognition skills, snowpack theory, rescue skills and overall risk management. The classroom component includes lecture, PowerPoint, videos, displays, demonstrations, and group exercises.

Because the class structure is highly interactive the participants gather more value out of the class sessions than on-line programs and books. The Zac’s Tracs course structure invites serious participation by the students. Maximum learning results from listening to the experiences of other participants, their interpretations of the material, and group discussions that result from questions posed by your peers.
Participation is the key to learning in our classes.
There are no mistakes…only learning opportunities!


Classroom Exercises

  • require 8.5 hours and can be completed over a full day or two 4-hour evening sessions.


  • 4 persistent weak layers and what you can do to avoid them
  • why all hoars are bad, even the pretty ones ;-)
  • why your long time local knowledge of a riding area isn’t always enough to keep you safe
  • your snowmobile can be a tool or it can be a weapon. Learn to use its power to your advantage
  • key webpages that should be accessed before each riding day
  • FREE sources to gather and build your avy knowledge and experience
  • why the blueprint changes season to season, even from day to day. What is this year’s blueprint?
  • why rocks and trees are like icebergs
  • eight killer terrain features
  • the 5 most important questions to ask when organizing a rescue
  • how to properly use an avalanche probe (no, I will not be quoting Cartman from Southpark but what I show you will probably surprise you)
  • who in your riding group is an asset and who is a liability
  • key benefits and limitations of beacons, probes, shovels, and airbags. Features you should look for in your friend’s gear. (Afterall, the gear that your friends carry is to SAVE YOUR LIFE. Make sure it is the best stuff!)
  • and of course, how to use that transceiver hanging around your neck.

Following the classroom, students provide their own snowmobile to participate in ~nine hours of hands-on field exercises. (8:30am – 5:30pm weather permitting)
This is very important. Proper terrain travel habits are the key to managing the risks in avalanche areas. Habits are hard to break but by actually practicing the appropriate travel techniques (rather than just attending a lecture on them) the odds are better that safer riding styles will be adopted.

All transceivers have unique features and limitations. Learn the tips and tricks related to your unit. You aren’t just trying to locate a target, you are trying to save someone’s life. Minutes and even seconds count. Why not be prepared. ‘If only I had…’ That would be a terrible feeling to live with….

Field Exercises include:

  • Single and multiple beacon searches using analog and digital technology
  • Pieps, Barryvox/Mammut, BCA/Tracker, Ortovox, and Arva avalanche gear and SEAR snow study equipment are available for student use and demo. Test and compare before you buy.
  • Act as a searcher and a witness during timed mock rescues
  • Practice rescues using life size dummies and probe targets
  • Learn how to keep your group safe while trail riding or hill climbing
  • Review the AVALUATOR and Public Avalanche Forecast
  • Dig a snow pit to see weak & strong layers, snow crystals and slab formation – skills necessary to understand Public Avalanche Bulletins that are available at

(Maximum student to instructor ratio for field exercises is 8:1)
(A Release of Liability must be signed before participating in any program.)

The classroom session must be completed first in order to be prepared for the field session. The classroom covers more of the info related to ‘how not to get caught’ and vocabulary to improve the understanding on the practical day.
In the field session we practice what we learned in the classroom about prevention and then work on the rescue skills, which are no longer about safety, but how to reduce the loss of an accident. The ‘doing’ in the field session is what cements all the info together.

Participating in the rescue scenarios with your riding group gives your partners a taste of their level of competence and teamwork. Next comes PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!
We encourage refreshers of the field session every 2 years. There are always new skills to learn and each time your group participates they will gather new tools to draw from should you ever be faced with a real rescue situation.

Discounts are available for the field refreshers.
CLICK HERE for an explanation of the discounts.

What do you need to bring on the field day?

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