Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to some of your questions. To check out Zac’s responses just CLICK on the article titles below.

Zac’s Tracs Avalanche Training programs
Who are Zac’s Tracs and why should I choose them?
What types of courses does Zac’s Tracs offer?
I just ride in high traffic areas, do I need avalanche training?
How do I contact a Zac’s Tracs representative for more information?
Can someone from the Zac’s Team phone or email me to help select training programs?
Do I qualify for a discount?
What do we need to bring on the field day?
What about the weather?
We have taken an AST 1 course. What’s next?
What can I expect in the AST 2 advanced class?
What do I need to know to HOST a course?

What are PWLs? Persistent Weak Layers?
Solar Aspects – to avoid or not?
The Spooky Snowpack – Dec 2008
Snow Conditions and Riding Areas
What is a Ski-Cut or a Skier Controlled Avalanche

Avalanche Resources
Where do I find a current Public Avalanche Bulletin?
What is the AVALUATOR?
How to use the AVALUATOR Trip Planner
Are there obvious clues that can alert me to dangerous situations?
Should I buy an avalanche air bag?
Rescue Resources
Emergency Communication Tools
Equipment Rentals
Where can I find avalanche related news stories?
How do they keep the highways safe? They keep Rick Mercer far, far away!

Avalanche Accidents or News
How do ski hills keep guest safe? How are avalanches ‘controlled’ with explosives? An awesome 20 minute video from Fernie Alpine Resort.
What is it like to be fully buried in an avalanche?
What is it like to be caught or help in a rescue?
Broken Femur, January 2013
Early season avalanche accident, survivor account
Should I help a stuck sledder?
What are early season instabilities like?
Why do people react so differently during an avalanche rescue?
What does a slab avalanche look like in motion?
Record snowmobile fatalities 2008-09…were there similarities in the terrain?
Rest in Peace Albert
But they were experienced…why did they get caught?
Where can I find archived Zac’s Tracs Newsletters?
Support Your Sport

What is the best gear to buy?

Triggered - Fernie Alpine Resort - Risk Management on the ski hill

Awesome quality video highlighting the risk and challenges of skier safety and avalanche control at Fernie Alpine Resort. Fernie has 5 alpine bowls with approximately 75% of their runs subject to avalanche hazard. Watch control work using hand charges and heli-bombing.

The discussions by various members of the ski patrol and the snow safety team help communicate the complexity of the decisions and staff activities can be to open the hill with confidence.

CLICK HERE to view this 20 minute video sponsored by Telus filmed on location at the Fernie Ski Hill.

What do I need to know to Host an Avalanche Program?

“Course Hosts” will help Zac’s with details to register participants, promote the class, choose classroom facilities and field locations, recommend community services, hotels and help with other local details.
Benefits – Avalanche safety training is suited for all mountain riders, no matter their skill level and experience in the sport. These classes are opportunities to bring together riders from all brands, riding styles and ages. The interactive nature of our classes mixes the participants and hosts together leading to new relationships and a greater cameraderie within our snowmobile community.
Zac’s classes promote responsible use of the backcountry which benefits the public image, not only of Zac’s hosts, but also for our snowmobile industry as a whole. Avalanche and backcountry injuries and fatalities are costly and debilitating to the individuals, families, friends, communities and businesses connected to these accidents. The life saving content covered in Zac’s classes is preventative. A small, upfront, investment in time and money leads to informed and prepared backcountry users and dramatically improves the odds of accident free riding.

Hosting a Classroom Program

The classroom exercises require:
  • 2-3 large tables for the instructor and display materials
  • a lockable room
  • access to washroom facilities
  • blinds or curtains to darken the room for slide shows
  • 2 registration table/area
  • tables and chairs for the students
  • high enough ceiling to assemble probes (10’+)

If possible, we prefer to set up the evening prior to the class. We budget 90 minutes for set up plus any time necessary to arrange tables & chairs.

Zac’s will supply projectors, two 100” screens, and other audio-visual needs. Our audio system is suitable for a gymnasium.

8:30 am Registration & Waivers
9:00 am Start
12:30 – 1:00 pm lunch – a course video will play over the lunch break
5:30 Finish
6:30 – 9:30 pm Indoor Rescue Workshop*
This evening session may be scheduled the evening before


Lunch is typically ordered in: Pizza, Chinese, Chili… along with fruit/veggie trays, cookies/squares. Morning and afternoon snacks and beverages will also be arranged. The cost for the days food/drink is paid by the participant during the morning registration. If the group would prefer an extended lunch-hour, the classroom finish time can be moved to 6:00pm.

Hosting a Rescue Scenarios and Beacon Exercise Site

During the transceiver exercises it is necessary that the group is well spaced out, yet within visual distance of each other.

  • wide open meadows (size of a football field)
  • free from all avalanche hazards
  • free from electrical interference

Hosting a Field Programs

The ‘host’ will choose the field location and needs to be very familiar with it. We will arrive prior to the course to scout the riding area in order to prepare for the practical exercises.

To fulfill the AST course objectives it is important that we can view a variety of slopes and avalanche terrain, however, our working areas must be on low angle slopes, well away from avalanche path runouts… you don’t know how to dig us out yet!
Snow depth is important for pits but also makes the transceiver searches and group rescue scenarios more realistic. The depth of burial and the angle of the transceiver really impacts the pinpoint search. We have probe targets and dummies that are buried for the rescue exercises and it is alway good if the snow is deep enough that we don’t find them by stepping on them!
Depending on the year and the location, a snowpit in November will likely not have many interesting layers. It is just a little too early to have built much of a history.

All participants must have transceivers, probes, and shovels for the field work. We have a variety of equipment from different manufacturers that may be borrowed for the day.
Please arrange this ahead of time in order that all requests are filled.
8:00 am Meet at staging area
8:30 am Registered, student equipment signed out, ready to ride
‘Walking lunch’
5:30 Finish
*Goal – To arrive at the trucks before dark. A little more difficult to do in the early season!

When Choosing a Staging Area

To maximize teaching time and effectiveness a field location should be:
  • close to town
  • less than ½ hr sled ride from staging area to the work areas
  • groomed trails are always appreciated!
  • adequate parking for group

Snow Study Site

  • short safe slope (just off groomed trail is fine)
  • undisturbed by sled tracks
  • snow depth over 1m or 4’
  • free from all avalanche hazards

Photo credit: Zac's Tracs
The Snow Study Site can be an area with wind blown snow. We have done a snowpit in only 10 inches of snow before! If the site allows, it is best to fit the entire group in one long pit across a single slope.


Students are responsible to supply their own food and beverage during the field day. Best to choose food options that are easy to snack on throughout the day. There is no time to stop at the cabin or light a fire. Yes….you did just hear a whip crack. ;-)