The Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 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. The course consists of two components, a classroom sessions (8.5hr) and a field session (8hr). To receive your AST 1 certificate you will need to complete BOTH 8 hour sessions.
Because the class structure is highly interactive the participants gather more value out of the class sessions than online 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.
Speak up and share your stories!
Stories = Long term retention
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 www.avalanche.ca for more information.
The AST1 (16hr) class and field is recommended as the MINIMUM that any backcountry recreationalist should have.
- require 8.5 hours and can be completed over a full day or two 4-hour evening sessions.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO LEARN
- 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 http://www.avalanche.ca
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 field refreshers! Check out our Discount Page
Common Question Asked:
Testimonials From Our Students
I took AST 1 three years ago which was a huge eye opener for me, this January I took the course again to refresh my memory and sure glad I did, the beacon training was great to go over again and also refreshing the memory on snowpack and being aware of conditions will help me be safer in the backcountry, I strongly recommend taking this course if your new to mountain riding and also for those who have taken the course in the past to take it again, there is so much to learn from this course! Thanks ZACS TRACS! — Trevor Sonnenberg
Well worth it! I recommend it to everyone I talk to about riding in the mountains. I don’t think there is anything you can do to improve the field training, it was awesome! I feel a lot more confident now about riding in the mountains, thanks Lori and crew. — Doug R. Yorkton, SK
I am so proud that so many people came to this class from our small town. I am much happier seeing everyone learn to be preventative instead of seeing them in their suits at a funeral saying “If only….”. — Rod P.
A friend recommended this class and for me it exceeded expectations. I feel that it is a lifesaving course. — AST1, Ft. McMurray
I enjoyed learning about how to evaluate terrain and understanding hazards. Don’t be static, learn what you need to survive. Equipment is useless without the proper training. — AST1, Ft McMurray
Hey Lori, I just wanted to tell you that your field session in Valemount was awesome. We could of had some more snow, but both Mac and Dallas were great instructors and very knowledgeable. Looking forward to doing the 1.5 or possibly the AST2 course next year. Thanks again! — Jason F
Absolutely worth the time! Actually going over the terrain, working with beacons, probes and shovels. Understanding how to work as a group. All these things give you more confidence knowing you can use your gear in an emergency. The best part was that my son who is a very good rider has a better appreciation for avalanche dangers and when to change his riding plans based on the danger ratings. — Darlene G. High River, AB
I learned more in a day at your class than so far sledding in the mountains. To motivate others to attend... explain that this class has real relevance to what we do and how it pertains to riding in the mountains. — AST1, Edmonton
I was so excited that such a well known group would consider coming to a small town. Really enjoyed meeting all of you and thanks you again for being so accommodating. All ages have enjoyed your presentation. Hope to see you again someday. — Stacy B.
I would definitely recommend everyone takes this course. I plan on mountain sledding for the rest of my life, so its not a big deal to give up a couple riding days, for a course that could keep me riding for the rest of my life! It was very beneficial to practice with the beacons and do lots of scenarios, to sharpen your beacon skills. I was amazed at how many people in our field training class had no idea how to work their beacons. Practicing shoveling and proper techniques was also very beneficial, teaching how to efficiently shovel with a group and not to trample your victim. Taking the course is necessary for your whole riding group! I can go take the course, and all my riding buddies can be thankful that I have an idea of how to assess terrian, snow pack, and i have good skills on how to efficiently dig one of them out in a slide. But how fair is it to me when i pay the cash go spend a day learning the skills, when no one else does. Its like I have learned the skills which could save your life, I would appreciate the same courtesy and respect, that you should have the same skill to save me. Taking this course will do me no good if I am buried in an avalanche and all my riding buddies don’t know what to do! Taking the mountain practical session didn’t ‘waste’ a riding day… it actually gave me 2 extra days of riding that i would not have had. The wife wanted me to take the course, so when it was offered i got to take an extra trip this season that was not planned, once out there, after the course was complete we stayed for an extra 2 days and rode! Guys use this course to your advantage and get an extra trip out of the season, tell your ol lady you have to go for the safety and skills you will learn, then stay a couple extra days! — Jared B. Black Diamond, AB
Lori, I think you and Randy have done a great job of getting the information across in a manner that people can understand. Everybody should have this training. The best part is your mock avalanche, I couldn’t believe how much that opened my eyes to what we should prepare for and how in our riding group it has changed how we do things. One thing we gained was that after we left our avy packs on our sleds and you pointed it out, was that we now won’t take our packs off but rather have a buddy get our stuff out (if a buddy is present to help). We have now taken time to get to know each others packs. — Dean W. Kitscoty, AB
I took this course to learn how to never have to use my safety gear and to be confident using it if the time comes….the night classes were tough but Lori has a way of keeping things entertaining…keep doing what you do zacstracs! The added confidence in using my beacon was huge as it used to just be a decoration around my neck. — Jodi B. Prince George, BC
I think the content was very thorough. The example of how little O2 you have when buried was shocking. — AST1, Saskatoon
I ride snowmobiles in the back country with my soul mate. I am a strong female and I can deal well in crises situations, so I thought we were in good shape. After this weekend’s course with Zac’s Tracs, I realized just how wrong I have been. Within the 2 evening classroom sessions and the one field sessions I realized how much danger the one I love was truly in because I was so uninformed. I cant believe how much risk we were putting ourselves in by not doing avalanche training. After the weekend with Lori, Randy and Mac, it is amazing how different I look at things. I always knew there were risks, I just never knew how we close we were to them. Looking back, knowing what I do now, I cant say that I could have found and saved the most important person in my life if I needed to. If I was put to the test, I would have failed because what I thought I knew, I didnt. Because of this course, I am now able to make smart decisions before a ride and during, rather than guessing and thinking that I am reading the weather, snow and bulletins right. I am now more confident in my equipment as I know and understand it and used it in the course. The team at Zac’s Tracs opened my eyes. I learned so much! I am 100% sure that before this course I would not have responded well to a emergency, but reacted, and it could have very well cost me my soul mate! It is scary just how unprepared we really were and that we really had no idea. Thank you Lori, Randy and Mac for your knowledge, experience time, attention and fantastic classes. You and your entire Zac’s Tracs Team are truly saving lives and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Side note… friends of ours took a course in the area that we live. The course they took was less than 1/4 of the price of the course we took and we were looked at as if we were stupid for paying so much… till we started talking. They have no idea about most of the things we learned in our course. Lets just say that people I ride with, the people that could be the difference in my survival, I want them to be Zac’s Tracks Trained! Thank you everyone at Zac’s Tracs you are the best!!! — Dawn R
The AST1 Course was awesome, well worth taking a weekend away from riding. Search, familiarity exercises with the beacons was very good. Awareness of terrain and surroundings good eye opener. I already plan to attend another avalanche class next year! — Terry S. Grande Prairie, AB
Awesome experience! It certainly could be the difference between life and death. I wouldn’t want to be in the position of not knowing how to rescue my buddies in avalanche situation. This gave me the knowledge to get them out ASAP! But most importantly, avoiding the risk in the first place! Thanks gals and guys for your commitment in making sledding safer! — Darren S. Grande Prairie, AB
I took the AST1 course for the second year, this time with my sons. Top notch instruction and would recommend everyone taking it again, keeps it fresh in the mind. Thanx Lori and Randy. — Darryl Bellwod
Thanks again Lori, I am truly thankful you were able to come up. I spoke to several people after you were booked to come, they all said the same thing, that you put on a great course and were the best, you did not disappoint. I have had 14 different texts and emails since I got home. All said the same thing, thanks and that they enjoyed it a lot. Have a safe trip home. Keep your skis off the snow pointing straight up to the clear blue sky. Have a great winter too! — Rick 'C' , Fort St John
Learning is never a waste. Hands on using your rescue equipment. The rescue scene in the AST1 Field Session helps you understand what you're up against. — Dwight W. Stony Plain, AB
Avy class…wasted money and missed out riding day?! NOT AT ALL. No money spent foolishly, only knowledge gained. Best part was seeing my buddies agree it was the best sledding money ever spent. — Keith T. Prince George, BC
The AST1 is a key practical session that you need to take. It covers proper beacon search technique and use, how to locate multiple burials and properly dig them out. Having an actual scenario reinforces the skills you have learned and increases your confidence, allowing you to be a leader in an emergency situation. If you could only take this part of the course, do it. — Lindsay B. Edmonton, AB
This was an awesome course. Almost to much to absorb in two days. Knowing what to look for has changed our whole group’s riding perspective. Very highly recommended, even to those who just ride cutblocks and rolling hills. You never know when and where these skills will come into play. These skills are proven to save lives. Thank you Zacstracs. — Keith T. Prince George, BC
The AST1 Field session was the most beneficial part of the course. It is unfortunate that some people don’t follow up the classroom session with the second day. Riders that miss out on the field course MISS out on the value of the course all together. Step up to the plate guys and get ‘er done! — Lou M. Grovedale, AB