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
A friend recommended this class and for me it exceeded expectations. I feel that it is a lifesaving course. — AST1, Ft. McMurray
"I feel this was a good start before the field day! Got to see the pros and cons of multiple different companies shovels beacons and probes. Got to see the flaws in my own gear and got to see where I need to upgrade and what to upgrade to!" -Shane H., Saskatoon, SK
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
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
Zac's Tracs Edmonton avalanche course certainly caught my attention!My son William and I attended the AST course on November 10th in Edmonton …. I’m the guy from Ontario 🙂 I just wanted to pass along my thoughts on the course and the day we had with you. First and foremost WELL DONE we truly appreciated the course content, presentation of information and your skill as a facilitator. Your passion for what you do was evident in every breath you took as you guided us through the course material. I don’t often see an instructor with such enthusiasm so it was much appreciated as it makes a significant impact on how we learn, again well done! We both left the course feeling much better about our riding plans going forward, the term look for the “Gorilla” has taken on a whole new meaning and we are thankful how that was presented, in fact the phrase “Look for the Gorilla” will be branded on our sleds this year just as a reminder! I’m looking forward to day two for the field work to complete this portion of the AST program. Congratulations on a fine job, thanks for caring about guys like myself that in past have overlooked some critical safety items, we are true believers thanks to your course! As a personal observation the avalanche burial simulation put me over the top and created such a hunger for the remaining content. Excellent way to get things started … you definitely got my attention! All the very best to you and Zac Trac’s Team going forward …. Brad C., Ontario
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
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
Thanks for the amazing course. I admit I was actually dreading it but wanted to support my husband in his passion. I absolutely sat in judgement of anyone selling the sport after our tragedy two years ago. A very close friend was lost to an avalanche and it has been hard to move through.
I want to say that your knowledge and passion were undeniable and your assessment of real risk admirable. At no point in twelve hours of AST Class and Rescue Workshop did I fade out or tire of the information even if I wasn’t always a “positive receiver”. That in itself should tell you your presentation is great.
The discussions about overnighting and other non-avalanche backcountry emergencies reinforced our own ideas about what it takes to be prepared and responsible mountain riders and we definitely are making changes to the gear we are carrying.
Thanks again for the day. I would like to let you know that I am feeling much better about the sport and we are both looking forward to our field sessions in December."
Carmen K, Bentley AST Class
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 realization of the fact that I don't want to be in an avalanche after the initial exercise of burial simulation and breathing through the straw. (Was an eye opener) That stressed the point that we better look for the hazards first instead of having the opinion that it won't happen to us. Definitely make us more proactive and aware of danger situations. You couldn't of stressed it more that the course is for recognizing danger and make better choices vs a course to save lives. The course was definitely worth the time and money and would like to see it expanded into Manitoba. Once again money well spent!" -Len T., Regina, SK
The AST level 1 course you instructed in Chetwynd was very informative, and I commend the both of you for doing a really good job. Keep up the good work, for I sincerely feel that you are saving lives. The knowledge received from this course has definitely changed the way I will look at snow for the rest of my life.
Best Money Spent Ever!All the information from the classroom session and all the practice from the field session was amazing. Our group is now turning the screws on the remaining members from our area that did not attend. I personally feel that anyone who is thinking about sledding in the mountains, or even experienced riders, should seriously consider taking this course. It was the best money I've spent, EVER! I think most would agree that the unstable snowpack and all the attention with the unfortunate avalanche victims this year has really raised avalanche awareness, and what better year to learn and study snowpack conditions. I will admit that some of our (my) previous riding habits, and lack of knowledge could have easily made us a statistic. Maybe we were just lucky no incidences occurred. For all those who have suffered a loss of a loved one due to an avalanche, my heart goes out to you. I hope I never have to use the knowledge from this course to rescue a fellow friend or family member. That said I do feel a lot more comfortable knowing that I now have formal training to recognize the dangers, and warning signs, and what to do if trapped victims in an avalanche has occurred. Thanks again ZacsTracs, a definite two thumbs up from me! I wish you all the best, and I hope our paths cross again in the future. Sincerely, Rick Sawchyn, High Prairie, AB
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 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
It was worth every penny! The amount of knowledge and awareness you get from that short class is unreal. Completely changed my mentality for mountain riding. I only attended the 3 hour outdoor one but It was great! I always rented the safety gear but had no idea how to use it... This short workshop was perfect because it showed me the proper and most efficient way to locate! Derek, Anzac, AB
Absolutely worth the time. Great course. Thought Lori was great. Knowledgeable as hell and made the course interesting. Little firecracker! Steve, Fort McMurray, AB
This by far is the better of the two avalanche courses that I have taken.I was very impressed with your knowledge of the subject and the level of enthusiasm that YOU maintained during the course. You clearly have a solid understanding of avalanche theory and are able to transfer your knowledge in a clear and concise manner.
I commend you on your use of analogies and your ability to make complex subjects easy to understand.I really enjoyed the analogy of the serial killer compared to an avalanche. You know they are out there and you have to look for the clues and hope you find them before they find you. Again, the course structure was fantastic and your enthusiasm was contagious. You were able to capture my attention at the start of the day and carry it through to the end. I look forward to taking your field day in the near future and I know I will not be disappointed. Thank you again and keep up the great work. It was a pleasure to take this class from you and I will recommend it to everyone I know. Darryl E., Regina, SK
"This was my 3rd AST 1 classroom course, 2nd with Zacs. The way that you present your info Lori, is amazing. You keep everyone engaged, and can read the room for when people are not really paying attention. There is so much to learn, and your quest to make sure everyone understands, and has their questions answered is amazing. I was amazed at how much I had forgotten in the few years I hadn't taken the course, but also amazed at what I have actually retained! I'm still blown away by the breathing through a straw demonstration that you do at the start of the class, it really puts it in perspective of what could happen. Thanks for your time on the weekend. The practice portion [Avalanche Rescue Workshop] with gloves on was great. It shows me that I need to practice more yet, always with the hopes of never having to use it." Dave, Lacomb, 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 real life stories and video stories were an eye opener to show what can happen and how fast disaster can strike. I liked the part where we had to breath through a slurpy straw after getting buried by snow for four minutes.. really good example of what it is like to be buried and struggle for air! ( i had to cheat a bit ) I would definitely recommend the course to beginners as well as anyone that has mountain experience and has not yet informed themselves on mountain safety. . 2017 is my seventh year of mountain riding and I am a little ashamed to say that this is my first step towards Avalanche Training. I wish I would have taken this course long ago! There are lots of tools... beacons, probes, shovels, etc.
But if you are buried and relying on someone to save you that has NO training.... then good luck sucking air through that slurpy blohole! Thank You!" -Jamie S. Regina, SK
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
"Surprised at how little I knew about avalanches before I took this course. Big eye opener!" -Brian, Dawson Creek, AB
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
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.
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
The AST1 classroom session was very informative and a real eye opener of what can happen on the mountain. Really looking forward to the field session. The rescue workshop was very good to get familiar with your safety gear and a good refresher before the season starts.
"Course was real eye opener, I will no longer ride in the mountains with friends or family that do not have proper training and proper gear. Lori was a great instructor, great sense of humor kept the course interesting and kept people involved. Great introductory to using equipment properly, amazing how long it takes people to get gear ready when they don't practice. Moving forward I will always have a couple of gear and beacon tests on my trips." -Bradley, Sturgeon County
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
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
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
"This course is definitely an eye opener I can't really say what the best part was due to the teacher and staff being absolutely fantastic they really keep you involved in the class even if you just wanna sit off in the back" -Derek, Edmonton AB
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
I really like how we mocked being in a avalanche then had to breathe through a straw. It really put it in prospective being buried and having to breathe! It took me a couple minutes to be calm enough to even breathe in the straw completely. Lori kept everybody laughing throughout the day but also got the serious points across very well.
Family needs avalanche training before heading to the mountainsMy son wants to ride with his dad in the mountains and I decided that they had to take an avalanche class before he would be allowed to go. I started to research the AST1 providers and every one that I talked to kept mentioning one name in particular. I looked into ZacTracs Avalanche Training and consistently received great feedback. I was so excited that such a well known group would consider coming to a small town. Really enjoyed meeting all of you and thank you again for being so accommodating. All ages have enjoyed your presentation. Hope to see you again someday! Stacey B., Hines Creek, AB
"I took this course 5 years ago before I started riding in the mountains with my husband. This time I took it with my kids (11&13) who both can out ride me! So I knew it was important for them to go. They both learned a lot and they want to do every level of training. They are so excited about the on hill and just going this year to try the things they learned. Lori is an excellent trainer and keeps you engaged right till the end! Highly, highly recommend this class for all who ride. Anything that you can learn to help save a life especially a life a someone you ride with (I ride with my husband and kids) is priceless. The workshop was awesome, learning key things that will help save a life is a no brainer. I took my 2 sons (11 & 13) who both snowmobile in the mountains and my one son said, "it was so much fun and we learned great techniques and I can’t wait to practice them!!"
Wasn’t sure how much they would like it but they both loved it. Lori is a great teacher and knows how to keep people engaged!" -Sherri, Spruce Grove AB
Hi Lori, Just wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for coming up and putting on the classes for us up here. Before taking the class, I never knew what 'gorillas' looked like, and certainly didn't realize how many were out there. With being fairly new to the sport, I was very much blinded by the expert halo. Putting 100% faith in my group, simply because I didn't know any different; they had all the experience, not me. There were so many key points that really hit home for me and made me really think about some of the situations we have been in. Did the other guys ('experts') already know that slope was stable? Or did we not die just by pure dumb luck? Since I entered the sport 2 years ago, I always thought that an avy course would be a good thing to have. Now after taking it, I have realized it's a really dumb, stupid, and irresponsible NOT to have! I will be pushing hard for the others in our group to get trained as well, and now that I know how much I DON'T know, I'll be watching for more opportunities for training for myself as well. If you're considering coming back up here, I sincerely hope you do. I would be interested in taking some more advanced or supplemental courses here, obviously whatever you can do in a classroom setting. As far as your course evaluation goes, there wasn't one minute that I was wishing to be somewhere else. I have to sit through an unbelievable amount of safety training for work, and I can tell you I've never taken a class where I've been that engaged and had my attention kept so well. Excellent job. Thanks again, Matt A, Fort McMurray
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
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
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
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
Is an avalanche course really worth my time?I was a little skeptical at what was actually going to be taught but the AST1 classroom session was definitely beneficial and I will push everyone from our group to take it. With the instructor being involved and energetic it kept everyone’s attention and the importance of what was being taught. The AST Class and Rescue Workshop were definitely worth attending. Actually learning the proper techniques made the time worth it.
I've been riding in the mountains for yearsWe’re all bad for the “I know how to work my beacon and probe and of course know how to shovel!” attitude but I admit I was proven wrong. I had the understanding of it but when it’s potentially lives at stake no time or money can replace knowing that your knowledge can save lives. Have to thank everyone at ZacsTracs for the awesome day. Rod, Sylvan Lake, AB – Nov 6, 2016
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