Zacs Level 1.5 Intermediate Avalanche Training for Snowmobilers

Zacs Level 1.5 is an intermediate avalanche safety program run at a slower pace and less structured than the AST Level 1 classroom session. This is a custom workshop that applies the theory learned in the AST1. The exercises are intended to evolve with the needs, interests and questions of the students.

Don’t have the time or funds to make it to the mountains for the full AST Level 2 avalanche course?  Zacs1.5  can be an alternative and also gives you a taste of what to expect on the AST2.

Recommended Preparation for Zacs Level 1.5

Completion of the AST1 Class and Field with Zacs Tracs

The idea behind Zacs1.5 is that participants come with some experience and questions, not just to learn more content.  The point is to be challenged to take the skills you already have, dig for the details, make plans and justify your decisions.

If you have time it is recommended (not required) that you:
  • Review some of these webpages:
  • Bring books and materials from your Zacs AST1 Classroom session.  (We will have a few copies if you don’t.  Any avalanche books will be useful to bring.)
  • Bring news articles, pictures or video clips of terrain that you are familiar with.  They can be printed or computer files that you are prepared to share with Zacs and the class participants.  (Ideally share these prior to the class so we can more easily incorporate them into the training exercises.)
  • Bring avalanche and survival equipment.  Basically bring your transceiver, probe, shovel, pack, winter gloves, and any survival gear that you carry in your backpack and sled storage.  Its a great exercise for everyone to share their tricks and experiences when it comes to overnighting gear and skills.

Zacs Level 1.5 Workshop Dates

Minimum 12 people – $90/p
6:00pm – 10:00pm

CLICK HERE for a full listing of Zacs Level 1.5 Dates

This program will focus on the following:

ATES, Google Earth Pro and Gaia

Learn how to download the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale maps.  Save a track with your GPS or a smart phone app like Gaia and combine all this info on Google Earth.

Download a Gaia GPS track to Google Earth and overlay with ATES mapping

Turn on and off layers to view the potential avalanche risks that your group were exposed to.  Use these tools for Planning your next trip as well.  Especially valuable if you are traveling to riding areas that you are unfamiliar with.

Avy Bulletins, Solving the Puzzle

Avalanche Bulletins are a big piece of the puzzle.  Avalanche Bulletins have changed considerably over the years.  Avalanche Canada has released new products for advanced recreationists like the Forecaster’s Blog as well as the MIN and the Mountain Weather Forecast and most recently the DANGERATOR.  Learn how to use these to improve your understanding of the layers of concern before heading out.  Draw the value out of each and every detail and then apply it to the terrain.
This workshop will have you mimic pre-trip decision making through group review and interpretation of multiple bulletins with multiple terrain options.  What factors are important?  What options do we have? How can we maximize reward and minimize, or at least hold constant, the risk?

Go Big and Go Home – Terrain, terrain, terrain

Looking for opportunities to improve the Risk/Benefit ratio while you are sledding?  Your sled is a tool in the backcountry…learn how to use it!  We travel through a ton of terrain in a day, why not gather reliable observations and make informed choices at the same time?  There are terrain features that can act as safe travel zones and others that increase the risk and consequences substantially.  Learning through pictures and video is a low risk way to test our skills at terrain management.

Avalanche Accidents and Close Calls – What can we learn?

Every safety tip or technology improvement evolved because someone, somewhere experienced loss or tragedy.  Stories and case studies increase the odds that your mind will respond rather than react.
Reactions happen when the mind finds no options and it snaps to action with the first idea that pops up.
Responses are possible when the mind is filled with stories, skills and training and when stressed it instantly weighs the pros and cons of the various ideas and responds with calculated action.

Rescue, Taking your Skills to the Next Level

Build on your skills from the AST1 Field session and whip your group’s rescue reactions into shape. We’ll build your quick thinking responses and teamwork skills for improved success.
Over the last few years professionals have made changes to their rescue tools and procedures and this has resulted in live recoveries of people buried up to 3 meters deep.  Unbelievable!  In a rescue it is about saving time and energy.  Learn how to move faster and more efficiently.  Minutes matter.

The Avalanche Gamble

A strategy game of risk and loss.  This is a mix between Poker, Go Fish, and Craps.  It ends with a roll of the dice to decide who comes home and who doesn’t.  Choose a card from each of 7 decks to build your ‘hand’.  Exchange cards to reduce the overall risk of your hand.  This is a fast and fun game that requires you to assess 7 different risk factors that are present every day that we ride in the mountains.

Zacs Level 1.5 student review

Read comments from Dan Fouts, one of our Fort McMurray Level 1.5 students

Good Day Lori,
I took the AST 1 and Zacs 1.5 because my brother, an experienced avalanche trained sledder whom I sled with, indicated he would not allow me to go with him anymore unless I had the training.
As he so often lamented, it wasn’t me he was worried about, it was my ability to help him if he was caught in an avalanche. I have to admit, like many sledders who haven’t had avalanche training, the thought of taking the time to do the training was akin to watching paint dry and what could the training provide that I didn’t already know – I thought I knew how to properly use my beacon and already am first aid trained.

Admittedly, my motivation for taking the course was to appease my brother so I could continue to ride with him.


I now understand why my brother was so insistent. I am embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know how to use my beacon properly; particularly in terms of locating multiple buried avalanche victims.

These courses provided me with an incredible amount of good information from identifying and understanding weather and snow conditions to the basic avalanche gear as well as how to use it properly. I now have a whole new appreciation for avalanche training and sledding in the back country.

Zacs avalanche training has positively changed my approach to the sport.

Everything from planning the trip to the gear I use and where and when I sled. Having taken these courses, I, as with my brother, will be more discriminating on whom I sled with and I will have the same ultimatum respecting avalanche training. I am going to plan a trip around the “on hill training” this sledding season and will take these courses again as a refresher next year.

Your approach to instructing the course as well as the information covered was excellent and I wouldn’t change a thing. The trip planning template is excellent and I will use it as a reminder for planning each trip.

Lori, these classes have clearly opened my mind respecting avalanche training and I am now an advocate and will be an ambassador for avalanche training to our sport. I look forward to being in your classes again in the future.

Warmest Regards, Dan Fouts, Fort McMurray

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