What to expect during your Avalanche Course
What to expect in your avalanche course
Signing up for an avalanche course is a big step that can be scary for a lot of folks. We want to help calm the nerves and give you a clear outline of what you can expect when taking your avalanche course (AST 1) with Stay Wild Backcountry.
The AST 1 is a beginner level course that is a must have if you plan on heading into the backcountry. The AST 1 course is for someone who has never stepped foot in the backcountry or a semi experience backcountry user that hasn’t taken their avalanche course yet. No previous backcountry experience is required. we encourage new backcountry riders to make taking an avalanche course their first step!
Physical fitness is necessary. No, you don’t need to be a marathon runner but do expect to be doing lots of walking and running around during your field day. It is a long day outside that is jam packed with information and hands on training. We recommend upping your pocket snack game to keep you energized throughout the day.
What gear do I need to take an avalanche course
You can follow the link below for a full list of required gear. We recommend renting gear for your avalanche course. If you don’t own any yet it is a great opportunity to take advantage of trying out different equipment before taking the financial plunge.
We have a couple go to pieces of gear that we have used for years in the backcountry. We have bought all the wrong items and broke all the cheap things so take our word on these staples that we find reliable and well built.
Do a thorough gear check! Before you head out for your field day practice with your equipment and make sure it is working. Snowboarders, take your splitboard apart and put it back together as well as get to know how to turn one plank into two. Skiers, learn how your touring bindings work and switch your boots in and out of walk mode. Put your skins on and make sure they fit your set up. Hot tip, you always need to cut new skins so be sure to check that our before the field day.
Sledders make sure the old whip is running well and doesn’t need any love before the field day. Have a solid tool kit and a spare belt in case things go sideways out there.
As for your avalanche gear, ensure your transceiver has fresh batteries and pull out that shiny new probe and shovel to see how they work.
Online AST 1 course
As soon as you sign up for your avalanche course you will receive instructions on how to set up your online account. We have built a custom online course that is full of personality, jokes and videos to keep you going.
Learning the theory before your AST 1 field day is essential. It maximizes your learning experience in the backcountry to show up with a brain full of knowledge from the online course. Having an understanding of how avalanches occur, rescue techniques and human behaviours sets you up for success on your field day.
Our course saves your progress so you can break up the learning over several days. Tons of our students prefer to complete the course over several days and then go back and review it before their field day.
The online course takes 6-8 hours! We are not exaggerating in any way so make sure to set aside lots of time and wine to complete it.
Some people choose to start their backcountry learning by registering for the AST 1 online course. This is a great option if you live far away or are unsure if you’re ready for the backcountry. You can always sign up for the field day down the road when the time is right.
If you signed up for the full AST 1 or are joining us for a field day you will meet your instructor the evening before the field day on google meet. It is a great idea to pre read the avalanche forecast before your meeting. The instructor will go through introductions, weather, avalanche forecast and trip plan. They will end the session with a jeopardy game to help refresh your brain on some important concepts from the online course.
AST 1 Field day
When you register for your avalanche course you will receive details about the meeting location / time and your instructors contact info. The meeting time listed is the time that you should be ready to roll at i.e. all your gear is on and you’re ready for the morning meeting.
You will start your field day with a morning meeting. The instructor will discuss your trip plan, weather, complete a gear and transceiver check. From there you will start traveling to your backcountry destination. While traveling we will take breaks to look at terrain and learn about safe travel habits along the way.
Once we arrive at the companion rescue location we will dive deep into rescue practice. We cover everything from single transceiver burials to a full rescue scenario with your group. One day of practice is not going to make you a pro. We encourage you to practice with your crew. Find a local transceiver training area (at most ski hills and some sled zones) to continue to practice and hone in your skills. You can always refresh with our AST 1 Refresher course or further your rescue skills with a Companion Rescue course.
Looking at and assessing terrain while using decision making tools is also a big part of the AST 1 field day. We look at and practice identifying hazards, avalanche paths, likely trigger points etc.
At some point during the day your instructor is going to go full snow nerd on you. We love staring at snow crystals and sometimes get carried away, so feel free to reign us back in. We will dig a snow pit and demonstrate how to identify layers and complete a compression test.
Our goal is for you to gain the knowledge, resources and tools to start safely exploring the backcountry. We are not heading out for a day of shredding, we are going out for a day of learning. We focus on building your skills and knowledge. This will allow you to safely start exploring the mountains following completion of this course. If you are suffering from powder starvation hit up your local hill or get some ditch banging in before your AST 1.
Our avalanche courses are jam packed with information and it is normal for students to feel overwhelmed by the end. No need to panic. Start out small in simple terrain and slowly build on the skills you learned in the AST 1. If you can find a mentor that has been out there for a while that is a serious bonus. The backcountry can be a big, beautiful, scary, complex place. Starting out small in terrain with low consequence sets you up for success when building your backcountry knowledge.
Stay Wild values creating an inclusive, supportive and welcoming learning space. Our goal is for everyone to feel comfortable asking questions and have the opportunity to explore the beautiful mountains that surround us. We are here to support and respect one another while we learn and make the backcountry a more inclusive environment.
We do like to have fun so prepare yourself for some jokes. Heck even bring along your best joke.