What to expect during your Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 (AST 1) course
Signing up for an AST 1 is a big step that can be scary for a lot of folks. We wanted to try to calm the nerves a bit and give you a clear outline of what you can expect when taking your 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. This course is designed for the person who has never stepped foot in the backcountry or a semi experience backcountry user that hasn’t gotten around to taking the course yet. No prior backcountry experience is needed and we encourage new backcountry riders to make taking an AST 1 their first step.
Physical fitness is required. 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 exhausting day that is jam packed with information & hands on training. We highly recommend upping your pocket snack game to keep you energized throughout the day.
You can follow the link below for a full list of required gear. We highly recommend renting gear if you don’t own any yet and take advantage of trying out different equipment before making the financial plunge.
We have a couple of 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 some of these staples that we find reliable and well built.
Do a thorough gear check! Before you head out for your field day practice with all of your equipment and make sure it is working. Snowboarders that means taking your splitboard apart and putting it back together & getting to know how to make skis out of it. Skiers that means learning how your touring bindings work & switching your boots in and out of walk mode. Put your skins on and make sure they fit your set up.
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 just in case things go sideways out there.
As soon as you sign up for your AST 1 you will be sent an email with 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.
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 multiple days and then go back and review it before their field day.
The online course actually 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 just complete the online learning and join us for a field day down the road when they are ready. If you signed up for the whole AST 1 or are joining us for a field day you will meet up with your instructor the evening before the field day on google meet. The instructor will go through introductions, weather, avalanche forecast, trip plan and will play a jeopardy game to remind you of some of the important concepts from the online course.
AST 1 Field day
You will be sent several emails with 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 out with a morning meeting where the instructor will discuss the trip plan, weather, complete a gear check and do a 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 etc. along the way.
Once you arrive at your companion rescue location you will go to town with rescue practice. We cover everything from single transceiver burials to a full rescue scenario with your group. One day of practice is certainly not going to make you a pro. We highly encourage you to practice with your crew and find a local transceiver training area (at most ski hills) to continue to practice and hone in your skills.
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 all secretly 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.
The AST 1 is jam packed with information and it is a regular occurrence of people feeling overwhelmed by it. No need to panic. The backcountry is a big, beautiful, scary, complex place. 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.
Stay Wild values are centered around creating an inclusive, welcoming learning space so that everyone can learn, ask questions and explore the beautiful mountains that surround us. We are here to support & respect one another while we work together to make the backcountry an inclusive environment. We also like to have fun so prepare yourself for some jokes and heck even bring along your best joke.