AST 1 Course Information Package

If you landed on this page from a Google search here is an overview of our AST 1 courses, or read on for a detailed description.

If you have already signed up for a course please read this information package carefully. It should answer all your questions but if not you can contact me.

Course participants NEED TO DO THE FOLLOWING:

Your Instructors

The lead instructor is Mark Klassen. I have been working as a ski patroller, guide and avalanche forecaster since the mid 80's and am an ACMG/IFMGA certified Mountain guide.

Additional instructors will be present for classes with large enrolments. We add a second instructor for groups of 8 or more. Maximum group size is 12.

Important Dates and Times (Mountain Standard Time)

8 AM, Day 1: Meet in Banff at the Mary Belle room at the Banff International Hostel and Alpine Centre. Google Maps drop pin is here. Please show up a few minutes early so we can start at 8 AM sharp. We will be finished around 5 PM.

7.30 AM, Day 2: Meeting place will be determined on Day 1. Expect an early start for the field trip, which will be up to an hour’s drive from Banff (EG Bow Summit area or Kananaskis).

Course Itinerary

Day 1: Classroom day. Topics to be covered include:

  • Avalanche types and sizing

  • Mountain snowpack

  • Understanding avalanche bulletins

  • Decision making

  • Terrain evaluation

Be prepared to spend all day inside and have note taking materials handy. At the end of the day I will give a short homework assignment to prepare you for the next day's field trip. It's best to bring your own lunch as there is no restaurant available at the hostel and we are a little ways out of town. A water bottle and snacks are handy for during the day.

Day 2: Field day. We usually go to the Bow Summit area or to Kananaskis. We will start the day with a group meeting to review weather and avalanche information. In the field we will discuss snowpack and terrain, have a look at snow layering, and do an avalanche rescue practice. We will not travel very far on this day, it will be more observation and learning based.

Possible Itinerary Changes

There is always the possibility of having to change this itinerary due to weather or snow conditions.

Pre-Course Preparation

Before the course please do the following:

  • Do the online avalanche course on the Avalanche Canada website here.

  • Keep track of what the weather is doing the week previous to the course. Avalanche Canada has a good weather resource here.

  • Keep track of the avalanche bulletins for Banff National Park for at least a week before the course. Use the glossary available on those bulletin pages to understand the different terms that are used.

  • Have a look at the Mountain Information Network and ACMG Mountain Condition Reports here.

  • Good touring information for Banff can be found here.

Places to Stay

There are many hotels and hostels to stay at in both the Banff/Canmore/Lake Louise area. For inexpensive accommodation I suggest:

  • Alpine Club of Canada Clubhouse (Canmore)

  • HI-Banff Alpine Centre (hostel)

  • YWCA (Banff)

  • Same Sun Hostel (Banff)

  • HI-Lake Louise Alpine Centre (hostel)

Safety in the Field

Safety is our first priority. There are a variety of ways you can help make this a safe trip for all of us:

  • Listen to the instructor's instructions and if you are uncertain of what is expected of you please ask

  • Take the online avalanche course at the Avalanche Canada website.

  • Practice with your avalanche transceiver before the trip. Make sure it both transmits and receives at least 30 m away. Understand all its functions and how to use them.

  • We will be able to communicate with each other and outside agencies with cell phones, radios and my SPOT device.


It is important to understand that no matter how well prepared we are there is still an element of risk to backcountry skiing. To lower your risk do the prep work I’ve outlined in the safety section above. You can have a large impact in regards to your own safety!

Mountain Rescue and Rescue Insurance

I  nearly thirty years of guiding I have only had two guest evacuations from the field for minor injuries and one for a medical condition. The probability that we will need a rescue are low.

The plan is to operate in the national or provincial parks where mountain rescue is provided free of charge (for national parks you need a valid vehicle permit to be covered for rescues).

Medical Issues

If you have any pertinent medical issues that I should know about, please make sure you include that when you fill in the guest information form.



Email me