AST 2 Information Package

Welcome to our AST 2 course! I am really looking forward to the course and hope you are too. 

This package covers the following courses:

  • AST 2 December 14-17, 2017
  • AST 2 January 6-9, 2018
  • AST 2 Canadian Ski Patrol February 3-6, 2018

Please read this information package carefully and let me know if you have any questions. There is an equipment list at the end.

YOU NEED TO DO THE FOLLOWING:

  • Click here and fill out the guest information form. It will take a couple of minutes. You will need your health insurance information.
  • Click here to read and understand the guide waiver. You will need to sign this waiver at the beginning of the trip. It is important that you understand it before you arrive. You will also need to sign a second, similar waiver for Avalanche Canada.
  • Have a look at the gear list at the end of this information package and make sure you are able to bring everything on the list.
  • Let me know if you need me to provide any equipment for you.

Important Dates and Times (MST)

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: Meet in Lake Louise at the Lake Louise International Hostel and Alpine Centre prior to the field day in the Bow Summit area. 

8 AM, Days 3 & 4: Meet at the Rogers Pass info centre prior to field days in Rogers Pass. We should plan to base in Golden but if you live in Revelstoke it is possible to meet us at Rogers Pass (although there would be issues if the road is closed).

Course Itinerary

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

  • Review of 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, usually in the Crowfoot Trees area. We will start the day with a group meeting to review weather and avalanche information. Then apply that to terrain and decide what terrain we are able to expose ourselves to. In the field we will discuss snowpack and terrain and have a look at snow layering. We will not travel very far on this day, it will be more observation and learning based.

Days 3 and 4: Each morning will start with a group meeting where students will come in having done some preparation the night before. Each day we will attempt longer and more involved trips than the day before (conditions permitting). Emphasis will be on using terrain to lower risk. Be prepared to spend evenings doing trip planning and perhaps having group discussions.

Possible Trips

  • Rockies: Crowfoot Trees, Observation Peak, Bow Summit area
  • Rogers Pass: Hospital Bowl, Lookout Col, Tree Triangle, Bonney Trees and Moraines.

Possible Itinerary Changes

There is always the possibility of having to change this itinerary due to weather or snow conditions.  There are often road closures in Rogers Pass due to weather and avalanche conditions so we may have to do more touring in the Rockies. Golden is a good central location that gives access to both mountain ranges.

Places to Stay

There are many hotels and hostels to stay at in both the Banff/Canmore/Lake Louise area as well as Golden. 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)
  • Kicking Horse River Lodge (Golden)

The Kicking Horse River Lodge may give you a discount if you tell them you are taking an avalanche course.

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. Click here.
  • 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.

Risk

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!

You will all need to sign two waivers that will make you well aware of that risk. One is for Avalanche Canada and one is for the guides – you will sign them when you arrive. Please have a look at the link to the waiver at the beginning of this information package so you understand what the risks are and what you will be signing when you get here.

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 parks where mountain rescue is provided free of charge if you have a valid vehicle permit when you enter the park.

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.

Staff

Instructor: Mark Klassen. Working as a ski patroller, guide and avalanche forecaster since the mid 80's. ACMG/IFMGA certified Mountain guide. Click here for more info about me.

Remember, YOU NEED TO DO THE FOLLOWING:

  • Click here and fill out the guest information form. It will take a couple of minutes. You will need your health insurance information.
  • Click here to read and understand the guide waiver. You will need to sign this waiver at the beginning of the trip. It is important that you understand it before you arrive. You will also need to sign a second, similar waiver for Avalanche Canada.
  • Have a look at the gear list at the end of this information package and make sure you are able to bring everything on the list.
  • Let me know if you need me to provide any equipment for you.

Questions?

Email me

Pre-Course Preparation

Before the course please do the following:

  • Read as much as you can from a technical book such as Bruce Tremper's Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain. You need to understand how the faceting and rounding processes work within the snowpack, and how surface hoar is formed. If you do not do this you will fall behind in your understanding of the concepts I will present.
  • 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 and Glacier National Parks 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 ACMG Mountain Condition Reports here.

Classroom Materials

Please bring the following to the classroom day:

  • Notepad, pen/pencil
  • Laptop/mobile device (optional)
  • Water
  • Lunch, water, snacks
  • Textbook. Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper works well.
  • Maps for the Wapta/Bow Summit area and Rogers Pass. You may share maps with other students if you wish. I will have copies of the Wapta/Bow Summit map on sale for $15 on the first day of the course.
  • Ski touring guidebooks for the Canadian Rockies and Rogers Pass. You may share guidebooks with other students.

Equipment

You need to have everything on the list below!

I can provide safety gear such as shovel, probe and transceiver. Let me know as soon as possible if you need any of this.

I provide transceiver rentals for $12/day, all other equipment I provide free of charge.

Avalanche Transceiver - Important Information

Your transceiver has to have been manufactured since 2001 (so it meets EN 300718 standard). It is best if your transceiver is less than 10 years old. We now only allow digital transceivers on our trips.

Modern transceivers can have compatibility issues with transceivers manufactured before 2001 and any analog transceivers even if they work on the same frequency.

The manufacturer should have tested your transceiver within the last 3 years. If this hasn’t been done you must have tested your transceiver yourself for distance in both transmit and receive modes – it needs to have a signal at a minimum of 30 metres.

No "analog" transceivers are allowed. We also do not allow some older style digital transceivers. The following transceivers are not allowed on this trip:

  • Ortovox: F1, M1, M2, X1, D3, Patroller, Patroller Digital
  • SOS: all types
  • Pieps: Vector (recalled) and Freeride
  • Others: any transceiver manufactured before 2001

I can recommend the following transceivers for those of you who do not have a lot of experience searching with transceivers:

  • Mammut (Barryvox) Element
  • Pieps DSP Sport
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 2

I can recommend the following transceivers for those of you who are willing to do a lot of practice searching with transceivers:

  • Mammut (Barryvox) Pulse
  • Pieps DSP Pro
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 3

There are many other transceivers available. If they are sold by MEC they are acceptable. However, I do not have extensive experience in these other types so will not be able to help you learn about them as well as the recommendations above.

Let me know if you would like more information on transceivers.

If your transceiver does not meet the specifications above you will not be going skiing!

Common Equipment Problems

Issues we see with ski equipment include the following. Some of these problems might end your ski week or at least make life very frustrating! Make sure you have these things sorted out before the trip.

  • Slow skis/boards. Make sure your bases are smooth and waxed! A tune-up for your skis/board is well worth the investment.
  • Inappropriate backcountry skis/boards: too heavy, too narrow or skis/boards that are not backcountry specific. Try to keep your set-up as light as possible. Ski width under your foot should be in the 95-105 mm range, give or take. Narrower than this and you may have issues in deep snow or crust conditions, wider than this is often too heavy.
  • Old skins. Make sure your skin glue is in good shape and get them fixed if the glue is dirty, in clumps, or the glue has worn off at the edges or ends of the skins. If your skins don't work you can't go skiing. Some shops can replenish or re-glue skins for you or you can do it yourself. Here are a couple of tutorials: Replenishing Re-glueing
  • Boot problems. Ill-fitting boots will give you blisters. And all boots have bolts and rivets that may come loose. If your boots are brand new or well-worn make sure fittings are tight and in good shape. Bring specific tools to tighten the bolts/screws on your boots and check them a couple of times over the week.
  • Binding problems. Beware of the following bindings:
    • Any Naxo bindings
    • First generation Diamir Vipec bindings (manufactured 2012-2013)
    • Early generation G3 Onyx or Ruby bindings (2008-2010) - more info here 
    • Dynafit Radical 1.0 (manufactured 2011-2012) - see information for a recall here.

Skiing Equipment

Make sure all ski gear is in good shape and you are familiar with its use.

  • AT touring skis or telemark skis or splitboard: Understand that telemark and snowboard bindings may not be releasable and greatly increase your risk if caught in an avalanche. No snowboard/snowshoe combinations, splitboards only.
  • Skins
  • Boots: If they are new ensure you have all the kinks worked out! I recommend a professional boot fitting.
  • Digital avalanche transceiver
  • Avalanche shovel
  • Avalanche probe (see a G3 probe recall here)
  • Digital thermometer (click here).
  • Inclinometer (click here). Some compasses have an inclinometer as does an iPhone (in the stock compass app).
  • Snow saw (click here)
  • Skin wax: I find a simple candle works fine.
  • Sunglasses
  • Goggles
  • Water bottle and/or thermos
  • Small headlamp
  • Small personal first aid/repair kit: band aids, blister kit, headache pills, hand and toe warmers, extra batteries for transceiver and headlamp, duct tape, pocket knife, special binding and boot parts.
  • Toilet kit: toilet paper, baggie for used paper, hand sanitizer
  • Camera
  • 30-40 L capacity backpack. All your gear and clothing must fit in your pack. Nothing should be strapped to the outside, with the exception of a helmet.
  • Optional safety gear: ski helmet, Avalung, balloon pack

Clothing Systems

Several thin layers are better than fewer thicker layers. No cotton!

  • Long underwear tops and bottoms - wool or synthetic
  • Ski pants – softshell or light hardshell pants both are fine
  • Thin windbreaker/softshell - for walking uphill in warm conditions
  • Warmer softshell jacket – I prefer a hooded jacket but it’s absolutely necessary
  • Shell jacket – to keep the wet out, Gore-tex or similar seems best
  • Down or synthetic jacket – for breaks and emergency use
  • Lightweight gloves – for walking uphill in warm conditions
  • Warm gloves – 2 pairs (mittens are optional but recommended if you get cold hands)
  • Toque
  • Balaclava or neck tube – essential for cold conditions
  • Sun hat

Group Gear

Each instructor will provide:

  • Group first aid kit
  • Group repair kit
  • Emergency toboggan/shelter
  • Radio
  • GPS, compass, map etc