Top three reasons to upgrade your skills in Squamish
Learn the fundamental avalanche skills amid towering powdery peaks
Squamish’s backcountry is known for broad terrain and teems with steeps and alpine bowls
The perfect combo of classroom theory and practical application in splendid backcountry
Known for placing great emphasis on outdoor recreation, Squamish is a welcoming destination with enough variety to keep the most versatile of thrill-seekers engaged at all times. Its captivating nature has something in store for everyone, and the snow-blanketed towering peaks with acres of deep powder and pristine slopes are ideal for anyone keen on backcountry skiing. However, off-piste skiing and the formidable nature around you can be treacherous, and things can go south in the blink of an eye. If an avalanche strikes while you’re on the slopes, the environment around you becomes perilous. Avoid all of this and hire an expert guide to help you master the fundamental avalanche safety skills. You’ll acquire both theoretical knowledge in a classroom setting and then put all of it to use in Squamish’s marvelous backcountry. Become a safer and more confident skier and enjoy some phenomenal vistas along the way!
December through April
Vancouver, BC, is just under an hour away
Beginner to intermediate
Choose how you spend your day
2-Day Private AST Level 1 Course
This course will help you understand and recognize the possible and unforeseen pitfalls that you could encounter in the backcountry and help you prepare for any challenges that you may face. Join a private local guide and master the fundamental avalanche theory on the first day. On the second day, put your newfound knowledge into practice in Squamish’s true backcountry!
2-Day Group AST Level 1 Course
This course will help you understand and recognize the risky conditions that one can encounter in the backcountry and prepare you for any challenges that it might throw your way. Your certified and knowledgeable instructor will make sure that you understand everything you need to know on the first day so that you can apply this newly-acquired knowledge in Squamish on the second day. Learn avalanche safety theory and master the fundamental avalanche skills in the field to become a safer skier!
3-Day Hybrid AST Level 1 Course
This online course is specifically designed to address the ongoing pandemic—it is ideal for those with busy schedules and you can access it from the comfort of your home. The course and your certified instructor will help you understand and recognize the perils of the backcountry and prepare you for any challenges that you may chance upon. Learn avalanche safety theory online and on the third day, head out in true backcountry and put the newly-acquired knowledge into practice.
Online part of the course is held on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the field day on Saturdays
Day 1 (and Day 2 for the Hybrid AST Level 1 Course)
The Private and Group courses start off with a course in a classroom location and last from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, whereas the Hybrid Course is organized on the Zoom platform and is split into two sessions, on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6 pm to 9 pm. Before the course begins, you will watch a 30-minute interactive pre-course lesson and a video, and take a pre-course quiz. The day will end with a debrief along with homework, some handouts and a resources list. The topics you’ll cover during this part of the course are:
- Snowpack: crystals & layers
- Environmental factors in avalanche formation terrain
- Avalanche hazard mitigation
- Avalanche danger resources
- Human factors
- Equipment and companion rescue technique familiarization
- Pre-trip planning & avalanche bulletin/avaluator
- Decision making competence
The classroom allows all students to maintain the required 2m physical distancing guidelines and cleaning is performed before and after every meeting room use, as well as during every break.
Day 2 (Day 3 for the Hybrid AST Level 1 Course)
In the outdoor portion of this AST Level 1 course, you’ll get a chance to apply your newly-acquired knowledge in Squamish’s true backcountry. The guide will lead a short briefing (discussing current conditions and weather) and everyone will perform a gear check. After that, you’ll head up the mountain. The day will end with a quick debrief and a discussion on what steps you can take after you’ve completed your AST Level 1 course. Your guide will explain and show you the following topics in depth:
- Trailhead procedures
- Companion rescue
- Avalanche terrain travel
- Snowpack and/or avalanche observations
- Snowpack tests
- Avalanche terrain descent
The field day begins at 8:30 am and lasts until 4:30 pm. The field day for
Meet your guide
Mountain Skills Academy
ACMG/IFMGA Certified Guides
I completed the AST-1 at Elfin Lakes this weekend and it was an awesome experience! Our guide Cloe was fun and knowledgeable, and did a great job engaging and educating the group. Would highly recommend this course and I’ll be signing up for another MSAA weekend in the future. Thanks!
Took an AST 1, did online classroom on Saturday. Worked very well. Had an amazing Sunday on the mountain with Rob. He showed great knowledge of the topic and I learned a lot. I will highly recommend this course, even for very experienced skiers.
A weekend full of knowledge. Rob is an excellent mentor, he is very knowledgeable, taught us to pay attention to the small details on the mountains and continually asked us to be very critical and make good use of what we had learned in class. He gave us many tips for equipment, best sites for local forecast and avalanche resources. We had tons of fun!!
My partner and I did a 2 day AST with Cloe who was absolutely incredible. Her depth of knowledge, attention to detail, understanding of our learning needs/pace and above all, her amazing personality made the 2 days with her seamless and SO MUCH FUN! If you are looking for someone who you want to feel safe with and who will always put a smile on your face (as there is one constantly on hers), please ask for Cloe! We are now starting the planning for AST-2 with her and will invite a few friends.
I had a great time over the 2 days with Kurt who was a very thorough teacher but also made the day interesting and fun. I would definitely recommend Mountain Skills Academy and Kurt to anybody looking for a fun and informative day in the mountains.
I just completed this 2 day course today.
The quality and style of the course exceeded expectations. This is primarily down to April. She is an outstanding instructor with knowledge and passion for the backcountry for days.
I couldn’t recommend more highly to anyone, the value and enjoyment you will get from doing this training with April.
I was so impressed with the level of customer service and professionalism from MSAA. I participated in their AST 1 course and Ollie Hooper was always available to answer questions and was exceptional in organizing this course and many others. Our instructor Marcus Wybrow was simply ace! Top level instructor the entire group enjoyed and was patient, diligent and covered all the bases. Highly recommend taking course work with MSAA!
Things to know
Covid measures in Squamish
57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.
We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, guides and the communities they’re travelling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Squamish, BC, please refer to the Explore Squamish and the Government of British Columbia.
Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!
What you get in this adventure:
- An experienced, certified guide with extensive knowledge of the area
- A classroom day or online classes
- A full day in the field
- 30-minute pre-course interactive lesson and video
- Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 certificate (upon successful completion)
- A Companion Rescue Field Card acknowledging completion date at course end
- Avaluator booklet and Avaluator slope assessment field card
- Canadian Avalanche Association mandatory student fee
- Use of snow study kit with thermometer, crystal screen and loupe
What’s not included:
- Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
- Food and snacks
- A shuttle service from Escape Route Squamish to Elfin Lakes ($50 USD)
How fit do I need to be?
In order to get the most of this adventure, you need to have a moderate level of fitness. You will be on your feet for a full day. You will need to manage controlled descents in variable conditions. All participants should feel comfortable on challenging blue or black level resort runs and be able to carry a loaded daypack while skinning up variable degrees of terrain.
Prerequisites: You need to be at least an intermediate skier seeing as you’ll need to be able to ascend moderate slopes using skins. All participants should be comfortable traveling in snow while carrying touring gear. You should also have an average level of fitness.
What equipment do I need to bring?
For technical backcountry ski touring gear, you will need to bring:
- Alpine touring skis or splitboard with skins and bindings (can be rented)
- Touring boots and poles (can be rented)
- Avalanche safety equipment (can be rented):
- Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver or beacon
- Lightweight snow shovel
- Avalanche probe
For personal items, we recommend bringing:
- Sunglasses or ski goggles
- A warm hat/toque and balaclava
- Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore-Tex recommended)
- Ski pants (Gore-Tex recommended)
- Down or synthetic insulated jacket or vest
- Synthetic or wool base layers, underwear and socks
- Mid layer fleece top
- One triple-action locking carabiner or two conventional locking carabiners
- Repair kit and Leatherman for your equipment (can be shared between several people)
- Water bottle and 1L of water
- Thermos with a warm beverage — optional
- Food you can eat on-the-go
- First-aid kit with blister kit
- Daypack large enough to carry all items listed (around a 25-35L backpack)
- Pen, paper/notebook, face mask (for Classroom Day)
- Laptop (for Classroom Day) — optional
- Map, compass, GPS — optional
- Camera — optional
Can I rent equipment?
All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent:
Ski rental locations are in Squamish and should be picked up the night prior to your outing. If you need to rent gear, let us know and we can help make arrangements.
Group sizes and age requirements
Group sizes and pricing:
- For the group courses, the max client to guide ratio is 8:1.
- Cost is per person and it doesn’t decrease as the group grows.
- For the private course, the max client to guide ratio is 8:1.
- The cost for the private course is per person and decreases as your group grows, making it a perfect opportunity to learn with your friends and family!
Courses in Squamish, BC, can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.
Min. age requirements:
- If you are older than 19, you’re good to go.
- Guests under the age of 19 must have a parent or legal guardian sign the waiver on their behalf.
If your group has skiers under the age of 19, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.
Getting there and meeting location
To get to Squamish, most people fly into Vancouver International Airport, about 1.5 hours away from Squamish. From there, you can rent a car or take a shuttle service.
Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet, whether that’s at the guide shop or a predetermined location. If you’ve opted for the in-person course, you’ll head to the guiding company’s classroom location. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ability of the group.
For the field day, a shuttle service from Escape Route Squamish to Elfin Lakes is available and it is highly recommended to those without the appropriate vehicle and snow chains to book the shuttle service.