Ask any backcountry skier/boarder that has sampled a BC backcountry lodge, and you’ll hear raves like “best way to backcountry ski, period” or “best week of skiing of my life”. People keep coming back to lodges. There is a Rossland resident who has over 120 ski weeks at lodges under his belt! Besides the fantastic terrain for sweet turns, these lodges also provide the perfect classroom for avalanche education.
Keith runs week-long avalanche courses at various backcountry lodges in British Columbia. This is the finest way to hone your ski touring skills, under the watchful eye of an instructor. All of the curriculum from AST2 is covered, plus you will have three additional days of ski touring with other students. You will also get individualized feedback on your skills throughout the course.
This course is for the backcountry skier/boarder that wants to step up their game. Both Hilda and the Lequereux Outpost have skiable terrain for all avalanche conditions, but require more precise route-finding in order to manage avalanche risk. Therefore, only students with significant backcountry experience are qualified to attend. See prerequisites for minimum requirements below. Hilda and the Outpost have little intermediate terrain. The runs are steep, long, and provide some of the best fall-line skiing on earth. You will have the opportunity to apply your skills by planning appropriate tours for the conditions. We alternate between travelling together as a full group and heading out in smaller groups for your self designed tour, all under the watchful eye of an avalanche instructor with 30 years of experience leading students into the winter wilderness.
During the non-winter months, Keith works as a mental health counsellor with children and youth. He uses tools from psychology to help the learning. Keith has published a couple articles on Human Factors in the winter backcountry and is the co-author of the new AST Handbook, which is used for all AST courses. BE PREPARED FOR A FULLY ENGAGING AND INTERACTIVE COURSE!
This is not a guided trip. You will receive instruction and mentorship. You will be responsible for planning and carrying out self-guided tours during 3 of the 7 days.
Our buddy Vince Hempsall wrote a very flattering article about his experience on the KAC Lodge Based AST2+ in March 2017. Vince is the managing editor for Kootenay/Coast Mountain Culture Magazine. You can check out his article here:
Prerequisites for the AST2+
- AST1 or permission from the instructor in cases of equivalent training.
- You must have a minimum of at least 30 backcountry days.
- You should be proficient skiing/boarding powder in at least 35-40 degree open and treed terrain.
- Your fitness must be sufficient for you to complete tours of at least 3,000-4,000 vertical feet each day for 7 days.
- A smartphone with a mapping app that has Valkyr terrain downloaded for offline use.
Objectives for the AST 2+
At the end of the course, students should be able to:
• Be familiar with Avalanche Danger Ratings verification techniques for personal use on a local scale.
• Be familiar with the Avaluator and the ATES technical model as a means to develop personal, local terrain ratings.
• Understand how human factors influence decision making.
• Use navigation and route-finding to take advantage of nuances in terrain to manage personal risk.
• Use travel techniques in avalanche terrain appropriate to the avalanche conditions.
• Proficiently carry out a companion rescue
The Avalanche Skills Training Level 2+ Course will provide an intermediate to advanced level decision-making framework that includes multiple days in the field. Keith screens all applicants for Lodge Based AST2+ courses to make sure each student has the ability to handle the vertical ups and downhill terrain for each specific lodge. Contact KAC to set up a time to talk with Keith about your interest and skills. Prior to the course start, please:
- Check out the Trip Planner and Slope Specific Decision Tool along with the discussion paper. It is an older article I wrote several years ago, but I think you will get much more out of the course if you have read this in advance of the classroom session.
- Make yourself familiar with the Avalanche Canada Website. (In particular, please check the latest Bulletin for our region. In addition you might be interested in the “Learn” tab of the website which includes an Online Avalanche Tutorial.)
- Make sure you consult Backcountry Lodge Information for AST2+ Students. There is important information here about your upcoming lodge trip, including equipment, food, helicopter staging, and maps.
- All students are required to sign a waiver at the beginning of the course. See a copy of the Waiver under Student Resources.
Typical Schedule (exact times subject to change)
Saturday 4:00 pm: Check-in to Shon’s Hostel in Nakusp. 5:00 pm: Group introductions. 6:30 pm: Dinner.
Sunday: 6:30 am: Breakfast. 8:00 am: Meet at Burton helicopter staging area for safety briefing and fly to lodge. 11:00 am: Get settled in rooms and have lunch. 1:00 pm: Companion Rescue practice and short tour. 4:30 pm: Appetizers. 5:30 pm: Class session on Human Factors and Decision Making. 7:00 pm: Dinner.
Monday: 7:00 am: Breakfast & pack your lunch. 8:00 am: Morning meeting to discuss conditions. 8:30 am: All day ski tour, focus on terrain and travel practice. 4:30 pm: Appetizers. 5:30 pm: Class session including navigation and trip planning for tomorrow’s tour. 7:00 pm: Dinner.
Tuesday: 7:00 am: Breakfast & pack your lunch. 8:00 am: Morning meeting to discuss conditions. 8:30 am: Self-guided tours in smaller groups. 4:30 pm: Appetizers. 5:30 pm: Class session. 7:00 pm: Dinner.
Wednesday: 7:00 am: Breakfast & pack your lunch. 8:00 am: Morning meeting to discuss conditions. 8:30 am: Morning session of companion rescue and snow science. Afternoon tour. 4:30 pm: Appetizers. 5:30 pm: Class session including navigation and trip planning for tomorrow’s tour. 7:00 pm: Dinner. 8:00 pm: Mid-course individualized feedback.
Thursday: 7:00 am: Breakfast & pack your lunch. 8:00 am: Morning meeting to discuss conditions. 8:30 am: Self-guided tours in smaller groups. 4:30 pm: Appetizers. 5:30 pm: Class session. 7:00 pm: Dinner.
Friday: 7:00 am: Breakfast & pack your lunch. 8:00 am: Morning meeting to discuss conditions. 8:30 am: Ski Tour with emphasis on leadership and group decision making. 4:30 pm: Appetizers. 5:30 pm: Class session including navigation and trip planning for tomorrow’s tour. 7:00 pm: Dinner.
Saturday: 7:00 am: Breakfast & pack your lunch. 8:00 am: Morning meeting to discuss conditions. 8:30 am: Self-guided tours in smaller groups. 4:30 pm: Appetizers. 5:30 pm: Class session. 7:00 pm: Dinner and celebration. 8:00 pm: End of course individualized feedback.
Sunday: 7:00 am: Breakfast. 8:00 am: Clean-up chores. 9:00 am: Fly back to Burton staging area and begin travel home. Arrival in Burton typically by 11:00 am -noon, weather dependent.
This week was amazing. I feel like I made huge progress.
The alternating course field days with the self-guided days was great.
The self-guided days forced us to apply what we were learning to real scenarios.
Evening sessions that are bite-sized and digestible.
I learned that even in high avalanche danger, there are still places that you can ski safely.
Upcoming Lodge Based AST 2+ Courses
February 9-16, 2020 @ Hilda Lodge, $2900
February 23 – March 1, 2020 @ Lequereux Outpost, $2150
February 14-21, 2021 @ Hilda Lodge, $TBD
February 28 – March 7, 2021 @ Lequereux Outpost, $TBD
February 27 – March 6, 2022 @ Lequereux Outpost, $TBD
February 19-26, 2023 @ Hilda Lodge, $TBD
March 5-12, 2023 @ Lequereux Outpost, $TBD
More information about Lodge Based AST 2+:
Sign up early. We plan these courses 4-5 years in advance in order to get prime weeks booked with the lodge.
Yes, you can take the Lodge Based AST 2+ even if you’ve previously done an AST 2. Many students use the Lodge Based AST 2+ in order to really bump up their backcountry skills. Some students have taken the Lodge Based AST2+ two or three times!
We recommend that you check out a video shot by one of our AST 2 students in 2013:
Your teaching skills were exceptional, though I found a lot of ownership in my own learning.
Experience of a lifetime, honestly. The venue blew my mind. The chance to ski here with your instruction and the opportunity to interact with a group was the real thing.
I learned the most I possibly could without overload of info.
The “real life” skiing, group dynamics, communication, all around love of skiing, and getting after it, was a perfect combo.