Avalanche skills and mountain riding safety for sledders

Here is a list of snowmobile-specific avalanche safety training providers in B.C. and Alberta

by Kirsten Armleder

There are several companies in B.C. and Alberta that offers snowmobile-specific courses. Pictured here is Niko Weis Avalanche Education. photo courtesy Parker Dietrich Films

In B.C. and Alberta, we are blessed to have access to some of the most spectacular mountain terrain imaginable. There are certain risks, however, that come with snowmobiling in the mountains, so it is imperative that we learn how to manage those risks before heading out in order to keep ourselves and others safe.

Training is key

Avalanche skills training courses are designed to help riders get the most out of their mountain experience. You can start by reading Avalanche Canada’s free online tutorial and watching Throttle Decisions, a fast-paced video series aimed directly at sledders. The next step is to take a formal avalanche skills training course.

AST 1 is a two-day introductory course where riders learn the basics of avalanche formation and release. Students also learn how to test the snowpack, how to use the Avaluator tool from Avalanche Canada and how to carry out a companion rescue.

AST 2 is a four-day course with three days of hands-on training in the field. Here, riders learn how to make proper decisions in response to changing avalanche conditions. Group management techniques are covered and rescue skills are honed as well.

Companion Rescue Skills is a one-day course that can be your first step to formal avalanche skills training or it can be used as a yearly refresher for those who’ve taken a course in the past.

Where to get snowmobile avalanche safety training

There are several snowmobile-specific training providers that offer courses throughout B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan. Many of these providers will tailor their courses to meet the individual needs of their students, and some of them offer custom courses—such as mentoring days and backcountry riding clinics.

Zac’s Tracs Avalanche Training is an internationally recognized training provider that offers courses in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Soul Rides is a Revelstoke, B.C.-based provider that offers AST courses for sledders and snow bikers, as well as backcountry riding clinics and avalanche mentoring days.

Trigger Point Avalanche Training is a Golden, B.C.-based provider that has been offering AST courses for sledders in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan for over 10 years.

Hangfire Avalanche Training is also based in Golden, B.C., and this company offers ski/snowboard and sled-specific courses in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Frozen Pirate Snow Services offers avalanche safety courses and professional snowmobile guide services in the Valemount area of B.C.

Niko Weis Avalanche Education offers AST 1 Sled and Sled-Ski, AST 2, Level 1 Operations, Companion Rescue courses, as well as custom courses for snowmobile clubs in the Lower Mainland of B.C.

Apex Alpine Adventures Ltd. offers recreational AST courses for sledders and commercial snowmobile safety courses in the Shuswap/Columbia region of B.C.

Elk Valley Snow Shepherds offers AST 1, AST 2, Managing Avalanche Terrain and the Companion Rescue Skills Training Course. This Fernie, B.C.-based company also offers professional guiding services and mountain skills mentorship programs. 

Outside Ventures in Prince George, B.C., offers AST 1, Companion Rescue and AST 2 courses for snowmobilers. For more info, contact owner Dave Merritt by email.

Summit Avalanche Consulting offers AST 1 and Companion Rescue courses for sledders, skiers, snowboarders and snowshoers. It is based in Grande Prairie, Alberta. 

Hyland Backcountry Services Ltd. in Smithers, B.C., offers AST 1, AST 2 and Companion Rescue courses for skiers, snowmobilers and those who do both. 

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