Avalanche Operations Level 1



**As of Summer 2019, those wishing to take an Avalanche Operations Level 1 course will be required to complete an online prerequisite called Introduction to Avalanche Operations. Please read the article from the recent Avalanche Journal for details, including the rationale, impact and future plans. Online course registration dates and fees will be available in Spring 2019.**

    Avalanche Operations Level 1 is the first professional-level training course for persons seeking employment with avalanche risk management operations such as:

    • ski resorts
    • highways operations
    • guiding*
    • recreational avalanche course instruction

    In some cases, the course may satisfy the primary requirements of the employer, in other cases it may be one of many steps to work in a specific industry. The specific learning outcomes for successful students are described under Program Goals.


    This intensive seven to eight day technical training course is comprised of approximately 40% theory and classroom work, and 60% practical application and field work. There is a significant amount of pre-course reading to complete before the course. Students are examined on the first day of the Level 1 program on their companion rescue skills (see prerequisites tab below).


    * The CAA is not a guiding organization and the Industry Training Program (ITP) courses are not guiding courses. ITP courses provide critical avalanche-related skills training, but these alone are not sufficient for guiding, which in most cases requires additional training and experience. In Canada the Canadian Ski Guide Association and Association of Canadian Mountain Guides are the two well-recognized institutions that can direct interested individuals towards courses that lead to recreational guiding in avalanche-prone settings. Outside of Canada there are several different types of guiding institutions and local requirements or norms, the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations may be a resource to help orient students or clients towards responsible guiding practices or local guiding organizations. 

    Program Goals

    The Avalanche Operations Level 1 course goals and objectives are displayed in the  Level 1 DACUM. If you are unfamiliar with DACUMs please read the document "Learn what a DACUM is and why it is important". 


    Applicants must have and prove at time of registration 1:

    • A minimum of an Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 (AST 1) or similar training and experience 2Recommended Course: Avalanche Skills Training Level 2 (AST 2)
    • Advanced backcountry travel skills in either skiing or splitboarding including proficiency with touring bindings, skins, and splitboards 3 OR advanced backcountry snowmobiling skills for the sled course 4, and should have considerable backcountry travel experience commensurate with industry standards.
    • Good fitness.
    • Be proficient & consistent in companion rescue and multiple burial transceiver skills (Find two transceivers buried at least 70cm deep, in under fifteen minutes, and in a 40m x 40m area). Students will be examined on these skills on the first day of the Level 1 course and it is a mandatory pass element.
    • Be 19 years of age or older (for courses based in British Columbia), OR 18 years of age or older (for courses based in Alberta).

    1 See Registration Process.


    2 Participation on an AST 1 course before your Level 1 is acceptable for those that do not have AST 1 at time of registration. You must fill out a Letter of Intent. For those with training and experience similar to the AST program (e.g., from another country) you can apply to waive the AST 1 prerequisite using our Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) application process. Please see the details of this option on the PLA Application webpage. A student applying for PLA will need the AST 1 course goals for their self-assessment.


    3 Description of what constitutes an advanced backcountry traveller on skis or splitboard:

    • As a skier or splitboarder, you should be at an advanced level of skiing or snowboarding at the resort and able to handle flat sections and traverses. 
    • You should be capable of riding in a variety of snow conditions including deep snow, breakable crust, and wind slab.
    • You should be able to ride in treed and undulating/variable terrain up to approximately 35 degrees
    • You should be able to ride safely and efficiently in backcountry terrain carrying a backpack. Safely = not falling often. Efficiently = in a timely manner that doesn’t hold up a group

    4 Description of what constitutes an advanced backcountry traveller on a snowmobile:

    • As a rider, you should be at an advanced level of riding in untracked snow and able to handle climbing, side hilling and descending. You should be capable of riding in a variety of snow conditions including deep snow, breakable crust, and wind slab.
    • You should be able to ride in treed and undulating/variable terrain up to approximately 30 degrees.
    • You should be able to ride safely and efficiently in backcountry terrain carrying a backpack. Safely = maintaining the chosen line. Efficiently = not getting stuck and holding up the group.


    Registration Process

    If you have met the prerequisites listed above then you may register online for the course of your choice (if available). Visit the course calendar for course dates, locations, location-specific logistics information, and registration*.


    Online registration for Level 1 courses opens in the beginning of September with a staggered registration period over several days. Check in over the summer to the course calendar for specific registration opening dates and times for each course. For 2018-19 courses, there will be a staggered registration for courses between September 4-7, 2018. Note: Some courses fill rapidly. *Proof of Prerequisites (see below) must be uploaded during the registration process.


    All Level 1 courses require full payment at time of registration (including applicable hut fees, see tuition below).


    You will be required to upload a scan or JPEGs of the following documents during your registration process. Without them you will be unable to complete your registration.

    1 If a student is taking their AST 1 course between registration and the commencement of the Level 1 course, then they need to upload a Letter of Intent during the registration process.


    When a student has experience/training that meets the goals of CAA course prerequisite they can apply to waive this prerequisite through the PLA process. Please refer to the Prerequisites tab above for more information.

    Course Fees and Funding Opportunities

    ****The following are 2018-19 course fees only, they do not include food, transportation, or accommodation. Note that prices are location-specific to reflect ACTUAL costs associated with course locations****


    Please note: Students are responsible for their own transportation on the course.


    Snowmobile (Revelstoke): $2,200

    Revelstoke: $1902

    Whistler: $2302

    Fernie: $2177

    Golden: $1840 

    Jasper: $1897

    Chic-Chocs: $1575

    Monashee Powder Snowcats: $1675 (plus applicable hut fees)

    Powder Creek Lodge: $1675 (plus applicable hut fees)

    Burnie Glacier Chalet: $1675 (plus applicable hut fees)

    Kootenay Pass (Ministry of Transportation Highways building): $1675 (plus applicable hut fees)

    Boulder Hut: $1675 (plus applicable hut fees)


    An additional $100 registration fee is applied to International Students to account for shipping costs.


    Full payment is due at time of registration

    2018/19 Hut Fees (all hut fees are non-refundable)

    Monashee Powder Snowcats: $745 + tax (includes snowcat access, meals, and accommodations)

    Powder Creek Lodge: $1247 + tax (includes helicopter access, meals, and accommodations)
    Burnie Glacier Chalet: $1275+ tax (includes helicopter access, meals, and accommodations)

    Kootenay Pass (Ministry of Transportation Highways building): $882 + tax (includes meals and accommodations)

    Boulder Hut: $1175+ tax (includes helicopter access, meals, and accommodations)



    Full payment is due at time of registration



    The Avalanche Canada Foundation yearly offers scholarships for students. There is also an Alberta job grant and a Golden Area scholarship. Many local employment centres and/or SAR groups can also help with local funding opportunities.


    Course Equipment and Materials

    Upon registration all students will receive a confirmation e-mail that contains links to the course logistics information. Alternatively, visit the course calendar and click on the course you are registered on for location-specific logistics information.


    Students will be mailed a program package1 that includes:

    1 It is the student's responsibility to contact the CAA office if they have not received this package 1 month prior to course start. The package will be mailed to the address you provided during your online registration.


    Pre-course readings and questions take time, 20+ hours, and must be completed prior to starting the course. Students also need to be prepared for their companion rescue exam (see student manual).


    The Level 1 course is a mixture of classroom and field based learning. Students will be provided with an equipment list upon course registration.


    Days on the Level 1 course can be long and it is the student's responsibility to take care of their personal needs. This can include classroom snacks, drinks, proper clothing, and ensuring they are well rested and ready to learn.


    Use the sample course schedule to help anticipate daily needs.

    Course Evaluation

    Course evaluation is a combination of written tests and exercises, field book observations, practical examinations and field discussions. In addition to receiving an overall mark of 71% or greater, there are three mandatory elements that a student must pass (Professional Rescue Exam, Weather Observations, Snow Profile Exam). Retests are allowed in specific situations only.


    A passing grade results in the CAA Avalanche Operations Level 1 certificate of completion being granted to the student. Detailed marking rubrics are found in the Level 1 student manual.


    Avalanche Operations Level 1 graduates should refer to the Career Development Guidelines for Level 1 Graduates document for further information on professional development and the requirements for applying to the Avalanche Operations Level 2 program.

    Accommodation and Huts

    For town-based courses, the CAA strongly recommends accommodation for students as close to the classroom location as possible. Mornings typically begin at 6:30 am with manual weather observations and lectures starting around 8:00 am (sometimes earlier to allow for longer field days). Evening sessions are held occasionally throughout the week. Expect most days to go to 20:00.


    Hut-based courses are run out of a remote backcountry operation. Additional fees are charged for these courses and include all meals, lodging and transportation from staging area to lodge. Hut-based courses are an incredible value when compared to similar costs at other locations. These courses also provide an enhanced learning environment. Course participants will have exclusive use of the operation's terrain and facilities for the duration of their course. Close proximity to field study locations increases the amount of time students spend studying snowpack and avalanche terrain. In each operation, students will be expected to participate in daily hut duties as specified by facility operators and course instructors.


    Visit the course calendar for course dates, locations, and location-specific logistics information.


    International Courses

    Industry Training Program curriculum is delivered every year in countries such as Japan. If you are interested in finding out more about our international outreach projects, please go to the websites listed below or contact the CAA directly.







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