Avalanche Operations Level 1 to 3

Level 1 - Search and Rescue

View larger imageCanadian soldiers learning avalanche search techniques | Photo: Wren McElroy

This course was developed in response to numerous requests from volunteer and professional SAR organizations to combine the CAA's industry standard Level 1 program with current best practices in organized avalanche search and rescue. Participants must be physically fit and be able to travel in deep snow conditions in the backcountry via snowshoe or skis. Snowmobiles and snowcats are used on the courses, as they would be in an avalanche search a rescue mission, but have a limited use on an actual avalanche scene, therefore all participants are required to be competent backcountry skiers or mobile and functional on snowshoes.

This intensive 9 day training course is comprised of approximately 40% theory & classroom and 60% practical application & field work. See Sample Course Schedule under "Related Links".

Please note:  An additional day has been added to the Chatter Creek course in order to spend more time on terrain travel and analysis. Also, students are also responsible for their own transportation on town based courses..

Application/Registration Process

If you have met the prerequisites listed below AND are a SAR volunteer or professional (RCMP, DND SAR Techs, PEP, etc) then you may register on-line for the course of your choice (if available). Note that on-line registration opens September 3, 2012 and requires full payment at time of registration (including applicable hut fees). To register, click on the “Register now!” button in the right sidebar.

NEW: You will be required to upload scans of the following documents during your registration process. Without them, you will be unable to complete your registration. A scan can be a legible digital photo of the required document. Scans are needed of:

  •  Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 - AST 1 certificate or a completed PLA for exemption CAA letter
    *If a student is taking this course between registration and the commencement of the course then they need to bring a copy of the certification to the course.
  • Proof of 19 years of age or older. Example: A copy of your Driver's License.

Program Goals

At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • State the nature of avalanches;
  • State the hazards of avalanches;
  • Describe and classify avalanche terrain;
  • Describe the properties of the mountain snowpack;
  • Describe, collect and record weather data;
  • Collect and record snowpack data;
  • Collect avalanche occurrence data;
  • State the factors and methods used in avalanche hazard evaluation;
  • Apply risk control methods;
  • Conduct avalanche search and rescue;
  • Describe the scope of practice for L1 ski operations.


  • A minimum of an Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 - AST 1* or equivalent training;
  • Backcountry travel skills in either touring, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing. Courses will be designated as either skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling focus;
  • Proficient & consistent companion rescue skills (pinpoint probing and shovelling; 2 transceivers buried at least 70 cm deep found in under 5 minutes in a 40 mx 40 m area);
  • 19 years of age or older.

*Participation on an AST 1 course before your Operations Level 1 is acceptable for those that don't have AST 1 at time of registration. For those with training and experience similar to the AST program (e.g. from another country), you can apply for exemption using one of our Prior Learning Assessment Review (PLA) form, available for download in the right hand column of this page.

Recommended Courses 

  • Avalanche Skills Training 2
  • Introduction to Weather


$1795 (plus applicable hut fees**)

An additional $100 registration fee is applied to international students.

**Please note that hut fees are in effect for the programs taking place at Monashee Powder Snowcats, Kokanee Glacier, Burnie Glacier, Valkyr, Ptarmigan, Chatter Creek and Kootenay Pass. All hut fees are NON-REFUNDABLE.

Course Evaluation

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

Accommodation & Huts

For town based courses, the CAA strongly recommends accommodation for students as close to the classroom location as possible. Mornings typically start around 6:30 a.m. with manual weather observations and lectures starting around 8:00 a.m., sometimes earlier to allow longer field days. Evening sessions are held occasionally throughout the week – expect most days to go to 8:00 p.m.

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 trail head to operation. Hut based courses are an incredible value when compared to similar costs at other locations. These courses not only provide exceptional value but also an enhanced learning environment. Course participants will have exclusive use of the operations terrain and facilities for the duration of their course. Close proximity to field study locations increase 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.

Course Equipment & Materials

Please refer to the Sample Student Equipment List under "Related Links". A final equipment list will be sent to you with your student manual which will be sent to your mailing address no later than a month prior to course start. If you have concerns, please contact our office.

related links

course dates

If courses are full, contact the CAA to be put on a waiting list (info@avalanche.ca) and a general e-mail will be sent out to those on the waitlist when a spot becomes open.