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SKILLS TRAINING 1 for skiers and snowboarders

$240 pp for standard AST 1 

$350 pp for Private AST 1 (4 people max)

Introduce yourself to safe ski and split board winter back county travel techniques with the AST 1 Course. These courses are designed to help build confidence and provide you with the basics to understanding the winter environment when traveling in terrain with avalanche potential. The course will introduce you to:


  • Avalanche terrain / Route finding

  • Decision Making

  • Group Management

  • Companion Rescue

  • Snowpack and Weather

  • Appropriate travel techniques in avalanche terrain

  • Understand the limits of AST1 training.

  • Understand how the Avaluator Slope Evaluation card uses Avalanche Conditions and Terrain Characteristics to assess on-slope avalanche risk.



Course Dates:

THANKS Islanders for your support of SMA!  More dates added soon so check back or contact us if your interested in running your own custom course.

Due to COVID-19 Restrictions we are still permitted to run the field sessions outside as per Dr. Henry but class room sessions will be moved to Zoom sessions that will run on 2 separate evening sessions usually on the Monday and Tuesday before the weekend 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Dec 5-6 (Full) - Great 1st course! Challenging early season but good fun!

Dec 11 Custom course - Great time with Chris and friends playing in Strathcona!

Dec 12-13 (Full) - Thanks to Evan and the Crew for a great course and for a fun tour!

Dec 19-20 (Full) - Great day of cruising around the Brooks area with an awesome group of folks!

Jan 9-10 (Full) - Awesome time cruising around the hills with a great crew!

Jan 30-31 (Full) - Thanks for an incredible day learning the ropes and getting some Island pow to boot!

March Courses TBA. 

March and April - Custom 4 person AST courses available. Email for dates.

The AST 1 course:

Involves 7 hours of class room and 10 hours of practical on snow instruction.

The Class Room:

Some topics are best discussed when not standing around in blizzard conditions!

These subjects are covered in the comfort of an informal classroom setting where we can cover key aspects of the course as outlined above.


In the Mountains:

Day 1 is a half day in the field where we will get out and practice our avalanche beacon and companion rescue skills. Usually 3-4 hours of time in the snow.

Day 2 is a full day tour out into the mountains to look at avalanche terrain and work on travel / hazard management skills. Up to 8 hours in the mountains.

The AST1 course can be done on Skis or Split boards only.  

Unfortunately we don't run snowshoe courses. Your equipment will need to be capable of traveling both up and down hill on snow.

It is important to note that SMA courses are structured to get you into mountainous terrain and you should be prepared to travel on your skis or splitboard for a full day covering approx. 10kms of distance. This is not for everyone so please ensure you are aware of this when signing up.

Every Student must wear an avalanche transceiver as well as carry a probe and shovel.

For a complete gear list of what you will require on course see the gear list below.

SMA Courses are heavy on field instruction so expect to be out in the mountains on both days of the course. The 1st day is usually a intro to transceiver use / companion rescue and Day 2 is a full field day where we will travel to avalanche terrain and get our heads into the snow. With this in mind it is important to be properly equipped to ensure you are prepared.

Course Location:

This course will take place in the back country usually in the Paradise Meadows area of Strathcona Provincial Park.

This area is a perfect location to introduce you to all the aspects of an AST 1 Course. From route finding problems to practical decision making and terrain examples this area is a great location to get going on. You never know, you may also get some great turns in also!

As this is a course that takes place in the back country you will need to be capable or traveling on snow for up to 5kms during the day. Due to the nature of SMA courses we only run trips on skis or snowboards only. 

Equipment List:

A gear list is provided but if you are in need of gear SOS Gear in Courtenay has all your needs covered. Check them out for equipment as well as register for a course in store. Receive a 10% discount on gear when taking a SMA Course!.


For Equipment list download file here:

Course Costs Include:

  • 2 days AST 1 training

  • Avaluator and Avalanche Handbook

  • Avalanche Canada Certificate of course completion.

  • Use of Avalanche Beacon

You will also be required to sign a waiver of release for this trip. Download file here:




Need Gear? Check out SOS Gear in Courtenay where you can sign up for a trip or course. Rentals and backcountry skiing equipment can also be picked up at the Ski Tak Hut.

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Cliff Umpleby

Cliff Umpleby is your AST 1 Course Instructor.

Cliff brings over 20 years of practical experience to SMA Courses. As a certified ACMG Ski Guide, Cliff spends most of his winter racking up large amounts of vertical meters in Avalanche Terrain.

SMA believes that the best course delivery is by instructors who are also practitioners. This means that you're course is being delivered to current standards and by someone who is present in the mountains full time. Your courses are taught by Cliff personally ensuring the highest quality instruction available on Vancouver Island. 

As the founder of the Vancouver Island Avalanche Bulletin Cliff also has extensive experience in Island terrain and snowpack.

Cliff is a CAA Level 3 Avalanche Practitioner, a Professional Member of the CAA and a full time guide. He also really loves to Ski and looks forward to sharing this passion with you!



OR.. in Person at SOS Gear in Courtenay (206-1995 Cliffe Ave, Courtenay)

To Register for a course simply click the button below. You will be redirected to a Registration Form where you can fill in your information as well as directions for payment. All payments are done via email transfer (keeps all of our costs down) or in person at SOS Gear in Courtenay.