The areas that we ski and patrol at are some of the most spectacular in Canada.  That also means we ski in avalanche terrain every day.  Yes, even Nordic patrollers are not exempt – consider the Elk Pass trail segment just south of the Hydroline junction.

The avalanche risk we face every day (risk = exposure to hazard) is minimal as the avalanche hazard is controlled.  But, did you ever consider what you would do if confronted by an avalanche incident?  These events are rare, but one never knows!

But, let’s digress for a moment – What is the role of CSP Patrollers while on duty?  In four words – Education, Avalanche Control & Rescue.  While not every one of these three tasks will apply to every resort, let’s explore what our roles are / could be / should be:

  • Education – educating the public as to current conditions i.e. what the hazard is, what is open or closed; educating “poachers”.
  • Avalanche Control – the CSP does notdo avalanche control, but we do assist the ski resort’s control efforts. This may be as simple as blocking off areas while control work is in progress and letting the public know what is going on.
  • Rescue – patrollers can be competent members of the rescue team.  At several resorts, it is encouraged and sometimes mandatory to carry avalanche gear, so is it not imperative to know how to use it?

The best way to be prepared and confident in our abilities on the slopes is to take an avalanche course.  CSP Mountain Division organizes several avalanche courses throughout the winter season.

  • Avalanche Skills Training (AST) 1 & 2
  • Companion Rescue Skills (CRS)

(Information on courses this season can be found on both the CSP Calgary Zone and Mountain Division websites.)


Avalanche Skills Training (AST) 1

This is the first step in your avalanche education: the two day course is approximately 50% classroom and 50% field work.  This course provides an entry-level decision-making framework by covering the following topics:

  • avalanche formation and release
  • identification of avalanche terrain
  • the basics of trip planning
  • optimal use of tools and resources like the avalanche forecasts to mitigate your avalanche risk
  • use appropriate travel techniques in avalanche terrain
  • intro to companion rescue

At the end of the AST 1, you should recognize that your journey is just starting and there is much, much, much more to learn.


Avalanche Skills Training (AST) 2

This is a 4 day course consisting of 25% classroom and 75% field.  Some touring experience is required.  It takes everything you learned in the AST 1 and steps it up a notch:

  • progressive planning and travel techniques are required to travel safely through various types of terrain
  • key techniques for using the Danger Rating on a local scale
  • key techniques for applying the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) technical model to develop personal, local terrain ratings
  • proficiently carry out a companion rescue


What is the Companion Rescue Skills (CRS) course all about?

The Companion Rescue Skills course can be used either as the first stepping stone to avalanche training or as a refresher for those who have previous training in either AST 1 or AST 2.

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

  • Consider and incorporate preventative measures
  • Prioritize actions if caught in an avalanche
  • Understand transceiver functions and hone your transceiver search skills
  • further develop your probe and shovel techniques
  • Organize a group rescue


Avalanche Canada is the source for all Canadian avalanche information.  From public avalanche bulletins, training course information, outreach programs (especially to youth), snowmobile specific topics – it is all accessible from this website.  Check it out!


Contact for the any avalanche related information:
Ken Lukawy –