Provincial Advanced First-Aid Certification Letter

Avalanche dog rescue simulation – video

The Rescue at Cherry Bowl

Avalanche safety and rescue require skills and practice. Can it make the difference?

In March of 2013, four friends from Whitehorse, Yukon, made the 1,200-km road trip south to Shames Mountain, B.C. With fresh snow and clearing skies, they embarked on a week-long adventure exploring the area’s backcountry. Four days in, on a bluebird day in Cherry Bowl, their trip came to an abrupt end.

A massive avalanche hit the group of four skiers. When the slide stopped, three of them were deeply buried. The one person left on the surface had his pack swallowed by the snow, leaving him with no rescue equipment other than his transceiver. The chances of his friends’ survival were almost zero, yet all of them lived.

Explore what is now known as the “Rescue at Cherry Bowl” – the true story of how one trained group used their skills to successfully rescue the three people deeply buried in the avalanche.

The source for avalanche awareness and training information is Avalanche Canada.

Avalanche Education and the Canadian Ski Patrol
The CSP has a long history in avalanche safety and education:

  • Providing the first public avalanche education courses in the late 1960s.
  • Partnering with other organizations in the middle 1990s to revise the public avalanche curriculum that has evolved into today’s Avalanche Skills Training (AST).
  • Kickstarting youth education programs in the early 2000s.
  • Continued updating of CSP education materials to current practices and providing training opportunities for patrollers.

Our aim is to spread the avalanche safety message to all CSP patrollers. The goal is to have all patrollers who patrol at ski resorts with avalanche terrain trained with appropriate avalanche knowledge and skills to be a valuable member of the resorts patrol team.

CSP & Avalanche Canada training programs

The prime focus of the CSP education programs is providing basic avalanche awareness and safety information to all patrollers. The new CSP On Patrol Manual, Appendix C, Avalanche Safety, contains the required minimum knowledge required by patrollers working at ski centres that have an avalanche risk potential.

Avalanche Canada’s training program is the national standard for recreational avalanche training. The courses are designed by Avalanche Canada to suit the needs of recreationists and delivered by independent third-party providers, who are licensed by Avalanche Canada. 

Avalanche Canada curriculum includes the following courses: AST 1, AST 1 Refresher, Companion Rescue Skills, Managing Avalanche Terrain and AST 2. The Avalanche Canada website provides a comprehensive overview of its training programs.

Avalanche Skills Training 1

The first step in your formal avalanche education, a minimum 16-hour course, which combines classroom theory and practical field exercises. Typically taught over one full weekend, it can be conducted at your local ski area or in the backcountry.

This course provides an entry-level decision-making framework that is based on the most advanced knowledge available and suitable for use by people with basic training and little experience.

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

  • Describe avalanche formation and release using basic terminology.
  • Identify avalanche terrain. 
  • Plan and complete a backcountry trip plan using all available resources.
  • Describe techniques to minimize risk when traveling in the backcountry.
  • Demonstrate a basic companion rescue. 
Avalanche Skills Training 2

A comprehensive, advanced avalanche skills course for non-professionals. A minimum 30-hour course spread over four days. Emphasis is on practical field skills, including terrain recognition, route finding, safe travel, group management, stability evaluation, small party self-rescue. The field sessions are in the backcountry, so appropriate touring equipment and skills are required. This course requires the course leader to be a CAA Avalanche Professional. The instructors are typically ACMG certified guides.

Prerequisites include having taken an AST 1 course previously and some experience in backcountry touring. It is not recommended to do an AST 1 and an AST 2 course in the same season.

Companion rescue skills (CRS) course

This course is a one-day, field-based course designed for people looking to update and improve upon their search and rescue abilities.

The CRS course is suitable for any snowmobiler, skier, snowboarder, mountaineer, or snowshoer who recreates in avalanche terrain. Content can be focused to two interest groups:

  • AST graduates (1 or 2) looking to update and improve upon search and rescue abilities learned in their AST courses.
  • CSP patrollers with no AST training, who want to have rescue skills to enable them to be valuable members of their ski resort’s rescue teams.

The one-day Companion Rescue Skills course will train students to:

  • Consider preventative measure.
  • Understand transceiver functions.
  • Apply search and rescue techniques.
  • Identify post-incident considerations.

This course can be taken on a yearly basis to ensure that rescue skills are continually kept up-to-date.

CSP and avalanche training courses
  • The CSP is licensed by Avalanche Canada to provide avalanche training courses.
  • However, within the CSP’s avalanche training program, there is limited ability to conduct avalanche courses. CSP-organized courses are offered in areas near CSP-affiliated instructors.
  • In other areas of the country, Avalanche Canada courses can be accessed by contacting a local course provider.
Online avalanche courses

Have you previously taken an avalanche course and feel in need of an update or refresher course? New to the backcountry/off-piste skiing and not sure of what avalanche safety is all about? Not sure of what you think you know or don’t know about travel in avalanche terrain? There is an excellent online resource that is available for you. Highly recommended and covers the following topics:

  • Avalanche formation
  • Avalanche terrain
  • Pre-trip Planning
  • Reducing risk in the field
  • Rescue
  • Avalanche incident reporting

Check out  AvySavvy, Avalanche Canada’s 0nline avalanche tutorial – in English or French

These online avalanche courses are NOT intended to replace the formal avalanche training in AST 1 & AST 2 courses

General CSP avalanche information

For general information on any of the following subjects:

  • The CSP’s On Patrol Manual, Avalanche Safety chapter.
  • Current avalanche course offerings (dates and costs).
  • Subsidy monies to assist Mountain Division Patrollers in attending avalanche-related workshops and courses.
  • Avalanche Canada’s training program.
  • Any avalanche-related topic.

Contact Ken Lukawy (CSP National Avalanche Program Coordinator) at