2013/14 Hakuba Avalanche Courses

All courses are taught in Hakuba by Canadian Avalanche Association Professional Member, Damian Banwell. We have taught over 30 Avalanche Skills Training (AST) courses which are known for their professional organisation, effective instructional technique and personal enthusiasm. Read below to see what some of our very happy customers have said.

Damian is licensed by the Canadian Avalanche Centre to teach their AST Level 1 and 2 courses along with the new Companion Rescue Skills (CRS) course. The curriculum, instructional materials and student handbooks are all provided by the CAC and represents the best possible training that has been refined over decades of avalanche safety education in Canada.

Customer Testimonials
"I am a professional instructor and wish I could do my job as well as Damian does his. This course is very well taught"

"Damian was very professional and thoughtful in his approach, and had a lot of experience in avalanche terrain which he shared very effectively. The AST Level 1 course opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the mountains which I would highly recommend to all sidecountry and backcountry skiers."

Read more testimonials here

Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 Course in Hakuba

The AST 1 is an introductory avalanche course developed by the Canadian Avalanche Centre. It is designed to give you an entry level avalanche decision making framework. On successful completion you will receive an AST 1 certificate and also be able to move onto more advanced recreational and professional avalanche training within the CAC curriculum.

Please note: For the AST 1 course snowboarders are can use snowshoes, however skiers must have touring equipment. Splitboards are recommended for snowboarders.

Course Duration
The course is designed by the CAC to be delivered over over two and half days and requires a minimum of 7 hours classroom time and one full day in the field.
Day 1: 4pm-8pm classroom time
Day 2: morning classroom, afternoon companion rescue training outdoors
Day 3: backcountry instruction and more companion rescue training


Price Course Size
20,000 yen Limited to 8 people

Includes 2013/14 Dates
  • Course text and Avaluator
  • Two and a half days of instruction
  • Some transport
Starting at 4pm on day 1
  • December 27-28-29
  • January 3-4-5
  • January 10-11-12
  • January 24-25-26

Please note: you will likely need to buy a one-ride lift ticket to access backcountry terrain from high in resort areas. These tickets typically cost 1,500 yen. Tips are not customary in Japan and any offered will be politely declined.

It is expected that you have the basic ability to ski/snowboard off-piste terrain with trees. The field day is reasonably strenuous and not suitable for people with injuries.

What you will learn

We proudly choose to stick the the true AST 1 curriculum for your longer term benefit. What we teach is briefly summarised here with a very detailed description further below. It is well worth reading before deciding on a course provider.

  • Introduction to the Formation and Nature of Avalanches
  • Introduction to Avalanche Terrain
  • Terrain Traps
  • Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale
  • Avalanche Danger Ratings and Forecasts
  • Decision Making Competence
  • Trip Planning - Introduction to the Avaluator
  • Trip Planning - Weather
  • Trip Planning - Human Factors
  • Trip Planning - Equipment and Emergency Plans
  • Avalanche Slope Assessment
  • Good Travel Habits
  • Companion Rescue

Location

Day one is indoors and held near to Happo. Day 2 is typically held in the Tsugaike area.

Required Equipment

For Day 2 of the course you will require full ski/boarding clothes and equipment. You will also require the basic backcountry kit:

  • A ski/board backcountry backpack. More than 30 litres strongly recommended. It must be specially designed to carry skis/boards if you are using snowshoes
  • Avalanche transceiver (3 antenna digital is highly recommended!). NOTE: you will need this for two days.
  • Avalanche probe
  • Avalanche shovel
  • Snowboarders: snowshoes are ok, but not ideal. Splitboards are strongly recommended
  • Skiers: snowshoes are not appropriate. Please rent touring equipment if you do not have any
  • Sunglasses and goggles (sunglasses are important)
  • Warm jacket
  • Packed lunch and drink

    Please contact us for rentals. Once again, note that a 3 antenna digital beacon is highly recommended!

    If you would like to reserve a place on a course please contact us via the booking form on the top right. If you still want to know even more info then read on...

AST 1 Course Bookings & Enquiries

Please leave blank if you are unsure which course you would like to attend.
Please ask any question, we are happy to help out. If you would like to book, please indicate your preferred dates, equipment needs, skill level and fitness limitations along with any other information.

The Avalanche Skills Training Level 2 (AST 2) course has been prepared by the Canadian Avalanche Centre and provides an intermediate level of avalanche decision making. It is recommended as the vital next step after completing the entry level AST 1 course.

The AST 2 is run over 5 days, including 4 full days of backcountry touring with evening classroom sessions. Class size is strictly limited to only 4 people.

Prerequisites

  • The AST 2 is a separate 5 day course that comes after completing the AST 1. The first two days are not a repeat of AST 1 material.
  • All participants must have completed the AST 1 course or equivalent and be able to provide their certificate in advance.
  • You must know how to use the Avaluator from the AST 1. If not, additional training is required. This is essential.
  • You must have an understanding of the ATES from the AST 1 course. If not, additional training is required. This is essential.
  • You must have been in the backcountry applying what you learnt in the AST 1 course.
  • Pre-course reading: Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper.

Price

50,000 yen

Dates

Five consecutive days.

If a course is full please still register your interest as often I get a cancellation and places open up.

8-9-10-11-12 February 2014 full

22-23-24-25-26 February 2014 full

Includes

5 days of instruction, Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain fieldbook, daily transport.

Class Size

Only 4 people (normal class size is 8)

Required Equipment

  • Splitboard and touring skis with skins. No snowshoes, sorry*.
  • Warm puffy jacket
  • Goggles and sunglasses
  • Small personal first aid kit (sunscreen, lip-balm, blister treatment, Band-Aids, medications etc)
  • Digital transceiver 3 antenna is highly recommended. This course will not teach using old analog transievers as they are now becoming obsolete
  • Probe
  • Shovel
  • Pack (35 litres or more is best)

Snow crystal loupes are not required as it is not part of the AST 2 curriculum.

* Snowshoes work well enough in a group of snowshoers, however not so well when mixed with people skinning and in powder.


AST 2 Course Bookings & Enquiries

Please note: most days you will need to buy a one-ride lift ticket to access backcountry terrain from high in resort areas. These tickets typically cost 1,500 yen. Tips are not customary in Japan and any offered will be politely declined.

What you will learn

The focus is maximising hands-on training in the backcountry with a very small class size to allow for valuable personal attention and the best learning possible. Using the Avaluator tools along with the excellent Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain fieldbook, you'll be coached in applying structured avalanche decision making based on good habits in snow, weather and terrain observations. We'll all participate in planning our backcountry trips, making decisions and then reviewing the decisions made each evening, followed by a theory lesson. Under the supervision of instructors on the last day, students will plan and lead their own backcountry tour applying all that they have learnt.

Before deciding on an AST provider, perhaps compare curriculums. The AST Level 2 curriculum that we are proud to teach comes directly from the official Instructors Manual:

Classroom Theory Lessons

  • AST 1 Review
  • Introduce the Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain fieldbook
  • Avalanche Types and Character
  • Leadership and Travel in Avalanche Terrain
  • Companion Rescue Theory
  • Avalanche Decision Making Support Systems
  • Terrain Exceptions
  • Terrain Verification
  • Post Trip Review Process
  • Understanding Avalanche Danger
  • Avalanche Danger Exceptions*
  • Local Avalanche Danger Verification
  • Confidence in Decision Making
  • Trip Planning

Field Practical Lessons

  • Trailhead Procedures
  • Group Management and Travel Techniques
  • Companion Rescue
  • Avalanche Terrain, Route Finding and Terrain Verification
  • Investigating Avalanche Activity
  • Investigating Signs of Unstable Snow
  • Investigating Loading
  • Investigating Thaw Instability
  • Local Snowpack Observations*
  • Personal Local Avalanche Danger Verification
  • Route Finding Options and Alternatives

    * This includes theory and practical lessons in digging snow pits and conducting simplified Compression and Rutscheblock tests. However, keep in mind that the importance of information taken from snow pits is often seriously over emphasised. Snow pits should not factor heavily into your avalanche hazard analysis and as such are not a dominant part of the modern AST 2 course.

Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain Fieldbook

The entire course is tied together using the Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain fieldbook which has been developed by the Canadian Avalanche Centre. Along with a pencil, this note book lives in your pocket and is intended to guide you through a structured decision making process for travelling in avalanche terrain. It is modelled after the methods used by avalanche professionals and is designed to help you plan your backcountry trip, record your observations, support your decision making in the field and aid post trip reflection. These are the primary components of comprehensive avalanche risk management.

AST 2 Course Bookings & Enquiries

One-day course focusing on avalanche rescue training with the latest techniques and technology.

The field-based Companion Rescue Skills (CRS) Course has been prepared by the Canadian Avalanche Center and can only be taught by those licensed to do so. The focus is purely on avalanche rescue training. Just like the AST courses, it is based on high quality instructional materials and specific instructor training and on completion you are given a course certificate.


Price Course Size
9,000 yen per person Limited to 8 people

Includes Dates
  • One full day of training
  • Transport
2013/14 season dates coming soon

If you have a large group and our scheduled dates do not suit, please get in touch and we will see what can be arranged.

Please note: you may need to buy a one-ride lift ticket to access backcountry terrain from high in resort areas. These tickets typically cost 1,500 yen.

The day is reasonably strenuous and not suitable for people with injuries.

About the Course

This course is open to anyone, however ideally those enrolling will be looking to update and improve upon avalanche search and rescue abilities learned in the Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 course. It is suitable for any snowmobilers, skiers, snowboarders, mountaineers, and/or snowshoers who recreate in avalanche terrain.

The one-day Companion Rescue Refresher will train students in any or all of the below, depending on what is requested. This course is quite flexible and can be customised to meet the needs of the group:

  • Consider and incorporate preventative measures (compulsory)
  • Prioritize actions if caught in an avalanche
  • Understand the function of airbags
  • Understand transceiver functions and practice transceiver skills
  • Apply avalanche search and rescue techniques
  • Practice searching without a transceiver
  • Consider multiple burial situations
  • Organize a group rescue
  • Identify Post-incident considerations

Along with refreshing skills, you will get a very good foundation in how to conduct worthwhile avalanche rescue training scenarios beyond simply hiding a transceiver in a car park.

Note that this training DOES NOT replace a full 2-day AST Level 1 course, where you learn how to avoid avalanches - a core skill of any backcountry traveller.

Required Equipment

For Day 2 of the course you will require full ski/boarding clothes and equipment. You will also require the basic backcountry kit:

  • A ski/board backcountry backpack that is specially designed to carry skis/boards if required.
  • Avalanche transceiver (3 antenna digital is highly recommended!)
  • Avalanche probe
  • Avalanche shovel
  • Either snowshoes or climbing skins and touring bindings/splitboard
  • Sunglasses and goggles (sunglasses are important)
  • Warm jacket
  • Extra water and snacks (basic lunch is provided)

    Please contact us for rentals. Once again, note that a 3 antenna digital beacon is highly recommended!

CRS Course Bookings & Enquiries

Please leave blank if you are unsure.
Please ask any question, we are happy to help out. If you would like to book, please indicate your preferred dates, equipment needs, skill level and fitness limitations along with any other information.