AST Level 1 Avalanche Courses in Hakuba with HAKUBA MOUNTAINLIFE

AST Level 1 Avalanche Courses in Hakuba

The AST 1 is an introductory avalanche course developed by Avalanche Canada (formerly called the Canadian Avalanche Centre). It is designed to give you an entry level avalanche decision making framework for recreational use. It does NOT train you to work in the avalanche industry. 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 curriculum.

Please note: ski/splitboard touring equipment is mandatory. No snowshoes, sorry. If you are renting you only need to rent touring skis/splitboard for final day.

Course Duration

The course is designed by Avalanche Canada to be delivered over two and half days.
Day 1: 4pm-8pm classroom time
Day 2: morning classroom, afternoon companion rescue training outdoors
Day 3: full day backcountry tour

2017/18 Dates

Remember that all courses start late in the afternoon on the first day.

December 28-29-30
January 11-12-13
February 18-19-20


22,000 yen

Course Size

Limited to 8 people.


Two and a half days of instruction, course text and Avaluator, plus some transport.

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. On the field day we will go ski touring and visit at least one well known avalanche path in the Hakuba area to apply your classroom training.

  • 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

Required Equipment

You will also require the basic backcountry kit. Please contact us for rentals.

  • Backcountry backpack. More than 30 litres strongly recommended.
  • Touring skis/Splitboard* and skins. No snowshoes, sorry.
  • Avalanche transceiver (3 antenna digital is compulsory).
  • Avalanche probe
  • Avalanche shovel
  • Sunglasses and goggles (sunglasses are important)
  • Warm jacket
  • Packed lunch and drink

    * If you are renting you only need to rent touring skis/splitboard for final day.

    If you want to know even more info then read on...

IMPORTANT: this course does not include personal emergency mountain rescue insurance. It is your personal responsibility to insure yourself against any expenses incurred if you are injured during the course.

Also, 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.

Detailed AST 1 Curriculum

Here is what we will teach you in detail. Before deciding on an AST provider, perhaps compare curriculums. The following is all first taught in the classroom. The final day applies these skills in the field and you will back in the carpark by 4.30pm latest. Our course NEVER run over time or finish in the dark. We stick to the schedule.

The AST Level 1 curriculum that we are proud to teach is as follows:

Formation and Nature of Avalanches
Starting with the very basics of snow layering, vital signs of instability and the importance of always observing snow and paying attention in the mountains. We then move onto the different types avalanches, including categorising by size and destructive force.

Avalanche Terrain
How to recognise it, with focus on the key characteristics of avalanche start zones and within them, areas of weakness where triggering an avalanche is more likely.

Terrain Traps
Why they are so dangerous, and why you should minimise your exposure to them when possible.

Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES)
An introduction to the concept of classifying mountain snow terrain by it's seriousness. Similar to how climbing routes or even scuba dives are ranked. Learn to look at terrain differently. An essential part of trip planning.

Avalanche Danger Ratings and Public Avalanche Forecasts
The second second part to trip planning. How to read them and understand the very useful info they contain. Hakuba now has a world-class avalanche bulletin provided by the Japan Avalanche Network, which we will us in our training. (See the Hakuba avalanche bulletin here

Decision making Competence
This is a compulsory subject that must be taught in all AST1 courses and it makes perfect sense why. We discuss the differing levels of training and experience that will help move you up the competency spectrum, and what decision making support systems you might use at each level. The purpose of this is to remind ourselves that overstepping our training and experience often leads to avalanches. This is a reality check.

Trip Planning
One of the fundamental pillars of a well taught AST 1 course. Trip planning is broken into four sections:

  • When and where to go
  • Weather
  • Who to go with: Human Factors
  • What equipment to take
  • Slope Assessment
    The second pillar to w well taught AST1 course. We will use Avalanche Canada's essentialSlope Evaluation Card as a systematic way of assessing the safety of a slope. All the fundamental tools in your tool box will be combined at this stage to provide you with an amazing method of slope evaluation. It is from here on that you will start to develop a mountain brian that thinks like an avalanche. Many students have an "a-ha!" moment when they see that understanding the interaction between snow and terrain shape is the key to avalanche safety.

    Good Travel Habits
    How should you move through the mountains? What are the basic skills, and what skills are required to move through avalanche terrain, particularly as a coordinated group. How do you use terrain to minimise exposure to avalanche hazard? We finish this session with a number of exercises planning routes using local terrain photographs. Everyone usually loves the lesson.

    Companion Rescue
    No matter how well trained and experienced you are in avoiding avalanches, you need to be equally as well trained in rescuing your friends if something goes wrong. After 30 minutes of burial, you only have a 20% chance of still being alive. Twenty minutes of burial is not much prettier! So we focus on applying the most modern techniques of using the most advanced avalanche transceivers to save time. But it doesn't stop there: strategic probing and shoveling is also taught, and makes a huge difference. During the field day you will take part in at least 2 rescue scenarios. We prefer to split you into smaller groups to practice the scenarios. Although this takes more time, you will learn much more this way. At the end of the day you will take part in the most realistic scenario we can create over a large piece of sloped terrain.

    At the end of all that you will be well prepared to go into the backcountry and make good decisions so long as you apply what you leant.

    AST 1 Course Bookings & Enquiries

    - Full payment must be made to secure your booking
    - Places filled on a first-to-pay basis
    - 100% refund with 2 weeks notice

    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.

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