AST Level 2 Avalanche Courses in Hakuba

AST Level 2 Avalanche Courses in Hakuba

Our AST2 course is run over 4 days, however it is spread across a 5 day window giving a buffer to avoid inappropriate conditions. This reflects how we should always approach the backcountry. Likewise, we will only take 5 students - afterall, who goes into the backcountry with 8 people? The intention of this course is to reflect prudent reality.

About the AST2 Course

The Avalanche Skills Training Level 2 (AST 2) course has been prepared by the Avalanche Canada (formally called Canadian Avalanche Centre) and provides an intermediate level of avalanche decision making. This is a recreational course. It DOES NOT train you to work in the avalanche industry.

We teach the prescribed Avalanche Canada course per the instructor's manual. Before enrolling please understand that we will not teach you some magic trick to stay safe in avalanche terrain. What we will do is coach you in a very valuable process of planning backcountry trips, gathering field data and making adjustments to your tour as required to manage risk. This course DOES NOT focus on studying snow crystals nor a wide variety of stability tests.


The AST 2 is a separate 4 day course that comes after completing the AST 1. The first two days are not a repeat of AST 1 material.

  • AST 1 course or equivalent and be able to provide your certificate in advance.
  • At least 20 days in backcountry AVALANCHE TERRAIN applying what you learnt in the AST 1 course (Avaluator, trip planning, using avalanche bulletins etc).
  • Pre-course reading: Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper.


55,000 yen


4 days of instruction, with one buffer day. Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain fieldbook.

Course Size

Limited to 5 people.


January 1-5, 2018

OUR COURSE IS SPECIAL: One day in the classroom and three full days of backcountry touring using the excellent Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain fieldbook extensively. Class size is limited to only 5 people rather than the usual 8. This significant benefit allows personal and instant attention from the instructor, and also effective student interaction when trip planning and touring. Post-trip reviews and planning for the next day are all held in my (damian's) home, using my maps and photos projected onto a screen. As part of the course, you get to live my very active Hakuba backcountry life for 4 days. You will learn to plan trips and execute them properly.

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 Avalanche Canada. 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

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

Required Equipment

All participants MUST have their own mountain rescue insurance covering backcountry skiing and helicopter expenses.

  • Splitboard and touring skis with skins. No snowshoes, sorry.
  • Digital 3 antenna transceiver. This course will not teach using old analog transievers as they are now obsolete
  • 35 liter pack or larger

A detailed gear list will be provided after booking. Snow crystal loupes are not required as it is not part of the AST 2 curriculum.

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.

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. 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:

Class Lessons

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 Investigation using maps and photos
  • Post Trip Review Process
  • Understanding Avalanche Danger
  • Local Avalanche Danger Investigation & 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 Investigation
  • Route Finding Options and Alternatives

    * This includes 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.

Backcountry Guiding

The highest quality professional backcountry guiding in Hakuba. Group sizes limited to 4 people. Our valued customers come to Japan for the backcountry, and book months in advance.

Private Guiding

4 and 5 day backcountry experiences for as little as 65,000 yen:

Affordable 4-day tour, Jan 7-10

Skiers Only Classic Week, Jan 14-20

Ryokan Roadtrip, Jan 21-27

Explorer Week, Feb 4-10

Beginners Week, Feb 11-17

Avalanche Courses

Well known as the best value and highest quality in town.

2018 AST1 Courses...

AST2 Jan 1-5, 2018


There is nothing like a helicopter to enhance your backcountry experiences. Join us outside Japan for that.

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