I’ve been skiing my entire life, from competing in moguls at a young age, to taking part in two Olympic games as a slopestyle skier. I’m now transitioning into being a backcountry-focused skier and as with any transition, I know that I need to learn new skills and acquire more knowledge, not only for my benefit but also to keep my ski partners safe. When Whitecap Alpine’s early season 4-day AST 2 (Avalanche Skills Training) course came to my attention, I jumped at the opportunity and signed up.
We started our first day at the Pemberton Airport, where we met with our guides and crew. Due to fog in the valley, our flight up to the lodge was delayed by a few hours, but we took that time to dive right into the classroom session. We got into snowpack layering, avalanche problems, avalanche types, avalanche terrain, pre-trip planning, reducing risk and rescue skills. I’m not going to lie, after about 4 hours of doing my best to take in as much new information as possible, I remember thinking to myself “how am I ever going to remember all of this?” The good news was, that as the week progressed and we got into the field, we constantly revisited all of these concepts, saw how they related to real life circumstances and after four days of revising all this new knowledge in the mountain environment, everything I learned in the classroom seemed to stick.
Later that day the skies cleared and we made our way up the valley to McGillivray Pass, where Whitecap’s cozy lodge was waiting for us. Once settled in, our guides set up the projector and we continued with the classroom learning and discussed what the week ahead would look like.
During our first day in the field, we grouped together outside the lodge in a flat snowfield to do a refresher on transceiver search skills. Once everyone had a chance to practice, we made our way to the top of a Whitecap classic, known as ‘Home Run’. On our way up we went over our route plan, which included discussing; ATES, key decision points, safe route options, terrain cautions and travel techniques. The rest of the day was spent skiing different low angle runs and getting to know the surrounding terrain.