Words By: Alison McPherson
This past week I had the opportunity to take the AST 2 course with Splitboard HQ. After getting an early start to the season this year, I already had quite a few days under my belt and was eager to step it up a notch by taking this course.
Working in the shop here at Splitboard HQ, I often get the question regarding differences between the AST 1 and 2 courses, pre-requisites for the AST 2 course, etc. To answer this question from a standpoint of being fresh off the AST 2 course, you definitely want to go into this higher level course with a drive to learn about route finding, snow analysis, and more complex terrain choices.
The first day of the course is a classroom session, which went over concepts learned in AST 1, as well as introduce more complex concepts about snow science, avalanche rescues, terrain choices, and route finding to name a few. It’s always hard to put a group of active, outdoors people in a classroom for a day so we left the day being eager to get into the mountains.
A few last minute changes came into place that gave us the opportunity to go to Revelstoke for our three upcoming field days. For the first field day, we headed up the gorge just west of town. This was a new area for all of us on the course. We started out with being lead by our guide, Ken Bibby, who showed us his concept of “romancing the mountain” while creating our up-track.
|PHOTO: Darren dropping in on our first line||PHOTO: Ken demonstrating a column test|
Once we reached the meadow, we went over avalanche rescue scenarios in small groups, which refined our skills and gave us confidence in working together as a group for the week. With frigid temperatures, we wanted to keep moving for the day so we set off to make a few turns before finishing up the day.
On day two we headed east of Revelstoke to ski Hermit in Rogers Pass. With another cold forecast, we were happy with the strenuous uphill right from the get go to warm us up. We were greeted with a massive temperature inversion once we reached the alpine.
PHOTO: Route finding our way to the top of Puff Daddy
After the long haul up the already-set uptrack, we ventured off into some fresh terrain to dig some pits. We became confident in the snowpack that we had great stability, with seeing no weak layers after completing our column tests. However, due to the recent cold temperatures, Ken was predicting that the November 13th crust may pose some future instabilities in the snow pack.
Moving on from snow analysis, it was our turn to “romance the mountain” to get us to our line that we would ride. Arriving at a nice sunny spot, we transitioned to ride down the Puff Daddy line and ski out just before the sun set.
Day three…the grand finale! Ken was able to set up a heli drop for us for the day so we could spend more time up in the alpine. The day consisted of all taking turns route finding, riding endless amounts of fresh powder, and being in the mountains with a great crew.
PHOTO: Waiting for the rest of the crew to get dropped off
The stoke was high but we couldn’t forget what we’d learned all week and needed to put it all into place. We dug a pit to do a column test before dropping onto a steeper slope. Despite the avalanche forecast being green across the board, our test results came back different. Exactly as Ken had been predicting the day before, there was a sudden planar fracture on the November 13th crust layer at 110cm. We took this opportunity to do a snow profile on the area.
PHOTO: Route finding in Revelstoke National Park
For the rest of the day, we made terrain choices based on our test results but we didn’t let that ruin the unreal powder that was waiting to be skied. Taking turns route finding, we ended the course with some sick lines and got picked up again by the heli to top the week off.
PHOTO: Ken tearing it up on some wicked powder
With a focus on route finding and terrain choices, the AST 2 course was a great next-level course to become more confident in the backcountry. I came back from the week with a better understanding of terrain selection, route finding, and snow science, as well as coming back with a high stoke level and already can’t wait to get back out there.
PHOTO: Helicopter coming to pick us up at the end of the day
Make sure to always check out avalanche.ca for more info on conditions and Mountain Information Network Quick Reports before heading out into the backcountry.