Avalanche operations level 1 course in Canada with Snowminds

Johan Toft-Nielsen Johan Toft-Nielsen February 23, 2018



The season in Canada is going by very fast, and now there is only two months remaining. Time flies when you are having fun and are among amazing people. My fellow instructors and I have now seriously started our training for the CAA Operations Level 1 exam. We’ve had many lessons, including companion rescue training (locate, probe and dig transceiver-free) and problem-solving in difficult conditions (high speed, snow crystals, wind directions, precipitation). Everything is extremely exciting but also requires dedication, there’s a lot of material and everything is in english.

Bodie Shandro is our coach; The man who will lead us towards the goal of hopefully passing our Avalanche Operations Level 1 Course in Jasper March. He is Canadian born in the mid 50’s and to put it bluntly, a badass. He knows everything about avalanches and snow conditions. He has been working as a tailguide for a nearby Heliskiing Operation for six years, and in addition to this he owns his own Stand Up Paddle company, which he spends time on most of the summer. Bodie is a very energetic guy who really understands how to make tough reading material on advanced snow knowledge super exciting.

The reading material consists mainly of four elements; The Avalanche Handbook, which is a 350 page book, including all basic knowledge of avalanches and snow. Next, we have the Avalanche Operations Level 1 Course Manual, which really is just a manual that prepares us for how our 7-day course will be in Jasper, what is expected along with how to prepare for the various examinations. In addition, we have Observation Guidelines and Recording Standards for Weather, Snowpack and Avalanches (OGRS), referred to as the very basic Bible for avalanche studying. Finally, we have a field book in which we are to record our observations of speed, weather formation, crystal types and much more.

Of course, there have also been hiccups along the way. That’s part of life.… But why do we really go through all this? Fundamentally, we do it to pursue bottomless deep powder. The difference between us and – as a matter of principle – the general population is just that we learn how to do it safely and dare to try. Going into the off-piste in Canada is simply amazing when weather and precipitation are right. This is the place where you can experience the completely dry champagne powder you dream about.

The snow over here is far above anything I’ve ever experienced in Europe – Switzerland, Austria, France, Norway, Sweden, Italy or anything else. It’s relatively difficult to describe, but you understand it when you go through that first big pillow of fresh snow. Then you’re no longer in doubt of whether you’ve experienced some of the best snow on earth. Canada may not have the most snowfall you can find. If you ask me it’s the best quality you can find anywhere. There is nothing called ‘slush’ or bad snow on the slopes in Sun Peaks at the end of the day. There is always good snow.


Thanks to Snowminds, Atomic and Salomon




Johan traveled with Snowminds as a ski instructor in Canada. If you want to experience Canada and the Canadian offpiste don’t hesitate to contact us. If you want to become a certified instructor see all our courses here: Become an Instructor and send an application yourself!

Free online information meeting

Hear our experts tell you about life as a ski instructor

Sign up