Avalanche Skills Training in Japan (AST-1 and AST-2)

In Japan, winter enthusiasts can enjoy picturesque landscapes and world-class skiing. However, the beauty of snow-covered mountains also brings the inherent risk of avalanches. Understanding and prioritizing avalanche safety becomes paramount as winter sports enthusiasts flock to the Japanese Alps and other snow-laden regions. Avalanche safety is essential for everyone, from beginners to experts. Even when skiing within resort boundaries, knowing the basics could save lives. Avalanche Skills Training (AST) is a program tailored to educate individuals on identifying avalanche terrain, comprehending snowpack stability, and executing avalanche rescue techniques. The program primarily caters to skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and other outdoor enthusiasts who frequent backcountry regions prone to avalanches. Its aim is to equip participants with essential knowledge and skills necessary for safe travel and enjoyment in avalanche-prone environments.

Understanding Avalanche Risk

Japan’s mountainous terrain, particularly in regions like Hokkaido and Nagano, is prone to avalanches due to heavy snowfall and steep slopes. Before embarking on any winter adventure, it’s crucial to assess the avalanche risk. The Japan Meteorological Agency, the Japan Avalanche Network, and local ski resorts regularly issue avalanche forecasts, indicating the level of danger on a scale from 1 to 5.

Japan Avalanche Network – Realtime Image

The image is an example of the current level of danger at Happo One, Hakuba, Nagano

What is Avalanche Skills Training?

Avalanche Skills Training (AST) teaches people how to spot dangerous avalanche areas, understand snow stability, and do rescue missions. It’s mainly for skiers, snowboarders, and others who go into the backcountry where avalanches can happen.

In AST courses, you’ll learn about how avalanches form, study snow conditions, check the land for safety, find the best routes, travel safely, make smart decisions in dangerous areas, and do rescue missions using special tools like avalanche transceivers, probes, and shovels. Additionally, these courses mix classroom lessons with practical training in real avalanche areas.

What is Avalanche Skills Training 1 & 2 (AST-1 AST-2)?

AST, short for Avalanche Skills Training, is created by Avalanche Canada. Even though it’s developed in Canada, it’s popular worldwide.

AST 1, an entry-level avalanche education course, gives participants the basic skills to travel safely in avalanche areas. It covers avalanche basics, snowpack analysis, terrain evaluation, safe travel methods, and basic rescue techniques.

Moreover, the course combines classroom sessions and field exercises in real avalanche terrain. In class, you’ll learn about avalanche mechanics, weather’s impact on snow stability, reading avalanche forecasts, and the gear needed for avalanche travel. In the field, you’ll practice using transceivers, probes, and shovels for rescues and applying terrain assessment skills.

Furthermore, AST 1 is recommended for newcomers to winter backcountry travel, such as skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers, and snowmobilers. Completing it gives a solid base for further avalanche education and helps in making safer decisions in avalanche-prone areas.

On the other hand, AST 2 is an advanced course, building on AST 1. It’s for those who’ve completed AST 1 or have similar experience and want a deeper understanding of avalanche terrain and snowpack stability.

Avalanche Skills Training 1 & 2 Resources in Japan

In Japan, there are a number of companies that offer the training.  There are two avalanche training courses, AST-1 and AST-2.  While AST-1 is an excellent introduction, the AST-2 is for people who already are AST-1 certified and for experienced backcountry skiers and riders looking to broaden the knowledge.  Avalanche Canada maintains a list of companies that off AST training here.

These are the companies we found in Japan that offer AST-1 training (some offer AST-2) and, in some cases, in multiple languages. 

  • 315-215 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, 048-1511, Hokkaido
  • +81-80-2866-9794
  • Course Link Here AST-1
  • 2 days, 0900 to 1700hrs
  • Yen 28,000 (Yen 25,000 for residents of Japan)
  • Backcountry Rental Equipment Available
  • 15 min drive from Hirafu. Free shuttle available
  • Niseko Area

  • Nagano (? unknown)
  • Phone # Unknown
  • Course Link Here AST-1
  • 2 days, 0900 to 1630 hrs
  • Yen 42,000
  • Backcountry Rental Equipment Available Via their partner, Central SnowSports and 10% discount
  • Myoko Akakura, Hakuba Goryu, Yuzawa, Iwate, more

  • 315-215 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, 048-1511, Hokkaido
  • +81-261-72-5150
  • Email unknown
  • Course Link Here AST-1 plus CRS (Companion Rescue Skills)
  • 3 days (2 days for AST and 1 days for CRS)
  • Yen 48,000
  • Backcountry Rental Equipment Available
  • Includes backcountry insurance
  • Tsugaike Kogen, Hakuba

  • 885-3 Soga, Niseko-cho Abuta-gun, Hokkaido
  • +81-136-55-5953
  • Course Link Here AST-1
  • 2 Days
  • Yen 31,819 + 10% tax (Yen 5,000 off for Japan residents)
  • Backcountry Rental Equipment Available
  • Price Includes: Avalanche gear (beacon, probe, shovel, backpack) and touring skis or splitboards
  • Hokkaido
  • If you know of any other companies offering Avalanche Training Courses in English, please write to

Avalanche Equipment is Required

Having the right gear is crucial in avalanche-prone areas. A basic safety kit includes a beacon, probe, and shovel. Beacons find buried victims, while probes and shovels are vital for rescues. Regular practice ensures you can use them effectively when needed. Check out the companies that offer avalanche training for deals on renting or buying equipment.

How to Use Your Beacon, Probe & Shovel?

MSR created an excellent instructional video on how to use a beacon, probe and shovel.  This is for information only and it is important that real world practice is also incorporated to your training. This is a small fraction of the field work you will complete in your AST-1 course.