Please note that we use the word “trip” to refer to all of our courses and guided trips

Policies, waivers, and insurance

Will I need to sign a waiver?

All Island Alpine Guides courses and trips take place in an outdoor, wilderness environment. This means that as a participant you will be encountering various risks, dangers, and hazards, some of which include avalanches, cornices, crevasses, cliffs, trees, creeks, rockfall, difficult travel conditions, weather, illness, equipment failure, wild animals, becoming lost as well as the possibility of mistakes being made by IAG guides and instructors. 

To participate in these activities you will be required to read and agree to our waiver as part of the registration process. You will also be required to sign the waiver at the start of the course or trip. In doing so you will waive or give up certain legal rights including the right to sue or to claim compensation following an accident.

For participants under 19, we require that a signed waiver is sent prior to the trip or course, so that we can ensure it is signed by a parent or legal guardian.

I am under 19 years of age. Can I participate in a course entering avalanche terrain?

As per industry standard, we will only take minors into terrain where avalanche hazard exists if they are accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. We believe that signing up for a trip or course with your parents or guardians is a great way for you to "speak the same language" when engaging in discussions about these risks after the course. Another alternative is to sign up for one of our youth specific courses or trips, on which we modify the terrain traveled to stay within industry standards. If you are a minor and are unsure, please contact us to discuss your options.

What is your booking policy?

Trips must be paid in full in order to confirm your spot. Each trip is based on specific guest-to-guide ratios, requiring a minimum number of registered participants for them to be able to go ahead at the advertised price. We will confirm the trip with you as soon as it has enough bookings, and will then be in touch approximately 1 week prior to the trip starting date with all the details, such as meeting time and place. If a trip cannot go ahead due to insufficient numbers, you will be given the option to:

  • Reschedule the trip for a later date to allow more time for others to sign up,
  • Go ahead with the trip at the lower group number for an appropriate price based on our ratios,
  • Keep your credit on file with us for a trip at another time, or
  • Receive a full refund

What is your cancellation policy?­

Cancellations received in writing up to 45 days prior to the trip starting date will result in a 97% refund. Between 45 and 30 days prior to the trip starting date, 75% can be refunded. Within 30 days of the trip starting date, the trip is completely non-refundable. However, if you are able to fill your spot with another participant, we will keep your credit on file, which can then be transferred to any trip of your choice with no expiry. We charge a $25 admin fee in these cases. 

We ask that you thoroughly understand and consider the cancellation policy prior to booking as we make financial commitments to our guides and begin incurring costs upon confirmation. We also suggest purchasing trip cancellation insurance (see below).

Do I need trip cancellation insurance?

Upon confirmation by IAG that your trip is running, we confirm the work with our guide/s and enter into a financial obligation with them. Unless you provide adequate notice (as outlined in our cancellation policy above) we cannot refund your payment (except for the condition stated below under “What happens if my trip is canceled by Island Alpine Guides”). 

We understand that unforeseen issues arise, so we strongly recommend that trip cancellation insurance is purchased to cover for the possibility of your not being able to participate. This is available from a number of travel insurance sellers. Tugo is a common provider. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding our policy or obtaining insurance.

What happens if my trip is canceled by Island Alpine Guides?

Upon confirmation by IAG that your trip is running, we guarantee the trip departure. If we cancel a trip for any reason prior to the start date, a full refund will be provided. If we are forced to cancel a trip for any reason after the trip start date, a full refund for the unused portion of the trip will be provided.

Do I need medical/evacuation insurance?

If you are a resident of BC and are covered by the Medical Services Plan this should cover your medical care needs. If you are not covered by MSP you'll need to check that whatever coverage you have will work for you on our trips and courses. Regarding emergency evacuation we recommend evacuation insurance if you are participating in a wilderness-based trip or course. Having the option of a private evacuation can make for better outcomes in some cases. If you are purchasing any kind of medical or evacuation insurance be sure that it covers all the activities you will be undertaking with us. Travel on snow in avalanche terrain and roped travel are both things to look out for as some insurance policies specifically exclude these things.

What happens with my trip in the case of poor weather?

Unless it is unsafe or impractical to do so, our trips operate rain or shine. The decision to cancel based on poor weather or conditions will be made by IAG. It is the nature of the outdoors that the weather will not always be perfect. Come prepared and ready to enjoy whatever nature gives us. If your trip involves air access, and flying is precluded by weather or any other cause, your trip will be relocated to a non-air access location and you will be refunded the aircraft portion of the trip. If your trip requires a certain amount of snow, the decision as to whether the snow coverage is adequate will be made by IAG. If it is deemed insufficient, we will cancel the trip and you will have the following options:

  • Reschedule the trip for a later date
  • Keep your credit on file with us for a trip at another time, or
  • Receive a full refund

What happens if I'm unable to complete the trip due to physical limitations?

Health and fitness are the responsibility of each participant. We will do our best to recommend programs to participants that are suitable to their level of fitness, but ultimately it is each participant’s responsibility to choose an appropriate program. IAG reserves the right to disqualify participants from a program if they are found to be unable to participate, as it can be a safety liability for the guide and other participants. There can be no refunds in these situations. Please email us to discuss suitability of a course or trip if you are unsure. 

Do you offer discounts?

Effective 14 April, 2022 Island Alpine Guides is no longer offering discounts to mountain clubs. The financial realities of the guiding industry, like many things, is seeing significant change right now. Demand for mountain guiding and instruction is very high and there are not enough guides to fill all this demand. Simple economics tells us that this means the rates that guides command will go up and that is definitely what we are seeing. When we run trips filled with club members, with these increased costs, the discount we have been giving cuts too deeply into what remains of our margin. In the interest of not raising prices for everyone, we are going to start by stopping discounting of this kind. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to continuing to support mountain education on Vancouver Island.

Trips and Courses

Are these the only trips you offer?

We will happily organize a customized trip for you or a group based on your specific abilities, objectives and budget if we have a guide available. Please get in touch to discuss your ideas or goals.

When do you run your trips?

We pre-schedule our more popular trips and courses at the beginning of each season (autumn and spring). That said, many of our courses and trips are set up based on specific customer requests. If you don’t see any dates scheduled for a trip that you’re interested in, please get in touch and we’ll work with you to set something up based on your preferred dates and our guide availability. We’ll then promote the course or trip publicly to try to reach our required minimum group size (unless you wish to take the trip privately with just you or your group - if this is the case, please ask us about our custom rates).

Do you offer private trips?

Yes. Our advertised prices are based on specific guest-to-guide ratios, but any of our trips may be taken privately, either with just you or a group. Please get in touch to find out the cost of the trip you're interested in based on the number of people in your group.

How much notice do you require to set up a new trip?

We have a limited number of qualified guides here on Vancouver Island. As such, our schedule often fills up during the peak times of summer and winter. The more notice you can provide, the more chance we'll have of being able to organize something on your preferred dates. 

If you wish to set up a public trip with other seats we need to fill, having more notice also allows for sufficient time for others to sign up. If it's a private trip you're looking to set up for just you or your group, midweek dates usually have more last-minute availability. In any case, we'll always do our best to make it work. The bottom line is that the earlier you book, the better the chance we have of being able to make your trip happen.

When will I know all the details of my trip, such as meeting time and place?

Unless you're booking a private trip, all of our trips require a minimum number of guests signed up in order for them to run at the advertised price. As soon as your trip has enough bookings, we'll send out a group email to confirm it as going ahead. We'll send another email containing all the details (such as meeting time and place) approximately 1 week prior to the trip starting date. The group email is also to help with participants reaching out to each other to coordinate carpooling and any other logistics. If it is one week prior and your trip doesn't have enough bookings, we'll be in touch to let everyone know their options. (More on this under "What is your booking policy?")

What are the differences between your mountaineering courses?

Our Alpine Rock Skills course focuses on skills for climbing 3rd, 4th and low 5th class terrain on rock in the alpine. The only role that snow would play in this course is in the brief practice at transitioning from snow or ice to rock if snow is present, or a discussion about transitions if there is not. It covers short-roping and short-pitching techniques that you need to move efficiently in alpine rock terrain. It is two-days and is best run from late June through to September. 3:1 client to guide ratio. 

Our 3-Day Alpine Skills course is much more focused on snow climbing and glacier travel. Typically all three days of the course are taken up by these skills, with likely only a brief look at managing alpine rock terrain in the simplest ways (depending on whether conditions present the group with the need to move on rock). This course is run at a location that allows for quick access on foot to a setting where there is snow to teach the skills, meaning that it can only run up to around the end of June. After this time, there is typically not enough quickly accessible snow in a location that you can drive to in the island mountains. Minimum 4:1 client to guide ratio. 

Our Combined Alpine Skills course combines the curriculum of above two courses over four days. This course also needs to run at a location that has easily accessible snow and rock and as such can only run to about the end of June. Minimum 4:1 client to guide ratio. 

The Mountain Skills Fly-in, as the name suggests, uses a helicopter to get the group to an alpine location with year round snow and ice. This means that it can run all summer. Given that this course has three days with very little time being used for the approach to the teaching venue, it manages to cover the snow climbing and glacier travel curriculum very thoroughly. It also includes a peak climb in the objectives of the course. The extra time gained by heli-access gives us a better chance to cover a bit more of the alpine rock curriculum than the Three Day Alpine Skills, but not as much as on the Combined Alpine Skills (or Alpine Rock). Being a fly-in course, the setting is a big draw and makes it one of our most popular courses. 5:1 client to guide ratio. We also offer a women’s only equivalent of this course: Women’s Mountain Skills Fly-In

Gear and Food

What equipment do I need and how do I prepare?

All our trips provide a gear list on the booking page. This can be found on the “Gear List” tab. If items are available for rent, we will indicate it on the booking page.  If weather or conditions dictate that additional items are needed, we will make note of this in the pre-trip email sent out approximately one week prior to the trip start date. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any specific requests, advice on choosing gear, or if you need clarification on anything.

Do I need mountaineering boots for your mountaineering trips and courses? How do I choose what boots to buy?

The two main features of a mountain boot that separate it from a hiking boot are a stiff sole and a sharp, right angled cutting edge on the sole. Both of these features will make a boot effective at cutting steps in snow and in climbing ice with crampons on. This is a safety consideration and is necessary especially as you get into climbing on steeper or hard pack snow or ice. 
Boots that meet the criteria we've described above will vary from quite lightweight mountaineering boots to very heavy duty boots suitable for expeditions in the greater ranges. Fortunately, what you are after for these courses is at the lighter weight end of that spectrum. This makes the boot a very versatile tool for any kind of hiking with a decent size load on, and also comes at a lower price point.

To measure the stiffness of a boot, put the boot on and stand on something raised like a door stoop or two by four with just the tip toe of the boot on the raised surface. Note how much the boot flexes. To be a useful mountain boot it should not flex any more than a few millimeters.

Mountaineering boots are not cheap. If you are not keen to purchase new mountaineering boots, a couple of alternatives that we can suggest are buying used (social media mountaineering and mountain gear groups as well as used gear shops like Blue Toque in Courtenay) or renting from somewhere such as Sports Rent in Victoria.

Do you rent camping equipment?

We can provide a tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag or backpack to anyone who requires it on a first come, first serve basis. These are available individually for $10/day, or as a “Camp Kit”(tent and sleeping mat) or “Cook KIt” (stove, fuel, and small pot). Prices for kits are specified on the booking page. 

If you require gear that we do not rent and are on a budget, we recommend that you check out Sports Rent in Victoria, or look into purchasing second hand items. Blue Toque in Courtenay offers a great selection of second-hand gear in the Comox Valley.

Do you offer catering on your trips?

We can offer catering on many of our trips by request. For multi-day trips, the cost is an extra $60/person/day. For day trips, a catered lunch is $20/person. Please get in touch to find out if your trip has this option.

If you are looking for quick, lightweight and local fare, we recommend checking out Wild Edge Keto. Pair this with some rice for a hearty and delicious backpacking meal. 

Do I need touring gear for AST courses?

Our AST courses require you to travel both up and down on the snow. If your course is at Mount Cain, you will need touring gear (alpine touring, splitboard or telemark) as it's not possible to ride the T-bar with snowshoes. If it’s at Mount Washington, you may use snowshoes for the uphill portion, and with your skis or snowboard strapped to your back for the downhill. Please note that if you intend to take an AST course on skis or a board, we require that you are an intermediate rider (ie. able to ride the equivalent of blue squares in natural conditions).

If you would like to go both uphill and downhill on snowshoes, please book onto one of our AST1 Snowshoe courses. If you are looking to get into backcountry touring and don't own any equipment of your own, Ski Tak Hut in Courtenay offers 25% off backcountry rentals for all IAG customers while on one of our trips. It's a great way to try it out before you commit. 

Travel and Accommodation

Where can I stay if I live out of town? 
If taking a course near Comox Valley, there are many good accommodation options available to you, including the campground (which is conveniently located by the crags we use for many of our climbing courses), or in the nearby village of Cumberland at the Riding Fool Hostel. There are also a number of great Airbnbs in Cumberland.
Many of our guides will be coming from the Comox Valley, and most course and trip locations are accessible as a day trip from here. 
Is my car appropriate for accessing the trailhead? 
Access on Vancouver Island can vary significantly. Some locations are easily accessible by car, while others require high clearance vehicles and/or snow tires and chains. 
If you are taking one of our winter courses at Mt Washington, please be aware that you are required to carry winter tires and chains. 

If you are taking one of our winter/spring courses at Mt Cain, please be aware that this road is not regularly plowed and may require a high clearance vehicle at certain times of the year. It will also require that you carry winter tires and chains, and is outside of cell service. 

If the location of your trip involves challenging access along logging roads, we may choose to convene at a meeting point, and convoy to the trailhead together, COVID allowing. 
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about whether your vehicle will be appropriate for the course or trip you are considering, and we will work with you to find solutions if applicable. 


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