Custodial groups

Kluane National Park and Reserve

Custodial Groups require a higher standard of care. Leading a group of youth into the wilderness comes with tremendous responsibilities – there are risks to be managed and many decisions to be made. The onus is on everyone who encourages youth to explore the wilderness to understand and accept the associated responsibilities. This includes parents, group organizers, group leaders and park managers.

Guidelines for custodial groups in Kluane National Park and Reserve

These guidelines apply to custodial groups conducting recreational activities in Kluane National Park and Reserve (Kluane NPR).

  • 1. What is a custodial group?

    A "custodial group" means a group affiliated with an institution, where at least one person is below the age of majority and that minor is not in the company of his/her parent or legal guardian. The age of majority is 19 in Yukon.

    Custodial refers to custody, and the fact that when leading minors in the absence of their parent or legal guardian, the group leader is in loco parentis (in the place of the parent). In other words: if an institution of some form has organized the group, and there are minors participating whose parents or legal guardian aren't present - then it is a custodial group.

    This doesn't include groups of friends or families - this is about institutions, and their responsibility to the children they lead and the parents they replace. Institutional groups include but are not limited to school groups, Scout/Guide groups, church groups, cadet groups and community youth groups.

  • 2. Pre-trip communication and disclosing risk to parents and administrators

    The trip leaders are responsible to communicate trip information and to disclose risk to parents and administrators well in advance of the scheduled trip. Planning ahead for backcountry travel is an absolutely essential part of the experience - a well-prepared group with well-researched options has the best chance for success. Of primary importance when planning a trip with custodial groups, is involving more than just the participants themselves. Parents and institutions also need reliable information if they are to make informed decisions on behalf of their children or students.

    This requires extra effort on the part of everyone involved to explain the trip details, options, and risks in a clear and concise format that an untrained parent, group leader, or teacher will understand. These same people bear an equal or greater responsibility to listen to the information, and to ask questions which will ensure they understand the risks the group may face. All parents want to make the right decisions on behalf of their children and their own family's tolerance for risk. It is a major responsibility of the institutions organizing these trips to assist those parents in making informed decisions.

    Resources such as guidebooks and maps should be considered long before the trip. Weather and trail conditions must be tracked regularly in the weeks leading up to the trip - and checked once more just prior to departure.

    For trip planning information in Kluane National Park and Reserve, refer to Activities.

  • 3. Custodial permit

    Custodial permit: A custodial permit is required year-round for all custodial groups who are recreating in Kluane NPR (with the exception of Kathleen Lake Campground, Kathleen Lake Day-Use Area, and Thechàl Dhâl Visitor Centre).

    Custodial groups must meet all the Custodial Permit requirements and submit a Custodial Permit Application for review and approval by Parks Canada at least two (2) weeks prior to their planned departure date.

    Overnight backcountry permit: An overnight backcountry permit is also required for custodial groups who are staying overnight in Kluane NPR (with the exception of Kathleen Lake Campground) between April 1 and November 15.

    Custodial groups can start the registration process once their custodial permit application has been approved. To save time during registration, we encourage custodial groups to use the Pre-registration form. For more information on applying for an overnight backcountry permit, please refer to Overnight registration.

  • 4. Custodial permit requirements

    4.1. High-risk/technical activities

    Custodial groups must be accompanied by a guide (or guides) from a company with a valid Guided Outfitter Business Licence for Kluane NPR for any high-risk/technical activities. Exceptions may be made if custodial groups demonstrate the same standard of care as a Guided Outfitter Business Licence holder. Contact the park for more information.

    Technical/high-risk activities include, but are not limited to:

    • Water activities such as rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and packrafting
    • Winter travel in ATES Challenging (class 2) or Complex (class 3) terrain
    • Mountaineering
    • Climbing

    4.2. Shoulder seasons and winter travel

    During the shoulder seasons (October 15–November 15 and April 1-May 1) and the winter (November 16-March 31), custodial groups require additional skills to travel safely in Kluane NPR.

    Leaders need to be competent in winter wilderness survival and group management, and may need additional competencies in avalanche safety and rescue.

    Custodial groups travelling during the shoulder seasons and the winter must meet the Winter Travel by Custodial Groups in Kluane NPR requirements. Please contact the park to discuss your plans.

    4.3. Competencies and qualifications of leaders

    The goal of these policies is to ensure that custodial groups receive safe leadership. Anyone who proposes to lead a group into the backcountry should have significant personal experience with wilderness travel, first aid training, and possess strong leadership skills. It is the responsibility of the institution associated with any custodial group to ensure that leaders have the appropriate knowledge, skills and abilities as identified below:

    • Leaders should be 19 years of age or older
    • Experience in a group leadership role in a wilderness setting
    • Pre-trip and daily group planning
    • Able to assess abilities of trip participants and adapt program so that all trip members have a safe experience
    • Familiar with trail /route, and awareness of for seasonal hazards such as creek crossings or avalanche terrain
    • Wilderness safety and survival knowledge, skills and abilities
    • Knowledge of wildlife safety and safe travel procedures in bear country
    • Map and compass use and/or GPS and route finding experience
    • Environmental practices, low impact camping and sanitation
    • Able to practice healthy sanitation and food preparation
    • Site specific and accurate natural and cultural information

    4.4. Minimum first aid training

    • Wilderness First Aid / 40-hour equivalent for one leader
    • Standard first aid and CPR / 16-hour equivalent for the assisting leader

    4.5. Group size

    The maximum group size in Kluane NPR is 28 for day trips and 12 for overnight trips. Exceptions may be made.

    4.6. Ratios

    • Minimum of two leaders required per group
    • Minimum one leader per six youth (1:6). Exceptions may be made.

    4.7. Communication

    There is no cell phone coverage in most of the park. All custodial groups must carry a reliable and functional two-way emergency communication device (e.g. satellite phone, InReach®). Ensure that you have all emergency contact numbers with you and that you are familiar with the use of your device.

Winter travel by custodial groups in Kluane National Park and Reserve

Custodial group leaders must be clearly aware of the experience needed for safe winter travel. Leaders need to be competent in winter wilderness survival and group management, and may need additional competencies in avalanche safety and rescue.

Winter conditions can happen at any time of the year in Kluane NPR. Please be careful.

1. Travel in avalanche terrain

During the Fall, Winter, and Spring, there is a risk of avalanches affecting certain trails and routes in the park.

1.1 Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale

The Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) has been developed by Parks Canada to assist groups in choosing appropriate terrain for winter backcountry travel. These ratings describe the level of commitment, and exposure to avalanches that each different area offers.

These ATES ratings are intended to supplement pre-trip planning material. Review ATES ratings in addition to reading guidebooks, studying maps and photos, talking to peers and local users, checking weather and avalanche conditions. All these resources together will give you a better sense of the route you are choosing.

By using the ATES you can begin to measure your skills, experience and risk tolerance against the landscape. In most cases, this will assist custodial groups in choosing trips which have been rated as Class 1 – Simple.

  • Simple (Class 1) Simple terrain is usually low avalanche risk, ideal for novices gaining backcountry experience. These routes may include exposure to low angle or primarily forested terrain and some forest openings may involve the run out zones of infrequent avalanches. Many options exist to reduce or eliminate exposure. Terrain requires common sense, proper equipment, first aid skills, and the discipline to respect avalanche warnings. These trips may not be entirely free from avalanche hazards, and on days when backcountry danger is highest, you may want to rethink any backcountry travel that has exposure to avalanches - stick to groomed cross-country trails.
    • Leaders must have taken a Canadian Avalanche Association Avalanche Safety Training Level 1 (AST 1) course prior to travelling in this type of terrain.
    • While in avalanche terrain, your entire group must be properly equipped with and familiar in the use of shovels, avalanche transceivers and probes, so as to be able to find and rescue a member(s) of your party should they get caught in an avalanche.
    • While travelling in the backcountry in the winter, leaders are responsible for the evaluation of snow stability, avalanche hazards, and decisions concerning safe route selection.
    • One leader should have previously visited the area where the group is intending to travel
    • Leaders should have experience leading groups in the backcountry in avalanche terrain
    • Groups should travel quickly and avoid stopping in avalanche zones
  • Challenging (Class 2) Terrain requires skills to recognize and avoid avalanche prone terrain – big slopes exist on these routes. It is essential to ensure all group members are able to perform basic self-rescue.
    • Custodial groups must be accompanied by an Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) guide (or guides) from a company with a valid Guided Outfitter Business Licence for Kluane NPR for any travel in challenging terrain.
  • Complex (Class 3) terrain demands a strong group with years of critical decision-making experience in avalanche terrain. There may be no safe options on these trips, forcing exposure to big slopes.
    • Parks Canada recommends that custodial groups do not access Class 3 – Complex Terrain.
    • Custodial groups must be accompanied by an Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) guide (or guides) from a company with a valid Guided Outfitter Business Licence for Kluane NPR if they decide to travel in Class 3 terrain.

1.2. ATES rated terrain in KNPR

The ATES rated terrain in Kluane NPR is available in Winter trails.

2. Travel on frozen lakes and rivers

Frozen lakes, rivers and creeks present unique dangers when traveling. Overflow and thin ice can persist all through the winter and during the shoulder seasons. Ice can form a thin shelf along the edges of lakes and rivers as the water level drops. This creates a hazard of not only falling through to water but also a significant injury potential.

  • Leaders should be competent in selecting safe routes of travel on ice so as to minimize the risk to participants.
  • Do not use the ice unless you measure a minimum of:
    • 10 cm / 4 inches for skating, ice fishing, walking, cross country skiing
    • 12 cm / 5 inches for one snowmobile (only permitted on Kathleen Lake)

3. Extreme winter weather

The climate of Kluane NPR is subject to significant, often unpredictable weather changes. Temperatures during the winter can be very cold or warm and wet. Hypothermia or frostbite is a very real threat particularly when groups are exerting themselves during activities.

  • Leaders should be prepared for all types of temperature and weather and be experienced in reading how participants are being affected by the weather conditions.

4. Glacier travel

Immense fields of snow-covered ice terminate at the heads of many of the valleys accessible by ski or foot in the summer. Extreme hazard exists when travelling on these glaciers due to the numerous crevasses. Because the ice is continually moving, these crevasses can change size and location over the course of a season, making it difficult to predict where they are. Crevasses are often covered by snow bridges that render them all but invisible yet the snow may not support the weight of a person.

  • Parks Canada strongly recommends that custodial groups do not access glaciated terrain. Custodial groups must be accompanied by an Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) guide (or guides) from a company with a valid Guided Outfitter Business Licence for Kluane NPR if they decide to travel on glaciated terrain.

More information

For more information on winter opportunites in Kluane NPR visit: Winter in Kluane.

School programs
  • Explore Kluane’s visitor centres with a Parks Canada interpreter
    • Kluane National Park and Reserve Visitor Centre (Haines Junction)
      Discover the engaging exhibits, artefacts and natural objects found in the visitor centre with a Parks Canada interpreter and watch the stunning high definition video that shares the fascinating world of Kluane National Park and Reserve.
    • Thechàl Dhâl' Visitor Centre
      Adventure in the north end of the park with your group and discover the Thechàl Dhâl' Visitor Centre with a Parks Canada interpreter. The Thechàl Dhâl' Visitor Centre has all-new exhibits, developed in close collaboration with local First Nations. Learn how the land here, despite its harsh winters, has long sustained Dań – people. Inside, the large, colourful exhibits sparkle with original bead work by Kluane First Nation citizens. Out on the deck, scan for sheep with a spotting scope: they are most likely to be visible on the nearby mountain, Thechàl Dhâl', in spring and fall.

    The sites are open and available to school groups May to September.

    Suitable for school groups ages 5-18yrs of age. An adult is required for each group.

    Free admission to the visitor centres.

  • Camping at Mät’àtäna Män (Kathleen Lake)

    You don’t have to venture into the backcountry for awe-inspiring mountain scenery at Kluane. Just a short drive from town is sparkling Mät’àtäna Män (Kathleen Lake), where crystal waters are backed by the mountains of the Kluane Range.

    School groups can book the group camping sites for their class. Parks Canada interpreters will thrill your class with a campfire presentation about the amazing natural and cultural history of the park. Guided hikes are available upon request.

    May to September

    Suitable for school groups ages 5-18yrs of age. An adult is required for each group.

    $6.01 per person per night.

Contact information

Contact information

Please email or call 1-867-634-7250 for further information regarding custodial groups traveling within Kluane NPR.

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