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LEARNING TO DIVE IN OUR LAKES

When you take a course through us, our goal is to provide you with the training you need to perform at or above the level required for the course you have registered for. As you take more advanced courses, this requires honesty on your part as well about your past experience, how long it has been since you've been in the water, and the conditions you have been diving in. Here are some commonly asked questions about courses, local diving, and how to take the plunge.

Training and Courses FAQ

I paid for my course, does this mean I am guaranteed a certification?


This is a great question, and there can be misconceptions surrounding it. When you book a course, you are registering and paying for training to get you to that level. Each course will have a number of classroom sessions, pool sessions, and/or dives to be completed to cover the course materials. Some students will require additional sessions, and there isn't a darn thing wrong with that. Our instructional team will work with you to make sure you get the training you need to reach the level you're working towards. Depending on your skills as a diver, this may require additional dives above and beyond the minimums specified. At the end of your training, if you have met the requirements set forth for certification, then you will be issued a certification indicating that (bust out the party supplies!). If, however, you have not yet met the requirements for certification, your Instructor will recommend additional sessions to complete your certification. This is not a bad thing! Some divers just need a bit of extra practice to solidify more complex skills. Upon completion of all course requirements, you will then be issued your certification card. The training is the journey, the card is just proof that you've reached that level. It's important to focus on the training, and not get too fixated on the card. The training is where the magic happens!




I am terribly nervous about certain parts of my course. What do I do?


It's ok, very few of us actually like the mask removal skill (that's the most popular one). This is really common! The best thing to do is to reach out to your Instructor! Ahead of your course, your Instructor will get in touch and introduce themselves, and provide some logistical details for the course. You are so welcome (and encouraged) to reach out to them, and give them a heads up of any concerns you may have. Whether it's worries over taking your mask off, being afraid of water, being terrified of lake vegetation - we've probably encountered it before. By letting your Instructor know ahead of time, they can make adjustments to help manage those concerns, and hopefully make the course experience much more positive for you. Also, when lake vegetation touches our leg, we shudder. Ew. Gross. One of many reasons we like drysuits.




I'm taking my Advanced Open Water Course. I haven't been in the water in years. I don't remember anything. Help!


This is one we get a lot. The Advanced Open Water course is an amazing way to get back into diving, and a phenomenal way to transition from warm water diving to cold water diving. When embarking on your Advanced Open Water course, the pre-requisite is that you are Advanced Open Water certified, meaning you are able to perform at that level. Here is what you should be able to comfortably do: -Build your gear and check it from top to bottom -Perform a pre-dive safety check -Have reasonably proficient buoyancy and trim -Comfortably perform basic Open Water skills such as regulator recovery, mask skills (removing/replacing and clearing your mask), common fin kicks, hand signals, air checks, responding to out of air emergencies, and general safe diving practices -Be able to plan a dive with assistance -Maintain good buddy contact -Don and doff your gear with minimal assistance, unless a physical limitation requires it If it has been a year since you've been in the water, we will recommend you take a Refresher or reActivate session to review those Open Water skills. If it has been a few years, and you haven't been diving since your Open Water (or your last dive was with a J-Valve and you've never seen an alternate air source) - we will recommend you re-take the Open Water course. Training standards change over time, as do safety recommendations. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you're not sure what approach is best for you! We want you to be safe and comfortable in the water, and enjoy yourself too - diving is supposed to be fun! By making sure the base skills are solid, we can successfully build on that solid foundation, and continue to grow your skills as a diver from there.




I am taking my Open Water Course, but feel I can't keep up in the pool. What should I do?


The Open Water Course is SO exciting - it's your first step to learning to become a diver! It also means it can be a lot of information all at once. As everyone has a different learning style, sometimes the pace of learning this volume of material can be overwhelming. Not to fret - let your Instructor know. They may bring in an additional Instructor to work with you, or may have you come back and work with you one-on-one to change the pace of learning. Our ultimate goal is to deliver the training in a way that you will understand it and be able to apply it, and sometimes that just means changing up the approach or environment a little bit. No big deal!




I have physical limitations that may impact my ability to dive. Are there ways to accommodate those?


Absolutely! First thing's first - depending on your limitation, you may require a doctor to clear you to dive. We encourage you to have the conversation with them to ensure that diving is safe for you. Our approach to diving has always been inclusive: anyone who meets a course's prerequisites is encouraged to enroll. Our Instructors work with a variety of adaptive techniques to enable divers of all abilities to have the support they need to safely complete a dive. Feel free to reach out to us ahead of time if you're not sure, and we can walk you through what some of those adaptations might look like!





Local Diving FAQ

Ok. Just how cold are these lakes you speak of?


Ah, the biggest question of them all. Our local lakes vary in temperature depending on the time of year, water depth, weather, and water movement. Here are some general temperature ranges: -Spring (just after the ice comes off): 2C - 8C (36F - 46F) -Summer (Late June through Early September): 7C - 16C (45F - 60F) -Fall (Late September through October): 7C - 14C (45F - 55F) -Winter (Ice formation and Ice Diving): 1C - 3C (32F - 37F) These are terribly general guidelines. Shallower lakes will be warmer in summer, and deeper lakes (such as Cameron Bay in Waterton and Lake Minnewanka in Banff) are just generally brisk. Many of our lakes do have thermoclines as well, meaning you will hit cooler waters a little deeper. We highly recommend drysuit diving in our lakes - they are brisk. In the summer, in certain lakes, you can get away with very thick wetsuits (two-piece Farmer John-style with hood/gloves/boots), but you will likely be more comfortable in a drysuit. If you are not drysuit certified yet, you can add it on to any of our courses!




What is the visibility like?


Mountain lake visibility is notorious for being less-than-ideal, but that is a bit of a perception thing. Our lakes are very different than tropical oceans - they have a different bottom composition, which affects the suspended particles in the water, and thus - the visibility. In the tropics, you have sand which is a larger particle and settles quickly. In lakes, you have silt (which is a combination of eroded rock and soils), which is very fine - and does not settle quickly at all. This fine sediment is what gives our lakes the visibility they have. Water movement, divers kicking the bottom - these both impact visibility greatly. When diving locally (and when we teach our courses with that in mind), we spend a lot of extra time on buoyancy for this reason. We always stay off the bottom. Aside from being respectful of the aquatic environment, this allows us to maintain the visibility we want on our dives! It's fun to see things! Visibility is best early season (after the ice comes off to mid-May) and late season (late October to when the ice forms). It reduces dramatically during spring freshet (high water/snowmelt periods) in late May/early June, but settles down by late June to early July. Avoid diving during periods of heavy rainfall, as the visibility will be reduced.




What is shore diving like?


Our diving in our lakes is primarily shore diving. This means you will bring your tanks and gear to the lake, get kitted up, and walk into the water. This takes a little practice, as cold water dive gear is heavier than tropical dive gear, and you do need to watch your footing. It's amazing practice for places like Bonaire, where shore diving is the primary way we dive. A lot of us prefer shore diving to boat diving - no set schedule, no seasickness if you're prone to that, we can bring all the stuff we want (your car is usually nearby), and we can bring extra snacks. We love snacks.




I'm taking a course at a local lake. How do I pack my gear?


Great question! When we train divers, we train them to be responsible local divers - divers that can get their gear and head to a lake for a fun dive with minimal assistance. For your course, you will pick up all your gear from us based on the schedule provided when you register - this includes your tanks and weights. You are responsible for getting all your gear (and yourself) to the lake for your course. Here are some packing tips: -Have a checklist handy so you don't forget anything. -Pack your gear the night before if possible. -When packing your vehicle, make sure your tanks are braced and not rolling around. You don't want to bump a valve and arrive at the lake with an empty tank! -Pack things that will be wet (i.e. drysuits, BCD) separate from things that should stay dry (i.e. undergarments, socks). -Don't leave your gear in a hot car on a hot summer day unnecesarily. -Make sure to check that your car can handle the quantity of gear that you need to bring, and speak to your Instructor if you need a hand. Just think - once you've completed your training and are comfortable, you'll have the skills and processes to call up your dive buddies, grab some gear, and go diving - on your schedule.




What will I see in the lakes?


If you take the time and look closely - more than you think! Alberta's waterways are amazing, and actually have more life in them than you think. Our lakes are home to a variety of fish, vegetation, small critters (some lakes have crayfish and little snails), and a variety of lake habitat such as submerged trees and rocks. The Bow and Elbow are home to a number of fish species protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), and sometimes, if you're lucky, you see one in the rivers! It's a treat! Lake Minnewanka is world famous for the presence of the remains of the town of Minnewanka Landing (accessible only by boat or scooter), the 1912 Dam Structure (shore/ice diving access), and the Bridge Pilings (shore/ice diving access). This lake is a Historical Resource, and incredibly unique. If you dive Emerald Bay in Waterton National Park, you may visit the wreck of the Gertrude; she is over 100 years old, and beginning to show her age, so you must be very careful not to make contact with the wreck. This is also considered a Historical Resource. It's an amazing place to watch fish school (yes, even lake fish like to school in their own way!). While different than coral reefs, our lakes provide lots of opportunities for photography, fish ID (WAY harder than tropical fish, let us tell you!), and discussions on water conservation. If you have an interest in our lakes and rivers, and want to learn more about them, drop us a line, and we'll put you in touch with one of our staff members who is passionate about this topic! When you're on your dives, take the time to slow down, have a look at the bottom - and see what might be moving around.




What do you wear to dive in a lake?


Because of the water temperature, our standard issue kit is quite a bit different than tropical diving: -Drysuit with undergarments (occasionally a very thick [2-piece Farmer John] wetsuit for warmer bodies of water) -Thick neoprene hood -Dry gloves or thicker neoprene gloves -Rock boots -Heavier-duty BCD with adequate lift capacity for lake diving -Dive computer (altitude-capable) -Environmentally-sealed regulators suitable for cold water diving -SMB and reel, cutting tool, and other safety devices depending on the dive -Heavy-duty open-heel fins to accommodate a drysuit boot If you're not sure if your gear is suitable for cold water diving, drop us a note and we'd be happy to check it out for you! Cold water is different than warm waer - you wear a lot more gear, a lot more weight, and it is a bit more work - but it also means you can dive almost year round, explore your own backyard, and learn so much about our local watersheds!




Are there special rules for diving in National Parks?


You might call them special - but they're really common sense items, and being a decent human: -If you're in a National Park, you need to purchase a Park Pass - same one as everyone else -Keep your certification card handy in case you're asked to present it, or be under the instruction of a qualified Instructor -Do not remove anything from the lakes or shore, including pretty rocks -Do not alter, damage, or vandalize underwater structures - areas like the 1912 Dam in Lake Minnewanka and the wreck of the Gertrude in Emerald Bay are Historical Resources, and protected -Do not anchor your float to underwater structures -Fly a dive flag, float, or SMB indicating divers in the water -Never dive alone -Don't make a giant mess (that applies to all Park users) -Pack out what you pack in -Practice wildlife-safe food habits -Park only in designated areas -Drones are NOT permitted to be flown in National or Provincial Park areas, except by special permit -Rinse/Drain/Dry your gear - including inside your BCD - if switching waterbodies or watersheds, or treat with a quaternary ammonium compound to reduce transmission of invasive species - more here: https://www.alberta.ca/whirling-disease.aspx -Be polite to other Park users (you are an ambassador for the local dive community after all) If you have never dove in our Parks before, feel free to reach out for tips!




Is there a permit required for diving in Waterton?


A watercraft permit is required when diving in Waterton - this is a self-inspection permit that you can complete at the lake, and is in place to reduce the transmission of invasive aquatic species such as zebra mussels and whirling disease. Forms are available at the park gate, Cameron Bay and Emerald Bay, and are available in a brown box mounted to the permanent 'Scuba Diving' sign. Just fill in the declaration, rip off the bottom portion, and deposit that portion into the box. Keep the top portion with your dive log, and have it ready to present in case you are asked. These self-inspection permits are free, and valid for one year from the date they're filled out. More info: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/waterton/info/index/reglements-regulations/envahissantes-invasive/permis-permit