Headed for the Mountains
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada.
I've taken two courses with Yamnuska (my AST1 and a mountaineering course) and have had nothing but excellent experiences. Sure, the experience will vary with the guide you get (I lucked out and got Barry for both of my courses) and yeah, they'll tailor things to the weakest participants as is the usual thing for group-based training. One thing though: if you're depending on them for gear I would at least try to provide your own boots. It's going to be hit or miss any time you're renting/borrowing boots, and I definitely recall seeing some miserable/suffering faces atop Mt. Athabasca.
I've stayed at both hostels mentioned here and my preference is for the ACC Clubhouse (Hi-Hostel). It can sometimes get overrun by one of the highly obnoxious youth groups that frequent the place, but it's a nice and really cheap. It also doesn't have a lot of capacity and is used for weddings and other events, so you can't always get in there.
Bear Hostel is also a nice place, and seems to have been a hotel that was converted into a hostel as everything there has a higher-end (than it needs to be) feel to it. The cost difference is only about $12 a night, which isn't a huge deal (still cheaper than HI-Hostel in Lake Louise). The downsides for the hostel is the most humourless and lengthy rules briefing I've ever received at a check-in, bathrooms without soap or any means to dry your hands (seriously!), and it's right next to the railway. If you can't sleep through a freight train in the middle of the night, expect to wake up a few times.