Planning your own backcountry ski program With a private ski guide can be extremely rewarding in terms of what you achieve. This is because the pace of the skiing and the objective depends on you and your group. There is no compromise involved as the sole aim is to meet your backcountry skiing goals.
Our depth of knowledge in the Canadian Rockies and surrounding mountain ranges is unmatched. Ski touring, backcountry skiing, or ski mountaineering are all popular private ski guiding activities that we have years of experience planning. Be it a single and multi day trip, we can organize rental gear, accommodations and food so all you need to do is focus on the skiing.
Backcountry ski guiding is very popular with people who are in town resort skiing but want to experience the beauty of our backcountry environment for a day or two. It is also ideal for clients who cannot make our scheduled program dates.
Popular areas include Kananaskis, Banff National Park, The Wapta Icefields, Kootenay National Park, Rogers Pass, and Yoho National Park.
Really couldn’t ask for more in a guiding service. Professional, well-organized, flexible, safety-conscious and client-centered describe my experience with the company and also my guide. I intend to explore a lot more of the Canadian Rockies backcountry and am sure that a lot of it will be with Yamnuska. Highly recommended!
—Daniel M – January 2016
Options and Program Ideas
Single day or multi day trips are all options available to you. We invite you to read some of our suggested trip ideas or bring your ‘To Do’ list with you!
Backcountry Skiing Split Boarding
Day tours in the Rockies:
The highways that traverse the Canadian Rockies provide easy access to a wonderful variety of terrain that make rewarding day tours possible. From Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise you can book ski tours for one or several days. Kananaskis Country and the Rocky Mountain National Parks (Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho) are all possible day destinations.
Private Day tours the are easiest to organize and involve the fewest costs, typically just the guide fee plus gear rentals.
Rogers Pass in the Selkirk Mountains (Glacier National Park)
Due to its heavy annual snowfall, challenging terrain and easy access from the Trans Canada Highway, Rogers Pass has justifiably become a world class ski destination. If you are looking for steep terrain and lots of powder this is probably your best option from December to early March. Due to the travel time involved in getting there (3 hours from Canmore) we suggest you book for at least 2 days. We can do day trips from Revelstoke or Golden, BC or you can stay in the Alpine Club’s historic Wheeler Hut which is 2 flat kilometers from the road. We highly recommend Rogers Pass for experienced backcountry skiers and split boarders.
There are several backcountry huts which we can use on private programs. Some are Alpine Club Huts with basic facilities and others are well-appointed chalets with running water, saunas etc. Let us discuss possibilities with you. These cabins are often booked months in advance so must be booked very early. We would suggest this option for larger groups. Hut based or backcountry winter camping are options for some of the famous ski traverses or winter mountaineering objectives in the Canadian Rockies.
Ski and Board Mountaineering
In late March, April and early May it is possible to ski high into the alpine zone in Kananaskis Country and off the highway near Lake Louise and Bow Lake. Banff National Park offers some incredible ski mountaineering opportunities as day trips.
With its linked huts this area is one of the best for glacier ski mountaineering in North America. Using these huts we can organize programs where you either stay based in the same hut or move between huts. We can organize a private Wapta Traverse for you and your group (see Wapta Traverse). This is perhaps one of the most popular private options and best for beginners.
Remote and accessed by helicopter or skiplane this area is fabulous for ski mountaineering. You can base from the Alpine Club’s Lawrence Grassi Hut or you can camp and move around onto the other nearby glaciers (Apex & Chaba Icefield).
Easily reached from the Banff-Jasper Parkway or by helicopter, these vast icefields offer the possibility of high ascents of peaks such as Mt. Columbia (Highest point in Alberta), Mt. Kitchener, Snow Dome, Castleguard and the Twins. These are multi-day trips which involve lots of elevation gain, glacier travel and winter camping. For some, it is the experience of a lifetime.
There are several major multi-day traverses in the Rockies and Interior Mountains of British Columbia that we can organize on a private basis. They include the Cariboo Traverse, Wapta Traverse, the Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Traverse and the Clemenceau to Columbia Icefields Traverse. These are multi-day high camp based trips which are best suited for experienced ski mountaineers.
Avalanche skills training can be incorporated into any of our backcountry ski or split board programs. We suggest basing an avalanche program in either Canmore or Lake Louise where we can use classroom facilities with field trips to nearby mountains. This type of program lends itself to private groups or individuals with a specific schedule.
Yamnuska’s ski guides are some of the best in the industry. Our standards are very high and we are totally committed to providing you with the best possible experience. Our ski guiding team benefits from staff training, peer and client review, daily conditions reports, and support from senior staff. We back up all of our programs with a full time, on-call Duty Manager and support network ready to help in any situation. We also have cutting edge, modern equipment ready to rent or borrow on all of our programs.
When you arrange a private or custom ski program we will quote you a guide fee plus the expenses incurred in running the program. It is important to understand that should you wish to shorten your trip due to weather or personal reasons will we not be able to offer refunds since resources would have been fully committed by this time.
For your convenience and information we offer an outline of sample costs involved.
Backcountry Skiing Day Trips: This would include local day trips or avalanche training field days to locations in Kananaskis Country, Banff National Park, and Yoho National Park. Typical destinations include Bow Summit, Black Prince, Burstall Pass, Tent Ridge, Tryst Lake, and Observation Peak. Avalanche safety equipment can be provided for an extra $18/day (Beacon, Probe, and Shovel). We can arrange backcountry rental gear for you at a local rental shop.
|Number in group||Cost / person (Cdn)|
|5 or more||Please contact the Yamnuska Office|
Ski Mountaineering & Advanced Ski Trips: This would include more advanced ski destinations such as Rogers Pass and multi-day Ski Mountaineering or Traverse trips such as a private Wapta Traverse. Avalanche safety equipment can be provided for an extra $18/day (Beacon, Probe, and Shovel).
|Number in group||Cost / person (Cdn)|
|5 or more||Please contact the Yamnuska Office|
These costs do not include Goods & Services Tax (GST) which is 5%. Gratuities are not included.
Your quote will contain reasonable and modest guide’s expenses during your program. These include driving costs (unless you drive the guide), accommodation and meals (doesn’t apply to day tours), helicopter costs etc.
Other charges that may apply to a private program are:
National Park Fees: If we ski in Banff or the other National Parks entry fees apply (c. $9/day/person) and if we overnight in a hut or camp a further $10/night/person Wilderness Fee applies.
Helicopter Access: Some backcountry huts (e.g. Fairy Meadows) or areas (Mt. Assiniboine) are accessed by helicopter. Where the fee is fixed, we can include it in our package price. In some cases this fee can vary and we will give you our best estimate and arrange for you to pay the helicopter pilot or company directly.
Porters: We can arrange for a porter to help on the climb up to a hut to lessen your loads. The charge for a porter is $200/day plus the porter’s gas costs. We may recommend this when accessing Bow Hut in the Wapta Icefields depending on your fitness and experience.
Before booking your private program we will give you a final quote as to cost.
You can either provide the transportation for you and the guide or, should the guide need to drive him/herself to the program area then a charge, based on distance will apply. This ranges from $20 on up depending upon where you go. Once we know whether you will be able to drive the guide or where you will be going we will include transport costs in your quote.
Yamnuska has several commercial vehicles and in some cases we may be able to supply transportation for your group. We can quote you a cost for this which will also depend upon how far you are driving and how much the vehicle will be used.
There are a number of accommodation options in the Canadian Rockies and we recommend you do your homework to find appropriate lodging. During peak seasons, all accommodations are usually booked. We may be able to recommend an option for you.
For overnight ski trips, the cost of backcountry and mountain huts varies. The simplest huts are those operated by the Alpine Club of Canada, their hut fees average $30/night/person. More elaborate private huts cost proportionately more. In constructing your private program we will include the cost of these huts for you. The actual costs will be outlined in the quote.
Yamnuska can supply all your out-trip meals. Should you choose to supply your own we charge you only for the cost of your guide’s food for multi-day trips.
In planning your menu we will need to know of any special dietary restrictions or preferences you may have (e.g. vegetarian) and of any allergies you may have (e.g. shellfish).
The following daily rates (GST not included) apply for overnight multi-day trips:
- Guide only: $35/day
- Guide plus 1 person: $90/day
- Guide plus 2 persons: $135/day
- Guide plus 3 persons: $180/day
- Guide plus 4 persons: $2225/day
- Thereafter an extra $45/day/extra person.
Food charges will be prorated where less than 3 meals are supplied in a day. Included in the charge is supply of group cooking gear (stoves, pots & pans). There is also a daily surcharge for special dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan, food allergies, etc.).
For larger groups we can also arrange for a cook when requested and appropriate (backcountry huts).
Backcountry Skiing we think of as mainly happening in the zone just above treeline and below. Objectives would typically be interesting ski tours or in finding good quality skiing. The challenges tend to be in the areas of route finding and in avoiding avalanche hazard. We can adjust the focus of your program towards finding good snow and making lots of turns at whatever level of difficulty you prefer or towards making tours that cover lots of distance and interesting scenery. We can do this in day trips from the highway or we can base ourselves in backcountry camps or huts.
Ski Mountaineering happens on glaciers at higher elevations and is often oriented to climbing suitable peaks. Considerations include safe glacier travel, whiteout navigation and basic mountaineering skills. Because we need to get higher up we tend to base ourselves in high huts (e.g. those on the Wapta Icefields) or camps. It is also possible to do high ski mountaineering traverses that go hut to hut or camp to camp. For clients with a very high level of physical fitness, we can do certain ski mountaineering objectives in a single day.
Avalanche Skills programs focus on teaching you the knowledge and practical skills to avoid avalanche hazard and deal with emergencies. Instruction combines class room sessions with backcountry field trips. Courses can include certification or just be general avalanche awareness or companion rescue training.
What is the season?
Backcountry skiing can happen any time from when the snow first begins to settle (typically early December right through to early May). When the weather is bad the skiing is often great in the trees. When the weather is good we can often get into the open bowls above treeline.
Ski Mountaineering is best done later in the winter and in spring when the crevasses on the glacier are largely filled in and covered by snow. In March, April and early May the days are longer, warmer and the weather often better. These are the best months for Ski Mountaineering.
Avalanche Skills Training is best taught in the winter months, December through March when the snowpack is less stable and there is more instability to study.
Equipment & Clothing Lists
You will need to bring your own clothing and personal gear (skis, poles, climbing skins, backpack, sleeping bag, etc). We have many of these items available to rent and if not can pre-arrange them for you.
Group safety and technical gear (e.g. ropes, rescue gear) is included in the guide fee. You will need to supply personal clothing and gear (e.g. skis, avalanche beacons), see Gear & Clothing Lists for an idea of what you’ll need to bring. Some of these items can be rented and the cost included in your package price.
Yamnuska has these items for rent: avalanche beacons, probes, snow shovels, back packs, daypacks, harnesses, sleeping bags, sleeping mats (‘Thermarest’) & tents. Rental Price Lists
Skis, boots, skins, poles & snowboards can be rented locally.
What Gear To Use?
Alpine Touring or Telemark? Snowboards?
There are two ski systems you can use:
System: 1 Alpine Touring skis are essentially ‘downhill skis’ with a special touring binding which allows the heel to lift whilst going uphill or across the flats and then ‘locks down’ to become a regular downhill safety binding. We recommend this system to anyone with a background in downhill skiing.
System 2: Telemark skis. These should only be used for a program if you are at least an advanced-intermediate telemark skier with some backcountry experience. This system is more difficult and less forgiving than the other.
Which should you use? If you are a downhill skier then you should use Alpine Touring gear. Only if you are already an advanced Telemark skier should you bring Telemark gear.
Often used in the backcountry or for “board mountaineering”. It is important though to choose an area with terrain that is board friendly: reasonably steep with not too many flat areas and with easy access.
If ‘boarding’ you need to be an advanced boarder and you need to be on a split board. Don’t bring a board if you’ve never boarded in the backcountry before. We highly recommend you have experience transitioning your gear from skiing to walking.
We will supply you with a quote which will include all expenses such as meals, accommodation and rental gear when we know your requirements. Registration requires a deposit of 35% of the quote or, for trips of three days or less, full payment.
We ask that you familiarize yourself with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
Balance of payment is required eight weeks before trip commencement. Should you cancel more than eight weeks in advance of trip, a $105 cancellation fee will apply. Cancellation between six and eight weeks before trip commencement will mean a loss of your deposit. Cancellation less than six weeks before trip commencement will result in a loss of all payments made.
In most areas there is no fee for rescue. In the National Parks you must have a valid entry pass to qualify for free rescue. You can obtain this on entry to the Parks. In Assiniboine and other British Columbia Parks you may be liable for the cost of rescue. In this case you need insurance to cover rescue. If in doubt consult us to check whether or not you will need this.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travelers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the national and provincial parks, however costs such as air or ground transportation, long term care and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries and other unplanned events. For these eventualities the Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure’s trip.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Why choose a private program?
You would typically choose a private or custom program when your objectives, schedule and expectations are not matched by those offered on our scheduled programs.
You can hire a guide to do trips from as short as one day. In addition to backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering and avalanche awareness we offer ice climbing, mountaineering, rock climbing and hiking / trekking. As Canada’s premier mountain guiding orgranization we are certain that we can meet your expectations like no one else.
Yamnuska guides and instructors are certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. In addition to certification, which only relates to a guide’s technical competence, all of our guides have access to Yamnuska’s staff training and guide mentoring programs which help to develop many other key qualities required of a professional guide. They need to be endowed with patience, empathy, and a sense of humor as well as being effective communicators and great coaches. We are in the very fortunate position to only hire the best guides.
How does it work?
If you would like to consider a private or custom program you would contact us directly, by email (email@example.com) or phone (403 678 4164) and describe what you are interested in doing. We would discuss your objectives, experience and expectations and in turn outline a program or itinerary that would meet your needs. You may already know what you want to do or one of our experts can give you options.