with MTN Guiding and Kevin Hjertaas
Are you at the point in your ski career where strapping two pieces of wood to your feet and skiing black diamond runs is holding you back on what is achievable? Have you been in the White Room and found yourself wishing that you could increase the angle by a few degrees? Then look no further. Join Yamnuska Mountain Adventures and MTN Guiding’s Kevin Hjertaas for an action packed 3-day adventure of searching deep in the Rockies for the most sought-after lines.
Over the course of this program you will receive expert instruction on steep skiing skills such as learning how to handle all types of terrain, how to perform jump turns on steep faces, how to control your speed on icy snow and much more. You will not only gain confidence and strengthen your technique to tackle steeper and more challenging terrain than you’ve ever skied before, but you will be able to approach those narrow gullies and steeper chutes with a lot more control making some of those more remote or mountainous ski traverses comfortably achievable.
Day 1: 6:30am (MST), Meet at the Yamnuska Office
- Interpretation of avalanche and weather forecasts alongside actual snow conditions to decide where is safe and good to ski
- Companion Rescue
- Uphill travel techniques in steeper terrain
- Transitions in steeper terrain
- Ski techniques for steep terrain: Stance, Poles, Movement, Side slipping, Turns
- Tactical, Technical, Psychological and Physical elements of the descent
Feedback will be specific to the individual so that you have personal top tips to take forward into the following day.
Day 2: 6:30am (MST), Meet at the Yamnuska Office
- How to safely carry ski when boot packing
- Evaluation of the skiing and potential hazards
- Techniques for cornices, narrow terrain and entrances
- Managing the mental game
- Additional ski techniques
Day 3: 6:30am (MST), Meet at the Yamnuska Office
- Plan a trip with a large objective in mind
- Take the skills from Day 1 and 2 and apply it to Day 3
Meeting Time and Place
The course begins Saturday morning at 6:30am at the Yamnuska office. The Yamnuska office is located at #200 – 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore. See this map for location.
Guides and Group Size
Our instructors are certified professional ski guides or mountain guides who are licensed to teach and guide in the backcountry. There will be a maximum of 6 participants per guide and a maximum of 12 participants on the course. There will be a minimum of 4 participants on this program.
About Kevin Hjertaas
Kevin has been a skier since age 6 on the tiny hills of Central Alberta. His ski bum affliction took him to mountain ranges around the world for Freeski Tour contests and magazine/television shoots. Ski mountaineering has always been his passion, but powder skiing is his number one distraction.
Kevin’s background as head coach of the Rocky Mountain Freeriders will help you unlock your potential on steep, technical terrain. The owner of the Banff-based ski guiding company, MTN Guiding, Hjertaas spends nearly every day out in the Canadian Rockies showing skiers dreamlike backcountry terrain.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore which is a 1hour (100km) drive west from Calgary. Guest’s are responsible for their own transportation during the program.
Accommodation and Meals
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly.
Food is not supplied. Each day bring plenty to drink and a lunch plus energy snacks. We particularly suggest bringing a Thermos and hot drink.
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing, alpine touring skis and boots, poles, climbing skins and daypack. If you have your own personal Avalanche Safety equipment, it is great to bring this along as well as some beacons have different features which we can explain during the Avalanche review session.
The equipment and clothing you bring will have a big impact upon the quality of your experience. Please be sure to bring all items listed. If you are unsure about anything please don’t hesitate to call and ask us!
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 this 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.
Splitboards can be used on this program.
Both types of gear can be rented in Canmore or Calgary prior to the course.
You need to bring:
- Skis/Splitboard We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder. Please see note under rental information if you are renting ski equipment.
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’
- Ski Poles
- Ski boots
- Ski Helmet (required)
- Avalanche transceiver – digital transceiver with a triple antennae
- Collapsible Avalanche Probe
- Avalanche Shovel
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment)
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Thermos flask and water bottle.
- Sun block and Lip Cream
- Pocket knife
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister and 1st-Aid Kit
Additional gear info:
- Skis/splitboard: There are three viable backcountry systems, Alpine Touring, Telemark, and Splitboard.
- Alpine Touring: Essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding which allows the heel to lift when going uphill and then locks down to become an alpine binding for the downhill.
- Telemark: Free-heel telemark bindings should only be used for this program if you are at least an intermediate/advanced telemark skier with backcountry experience.
- Splitboard: Snowboarders sometimes use a splitboard in the backcountry. This system is enjoyable on the descent, but frustrating on the flats. The transitions between uphill and downhill can also be very time consuming. If using this system, please ensure that you are proficient at switching your bindings.
- Boots: Backcountry boots are different from regular alpine ski boots. In the backcountry, boots need to have an uphill mode that allows a free range of motion in the upper part of the boot. You should not use your regular ski boots for touring and walking uphill.
- Climbing skins: The glue on the base of the skin should be in good condition and the skins need to be properly fitted. Try the skins on your skis/splitboard to make sure they are the right length and width before you arrive.
- Ski poles: Backcountry poles need powder baskets on the tips.
- Avalanche beacon: A three antennae transceiver is required. Yamnuska uses the Backcountry Access Tracker 2 for all of our winter programs.
- Probe: A minimum 240 cm in length.
- Shovel: A metal blade shovel is required.
We suggest bringing light clothing of varying thicknesses that can be ‘layered’ to achieve comfort and versatility. The most important consideration for clothing is the ability to regulate temperature as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest and from the ascent to the descent.
- Long underwear top and bottoms (light weight synthetic or wool)
- Warm pants (nylon blend, insulated or fleece)
- Warm shirt (not cotton)
- Medium weight fleece sweater
- Fleece Jacket
- Light insulated jacket or vest
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or nylon)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or nylon, with side zippers)
- Socks (wool outer & polypro liner), several sets
- Wool or fleece hat
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
Skis, Boots, Skins and Poles can be rented from:
- Canmore: Gear Up – (403 678-1636)
- Calgary: M.E.C. – 830-10 Ave. S.W. Calgary (Tel: 403 363-0122)
We recommend reserving your gear in advance.
*Please note that your ‘DIN’ or ‘Release Value’ settings on your ski bindings are critical to your safety while skiing. Our expectation is that everyone arrives on programs with their ski binding’s release value correctly set. We have noted that some ski rental shops will not set release values on touring bindings. We advise you to rent from a shop that will set release values on your ski touring bindings unless you are proficient and comfortable setting your own DIN / release value. Failure to have Release Values correctly set could result in a serious injury.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require full payment on booking.
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.
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.
$699 CDN includes instruction. GST is extra.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
This complex backcountry ski program is limited to participants 19 years and older unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and in which case approval must be given by Yamnuska Mountain Adventures’ chief guide.
Signature Series riders must have backcountry skiing experience and be advanced or high intermediate riders in very good physical condition. In the Yamnuska context a minimum would be prior participation on ‘Intro to Backcountry Skiing‘, or ‘AST 2‘ or equivalent training and experience.
‘Advanced or high intermediate’ means that you are comfortable making parallel turns on most terrain at a ski hill and that you have enough riding skills to deal safely with all but the most extreme terrain found at a ski hill (that is to say you can stop, turn around, then traverse out of areas you can’t handle).
You must be in very good aerobic shape, as you will have to ‘skin’ up everything you ride down. You will get a good workout each day from touring uphill so you need to be ready for big elevation days. You will be riding with a daypack containing your lunch, water, avalanche gear, and spare clothing. This program is not suitable for those new to skiing touring. There may be steep uphill turns and traverses that the novice rider will no doubt find challenging.