Alpine Ski Mountaineering is one of the most incredible ways to enjoy the mountains in winter. With a variety of basic skills, it is possible to summit more peaks than on a similar mountaineering trip in the summer.
This 5-day comprehensive ski mountaineering program is designed to give you all the skills you will need to ski in classic ski mountaineering terrain. This includes Alpine ridges, glaciated terrain, techniques for summiting peaks in a winter context and managing complex avalanche terrain. While no mountaineering experience is necessary, by the end of the course you will have the skills and confidence to head out on your own to tackle some big-mountain ski objectives and traverses on your own.
Throughout this program, you will find the right balance of instruction and adventure as we explore the numerous snow-covered peaks and ski the slopes of the 93N.
Note: From Day 2 the course agenda and the amount of time spent on each subject will depend upon conditions in the program area, the weather, group, and individual abilities and learning speeds.
Day 1: We meet at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre, Alberta at 8:00 am for introductions, a review of course goals and itinerary and equipment check. Then we drive to one of the many amazing locations for ski mountaineering along the 93N. Some examples would be Bow Summit, Crowfoot Mountain, OXO or Puzzle Peak to name a few. After an avalanche safety session, we will commence our first ski tour of the week where we will cover up tracking, route finding and negotiating avalanche terrain given the current hazard.
Day 2 – 5: Peaks in the Lake Louise region will be our destination for the week. It’s proximity to several world-class ski mountaineering destinations, makes it an ideal location for us to get out on to suitable instruction terrain every day. Some potential peaks climbed on the course include Mt. Olive (10,200 ft.) on the Wapta Icefields, Mt. Hector (11,135 ft.), Cirque Peak (9820 ft.), or Mt. Jimmy Simpson (9730 ft.) to name a few. Our focus is on giving you skills required for ski mountaineering and all associated components…and to climb some peaks!
There is considerable flexibility built into the delivery of this course, no course is the same. Snow and weather conditions will dictate the order of presentation to some degree. Key topics will be constantly revisited during the program.
- Avalanche awareness emphasizing hazard recognition, route finding and emergency procedures.
- Winter medical issues and emergency response.
- Trip planning.
- Equipment for ski mountaineering.
- Glacier travel and crevasse rescue.
- Snow Shelters.
- Mountain weather.
- Navigation and route planning.
- Decision-making processes.
- Ski techniques for powder and wind slabs.
- Track setting.
- Ski tours! There are lots of great day climbs and tours in the region. You just happen to be learning these skills in a terrific ski mountaineering area. You will find yourself in the lead, solving route finding problems and using new skills to face the challenges of successful tours and the rewards of great ski descents!
Meeting Time and Place
The course begins at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre at 8:00 am on the first day. We will meet upstairs when you walk in the main building doors. The Lake Louise Alpine Centre is located at 203 Village Rd, Lake Louise, AB.
The course is based out of Lake Louise (90km from Canmore).
Guides and Group Size
Your instructors are certified by the internationally recognized Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and licensed by Parks Canada. There will be a maximum of 6 participants per instructor, a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 on the course.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Lake Louise which is a 2.0hour (200km) drive west from Calgary.
You should plan to arrive in Lake Louise the day before the course (see “accommodation” below”)
Accommodation and Meals
Accommodation in Lake Louise is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in Lake Louise. We recommend that you book your own 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 lunch plus energy snacks. We particularly suggest bringing a Thermos and hot drink.
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing, avalanche beacon, snow shovel, probe, alpine touring or telemark skis, poles, climbing skins and a daypack. We have many of these items available to rent when available. We supply other group safety items. The equipment and clothing you bring to the Icefield’s will have a big impact on the quality of your ski touring experience. Please be sure to bring all the items listed. If unsure about anything, please don’t hesitate to call and ask us!
Alpine Touring skis are essentially downhill skis with a special ski 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.
Gear can be rented in Calgary, Canmore and Lake Louise prior to the trip
- Skis We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder skiing and ski touring. Please see note under rental information if you are renting ski equipment.
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’
- Ski Poles
- Ski boots
- Avalanche Transceiver – digital transceiver with a triple antenna rental available
- Avalanche shovel – collapsible metal shovel designed for companion rescue rentals available
- Collapsible probe rentals available
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment) rentals available
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Thermos flask and water bottle
- Sunblock & Lip Cream
- Small Flashlight or Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister & 1st-Aid Kit
- Small repair kit for bindings, skis or splitboard (this may include straps, nuts, bolts, small Leatherman)
- Hand Sanitizer
Additional gear info:
- Skis/splitboard: There are two viable backcountry systems, Alpine Touring and Splitboarding. We strongly urge skiers and Splitboarders to bring spare parts for their setups. Most of our guides are familiar with splitboarding sets ups, but each system is different, and our expectation is that guests will have basic knowledge on common Splitboard concerns (i.e. replacing toe straps on Splitboard bindings).
- 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.
- 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 our winter programs.
- Probe: A minimum of 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 shirts (synthetic or wool)
- 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 – ski socks (wool or synthetic), several sets
- Wool or fleece hat
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Neck tube or Face Covering
- Face mask
Skis, Boots, Skins & poles can be rented from:
- Canmore: Gear Up – (403 678-1636)
- Calgary: Mountain Equipment Coop. – 830-10 Ave. S.W. Calgary (Tel: 403 363-0122)
- Lake Louise: Wilson Mountain Sports – (1-866-929-3636)
Yamnuska has avalanche beacons, shovels and probes for rent. Rental Gear
*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 a 35% deposit at the time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the program.
Risk is an inherent part of all mountain activities. We strive to manage and reduce it however, it is impossible to totally eliminate. Learn more about our safety and risk management approach here. 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 travellers 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. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance.
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.
Cost $1195.00 includes ski guiding for the 5 days, ski mountaineering equipment, Goods & Services Tax (GST) is extra. Not included: ski equipment, avalanche safety equipment, transportation, accommodation, and food
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
You need to be at least a strong intermediate downhill skier (on either Telemark or ‘alpine’ gear) able to maintain control in all conditions. You should be making parallel turns on hardpack. You also need to be familiar/comfortable with touring equipment. It is not necessary to be an expert as part of the course will focus on tips for maintaining control and tackling more difficult slopes. You must be comfortable taking a few spills and be able to pick yourself up and ‘carry on’. You will need to be in good physical condition. No prior ski mountaineering experience needed but ideally, you have alpine touring experience.
Skiers and Splitboarders should be competent with their transitions (switching from ski tour mode to downhill mode). Splitboarders should be comfortable skiing downhill in split mode.
Splitboarders should have their downhill kick turns dialled, as this skill will be used frequently to traverse downhill and across slopes at mellow angles.
We strongly urge skiers and Splitboarders to bring spare parts for their setups. Most of our guides are familiar with splitboarding sets ups, but each system is different, and our expectation is that guests will have basic knowledge on common Splitboard concerns (i.e. replacing toe straps on Splitboard bindings).
The minimum age for participation is 18 years unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and approved by Yamnuska.