The sports of guided backcountry skiing and ski touring have experienced explosive growth over the last decade. In the search for fresh powder runs and uncrowded backcountry experiences, more people are leaving the lift line and exploring western Canada’s vast backcountry. While there are a lot of similarities, backcountry skiing is different in several ways from regular alpine skiing (resort skiing).
First is the equipment required to tour around when there are no lifts. Using a special backcountry binding, skiers can essentially walk uphill using skins on their skis as a grip. Backcountry ski touring boots also have a ‘walk mode’ and a ‘ski mode’ to provide flex at the ankle when the skier is walking then lock the boot when a stiff set up is required to ski down. Skiers typically set an uptrack that switches back and forth across the slope to create a more comfortable grade for gaining elevation. When at the top of the hill, we remove the skins from the skis, switch the boot into ski mode and lock down the binding heel. The hard work of walking up the ski slope is usually rewarded with untracked snow and a fresh line. It is exhilarating.
Second, a higher level of fitness is required to gain the elevation on foot versus taking a standard ski hill lift. Experienced ski tourers set a steady comfortable pace that minimizes sweating and keeps a steady heart rate. The exertion level should be no more difficult than hiking with a pack.
The third big difference is the clothing set up and the requirement to carry a pack. Most resort skiers bundle up in warm clothes and head straight to the lift. People ski touring require a layering system with their clothes to manage periods of steady cardio periods to the transition points where they are usually at the top of a run (ie: windy) and not moving. You usually don’t see many people at a ski resort with a backpack but it is an essential item for a backcountry skier since it will carry spare clothes, water, food and the all-important companion rescue kit for avalanche equipment.
This brings us to the fourth and final biggest difference – avalanche risk and evacuation assistance. In-bounds resort skiers never usually consider avalanche risk as a hazard since most resorts have well-coordinated and effective avalanche control programs. In the backcountry, skiers are required to have avalanche training to not only avoid being caught in an avalanche but properly rescue a companion who may have been buried. Ski patrol is usually only a quick call away at a ski resort should a skier become injured or have an accident. In the backcountry, you need more advanced skills to manage accidents or avalanches. Accidents and injuries take on a whole new level of urgency in extreme cold or poor weather in the backcountry. We strongly encourage any winter backcountry enthusiast to take the AST 1 Avalanche Skills Training Course and a wilderness first aid course.
With a bit of experience and proper training, guided backcountry skiing and ski touring are incredible ways to keep active and enjoy the outdoors in winter. Even with the high growth of users in the past several years, you can usually find a fresh powder stash that is begging to get skied. A serene backcountry setting can be truly magical even without the thrills and satisfaction of getting fresh tracks every run. Good ‘blue run’ skiers will find their skiing skills easily transferred to guided backcountry skiing and ski touring. Skiing with a pack slightly changes your center weight point over your skis and deep powder or variable snow conditions mean you need to be paying close attention to what is in front of you and under your skis.
If you are a skier, you owe it to yourself to give this fun and growing sport a try. Stay active, enjoy the outdoors and celebrate our Canadian Winters on backcountry skis!
We offer a variety of courses and guided trips for backcountry skiers of all levels.
Backcountry Skiing & Splitboard Touring
There are a variety of excellent options for backcountry skiing & splitboarding in Alberta and British Columbia. From beginner to expert skier we likely have an option that gets you into the incredible backcountry of the Canadian Rockies.
Intro to Backcountry Skiing & Splitboarding – With unlimited potential for ski descents, the backcountry is where the heart of every true skier resides. The shift from resort skiing and boarding to the backcountry has taken off in recent years and our beginner backcountry ski and splitboard course will give you the foundational skills you need to get out of the lift lines.
Intro to Backcountry Skiing & Boarding at Purcell Lodge – The Purcell Mountains of British Columbia are renowned for their ability to produce high-quality snow and provide excellent terrain for skiing & splitboarding. Our introductory backcountry ski training and splitboarding program at the comfortable Purcell Lodge is the perfect way to experience all that backcountry skiing has to offer. With a helicopter flight into the heart of the mountains, you will feel the remoteness of the area while learning the skills to backcountry ski and splitboard. Days will be spent skiing the treeline and alpine terrain with instruction on the way. There will also be a focus on avalanche awareness and companion rescue skills.
2-Day Backcountry Freerider Camp – Our goal over the course of this two-day camp is to take your backcoutry riding to the next level. Combining the pure backcountry experience with the opportunity to solidify the basics and develop more sophisticated techniques makes this program appropriate for those looking for 2 days of guided skiing and splitboarding. This program is designed to refine your skillset allowing you the ability to venture deeper into the mountains.
Steep & Deep Programs
Lift-Assisted Backcountry Skiing at Lake Louise: A short distance from the crowded slopes and lift queues, often referred to as “side country” or “slack country” you’ll discover hidden bowls, open slopes and forgotten valleys with acres of powder just waiting to be tracked. Whether you are ready for your first turns in powder, an expert skier looking for a challenge or simply want to get to know the area our guides will take you to safe and suitable runs with fresh snow.
Rogers Pass Ski Camp: Rogers Pass offers some of the most exciting and challenging terrain in North America. From high glaciers to beautiful open bowls, tree skiing to small chutes and steep adrenalin-fuelled couloirs, the list is endless.
Steep & Deep Clinic (2-Day): Join Yamnuska Mountain Adventures for an action-packed 2-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.
Ultimate Steep & Deep Camp: Yamnuska Mountain Adventures is pleased to partner with K2 Skis and Dynafit/Pomoca to present our Ultimate Canadian Rockies Steep & Deep Couloir Camp. Over the course of three days we will choose venues that will be challenging and push your limits. You will progress at a pace that works for your ability level without pushing you beyond your comfort zone.
Signature Series Splitboarding Camp: Join 2 time Olympian and ACMG splitboarding guide Justin Lamoureux for three days of chasing down these sought-after lines. What once was a dream through your car window can now become a reality. Over the course of this program, you will receive expert tuition in steep splitboarding 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.
Remote Ski Camp: This is expedition skiing at its finest, without the suffering. Access to this seldom visited ski mountaineer’s paradise starts with a short flight to our ultra-remote base camp situated in a rugged corner of the Freshfields Icefields in Banff National Park.
Ski Mountaineering & Classic Traverses
Intro to Ski Mountaineering: Learn the skills of glacier ski mountaineering on the Wapta Icefields.
Crevasse Rescue for Skiers & Splitboarders: This one-day course is designed specifically to teach skiers and snowboarders how to perform crevasse rescue in a winter travel context. It will explain how to plan a trip on a glacier, how to identify and avoid crevasses and seracs, as well as how to conduct a crevasse rescue
Wapta Traverse: The classic hut to hut traverse of the Canadian Rockies.
Bow to Yoho Advanced Ski Week: An incredible adventure east to west across the Wapta Icefields! We will be skiing over massive glaciers laid down during the last ice age, crossing the continental divide, and all the while surrounded by the majestic peaks that are the namesake of this range!
5-Day Yoho Ski Safari: For the adventurous skier looking for something different, look no further. This action-packed 5-day ski safari is full of adventure.
Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Ski Traverse: The Bugaboos to Roger’s Pass Grand Traverse is regarded as one of the top ski traverses in Canada. Crossing the Purcell and Selkirk Mountains, the traverse travels through the jagged granite spires of the Bugaboos as it works its way north through the large connected path of glaciers and summits
Mt Hector: Along the Icefields Parkway, just north of Lake Louise, this majestic peak was the second Canadian Rockies 11,000er to be climbed in 1895. Standing on the summit you will be following in the footsteps of some of the Canadian Rockies’ most famous mountaineers. You will enjoy amazing panoramic views of the Lake Louise group and the Wapta Icefields on this trip.
The Lyells & Mons Ski Descents: Are you looking to travel to some of the best ski mountaineering terrain in North America? Do you enjoy accessing 11,000ft peaks within a couple of hours of a remote hut with all the basic amenities that one needs to create a trip of a lifetime? Then this is the trip for you.
Mt Columbia: Nestled deep in the Columbia Icefields, Mount Columbia is considered one of the grandest ski objectives in the Canadian Rockies.
International Ski Trips
Each year we run a handful of select international ski trips. These trips may be supported by local ground resources but we use our Canadian guides to lead the trips. This means you can be confident that your guide is certified to the standards appropriate for the objective and holds professional avalanche certification from Canada.
The below international ski trip packages are a combination of Powder Skiing and Ski Traverses. We have experience operating in all of these areas.
Troll Peninsula, Iceland Ski Safari: Iceland is becoming one of the world’s most sought after backcountry ski locations. The Troll Peninsula sits in the Northern section of Iceland, close to the Arctic circle. With minimal vegetation, the terrain provides opportunities for long open runs ending near the sea.
Rishiri Island Skiing in Japan – One of the most unique but unknown skiing destinations in the world.
Planning your own private backcountry touring ski & splitboard packages in Canada with a private ski guide can be extremely rewarding in terms of what you achieve. This is because the pace and the objective depend on you and your group. There is no compromise involved as the sole aim of the guide is to meet your backcountry skiing or splitboarding goals.
Avalanche Courses – Avalanche Skills Training levels 1 and 2 courses run most weekends throughout the winter months.