Getting into backcountry skiing may feel a bit daunting, but a fun and well-organized weekend with the professionals at Yamnuska can provide you with the basic knowledge and understanding of winter backcountry travel and safety skills. Our goal is to get more women heading beyond the ski resort boundaries, feeling confident in their decision-making and their ability to explore areas that once felt out of reach.
So, pack your bags and buckle your boots for the Backcountry Belles program based at Panorama Mountain Resort. Located in the Purcell Mountains just outside the quaint town of Invermere, BC, this backcountry clinic is a women-only only camp featuring fantastic female guides and coaches. Learn and refine alpine touring skills, gain avalanche safety and terrain recognition skills, and acquire the know-how to make informed decisions in the backcountry! And best of all, have fun with a group of incredible and like-minded women.
Panorama Mountain Resort and Yamnuska Mountain Adventures have partnered to bring you the Backcountry Belles Free Rider program. During this action-packed 2-day adventure we will choose terrain that will be challenging and push your limits while learning backcountry ski techniques. Many of the runs will be lift-assisted in order to quickly access Panorama’s superb terrain and maximize learning and fun.
This program is geared towards those who have intermediate to expert hill skiing skills and want to start enjoying the backcountry powder. Instruction will cover gear selection, avalanche awareness, back-country safety, route finding, and track-setting as well as off-piste skiing skills.
Evening briefing the week prior to the program. During this zoom-based meeting, we will introduce the program and get to know the members of the group. We will talk about the goals and objectives for the program, possible hazards, risk mitigation, and expectations. We will also discuss the program logistics and the gear needed for the weekend so that everyone feels prepared.
Meet at 8:00 am at the allocated meeting area at Panorama Mountain Resort dressed for a day of ski touring to meet your guides and the rest of your group. We’ll reintroduce ourselves and review the possible hazards and risks, and sign waivers (sample waiver). After going over our equipment we head off to the lifts. Our first ski of the day will take place on a groomed run to get a feel for the backcountry gear, covering basic binding and boot function and making sure everyone is comfortable navigating steeper terrain. At the top we will put the skins on our skis and begin our instruction on touring uphill, pacing, and track setting. Getting off-piste will require some avalanche risk discussion and tips on how to tour in avalanche terrain. Once in the backcountry, we will discuss transitions from skinning to skiing. The rest of the day will be spent working on terrain selection and off-piste skiing. Weather permitting, we will have lunch in the backcountry.
We’ll meet at 8:00 am and discuss the weather and avalanche hazards before hopping on the lift to access some great backcountry terrain. Our focus will be on moving efficiently, making smooth transitions, and choosing the best descents.
Throughout the day you will receive expert instruction on steep skiing skills such as learning how to handle all types of terrain and snow, how to perform jump turns on steep faces, how to control your speed on hardpack to powder, and much more. You will not only gain confidence and strengthen your technique to tackle steeper and more challenging terrain than you have ever skied before, but you will be able to plan and assess backcountry ski trips with safety as the focus.
Meeting Time and Place
We will have an evening course introduction and meeting on zoom prior to the program. This will give you an opportunity to get acquainted with the guide, go through the gear needed, talk about conditions, hazards, and risk mitigation as well as discuss what gear will be needed for the program.
Panorama Mountain Resort is the base camp for this program. Panorama offers one of the easiest mountain resort vacations you’ll ever experience. Simply check-in, ditch your transportation and step out onto the mountain. It offers a great variety of restaurants, pubs, and cafés. There is also free access to the hot pools for all resort guests, and an on-mountain massage and spa.
The course will take place on March 20th and 21st at Panorama Mountain Resort. The meeting time and place will be sent to you prior to the program. Expect to be out all day from when the lifts open to the final sweep.
Guides and Group Size
Your Guide for Backcountry Belles will be Alison Cardinal. Alison is an ACMG ski guide, a heli-ski guide, and an AST course conductor. She has been working with Yamnuska for many years and is the mother of two very adventurous boys.
Group sizes will be kept small to maximize learning and instruction. The maximum group size will be 14 but in that case, we will operate as two groups of 7.
We will need lift tickets for the two days. If you have a season pass that is perfect otherwise, we will let you know the options for tickets on these two days. The lift passes will be your responsibility.
You will be responsible for your own transport to and from Panorama. Once at the resort no transportation is needed during the program.
Please note that program venues may be within National Parks and/or Kananaskis Country. For programs where transportation is not provided by Yamnuska/Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska, guests will be required to purchase their own pass.
National Park passes are available both online at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/admission and in-person at National park gates and some information centres.
Kananaskis Country conservation passes are available online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx
Accommodation and Meals
Accommodation and meals are the responsibility of the participant. There are many options for accommodation. Panorama Mountain Resorts have a vast array of accommodation packages available. Village accommodations include a variety of lodges, inns, condominiums, and townhomes. We recommend staying in Panorama Village to maximize your time and enjoyment of the program.
Accommodations all have cooking facilities and in addition, there is a multitude of eateries and restaurants to choose from at Panorama Mountain Resorts.
Need help booking your accommodation? Call 1-800-663-2929
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing, alpine touring skis, alpine touring boots, poles, climbing skins and daypack, and your own personal avalanche safety equipment. However, we can provide you with an avalanche safety equipment rental package if you do not have your own.
The equipment and clothing you bring will have a big impact on the quality of your experience. Please be sure to bring all the items listed. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call and ask us!
Skis & Splitboards
Alpine Touring skis are essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding that allows the heel to lift while going uphill or across the flats and then locks down to become a regular downhill style ski binding. We recommend this system to anyone with a background in downhill skiing.
Splitboard – Snowboards can be used on this program, however, a splitboard is required. If you are intending on doing the program with a splitboard please be familiar and practice with transitioning the board from touring to riding.
You will need to bring:
- Skis with alpine touring bindings or Splitboard – We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder. Please see note under rental information if you are renting ski equipment. You will need ski brakes or leashes to ride the lift.
- Climbing skins‘Stick-on type’
- Ski Poles
- Ski/Board boots (Alpine touring boots)
- Ski Helmet
- Daypack(large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment – all content should fit inside a 35-45L pack)
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Thermos and water bottle.
- Sunblock and Lip Cream
- Pocket knife
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister and Personal First-Aid Kit
- Hand Sanitizer and Face Covering
Additional gear info:
- Skis/splitboard: There are two viable backcountry systems, Alpine Touring 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. (tech/pin type or A/Frame type)
- 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 S.
- Probe: A minimum of 240 cm in length.
- Shovel: A collapsible shovel with a metal blade 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 (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
- Ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Sun hat
- Bathing suit (if you choose to use the hot tubs))
- Face Mask
- Hand /toe warmers
Yamnuska supplies but if you have your own. please bring:
- Avalanche transceiver – digital transceiver with a triple antenna
- Collapsible avalanche probe
- Avalanche shovel: Collapsible metal shovel designed for companion rescue
Skis, Boots, Skins, and Poles can be rented from:
*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.
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, 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 trip.
$450.00 includes a pre-session webinar, guiding/ instruction, and use of avalanche safety gear. GST is additional.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Please note you will be required to sign the Yamnuska Release of Liability, and Waiver of Claims prior to commencing the program. Please review the sample waiver prior to booking and call us with any questions.
Is it for you?
In this course, we introduce participants to backcountry skiing through a better understanding of their gear plus the basic skills and practices required for a safer and more enjoyable backcountry experience.
Participants are required to be at least intermediate skiers on alpine gear (i.e., must feel comfortable on blue runs in most conditions). Everyone needs to be comfortable skiing or riding in control and avoiding obstacles on the descent. Participants should be ‘hiking fit’ and be comfortable spending time outside in winter weather. This course is appropriate for your first backcountry skiing experience.
PLEASE DON’T HESITATE TO CONTACT US IF YOU NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS PROGRAM!
Toll-Free North America: 1.866.678.4164