We are fortunate to have vast expanses of wilderness that are just waiting for first tracks and backcountry ski adventures. If you are able to ski further into the mountains, the skills to complete multi-day trips opens up a world of opportunity for the backcountry skier. Possibilities include remote ski camps and ski traverses that are beyond the popular day trip areas. Spending a night in the backcountry during winter can be an amazing experience. Our winter camping course will continue to refine the travel and leadership skills developed on the Backcountry Ski Skills 2 course but will focus on building the competencies required to camp, live and cook in a backcountry winter environment. This is a hands on and practical course that will put students in leadership positions wherever possible during the field portion of the program. This course is suited for those individuals or professionals who need backcountry winter camping skills but we focus on travelling using Alpine Touring Skis or Split Boards. This course can also be run privately for work or recreational groups. We highly recommend that anyone winter camping in the mountains have appropriate avalanche skills training.
The morning of day 1 will be based from the classroom and will cover packing and preparation for multi day ski trips before heading to the field in the afternoon and the following 2 days. Typical ski camps are in Banff National Park and Assiniboine Provincial Park. The leadership role will be transferred to students as much as possible with coaching and instruction added by your guide.
Sample Course Agenda and Curriculum
Friday: 7:30am meeting at the Yamnuska office
- Course introduction and briefing
- Review ski trip objectives
- Check and issue gear for the program
- Food and the backcountry – a lesson from our backcountry chef
- Packing an overnight pack
- Planning for success – testing equipment, double checking equipment and plan
- Emergency plan and weather
- Move to the field and ski to camp 1
- Avalanche companion rescue practice
- Campsite selection and preparation
- Tent set up and use
- Backcountry kitchens and food preparation in the winter environment
- Personal care – staying warm and dry in the winter
- Enjoy the winter camping experience!
Saturday: Field day – Move camp
- Morning camp routine – efficiency is the key
- Equipment care and repacking
- Daily hazard evaluation including avalanche hazard
- Student lead navigation and ski trip to camp 2
- Managing group decisions
- Route finding, track setting and trail breaking
- Terrain assessment
- Camp set up
- Short ski tour with light packs – let’s find some fresh snow!
- Food preparation and camp
Sunday: Field day traverse to trailhead
- Morning camp routine – improving efficiency
- Daily hazard evaluation and avalanche discussion
- Student lead navigation and ski trip to trailhead
- Managing group decisions
- Route finding, track setting and trail breaking
- Terrain assessment
Meeting Time and Place
The course begins Friday at 7:30am 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 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.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore which is a 1hour (100km) drive west from Calgary. Guests are responsible for their own transportation during the program.
Accommodation and Meals
During the program we will be camping in modern 2 and 3-person tents.
Accommodation in Canmore before and after the program is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff, including campsites, hostels, all levels of hotels as well as condo style accommodation with kitchens or suites. 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.
Excess luggage can be left either at your hotel or our office.
All backcountry meals from lunch on Day 1 to lunch on Day 3 will be supplied by Yamnuska. For guests with dietary restrictions, we are able to modify the program food pack to meet your individual needs. As food pricing and preparation for these diets is more costly, we have implemented the following surcharges. For vegan, gluten free, lactose free, soy free, nut free or any similar type of single restriction menu requests there will be a $15/day surcharge. For a diet requiring any 2 restrictions a $25/day surcharge will apply. For any 3 restrictions a $30/day surcharge will apply. Vegetarian meals will not be surcharged. For more complex diets our kitchen staff will assess the restrictions to inform you if the diet can be accommodated and what surcharge would apply.
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing, skis, poles, climbing skins, avalanche gear, backpack, sleeping bag and sleeping pad. We have many of these items available to rent and can pre-arrange them for you. We supply group camping items,stoves, etc.
You will be able to leave excess gear in Canmore while on the trip.
The equipment and clothing you bring will have a big impact on the quality of your experience. Please be sure to bring all items listed. If 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 when 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.
This course can be conducted on snowshoes for private groups.
You need to bring:
- Skis. 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
- Avalanche Transceiver – digital transceiver with a triple antennae loaners available
- Collapsible Avalanche Probe loaners available
- Avalanche Shovel (lightweight metal snow shovel designed for companion rescue) loaners available
- Backpack (at least 65L, large enough for sleeping bag, spare clothes, and your share of group food & equipment) rentals available
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Water bottle (at least 1 liter capacity), a Thermos for Hot Drinks is optional
- Bowl, Large Mug and Cutlery – Un-breakable plastic or light metal set works best. No glass or ceramics.
- Sun block and lip cream
- Pocket knife
- Sleeping Bag, must be warm as we will be winter camping. We recommend a bag with a -20C rating or lower that is down filled. Make sure you bring a stuff sac that will reduce your bag to its minimum size (i.e. one with compression straps) so you don’t use up all the room in your pack.
- Sleeping pad, full length and inflatable
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister and 1ST-Aid Kit
- Personal Toilet Items (keep to a bare minimum)
- Ear Plugs (optional but recommended)
- Insulated Booties
We suggest layers of light, easily carried clothing that allow for fast and easy adjustment to best suit fast changing temperature conditions. Cotton clothing is not appropriate as it causes rapid heat loss when wet. Feel free to call us if you have any questions about what to bring.
- Polypro underwear (top and bottom)
- Extra warm shirt (not cotton)
- Medium weight fleece sweater
- Soft shell or fleece jacket
- Soft shell pants
- Insulated jacket (down preferred)
- Insulated pants (fleece or other synthetic)
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or equivalent)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or equivalent, with side zippers)
- Socks (wool or synthetic) – 2 to 3 pairs
- Wool or fleece hat
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Light weight ski gloves
- Gaiters, only needed if your ski pants are not elasticized at the ankle
- Neck tube or balaclava
- Sun hat
Skis, Boots, Boards, Skins & Poles can be rented from:
- Calgary: Mountain Equipment Co-op. – 830-10 Ave. S.W. Calgary (Tel: 403 269-2420)
- Canmore: Gear Up – 1302 Bow Valley Trail (403 678-1636)
Yamnuska has avalanche equipment, sleeping mats and backpacks for rent.
*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. 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.
$645 CDN includes certified guide, meals, group camping equipment and wilderness passes. You will need to bring adequate clothing and equipment for an overnight backcountry ski trip. Goods and Services Tax (GST) is extra.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
No previous winter camping experience is required. You must have previous backcountry skiing experience. In the context of Yamnuska programs, a minimum of our Backcountry Ski Skills Level 1 with additional ski tours behind you or, ideally, our Level 2 course. We strongly recommend you have avalanche training equivalent to the AST 2 course before you consider leading your own backcountry ski trips. At a minimum students should have the AST Level 1.