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.
Our certified guides will teach you to use the gear, how to route find and to backcountry ski on this course. Whether your objective is to find untracked backcountry powder or to experience the beauty of alpine ski touring or splitboarding, this weekend course will introduce you to one of the fastest-growing winter activities in the world.
The opportunity for backcountry skiing in Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis and Lake Louise is nearly limitless. Discover this magnificent sport and learn the skills to get out into the backcountry where its ‘fresh tracks’ nearly every run. Caution: You may never return to a ski resort again!
In addition to taking this beginner backcountry skiing course, check out the ‘Plus Days’ add-on option and you’ll be just blown away by what you can accomplish. This course is ideally suited for resort skiers and boarders who want training in the backcountry.
There is a definite difference between resort skiing and backcountry skiing. To maximize the field time, we meet you on the evening of Day 1 at our office to discuss gear and start our course overview. This saves time on the following day so we can head straight to the mountains.
Sample Course Agenda & Curriculum
Day 1: 6:30 pm, meet at Yamnuska Office in Canmore.
- Course introduction and briefing
- Gear for backcountry skiing and splitboarding (lecture and discussion)
- Safety in the backcountry (lecture and discussion)
- Planning a backcountry ski trip (lecture and discussion)
- Review Saturday’s field trip (map, weather, avalanche conditions)
- Gear check
Day 2: 7:30 am, field day, meet at our office.
- Avalanche beacon practice and check
- Companion rescue practice
- Equipment familiarization
- Trail breaking and track setting
- Uphill turns
- Ski touring techniques
- Return to Canmore
- Plan ski tour for Sunday
Day 3: 7:30 am, ski tour, meet at our office.
- Participants will carry out the ski tour they planned the previous evening with the coaching and supervision from their instructors
- Finish tour by 4:00 pm
- Wrap up the course, return to Canmore
Join us for an additional day of backcountry skiing and splitboarding every day following our Intro to Backcountry Skiing & Splitboarding course. Sign up for our ‘Plus Day’ add-on option where you’ll get the opportunity to get out for another backcountry ski and put into practice all of the skills you’ve acquired. (Must be 18 years of age or older unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.)
Meeting Time and Place
The course begins on Day 1 at 6:30 pm 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 8 participants per guide and a maximum of 16 participants on the course. There will be a minimum of 4 participants in this program.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore, Alberta which is a one hour (100km) drive west from Calgary. Guests 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.
Yamnuska guests receive exclusive rates with Clique Hotels & resorts upon booking an adventure with either Yamnuska Mountain Adventures or Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska. (Please note that some rates are non-refundable)
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, alpine touring skis, alpine touring 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 practice sessions. However, we will provide you with avalanche safety equipment 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 are unsure about anything please don’t hesitate to call and ask us!
Skis & Splitboards
There are two backcountry 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 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 of downhill skiing who is not already an advanced telemark skier. 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. If you are already an advanced Telemark skier you can bring Telemark gear.
Both types of gear can be rented in Canmore or Calgary prior to the course. We recommend reserving your gear in advance.
Splitboard – Snowboards can be used on this program, however, a splitboard is required.
You 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.
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’
- Ski Poles
- Ski/Board boots (Alpine touring boots)
- Ski Helmet (optional)
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment – all content should fit inside a 40-50L pack)
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Thermos flask and water bottle.
- Sunblock and Lip Cream
- Pocket knife
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister and Personal First-Aid Kit
- Small repair kit for bindings, skis or splitboard (this may include straps, nuts, bolts, small leatherman)
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 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 (lightweight 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
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Sun hat
Yamnuska supplies but feel free to bring:
- Avalanche transceiver – digital transceiver with a triple antennae
- Collapsible avalanche probe
- Avalanche shovel: Collapsible metal shovel designed for companion rescue
- Snow study kit
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)
- Lake Louise: Wilson Mountain Sports – (1-866-929-3636)
*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 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.
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.
$425 CDN includes instruction and avalanche safety equipment. GST is extra.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Optional PLUS DAY:
$345 plus GST. The day following the ‘Intro to Backcountry Skiing & Splitboarding’. Available to program participants only.
Is it for you?
In this course, we introduce participants to backcountry skiing & splitboarding through a better understanding of their gear plus the basic skills and practices required for a safer and more enjoyable backcountry experience. Avalanche awareness will be touched upon, but it is strongly recommended that participants also take the Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 course offered by Yamnuska if they wish to continue in the backcountry.
Participants are required to be at least intermediate skiers on alpine or telemark gear (i.e. must feel comfortable on blue runs in most conditions). Participants should be ‘hiking fit’. This course is appropriate as your first backcountry skiing experience.
Splitboarders should be at an advanced level of snowboarding at the resort and able to handle flat sections and traverses. Note that our guides will be on skis but are familiar with splitboarding equipment.
PLEASE DON’T HESITATE TO CONTACT US IF YOU NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS PROGRAM!
Toll-Free North America: 1.866.678.4164