The Icefields Parkway or 93N (between Lake Louise and Bow Summit) is home to some of the best backcountry skiing Canada has to offer. There is an endless amount of terrain from steep chutes, high glaciated terrain, gladed runs, and low-angle open slopes. These features and choices will appease intermediate to advanced skiers. The views are world-class, and it will be a day you will remember for a lifetime.
Our guides aim to find the best snow in the area while keeping safety as our priority. At the same time, you’ll be provided tips on how to improve your powder skiing/snowboarding technique and widen your knowledge about travel in complex mountain terrain. Most importantly, we want to challenge you and have fun!
Departures can be set up on a private basis for individuals, families, or groups. Please contact us if you would like to arrange your own departure and we will be happy to provide you with a quote.
Day 1: 7:00 am (MST) at the Yamnuska office in Canmore
- Welcome, introduction, goals and agenda, waivers
- Review weather and avalanche conditions
- Check and issue gear for the trip
- Companion rescue instruction and practice before entering avalanche terrain
- Review of efficient touring technique
- Complete a day tour at one of the hundreds of options along the Icefields Parkway!
- Find as much good powder skiing/snowboarding as possible
- Introduce participants to ski touring along the Icefields Parkway
- Refresh backcountry techniques and knowledge
- Have fun!
Instructors 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.
Meeting Time and Place
Meet at the Yamnuska Office (200-50 Lincoln Park, Canmore) at 7:00 am on the day of the program.
Please be dressed and ready for ski touring. As soon as we hit the trail, we will do an avalanche companion rescue refresher.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore, Alberta which is a one-hour (100km) drive west of 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.
Food is not supplied. Each day you need to bring plenty to drink and lunch plus energy snacks. We particularly suggest bringing a Thermos and hot drink.
Equipment and Clothing
Being prepared with the right clothing and equipment is a critical aspect of Alpine Touring or Split boarding in the backcountry. Please look through the list below and if you have any questions on clothing or equipment give us a call and we will be happy to assist.
Personal gear and clothing are your responsibility. We do have rentals available (indicated by an *) for the avalanche gear and can recommend providers of excellent Alpine Touring ski or splitboard rental equipment if needed.
Skis or Split board
Skis: Alpine Touring or Randonee skis that are designed for backcountry touring or a downhill ski designed for powder skiing. The length should be similar to what you are used to for downhill skiing and the width should be in the 90 – 115 mm range in the waist.
Bindings: Bindings allow for the release of the heel for touring up and locking down for the downhill runs. There are basically two types: Frame Bindings and Tech bindings.
- Frame bindings are almost the same as regular downhill bindings, but the toe and heel pieces are connected by a rail or frame to allow for a walking mode. Frame bindings have a release value setting which is similar to an ISO Din release. These need to be set for your weight and ski ability. Frame bindings are user-friendly but typically heavier than Tech Bindings.
- Tech Bindings use metal pins to hold the toes and heel of the boot in place. Tech compatible alpine touring boots are required for this set-up. They can be fiddlier to use if you aren’t familiar with them, but the advantage is that they are a lightweight system and can save almost a kilo of weight. Tech binding also operate with a release value that needs to be set for weight and skier ability.
Boots: Alpine Touring Ski Boots are designed for comfort, warmth, and performance with the ability to be switched between a walk mode and a downhill mode. Typically, AT boots will have a more grippy or lugged sole. They have two modes, walk, and downhill. When touring up track they are put in walk mode which allows the upper cuff to have a range of motion. When heading downhill the boot gets locked into downhill mode which gives a forward lean and rigidity to the boot much like a normal downhill ski boot. If you have Tech bindings the AT boot must be pin-compatible (almost all are).
Splitboards: If you are a rider and proficient on a snowboard, the backcountry touring version is called a splitboard. This is a snowboard that can be split to make two ski-type platforms for touring on the uphill ascent. The bindings have two positions and can be switched depending on whether you are climbing or descending. Split boards also use climbing skins for the ascent. For the downhill, the board is reassembled or joined to be in snowboard (ride) mode. If you are new to this system, you will need to practice the transitions of switching the board from touring to riding and back again. Your enjoyment will be vastly greater if you are efficient and practiced with this transition.
Climbing Skins: These are adhesive nylon or mohair skins that are attached to the base of the ski or splitboard. They slide forward on the snow and grip to prevent sliding back. This enables you to climb angled terrain in the snow. Skins are cut to fit for length and width on skis and boards. Used for ascending and taken off for descending. Please make sure that your skins are properly fit to your skis or splitboard before arriving on the program.
Poles: Backcountry poles are often adjustable so that they can be lengthened for touring and adjusted shorter for the downhill. Splitboarders use adjustable poles to be shortened and carried on their pack for the descent. Make sure your poles have powder baskets on the tips.
Avalanche Gear: *Transceiver, Probe, and shovel can be rented from Yamnuska for this program
- *Avalanche Transceiver (avalanche beacon): A digital, three antennae transceiver. Check your batteries and level prior to coming on the program.
- *Avalanche Probe: Collapsible metal or carbon fibre avalanche probe with a minimum of 240 cm in length. Must fit in your daypack.
- *Avalanche Shovel: A metal-bladed (no plastic) collapsible avalanche shovel. Must fit in your daypack.
Other equipment needed:
- *Day pack: 30 to 40 litres in size. Must fit all of your gear, food, and spare clothing for the day.
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Ski Helmet: Recommended. Should fit in your pack or strap to the back of the pack for the ascents.
- Thermos or Water bottle
- Sunblock and lip protection cream: (SPF cream or chapstick type)
- Small Bister Kit and First Aid: Tape, second-skin pads, band-aids. Your guide will have a larger first aid kit for the trip.
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer
- Face Mask or covering
- Pocket Knife
- Small Repair Kit: extra straps, duct tape,
- Camera: Optional but nice to have
We suggest bringing lightweight 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 blend)
- Warm pants (nylon blend, insulated, or fleece)
- Warm shirts (synthetic or wool blend)
- Medium weight fleece sweater or sweater
- Socks – ski socks (wool or synthetic)
- Fleece Jacket
- Light insulated jacket or vest
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or nylon)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or nylon, with side zippers
- Parka or Puffy ( down or synthetic)
- Wool or fleece hat
- Ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Sunhat (ball cap)
Skis, Splitboards, Boots, Skins & Poles for ski touring 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)
- 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.
Yamnuska has avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probes for rent. Rental Gear
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require full payment on booking.
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident while here. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for a rescue so long as you have a valid National Park Entry Pass which you can obtain on entry to Banff National Park.
Please make yourself familiar 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. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.
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.
Departures can be set up on a private basis for individuals, families, or groups. Please contact us if you would like to arrange your own departure.
$185 CDN per person with a minimum of 4 guests.
Includes ski guiding on Hwy 93N.
Not included: ski equipment, avalanche safety equipment, transportation, and GST (Goods and Services Tax).
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Participants need to be intermediate to advanced skiers/splitboarders (i.e. must feel comfortable on blue runs in most conditions). A good level of fitness is required with the ability to comfortably tour for a full day (5-7 hours)
Skiers and Splitboarders should be competent with their transitions (switching from ski tour mode to downhill mode), kick turns, and side-hilling. Splitboarders should be comfortable skiing downhill on lower angle traversing terrain in the valley bottoms.