Dial-in your skillset as a backcountry traveller through our one-month winter ski or splitboard program. Over the course of a month, you will complete an AST1 and 2 as well as travel to several classic areas in Banff and Glacier National Parks on skis or splitboard. You will travel to Rogers Pass and complete an expedition in a remote, world-renowned ski mountaineering area where our experienced ACMG guides will show you what they have to offer.
Over the course of one month of intensive high-end ski touring and ski mountaineering, we will cover all the essential skills to help you take your backcountry riding skills to the next level. The one-month ski program training focuses on travel in avalanche terrain, crevasse rescue, avalanche education, planning and completing a ski traverse, tackling steeper terrain with strategies for success, winter camping skills, navigation and route finding. These skills are presented in a logical progression from basic safety protocols to intermediate and advanced techniques that are constantly being reviewed and updated by our professional guides.
Graduates from this program can go on to pursue a career in the outdoor recreation industry including ski guiding and ski patrolling or use our programs as a springboard to advance their technical skills and improve their overall knowledge and fitness. With a strong focus on the fundamentals of outdoor leadership, this is a fantastic program for anyone wishing to feel confident and secure in almost any terrain and conditions that can be found in the backcountry ski environment.
Day 1: Welcome, introductions, course agenda, goals and Navigation 1 Course. Preparation for the first local backcountry ski trip. (1 day)
In the afternoon we will do a mountain navigation skills session which aims to give you an introduction to planning and navigating with the use of a map and compass. This course will provide you with the skills you require to navigate in both summer and winter, with no trails and in all weather conditions. We’ll provide you with enough information to keep it interesting but not too much where it becomes hard to remember.
Day 2: Local Ski Tour (1 day)
On this day we will head out to one of our local favourites and go over all the basics to set you up for success in the coming month. We will go over skiing/splitboarding techniques, uphill travel, equipment familiarization and companion rescue to name a few. This will be the beginning of an exciting month ahead in an amazing location.
Days 3 – 4: AST 1 Course (2 days)
Backcountry skiing and splitboarding are exciting sports but without proper knowledge, enthusiasts often take unnecessary risks. We will start your avalanche education with the Avalanche Skills Training 1 Course. Proper training will make your winter travel in avalanche terrain more informed and more enjoyable. Our avalanche safety instructors are full-time certified guides and members of the Canadian Avalanche Association. Their extensive personal experience in winter guiding, avalanche operations and forecasting will add an extra dimension of interest to your training.
Day 5: Wapta Prep Day and Navigation 2 Course (1 day)
We will begin this day at our office location in Canmore and review how to prep for your first ski traverse. We will cover what to bring, packing a backpack efficiently, conditions and what to expect on the Wapta. Food prep is often a challenge heading into a ski traverse, and we will spend time in our onsite kitchen prepping meals with our certified red seal chef.
In the afternoon we will do our mountain navigation skills session 2 classroom course where we will walk you through a variety of online resources and teach you the fundamental tools for both trip planning and use while out in the backcountry. Whether you have cell service or not, we’ll show you how to use your smartphone to plan, navigate and track your routes, while conserving battery life.
We will work through the theory of what is taught on Navigation 1 and 2 courses and apply it to travel while in the field on the Wapta and the other sections.
Days 6-11: Wapta Ski Traverse and Skill Session (6 days)
The Wapta Traverse is the ultimate Canadian Rockies hut to hut ski tour. The Wapta Icefields spread for many miles north along the continental divide from the Lake Louise area. With vast glaciers, easy peaks and a superlative hut system, the area is perfect for a great ski traverse. As one of our favourite winter playgrounds, the Wapta is pretty much a second home for our guides and no one quite does the Wapta Traverse like Yamnuska!
Over the course of six days on the Wapta, we will go over what it takes to complete a traverse of this magnitude and spend the first days learning to travel on a glacier with a rope and complete crevasse rescue. Once we get through these exciting skills, we will begin our traverse travelling and skiing between the four huts on the Wapta putting them into practice. In the evenings at the hut, we will work through the skills taught on the navigation courses where we’ll show you how to use your maps and smartphone to plan, navigate and track your routes, while on a ski traverse.
Days 12 – 13: Two days off in Canmore (2 days)
A well-earned rest and the chance to catch up on some personal maintenance.
Days 14 – 18: AST 2 Rogers Pass (5 days)
In this section, we look to move your skills and understanding of the avalanche phenomenon to the next level. The Avalanche Skills Training 2 Course in Roger’s Pass will improve your skills in one of the backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering capitals of North America. While the focus is on developing your avalanche skills, you will no doubt be thrilled with the skiing this area affords.
Serious backcountry skiers and riders who expect to be skiing Roger’s Pass in the future will find this course offers the best of both worlds – in–depth knowledge of ‘The Pass’ from one of our knowledgeable guides along with more advanced avalanche skills training.
The Rogers Pass AST 2 course will help you build a solid knowledge base to safely expand your backcountry horizons. It will be a valuable investment for your mountain safety in addition to exposing you to some magical terrain.
This is a hands-on course featuring extensive practical field experience augmented with one day of classroom theory (based out of our Canmore office location). The curriculum is designed to give a solid grounding in the essentials of avalanche knowledge based on the requirements set out by Avalanche Canada.
Days 19 – 20: Two days off in Canmore (2 days)
Days 21- 23: Steep and Deep Days in the Canadian Rockies (3 days)
Over the course of this section, 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. You will not only gain confidence and strengthen your technique to tackle steeper and more challenging terrain than you’ve ever skied before, but you will be able to approach those narrow gullies and steeper chutes with a lot more control making some of those more remote or mountainous ski traverses comfortably achievable.
Days 24 – 25: Two days off in Canmore (2 days)
Days 26 – 30: Remote Ski Camp (6 days)
The final expedition! After spending the morning prepping for our trip, we will begin the journey to our destination. With the previous three weeks of training and hard work at building up your skillset, it will be time to put it all to the test. With several areas to choose from, you and your guides will select the best location based on weather, avalanche conditions and snow quality. We will access a remote area with the use of a helicopter flight or snow machine and set up a comfortable base camp where we will ride world-class terrain for the trip. You will have the opportunity to lead trips in challenging and complex terrain with coaching and feedback from our guides. This will no doubt be a highlight and something that will stick with you for years to come.
Day 31: The final debrief day in Canmore culminating in a graduation lunch. (1 day)
Individual interviews with the instructors to properly debrief the program and an opportunity to plan how to further develop your skills and career. This will be followed by a celebratory graduation lunch where you will be congratulated and awarded your certificates from the program.
Meeting Time and Place
The program begins at the Yamnuska office at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore, at 9.00 am on the first day. Map
The course is based in Canmore, Alberta in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains just minutes from Banff National Park. Section locations will vary according to conditions. Expect to be riding in the Bow Valley near Canmore and in British Columbia at Rogers Pass and at the Icefields Parkway.
We are in a continental or inland climate that varies greatly in temperatures and weather. During this program, you can expect to encounter significant snowfalls with sub-zero temperatures and cold dry temperatures in the below -20 Celsius. You should be prepared for every type of mountain weather condition.
Instructors and Group Size
Our instructors are professional guides who are certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and by other member countries of the International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations.
Our instructors are certified professional ski guides or mountain guides who are licensed to teach and guide in the backcountry. There will be a maximum of 6 participants on the course. There will be a minimum of 4 participants in this program.
During the program, all field transportation is supplied. The group has a passenger van that is used to reach program areas. During evenings and on days off, transportation is not supplied.
Accommodation and Meals
All accommodation costs and meals while in the backcountry are included in the course price *excluding meals on the Rogers Pass section*.
When in Canmore you will be responsible for your own accommodation and food. There is a wide range of accommodation options in town to choose from.
- Yamnuska guests receive exclusive rates with Clique Hotels & resorts upon booking an adventure with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. (Please note that some rates are non-refundable)
- Canmore Downtown Hostel: Yamnuska guests are entitled to a 20% discount on group bookings as well as individual bookings with a Yamnuska receipt as proof. Reservations can be made up to 2 days prior to the beginning of the course with Yamnuska to 2 days after, based on availability. The 20% discount is only available on our Shared bathroom 4 bunk beds dorms. *Not applicable on statutory holidays*
During program sections, the group will be based in a range of accommodations that could include wilderness camping, hotels and Alpine Club mountain huts.
Since this program is about developing well-rounded backcountry ski and ski mountaineering skills. You will be involved in menu planning, food packing and food preparation for out-trips. During training, you and the other course members will be responsible for cooking for the group and managing backcountry living tasks. The food supplied will be healthy and nutritious with an emphasis on simplicity. Do not expect a lavish menu, but also do not expect to go hungry, you will eat well.
Meals while in Canmore are not included. There are many excellent restaurants and grocery stores in town, many within walking distance of our office and most hotels.
PLEASE NOTE: For guests with dietary restrictions, we can 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 $16/day surcharge ($320.00 + 5% GST) for the Semester) For a diet requiring any 2 restrictions a $25/day surcharge will apply ($500.00 + 5% GST). For any 3 restrictions a $30/day surcharge will apply ($600.00 + 5% GST). 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
All group camping and all technical gear are supplied. You will be responsible for your backcountry ski or splitboard set up, backcountry ski boots or snowboard boots and poles. You will need to bring your own outdoor clothing and footwear, backpack, sleeping bag and sleeping pad.
There are several outdoor stores in the area from which you can buy gear and clothing during the Semester. There are also good options for renting ski or splitboard equipment in Canmore and Calgary.
During the one-month winter ski semester, you will have the opportunity to learn about different gear. We urge you not to go out and wildly purchase everything on this list but to be creative in securing what you can from friends or relatives. Renting gear that is expensive is a great way of testing before you purchase. We suggest taking the time to talk to your local gear shop and learn as much as possible about items you would like to purchase. Manufacturer’s websites are also a great place to learn about the equipment that you are interested in. Please call or email the Yamnuska office and we will do our best to answer any questions that you have concerning gear selection or sizing.
Your choice of clothing and equipment for the one-month winter ski semester will play a large roll in your enjoyment and success in the program. Some equipment and clothing can be purchased after the start of the course, so you have the chance to get direct input from other students and the guides.
The following is a comprehensive list of the items that we recommend. Certain items can be rented if you would prefer and these will be highlighted in red.
You will need to bring your own clothing, backcountry skis or splitboard and 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 Companion Rescue sessions. If you do not have your own beacon, probe and shovel or do not have a triple antennae transceiver we are able to loan these to you.
Skis and Splitboards
There are three systems you can use: System 1: Alpine Touring skis are essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding which allows the heel to lift whilst 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. System 3: Splitboarding is a snowboard that can be separated into two ski-like parts used with climbing skins to ascend slopes the same way alpine touring or telemark skis are. The two halves can then be connected to form a regular snowboard for the descent.
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.
Alpine Touring skis and Splitboards can be rented in Canmore or Calgary prior to the course.
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.
- Splitboard We recommend a splitboard that is best suited for off-piste riding that works for your size and weight. Make sure you have heal risers installed on your board.
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’
- Ski Poles
- Ski boots/Snowboard boots
- Ski Helmet (Optional)
- Ski Straps (2) – for securing skis together
- Avalanche transceiver – digital transceiver with a triple antenna
- Collapsible Avalanche Probe – either aluminum or carbon fibre and a minimum of 240cm in length
- Avalanche Shovel – metal blades only designed for companion rescue
- Glacier Travel Gear – we will provide the following equipment but feel free to bring items you may have so you can become more familiar with their uses: Climbing harness (lightweight if possible), locking biners (2), non-locking biners (2), prussick cord (1), 120cm sewn sling (1), ice screw (1)
- Compass – Mirror sighting and the ability to set the declination on your compass is required. Suunto, Brunton and Silva are all recommended brands.
- Water Bottle 1L Capacity – One litre capacity, plastic or metal with a screw lid. Nalgene and Sigg brand bottles are good. Having an insulated cover helps keep your drinks from freezing but is optional.
- Thermos 500ml or greater – Stainless Steel
- Spoon – Lexan or titanium spoons work well
- Bowl (made of unbreakable plastic)
- Mug (an insulated plastic mug with a lid is ideal)
- Daypack 35L (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & avalanche equipment)
- 60L plus overnight pack (large enough for a sleeping bag, Thermarest, food, bowl, cutlery and overnight gear) – This should be a sturdy, well-constructed pack. A simple well-fitting pack is best. Try on the pack and load it with weight (20 Kilos or more) to see how comfortable it will be. The pack should have a wide comfortable hip belt that sits on the top of the hips. Shoulder straps should also be well-padded and comfortable. Key words here are comfort, durability and simplicity.
- Sunglasses – A mandatory item to have as your eyes can burn easily from the intense UV at higher altitudes as well as from the reflection off of the snow. Side shields or glasses that let minimal light in the sides work well. Glasses should cut out 100% of UVA and UVB rays. If you wear prescription glasses make sure you have a good pair of prescription sunglasses for the course. Have a good storage case for your sunglasses to avoid damage
- Ski goggles – Be prepared to spend some money on getting a pair with durable lenses that won’t fog up.
- Thermos flask and water bottle.
- Sunblock and Lip Cream – At least 50 SPF rating. Sunburn is a very real and potentially serious hazard on the course.
- Pocket knife – The ‘Swiss Army’ Knife or ‘Leatherman’ Tool is best. At a minimum, a blade, and screwdriver will be useful. You don’t need all the gadgets and attachments if the price is a limiting factor
- Headlamp with fresh batteries and spare batteries.
- Small Blister and 1st-Aid Kit
- Smartphone and extra battery
- Stuff Sacks Several coated nylon bags with drawstring. For carrying and storing your gear. Good to have a few so that you may also store your clothing and extras. One or two that have the ability to compress clothing are a great addition for keeping the volume down for items like extra clothing and your sleeping bag.
- Small repair kit for bindings, skis or splitboard (this may include straps, nuts, bolts, small leatherman)
- Sleeping Bag. A great deal of time will be spent in your sleeping bag and the majority of this will be in winter conditions. The big question is whether to go with down or synthetic fill in your bag. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Down-filled bags are light and compress easily into a small space and the insulation will have a longer life span than a synthetic bag. However, they are more expensive and don’t work well if they get wet. Synthetic bags keep you warm when they are wet but are bulkier and heavier than down. Most people would prefer a down sleeping bag with a gore-tex outer shell. The bag should have a four–season rating and a minimum of 2.5 to 3 lbs. of fill with a rating of at least -20c.
- Sleeping Pad. ‘Therma-Rest’ inflatable pad or ‘Ex-ped’ down mat is the standard. Other less expensive options include closed cell foam pads such as polyethylene or Evazote that need to be at the very least 10-15mm thick, however, you will appreciate spending the extra money on an inflatable mat.
- Notebook & Pencil – We will provide you with a ‘Rite in the Rain’ all-weather notebook but you should bring a mechanical pencil for recording notes in the field.
- Earplugs (recommended)
- Waterproof Watch (optional) – one with an altimeter is useful but optional
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: Backcountry riding is best suited for splitboarding. This system is enjoyable on the descent but can be challenging 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 between up and downhill mode.
- Ski 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 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 (not cotton)
- Midweight fleece top. Some type of midweight top, whether it is a synthetic Polartec material or Merino Wool
- Heavyweight fleece jacket
- Insulated warm down-filled or synthetic jacket (recommended 500 down fill or greater)
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or nylon)
- Softshell jacket. Softshell pieces have the advantage of offering great weather protection, while still being highly breathable. They can be worn for all but the wettest conditions.
- Backcountry ski pants (Gore-Tex or nylon, with side zippers) There are many choices for ski pants. Whatever you choose, just make sure that they are not heavily insulated. Insulated pants designed for the ski hill are usually too warm for ski touring. Pant must also fit over a pair of ski boots. Some softshell pants may be suitable/compatible but you must ensure that they fit over your boots
- Socks (wool outer & polypro liner), several sets
- Underwear (synthetic or silk), several pairs
- Wool or fleece hat – A warm wool or fleece hat that covers the ears and a lightweight balaclava. Either must fit under a helmet!
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts (2 pairs – 1 heavy, 1 light)
- Sunhat – A brimmed hat to protect you from the sun is important.
- Insulated booties – Excellent for warm feet around the camp, huts and in your sleeping bag at night.
- Clothing for classroom and in town times
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)
We recommend reserving your gear in advance.
*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. A deposit of 35% is required at time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the course.
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. 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.
Minimum enrollment is 4 students. An amended program may be offered should enrollment be less.
$300 refundable gear damage deposit required from all students.
- All out-trip accommodations
- All out-trip meals *(excluding the Rogers Pass section) *
- Course transportation
- Low Ratio Instruction
- Use of all technical gear.
- All group camping gear (tents, stoves etc).
- Park fees.
- All AST material
Price does not include:
- 5% Goods & Services Tax
- Accommodation and meals in Canmore.
- Meals on the Rogers Pass section
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
This complex backcountry ski program is limited to participants 19 years and older unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and in which case approval must be given by Yamnuska Mountain Adventures’ Director of Operations.
Riders must have backcountry skiing and ski touring experience and be advanced or high intermediate skiers or snowboarders and be in good physical condition.
‘Advanced or high intermediate’ means that you are comfortable making parallel turns on most terrain at a ski hill and that you have enough ski skills to deal safely with all but the most extreme terrain found at a ski hill (that is to say you can stop, turn around, then traverse out of areas you can’t handle).
You must be in good aerobic shape, as you will have to ‘skin’ up everything you ride down. You will get a good workout each day from ski touring uphill, so you need to be ready for big elevation days. You will be skiing with a daypack containing your lunch, water, avalanche gear, and spare clothing. This program is not suitable for those new to skiing or snowboarding.