If you are in search of that gravity-defying feeling of skiing through bottomless untracked powder you are in the right place! This ultimate backcountry ski camp will be the journey of a lifetime.
This is expedition skiing at its finest, without the suffering. Access to this seldom visited ski mountaineer’s paradise starts with a short flight to our ultra-remote base camp situated in a rugged corner of the Freshfields Icefields in Banff National Park. On arrival, you’ll find a comfortable camp fully stocked with delicious food and drink, expedition-quality tents and limitless untracked terrain to explore. The solitude, silence and freedom will provide the ideal setting from which our experienced guides can take you on a quest for fresh tracks, deep powder and no lines. With light packs, you’ll be able to dedicate all of your energy to skiing exhilarating glaciers, numerous high alpine ski peaks and even some tree skiing. A true adventure without the crowds.
Day 1: (Evening) We will meet at our office in Canmore at 6:30 pm. After introductions, we will discuss trip objectives, review avalanche bulletins, and complete an extensive equipment check. It is ideal to sort logistics and other details the night before so that when we meet tomorrow we can leave immediately for the helipad in Golden.
Day 2: We will drive the 2 hours to the Helipad in Golden, once we have completed the helicopter orientation and pre-flight logistics, we’ll be on our way to our base camp location which is about a 15 min flight. On arrival, we’ll set up camp and then head out for a short ski run/summit before heading back for dinner.
Day 3-5: From our base camp location we’ll be able to tour with light packs to potential objectives such as Mt Barlow, Gilgit Mountain, Mt Walker & Bulyea, Nanga Parbat Mountain and Barnard, Waitabit and Trutch peaks.
Day 6: Final day. One final run before packing up and awaiting our return flight back to Golden and returning back to Canmore early in the evening
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.
Base camp will be around 2600m on the Freshfields Icefields which is in the Canadian Rockies on the NW edge of Banff National.
Guides and Group Size
Your guides are certified by the internationally recognized Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and licensed by Parks Canada. There will be a maximum of 4 participants per guide, a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 on the program.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore which is a 1hour (100km) drive west from Calgary.
To reach Golden participants may use personal vehicles or we will arrange a minibus at no extra cost to you.
You should plan to arrive in Canmore the day before the course (see “accommodation” below”)
Accommodation and Meals
During the ski week, we’ll be based with a large dome tent for cooking and drying gear and relaxing in. Sleeping tents will be 2 people in a large 3-4 person tent.
All meals, snacks and drinks are supplied from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last. Meals are prepared by our in-house chef from fresh, nutritious ingredients and then dehydrated to make them suitable for backcountry travel. 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 $16/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.
Accommodation in Canmore before and after the program 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)
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing, skis, poles, climbing skins, avalanche equipment, daypack, a small duffle bag and sleeping bag (collective weight of 40Ib/18kg). We have many of these items available to rent and if not can pre-arrange them for you. We supply group safety items (ropes, harnesses, crevasse rescue gear etc).
You will be able to leave excess gear in Canmore whilst on the course.
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 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.
Splitboards can be used on this program however, due to the number of flat areas you are better off on skis. If ‘boarding’ you need to be an advanced backcountry boarder and you need to be on a splitboard.
Skis, boots, poles, and boards can be rented in Calgary and Canmore prior to the trip.
You need to bring:
- Skis / 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 (Splitboarders as well)
- Ski/Splitboard Boots
- Ski Crampons
- Avalanche Transceiver – digital transceiver with triple antennae*
- Collapsible Avalanche Probe*
- Avalanche Shovel (lightweight collapsible metal shovel designed for companion rescue)*
- Dufflebag (large enough for a sleeping bag, spare clothes, Daypack, 30-35L*)
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Water bottle (at least 1liter capacity) a Thermos for Hot Drinks is optional
- Sunblock and lip cream
- Sleeping Bag, We recommend a ‘4-season’ bag. Expect temperatures to be below freezing overnight. 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 bag
- Sleeping Pad – For winter camping, an R-value of 5, or higher, is recommended
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Personal bowl, a mug and eating utensils
- Small Blister and Personal First-Aid Kit (‘moleskin’, plasters and Tylenol is enough)
- Personal toiletries including hand sanitizer (keep to a bare minimum)
- Ear Plugs (optional)
- Insulated Booties
*Rentals Available for these Items
Yamnuska supplies but feel free to bring anyway:
- Sit Harness with Adjustable Leg Loops
- Crevasse rescue gear
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 layers of light, easily carried clothing that allows 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.
- Long underwear top and bottoms (lightweight synthetic or wool)
- Warm pants (pref. 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 (wool outer & polypro liner), several sets
- Wool or fleece hat that covers your ears
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts.
- Neck tube
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)
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. We require a 35% deposit at the time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the program.
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.
$2295 CDN includes guiding, helicopter access flights, meals, tents, group shelter base tent, cooking equipment for winter camping, group safety equipment (communication device, rescue kit, first aid supplies, GPS) GST is extra.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
Guests on this trip should be advanced backcountry skiers or splitboarders in all conditions. There are a variety of descents on this trip that require skiing blue/black type runs. Participants don’t need to be experts, however, you must be able to safely descend these slopes. Previous ski mountaineering experience on a course such as an Intro to Ski Mountaineering or the Wapta Traverse is required.
Skiers and Splitboarders should be competent with their transitions (switching from ski tour mode to downhill mode). Splitboarders should be comfortable skiing downhill in split mode.
Splitboarders should have their downhill kick turns dialled, as this skill will be used frequently to traverse downhill and across slopes at mellow angles.
We strongly urge skiers and Splitboarders to bring spare parts for their setups. Most of our guides are familiar with splitboarding sets ups, but each system is different, and our expectation is that guests will have basic knowledge on common Splitboard concerns (i.e. replacing toe straps on Splitboard bindings).
Understanding the prerequisites should help with your training throughout the winter. Winter ski tours and walks with a 45-50lb pack are recommended as the best training, however other activities such as cross country skiing and hiking can also be good training. Please read the itinerary and difficulty sections and be both physically and mentally prepared for the trip. If you are uncertain about your experience level, please call us.
Please don’t hesitate to CONTACT US if you need to know more about this program!