With unlimited potential for ski lines and descents, the backcountry is where the heart of every true skier resides. The shift from resort skiing to the backcountry has taken off in recent years and our beginner backcountry ski course will give you the foundational skills you need to get out of the lift lines.
Our certified ski guides will teach you how to use the gear, travel on ‘skins’ and backcountry skiing technique in this course. Whether your objective is to ski untracked backcountry powder or to experience the beauty of alpine ski touring, 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 backcountry skiing where its ‘fresh tracks’ nearly every run. Caution: You may never return to a ski hill again!
There is a definite difference between resort skiing and backcountry skiing. To maximize the field time, we meet you on Friday night at our office to discuss gear and start our course overview. This saves a lot of time for the next day so we can head right out to the mountains for some skiing.
Sample Course Agenda & Curriculum
Friday: 7:30pm, meet at Yamnuska Office in Canmore.
- Course introduction and briefing
- Gear for backcountry skiing (lecture & discussion)
- Safety in the backcountry (lecture & discussion)
- Planning a backcountry ski trip (lecture & discussion)
- Plan Saturday Field trip (map, weather, avalanche conditions)
- Gear check
- Finish by 10:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am, field day, meet at our office or designated trailhead.
- Avalanche beacon practice and check
- Equipment familiarization
- Uphill turns
- Ski Techniques
- Avalanche rescue practice
- Return to Canmore office
- Plan ski tour for Sunday
- Trail breaking & track setting
Sunday: 9:00am, ski tour, meet at designated trailhead.
- Participants will carry out the ski tour they planned the previous evening with the coaching and supervision of their instructors
- Finish tour by 5:00pm
- Wrap up course, return to Canmore
Meeting Time and Place
The course begins Friday at 7:30pm at the Yamnuska office. The Yamnuska office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore. See this map for location.
Guides & 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 on this program.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore which is a 1hour (100km) drive west from Calgary. Guest’s are responsible for their own transportation during the program.
Accommodation & Meals
Accommodation in Canmore 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. You can find information about accommodation options at http://www.tourismcanmore.com/accommodations/overview as well as on TripAdvisor.
Food is not supplied. Each day bring plenty to drink and a lunch plus energy snacks. We particularly suggest bringing a Thermos and hot drink.
Equipment & Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing, skis, 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.
The equipment and clothing you bring will have a big impact upon 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 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 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. Only if you are already an advanced Telemark skier should you bring Telemark gear.
Snow Boards can be used on this program however, due to the number of flat areas you are better off on skis.
Both types of gear 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
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’
- Ski Poles
- Ski boots
- Ski Helmet (optional)
- Daypack (large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment)
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Thermos flask and water bottle.
- Sun block & Lip Cream
- Pocket knife
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister & 1st-Aid Kit
- Family FRS radio (short range, multi frequency) (optional)
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.
- Polypro underwear (top & bottom)
- Warm pants (nylon blend, insulated or fleece)
- Warm shirt (not cotton)
- 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
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Neck tube
Yamnuska supplies but feel free to bring anyway:
- Avalanche beacon
- Collapsible Avalanche Probe
- Avalanche Shovel
- Snow Study Kit
Skis, Boots, Skins & 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)
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. 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’s trip.
$375 CDN includes instruction. GST is extra.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Is it for you?
In this course we introduce participants to backcountry skiing through a better understanding of gear plus the basic skills and practices required for safer and more enjoyable ski touring. Avalanche awareness will be touched upon, but it is strongly recommended that participants also take the Avalanche Skills Training 1 course offered by Yamnuska.
Participants are required to be at least intermediate skiers on alpine or telemark gear (i.e. must feel comfortable on blue runs). Participants should be ‘hiking fit’.