Intro to Backcountry Skiing Course (1 day)
The goal of this one day course is to build proficiency in the art of ski touring techniques, including equipment selection and gear management, uphill and downhill movement skills, basic terrain selection, navigation, and decision making.
Using Hurricane Ridge as our classroom, we’ll set off on a day tour and practice a variety of skills along the way. Our goal will be to make multiple transitions between uphill and downhill mode, and travel through as much different terrain as possible. High on our list of priorities will be finding good skiing – the reward for our efforts!
• Equipment selection
• Gear management
• Uphill movement skills: Track setting, rounded, AVA, and kick turns
• Downhill movement skills
• Terrain management
• Decision making
If you’re interested in a more in-depth course that takes place over two days, check out our Ski Touring Skills Course.
We meet at the Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center in Port Angeles for introductions and car pooling arrangements. Once up at Hurricane Ridge, the skills progression begins with topics including packing for a tour, basic companion rescue, and the trailhead 3-fuction check.
The zone we choose for this tour will depend on snow and weather conditions. As we set off we’ll focus our attention on uphill movement skills, perfecting the motion of skinning, setting a track, and making various turns including the much revered kick turn.
As we arrive at the top of a pitch we’ll transition to downhill mode, discussing various methods of terrain management and group management as we go.
After a few laps and full day of touring, we’ll return to our vehicles and head back down the road. This is an addicting sport – generally within 10 minutes of taking our boots off we’re already planning our next tour!
☐ Skis with touring bindings – AT, tele, or splitboard: Your setup needs to be suitable for uphill touring and downhill skiing/riding.
☐ Boots: AT, tele or snowboard boots.
☐ Poles: Adjustable poles with powder baskets (ex: Black Diamond Traverse).
☐ Climbing skins: Fit to skis (ex: Black Diamond Mohair Mix).
AVALANCHE SAFETY GEAR
☐ Transceiver: Modern, single frequency [457 khz] transceiver, preferably less than five years old. A digital 3-antennae model is highly recommended (ex: BCA Tracker 2, Mammut Pulse Barryvox, Peips DSP). RENT
☐ Shovel: Lightweight avalanche shovel. A metal blade and extendable handle are recommended (ex: G3 Avitech, BCA Companion EXT). RENT
☐ Probe: Dedicated probe, ski pole probes are not sufficient. RENT
☐ Day pack: 30 to 40 liters, should have some sort of ski attachment system (A-frame, vertical, diagonal, etc).
There are many possible layering combinations for your upper body. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
☐ Baselayer top: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric (ex: First Ascent Midweight 1/4-Zip Baselayer).
☐ Lightweight insulating layer: Light fleece or synthetic layer (ex: First Ascent Sandstone Hoodie or Hangfire Hoodie).
☐ Softshell or shell jacket with hood: For wind, snow, rain, cold, etc (ex: First Ascent Frontpoint 2.0 Jacket).
☐ Puffy (insulated) jacket: Synthetic or down with a hood (ex: First Ascent Ignitor Jacket).
☐ Baselayer bottoms: Medium weight (ex: First Ascent Midweight Baselayer Pants).
☐ Ski touring pants: Softshell pants work best in all but the wettest conditions. If you own a pair of hardshell pants, it’s not a bad idea to bring them along as a backup you can leave in the car (ex: First Ascent Grand Tour Pants)
☐ Socks: Wool or synthetic, they should work well with your ski boots. Keep in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not heavy socks. Your ski boot liners provide plenty of insulation.
☐ Lip balm
☐ Water bottles(s) or hydration system
☐ Thermos (optional)
☐ Lunch food
☐ Watch (optional)
☐ Notebook & pencil (optional)
The following gear is not required for this course, however if you have any of the following items please bring them.
☐ Airbag pack RENT
☐ Snow saw
☐ Snow study kit
☐ Ski strap
☐ Repair kit: We suggest carrying a small repair kit with items specific to your ski or splitboard equipment. Extra binding parts (including mounting screws), an extra tip loop for your skins, an extra pole basket, etc. Other great MacGyver items are bailing wire, zip ties, and duct tape.
☐ Wax: For skis and to prevent snow from glomming onto your skins.
- No previous experience is required for this course.
- Intermediate skiing or riding ability is required.
- Good physical fitness is required for this course.
- Participants should be prepared to spend full days in winter weather conditions.
- Guiding & instruction
- Group equipment
- Permit and insurance costs
- Food, lodging & transportation
WHERE TO MEET
Olympic National Park Visitor’s Center, in Port Angeles, WA.
Option A: Fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. From here the drive to Port Angeles takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Option B: Fly into Port Angeles. Kenmore Air flies daily from Sea-Tac and is an Alaska Airlines partner (domestic flights can be booked with Port Angeles as the destination).
Many options exist in Sea-Tac. There’s also a Budget Rent-A-Car in Port Angeles.
Many options exist in Port Angeles including hotels, bed & breakfasts, and hostels.
Check out our Weather & Avalanche Resources page.
- Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain by Bruce Tremper.
- Backcountry Skiing: Skills for Ski Touring and Ski Mountaineering by Martin Volkin, Scott Schell, and Margaret Wheeler.
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