Ski Touring Skills Course (2 days)
There are two primary realms of proficiency required to safely ski/ride in backcountry terrain: Avalanche risk management, and the practical skills required to plan and carry out a tour.
This course focuses on the latter – from equipment selection to tour planning, route finding to movement technique, terrain management to decision making – the goal of this course is to put it all together.
We’ll spend two full days in the field. The first day will be skills focused and include companion rescue practice and a short tour. On our second day we’ll set off on a full day tour applying what we’ve learned along the way. On this day participants will have opportunities to practice leading the group.
While we will discuss avalanche risk management and make decisions as a group in avalanche terrain, this course is intended to be paired with an AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course.
- Equipment selection
- Tour planning
- Route finding & navigation
- Movement skills: Skinning, kick turns, AVA turns, rounded turns
- Track setting: How steep do we climb?
- Travel techniques
- The Descent: Managing the group, the terrain, and the snow conditions
- Human factors
- Field observations
- Companion rescue
DAY 1 – Skills Tour
The course begins with a short indoor planning session: How do we decide where to go on a given day? We’ll interpret the avalanche forecast, as well as weather information gathered from the internet to select the most suitable terrain for the day.
After companion rescue practice and our trailhead 3-function transceiver check, we’ll set off on a tour. We’ll practice movement skills such as skinning technique, kick turns, AVA turns, and rounded turns. Track setting is the art of combining safety and efficiency in a path that flows with the contours of the terrain. Along the way we’ll collect snow and weather observations and engage in a continual dialogue of our decision making process.
Ultimately, one of our main goals in backcountry skiing is to find good snow. During the course we’ll stay true to this pursuit, not just for fun, but to show the application of these skills in the real-world context.
At the end of the day participants will be assigned a tour plan to prepare for the following day’s objective.
DAY 2 – Full Day Tour
Once again we’ll meet for a brief morning planning session. This will be an opportunity to compare and discuss tour plans as well as the morning weather and avalanche forecast.
Our goal for the day will be to complete a full day tour, relating our tour plans to the actual terrain, and tying together all of the skills covered during the previous day. Participants will have opportunities to practice being on ‘the sharp end’, leading the group and making route finding decisions under the guide’s observation.
At the end of the day we’ll debrief the tour and the course as a whole to ensure participants have a good sense of where to proceed from here.
Specific examples of items on this list (guide favorites) can be found on the Gear Recommendations page.
☐ 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.
☐ CLIMBING SKINS: Fit to skis.
AVALANCHE SAFETY GEAR
☐ TRANSCEIVER: Modern, digital transceiver, preferably less than 5 years old. A 3-antennae model is highly recommended. RENT
☐ SHOVEL: Avalanche shovel with a metal blade. An extendable handle is recommended. RENT
☐ PROBE: Dedicated probe, ski pole probes are not sufficient. RENT
☐ DAY PACK: 25 to 40 liters, with some method of attaching skis or a snowboard.
☐ SUNGLASSES: Glacier glasses or dark tinted wrap-arounds, should have full UV protection. Consider bringing an extra pair. RENT
☐ WARM HAT: Fleece, wool or synthetic.
☐ SUN HAT: Baseball cap, visor, etc.
☐ FACE PROTECTION: Buff® recommended.
☐ LIGHT GLOVE
☐ MEDIUM GLOVE: Should be wind and water-resistant; think ski glove.
There are many layering combinations for your upper body that will work well. Use the following recommendations as guidelines:
☐ BASELAYER TOP: Light to medium weight synthetic fabric.
☐ LIGHTWEIGHT INSULATING LAYER: Fleece or synthetic.
☐ SOFTSHELL OR SHELL JACKET WITH HOOD: For wind, snow, rain, etc.
☐ SYNTHETIC OR DOWN INSULATED JACKET
☐ BASELAYER BOTTOMS
☐ SKI PANTS: A lightweight, well ventilated soft-shell or hard-shell ski or climbing pant that fits over the cuff of your ski boots.
☐ SOCKS: Wool or synthetic, keeping in mind that warmth comes from good circulation, not necessarily heavier socks.
☐ LIP BALM
☐ WATER BOTTLES(S) or HYDRATION SYSTEM: Hydration systems should have an insulated tube.
☐ 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
☐ SKI STRAPS: Orange, Voile style.
☐ 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 skins.
- No previous backcountry skiing experience is required for this course.
- Intermediate skiing or riding ability, and experience skiing off-piste (ungroomed slopes) is recommended.
- Good physical fitness is required for this course.
- Participants should be prepared to spend full days in winter weather conditions.
- Guiding & instruction
- Permit & 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.
- Register for this program online: Registration Page
- Email us: email@example.com or via the Contact Us page.
- Give us a call: 888-674-8492
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.
© 2014 Pacific Alpine Guides LLC | firstname.lastname@example.org | (888) 674-8492