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The Alpine Club of Canada

Intro To Backcountry Skiing And Splitboarding

Open the Door to More Powder and Less Crowds

Eyeing the untracked powder beyond the resort boundary, but not sure how to transition to the backcountry safely and responsibly? Our entry level ski & splitboard course is designed for you! Whether it’s deciding where to ride, assessing the snowpack or understanding the gear, our highly trained and experienced ACMG guides will show you the way. A included copy of the ACC’s Winter Backcountry Leader Manual will provide valuable reference material once you’re ready to go it alone.

As well as our regular course dates, we offer a women & non-binary-only edition for those looking for a gender-inclusive learning environment, Guided by Erica Roles. We also offer splitboard-specific editions which are taught by splitboarding guru, Chucky Gerrard.

Whichever, you choose, our fantastic location in Canmore, AB, gives access to the perfect learning environment in nearby Kananaskis and Banff National Park. For those coming from further afield, enjoy our convenient on-site, award winning hostel accommodation for a modest additional fee. 

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BOOKING INFORMATION

Date:

Field Days:

December 2ND-3RD 2023; Women and Non-Binary edition

December 2ND-3RD 2023; Splitboarding Specific edition

January 27TH-28TH 2024

February 10TH-11TH

Price: $500+ TAX

Before registering, please review our Waivers and Liability page.

MORE INFORMATION

Please try to register online before calling. If you are having issues please try to have your emergency contact information and course questionnaire filled out before calling.

OR Call: (403)-678-3200 ext 213

Backcountry Skiing Hazards

  • Avalanche
      • Avalanches can occur in the terrain you will be entering. Caused by natural forces, or by people travelling through the terrain  

    What are the risks

      • Anyone caught in a avalanche is at risk of personal injury, death, and or property damage or loss

    Hazard Mitigation

    • Our ACMG certified guides have experience and training to manage this risk
    • Daily risk assessment processes
    • Guest training
  • Terrain
      • Cornices
      • Crevasses
      • Trees, tree wells, and tree stumps
      • Cliffs
      • Creeks
      • Rocks and Boulders
      • Variable and difficult snow conditions
      • Impact or collision with other persons or objects
      • Encounters with domestic or wild animals
      • Loss of balance or control
      • Becoming lost or separated from the group
      • Slips, trips, and falls

    Hazard Mitigation

    • Our ACMG certified guides have experience and training to manage this risk
    • Radios and/or other communication devices
  • Boots and Binding systems
    • Even when set up correctly, a ski binding might not release during every fall or may release unexpectedly. The ski boot/binding system is no guarantee that the skier will not be injured. Non-DIN-certified bindings, such as pin/tech bindings, present a higher risk of pre-release and/or injury as they are not designed to the same safety standards as a DIN-certified alpine binding.
    • Unlike alpine ski boot/binding systems, snowboard and some telemark boot/binding systems are not designed or intended to release and will not release under normal circumstances. Using such a system increases the risk of injury and/or death when caught in an avalanche.
  • Communication, rescue, and medical treatment
      • Communication can be difficult and in the event of an accident rescue and treatment may not be available
      • Adverse weather may also delay the arrival of treatment or transportation out of the field,
      • Alpine weather conditions can be extreme and change rapidly without warning making travel by helicopter, snowmobile, snowcat, dangerous
      • If an injury occurs in challenging terrain movement to an evacuation point may be slow

    Hazard Mitigation

    • Your guide is trained in both backcountry first-aid and rescue techniques
    • Emergency response plans
    • Satellite communication tools
  • Other
      • Slips trips and falls indoor or outdoor
      • Infectious disease contracted via direct or indirect contact, including but not limited to influenza or Covid-19
      • Equipment failure
      • Negligence of other persons, including other guests
      • Negligence of the guide Including failure to to take reasonable steps to safeguard or protect you from or warn you of risk, dangers, hazards, oh participating in ACC activities

    Hazard Mitigation

    • Your guide is trained in both backcountry first-aid and rescue techniques
    • Satellite communication tools

The main focus of this course is giving you the tools you need to start exploring the backcountry independently. Key topics of learning will include:

  • Terrain decisions
  • Safe travel practices
  • Hazard assessment
  • Efficient transitions
  • Layering systems
  • Backcountry equipment and what to pack
  • Basic companion rescue
  • Trip planning

Although some aspects of avalanche safety will be touched on, this is not a specialized Avalanche Safety Training course (which we would recommend taking in addition to this course). Our guides will be as accommodating as possible to each individual’s unique goals and requirements so feel free come armed with specific questions or learning requests.

Evening Session:

Participants meet online at 6:00 pm MST via a zoom link sent out 1-2 weeks before course starts. This pre meeting will break down the basic trip planning needed for a winter backcountry outing: research and resources, trip planning, weather considerations, hazard evaluation, difficulty assessment, basic backcountry gear systems, emergency gear, and clothing layering systems.

The session will last around one hour with the primary goal of going over gear so everyone feels ready when meeting on the first field day.

Day 1

Meet at Commonwealth Creek Parking (Kananaskis) at 9 AM (MST).

  • Go over gear and look at guide’s pack
  • Short session on the use of avalanche gear; avalanche companion rescue scenario
  • Lunch & discussion of afternoon objectives
  • Short ski lap: learn to use your skins and travel efficiently uphill; modelling of safe travel and group management techniques in avalanche terrain; tips and tricks for downhill skiing in backcountry conditions
  • Back to the cars around 4 PM (MST)
Day 2
  • Early morning start (to be determined by the group) and travel to course area
  • Safety briefing and discussion of objective
  • Longer ski lap or laps: focus on efficient and safe travel
Entry Level

This camp is designed for those who have little to no backcountry experience. However, an intermediate level of ski experience at a resort is essential – you must be comfortable on ungroomed blue runs and you will have a better time on the course if you have some experience skiing with a daypack (30L) and skiing varied terrain and conditions.

You will spend almost all day outside (up to 8 hours), sometimes stopping for discussion or breaks. Come prepared for cold weather with warm layers and please read the gear list carefully making sure you have everything. It is imperative that you have a basic level of fitness to allow for access and learning.

If you have any questions about your suitability for this course, please contact the office before registering.

Food

To keep the cost of this camp as low as possible for you, food is not provided on this camp. Be sure to bring along a packed lunch and your favourite snack to fuel the field day!

Accommodation

Accommodation is not included in this course. 

Guiding

Our dedicated on-staff Ski Guide Doug Latimer oversees all of our winter introductory programs. Doug has almost 20 years of experience in teaching AST and other winter instructional courses, as well as in developing course materials and ski guiding. We are extremely excited to have him on board for a third season after rave reviews in previous seasons.

We want to provide the best possible learning experience and give you maximum opportunity to ask questions. So participant-to-guide ratios will be kept below a maximum of 6:1.  

The ACC hires guides certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG). Visit the ACMG website to learn more about what they do!

 
 
 
 
Rentals

If you don’t have everything on the gear list and aren’t ready to invest in your own, there are many awesome local businesses that rent out all of the equipment you will need.  Be sure to reserve your rentals ahead of time to make sure everything you need is available for you when you need it.

  • Coming from the Bow Valley? Check out GearUp in Canmore. ACC members get 10% off all gear rentals!
  • Coming from Calgary? We recommend renting your gear from MEC, the University of Calgary Outdoors Center, or the Norseman.
  • Coming from the Revelstoke? Give Revelstoke Powder Rentals a try.

Women and Non-Binary Edition

ERICA ROLES

Erica has been working as a guide since 2005 and became Canada’s 11th Female IFMGA Mountain Guide in 2018. Born in the UK, she spent much of her childhood in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. She moved to Canada with her family in 1998 and fell in love with the mountains of Western Canada. Erica began her ski career as a Ski Patroller at Lake Louise Ski Resort. Wanting to share her passion for the mountains with other people led her to a career in guiding. These days Erica splits her time between guiding, playing in the mountains with friends, and hanging out with her daughter Grace. Erica has worked for a number of different guiding operations throughout the ranges of Western Canada. She loves guiding because she gets to spend time in beautiful places but also because of the people she meets and the experiences she gets to share with them.

Splitboarding Edition

CHUCKY GERRARD

Participants and staff at the GMC are probably know Charles “Chucky” Gerrard as the guy who keeps the camp running, can improvise a fix for almost anything with a roll of duct tape and the parts from an old dirt bike, and makes sure that everybody gets to where they’re going. In the winter, he does double-duty as an ACMG ski guide and a Level 4 snowboard instructor with CASI (Canadian Alliance of Snowboard Instructors). In his spare time, he hand builds his own gear.

JAN 27-28

FRANCISCO MEDINA-SCH.

Francisco – AKA Pancho – is originally from Santiago, Chile where he began his outdoor pursuits at an early age accomplishing numerous first ascents in the Andes. At 18, he was invited on a climbing trip to the Alps where his passion for adventures in the mountains was cemented. Pancho began his guiding career leading mountaineering trips to Aconcagua and trekking trips to Patagonia and in 2004 he received his UIAGM/IFMGA mountain guide certification in France and has continued his guiding career in the Andes, Alps, Rockies and Himalayas. In 2006 he began semi-annual trips to Canada to experience all the Canadian Rockies have to offer and now reside full-time in Canmore with his wife. Pancho is excited about sharing the outdoors with his guests, whether it is mountaineering, climbing, skiing, trekking, or teaching outdoor education courses.

FEB 10-11

CHRIS GIRARD

Chris Girard is an ACMG Ski Guide based out of Cochrane, Alberta and takes great pleasure is sharing his passion for the mountains. His guiding aspirations began through volunteering and leading trips through various ACC sections. In addition to being an ACMG Ski Guide, Chris is also a professional member of the Canadian Avalanche Association, and an AST Provider with Avalanche Canada. Now a Father of two, Chris is well practiced in staying calm and keeping his sense of humour in times of chaos. During his off season, Chris works as a guide on the Athabasca Glacier.

Common Course Locations

We sell Tugo® Travel Insurance suitable for both ACC Adventures and personal trips:

INCLUDED WITH YOUR CAMP FEE

  • 2 days instruction by ACMG certified ski guides 
  • Office staff support before the course to help with gear and questions
  • Winter Backcountry Leader Handbook

PARTICIPANTS MUST PROVIDE

  • Transportation to and from the field
  • Accommodation
  • Meals and lunches
  • Personal gear (see gear list)

ORGANIZING FANTASTIC ACC ADVENTURES FOR OVER 100 YEARS

  • Local Knowledge – based out of Canmore, AB, we know the Rockies region and the best local caterers, guides and porters
  • Dedicated resources – full-time office staff, ACMG guides and group equipment on-hand to ensure your trip runs smoothly
  • Not-for-profit – any money we make on camps and courses is reinvested into providing services for our members and the mountain community