Introduction to Backcountry Skiing

Get off the beaten track, and see the world from a different perspective.

Photo by Tim Styles

If you’ve been eyeing the untracked powder behind the rope at the resort or along the highway, but you’re not sure where to start, this is the course for you.

The backcountry is an entirely different beast to the resort. Terrain, snowpack, snow type, travel conditions, fitness, weather, avalanche hazard, and gear are just a few of the considerations that go into riding in the backcountry. Set yourself up for the best possible experience with our Learn to Backcountry Ski course.

This course is not an Avalanche Safety Training (AST-1) course: while the guides will discuss terrain and safe travel practices, the main focus of the course will be on introducing people to the world of backcountry gear, travel, and skiing. Transitions from up the hill to down the hill can eat up a lot of time: imagine trying to un-stick skins from themselves, tighten your boots up, get all of your downhill clothing out of your pack and your uphill layers back into your pack, put on your helmet, and set off (all while your experienced partners are ready to go, eyeing their watches and the powder in frustration). Like anything, organization is key. Our experienced and patient guides will walk you through how to put together a clothing layering system for backcountry skiing; their tips and tricks to keep yourself warm, safe, blister-free, and comfortable; what emergency equipment is absolutely essential to have in your pack; and the basics of companion rescue (how to use your beacon, probe, and shovel).

The evening session will break down the basic trip planning needed for a winter backcountry outing: trip research and resources, weather considerations, hazard evaluation, difficulty assessment, basic backcountry gear systems, emergency gear, and clothing layering systems. The next two days will be very hands-on. While your guide may find time to discuss ski technique, basic terrain management, weather, and hazards, the focus of this course is on getting you outside and helping you make your first backcountry turns.

You should walk away from this course with a good understanding of what is involved in planning a backcountry ski trip, what gear you’ll need to purchase and/or rent, and what your next steps towards becoming independent in the backcountry are.

Women's Only Introduction to Backcountry Skiing

February 16-18, 2018

All of the above, but in a supportive, female-only environment! This course will be staffed by a female guide and camp manager, so you will get the chance to see great female leadership in action. It’s aimed at giving you the confidence to sort out your own gear issues, speak up about your concerns within the group, and demonstrate leadership skills like the rad lady skier that you are. If you are thinking about taking one of our women’s ski camps but don’t have the backcountry experience yet, this is a great place to meet like-minded ladies and start building your backcountry resume.

Level of Difficulty

This camp is designed for those who have little to no backcountry experience. An intermediate level of ski experience at a resort is essential: you must be comfortable on ungroomed blue runs at a mountain resort. You will have a better time on the course if you have some experience skiing with a daypack (30L) and are used to adapting to challenging terrain and conditions.

You will spend almost all day outside (up to 8 hours), sometimes stopped for discussion or breaks. Come prepared for cold weather with warm layers: please read the gear list carefully, and make sure you have everything. Fitness is a key component to backcountry travel. 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. If you are unable to go on the course, we will try to provide suggestions about options to improve either ski technique or fitness.

Where to next?

If you’ve already done this course, consider the next steps in our skills progression

  • AST-1: The essential avalanche awareness course for all backcountry users. 2 days, $215.
  • Next Steps Backcountry Skiing: Practice safe travel skills, learn how to move safely in avalanche terrain, perfect your uphill and downhill technique, visit your first hut, and find some great skiing. Course includes Managing Avalanche Terrain certificate from Avalanche Canada. 2 days, $375
  • Rogers Pass Powder Camp: Just want to ski/ride? If you’ve already taken an introduction to backcountry skiing course (or have equivalent experience) and want to get out and explore in a safe, fun environment, this might be the camp for you. Build mileage in the backcountry and ski some great lines under the supervision of an ACMG-certified ski guide. January 28-Feburary 1, 2018, $1395

Backcountry Essentials Progression: November 24 - December 10, 2017

Consider the following courses to help you build your backcountry skills.

  • AST-1: the essential avalance safety course for any backcountry traveller.
  • Introduction to Winter Camping: learn the basics of trip planning and survival for winter overnights
  • Introduction to Navigation: This comprehensive weekend course covers basic navigation and whiteout navigation skills you’ll need for the winter.


  • Dec 5-7, 2017
  • Dec 15-17, 2017
  • Jan 12-14, 2018
  • Feb 16-18, 2018 (Women Only)

  • $375 + Tax / Person
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Camp Itinerary

  • Day 1: Meet at the Canmore HI Hostel Clubhouse in the Guides Room at 6 pm. 2.5 hour classroom session covering:
  • Familiarity with gear
  • Clothing layering system
  • Basic trip planning

  • Day 2: Early morning start (to be determined by your guide); carpool to course area
  • 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

  • Day 3: 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; guide will model safe travel, be available to answer participant questions, and lead group discussions on gear, planning, conditions, or techniques
  • Course ends
This itinerary is subject to change due to weather, travel conditions and other factors.

Gear, Food & Lodging

  • Guiding by ACMG-certified guide throughout the course
  • Accommodation for Friday + Saturday night at the Canmore HI Hostel
  • Pre-trip gear and planning advice
  • ACC course materials
  • Daily transportation to/from the climbing areas (participants will be expected to use their own vehicles and carpool)
  • Accommodation after the course
  • All meals
  • Personal gear (see equipment list in Info Pack)

Photo by Brad Hurkett
All work and no play

Course Staff