Intro to Backcountry Skiing

Open Your Door to the Alaska Winter Backcountry!

This course is designed for those who want to transfer their alpine skiing background to the backcountry or want to improve on their existing backcountry skills. The venue will be near Anchorage, where the weather and snowpack are best. The skills taught are set at an international standard by the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) and the American Avalanche Association.

Skill Level

Intermediate to advanced alpine (ski area) ability, no backcountry experience necessary


November through June, one to three days

Introductory Course

  • Selecting and wearing gear
  • Interpreting weather forecasts
  • Interpreting the avalanche advisory
  • Conducting a beacon check
  • Avalanche companion rescue
  • Uphill skinning technique
  • Kick turns
  • Smartphone navigation apps
  • Recognizing avalanche terrain
  • Recognizing red flags for unstable snow
  • Travel techniques in avalanche terrain.  

Intermediate Course

  • Tour planning
  • Reducing pack weight
  • Avalanche companion rescue review
  • Recognizing the avalanche problems
  • Conducting stability tests 
  • Making a stability assessment
  • Decision making techniques 
  • Transition efficiency  
  • Track setting technique 
  • Group management
  • Survival skiing technique
  • Smartphone whiteout navigation plan 



  • AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide Joe Stock. Up to eight clients. A second guide may be added. 
  • Navigation, first aid and repair kits
  • Emergency communication and shelter

Does Not Include

The golden rules of safe travel in avalanche terrain: spot your partner, stop in a safe zone and spread out.


Calibrating your eye to slope angle is the most effective way to recognize avalanche terrain. We will carry inclinometers and use them often to measure slope angle and avalanche runout angle.


Conducting a compression snow stability test to examine the snowpack strength, energy and structure. Stability tests are an important piece of information that goes into our stability analysis for the day and determines what terrain we ski.