Ski Mountaineering Course

Learn to climb and ski in exposed terrain with an IFMGA guide

Todd Smith climbing to ski in the Western Chugach. Ski mountaineering combines two huge skill sets: mountaineering and backcountry skiing. We learn to avoid both avalanches and a fall in steep terrain or into a crevasse. We bring a rope to help manage this exposure, and we learn how to use the rope. The skills we'll learn are set at the highest standard by the AMGA, IFMGA and AAA. Since ski mountaineering covers vast skill sets, it helps to focus your interests. Please see the style and skills options below.  

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Skill Level 

  • Intermediate to advanced alpine (ski area) ability.
  • Fitness for full day(s) in the mountains. 
  • Level 1 avalanche course recommended. 
  • Recent avalanche companion rescue practice. We will have assessment and review before our tour. 

Dates

November - June (one to seven days)

Venue Options

Camp to Camp Option (Joe's favorite)

Fly into the high alpine, travel light across glaciers, climb and ski peaks, camp at a new location each night. Ski out to the road at the end of the trip. Ski camping while mountaineering is non-stop learning. A high level of fitness is required. 
 

Base Camp Option

We learn ski mountaineering skills with small day packs and return to a base camp each night. This base camp could be a well-stocked fly-in base camp, or alternatively, we carry all the gear in and set up a base camp. Realize that base camping excludes the difficult and vast skill set of traveling light.
 

Girdwood-Based

We can venture out each day from Girdwood and learn skills.  
 

In Town Option

If you live in Anchorage, we can work on glacier travel skills at a snowy park in town. This maximizes our learning time (less travel) and reduces the cost. A good option for groups who want to brush up on their glacier travel skills before a trip into places such as the Ruth Mountain House. 

Skills Options

Light Camping Skill Set

Moving from camp to camp, carrying your full kit, and skiing lines along the way is the purest form of ski mountaineering. A focus is reducing pack weight by leaving unnecessary gear behind and selecting high calorie, low weight food. 

 
Glacier Travel Skill Set

We learn roping together, prusiking and the haul system; but the real focus will be on avoiding crevasse falls in the first place by reading the glacier, good rope management and good communication. 
 

Ski Alpinism Skill Set

We learn to climb and descend steep terrain using the rope. Skills include snow and rock anchors, belaying, skiing on belay, rappelling, crampon and ice axe use and climbing technique. 

 
Other Topics

Track setting, avalanche avoidance, navigation, hazard mitigation. 

Sample Itinerary–Camp to Camp Option

Day 0: Meet at 5pm for trip overview and gear check. Skills: 
– route discussion
– gear to bring
– gear to not bring
– food selection
 
Day 1: Meet at 9am at the Girdwood airport, fly 5,000 up to the Western Chugach. Skills:
– camp site selection
– setting up blizzard-proof tent
– hazard mitigation
– track setting demo
– snow anchors
– cold weather cooking demo
– cold weather camping 
  
Day 2: Skills and ski mountaineering to a new camp. Skills: 
– roping together for glacier travel
– prusiking
– crevasse companion rescue
– student lead track setting
– route finding through crevasses
– student lead glacier travel
 
Day 3: Skills and ski mountaineering to a new camp. Skills: 
– crampon use
– ice axe use 
– rappel
– belayed climbing
– belayed skiing
 
Day 4: Skills and ski mountaineering out to the road. Skills: 
– navigation by map and GPS
– applying all the skills 
– eating burgers and drinking beer

Cost

In Town Option 

  • 1 client: $350 per day
  • 2 clients: $200 per person per day
  • 3 clients: $150 per person per day
  • 4+ clients: $100 per person per day   

Includes

  • AMGA/IFMGA Mountain Guide Joe Stock. Up to eight customers. A second guide may be added. 
  • Navigation, first aid and repair kits
  • Emergency communication and shelter
  • Cooking gear if camping (stove, pot, fuel)
  • Rope

Does Not Include

  • Transport. To reduce your costs, using a rental car or your personal car is the best option.
  • Bush flight (total, one-way heli drop is about: 1 person $450, 2-3 people $900, 4 people $1,350, 5 people: $1,350 - $1,800)
  • Lodging, food and drinks. See Southcentral Alaska Logistics
  • Personal ski gear. See Alaska Backcountry Ski Gear List
  • Rescue and trip insurance. See Booking for details. 

Testimonials 

"We can't thank you enough for giving us the skills to get out on the glacier and not die." –Rob Lynch, Ruth Glacier Mountain House prep course. 

"Thanks for the Ski Mo course. It was amazing chatting with you about travel, the mountains, Alaska, risk and decision making and life in general. Great experience and I learned a lot from a great professor!" –Scott Wood, Chugach ski mountaineering camp to camp course. 

"One of the best trips I've ever been on! Please keep me in mind for any future adventure." –Patrick Mahoney, Western Chugach fly-in ski mountaineering course

I'm belaying Andrew Wexler down thin snow over ice above an open bergschrund. I'm using a Munter hitch on a cordelette attached to a T-slotted ski.  

 

Probing the edge of a large crevasse. In the mountains, we take extra care with crevasse bridges in the early season before the seasonal snow has solidified into solid névé.

 

Transitions are where time disappears and summits are missed. We will practice transitions throughout the course, initially with a stopwatch, then with repetition as we tour up and down mountains.

 

Using a terrain belay on loose rock on an exposed alpine ridge.   

 

Skiing downhill roped together is no fun, but sometimes we have to do it. Here thin bridges hide dangerous crevasses, so we've roped together in two teams of two. 

 

Warm and cozy while winter camping in -20F.