Learn to climb and ski technical terrain with an IFMGA guide

Ski mountaineering combines two huge skill sets: mountaineering and backcountry skiing. We learn techniques 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 by the AMGA, IFMGA and the American Avalanche Association. Since ski mountaineering covers vast skill sets, it helps to focus your interests. Please see the style and skill sets below.  

Posts  

See Ski Mountaineering Course posts

Skill Level 

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

Dates

November - June (one to seven days)

Course Style

Camp-to-Camp

The purest form of ski mountaineering. Moving from camp-to-camp, traveling light, as a self-contained unit, and skiing lines along the way. A popular option is to helicopter up from Girdwood, move camp to camp for several days, then ski out to the road at the end of the trip. A high fitness level is required. Joe's favorite of course!

Heli-Drop

A popular option is to start the trip with a 15-minute helicopter ride from Girdwood up to the high Western Chugach. We'll then ski out to the road. 

Base Camp

We set up a base camp by flying or hauling a heavy load in a short distance. From the base camp, we'll venture out each day with a small pack to learn skills. Base camping excludes the difficult and vast skill set of traveling light while moving camp-to-camp.

Girdwood-Based

We can venture out each day from Girdwood for day trips.  

In Town Glacier Travel Course

Go to Glacier Travel Course Page

Skill Sets for Ski Mountaineering

Ski Ability

Solid ski ability are the foundation of ski mountaineering. Dial these skills at the resort in the years before our trip. 

Backcountry Skiing

We can cover/review skills including track setting, communication, navigation and downhill terrain management. 

Avalanche Avoidance

A level 1, or preferably level 2 avalanche course is highly recommended before this course. At the minimum, we will review companion rescue on the first day of the course. 

Light Camping

The essence of ski mountaineering. We focus on staying comfortable while keeping pack weight low by leaving unnecessary gear behind, bringing multi-purpose gear, and selecting calorie food. Light camping is more difficult than you think. 

Glacier Travel

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

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. 

Sample Itinerary–Camp-to-Camp Option

Day 1: Morning in town for trip prep. Afternoon for moving to camp. 

  • Route planning with Google Earth, Gaia and Guide Pace
  • Gear selection for light and fast
  • Food selection for light and fast
  • Packing
  • Track setting
  • Camp site selection
  • Setting up a storm-ready tent
  • Camp cooking
  • Sleeping warm techinques

Day 2: Glacier travel skills. Move to a new camp. 

  • Roping together for glacier travel
  • Holding a crevasse fall
  • Snow anchors
  • Prusiking
  • Crevasse rescue haul
  • Navigating crevasses
  • Student led travel

Day 3: Alpinism skills. Move to a new camp. 

  • Crampon use
  • Ice axe use 
  • Rappel techniques
  • Belay techniques
  • Belayed skiing
  • Student led travel 

Day 4: Applying the skills while ski mountaineering out to the road.

  • Navigation by map and GPS
  • Student led travel applying all the skills 
  • Eating burgers and drinking beer

Cost

  • 1 client: $500 per day
  • 2 clients: $300 per person per day
  • 3 clients: $225 per person per day
  • 4+ clients: $200 per person per day
  • Booking   

Includes

  • 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
  • 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. 

Photos of Ski Mountaineering Skills and Courses

Testimonials

We said it before and will say it again, thanks so much for the great trip!!
— Trevor & Tully, 2018 ski mountaineering course
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