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 at the highest standard 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.
- 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.
November - June (one to seven days)
The Real Deal (Camp-to-Camp)
Moving from camp-to-camp, traveling light, as a self-contained unit, and skiing lines along the way is the purest form of ski mountaineering. 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!
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.
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.
We can venture out each day from Girdwood for day trips.
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 or Pika.
Skill Sets for Ski Mountaineering
Solid ski ability are the foundation of ski mountaineering. Dial these skills at the resort in the years before our trip.
We can cover/review skills including track setting, communication, navigation and downhill terrain management.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 vertical feet up into 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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)
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
"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