"Thanks again for everything on the Alaska Ski Mountaineering Course. You're very good at what you do and we all learned a tremendous amount! Not to mention the incredible skiing we did! Thanks again."
Costa Mesa, CA
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5 Days Of Ski Mountaineering Instruction & Descents
Our Alaska Ski Mountaineering Course includes five days of ski mountaineering instruction that will take your skiing to unprecedented levels. The course includes a combination of human powered touring from Thompson Pass and heli-drops onto remote peaks. One heli-drop is included in the course price and there is an option to add additional helicopter drops during the week. This mix of human powered ski touring and heli-drops allows us to access some of the biggest descents and most epic lines in the Chugach Mountains near Valdez, AK. In addition, our AMGA certified guides will create powerful learning opportunities for you to hone your ski mountaineering skills along the way.
Develop A Repertoire Of Skills For Ski Mountaineering
We teach you techniques and strategies for ski mountaineering and then give you real-life opportunities to practice those skills during classic ski mountaineering ascents and descents. This hands-on, practical approach enables you to develop judgment in addition to technical skills, a key distinction between our course and other strictly guided programs on the market. Our guides are exclusively AMGA certified, they have years of experience in the Chugach, and they have proven teaching skills. These credentials make them uniquely qualified to help you develop your big mountain riding. You will leave the course with a repertoire of skills that will serve you well in any of the great ski mountaineering ranges around the world. We commonly teach the following skills in the context of some outstanding ski mountaineering tours:
- Tour planning and terrain selection
- Map, compass, & GPS navigation
- Tracksetting for safety, efficiency, and observations
- Traveling skills: striding, pacing, AVA turn and kick turn
- Glacier travel and crevasse rescue
- Use of ski crampons, ice axe, and boot crampons
- Construction of THINX ski anchors
- Lowering and rappelling for access to steep terrain
- Steep skiing techniques
- Advanced snowpack stability assessment through layer identification, understanding of spatial variability, and understanding direct and indirect weather effects
Alaska Ski Mountaineering Course Sample Itinerary
We'll meet in the evening at the hotel to discuss current conditions and review maps of the area. Once we formulate an opinion about where the best snow is, and what the snow stability issues are, we'll create a trip plan for our first tour. You will learn how to gather information for route selection and how to make a time estimate for the tour.
We'll do one of the classic ski mountaineering tours on Thompson Pass such as Cracked Ice Peak, Nick's Happy Valley and the Berlin Wall, or Crudbusters Peak. While touring we'll learn basic glaciology and techniques for glacier travel on skis, strategies for efficient tracksetting using the "safety, efficiency, observations" triad, and we'll make some baseline observations of the snowpack.
We begin the day at Valdez Heli Ski Guides with a helicopter safety briefing. Once we complete the orientation we'll be flown to a backcountry summit where we begin our day of ski mountaineering. Many possibilities exist for heli drops; we will choose one based on current conditions and the best learning environment. We'll ski from the summit of this peak then tour to an adjacent peak, climb it, then ski a second long run to the road. As far as backcountry touring goes, we'll be able to get a massive amount of downhill vertical due to the assistance of the heli drop. On the tour we'll discuss strategies for managing steep terrain such as ski belays and rappels, we'll learn how to build ski anchors, and we'll practice steep skiing techniques.
Today we will use one of the nearby glaciers on Thompson Pass to practice glacier travel systems for whiteout, self arrest on skis, anchor building for crevasse rescue, and we'll learn an efficient and effective partner crevasse rescue system. Everyone will have the opportunity to rescue a real person in a real crevasse fall. Using a backup system to ensure safety, everyone will benefit from this realistic training opportunity. You will understand glacier travel and crevasse rescue very well after this session.
We'll do another classic ski mountaineering tour near the pass that involves a complement of ski mountaineering skills such as glacier routefinding, snow stability assessment, and the use of ice axe, crampons, and ropework for ascending and descending technical terrain.
For our final day, we will make a culminating descent of a big line on a classic ski mountaineering peak. We may tour from the road or we may use the helicopter for quick access, depending on conditions and the interest of the group. On this day, group members will have additional opportunities to lead portions of the tour in order to apply the skills learned during the week. After this final exciting day, we will have celebratory drinks at the Tsaina Lodge on Thompson Pass.
Contact us to expand your ski mountaineering skills and experience the world-renowned skiing in the Chugach. This is ski mountaineering at its finest!
*Peak Mountain Guides Alaska Ski Mountaineering programs are operated under special use permit from the Glennallen Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management. Peak Mountain Guides is an equal opportunity service provider.*