Introduction to Alpine Touring - AT Skiing Course 

Backcountry Ski Course #5
The Rewards of Backcountry Skiing

2022-23 Set Dates: 1-day Course
  • December 14, 2022 (FULL)
  • January 27, 2023 (Stevens)
  • February 3, 2023 (Stevens)
  • Custom Dates Available

Set Dates Cost: $315 per person

Location: Stevens Pass Backcountry

Custom Cost: See Custom Rates

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Cost Includes
Guide fee, guide's expenses.
Cost Does Not Include
Transportation to/from course area, personal ski equipment, lunch food, water, personal clothing. We do rent Beacons, shovels, and probes if needed.

Client to Guide Ratio: Up to 5:1

Expedition PDFs 

Equipment List ยป

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Learn how to backcountry ski on an alpine touring (AT) course that takes place off-piste near Stevens Pass and reviews skills needed to feel confident participating . While this course touches on skills related to avalanche safety this is not an avalanche course and is designed to prepare you to move toward skiing on your own eventually. This course is about using modern alpine touring ski equipment competently and efficiently so that you can gain access to terrain beyond the boundaries of a ski area. It works well if taken in conjunction with our AIARE L1 Avalanche Courses.

While conducting a medium sized ski tour, your guides demonstrate how to dress properly so that you can remain comfortable for an entire day while going through radical changes in physical output and exposure to the winter mountain environment. We keep the total tour length and vertical gain down to around 2000-2500 feet to leave lots of time for questions and practice. During the course you will become familiar with each type of alpine touring binding, boot, and ski, and shown the different functions of each item. We will also cover basic avalanche procedures, making quick and easy transitions between skinning and skiing, and discuss common pitfalls faced by all groups of backcountry skiers. At its core, this is a course about efficiency - how to build skills to maximize your energy while backcountry skiing so that you to can grab some untracked powder days or even weeks after the resorts are skied out.

Skills Covered - Intro to Alpine Touring 

  • Basic avalanche beacon skills
  • Use of shovel and probe
  • Interpreting avalanche and weather bulletins
  • Backcountry ski equipment
  • Dressing for uphill skiing
  • Dressing for downhill skiing
  • Use of alpine touring bindings
  • Use of climbing skins
  • Getting into skis in deep snow, or steep, icy slopes
  • Techniques for skiing uphill
  • Downhill skiing in different snow conditions
  • Techniques for skiing downhill with other skiers
  • Making kick turns
  • Transition to downhill skiing from skinning
  • Transition to uphill from downhill skiing
  • Taking care of your feet
  • Maintaining adequate hydration and nutrition
  • Common pitfalls of groups skiing together
  • When to travel together and when to spread out
  • What to do if an avalanche occurs

Sample Itinerary - Intro to Alpine Touring 

8:00 am:
Arrive at parking lot of the Stevens Pass Overflow parking area at Yodelin, located 3 miles East of Stevens Pass Ski area on US highway 2. Get into your ski boots and organize gear for the day.

8:30-9:15 am:
Group will meet with guide and go over the equipment needed for the day and discuss how to dress for the near future and how to pack for the rest of the day. We will also review the weather forecast and avalanche forecast. We will make sure you know how to securely store your shovel and probe and check to see that everyone has sufficient gear for the day and emergencies.

9:15 am - 11:00 am:
Review of basic beacon function followed by practice performing simple single burial rescue. During this time we will review probing and digging strategies and conduct a full function and range test with our beacons, making sure they are working properly.

11:00 am - 2:00 pm:
Review of the use of climbing skins, efficient skinning technique, basic track setting, and how to best adjust your boots, clothing, and bindings for uphill travel. We will climb for several thousand feet stopping to practice making kick turns and explain how to position a skin track and show how to find an angle that is comfortable, but still headed uphill. Your guide will address the reasons to consider skiing grouped together or spread out and why the terrain and conditions dictate which is best.

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm:
Once we have reached our high point we will continue our discussion of how to make quick and easy transitions between skins and skis and begin to talk about downhill skiing. On the downhill your guide will demonstrate different techniques for skiing slopes with a group and will go over things like ski pole signals, fence setting, spooning tracks, and how to have a blast while also realizing that we are beyond the reach of ski patrol. Often in the afternoon we have time for an extra lap if the skiing is great and we are on schedule.

3:00 pm:
Return to parking lot, debrief the day, discuss next steps, and course conclusion.

Suggested Equipment: 

You will need ski touring skis, skins, bindings, and boots for this course. Our full equipment list can be found on our AT Skiing Equipment List. If you do not already own this gear Leavenworth Mountain Sports, has a demo program where you can rent and demo alpine touring skis, boots, and bindings. We also have a limited supply of rental skis and skins here at the Northwest Mountain School. Our guides are all familiar with the different skis, boots, and bindings currently on the market and will either be familiar with the gear you bring or can make suggestions for appropriate equipment for your ski ability, size, and interest if you are still planning a purchase.

Participant Requirements 

In order to enjoy skiing in the backcountry you need to have mastered some of the basic skills at a ski area. Snow conditions in the backcountry tend to vary wildly and to ski efficiently you should be able to ski black diamond terrain in a variety of conditions including ice, powder, deep snow, wet snow, and some of the easier crusts. We generally find powder in the backcountry, but short forays onto wind or sun affected slopes can present almost any type of snow. This is not a suitable course to learn to ski on. If you are still working on your basic ski technique we first recommend taking lessons at a ski resort and then getting some miles in at the ski area. While skiing at the ski area, focus on skiing the edges, trees, and less travelled spots in order to experience a wider variety of non-groomed ski conditions. If you are a decent skier, physically fit, and able to stay out for 6-8 hours this will be a good experience for you. Feel free to give us a call at 509-548-5823 if you are unsure about your qualifications.

Quick and Easy Registration Process: 

  • Space is first-come, first serve.
  • A 25% deposit secures your spot
  • Final balance due 60 days before your course
  • Applications less than 60 days prior require full payment
  • Pre-trip information sent when registration and payment are received

Register Here: 

Need more information? 

Feel free to give us a call at 509-548-5823 or send us an e-mail with any questions.

Related AT Skiing Training: 

  • AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course: Focuses on the decision making process while in avalanche terrain. Our Alpine Touring Courses rest on the foundation of this knowledge.

This program takes place on US Forest Service lands under a commercial-outfitter and guide permit. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs & activities and is an equal opportunity provider and employer.