Introduction to Backcountry Randonnée Skiing

This program is designed for the skier who wants to get out and to try something new and different. If you have skied the ski area for years you have probably gazed off at those not-to-far off bowls and chutes just outside the ski area boundary. If you want to get out there expand your skiing into this world randonnée equipment is the easiest way. We are working in conjunction with Mammoth Mountain ski area.

You can sign up through Mammoth Mountain for a day (or two) working within the ski area boundaries to perfect technique and to discover the basics of backcountry skiing in a comfortable education setting. Here you will learn about the equipment, how to use it, the fundamentals of avalanche rescue as well as tuition in skiing from a PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) Instructor to fine tune your technique. No matter how good we are our technique can always benefit from tips from a professional ski instructor

Then it is time to head into the mountains with a mountain guide who knows where to find the best snow and slopes that suit your ability.

What is Randonnée Equipment

Randonnée equipment has been popular in Europe for many years now, but is only in the recent past has it become more available in the USA. Unlike free-heel telemark skiing you do not have to relearn skiing again and after a few runs the equipment will feel familiar, The binding allows you to release your heel and, with climbing skins on the skis, climb uphill. Once at the top, lock the heels and ski just like you’re used to. With the bindings in down mode you are locked by the toe and heel to the ski as normal. The boots are a little softer than you might be used to since all around comfort is the most important thing rather than ultimate control on the downhills. The skis vary a lot, but most these days are a shaped ski and for use in backcountry a short ski we prefer shorter rather than long.

So learn on the groomed runs and then experience the freedom and beauty of “off piste” skiing.

Here is video of a SMC ski excursion to Mt Morrison in perfect powder conditions.


We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000 feet) just prior to the trip. Spending a night or two in Mammoth is perfect.

SMC does not rent ski equipment, but we work with Mammoth Mountaineering (760-934-4191) to get you set up on the correct equipment. MMS has a very wide range of rental equipment that is probably the best you will find anywhere in California. All gear is current state of the art, well tuned and rental fees are deductible if you buy a set up from them. (We highly recommend renting before you buy so as to find what suits you best, since a full setup is pretty pricey). We can coordinate the rental and suggest that if you can you arrive Mammoth the night before and get fully set up since boot fitting can take some time.

Return to Backcountry Ski Skills

Front Country Day

The focus of this day is getting you familiar with the equipment and how to use it. We will also run over the use of avalanche beacons and how to conduct a search and rescue.

We meet in Mammoth at the ski area before doing an equipment check.

Backcountry Day

Our exact location for the day will depend upon here the best conditions are, but we have a lot of choices. In the Mammoth area the Sherwins are a popular spot. Just down Highway 395 are the slopes of McGee Mountain and the “Batch Plant Bowls” Further north is Chicken Wing and White Wing all offering awesome skiing.

Program Prerequisites:

Participants should be in good physical condition. Prior backcountry ski experience is not necessary and this program is designed for intermediate and advanced alpine skiers. with downhill ski ability at SMC Ski Skill Beginning or better.

Program Inclusions:

Price includes guiding, permits, group ski kits, avalanche equipment (beacons, shovels and probes). Does not include ski equipment.

Please Read before you go

We feel the following information is essential... (links open as PDF in new window)

  1. Details and itinerary
  2. SMC Cancellation Policy
  3. Suggestions on preparation - get the most out of your trip!
  4. Tips on physical training for your trip
  5. LNT - Let's work together to protect our precious mountain environment.

Rental Equipment:

Need to rent equipment for your trip? We can help.