Introduction to Touring Skills

The Sierra Nevada backcountry in winter and spring is a truly wonderful place and a very different experience from summer. The spring ski tours in the Sierra are the best to be found anywhere in the world. And with long days, great snow, spectacular settings, and fantastic skiing it’s no wonder these are our favorite trips. But it’s important to acquire some backcountry travel skills before heading out to truly enjoy it all. Perhaps you have skied before or have some backpacking experience and are looking to extend your season. Or maybe you are an experienced downhill skier seeking to move beyond the resort but are not yet sure about how you will like being out in the winter and snowy spring. This three day, two night course is designed to give you the skills and confidence to head out on longer trips.
If you have not done an extended trip, but want to get out on some of our longer trips we highly recommend this program first.
The trip ventures into the lovely Glass Creek area north of Mammoth and west of Highway 395, just south of the June Mountain ski area. Here the snow covered Glass Creek Meadow offers rolling terrain with beautiful vistas of high peaks, volcanic cones and lava flows, and the opportunity to tour through the largest old-growth forests outside of designated Wilderness in the Eastern Sierra; an ideal place for your first winter camping experience.

Topics covered include:

  • Campsite selection
  • Snow camping tips and tricks
  • Kitchen and cooking skills
  • Skiing with an overnight pack
  • Uphill skills and setting a track
  • Backcountry ski skills: traverses, kick turns, downhill skills
  • Avalanche awareness
  • Staying comfortable and having a good time

Notes

We highly recommend that you spend at least one night at moderate altitude (higher than 8,000′) just prior to the trip. Spending a night or two in Mammoth or camped at the trailhead campground would do the trick. Please refer to our Planning for Success info sheet for more info.

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 pricy). 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. If this is not possible we will take time to get gear the morning of Day One but if it is already taken care of we can get out and ski sooner.

After meeting for breakfast we will car-pool (some vehicles can be left at the Forest Service visitor center in Mammoth) to the parking area and take the rest of the day to travel up old roads and open slopes to camp alongside Glass Creek. Along the way we’ll cover the basics of traveling on skis with a full pack and also learn and practice basic backcountry skiing techniques including use of climbing skins and doing kick turns. Two nights camped in the backcountry will allow plenty of practice in the all-important art of snow camping. The balance of the time we’ll work on skiing skills with lots of practice on how to ski with a pack, succeed at icy traverses, become proficient with avalanche beacons, as well as working on all a round survival skiing skills.

We anticipate being back at the roadhead the last day by late afternoon.

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 Begining or better, but prior backcountry skiing or winter overnight camping experience is not necessary.

Program Inclusions:

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

We do not include accommodation in the pricing but can make suggestions for you.

Details, Itinerary, and Equipment List:

Details & itinerary.

Equipment list

Map:

Backcountry touring map