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Ski Mountaineering & Backcountry Avalanche Course

Queenstown Mountain Guides Ski Mountaineering & Backcountry Avalanche Course is for skiers and snow boarders wanting to develop  ski mountaineering and backcountry avalanche skills in glaciated terrain. The 6 day course includes the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) Backcountry Avalanche Qualification.

Our 6 day Ski Mountaineering & Snowboarding Course is based from a high mountain hut located in New Zealand's premier ski mountaineering and ski touring areas. Deep immersion in the Southern Alps amongst New Zealand's highest mountains and largest glaciers. 

Queenstown Mountain Guides philosophy is learning skills while skiing & climbing so participants can see how the skills they are learning are applied to mountain terrain. The focus of the Ski Mountaineering & Snowboarding Camp is movement through the mountains while learning fundamental ski mountaineering and avalanche skills. 

The trip starts from Queenstown. Depending on the weather forecast for the week, we will choose the location with the best conditions. This could be the Tasman or Murchison Glaciers, the Fox or Franz Joseph glaciers, or one of many other epic and world class ski mountaineering and ski touring locations. Once at the staging area we will fly into the mountains by ski plane or helicopter. 

The focus of the week is to is to ski/board as much as possible. Along the way our guide will also help you build on your technique and skills in the mountains with skills workshops. These will include - avalanche rescue, terrain analysis, and decision making in the mountains. See below for further details on instruction topics. 

The Ski Mountaineering & Backcountry Avalanche Course has a formal assessment of avalanche rescue skills. On successful completion participants will be issued with the NZ Mountain Safety Council (MSC) Backcountry Avalanche Qualification and certificate of confidence for there avalanche transceiver rescue.

Possible Descents

  • Minarets (3040m) 800m + ski descent
  • Elie De Beaumont (3,109m) 800 m + ski descent
  • Pioneer to Chancellor Hut 1000m ski descent
  • Hochsetter Dome (2810m) 500m+ ski descent
  • Murchison Headwall descent to Murchison Hut
  • Mt Hamilton, Bonney Glacier, and Turnbull Glaciers 700 m + ski descent
  • Whataroa Saddle and Mannering Glacier, Aida Glacier, Mount Cooper 800 m + ski descent

Ski Mountaineering & Snowboarding Course instruction topics may include:

  • Uphill skinning technique
  • Terrain analysis & route finding in avalanche terrain
  • Snowpack factors (layers, basic metamorphism)
  • Group travel in avalanche terrain
  • Transceiver use and avalanche rescue techniques
  • Avalanche hazard assessment
  • Crevasse rescue
  • Navigation
  • Mountain weather analysis & forecasting
  • Emergency shelters

Other related trips

New Zealand Glacier Ski Touring & Snowboarding

3 Day Backcountry Ski Tour


Sample Itinerary

On the first morning of the camp we will meet at 8.30am at our office in Queenstown. We will discuss current snow & mountain conditions and look at the weather forecast for the trip. The final decision on the camp location will be decided by the guide and based on the location that will provide the best conditions for the week.

Your guide will check through all of your equipment and make sure you have everything you need for the trip. After the equipment check we will travel to the mountains. This will take approximately 2.5  depending on the location of the trip. Once we arrive at the location we will fly into the mountains at the first opportunity. 

Each day typically starts at around 7.00am with breakfast and preparations before heading out into the mountains for the day.

On the first day you will get warmed up with your guide assessing your skills and fitness. What you can achieve on the camp is dependant on your groups level of fitness, skiing & technical ability and goals for the week. 

Mountain conditions are changing constantly. Every day on a Ski Mountaineering Camp is different and unique. Your guide will assess the mountain conditions daily and plan the best use of the current conditions.

As with all mountain ranges in the world New Zealand's Southern alps receive their share of poor weather. On poor weather days skills workshops will be held inside or near the hut to make the most of the learning opportunity while you are in the mountains with an experienced guide. See above for possible instruction topics.


Map 2014

3-4 people

Map 2014

6 days



Map 2014

Flights included


2019 Course Dates. Our Ski Mountaineering Course runs from Monday to Saturday - allowing participants to take 1 week off work and attend the course.

SMC # 1 September 2nd - 7th 

SMC # 2 September 16th - 21st

Experience Required

  • You are a strong intermediate to advanced skier with off-piste skiing experience (can ski black runs with confidence)
  • High level of fitness

Whats Included

The price of the camp includes

  • Guide fees
  • Flights into and out of the mountains
  • Technical equipment hire
  • Avalanche shovel, transceiver, probe
  • Text book 'Avalanche Awareness in the New Zealand Backcountry' by Penny Goddard
  • MSC Backcountry Avalanche Qualification
  • MSC Avalanche transceiver certificate of confidence
  • Hut fees
  • Meals and snacks
  • Ground transport
  • Group equipment
  • Department of Conservation concession fees

The price of the camp excludes

  • Ski touring skis & boot hire
  • Personal equipment & clothing

More Information

detailed trip notesequipment listFAQ