Skiing & Avalanche

Ski & Avalanche Programs

Backcountry Skiing in the San Juan Mountains

Backcountry Skiing

There is little doubt that interest in the sport of backcountry skiing has grow appreciably in recent years. Unlike off-piste skiing at a resort, or cat skiing, backcountry ski touring allows us practically limitless terrain from which to choose. What does this mean to you? That we can always find the best powder stashes, and keep you away from the crowds, so that you can experience the joy of skiing untracked powder in one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the entire mountain west.

Our Terrain

The San Juan Mountains are host to some of the finest backcountry terrain in Colorado. Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain passes allow us to access the best ski tours at, and above, 10,000 feet where pristine powder skiing is just waiting to be had. Our programs are designed to accommodate a wide range of experience levels and skiing background. Whether you’re a perennial resort skier looking to venture into the untracked powder of the backcountry, or an experienced backcountry enthusiast who wants to hit the best tours the area has to offer, we have what it takes to put it together for you.

JB and I now feel like we can go into the backcountry and safely plan our trip, pick our travel routes and travel techniques and most importantly work together to have a great time out their while being safe……we will be highly recommending that our friends take this course too! – Erin B.

2017/2018 Offerings

  1. Introduction to Backcountry Skiing
    If you’ve already taken an avalanche course, and would like to get some more ski specific instruction so that you feel more confident in your ability to do your own touring in the mountains then this is the course for you!
  2. The OPUS Hut Experience
    The Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski (OPUS) Hut is the region’s newest, largest, and nicest remote alpine hut. Located in the high mountains between the infamous ski towns of Silverton and Telluride, this hut is surrounded by awesome tree runs, wide open bowls, and steep, craggy faces. This program is for intermediate to advanced backcountry skiers and boarders looking for a once in a lifetime ski trip, all while living in the luxury of a beautiful, fully catered hut.
  3. Alpine Hut Skiing / Snowboarding Trips
    Experience the comfort of a high country ski hut, not to mention the easy access to great backcountry skiing! The San Juan Mountains are host to a number of easily accessible and well stocked huts. Great for a family or group of friends.
  4. Private Ski Guiding
    We specialize in private guiding throughout the winter.  You choose your dates, group size, goals etc. and we’ll take care of the rest.  Offered December through April.

AIARE Avalanche Courses: Ouray, Durango & San Juans Colorado

Avalanche Courses

San Juan Mountain Guides has been offering formal avalanche courses since 1992. We have taught hundreds of backcountry skiers and snowboarders as well as mountain guides and ski patrollers needing to meet industry requirements. In recent years, great achievements have been made with curriculum development. Combined with our many years of teaching experience this has helped us to bring you the most sophisticated and useful classroom presentations and field instruction to best help decision making while in avalanche terrain.

San Juan Snow

The snowpack of the San Juan Mountains between Durango and Ouray, CO provides the ideal location to conduct our field training sessions. The San Juan Mountains are known throughout the world for the complicated nature of the snowpack and readily observable avalanche conditions and phenomenon. They truly define the meaning of a continental snowpack.

*If our scheduled courses do not fit your needs, we can also schedule private dates for groups of 4 or more.

2017/2018 Offerings

  1. Level 1 Avalanche Course
    Decision Making in Avalanche Terrain.  Our 3 day AIARE Certified Level 1 Avalanche Course provides a complete introduction to the avalanche phenomenon, avalanche terrain, decision making, and rescue protocol.
  2. Level 1 Avalanche Course – Hut Based
    Want to make your Level 1 Course experience the best it can be? Want lodging included in the course cost? Want a smaller class size and more personalized instruction? Then join us at the Alladin’s Lamp Hut on Molas Pass for an unforgettable experience that will prepare you for future backcountry missions like no other. Course fees include 2 nights lodging and food!
  3. Level 1 Advanced Avalanche Course
    New 4 day Program! Put our Level 1 Avalanche Course and our Intro to Backcountry Skiing Course together and you get a one-of-a-kind backcountry course perfectly suited to the recreational enthusiast or prospective guide who’s looking for maximum value from a course. Course fees include 3 nights lodging and food!
  4. Level 2 Avalanche Course
    Analyzing Snow Stability and Avalanche Hazard.  Our AIARE Certified Level 2 Avalanche Course is a 3 day program that provides backcountry travelers the opportunity to advance their avalanche knowledge and decision making skills. Course cost includes 2 nights lodging at the Addies S Cabin on Red Mountain Pass!

The SJMG Difference

We know that you have many choices when selecting where and with whom to take your Level 1 Avalanche Course. When considering these factors, keep in mind the following facts when making your decision. San Juan Mountain Guides has been offering formal avalanche courses since 1992. Our program and course curriculum has been meticulously customized by AMGA Certified Ski Mtn/IFMGA Guides and former Ski/Snow Patrol Professionals. We offer the most comprehensive access to terrain in the San Juan Mountains – from the Sneffels Range to both the North and South sides of Red Mountain Pass and all the way to Coal Bank Pass. No other guide service or avalanche school in the region can offer this variety of terrain as part of their program.

AVY Course Comparisons SJMG Others
22 Years of Experience YES ???
Customized by IFMGA/AMGA Ski Mtn Guides YES ???
Developed by Ski/Snow Patrol Pros YES ???
Taught by IFMGA/AMGA Ski Mtn Guides YES ???
Unlimited Terrain Access in San Juans YES ???
Course Options in Durango & Ouray YES ???
BC Skiing Components Taught YES ???
Hut Based Course Options YES ???


Colorado Ski Mountaineering

San Juan Ski Mountaineering

The logical extension of backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering is the ultimate adventure for those who are looking to integrate the summit of a high alpine peak or glaciated terrain into their ski descent capabilities. Ski mountaineering most often necessitates the use of a wide range of techniques and equipment, such as ski crampons, boot crampons, and ice axes, in order to navigate through more complicated “big mountain” terrain to achieve the summit of a peak and, for lack of a better description, ski off the summit. If you enjoy backcountry skiing, then you’ll love ski mountaineering!

2017/2018 Offerings

  1. Private Ski Mtn. Guiding
    Schedule a couple of days of private ski mountaineering instruction for you and your friends. We offer customized tours and multi-day trips for individuals or groups.
  2. Ski Mountaineering Camp
    This trip has been specifically designed to introduce participants to the skills needed for ski mountaineering. We spend 3 days travelling in the alpine zone working on specific skills to prepare you for future ski mountaineering trips and objectives.
  3. Ski the Peaks
    Our popular program takes advantage of optimal snow, weather, and avalanche conditions in the spring to ski off the summit of some of the classic objectives in the San Juans.
  4. Chicago Basin Ski Expedition
    The ultimate 14’er skiing trip. The Chicago Basin is the home of the 14’ers in the San Juans, and the spring skiing is an experience like no other. Truly a one of a kind trip!


SJMG ski guides

SJMG Ski Guides

Most importantly, our Backcountry Skiing Programs and Avalanche Courses are led by highly experienced professional ski and mountain guides. All of our lead guides are AMGA Certified Ski or Ski Mountaineering Guides, or have completed Advanced Ski Mountaineering Guide training with the AMGA, in addition to taking part in our in-house ski guide training.

For years, they have been making difficult decisions while moving individuals and groups through challenging terrain on a daily basis. No other company in Durango, Silverton, Ouray, and the San Juans can make this claim. Experience counts and we are passionate about providing our participants with the most competent leadership and guiding available in our industry.

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