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Introduction to Backcountry Skiing

Alpine Touring or Telemark Skiing

Would you like to become more knowledgeable about backcountry skiing? Our 1 Day Introduction to Backcountry Skiing in the San Juan Mountains is an excellent way for you gain experience on your skis in the backcountry.

Many resort skiers are either intimidated by backcountry touring or don’t feel they possess the necessary skills to undertake a backcountry ski tour in the mountains. Completing our course in Colorado’s inspiring San Juan Mountains will help you to gain confidence in your skills as a backcountry skier, and ensure that you are aware of all the techniques and tools required to pull off a successful tour in the backcountry.  This is an excellent precursor to our Level 1 Avalanche Course.

  • This course is based out of Ouray, CO.

The Progression

We will cover the latest techniques in all aspects of backcountry travel including, but not limited to the following topics:

  • Powder snow skiing techniques
  • Ascension Techniques
  • Essential Backcountry Equipment
  • Trip and Tour planning
  • Route-finding and planning
  • Team backcountry travel protocols

Come and join us for a truly unforgettable course that will impress upon you just how incredibly fun it is to be out in the wilderness on your skis!

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.


Intro to BC Ski Itinerary

Day 0

Meet at SJMG office at 1600 for trip intro and finalize paperwork.  We prefer to meet on this day to make sure that everyone has their gear prepped and ready to go for the next day, as we will be heading out into the backcountry early in the morning.  Stay in a hotel in Ouray.

Day 1

Meet at the SJMG office at 0730 and we then drive to the San Juan Mountains to begin the day’s instruction focusing on the topics listed in the previous tab. Full day ski tour near Silverton/Red Mountain pass.  Return to Ouray in the afternoon.  Many course participants choose to add an additional day of private skiing the following day.

Backcountry Skiing Equipment List

  • Day-Tour Backpack: Internal frame, 25-40 liters.
  • Touring Skis or Splitboard: Skis with alpine-touring or telemark bindings.
  • Ski or Snowboard Boots
  • Poles: preferably adjustable
  • Climbing Skins
  • Avalanche Transceiver: with fresh batteries
  • Probe
  • Avy Shovel: metal blade is a must
  • Goggles
  • Ski Helmet
  • Ski Repair Kit


  • Socks: Wool or synthetic ski socks
  • Base Layers: Polyester or silk bottom and top
  • Mid-Weight Top : Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
  • Shell Pants: hard shell or soft shell. A pair with side vents are best.
  • Insulated Vest: down or synthetic, for extra core warmth.
  • Hard Shell Jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation.
  • Gloves: a pair of heavy gloves and a pair of medium to thin weight gloves
  • Down Jacket or Insulated Parka
  • Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
  • Neck Gaiter, BUFF or Balaclava
  • Sunglasses

Other Stuff

  • Small Thermos: Optional, but nice to have
  • Water Bottles: 2 liters
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm: water/sweat-proof
  • Headlamp
  • Toiletries
  • Personal First Aid Kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
  • Stuff Sacks: for convenient packing
  • Camera
  • Lunch Food & Snacks: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…


Participants should feel competent and comfortable on “Blue” rated runs at ski resorts. Participants should also be in excellent physical condition. We recommend that participants arrive in Durango at least 1 full day prior to traveling with us in the San Juan high country.

1 Before Your Trip

Skiing and/or squats: do it. Cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling are great to build heart and lung endurance. Taking day hikes with your loaded backpack at a local park will help train your legs for the mileage you will do in the mountains.

2 Follow Up Programs

We very much enjoyed our time in Ouray! The private 2-day climbing program was impressive. Our guide, Mark, was/is an excellent teacher. He took the time to build the skills for each of us, listened to the concerns and course corrected to ensure we were achieving what we wanted to achieve. Basically, Mark rocks! We look forward to coming back. - J. Bowers, 2011 Private Program

Ouray, Colorado: Getting Here

Ouray is located in the SW corner of Colorado, approximately 30 minutes south of Montrose. Known as “The Switzerland of America”, the town of Ouray is a vibrant outdoor oriented community. All local businesses are very friendly to the ice climbers who flock each winter to climb in the Ouray Ice Park and surrounding areas.

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rexerFlights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Montrose, CO. Many airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, CO. It is also possible to fly into Durango, CO, Telluride, CO, or Albuquerque, NM. It may be necessary to rent a car and drive to Ouray if you’d like to fly into one of either of these airports.

rexerDriving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Ouray. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.

  • Montrose, CO: 45 mins
  • Durango, CO: 2 hours
  • Denver, CO: 6 hours
  • Albuquerque, NM: 4.5 hours
  • Salt Lake City, UT: 6 hours

rexerHotels: Ouray has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suit you best for this trip!


Additional Information

  • Cost Includes:

  • Guiding and instruction with an AMGA Certified
  • Avalanche probe, shovel, and beacon,
  • Boots, skis, and climbing skins are available for rent from our shop for an additional cost.

  • Not Included:

  • Hotel costs before, during or after the courses
  • 5% land use surcharge
  • trip cancellation insurance
  • personal climbing, skiing, or camping equipment, or gratuities.
  • Guide gratuity

  • Registration and Cancellation:

  • Advance Registration is required for this program.  You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System.  All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.