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Backcountry Education: What’s the next step?


Whether it’s your first year in the skin track or your fifth, now is the time to plan to get backcountry educated! We get a lot of questions from backcountry travelers wondering what the next step is, so we created this basic road map. From whichever stage you are starting from, use this reference to figure out how to progress your personal backcountry education.


Advanced Resort Skiers/Beginner Backcountry Skiers & Riders


Step Zero: Advanced Ski/Riding Skills

Be able to ski black diamond runs and off-piste at the ski resort. You don’t have to jump off cliffs or anything, but you do need to be able to maneuver around complex unmarked obstacles in the backcountry. Don’t start thinking about heading into the backcountry until you are an advanced skier or rider.


Step 1: Try Backcountry Skiing or Riding for the First Time

Sign up for Backcountry 1.0 (single day) or take a 2.5 day Women’s Intro to Backcountry Clinic. We recommend renting gear to try it out for the first couple of times. We have rental packages with beacon, shovel, probe, Fischer touring skis and boots, or Jones snowboards available in our office.


Intermediate Backcountry Skiers/Riders


Step 2: Gain More Experience in the Backcountry with the guidance of a backcountry professional

Book a day of Backcountry 2.0, Private Ski Guiding, or a Squaw Valley Backcountry Tour.

Start to think about purchasing your own backcountry gear. Check out our gear guide and be sure to shop local: Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City or Tahoe Sports Hub in Truckee are our favorites.


Step 3: Avalanche safety and backcountry travel 101, 3-days

Now it’s time to enroll in a 3-day  AIARE 1 course. There are technically no pre-requisites for AIARE 1, but we do recommend having a few days of backcountry experience before you take the class. You’ll get so much more out of the course if you have basic touring skills already! In class, you will develop a good foundation on how to prepare for and carry out a backcountry trip, understand basic decision making while in the field, and learn avalanche rescue techniques.


Step 4: Go back to Step 2 and Gain Even More Experience in the backcountry

Enroll in any of the following: Backcountry 2.0,  Private Ski Guiding, or a Squaw Valley Backcountry Tour. You can also choose to go on independent ski tours with partners who are knowledgeable about backcountry safety.


Step 5: Practice Companion Rescue

Next Step: AIARE Rescue. This day is ultra-important, it’s a dedicated 8-hr course to sharpen up your companion rescue skills. Build up the muscle memory for how to react if the worst happens and you or your partners are involved in an avalanche. Worth taking as a refresher every season!


Step 6: Back to Step 2 again: Gain more experience


Advanced Backcountry Skiers/Riders


Step 7: Rack up some ski touring miles with a pro

More Private Ski Guiding or a Squaw Valley Backcountry Tour. You can also choose to go on independent ski tours with partners who are knowledgeable about backcountry safety.


Step 8: Become an independent backcountry leader

You are finally ready for AIARE 2! This is a course for advanced recreational students who are looking to advance their decision-making skills in more complex terrain and situations. You should have 2+ solid seasons of experience before thinking about taking this course.


Step 9: Join an Advanced Tour

What’s next? Start thinking about High Sierra Backcountry ToursTruckee Skyline Traverse, Backcountry 3.0


International Ski Mountaineering


Step 10: The World is your Oyster!

Now that you’ve built up a solid base of backcountry skills, you have the tools to start exploring ski mountaineering around the globe. Here’s a couple of the international ski descents we offer: Ecuador: Ring of Fire Ski Expedition, Chile: Backcountry Ski AdventureHimalaya: Cho Oyu Ski Descent (Private),  Russia: Mount Elbrus Ski Descent (Private).


The view just past the Granite Peak, looking into Nat Geo Bowl

Book a Ski Guide

For information on any of our other expeditions check out our website. For any questions call our office at 877-873-5376 or send us an email We hope to ski & ride with you soon!