Here in Lake Tahoe, we’re incredibly fortunate to enjoy 6+ months out of the year skiing world-class terrain. Our maritime snowpack and regular winter storm cycles produce stable snow that heals quickly, with a wealth of accessible backcountry powder stashes. While it’s easy to see how Tahoe is one of the premiere ski locations in the world with a lifetime’s worth of terrain here in Northern California, it is also the perfect training ground to build the skills needed to join a ski expedition in the big mountains around the world.
Getting ready for an international ski expedition requires thoughtful and purposeful training and planning. So, how and where do you begin this process?
The best way to begin your journey to become a proficient backcountry adventurer is to join us for an avalanche safety course (AIARE 1) and learn to plan your own tours. To qualify, you must have 5-10 days of prior backcountry experience. If you do not have experience, sign up for our Backcountry 1.0 course, designed especially for those who are just getting started to learn the basics of backcountry gear and travel. This course will qualify you to join an AIARE 1.
In your AIARE 1, you will start to build your educational foundation with basic risk mitigation, terrain assessment, snow science, and avalanche rescue skills under the supervision of our certified guides and instructors.
You’ll learn to read terrain beyond the surface level, understand snow conditions, and use weather forecasts to guide your decision-making when traveling in and around avalanche terrain. You’ll also learn how to look closely at the snow itself with the help of your guide, using a magnifying glass to show you the composition of the crystals, how they change over time within the snowpack, and what that means for avalanche safety.
After taking your AIARE 1, it’s time to start using your knowledge and skillset out in the field.
Step 2: Get Comfortable on Your Home Turf
Tahoe is renowned for its abundance of accessible backcountry ski terrain, and the peaks that make up the perimeter of the lake itself make for the ideal training ground for out-of-bounds adventurers. Whether you’re hiring a private ski guide with Alpenglow or planning trips and dropping lines on your own time, it’s important that you feel comfortable operating on your home turf before joining an international ski expedition.
From there, we recommend moving on to our Backcountry 2.0 to continue building your advanced tour planning and leadership skills. We also recommend joining an AIARE Rescue course to dial your avalanche rescue skills. Moving forward, it’s time to start thinking about Step 3 and elevating your knowledge to the next level.
This 1-day, 8-hour course is designed for those who are looking to explore steeper, more exposed terrain and dive into the world of ski mountaineering. You’ll learn how to safely approach bigger, more demanding lines while adding non-standard tools like an ice ax, crampons, and harnesses to your touring tool kit.
These skills are critical to help you gain both confidence and competence as you progress in your mountain career towards an international ski expedition. As you continue to gain altitude, more peaks will glaciated, and these essential skills will help you safely navigate technical terrain. These techniques will be the key to moving onto Step 4.
Step 4: Join us on Mt. Shasta or in the High Sierra Backcountry
With 4,000 ft. of incredible skiing over glaciated terrain, Mt. Shasta’s 3-Day West Face Ski Trip is perfect to start your ski-mountaineering journey while getting to summit a beautiful stratovolcano in the Southern Cascades just a short distance from Lake Tahoe.
To support your ski descent, all Alpenglow clients have access to our premier logistics team available before, during, and after your expedition. Between all our guides, we collectively have hundreds of ascents on Mt. Shasta and unmatched knowledge of the routes and mountain conditions. Come ski with the best guides in the business for 3 days of high adventure, education, and fantastic turns on Mt. Shasta.
Thinking of something more remote? At Alpenglow Expeditions, we love the feeling of smallness we experience in the mountains, and there’s nowhere you’re more likely to get that feeling than on our High Sierra Backcountry Tour. To access this terrain, skiers should be confident skiing in no-fall zones, and it gives us the opportunity to find terrain that will require you to bring your harness and crampons to either bootpack or rappel into the drop zone. When you’re walled in by 14,000 ft. peaks, standing atop a steep couloir about to drop in on the line of your life, it’s easy to understand why the Range of Light attracts skiers from around the world.
With such a wide selection of some of the longest vertical runs in the country, tackling the lines of the West Face of Mt. Shasta or the High Sierra is the ideal last step before joining an international ski expedition in Step 5.
Step 5: Head Overseas to Chile, Ecuador, or the Himalaya
On our Chile Backcountry Ski Adventure, multiple accessible volcanoes with wide-open ski terrain offer the perfect opportunity to ease into the world of international backcountry skiing. Beautiful mountains, relaxing hot springs, and a rich, unique blend of cultures await the ambitious skier ready to take their skills to the next level. Better yet, we understand the difficulties of taking time off from work and home life to chase our mountain dreams. To make this as efficient and accessible as possible, we run this expedition door-to-door in just 9 days.
On the Ecuador Ring of Fire Ski Expedition, those looking to push into the world of high-altitude ski mountaineering will find no better opportunity to hone their skills. At just shy of 19,000 ft., Volcán Cayambe (18,996’/5,790m) is our main objective. Here we can learn basic glacier travel and roped team skills, companion rescue, and advanced skinning techniques at the base before heading up to the summit and skiing down beautiful glaciated terrain.
For those who have a bit more time and are keen to tack on two more amazing summits while our bodies are still acclimatized, our expedition extension will continue on to ski Cotopaxi (19,347’/5,897m) and Chimborazo (20,564′/6,268m), the second-tallest and tallest peaks in Ecuador, respectively.
The Mera Peak Ski Expedition is for those with prior experience at altitude and use of ice axes and crampons. There is hardly a better way to experience the Himalayas than on skis, and Mera Peak is the perfect mountain for it. The scale of the Himalaya will draw your focus and force you to keep your senses sharp and your wits about you, essential skills for the advanced backcountry skier looking to evolve into a ski mountaineer. Carve perfect turns on deep and steep terrain in the world’s tallest mountain range.
Building your skillset in the mountains is all about careful and intentional progression. Regardless of your starting point, we are here as a resource to help you build on the knowledge you already have while introducing you to new concepts and skills that will take you to the top of peaks you may have never thought possible.
Thinking of going on a ski expedition and curious about where to start? Looking to learn, grow, and join a welcoming international community of backcountry skiers and riders? At Alpenglow Expeditions, we are proud to offer a full range of courses and expeditions to help you evolve from novice to expert under the guidance and supervision of our certified guides, instructors, and expedition leaders. Give us a call at 877-873-5376 or send an email to info@alpenglowexpeditions to chat with our staff about what courses and expeditions might be right for you.