Backcountry Adventures to Extend Your Season

Self-powered backcountry experiences require a bit of know-how and a lot of let's-go. These guides have the know-how covered, so grab your let's-go and take back your winter.

It might feel like life has been cancelled for the moment, but let’s focus on the few things that haven’t been called off. Like winter storms. Yes, snow is still in the forecast, and just might be headed to a mountain near you.

That said, even though backcountry skiing hasn’t been cancelled, the guides that help us access it might be, so be sure to call ahead and see what the outfitters’ policies are during this uncertain time. Or start making plans for next winter. All of these trips are self-propelled, no heli or snowcat operations included. Just you and the great white expanse. We can’t think of anything we could use more right now.

SKI Magazine editor Jon Jay on a backcountry guided tour in Sun Valley, Idaho
Taking a walk in Idaho’s Sawtooth MountainsPhoto credit: Keri Bascetta

Spearhead Mountain Guides, Whistler, B.C. 

Whistler, B.C. and the surrounding area offer way more adventure than what’s available with a lift ticket and a chairlift. The folks at Spearhead Mountain Guides will take you beyond the ropes and into the spectacular expanse of Garibaldi Provincial Park. Day trips and multi-day tours are available for intermediates and above.

Backcountry Adventure Center, Sugar Bowl, Calif.

These folks offer over a dozen backcountry skills programs out of their headquarters at Sugar Bowl. From one-day tours to avalanche education, skiers intermediate level and up should hook up with these guides for in-depth tours and education in the Tahoe backcountry.

Alpenglow Guided Backcountry Tours, Squaw Alpine, Calif.

Designed for high intermediates and up, Alpenglow’s tours guides skiers into the backcountry terrain just outside of Squaw Alpine’s boundary, specifically into zones such as Nat Geo Bowl, Munchkins, and Tram Ridge. Participants should be comfortable skinning or hiking for at least one hour.

North American Ski Training Center, Truckee, Calif.

These guys run everything from one-day introductory courses to multi-day ascents of Mount Shasta. If you’re a backcountry novice itching for experience, this is the place to start. They’re taking reservation for the 2020-21 season for their AIARE Level 1 courses, so don’t miss out.

Sierra Mountain Center, Bishop, Calif.

Bypass the resort altogether by hitting the Sierra backcountry. The Sierra Mountain Center runs backcountry trips throughout the winter, from introductory courses to more advanced tours to avalanche training. Trips run well into spring, which around here is legendary for snow, snow, and more snow.

Aspen Alpine Guides, Aspen, Colo.

Sign up for guided day trips, guided ascents, and intro to backcountry courses in the plentiful terrain in the Aspen area. Aspen Alpine Guides offers intermediate to advanced terrain from the Maroon Creek trails to Sopris Mountain. 

Backcountry Babes, Breckenridge, Colo.

These highly popular backcountry courses are for women looking to get into the backcountry in a less testosterone-filled climate. Now offering programs all over the globe, Backcountry Babes teaches everything from skiing skills to building snow shelters to rescue and avalanche procedures.

Sawtooth Mountain Guides, Sun Valley, Idaho

Hook up with Sawtooth Mountain Guides (SMG) for a trip through the Sawtooth Hut System and sample the amazing vertical around the Williams Peak yurt. The outfit offers guided trips for varying abilities, from the mellow terrain of Galena to ventures deep into the Sawtooth Mountains.

Appalachian Mountain Club, Pinkham Notch, N.H.

The AMC is the keeper of Eastern backcountry, and Pinkham Notch is the epicenter of the East’s most extreme terrain, with Tuckerman Ravine and the Gulf of Slides a short slog from AMC’s headquarters there. AMC’s Backcountry Ski Camp is designed for skiers who feel more comfortable with locked heels. Check the schedule in Fall 2020 for next winter’s programming dates. 

Wallowa Alpine Huts, Joseph, Ore.

The Wing Ridge and Big Sheep huts both offer access to both gentler and rowdier ski terrain with glades, bowls, and a burn area from forest fires back in the late 1980s. The Wing Ridge hut has a new kitchen yurt and a sauna, to boot. Snowmobile porter is available at Big Sheep; a guide to lead groups in is on offer at Wing Ridge.

Red River Adventures, Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

Guided skiing in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyon is on offer here, with Classic Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced tours that last about six hours and visit some tried-and-true spots in the region such as Silver Fork, Cardiac, White Pine, and Red Pine. Tours cover some 3,000 to 5,000 feet of climbing for intermediate tours and 5,000 to 8,000 feet of climbing for advanced tours. Red River also teaches AIARE Level 1 and 2 courses.

Utah Mountain Adventures, Salt Lake City, Utah

Imagine all that light, fluffy Utah powder in an untouched bowl the size of Guam just for you and a handful of friends to enjoy. Let Utah Mountain Adventures be your guide through the legendary Wasatch Mountain backcountry. With introductory, lift-accessed, wilderness, and custom backcountry tours, they can accommodate almost any trip you can think of. Turning skills in variable conditions are a must.

Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, Stowe, Vt.

Sign on for a six-hour Backcountry Ski Tour of Stowe’s exceptional backcountry terrain with Umiak, a longtime local shop. Umiak’s guides offer tours that focus on the instructional element of backcountry skiing, including getting used to the equipment, safety gear, and learning safety protocols.

Teton Backcountry Guides, Jackson, Wyo.

With a Teton Pass home base that serves up thousands of acres of challenging backcountry acres, Teton Backcountry Guides offers open bowls, glades, and all the untouched powder you can dream up. The outfitter also guides in Grand Teton National Park and the Targhee backcountry, serving up both single and multi-day experiences. 

Exum Mountain Guides, Jackson, Wyo.

One of the premier guiding services in the Jackson Hole region, Exum offers a wide ranging of programming, from family options to Grand Teton summits. Winter camps and clinics include a women’s-only backcountry camp, a Backcountry Immersion three-day clinic, and several levels of mountaineering clinics to learn new skills and brush up on the latest safety protocols.

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