2012 Backcountry Skills Course Trip Report

All of us at Sawtooth Mountain Guides are passionate about backcountry skiing, and we love sharing this passion with others and helping them gain the skills to venture out into wild, untracked terrain. We just wrapped up this winter’s Backcountry Skills Course at the Williams Peak Hut, and boy did we nail the conditions! (See photos below…)

We had an excellent group of participants including AT skiers, tele-shredders, and a split-boarder. After getting packed up at the trailhead and going over some introductory equipment, beacon, and avalanche safety topics, we began the hike into the Williams Peak Hut. Snow cover is pretty lean at the lower elevations, but the depth increased as we climbed and it became apparent things were going to be good. Arriving at the hut, we did some beacon practice, ate dinner, and learned more avalanche safety concepts.

We awoke to 8 inches of fluffy new powder, and after practicing realistic avalanche rescue scenarios, we headed up for some turns. As we climbed, we covered track setting and skinning techniques, safe travel, and route finding. In a snowpit, we confirmed that we had decent stability and felt good sticking to our initial plan of skiing slopes 35 degrees and under. After discussing downhill techniques and skiing one at a time, we all did what we love to – shred powder!

That evening, we learned the proper items to carry in your pack without getting weighed down, and how to manage common backcountry equipment malfunctions. After a good evening of camaraderie, we all retired to bed…only to awake to bluebird skies!

After discussing the day’s trip plan in our small touring groups, we embarked on a participant-led tour for more powder. The skills covered were put to use, and of course we skied more powder under sunny skies!

Fantastic folks and incredible early season conditions made for a wonderful course, and we hope everyone came away with some new skills to enjoy the backcountry safely!