Alaska Ski/Snowboard Mountaineering

Leadership & Guide Training Course
(12 & 20 days)

After setting up your first base camp on a glacier outside of Haines, Alaska, it is difficult to do anything other than stand in awe at the steep jagged mountains and their massive scale, daydreaming of their endless potential for exciting ski descents and steep alpine climbing routes. On an IWLS ski/snowboard mountaineering or helicopter skiing course in Alaska, these dreams become reality.

The mountains surrounding Haines and Skagway receive the greatest annual snowfall on the planet. Neighboring Mount Fairweather receives over 1,000 inches (25.4m) of snow annually. The epic terrain and massive snowfall make this area the premiere ski mountaineering location in North America.

This course is a true skiing/snowboarding expedition into the heart of the terrain that Alaska is so well known for. You’ll have a chance to plan and lead a day of backcountry skiing, dig a hasty avalanche pit, and don crampons and ice axes for a steep, seventy degree climb to the summit. Most likely, you’ll experience face shots galore as you ski a 2,000 foot (600m) headwall and have a chance to enjoy an evening ski during the long Alaskan days. Students have the opportunity to step into a leadership role, learn and teach avalanche transceiver use to their peers, and enjoy some of the best skiing on earth! After an IWLS Ski/Snowboard Mountaineering course in Alaska, you’ll walk away not only with memories of a lifetime, but the technical skills, avalanche awareness, and confidence as a leader to succeed no matter where life leads you, be it the backcountry or the boardroom.

THE INSTRUCTORS AND GUIDES OF IWLS are widely recognized as some of the very best in their field and have practical leadership experience from around the globe. They are well trained and have an uncommon enthusiasm for sharing their skill and knowledge, borne out of a passion for outdoor exploration.

The International Wilderness Leadership Schools’ educational model nurtures leadership development and creates an awareness of the guiding mentality that is essential for leading safe, fun adventures in the mountains. The combination of technical skills training, experiential education and practical leadership experience make the IWLS curriculum world class.

THE IWLS GENERAL CURRICULUM outlines the essential components for effective outdoor leadership. Here are a few points that the course will focus on.

  • Decision Making and Problem Solving: Over the duration of the course, we’ll discover ways to assess problems, explore solutions and evaluate options in order to make effective and safe decisions in the field.
  • Navigation: Learn how to take a bearing, read a topographical map, triangulate your position, or navigate in a whiteout.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Safety is always the #1 consideration. As the course progresses, you’ll develop an awareness to appropriately asses risk and make safe decisions.
  • Trip Planning: The first day of course is devoted to planning, packing, and organizing the logistics, food, and equipment for the expedition.

-Bryan Hinderberger

IWLS MOUNTAINEERING CURRICULUM is built from countless expeditions in Alaska and around the world. You’ll learn how to be a competent and proficient mountaineer in a variety of different environments. Below are some topics we’ll cover.

  • Belaying: Should we use a fixed belay or a running belay? Our team will learn and practice the finer points of different belay techniques such as the hip belay, running belay, boot axe belay, fixed belay, and more!
  • Ascending: Fixed lines are an important tool for large groups and guiding applications. We’ll learn how to efficiently use, build and maintain them.
  • Rope Teams: Rope team travel is a complicated endeavor that requires skill, technique and teamwork. We’ll cover everything from prussic arrangement to team management.
  • Objective Hazards: Rock fall, river crossings, and avalanches are examples of objective hazards. Learn how to identify such hazards and minimize group exposure.

-Ben Williams

IWLS SKIING CURRICULUM is developed for riders at or above the advanced intermediate level. Here are some points that will be covered during your course:

  • Site Selection: Learn how to choose the appropriate terrain and identify hazards to facilitate a safe, fun time in the mountains.
  • Snow Conditions: Whether skiing deep powder, spring corn, or breakable crust, learn how to identify variable conditions and employ different techniques to enjoy them safely.
  • Glacier Travel on Skis: When to rope up? How to read crevasse danger? How to ski safely on a rope team? All of these questions will be answered as we travel, ski, and board across icefields.
  • Routefinding: Both descents and ascents demand good routefinding skills. You’ll develop your hazard assessment and navigation skills to be able to find the safest, most efficient route.

IWLS AVALANCHE CURRICULUM is a nationally recognized progression of material that prepares students to be safe backcountry travelers.

  • Avalanche Characteristics: We’ll examine loose snow, wet snow, soft slab, and hard slab avalanches along with some potential triggers. You’ll learn the definition of terms such as stauchwall, alpha angle, and bed surface.
  • Snow Stability Evaluation: Is this snow capable of avalanching? Learn tests such as compression test and rutschblock test that will help you evaluate layers within the snowpack. Develop your documentation skills for accurate recording and analysis of information.
  • Safe Winter Travel: As a group, we will travel safely through avalanche terrain. Considerations will include cornices, equipment selection, route finding, campsite selection, and effective communication.
  • Avalanche Rescue: Someone buried in an avalanche has an 87% chance of survival if found within the first fifteen minutes. We’ll practice using probes, beacons, and effective search patterns in order to quickly and efficiently find a buried person.

EXPERIENCE LEVEL IWLS requires that students have, at minimum, advanced intermediate skiing or snowboarding skills.

CERTIFICATIONS Upon completion of the course, participants may qualify for the following certifications:

Level 1 Avalanche Certification*
International Wilderness Leadership School


Guide Training Certificate of Completion
International Wilderness Leadership School

*Dependent on weather and season

DATES & PRICES Please see our schedule for current dates and price information.