Commonly Asked Questions
Guided Backcountry Skiing
- Can I join an organized group to lower the fees of the day?
- Does elevated avalanche danger make guided backcountry ski outings dangerous or susceptible to cancellation?
When avalanche danger rises we shift operations to areas with moderate slopes. When off of and away from slopes 30° and steeper, avalanches are generally not possible. We rarely need to cancel trips but we often shift venues that are more suitable for daily conditions. One situation which can limit a trip’s departure for individuals who are staying in Little Cottonwood Canyon, is if Inter-lodge is declared as the result of a large snow event, which prevents all individuals from going outside.
- Do I need to take an avalanche course to participate in a guided backcountry ski tour?
No, we are able to brief participants to an acceptable level of competence for touring on the day of the outing. The terrain which guides choose to utilize on the day may be due to, or at least partly, the competency of the participant overall though. For more committing objectives participants may need to display competency prior.
- What is involved in ski touring? Can I use my resort ski set-up?
Ski touring requires the use skis with touring bindings and skins to travel uphill. Alpine ski equipment, as is most commonly used at ski areas, is not suitable. None of our tours are suitable by boot-packing or using snowshoes as a means of travel.
- Do you run ski tours that start from the lifts?
Sometimes. If it makes sense with conditions we can use ski lifts to start some of the ski tours we do from Alta and Brighton Resorts. We generally only ride the lifts up once, for access purposes, though. Lift use is not included in the cost of our guided services but at Alta we have access passes available at a discounted rate and at Brighton, single-ride lift tickets are sold Mon-Thurs outside holiday periods. Backcountry ski runs that are accessed from the ski areas using gravity only are limited at Utah resorts. For those that only want to ski/ride downhill we recommend a Cat or Heli ski trip.
- How many runs will I get on a tour?
This depends on the specific touring area/objective, the fitness and experience of the group, and their acclimatization. We measure the quantity of skiing by overall vertical feet climbed or skied, which over the course of a day can average between ~1200' and 7500' or more. Overall vertical can be in a single descent or split up by several runs. Historically, a group in reasonable fitness, who are new to touring can expect around 2600' of vertical, cumulatively, over two to three runs. Some tours may have a net gain in descent numbers if a tour starts at a higher elevation than it finishes, such as when lifts or car shuttles are used.
- Do you guide and instruct snowboarders?
Absolutely, as long as a split-board is used. Split-boards are available for rent locally. We tend to use the word ski, to mean skiing and snowboarding.
- Do you rent equipment?
We rent avalanche safety (beacon, shovel, probe) and ski touring equipment to our guided clients only. If you need equipment provided, simply select what you need in the online booking process. Of note, we do not rent split-boards.
- Do you need to use ski touring equipment on your Snowmobile-Accessed ski tours?
Yes. On these trips we use snowmobiles to get to remote areas to ski tour. We do not use snowmobiles as a means of taking skis runs by shuttling people to the top of slopes for ski runs.
- Utah's mountains aren't that high, will the altitude effect me?
Many people have a misconception that the altitude will not affect their performance while ski touring in Utah because they haven't had big issues while resort skiing here in the past, even coming from sea level. The reality is that ski touring is much more cardio-intensive than resort skiing and that the altitude WILL affect your performance, regardless of whether you feel sick or not. The question is more, how significant of an effect it has. To make the most of your time out with us, we recommend not ski touring with us on the first day or two of your trip and getting to altitude at the resorts first. This is particularly true if you live close to sea level and have not been at altitude previously for two weeks or longer, or if you live at altitude, having been near sea level for three to four weeks or longer.
-What elevations do you ski at?
7,000' - 11,500'
- Do I need ski touring experience to take a Level I Avalanche Course?
At a minimum, we ask individuals to become familiar with the use of touring equipment prior to starting a course. Our Backcountry 101 course makes for a perfect introduction to skinning but we can also set up a private session if that is preferred.
- Do I need to use touring equipment on an avalanche course?
Yes. Alpine ski and snowboard equipment, or the use of snowshoes is not sufficient