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 Learn avalanche skills & backcountry travel techniques.

The Backcountry Travel Course is for recreational backcountry skiers and boarders. The focus of this course is to teach participants avalanche skills & backcountry travel techniques – proper use of backcountry equipment, navigation & route planning, group management, route setting, assessing mountain terrain for safest routes of ascent & descent, & identifying mountain & snowpack areas of concern.

As part of the course you will receive the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council Avalanche Skills Course 1 certificate.

The Backcountry Travel Course is longer than a standard Avalanche Skills Course. We spend two full days (instead of one) travelling on snow and in avalanche terrain in the Queenstown Backcountry.

Participants on this course should be able to ski/ride off piste in a variety of conditions. Backcountry travel equipment is required for this course (touring skis, split board, or snow shoes). See the equipment list for more details and where to rent gear if needed.


  • Introduction to the avalanche phenomenon – snowpack layering, triggers, avalanche types, avalanche sizes.
  • Avalanche terrain – slope angles, aspects, altitude/elevation, trigger points, terrain traps, avalanche terrain exposure scale
  • Conditions – Identifying signs of snow instability
  • Decision making
  • Safe travel techniques
  • Route finding in avalanche terrain
  • Rescue – Avalanche Transceivers, probing, shovelling technique


  • Proper use of backcountry equipment
  • Route planning
  • Assessing mountain terrain for safest route of ascent & descent
  • Identifying mountain and snowpack areas of concern
  • Efficient route setting in avalanche terrain
  • Group management ascending and descending


Remarkables backcountry, Queenstown.


Evening lecture on Friday night: Meet at 7.00pm for a 2.5 hour lecture and slide show on the avalanche phenomenon.

Field days Saturday & Sunday: Meet at ski area at 8.00am. Full day in Remarkables backcountry just outside the ski field boundary. The field day will finish at 4.00pm. We recommend leaving Queenstown no later than 7.00am to ensure getting a carpark on the ski field.


Evening lecture – Friday night

Meet at 7.00pm at the Queenstown Mountain Guides Office for a 2.5 hour lecture and slide show on the avalanche phenomenon.

Day 1 – Saturday

Meet at ski area at 8.00am. Full field day in the backcountry. Skills covered on day one will include use of backcountry travel equipment, use of avalanche rescue equipment, identifying avalanche terrain, and movement through avalanche terrain.

Day 2 – Sunday

Meet at ski area at 8.00am. On day two we do a day tour in the Queenstown backcountry. The focus will be on decision making, route finding, and safe travel techniques.



3 to 10 people
2.5 days
July to September
  • 12th – 14th July 2024
  • 26th – 28th July 2024
  • 9th – 11th Aug 2024
  • 23rd – 25th Aug 2024
  • 6th – 8th September 2024



  • Guide fees
  • Group equipment
  • MSC avalanche assessor card


  • Personal equipment & clothing
  • Ski touring skis, split board, or snow show hire
  • Lift access fees if applicable
  • Avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe (hire available for $50 for 2 days)
  • Lunch & snack food


Experience required

This course is for skiers and snow boarders. Participants need the ability to ski/ride off piste in a variety of conditions.

Before the course commences we ask that you complete the online theory course. Please see the link below.

Online theory course and quiz 

What to bring
  • Food and snacks and enough water for the day. The amount of water you will require will depend on your personal hydration habits. As a guideline we recommend a minimum of 1 litre of water.
  • A pack large enough to carry avalanche equipment as well as your spare clothing, food, and water.
  • Warm clothing, windproof jacket and pants, warm gloves, sunglasses or goggles, and sunscreen.
  • Ski touring equipment, split boarding set up, or board and snow shoes. See below for equipment hire.
  • We highly recommend ski touring or split boarding crampons for ski touring in New Zealand. These are especially useful if you are a split boarder.
Clothing & equipment

Skiing & climbing in the New Zealand mountains requires that you have high quality equipment and clothing due to the extremes of weather we experience. Please ensure you look carefully at our equipment checklist. 

It is important that you keep as close as possible to the equipment checklist. The focus is on ensuring that you have the equipment you need, but also on keeping your pack as light as possible.

Backcountry travel equipment is required for this course. Please contact Small Planet Sports located at 17 Shotover Street in Queenstown to hire ski touring equipment or Snowboard Workshop for splitboard hire
Snow shoes are available for hire from us for $25 per day as an alternative to using a split board.
Guide to participant ratios

The maximum guide to participant ratio is 6 particpants to 1 guide.

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