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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 Awareness Certificate.

The Backcountry Travel Course is longer than a standard Avalanche Awareness 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: Meet at 7.00pm for a 3 hour lecture and slide show on the avalanche phenomenon.

Field days: Meet at ski area at 9am. Full day at Remarkables Ski field. The field days will finish at 5.00 pm


Evening Lecture

Meet at 7.00pm at the Queenstown Mountain Guides Office for a 3 hour lecture and slide show on the avalanche phenomenon.

Day 1

Meet at ski area at 9am. 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

Meet at ski area at 9.00am. 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 August



  • 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 $40 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.

Ski touring equipment and split boards can be hired from Small Planet Outdoors, 17 Shotover St, Queenstown. For snowboarders Queenstown Mountain Guides rents snow shoes for $20 per day that can be used as an alternative to a split board setup.

Guide to participant ratios

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

Skier coming down steep slope
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