Winter Mountain Skills Course | Details for winter 2018


The 4-day Winter Mountain Skills course is based out of the serious alpine setting of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. The course is designed for trampers/hikers who want to learn the skills to travel safely on foot, above the snow line in winter – and to be able to cope should best laid plans unravel...

Winter presents unique challenges backcountry adventurers. Familiar territory can quickly transform under a deep blanket of snow. Unexpected storms can leave you blinded and exposed to energy sapping, and potentially fatal cold.

Will the route you expected to take be safe? Will that slope avalanche? Can you get to the next hut before dark? What happens if the weather closes in and you can’t navigate your way out?

Experience Required

Previous alpine climbing experience is not required. The most important prerequisite is a high level of aerobic fitness. You also need to be enthusiastic and keen to learn new skills. A solid hiking/tramping background is perfect.

What You Will Learn

Safe enjoyment of the winter backcountry depends to a large measure upon good judgement, technique, and your equipment. Our professional IFMGA/NZMGA guides will help you develop skills by spending time and training in the real classroom of the high alpine environment.

By the end of the course you will have the skills and confidence to travel above the snow line during winter. You will better understand when not to go, and to increase your survival chances should the situation turn bad.


Tailored to your requirements

Because all Winter Skills courses are privately arranged, we will tailor the content to suit your prior experience and aspirations, to ensure you achieve your objectives.

Instruction topics include:

  • Equipment & clothing for winter - what to bring and how to use it
  • Axe, crampon, and snowshoeing technique
  • Route finding & terrain traps
  • Snow shelter construction
  • Mountain weather forecasting
  • Navigation
  • Introduction to snow safety and avalanche assessment
  • First Aid/dealing with hypothermia


Skills you should have after the course:

  • Confidence traveling on snow using snow shoes or crampons
  • Ability to construct emergency snow shelters
  • Self Arrest
  • Avoid /treat hypothermia
  • Identify avalanche risks
  • Navigation in a white-out
  • Use an avalanche transceiver
Prices | Winter 2017

All prices are per-person, in New Zealand Dollars


  • Guiding fees
  • Alpine Guides Technical Manual 
  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars) 
  • Hut fees
  • Local transport 
  • A range technical equipment 
  • Local accommodation for any nights necessary during the course (and the final night)

Booking a Course

Winter Skills courses can be arranged at any time over the winter months (July - October).

You can choose dates and we will confirm a guide, subject to availability. Please contact us to discuss your travel plans. 

Reporting Details

All courses begin at 08:30 and finish at 17:00 on the final day. Please report to Alpine Guides office in Mount Cook Village ›

Check transport options to Mount Cook Village.

Course Venue | Winter Mountain Skills

A number of venues are available for the course location. If conditions are safe for travel on foot the location of choice is Mueller Hut, at 1,830 metres in the Sealy Range above Mount Cook Village. Being close to our base in Mount Cook Village, along with all the advantages of a modern mountain hut make it an excellent location to work from.

Other venues are available approximately 1.5 hours by road. Road travel costs to local areas are covered in the course fees.

Read more about mountain hut living conditions.

Course Daily Organisation

The course is designed to work around changing weather and snow conditions, so each Winter Mountain Skills courses is unique.

This course is about dealing with bad weather scenarios, so we will be able to get into the mountains in all but the worst weather. The hike to your mountain venue will involve instruction in snow safety and route selection.

During the course you cover map reading and navigation topics, study mountain weather, basic snow safety, avalanche awareness, and avalanche rescue. Some theoretical topics can be covered in the evenings, or indoors if the weather does not allow travel outside.

Time will be spent on construction of show shelters. You can bivvy overnight in a snow shelter, if you wish (and conditions allow). This is entirely optional.

Your guide will provide cooking stoves and fuel. Each person is expected to carry a share of food and cooking equipment, and to assist with preparing meals. We will provide eating utensils.

Weather Contingency

A one-day weather contingency is built into the course (at no cost to you). Please allow some flexibility in your travel plans to allow for this.

How the contingency works

If we face a bad weather forecast when you start the course, we can take the option of rolling back the start date by one day. This will allow us to take advantage of upcoming fine weather, and make the most your time.

Footwear for Winter Mountain Skills

Winter Mountain Skills requires fully-shanked alpine boots. If you do not own appropriate boots we have these available to rent.

Read more about the correct boots for your Winter Mountain Skills Course on our Gear Guide.

We have a range of crampons, which fit practically all boots.

Equipment and Clothing

Please let us know what gear you need to rent - including any equipment supplied free of charge.

Choosing your clothing | Seasonal Variation

Our gear lists cater for all eventualities. Sometimes you may not require everything on the equipment list. Weather and conditions when your trip starts will help determine what is needed.

Always pack for cold conditions on the Winter Mountain Skills course. A 4-season sleeping bag, down jacket, and heavy grade thermal layers are required.

Temperatures, weather, and snow conditions will vary. The program is designed to work around these changes.

Read more about seasonality, weather, and snow conditions here.

Make a Booking

Book online here using a credit card or by bank deposit.

  • Please ensure you have talked to us about guide availability.
  • We require a deposit of NZ$1,000 and completed booking form for each person.