AGL Skill



4 days


1 : 4

Equipment List

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$2,150 NZD


Backcountry Avalanche Course

The 4 day Backcountry Avalanche Course is New Zealand's best introduction to avalanche safety skills and back country travel. The course is for recreational snowboarders and skiers who want to stay safe touring in uncontrolled terrain.

Our big difference from other recreational avalanche courses is being based in the Mount Cook/Mackenzie Region. This central South Island location offers some the best heliski terrain, and the most reliable slack-country in NZ. 

You will cover both theory and practical snow & avalanche safety before heading deep into the mountains for a heliski run/tour -  to experience how avalanche professionals assess the snowpack in big-mountain terrain.

Backcountry Course Advantages:

Alpine Guides' Backcountry Course has serious advantages over similar recreational backcountry trips. The quality of our terrain and experience of our professional guides is unparalleled.

  • This is the only course providing access to big-mountain heliski terrain terrain

  • Professional, current mountain and ski guides, with year-round international experience

  • The course venue is mountain terrain, offering a diverse snow pack, allowing for greater learning opportunities

  • We provide a relaxed learning environment without the pressures of formal assessment

  • Weather contingency day


What You Will Learn

At the conclusion of the course you will have an understanding of snow safety and avalanche hazard. You will also receive certification ratified and accepted by the NZ Mountain Safety Council. This can be used as a prerequisite for possible future professional snow-industry training courses.

Topics include:

  • Snowpack interpretation; layers, stability tests, variation over time and area

  • Search & Rescue; avalanche dynamics, survival strategies, transceivers, probing, recovery, case studies

  • Terrain interpretation; route finding to avoid avalanche hazard

  • Weather systems; mountain weather interpretation, observations

  • Equipment: what to take, the latest gear and its application

  • Touring technique (skinning & cramponing)

  • Trip planning and preparation

What's included?

Course fees includes:

  • 4 days tuition

  • Local transport to ski areas and helipad

  • Hut fees /local accommodation

  • Helicopter transport in and out (for any heliski run access)

  • All meals, from lunch on day one to lunch on day 4

  • Free use of a range technical equipment

  • Back Country Avalanche Resource Pack

  • Alpine Guides Technical Manual

  • NZ Mountain Safety Council Certification

  • One day weather contingency day

Scheduled courses are limited to a maximum of 4 participants and are ideal for individuals to join.

Private Backcountry Courses

Private courses are perfect for small groups of friends. We can arrange private courses throughout winter, for one or more people. The start date can be arranged to suit your schedule, subject to guide availability. Please contact us to discuss your start dates.

Guide availability is limited in August and September. Please book well in advance.

Private course inclusions are the same as the Scheduled option.

Experience Required

Some backcountry skiing/riding experience is preferred, but not essential.

You must be be:

  • Strong intermediate (or better) skier/snowboarder

  • Prepared to ski/ride in alpine terrain with a small backpack

A working knowledge of weather systems and avalanche beacons is also useful, but not necessary. Our low instructor/participant ratio allows us to accommodate a range of experience levels.

We encourage snowboarders to use split-board gear, whenever possible, for faster transitions and easier uphill travel.

The course will immerse you in an intensive backcountry experience under the tutelage of some of New Zealand’s leading mountain and heliski guides.

Backcountry Avalanche Course Details

+ Minimum Bookings on Scheduled Courses

In the unusual situation with only one person booked, rather than cancel a trip we can run the same program for NZ$3,775. The course content is unaffected.

Alternatively you have the option to cancel for a full refund, or transfer to another date without penalty.

We will keep you informed if other bookings have not been made inside a month of departure

+ Course Organisation/Schedule

The day-to-day program will vary according to snow conditions and prevailing weather. By maintaining a flexible approach, the guides will make the best use of each day - working around the weather and snow conditions to provide the best teaching environment.

We reserve the right to modify each course to suit weather, conditions, and group dynamics.

This means the format for each course will be unique, in terms of the number of nights based in the mountains, and at other training venues. For example an overnight tour including tent camping/snow caving may be included.

Day 1: Meet in Mt Cook at Alpine Guide office at 08:30. You will review the course outline, and discuss the current snow conditions and likely weather.

After an equipment sort, we run an introductory workshop and lectures on snow stability basics and transceivers. We travel to Ohau Ski Area and stay at Ohau Lodge with an evening lecture.

Day 2: Field day in Ohau Ski Area area backcountry for terrain and snowpack analysis, introduction to stability tests.

Day 3: Extended Fieldwork with a tour deep into the backcountry of the ski area. Theory includes avalanche rescue techniques, introduction to terrain analysis. Return to Mt Cook Village that evening.

Day 4: Morning lecture with an introduction to heliski operations and run safety management, followed by a helicopter lift into the Ben Ohau Range, for touring and “heliski” run to conclude the course before debriefing.

+ Weather Contingency

A one-day weather contingency is built into the trip (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 particularly bad weather forecast when you arrive to start the trip, we can take the option of rolling the start date back by one day. This allows us to take best advantage of upcoming fine weather, and your time.

+ MSC Certification & the Backcountry Course

The Backcountry Course includes the syllabus for the NZ Mountain Safety Council Recreational Avalanche Course. On completion we will provide you with a basic MSC certificate of completion.

Whilst our course is aimed at the recreational back country traveler, it can be used as a prerequisite for possible future professional snow-industry training courses.

+ What you need to provide

  • Equipment and clothing as detailed
  • Lift passes at ski areas (if required) - these can be purchased on the day

+ Ski Touring and Snowboard Hire

You should hire your ski touring or backcountry snowboard rig prior to arrival. We have a handful of sets of aging gear - for emergency hire only!


Wanaka - MT Outdoors

Queenstown - Small Planet


+ Equipment and Clothing

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

Our gear lists cater for all eventualities. Sometimes you may not require everything on the equipment list your guide will help you sort though your kit at the start of your trip. Weather and mountain conditions when your trip starts will help determine what is needed.

Temperatures, weather, and snow conditions will vary. The gear list is designed to work around these possibilities.

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