Ski Mountaineering Course (SMC) Details | winter 2018


The SMC is Alpine Guides' premier big mountain ski program. The 6-day trip is based deep in the glaciated mountains of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, generally in the Tasman Saddle area. With 3 huts and endless ski options, this is New Zealand’s best ski mountaineering playground.

Although called a "course" the SMC is not about standing around in a classroom. On the Ski Mountaineering Course you learn by doing. What can be achieved depends on your experience, fitness, and tenacity, and we tailor each trip to suit the team. This can be descents from major peaks, big faces, couloirs, or long, long cruises.

Safety in the mountains is our primary concern, and snow conditions at the time will ultimately dictate which lines are possible.

Our experienced IFMGA/NZMGA guides intimate knowledge of the area is unsurpassed. Being full-time in Mount Cook, Alpine Guides’ logistical support is unbeatable.

As well as the amazing big-mountain lines, our guides will help you to develop your technique, taking you to a new personal level of backcountry skiing, avalanche safety, route-finding, and general mountain awareness.

Some of the trips can include:
  • Ski from Hochsetter Dome
  • Murchison Headwall descent to Murchison Hut
  • Mt Hamilton, Bonney Glacier, and Turnbull Glaciers (700 m + lines)
  • Starvation Saddle and Mannering Glacier, Mount Cooper (800 m + lines)
  • Elie De Beaumont at 3,109 metres (1,000 m +)

The options are endless for adventurous skiers.

Each trip flies in and out from our base huts, this maximises your time in the mountains.

Experience Required

The SMC is designed to accommodate a range of abilities. Previous high-alpine mountaineering , or ski mountaineering experience is not essential. Our guides know the terrain intimately and will show your group the best lines. There are challenges aplenty.

Experts and experienced ski mountaineers should consider booking a private Ski Mountaineering program.


  • High level of aerobic fitness 
  • Strong-intermediate to advanced skier (ski black and double black ski area runs, in control - with confidence)
  • Experience skiing with a backpack is useful

The Aoraki Mount Cook area has a huge amount of scope for touring. See our Alpine Ski Touring package for details on a more laid-back trip.

Instruction topics

The safe enjoyment of the winter mountain environment depends to a large measure upon sound judgment, safe technique, and using the right equipment correctly.

The instruction aspect of the SMC will be taught as much as possible in the field, as required.

Topics covered can include:
  • Glacier travel and crevasse rescue
  • Route finding & terrain analysis
  • Navigation
  • Emergency shelters
  • Avalanche hazard evaluation
  • Uphill skinning technique
  • Mountain weather and forecasting
  • Hut management

Price and Inclusions | SMC 2018

Cost: NZ$3,275 per person


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

Maximum and Minimum Bookings

All scheduled SMCs are limited to a maximum of 4 participants. The maximum guide to participant ratio is 1:4.

Minimum bookings on scheduled trips

We guarantee to run the course you are booked on, with the following modifications:

  • 2 people only: we shorten the course to 5 days
  • 1 person only: we shorten the course to 5 days, and an additional fee of NZ$750 will apply. Alternately we will give you the option of re-scheduling to another date/trip

Private Ski Mountaineering Courses

Private Ski Mountaineering Courses are ideal for expert skiers and advanced ski mountaineers looking to lift their game to new levels. We can cater for a private group at any level of experience.

Advantages of Private Trips
  • Dates arranged to fit your schedule (depending on guide availability) any time over the winter months (July – early October)
  • From one person, up to 8 people
  • Tailored to your experience and aspirations
Private SMC pricing 2018

Price is based on a recommended 6-day option. All rates are per-person and in New Zealand Dollars

Reporting Details

Unless otherwise agreed, all SMC’s begin at 08:30 and finish at 17:00 on the final day. Please report to Alpine Guides office in Mt Cook Village

Also, see transport options to Mount Cook Village .

Mountain Venue

The SMC is based out of remote mountain huts, usually either at the head of the Tasman or Murchison Glaciers.

In order to optimise time available, the course will fly in and out.

Some trips may opt to take camping/bivvy gear if the forecast allows, and as objectives dictate.

Depending on weather and conditions, we reserve the right to modify the trip and use other venues. This can include Pioneer Hut at the head of the Fox Glacier or Centennial Hut at the head of the Franz Josef Glacier.

Read more about mountain hut living conditions.

SMC Itinerary / Organisation

When dealing with a dynamic mountain environment it is not realistic to plan fixed day-to-day schedules. Instead we work around prevailing weather and snow conditions to provide the best use of your time as possible. There is no typical day on an SMC, each trip is unique, and every day offers a new adventure.

On the first morning you will meet your teammates and guide at our base in Mt Cook. You will learn about the current snow conditions and discuss plans for the week.

After an equipment check, you fly in at the first possible opportunity. Expect to be in the mountains for up to 5 nights of the trip.

The first few days typically involve easier descents, letting your guide assess your technique, and allowing for more instruction. As you progress the focus shifts more to ascents, and big descents - putting to good use the skills you are developing.

Days begin at around 07:00, or earlier. The day's activities will have you out for 8 to 10 hours. Your guide will attempt to maximise all fine weather and good conditions.

On any poor weather days expect to cover theory and use instruction venues closer to the hut.

We aim to have you back in Mount Cook village by mid-afternoon on the final day. After 6 days of remarkable skiing and incredible descents there will be a few tales to tell over dinner at a local watering hole.

Egress from the mountains

The cost of flying out is included in the price, and almost all SMC's fly out of the mountains. It maximises time on skis, and avoids an arduous trip that must be done inside the course time.

You will likely ski down the length of the Tasman Glacier for a low elevation aircraft pickup (ski plane or helicopter).

Read more about air transport here.

 De La Beche Ridge - photo by Dave Sproule

De La Beche Ridge - photo by Dave Sproule

Ski Touring and Snowboard Gear 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!


Equipment and Clothing | SMC

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 SMC. 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 Now

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

  • For private bookings, 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.