Ski Mountaineering Details | winter 2019


Ski Mountaineering 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.

What can be achieved depends on your experience, fitness, and tenacity, and we tailor each trip to suit the team, or individual. 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 can 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.

Experience Required

Ski Mountaineering is designed to accommodate a range of abilities. Mountaineering experience is not essential, but some previous touring in glaciated terrain is ideal. Our guides know the terrain intimately and will show your group the best lines. There are challenges aplenty.

  • 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

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.

Any instruction required will be taught as much as possible in the field, as is required.

Topics covered may include:
  • Glacier travel and crevasse rescue

  • Route finding & terrain analysis

  • Navigation

  • Emergency shelters

  • Avalanche hazard evaluation

  • Mountain weather and forecasting

  • Hut management

Prices and Inclusions

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

  • Guiding and National Park fees

  • Alpine Guides Technical Manual

  • All meals (including snacks and energy bars)

  • Aircraft access flight

  • Hut accommodation

  • Local transport

  • A range of technical equipment

  • Local accommodation for any nights necessary during the course (and the final night)

    Not Included:
  • Exit flight costs

  • Accomodation and meals outside trip dates

Reporting Details

Unless otherwise agreed, all trips 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

Ski Mountaineering 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 trip will fly in.

Some trips may opt to take camping/bivvy gear if the weather forecast and 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.

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 a Ski Mountaineering trip, 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 some instruction. As you progress the focus shifts more to ascents, and big descents.

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 some 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

Two means of egress are available at the end of the trip: walking/skiing or flying out. Flying out is by far the most common method, avoiding an arduous moraine bash.

Please - ALWAYS BUDGET FOR A FLIGHT OUT, even if you want to ski/walk out.

1. Flying out at trip end

Most Alpine Tours fly out of the mountains. It maximises time in the mountains and avoids an extremely arduous trip that must be done inside the allocated time.

The cost of flying out is ADDITIONAL to the tour fees.

  • Range of costs possible: NZ$180 to NZ$520 per-person

  • Typical average cost: NZ$230 to NZ$300 per-person

For more details please read about air transport on the FAQ. 

2. Skiing/Walking out at trip end

Skiing (or skiing/walking) out is the most physically demanding part of a trip, and must be done inside the allocated time. In some situations (due to weather, conditions, and fitness) it may not be possible to walk out.

Your guide is the final arbiter on whether a walk out will go ahead.

Read more about skiing/walking out 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. 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.