Winter Mountain Skills Course Details 2019

The 4-day Winter Mountain Skills course is Alpine Guides’ introduction to winter snow and ice climbing skills, based in the serious alpine setting of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

The course is for hikers or hunters who want to learn the skills to travel safely on foot above the snow line in winter. You will also be able to cope should best-laid plans unravel.

Course topics focus on crampon, ice axe and snowshoe use, self-arrest, route selection and terrain traps, navigation and emergency shelter building – the importance of standing on a peak is never forgotten!

Experience Required

No mountaineering experience is required. The most important prerequisite is a high level of aerobic fitness.

Winter clothing and equipment is heavier, so the ability to carry 15 kg for up to 5 hours is necessary. You also need to be enthusiastic and keen to learn new skills. A solid hiking/tramping background is perfect.

What You Will Learn

Winter presents unique challenges backcountry adventurers. Familiar territory can quickly transform under a deep blanket of snow. Will the route you expected to take be safe? Will that slope avalanche? Can you get to the next hut before dark? This course will give you the skills to start making the right decisions.

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 confidence to travel above the snowline during winter. You will better understand when not to go and to increase your survival chances should the situation turn bad. You should also have ‘bagged’ at least one peak. Some basic rope safety techniques may be included.

Instruction topics include:

  • Equipment & clothing for winter - what to bring and how to use it

  • Axe, crampon, and snowshoeing technique and self-arrest

  • Route finding & terrain traps

  • Snow shelter construction

  • Mountain weather forecasting

  • Navigation

  • Introduction to snow safety and avalanche assessment

  • Dealing with hypothermia

  • Basic rope use

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 and Inclusions

Winter 2019:
  • 1 person $3,245

  • 2 people $1,995

  • 3 people $1,635

  • 4 people $1,490

All prices are per-person, in NZ Dollars and include GST at 15%

The course fee includes:

  • 4 days guiding at up to 1:4 guide/participant ratio

  • Alpine Guides Technical Manual

  • All meals from lunch on day one (including snacks and energy bars)

  • Hut fees

  • National Park fees

  • Local transport

  • Free use of a range technical equipment

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

  • Weather contingency day (can delay start by a day if the weather dictates)

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

Mueller Hut, at 1,830 metres in the Sealy Range above Mount Cook Village is the venue of choice.

This is close to our base and has all the advantages of a modern mountain hut, making it an excellent location to work from. The views into the Mueller Glacier and the east face of Mount Sefton are impressive.

Close by the hut are Mt Ollivier (1933 metres) and Mt Kitchener (2042 metres) . A couple of hours across the Annette Plateau is Mt Annette (2235 metres).

In the unlikely occasion that (avalanche) conditions are not safe for travel on foot, we have other venues available approximately 1.5 hours by road. Any 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 all weather scenarios, so we will be able to get into the mountains in all but the worst weather. The hike to your mountain hut will also involve instruction in snow safety and route selection, so not time is wasted.

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.

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.

  • For private courses 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.