splitboarding, glacier

How to pack for backcountry ski mountaineering

By Conor Hurley ACMG ski guide, Director/ Lead Guide for Arctos Guides
ski mountaineering, mt stanley, rockies, backcountry skiSpring ski mountaineering is one of the best parts of backcountry skiing.  The days are long and the snowpack has had a chance to warm up and settle, which allow backcountry skiers to explore some bigger objectives.  Arctos Guides runs several different ski mountaineering programs, from day tours to multi-day ski traverses and basecamps, as well as ski mountaineering courses.  Over the years, we’ve developed backcountry ski packing list with an additional ski mountaineering kit.

How to pack like an ACMG Ski Guide:backcountry ski pack, ski mountaineering

Backcountry Ski Mountaineering Gear List

  • Shovel
  • Probe
  • Transceiver – I wear mine in the manufacturer provided harness.
  • Skins
  • Skin wax
  • Rescue Toboggan
  • First aid kit 
  • Lighters or waterproof matches
  • Extra ski straps
  • Small repair kit (multi-tool/knife, bits for bindings, and bailing wire)
  • 700x 28c bike tube without the valve stem (This can be used as fire starter, tourniquet, tensor bandage or to help strap a ski to a boot.)
  • Sunscreen with SPF50+ and lip balm, zinc
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • 1l of water
  • Lunch
  • Sunglasses and goggles
  • Sun cap
  • Waterproof and windproof shell­- I’ve been using the Norrona Lyngen dri2 Thermo60 jacket
  • Soft shell pants- I’ve been using the Norrona Lyngen flex1 pants this spring.
  • A packable synthetic insulation layer. I opt for the Norrona falketind Thermo60 Hood.
  • Wool long johns (Norrona PureUll)
  • Extra gloves
  • Buff
  • Map and compass
  • Helmet
  • Crampons and an ice axe if required
  • harness
  • Ski crampons
  • 30m RAD line for glacier travel, rappelling and basic short roping
  • Crevasse rescue kit (2x6mm cordelette, 1x240cm sling, 3-4 non- locking carabiners, 3 locking carabiners and 1 triple action locking carabiner with a captive eye, 20 cm ice screw, Micro traxion, tibloc, personal prussik) and v-thread tool
  • Emergency Communication Device
  • VHF radio
  • Arborist saw and scabbard that doubles as a splint
  • Norwegian Avalanche Forecast
  • Avalanche Canada Mountain Weather Forecast
crevasse rescue kit, backcountry ski mountaineering

I like to pack my ice axe in my pack to keep my to keep a sleeker profile and avoid catching my axe on things.  

I maintain a consistent system of how I pack my backcountry ski mountaineering pack.  The tarp/rescue toboggan always goes on the bottom and then I layer gear according to how I’ll need it during the day.  If the approach is long, I try to keep the weight as low as possible, thus the rope, crampons and crevasse rescue kit goes on top of the tarp.  Spare gloves and long johns can be used to fill in any voids near the bottom too.  My spare puffy goes in next followed by my ice axe, lunch pouch and helmet.  I like backcountry ski packs that have designated avalanche rescue gear compartments.  I also like packs that have lids with pockets; I keep my goggles, sun block and snacks in them.

Ice Axe, backcountry ski pack
ski mountaineering, backcountry ski pack
ski mountaineering helmet, day pack
rogers pass, WNDR Alpine, Vital 100
All packed up, a backcountry ski mountaineering pack.  Clean and neat, nothing to get snagged on if you have a bushwhack on the approach.  I carry my radio and my cell phone in my thigh pockets, which are more than 50cm away from my transceiver.  I also carry my cell phone in an Arctos Guides faraday pouch, which is designed to decrease the possibility of electromagnetic interference caused by cell phones.
Norrona Lyngen, Soft shell pant

Conor Hurley, Norrona Lyngen