Backcountry Avalanche

Backcountry Avalanche (MSC Avalanche Skills Course 2)

Ski/board OR foot based courses

5 Days, $1500 incl gst, 3 cooked meals/day & 5 nights accommodation

See Calendar for Occurrences

This course is ideal for you if:

You want to spend time working though the Mountain Safety Council Avalanche 2 Program over 5 days. The course will suit those who have a basic understanding of avalanches (Avalanche Awareness) and have spent time travelling in alpine terrain as part of tramping trips, hunting, mountaineering, skiing, snowboarding or other outdoor experiences. It is not for beginners entering the alpine environment. A reasonable level of fitness is highly recommended.



All courses are hosted at Ferrier Lodge at Temple Basin Ski Field, located above snowline, approximately 500m above Arthurs Pass proper. The lodge is warm and features hot showers, a bar, and plenty of indoor learning space when the weather is too inclement outside. Our drying room makes quick work of any wet gear you may acquire from time outside.

With the glaciated peaks of the main divide of the Southern Alps in our backyard, steep inbounds chutes and mellow rolling alpine slopes and tarns, Temple Basin has perfect ski touring terrain suitable for all level of backcountry enthusiast from beginner to extreme! The mellow alpine basins in Upper Bills (above 1700m) are host to a consistent snowpack which provides learning opportunities even during the thinnest of seasons. The mellow slopes in Upper Bills provide space to learn to navigation, route finding selection, and access safe terrain to learn about the snowpack and avalanches! The peaks and rocky terrain of Arthurs Pass National Park provide a plethora of terrain to further expand your knowledge with the Temple Basin lodge never too far away.

The Lodge is very comfortable with a drying room, hot showers, a bar, and a large lounge/dining area. Theory and rope skills are hosted inside a specifically designed lecture theatre.

Course content/instruction topics

The course will add to knowledge learned in the basic avalanche safety course and cover topics in further detail. The basic topics will be expanded upon and new topics will be introduced. Learning outcomes include:

Mountain Weather
Avalanche characteristics
How to identify avalanche terrain
How to use the NZ Avalanche Advisory
Snowpack factors (layers, basic crystal identification, basic snow metamorphism and snowpack tests)
Identifying when the weather is creating instability
Trip planning using systems and checklists
Route finding, track setting and safe travel protocols
Small group search and rescue

Completion of this course will leave you feeling more confident in your ability to make safe decisions while travelling in the backcountry. It will give you the confidence and knowledge of how to seek out further information to further your knowledge on your own.


While the exact itinerary will be determined based on the weather and snow conditions during the course, the following is a possible scenario. Arrive the night before your course and familiarise yourself with the lodge – get settled in! The course will begin with a classroom session focused on avalanche mechanics. In the afternoon you will be outside and dig snow pits, putting your new snow mechanics knowledge to the test. The next morning you will spend inside discussing weather and the formation of the snowpack. You will head outside and go for a small tour with skis to find a different location to dig snow pits, and begin making judgements about what terrain is safe. The following morning will bring another indoor lecture on route finding, decision making, and the human factor. You will put this knowledge to work in the afternoon when you go on another tour around the ski area. You will begin making your own judgements about which terrain will be more subject to avalanches. On the 4th day you will put all this information together to make your own assessment of safe terrain to travel and ski/ride in and put it to use! By the final day you will be comfortable making your own assessments of safe terrain to travel given the current avalanche advisory and you will learn how to make your own predictions of snowpack stability based on weather forecasts.

Gear required

Personal avalanche transceivers, probes and shovels are required as familiarity with your own rescue equipment is the most important. An alpine touring setup (climbing skins, touring bindings) is ONLY required during ski/board specific courses.. All ski based courses require an intermediate riding ability. Snowshoes may be hired from NZSSI if necessary.


Included in price, all instruction and course materials, and all accommodation and meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) beginning with dinner the night before the course begins, and ending with lunch on the final day of instruction. Please book any additional nights and food separately if you wish to stay longer (and put your new skills to use!).

Participants should be over 18 years of age, of reasonable fitness and previous tramping experience. If you have some pre-existing condition about which the instructor should be aware in an emergency, it is your responsibility to communicate this. Information such as this will be kept confidential.