High-Country Basics

Outside Magazine, February 1995


High-Country Basics
By Alex Wells


For a thorough introduction to winter backcountry travel, sign up for the National Outdoor Leadership School's two-week spring ski-mountaineering course (307-332-6973). This year's class ($1,400), set for March 5 - 18, begins with three days of telemark lessons at Grand Targhee Resort in Idaho and then moves into the backwoods of the Teton and Wyoming Ranges, where students will learn everything from the construction of snow shelters to the treatment of hypothermia. In late March, the Colorado Outward Bound School (800-477-2627) offers ten- and 18-day ski-mountaineering courses ($1,395 and $1,695, respectively) among the 14,000-foot peaks of the Collegiate Range near Leadville. Classes prepare students for an ascent and skiing descent -- weather permitting -- of a major peak in the area.

If you can't spare two weeks, other schools offer shorter programs focusing on specific skills. Alpine Skills International (916-426-9108), of Norden, California, conducts one-, two-, and three-day workshops each week ($85 - $248) through March, with navigation, telemarking, ski mountaineering, and snow safety all on the syllabus. The International Mountain Climbing School in New Hampshire (603-356-6316) tailors one-day randonnée lessons ($165) to individual skill levels by choosing suitably challenging areas on nearby Mount Washington. The Norwegian School of Nature Life, based in Park City, Utah (801-649-1217), teaches low-risk route-finding -- bypassing the steeps -- during two-day excursions into the Uinta Mountains ($216). And Exum Mountain Guides in Moose, Wyoming (307-733-2297), uses one- and two-day tours in the Teton and Wind River Ranges ($190 and $450, respectively, for one person, $255 and $650 for two) to train clients in hazard evaluation, self-rescue, tracking of transceiver signals, and advanced climbing skills.

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