Digging a pit to investigate layers
Crown wall and debris from a recent storm slab
Learn from UIAGM / NZMGA ski guides
Learn safe travel techniques
Warm & well equipped - an ideal instruction venue
Backcountry Avalanche Course
A Mountain Saftey Council (MSC) accredited course
Learn how to analyse the snowpack, assess slope stability and develop safe travel techniques with expert tuition from avalanche professionals!
This is an accredited course, with a formal assessment and Certificate of Completion. It is designed for people who are already competent skiers and snowboarders who wish to travel beyond the bounds of a ski field. We will be based at Rex Simpson Hut in the Two Thumb Range, an ideal location for practising your route selection and decision-making re avalanche hazard.
We provide Penny Goddard's book, "Avalanche Awareness in the New Zealand Backcountry", and the other MSC course materials.
BAC (Backcountry Avalanche Course) Price details
|Individual bookings||5 days||1:6|
|returning client discount (on individual bookings), if you have been on an Alpine Recreation trip before.|
|Private Course Prices (NZ$ per person)|
|1 Person||4 days||1:1|
|2 People||4 days||1:2|
|3 People||5 days||1:3|
|4 People||5 days||1:4|
|5 People||5 days||1:5|
|6 People||5 days||1:6|
- IFMGA/NZMGA certified mountain and ski guide
- Department of Conservation licence fee
- Heated PRIVATE hut accommodation
- A complete BACKCOUNTRY based course (no flying costs, no lift ticket costs)
- Local accommodation for any nights required during the course
- Free transport (Tekapo - Mt. Gerald return)
- ALL meals (including snacks & energy bars) for the duration of the course
- ALL avalanche safety and technical ski touring equipment (with the exception of ski touring boots)
- Avalanche Awareness handbook covering course material
Meals and accommodation before/after the course are NOT included.
+Minimum Numbers & Course Length
A minimum number of 3 participants is required to run this course (this only applies to individual bookings, not private course bookings). If less than the minimum number is reached, we will run the course you are booked on, with the following changes:
- 2 participants only - the course will be shortened to 4 days.
- 1 participant only - the course will be shortened to 4 days and an additional fee of NZ will apply. Alternatively you will have the option to reschedule to another trip/date or a full refund.
Due to the shorter length, the course start date will be flexible within the scheduled dates (this allows some flexibility for bad weather without affecting your travel plans too much). With a lower guide:client ratio, you benefit by being able to cover the course content in a shorter amount of time.
Our private Backcountry Avalanche Courses are ideal for groups wanting a thorough grounding in avalanche hazard assessment and rescue skills. All levels of experience can be catered for with private groups.
Advantages of Private Courses
- Customized to your needs, experience and skill level
- A closed group of 1-6 participants with 1 guide, or up to 12 participants with 2 guides
- Your choice of dates, arranged to fit your schedule (subject to guide availability)
Green : Minimum reached - guaranteed departure.
Orange : Only 4 or fewer places available.
Red : No availability.
Venue: Rex Simpson Hut
↑ Fresh turns above Rex Simpson Hut
Rex Simpson Hut
Rex Simpson Hut sits at an altitude of 1300m in the Two Thumb Range. It is located in a beautiful setting, with great views of the Southern Alps and vistas over Lake Tekapo across the Mackenzie Basin. It is a fantastic location for star gazing - the Mackenzie District is renowned for the clarity of its sky and freedom from light pollution, which is why the area was recently designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve.
The Hut is privately owned by Alpine Recreation and is an ideal base for backcountry skiing with ready access to a range of slopes suitable for intermediate to advanced skiers. It is our base for the Tekapo Trek in Summer and Alpine Ski Touring, Nordic Skiing, Snowshoeing and Instruction Courses during the winter.
No aircraft required: The hut can be reached in 3 hours' walking from the road end and is located at 1300m, in a beautiful setting, with great views of the Southern Alps and out over Lake Tekapo across the Mackenzie Basin.
The hut is equipped with firewood, gas, solar lighting, sleeping bags, bunks, pillows and mattresses, and nonperishable food. A wood-fired stove means there are good heating and drying facilities.
The hut consists of three rooms, sleeping up to 13 participants and 2 guides in total. There are no showers, but warm water and a basin can be provided for washing or you can find a private spot somewhere along the alpine stream. The toilet is a traditional longdrop loo with a view!
8:30am gear check at Alpine Recreation's Edelweiss Lodge, 8 Erebus Place, Lake Tekapo.
From Lake Tekapo township we drive along the lakeshore to the head of Lake Tekapo. 3 hours' hike/ski with a climb of 550m/1805t brings us to the cosy Rex Simpson Hut, at 1300m/4265ft, in the Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park. Depending on snow levels usually you will be able to don skis and skins about half-way to the hut, but other times you may need to carry the skis until the last 800m - 1 km before the hut.
Warm-up mini ski tour and instruction.
As the hut is fully stocked we only need to carry some fresh items of food (e.g. bread, fruit, vegetables, meat) and our personal clothing and equipment
Day tours from Rex Simpson Hut with instruction in the field. There are plenty of slopes of varying angles and aspects to test your avalanche assessment skills and your decision-making re safe route selection.
Return to Lake Tekapo, after a 3-5 hour ski tour in the morning, arriving back around 5pm.
The Backcountry Avalanche Course is the next step in the development of observation, route finding and decision making skills that are critical for winter recreation in the mountains.
The course focuses on avoiding the need for avalanche related rescue, but also dedicates time to learning the technical skills required for rescuing a companion or small party.
Instruction topics include:
- Characteristics of the avalanche phenomenon
- Snowpack factors (layers, crystal ID, basic metamorphosis)
- Observation techniques
- Human factors in decision making
- Group travel in avalanche terrain
- Small party search and rescue
This course has a formal assessment and on successful completion, a 'Certificate of Completion' will be issued.
Bad weather options: Rex Simpson Hut is spacious enough to make a good classroom if weather forces us inside. It's rare to have more than half a day of hut-confining weather in the Two Thumb Range.
Ski Touring Fitness & Experience
A high level of fitness is required. Participants need to carry a backpack of about 8 kg plus their skis for 3 hours to the hut (550 vertical metres). On subsequent days packs will be light, but participants will be doing the equivalent of a six-hour walk/climb each day. Previous tramping or hiking experience is essential.
The Two Thumb Range is suitable for intermediate to advanced skiers. Guides will give instruction on downhill technique as needed. If you have little or no off-piste skiing experience, we recommend spending 1-2 days before the tour with our private ski instructor at one of our local ski fields (Mt. Dobson, Roundhill or Ohau).
Ski Touring experience
No previous ski touring experience is required, however you are expected to have at least an intermediate level of downhill skiing ability (safe turns in untracked snow).
Alpine Recreation can provide alpine touring skis, poles, skins, avalanche transceivers, shovels and probes. You need to bring your own alpine ski touring boots. Outdoor clothing and packs can also be provided at no extra cost if necessary.
→Backcountry Ski Course Clothing & Equipment list (used for both types of courses)