After taking the Washington Alpine Club’s Basic Climbing Class last year, I wanted to climb more, so I decided to learn to backcountry ski this winter.

I have been skiing for three years now and have been itching to tie all my skills together by minimizing the strenuous descents, so it was time to take another class–the Backcountry Travel Class. The foundation of the course is to learn how to stay safe in the backcountry and learn how to evaluate terrain (specifically avalanche terrain). Similar format to the other class I took, I attended night classes for a few weeks and had weekend outings. Even though it is not suppose to replace AIARE certification classes, the class taught how to assess conditions and travel safely, along with many other things.

Beacons, companion rescue, map & compass, snow shelters, etc. What do these mean?

Finding friends after an avalanche, navigating terrain, and staying warm if stranded outdoors. Doesn’t it sound like real fun? Well it was fun, especially hanging out with others who really like to be outdoors and feeding off their stoke, as long as you learned too.

With the low snow year, our instructors had to get creative with beacon practice and locations to tour. We had to find winter in Washington, which caused us to go closer to the high elevation volcanoes in the state, which I prefer over listening to the babbling brooks of I-5 traffic.

Two weekend trips with one being an overnight allowed the students and instructors to bond and learn. I learned how to transition between skinning and skiing, along with navigating terrain and staying warm. Below are some of the winter wonderlands we got to explore!

Glacier Vista – Mount Rainier National Park

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Demonstrating turns.

Gorgeous winter wonderland.

Mount Adams peaking through the clouds.

Mount Rainier via the Nisqually Glacier.


Skin tracks.


Testing the snowpack.


Molly climbing up to Glacier Vista.


Almost there.

Artist Point – Mount Baker/Mount Shuksan

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Digging out a tent platform.

Home for the night.

Melting snow for water.

Jodie loves being in the mountains.

We found a good stash at the end of the day.

Last daylight on Mount Shuksan.

The start of another day in the mountains.

Playing around on these slopes.

Views of Mount Baker.

My mighty group.

Now I have the skills, it is time to try it out on my own.