For over 12 years, Sun Valley Trekking has run an internship program during the winter season. The goal of the program is to provide training and mentorship to aspiring ski guides. The “job description” is to : Ski from hut to hut throughout the winter, maintain hut supplies, gather snow and stability information, develop personal backcountry ski technique and experience, assist on guided trips as porters and tail guides and seek mentorship and skill development with the SVT Guide Team. Over the years, many interns have returned for a second year to continue this progression and many graduates of the program are working as professional ski and mountain guides today. We often finish the season with an “Intern Final Exam” designed to test the skill and experience developed over the season. There are two styles of exam open to the interns: to guide the guides or to be guided by the guides. Both styles can help push the learning envelope and provide a rewarding experience. This years team: Trudy, Toby, Niels and Alisa chose to guide SVT guides: Joe St.Onge and Chris Marshall on a particularly snowy late April tour in the alpine Smokey Mountains. Powder, white-out navigation, steep skiing and a Chinese Downhill tested the interns’ skill and grit and was followed by the end of the season Guide Games back in town. Good stuff!
Every winter the guides of SVT gather to run training seminars and workshops. Typically we focus on particular goals at each training, dusting off skills, sharing lessons and tricks and evaluating how to do things better and more efficiently. This years early season training was focused on winter rescue. We discussed and practiced avalanche rescue, emergency shelters and stoves, 1st aid and then ran 3 separate sled evacuations off Titus Ridge to the trailhead. Check out the photos below to get ideas for different possibilities and approaches to addressing a forced bivy or having to evacuate a partner with a broken leg.
The “earn” in backcountry skiing’s notorious phrase, “Earn Your Turns,” is almost entirely directed to the act (if not art) of skinning uphill. For those who are not familiar with “skinning,” skiers and splitboarders adhere a nylon strap to the bottom of their skis in order to climb uphill. Each skin has been fabricated to hold millions of tiny hairs engineered so that they lay flat and in one direction which allows for uphill gliding only; the hairs catch/grab the snow as it starts to slide downhill, stopping the ski.
Skinning, while aerobic, can range from incredibly easy (on the flats), to strenuous (deep snow), to precarious and even life threatening (if you slip on hard snow or ice). As backcountry skiers and boarders contour up a mountainside, every so often it becomes necessary to change direction due to obstacles or hazards or a slope to steep to make a gradual turn–thus, the kick-turn. Our IFMGA guide and master kick-turner, Mark Puleio, shows us in this first post (of two) how to make the perfect kick turn:
For Hard/Firmer Surface Conditions:
Step #1: Ski past where you want to turn and make a flat platform
Step #2 Clear the uphill ski of snow and turn 180 degrees
Step #3 Place uphill ski flat/level in the new direction of travel
Step #4 Transition weight onto uphill ski
Step #5 Flex downhill hip back, allowing the downhill ski tip to rise
Step #6 Bend downhill knee slightly and pivot ski along boot cuff to turn in new direction
Step #7 Skin off in your new direction!
Subscribe to our blog or come back soon to catch our second part regarding kick turns as Mark will show you techniques to help those ski partners who need a little support when kick-turning.
Yesterday, Mark Puleio (IMFGA) and Joe St.Onge took the Sun Valley Trekking guides and interns out for a refresher training day and to test out their Outdoor Research technical clothing. Craig Wolfrom was along to capture images of the lessons which included aiding guests while skinning and kick-turning, self arresting, kicking steps, short roping in 3rd and 4th class terrain, as well as building a sled with skis and lowering an injured skier. The terrain Joe and Mark chose proved the perfect challenge and every lesson was completed flawlessly.
Mark showing how to use a runner clipped to a backpack to assist a kick-turn:
Interns taking notes while Joe goes over proper ice-axe placement:
Mark and Joe going over proper body positioning and ice-axe placement for self-arresting:
Short-roping in mixed terrain:
Joe belays Shane up to a stance:
Climbing and belaying through mixed terrain:
After building an “T” anchor, Mark lowers a party down a steep and narrow chute:
Guides building a rescue sled:
Guides practice lowering an injured skier: