Glacier Ski Course

Please see below the information for the 2020 season. Details for 2021 will be released soon.

Who is this course for?

The NZAC Glacier Skiing Course (GSC) is a five-day course designed for strong intermediate (or better) skiers with experience skiing in steep slackcountry/backcountry terrain and with excellent aerobic fitness wanting to learn the core skills to safely ski on glaciated terrain. Introductory-level familiarity with the use of an ice axe and crampons is required, and can usually be learned from a local NZAC Basic Snowcraft course. This is not a ‘learn to ski’ course- you need to meet the minimum requirements.
Telemarkers and split boarders are also welcome but must be of a high skill/experience level. Boarders must also have ski crampons as part of their touring setup just like the skiers. When you submit your registration, provide as much detail of your experience as possible, and we will run it past the instructor before confirming your spot.


At a minimum, those wishing to register for the GSC must be capable of:

• Confidently skiing all the ‘black diamond’ runs on your local ski field in all conditions.
• Confidently skiing very steep slack country and backcountry terrain.
• Making turns in heavy wet snow on steep ground.
• Confidently performing kick-turn on steep ground to get out of trouble if needed.
• Slide-slip confidently to get down a slope too steep or rocky to turn on.
• Being fit enough to ski hard for five days in a row.
• Fitting and adjusting crampons
• Putting on a harness
• Tying the rope into a harness with a figure-8 knot and be familiar with other knots Bowline, prussik, clove hitch, Italian hitch (munter hitch), tape knot, alpine butterfly.
• Basic use of an ice axe and crampons, including self-arresting and step cutting
• Carrying a heavy pack for several days at a time.


On the GSC, participants will learn the following:

  • Equipment- what to carry and why. How to look after your gear.
  • Trip planning and preparation
  • Skins- getting them on and off quick smart without holding too many people up.
  • Skinning- good technique – how to lay a good track others will enjoy.
  • Mountain travel -choosing a safe route – terrain analysis.
  • Glacier ski travel and crevasse extraction
  • Snow- different snow conditions. What to expect in Mt. Cook NP
  • Navigation- map and compass, altimeter, basic GPS. Navigating in a whiteout.
  • Weather – general and specific to NZ glaciated areas
  • Avalanches- about them and how to avoid the damn things.
  • Transceivers – how to use them.
  • Searching for an avalanche victim/s – shovel and probe.



The course will be run in a minimum 1:4 Guide to participant ratio, headed by a fully qualified and experienced IFMGA Guide. All participants must agree to follow the Guide’s instructions and directions. 4 participants maximum per group. The course has a maximum capacity of 8 participants.


Course Location

Based at the NZAC Unwin Lodge in the Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park. Accommodation for the night before the course starts at Unwin Lodge is included in the course fee. Weather permitting the course will be run on either the Tasman Glacier, Murchison Glacier or the Grand Plateau. Weather or terrain conditions will dictate your instructor’s choice of location. The course fees include flights to the hut, and out at the end of the course.
Backup location if conditions are not suitable will be to be based out of NZAC Unwin Lodge and instruction will take place at Ohau Ski Field or Round Hill Ski Field (NOTE: a one ride lift pass for the day will need to be purchased in addition to the course costs).


Course Fees

The course fees include instruction, hut accommodation, and helicopter flights. The course fees are $1750.00. Payment of a $875 non-refundable deposit on acceptance secures you a place on the course.


Flexible Course Dates

The plan is to run the course over 5 days. However, given 48 hours’ notice, you will need to be available for a delayed start and so a delayed finish, if the weather forecast is better. Therefore, the you will need to be available for a 6 day window and instruction will occur on the best 5 day block out of the 6 days. There is a lot to cover and this gives us the best chance of optimal conditions for instruction and skiing.