4 Month Backcountry Program

Registration Opens August 1

The JHSC 4-month backcountry program is open to aspiring and experienced split boarders and skiers ages 13 and older. For younger athletes please see our "Mini Mountaineers" program. 

This program will consist of 1 to 2 weeknight training sessions at Snow King and full-day guided backcountry ski tours in Grand Teton National Park. Dates throughout the season will vary slightly due to weather and snowpack conditions. This program will have a maximum ratio on touring days of 4 student-athletes to 1 coach/guide and will be open to 25 athletes this season.  Our coaches are experienced backcountry skiers/split boarders and are American Mountain Guides Association certified guides. This program will include an online training module and two full days with the American Avalanche Institute, earning athletes their Recreational Level 1 avalanche certification. This is the first step toward official certified mountain guide training, as well as a great skill set to build for the recreational skier.  The program will also offer hands on first aid training with Teton County SAR.  Athletes who have already completed a Recreational Level 1 avalanche certification will further their skills assisting in mentoring and instruction with the up-and-coming backcountry skiers. 

In addition to backcountry skiing, the backcountry program is now traveling to Utah in March for the Wasatch Powderkeg Skimo race.  This race is an optional add on.  Randonaee, or ski mountaineering "ski-mo" is an uphill / downhill race inbounds at a ski area.  Athletes will use the fitness and technique developed throughout the season to compete with athletes their age at this race in Utah.  Although the backcountry program is not a traditional competitive program, this race is great exposure, and is a route athletes can choose to follow.  Skimo racing compliments regular backcountry skiing with the fitness, efficiency, and comradery built in the races.  

With 25 athletes in the program, we will be able to split into advanced and beginner groups to make this a great program for first-time backcountry skiers and seasoned travelers alike. The advanced group will dive into more detail with avalanche forecasting, routinely performing snow pit tests and route planning.  The advanced group will also be held to a higher physical standard during the Snow King sessions in order to build endurance for bigger objectives in the park.  

Learn to become a leader and build an increased margin of safety in your backcountry skiing pursuits by enrolling in the JHSC Backcountry Program.

This program is put on in partnership with Exum Mountain Guides and the American Avalanche Institute.  

Please read all drop-down menus below, or contact bvotilla@jhskiclub.org for more information. 




Snow King Sessions

The Snow King evening sessions will run Thursdays from 4:30-6:30pm, once per week December through March, and are designed to:

  • Grow team building and cohesiveness among the backcountry group
  • Build fitness and technique for the longer touring days in the park
  • Hold the classroom component of the Avalanche Level 1 certification 
  • Host guests and experts from the local backcountry skiing community

Athletes should be prepared to ascend Snow King (approx. 1,500 vertical feet) on ski touring gear during the majority of these sessions.

For athletes looking for a more committed option, additional training sessions will be held on Tuesdays from 4:30-6:30, focusing on fitness and strength training.

Please read this information about skinning up Snow King:

During operating hours Uphill Travellers are required to stay on the approved uphill routes:
The Bootpack, The Cat’s Tail, and connector from the East of the ice rink to the summer trail. Starting for 2021-2022 Winter please do not start your skin trip at the base of the gondola as you will be re-routed. This change is for everyone’s safety with the relocation of the Cougar lift and installation of the gondola. See new uphill routes on the SK Trail Map.
Uphill Travelers are prohibited from entering closed terrain at any time. It is the user’s responsibility to know what terrain is closed. Please direct any questions regarding closed trails or terrain to the Snow King Ski Patrol at 307.201.5667 during normal business hours or check “Mountain Conditions” on our website at snowkingmountain.com or Snow King Mobile App.


Uphill policy is on this page:




No ski patrol services are available outside of normal operating hours. During normal operating hours, ski patrol response may be unavailable for unpatrolled terrains, such as the upper mountain during night skiing. Uphill users are prohibited from entering closed terrain at any time. It is the user’s responsibility to know what terrain is closed.

GTNP Touring Days

There will be seven guided ski touring days held in Grand Teton National Park and on Teton Pass.  These touring days will be put on in partnership with Exum Mountain Guides.  Athletes will build upon the skills and topics covered in Snow King sessions and take that learning into the mountains.  We will skin up and ski down some of the classic routes in GTNP. Routes will depend on conditions and group level, and will increase in physical commitment level as the season goes on and athletes progress.  Two of these touring days will include the field component of the AAI Avalanche Level 1 certification.

Some of the ski touring goals could include routes on:  25 short, Mavericks, Albright, Shadow Mountain, or crossing Jackson Lake to ski the wild northern park... to name a few.  Toward the end of the season, there is opportunity to do an overnight winter camping and ski touring trip in GTNP.

These touring days are fully guided and will operate under Exum Mountain Guides' professional permits. Toward the end of the season, athletes will be expected to develop their own tour plan for the day and execute some mock guiding of their own.

Physical Requirement

JHSC coaches will work with athletes to help them perform at their best level in all ski club sessions. A large part of the Backcountry Program will be to build the athletes’ physical endurance throughout the season with more demanding climbs towards the end of the season.

That said, backcountry skiing is an extremely physically demanding activity both uphill and down, and athletes do need to come into the program with a base level of physical fitness.  An athlete should be able to hike to the top of Snow King with a light to medium-sized pack and participate in some other hiking and walking in the mountains before the season starts.

Athletes will be expected to skin up Snow King, roughly 1,500’ vertical, once per week through the season, and will ideally plan for additional training and skiing/snowboarding days on their own.  The GTNP touring days could consist of at least 3,000’ vertical of climbing and being outside in remote areas for up to 8 hours at a time. As the season progresses, we are excited to increase those numbers as we see fit!

As for the downhill . . . athletes should have advanced skiing/snowboarding skills and feel comfortable navigating a variety of ungroomed snow conditions.

If you are unsure about your physical ability and fitness for the program, please reach out to Backcountry Program Director Blake Votilla. Typically athletes who are motivated and excited about the program build fitness quickly and feel great in the program.


03/27/2024 - 1:27pm
That's it for the 2024 Backcountry Program Season!
03/06/2024 - 8:24am
After a slow start to the winter in December and January, February was filled with powder, fresh tracks, and avalanche education for the backcountry program.
01/30/2024 - 9:06am
JHSC Backcountry Program January Newsletter