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"To feel comfortable in the mountains," says Steve Kuijt, a backcountry guide based in Fernie, British Columbia, "you need mountain sense. To get mountain sense, you need time." Easy for Kuijt to say: He spends about 120 days a year on skis in the wilds.
Resort skiers who want to make the jump to ski touring can tap into Kuijt's hard-won experience by signing up with his company, Mountain Pursuits, which incorporates skillbuilding into everything from day trips and two-day avalanche courses on the backside of Fernie Alpine Resort ($85) to 14-day wilderness expeditions ($1,000).
In late April, Kuijt leads his favorite trip, a seven-day outing in the Bugaboos. A chopper takes up to eight clients from Spillimacheen, three hours north of Fernie, to a base-camp hut at 7,400 feet [2,260 meters].
On a typical day, skiers skin up a thousand feet [305 meters] to the pass between Crescent and East Post Spires, then launch into 35-degree powder runs of up to 3,500 vertical feet [1,070 meters]. Along the way are instructional stops on how to assess avalanche danger and perform crevasse rescues and lessons in other backcountry basics.
Evenings are spent gorging on cheese fondue and planning the next day's routes.
After a week, Kuijt says, even first-timers show a budding mountain sense.
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