Backcountry Ski Certification

Do you want "ski guide skills" yet have no interest becoming a ski guide? This intensive program equips you with critical backcountry skills needed to step out farther, while maintaining an acceptable margin of safety. The skills will be presented, and then you will demonstrate proficiency, and  get feedback, and finally approval, from Mark Smiley and his team. Once certified, you will be invited to join the team for amazing ski mountaineering objectives across the US and Canada.

Features & Benefits

  • Develop critical skills that will keep you safer on bigger lines.
  • Prove to yourself and others that you have what it takes to be a great backcountry partner.
  • Performance feedback on your specific performance enables "deliberate practice". 10,000 hours only works if you are practicing in the right direction.
  • Develop competence-founded confidence with legit skills and techniques.
  • External evaluation punes away the bad, nurtures the good, so your great can fluish.
  • Save time and frustration with quality instruction.
  • Replace "One day" with "Day one!" and use your cohort's energy and accountability to progress.
  • You'll get a highlight video to quickly show others what skills you have dialed.
  • Once certified more backcountry skiers will seek your company.

The Program

  • The road to becoming MTN Sense Backcountry Ski Certified requires dedication.
  • 1st - Learn at home: Watch five MTN Sense courses online. Lay the foundation and refine your knowledge. Avalanche Safety course, Beyond Level One course, Ski Mountaineering course, Smartphone Navigation course, Crevasse Rescue course.
  • 2nd - Pass image and video rich scenario-based online tests to insure the skills marinate your long-term memory.
  • 3rd - Demonstrate competence on camera: Successfully complete 20 skills assignments. This is a great excuse to get together with friends and learn together.
  • 4th - IFMGA Mountain Guide, Mark Smiley, gives video performance feedback to refine your skills.
  • 5th - Take a leadership role on two ski tours. Consultation with IFMGA Mountain Guides pre/post tour on your decision making process.
  • 6th - Once you pass all these skills you will be invited to join several ski mountaineering ski missions in Washington State, British Columbia, and Colorado in April and May with other MTN Sense Certified Backcountry Skiers and Mark Smiley.
  • Access to this group of qualified ski tourers will continue for future skiing together.

Technical Systems

Streamline Route Planning

Find The Best Snow

Crevasse Rescue


What sets this certification apart

  • Join a cohort of skiers that will progress with you, and be great partners.
  • Acquire actionable, modern, skills to increase confidence.
  • Mark Smiley will personally vouch for you if needed for future pursuits.
  • Join for team-led adventures in Revelstoke, Mt Shuksan and Colorado with competent partners.
  • We make learning fun.
  • Limitless access to the video content for review.

MTN Sense Backcountry Ski Certification

Step One: Complete Five MTN Sense Courses
  1. Smartphone Navigation
  2. Crevasse Rescue Made Easy
  3. The Ultimate Guide To Backcountry Ski Mountaineering
  4. Avalanche Safety: A Comprehensive Course
  5. Beyond Level One
Step Two: Pass Written Exam and Quizzes

Throughout the online courses there are quizzes and a final exam that need to be passed. You must get 92% or higher to pass.

Step Three: Complete At Home Film and Photo Assignments

With the power of film and video you will demonstrate your proficiency in 25 different areas. From skiing, to rigging a hauling system, finding buried beacons and more. Feedback will be provided on each assignment directly from Mark Smiley via a video call.

Step Four: Video Conference Office Hours

Dates: Jan 21, Feb 4, Feb 11, Mar 3 from 8:00-9:30PM MST. These are not mandatory. Use them if you want to discuss specific topics deeper.

Step Five: Student Led Mountain Missions with Feedback

Once you have successfully completed the assignments, you will be invited to attend our mountain missions. These will be student led, not guided trips, where we will make decisions as a team. Example dates/locations: March 7-10 Revelstoke, BC // April 26-28 Shuksan, WA // May 30-June 2 Ouray, CO. We will lock in these locations based on input from those that complete the program each year.

Step Six: Be Part Of The Community

You will have access to the community of MTN Sense Backcountry Ski Certified skiers for future missions together. This could be the coolest aspect of the entire experience! Quality partners can be hard to find.

Enroll Here

Digital Avalanche Course

Your pace. Yours forever.
  • Complete the video course on your schedule. Reference lessons in the future.
  • Ask Mark Smiley direct questions.

Digital Avalanche Course

Your pace. Yours forever.
  • Complete the video course on your schedule. Reference lessons in the future.
  • Ask Mark Smiley direct questions.

Digital Avalanche Course

Your pace. Yours forever.
  • Complete the video course on your schedule. Reference lessons in the future.
  • Ask Mark Smiley direct questions.
Noitems found
No items found.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I ask Mark Smiley questions throughout the course?

Yes. Every video has a place where you can write in questions, and Mark will reply personally. We will meet twice a month, the first and third Sunday evenings Feb-April, via video conference. The mountain missions will be a great time to connect and ask questions in real time.

How fit do I need to be?

If an average ski tour is 3,000-6,000 feet (900-1800m) then you should do great. You can use this program to motivate to get there as well. The fitter you are the easier it is to drive your skis on the down, increasing the fun level.

How do I reserve my spot?

Your payment here is a deposit. You will be sent an onboarding form to make sure you're a great fit with this program. The total program cost is $6,000.

Already Enrolled In One Of The Courses?

The amount you spent on the course(s) will be deducted from the total tuition amount.

Do the ski mountaineering missions cost more?

Travel and lodging and food costs are additional. We will have camping options and no guiding fees will be accepted as this will be a volunteer, partners, trip. Mark and other pros will be present only to hang out and occasionally give input as any partner would, and will pay their own way too.

Where will the ski mountaineering missions be?

We will have three venues. Revelstoke, BC // Mt Skuksan WA // Ouray CO. Dates will circle around weekends in April and May. Exact times and locations given to those that complete the courses.

Does this count for a Rec Level 1 Avalanche Course?

This is better. Mark Smiley can provide a letter of recommendation for those that have completed this program regarding your personal level of avalanche education proficiency. Which will likely be enough to qualify for Rec Level 2 course.

Who is Mark Smiley?

Mark Smiley's passion for adventure has taken him on 30+ expeditions on five continents. He and his wife, Janelle, are the only people that have attempted to climb all 50 Classic Climbs of North America (48 successfully). He was part of a team to set a world record skiing across the entire Alps Mountain Range (1100 miles and 292,000 vertical feet) in a mere 36 days.

His avalanche safety training style is fun, mellow, and easy to understand. As an IFMGA Certified Mountain Guide, Mark Smiley is among the world's elite guides to have reached this status. More important than this certification is his candid style of conveying the best avalanche skills training techniques that will benefit you the most.

Victor Caldua was a friend and mountain guide and father who died in an avalanche while climbing Alpamayo, Peru. He left behind a wonderful wife, Alicia, and two amazing and talented daughters, Vanessa and Estefani. 10% of the profit from this course will be gifted to Victor's family for their education expenses. Vanesse wants to be an engineer and Estefani wants to be a mountain guide.

Sept 1, 2023 Update: $10,000+ sent to Victor's family, to help with school expenses. We are committed to supporting their needs indefinitely. As more people enroll, his kids' education prospects increase.

Get started now