Gear Lists

Use these handy equipment lists to make sure you have everything you need for your trip. They’re pretty generic, so adapt each gear checklist to your specific needs. Each of our trips has a customized list, so be sure to consult the list specific to your trip if you’ve booked one of our adventures.

Waiver, Release of Liability

Release of Liability Waiver – you need to sign one of these before starting any trip with an ACMG guide. The waiver is a mechanism by which the risk associated with mountaineering and wilderness ski trips is transferred to those in a better position to bear (or insure against) that risk. It is recommended that all guests purchase travel and/or accident insurance. Your insurance broker can advise you as to what other types of insurance you may require, such as disability, evacuation, and life insurance.

Food Planning

Having Sawback provide your food is highly recommended. For just $45/person/day you don’t have to plan, purchase, prepare or pack your food and you’re guaranteed to have good tasting, easy to prepare food in just the right quantities. Here’s a link to our backcountry ski traverse food planning worksheets to give you an idea of what we offer. Feel free to use it and adapt it to your own backcountry trip planning.

Miscellaneous Resources

Mountain Conditions Resources

Rental Shops

What is an IFMGA Mountain Guide?

From the IFMGA’s website (see the IFMGA’s website for more information):

Rogers Pass

McGill Shoulder

Wow what great ski touring conditions at Rogers Pass this weekend. The avalanche situation is still tricky but the ski quality is fantastic in the alpine and treeline elevations.

On Saturday we skied one of the gun barrels off McGill shoulder, which was pretty fantastic until the lower elevations where the coverage is still not enough for carefree skiing. That didn’t stop Luke and Jake from hitting it hard, bouncing off the snow mushrooms with abandon. The rest of us descended with more caution and eventually made it down to the creek, which is still open but easy to cross. From there we hiked up a few hundred metres for a lap on the beautiful Christiana Glades to wrap up the day.

Not many photos this day as the light was no good and the skiing too good, but here’s one I snapped near the top of our 1100 m climb on Mount McGill:




Winter 2018 Lodge Trips

For our 2019 lineup please check out our Current Trips page!

This listing is for archival purposes

With the exception of the Nirvana Pass Ski Camp, all of my trips for 2018 are fully booked. I have already scheduled a number of trips for Winter 2019, have a look and book your spot today!

Winter 2018 Schedule

Bow-Yoho Traverse – Dec 28-Jan 1 – FULL – This seems to be the winter for Yoho traverses. Guide: Tom Wolfe

Avalanche Skills Training Level 2 (AST-2) – FULL – Jan 6/7, Jan 13/14 (two consecutive weekends), based out of Canmore, AB (1st weekend) and Golden BC (second weekend). Instructor/Guide: Tom Wolfe

Burnie Glacier Chalet – Feb 2-9, 2018 – FULL – Guides: Christoph Dietzfelbinger, Tom Wolfe

Burnie Glacier Chalet – Feb 9-16, 2018 – FULL – Guides: Rob Coppolillo, Tom Wolfe

Valhalla Mountain Lodge – Feb 24-Mar 3, 2018 – FULL – Guides: Lila Jansma, Tom Wolfe

Nirvana Pass Ski Camp – March 9-15, 2018 – $2500/person – 8 spots, 2 spots available! – NOT a lodge, but a deluxe fly-in wilderness ski camp in this legendary Coast Range ski mountaineering zone, with heated kitchen and dry tents, and guest tents provided! Fully catered and guided. Guides: Tom Wolfe, Cook & second guide: TBA

Bow-Yoho Traverse – March 17-22, 2018 – $1795 – FULL – waiting list available – Bow Hut to Guy Hut To Stanley Mitchell. Guide: Tom Wolfe

Bow-Yoho Traverse – April 15-21, 2018 – $1695/person – FULL, waiting list available – Fully catered and guided. Guide: Tom Wolfe

Sorcerer Lodge – April 22-29, 2018 – $2300/person – FULL – Luxury lodge in the Canadian Rockies fully guided/catered. Enjoy spring skiing and mountaineering at its finest. Guides: Ian Kirschner, Tom Wolfe; Cook: Michelle Heerschop

Ski and Sail Spitzbergen – 22 May – 1 June, 2018 – $7330/person – FULL. This is a truly exploratory ski touring expedition in the rugged mountains of Spitsbergen, the only (barely) populated Island in the Svalbard Island group of about 60 islands in the Arctic Ocean north of Norway at a Latitude of 79º. Few spots in this world are as remote and wild as Spitsbergen, not to mention all the wildlife and glaciated peaks that offer world class skiing. Guides: Jörg Wilz, Tom Wolfe

Prices are in Canadian Dollars (CAD) and do not include 5% federal sales tax (GST)

Guided Ice Climbing in Canmore and Banff

Ice Climbing Canmore

I’ve been ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies since the mid-90s and have guided many of the hardest lines as well as coached beginners up easy flows at the Junkyards and King Creek. Drop me a line to discuss your private guiding needs.


Pricing for guiding(2018/19) does not include 5% GST

Guide base rate – $500 per day, one or two guests.
Additional guests – climbing: $100/guest, skiing: $50/guest
Premiums – $50-$250/day (depending on scope of objective)
Discounts – for shoulder season and short days enquire for details.
Multi-day trips – enquire for a custom quote; usually priced at $550/day for one or two guests, plus expenses.

To give you an idea of what to expect, a day of multi pitch rock climbing that lasts about 8 hours with a single client would cost $500 (i.e. the 8-pitch rock route Ballista). A long alpine day with two guests that is about 15 hours car to car would cost $850 ($500 base rate, $100 for the extra guest, $250 for the long day, i.e. Lefroy or Fay in a day). A Wapta traverse runs around $1500-1950 per person depending on the number of days (4-6 is typical) and other factors. Contact us for a quote. Hut based trips are a bit more complicated and depend on the destination and are typically done on a per person cost except for exclusive bookings. For example, Burnie Glacier Chalet is currently $2550/person for one week including airport and transfer day shuttles, food, guiding, accommodation, and gear rental (if available).

Maximum ratios

  • Technical climbing (multi-pitch, alpine) – 1:1 (recommended), 1:2
  • Ski touring, hiking, instruction – 1:8
  • General mountaineering – 1:5


Tasty, nutritious mountain fare, specialised diets accommodated – $45/person/day for guests and guides. Please see our Resources page for a description of the menus available.


Technical climbing equipment is available free of charge with guide’s fee if necessary.

This does NOT include boots, shoes or other clothing or ski touring equipment. We may carry what you need; contact us for details and pricing chart. Check our Resources page for a list of rental shops in the area.

Transportation, Huts, Park Fees

  • Guests are expected to provide transportation for the guide. If the guide’s vehicle is required a fee of $.35/km applies.
  • Depending on your specific mountain adventure there may be additional costs. Huts cost in the range of $15-30/night.
  • Contact us for the details.

Booking conditions

A deposit of 50% is payable in order to secure your trip dates. The remainder of the trip fee is typically payable 30-60 days in advance of the trip start date (trip dependant). If you cancel a trip your deposits are non-refundable, so you are advised to consider trip cancellation insurance. If we cancel a trip for any reason, all money you have deposited for a trip will be refunded in full.

Waiver, Release of Liability

Release of Liability Waiver – you need to sign one of these before starting any trip with an ACMG guide. The waiver is a mechanism by which the risk associated with mountaineering and wilderness ski trips is transferred to those in a better position to bear (or insure against) that risk. It is recommended that all guests purchase travel and/or accident insurance. Your insurance broker can advise you as to what other types of insurance you may require, such as disability, evacuation, and life insurance.

Rogers Pass :: Advanced Avalanche Skills Training :: AST-2

Illicil Cracking 14 Jan 2018

I spent this past weekend in Rogers Pass finishing the second part of an AST-2 class. We had a great time, spending Saturday in the Ursus Trees area and Sunday up the Illicilliwaet drainage.

Sure enough the surface hoar problems discussed in the Parks avalanche bulletins were easy to find and very reactive especially below 1850 m on shaded aspects with slabs of 75 cm+ overlying large, faceted surface hoar feathers 15 mm and larger. Dig down a bit to admire them, they can’t be missed!

Natural activity on Sunday was from the sun though, and during the warm-up there was lots of action at alpine elevations to size 3, see photo of several below Avalanche Mountain (38+ degrees, S & SW aspect, around 2400 m).

We were conservative with our terrain selection, sticking to lower angled terrain and giving avalanche paths healthy respect. But things have continued to heat up since yesterday and the hazard is now being rated High at treeline and alpine elevations, which certainly matches with my limited observations in Bostock, Connaught and Illicilliwaet drainages this weekend.

Here’s a photo of the cracking/shearing that occurred over a small convex roll yesterday to give you a bit of an idea of what would likely happen if you stepped onto something larger. We also had several huge whumpfs that sent shooting cracks for hundreds of meters.


Ski quality has been excellent, which further validates the Special Avalanche Warning that Avalanche Canada has put out — the great skiing will surely tempt skiers to be less conservative than warranted during this high hazard period of the winter. All in all, an excellent time for AST courses!

Sunshine Slackcountry :: Bye Bye Bowl

Sunshine Slackcountry

The best of both worlds: lift accessed powder backcountry skiing at Sunshine Village! January 4th I headed out with Rohan, Deb and Miriam to the south side of Bye-Bye Bowl. Great slackcountry skiing, with a short little tour back inbounds to catch the Divide Chair for another lap!

Sunshine Village Slackcountry ski touring, with Mount Assiniboine in the background

Miriam on Bye Bye Bowl

Deb, Bye Bye Bowl

Sunshine Village Slackcountry

Bow-Yoho Traverse

Des Poilus Glacier

I completed a 4-day ski tour of the Yoho Traverse yesterday with a very hardy group Dec 29-Jan 1. We experienced very cold temperatures, ranging from -35C to -17C. Face protection in the form of buffs and goggles were essential at times, especially on the glaciers, and toe warmers helped keep things as comfortable as possible.

On the first day of our trip there was about 25 cm of new snow that fell on the faceted surfaces. We found some thin buried wind slabs on ridgetops. There was excellent calf-deep skiing in sheltered locations.

The icefall below Mt. Collie are easily navigated with good visibility but would be a challenge in poor visibility. While we didn’t walk over any obvious bridges and it seems well filled in, photographs of the icefall from a few weeks ago show that it is riddled with crevasses. There was an average of around 130 cm on the glaciers (we probed as little as 90 cm) and we kept the rope on for almost the entire glacier portion of the traverse.

The toe of the Des Poilus Glacier is a very large, vertical ice cliff. This is easily avoided by crossing early to the skier’s right (west) side of the glacier (see photos; the ACC and Parks Canada have excellent information on the route getting to and away from Guy Hut).

Avalanche hazard was Moderate (2) in the alpine and treeline and improving by the day. We had one skier triggered avalanche on New Year’s Eve, a small size 1 that did not propagate beyond my ski tracks, and which occurred around a protruding faceted rock, was sluggish, and did not move far. 38 degrees, south aspect off the top of Isolated Col (2400 m), down 20 cm on a thin buried wind crust over facets, 10 m wide, ran 20 m (see photos). Apart from that we had no signs of cracking, whoompfing or shearing during the entire trip including ski cutting steep rolls on the N side of isolated col which we skied wall to wall with 8 sets of tracks. A test profile at 2100 m, N aspect (Isolated Col) had broken results down 20 cm.

By the end of the trip the alpine looked wind affected on some larger open slopes like the McArthur Glacier and below the Presidents.

If you plan to stay at the Guy Hut soon be sure to check about the lock. We were not expecting the hut to be locked. I’ve reported this to the ACC and they should be aware of it now.

The slope above the hut is very thinly covered in snow (0-30 cm) and littered with sharp rocks. Careful!

Also, the days are short and the margins for wasted time are tight getting from the Bow Hut to the Guy Hut before dark at this time of the year. We left in the dark at around 8 am and found that gave us enough time with a couple of hours to spare, but we moved swiftly and without problems — critically important in the extreme cold and moderate winds we experienced that morning.

Yesterday as we shivered in the valley bottom at -17C we heard that Parks Visitor Safety measured +1C on the Wapta during a rescue. Hard to believe such a radical inversion.

(first picture of me on Isolated Col courtesy of Nathan Jones)