Country guide

Note: Always to check local conditions including weather, season and avalanche hazard for new places you visit.

Southern hemisphere

Backcountry skiing can start from early winter (mid June) and may extend to late spring (late November).

Good backcountry skiing locations can be found in the alpine regions of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. The season can start in early winter (mid June) and often extends to late spring (late November).

  • It is uncommon for the temperature get lower than -5C during winter. Temperatures are higher during spring - usually above 0C during the day. Rain can be encountered sometimes.

  • Avalanches do occur, particularly on higher wind-loaded slopes.

  • There is a mix of terrain including steep slopes and expansive undulating areas in the Kozcuisko National Park (New South Wales) and the Bogong High Plains (Victoria).

  • Some huts may be available for self-catering groups, but groups should always be self sufficient and equipped for snow camping.

For more information see Australia

New Zealand

Good backcountry skiing locations can be found in the south of the North Island on and around several volcanoes, and in the Southern Alps of the South Island. The season can start in winter (July) and often extends to late spring (late November).

  • It is uncommon for the temperature get lower than -5C during winter. Temperatures are higher during spring - usually around or above 0C during the day. Rain can be encountered sometimes. Strong winds are common.

  • Avalanches are common in the higher alpine regions and there are glaciers with crevasses.

  • Lower areas have backcountry skiing with a variety of terrain

  • Skiing peaks and glaciers of the Main Divide requires mountaineering equipment including harness, ice axe, rope, crampons and ice screws. There are long approaches so helicopters and ski planes are commonly used to access these areas.

  • Alpine huts are available for self-catering groups and are commonly used as a base for day trips.

  • Locations include:

    • Franz Josef Glacier - Chancellor hut to Centennial Hut

    • Tasman Saddle - peaks including Elie de Beaumont, Minarets and the Hochstetter Dome can be skied from a choice of two huts.

    • Mt Hutt backcountry

    • Symphony on Skis, West to East, Mt Cook N.P - an epic ski mountaineering tour

    • Two Thumb range - stunning views and everything from mellow valley runs to steep chutes make this a great option for all abilities.

    • Ohau Range

Links: Ski Touring New Zealand – Inspiration for Winter and Alpine Recreation - Ski Overview

Northern hemisphere

  • Cold temperatures and shorter daylight hours occur during winter (December, January, February)

  • Spring (March, April, through to mid-May) is the most popular time for backcountry skiing. The days get longer and the weather gets warmer. Spring snow conditions are common but cold snaps can still occur with fresh snow dumps.

Norway

Norway has a mix of locations for backcountry skiing including undulating terrain (such as the Hardangervidda) and challenging steeper slopes and ski peaks in areas such as the Sunnmore Alpes, Romsdalen and the Lofoten Islands and the Lyngen Alps in the North.

  • Very cold temperatures and short daylight hours occur during winter, particularly in the north. The Northern Lights are sometimes seen.

  • Spring (March, April, and May) is the most popular time for backcountry skiing. The days get longer and the weather gets warmer all over the country. Spring snow conditions are common but cold snaps can still occur with fresh snow dumps.

  • Avalanches do occur in many locations - seek local advice on avalanche risk in areas you intend to ski.

  • Crevasses are very uncommon.

  • Some huts with wardens and meals are available during winter, others are self catering. It is common to use a town as a base and do several backcountry day tours in a region. This approach allows you to select a location with the best weather for the day, but a vehicle is required.

  • Locations include:

    • Sunnmøre Alps - challenging steeper slopes and ski peaks up to 1700m around Hjørundfjorden in Western Norway. Ski peaks include Slogen, Skarasalen, Dukhornet, Blaja, Kolåstinden,

    • Romsdal Alps - challenging ski peaks such as Blånebba and Gjuratinden close to fjords. Åndalsnes and Isfjorden are towns that provide a good base.

    • Lofoten Islands - ski peaks and routes with superb views across fjords and the ocean with warmer weather due to the coastal location

    • Tromso and Kvaloya, North Norway - numerous ski peaks with views across fjords including Skitntinden, Storstolspan, Nordfjellet, Middagstinden, Ullstinden, Steinskardtinden

    • Lyngen Alps, North Norway - alpine mountains with excellent touring terrain and excellent ski peaks.

    • Hardangervidda - an expansive plateau with rolling terrain, popular for snow kiting

Link: Ski touring in Norway

Europe - France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy

The European Alps are a very popular location for backcountry skiing. Alpine touring gear is most commonly used.

  • Spring (March, April, and May) is the most popular time for backcountry skiing. Spring snow conditions are common but cold snaps can still occur with fresh snow dumps.

  • Avalanches are common in many locations - seek local advice on avalanche risk in areas you intend to ski.

  • Crevasses in glaciated areas are common.

  • Most huts have wardens and meals are available.

  • The Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt is one of the most popular backcountry tours. Ski mountaineering equipment including harness, ice axe, rope, crampons and ice screws are needed as some cols can be very steep and icy and numerous glaciers with crevasses are traversed.

  • It is also common to use a town or ski resort as a base and do several day tours in the area.

United States and Canada

There is a wide variety of mountains and terrain for backcountry skiing.

  • Ski areas close to the West Coast get maritime weather and often have wetter snow. Ski areas inland usually have drier snow and powder.

  • Spring (March, April, and May) is the most popular time for backcountry skiing. Snow conditions can range from fresh powder though to Spring snow.

  • Avalanches are common in many locations - seek local advice on avalanche risk in areas you intend to ski.

  • Hut-based backcountry skiing is popular, with some commercial operations providing guides and meals.

  • It is also common to use a town or ski resort as a base and do several day backcountry tours in the area.

  • Canadian locations include British Columbia and Alberta. Some locations in Canada have glaciers.

    • Red Mountain - good powder and good backcountry tours

    • Rogers Pass - advanced terrain, good powder

    • Revelstoke - heli-ski and cat-ski operations are available, challenging terrain, good powder

    • Whistler Blackcomb - big ski resorts with backcountry routes and huts. Wetter snow.

    • Lake Louise - alpine terrain, good powder, can get very cold.

Link: The Best Places for Backcountry Skiing in Canada in 2021.

  • United states locations include:

    • Washington - North Cascades, Olympic Mountains, Cascade volcanoes

    • California - Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada

    • Wyoming - Jackson Hole

    • Utah - Wasatch Mountains, famous for powder

    • Colorado - Aspen, Crested Butte, Copper Mountain, Tellluride

    • Montana - Bridger Range, Glacier National Park wilderness areas

Link: Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding in the United States

Japan

Japan has hundreds of ski resorts and a wide variety of backcountry skiing and is known for great powder.

  • January and February are the best months for cold temperatures, heavy snow falls and good powder

  • Spring (March, April, and May) is also popular for backcountry skiing. Snow conditions range from spring snow with occasional late fresh snow.

  • Avalanches occur in many locations - seek local advice on avalanche risk in areas you intend to ski. If in doubt, go with a guided group.

  • It common to use a town or ski resort as a base and do several day backcountry tours in the area.

  • Locations with good powder and backcountry tours include:

    • Hokkaido - Niseko, Mount Yotei, Asahidake, Rusutsu, Tokachi Mountains (Furano)

    • Nagano - Nozawa Onsen, Hakuba

    • Aomori - Hakkoda

Link: 9 Best Backcountry Ski Spots in Japan