NSAA Backcountry Tours

Backcountry ski tours are a great (and safe) way to get out on your touring skis (think ungroomed trails, fish scales and metal edges) with a group of like-minded individuals! Meet future friends, enjoy some sweet powder, bring the dog and your thermos full of hot cocoa. BEST PART YET…ski tours are completely FREE!

To support the tours program you can purchase an attractive and specially designed knit cap. They will be available at all tours, the NSAA office and the annual meeting.  All of our tours are accompanied by the Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol, who provides a measure of safety.   Many thanks for their assistance.  We look forward to skiing with you out on the trail.

Before You Join a NSAA Free Backcountry Tour…

Become a NSAA Member

Your donation helps support these FREE backcountry ski tours! Please note that you MUST be a NSAA member to join a tour.

Pick a Tour

Pick out a tour that interests you from the schedule below, and sign up for it! Signing up for a tour involves a quick phone call or email to the Backcountry Ski Tours Leader.

Fill out the Release Form

Bring your completed form to the meeting place the morning of the tour and give it to your leader! This is required.

Release Form

Review Gear List and Cheat Sheet


Ski Tour Classifications

  • Easy I: 1 to 3 miles round trip on generally flat terrain. Suitable for beginners.
  • Easy II: 3 to 6 miles round trip and up to 600 ft. elevation gain.
  • Easy III: 6 to 8 miles round trip or 600 ft. to 800 ft. elevation gain.
  • Moderate I: 800 ft. to 1100 ft. elevation gain.
  • Moderate II: 1100 ft. to 1500 ft. elevation gain.
  • Moderate III: 1500 ft. to 1800 ft. elevation gain.
  • Advanced I: 1800 ft. to 2500 ft. elevation gain.
  • Advanced II: Over 2500 ft. elevation gain

Advanced ski tours are generally on more difficult terrain and participants have developed efficiency and acquired skills for their safe backcountry ski travels. To go on an Advanced ski trip, you must be able to break trail for a period of time and must have excellent nordic/downhill skiing ability. In addition to the “10 essentials”, you should carry a shovel, probe and avalanche beacon and know how to use them, plus any extra items required by the trip leader.



With the ever changing snow conditions we have been experiencing, we will need to be flexible with locations.  Based on prior low snow years, we may need to change the location of the ski tour and will let folks know on the website and by email.


November Backcountry Tours


November 24, 2017: 20th Annual Turkey Day Shakeoff – Archangel Road, Hatcher Pass, Talkeetna Mountains

Level: Easy III
Distance: 8 miles total
Elevation Gain: 800-1000 feet
Tour Leader: Ken DePalma, 907-344-1772

Join us for this post-Thanksgiving shakeoff ski for our first tour of the season. Travel under the rugged and beautiful peaks of the Archangel Valley and past old mining ruins in Hatcher Pass for a spectacular day of skiing on the Archangel Road.   This is a great opportunity for those who want to learn about ski touring in the mountains, or start skiing for the season.  Meet at the Carrs Muldoon parking lot near the bakery at 9 am.  From there we’ll car pool to the Archangel Road trailhead about 0.8 mile up the road from Gold Mint Trailhead.  If you’d rather meet us at the trailhead, expect to see us about 10:30 am.  We anticipate arriving back at the cars about 3:30 pm, depending on how much fun we are having and how far we ski.  The first portion of the trail, to the Reed Lakes trailhead, is flat gaining only 300 feet in 2 ½ miles.  This is a great turnaround spot for beginning skiers.  The trail to the gate is another 1 ½ miles, gaining 500 feet and will be a great downhill run for those with more experience.  We expect to ski about 8 miles round trip.

Additional Information -pdf


December Backcountry Tours


December 9, 2017: Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT) from Eddies to Turnagain Pass, Kenai Mountains

Level: Moderate II
Distance: 8 miles total
Elevation Gain: 1000-1100 feet
Tour Leader: Mary Vavrik, 907-306-7686

Enjoy a great ski on a part of the Iditarod National Historic Trail (INHT).  We will start at the Eddies pullout on the southeast side of the highway before Turnagain Pass.   We will begin with a gradual ski in on a well-developed trail through the forest with short climbs on a narrow trail under various snow conditions.  We will continue southwest, descend down and cross Ingram Creek.  Then expect a climb up the south valley to then ski out the INHT to Turnagain Pass. There is a downhill section coming down to the parking area.  Skins will be likely be useful on this trip.   Meet at the Chugach State Park Headquarters (by the train south of Potter Marsh) at 9:00 am.

Additional Information -pdf


December 15, 2017: Friday Night Fun Ski – North Bivouac Trailhead off Campbell Airstrip Road

Level: Easy II
Distance: 3-6 miles total
Elevation Gain: Generally flat with a few ups and downs
Tour Leader: Ken DePalma, 907-344-1772

Meet at the North Bivouac parking lot at 7:00 pm. We will ski the old ski-jour trails, north of Basher Road.  If there is not enough snow to ski, we’ll walk.  There is potential to make this a short or long trip, depending on the group. The trails are mostly flat with a few little ups and down through beautiful forested area.  This area is also used by bikers and moose.  Bring a headlamp, water and warm clothes.  Check the local Anchorage weather forecast before heading out.


January Backcountry Tours


January 13-14, 2018: Sheep Mountain Lodge, two overnights, Talkeetna Mountains

Level: Easy III
Distance: Pick your distance, up to 15 miles (24km) or more!
Elevation Gain: 50-300 feet
Tour Leader: Mary Vavrik, 907-306-7686

Enjoy two overnights over MLK Holiday weekend at Sheep Mountain Lodge in group cabins.  Ski on 24 km groomed non-motorized trails or beyond on 60 mi multi-use trails at Sheep Mountain Saturday and Sunday.  On Monday, ski out to Matanuska Glacier along Caribou Creek.  Space is limited, so contact the tour leader to make your reservation early.  A deposit to hold a spot is required by January 1. 

Additional Information -pdf


January 15, 2018: Matanuska Glacier from Caribou Creek

Level: Moderate I (due to distance)
Distance: 10 miles total
Elevation Gain: Downhill at beginning and end, generally flat
Tour Leader: Ken DePalma, 907-344-1772

Meet at 8:30 a.m. at Carrs Muldoon where we’ll drive up to Caribou Creek pullout (Mile 106 of the Glenn Hwy) to ski to the toe of the mighty Matanuska Glacier.  We will meet any skiers coming from the Sheep Mountain Lodge weekend.  The ski will be on and off the creek and thru some brush, but mostly open terrain.  We’ll ski approximately 10 miles.  Be prepared for cold and wind. Make sure you have lunch and water.  If you choose to meet at the trailhead, be there at 11:00 am.


January 19, 2018: Friday Night Fun Ski- Mile 1.2 Campbell Airstrip Road, Basher Trailhead

Level: Easy II
Distance: 3-6 miles total
Elevation Gain: Generally flat
Tour Leader: Ken DePalma, 907-344-1772

Meet at the Campbell Airstrip trailhead parking lot at Mile 1.2 of Campbell Airstrip Road at 7:00 pm. We will ski (or walk if no snow) the groomed trails around the airstrip and along the south fork of Campbell Creek. Depending on the group, we may go up to the Hillside multi-use trails.  We may see bikers and moose. Bring a headlamp, water and warm clothes. Check the local Anchorage weather forecast before heading out.

January 27, 2018: Williwaw Lake and out Middle Fork, Chugach Mountains

Level: Moderate I
Distance: ~10 miles total
Elevation Gain: ~700 feet
Tour Leader: Patti Phillips, 907-240-3742

Ski with spectacular views of Wolverine, Mt. Elliot and O’Malley Peaks with grand views of the surrounding mountains.  This is one of Anchorage’s most accessible backcountry tours. If conditions allow for the entire route, we will need to set cars at Prospect Heights and drive up to Glen Alps to start the ski. We will meet at Prospect Heights at 9:00 am and shuttle up to Glen Alps.   From the Glen Alps parking lot we’ll ski down to cross the Middle Fork of Campbell Creek.  There are two steep sections which need to be negotiated. Foot traffic can make the trail hard packed and sometimes glazed, depending on recent snowfall. Folks can always walk down the hill. From here we will ski toward the Williwaw Lakes for a one way distance of 5 miles. The trail is relatively flat, with one hill, and a gentle slope back up the valley.  We will turnaround and continue down the Middle Fork Valley toward Prospect Heights.  There are great views of the Anchorage Bowl and Mt. Susitna.  This will be a ~ 4 mile fun downhill ski all the way out to bridge over Campbell Creek and to the cars parked at Prospect.

Additional Information -pdf


January 30 – February 1, 2018: Lunar Eclipse and Overnight at Red Shirt Lake

Level: Easy III
Distance: ~10 miles one way to cabin
Elevation Gain: Relatively flat with a few ups and downs, depending on the route
Tour Leader: Patti Phillips, 907-240-3742

Come check out the Lunar Eclipse on January 30th!  https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/anchorage

Spend two nights (mid-week) at a private cabin on Red Shirt Lake in the Mat-Su Valley.   Gear and food will be snow machined in.  Ski with only your day pack through frozen lakes and snowy forests.   Diesel heat and propane stove for cooking.  It’s a 2 hour drive to Nancy Lake Pkwy and about a 10 mile ski in (first 5 miles flat or rolling hills, depending on the route we chose for snow conditions, then another 5 miles on the lake).  Cost will only be for group food.  Space is limited.  Contact the tour leader to reserve a spot.

Additional Information -pdf



February Backcountry Tours


February 9, 2018: Friday Night Fun Ski- Upper O’Malley Trailhead

Level: Easy II
Distance: 3-6 miles
Elevation Gain: Generally flat
Tour Leader: Ken DePalma, 907-344-1772

Meet at the upper O’Malley trailhead at the end of Shebanof Avenue at 7:00 pm.  Carpooling is encouraged as thee is limited parking.  We’ll ski up White Spruce to Blueberry Hollow. Return the same route or ski down Powerline, depending on time and conditions.  Bring a headlamp, water and warm clothes.  Check the local Anchorage weather forecast before heading out.


February 11, 2018: Portage Lake and Pass

Level: Moderate I
Distance: Lake Only: ~6 miles round trip across lake, Climb to Pass: ~3 miles round trip to Portage Pass
Elevation Gain: Flat on Lake, 700 foot climb to pass
Tour Leader: Patti Phillips, 907-240-3742

Meet at the Potter train station at 9:00 am.  We will start skiing at the Begich Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Lake.  Join us for an amazing ski across Portage Lake with views of Baird Peak and Portage and Burns Glaciers.  Bring skins to climb up to Portage Pass and look over into Passage Canal and Whittier.  We will get a peek of Shakespeare Glacier to the east.   Expect wind at the top of the pass.   You can find some fun turns in the bowl on the way down.  There is one steep section that can be negotiated with wide turns or skins if you like.

Additional Information -pdf


February 17-19, 2018: Manitoba Mountain AT / Tele-ski and Touring options, two overnights Kenai Mountains

Level: Manitoba: Advanced I, Touring Option: Easy II
Distance: Manitoba: ~6 miles total, Touring Option: 3-8 miles total
Elevation Gain: Manitoba: ~2300 feet, Touring Option: 100 feet
Tour Leader: AT/Tele-ski: Michael Henrich 907-632-6440
Reservations and Touring: Karleen Leeper, 907-440-0049

Join us for two overnights over President’s Day weekend at Manitoba Huts for telemarking , AT skiing or touring.  This terrain is for beginning to intermediate skiers.  If climbing Manitoba Mountain, you’ll need skins for your skis.  You should also have avalanche gear (beacon, probe and shovel) for the telemark or AT portion of skiing.   If you’d like to kick and glide instead, there are a couple of touring options to beautiful Summit Lake or rolling hills to the north on old gold mining trails (no skins required).  There is also a sauna to enjoy!  Cost is $48 pp for 2 nights for lodging.  Bring your own breakfasts and lunches and a potluck dish to share for two dinners. Because the weather is often variable, bring clothing for wind, cold and snow.   Reserve your bunk with tour leader Karlene Leeper. Updated 12/20 There are 2 spots left! Call the NSAA office 907-276-7609 to reserve your spot.

Additional Information -pdf


March Backcountry Tours


March 2, 2018: Friday Night Fun Ski- Glen Alps

Level: Easy II
Distance: 3-6 miles
Elevation Gain: Generally flat with rolling terrain
Tour Leader: Ken DePalma, 907-344-1772

Meet at Glen Alps upper/old parking lot at 7:00 pm. We have two options: 1.) up the Powerline toward the German Bridge (2.5 miles rolling terrain) or 2.) down the Powerline toward Prospect Heights, possibly on the South Rim trail, with a few drops and gentle climb back to the lot.  We will let the weather guide us.  There is always a possibility to see moose and bikers. Bring your headlamp, water and warm clothes. Check the local Anchorage weather forecast and Glen Alps current conditions before heading out.


March 2-4, 2018: Denali View Chalet, two overnights, Peters Hills

Level: Easy II
Distance: 8 miles one way to Chalet
Elevation Gain: Generally flat with rolling terrain
Tour Leader: Karlene Leeper, 907-440-0049

Enjoy the weekend at a rustic Alaskan lodge on Kroto Lake south of Mt. McKinley.  Ski 8 miles into the lodge with just a day pack.   Your gear and food will be brought in by the chalet owner on snowmachine.   Enjoy awesome views of Denali, fantastic company, wonderful group cuisine, sauna and more skiing on various trails in the area.  Because the weather is often variable, bring clothing for wind, cold and snow.  Space is limited.   A $100 deposit to hold a spot is required by February 15, 2018.

Additional Information -pdf


March 10-18, 2018: Denali National Park Sled Dog Supported Ski Tour

Tour Leader: Bob Sutherland, 502-429-1082 or funhog.fundogs@gmail.com 

Once again we are offering a ski tour in Denali National Park with dog sled support.   Fly into Kantishna, load your gear onto dog sleds and start your adventure. Ski in the face of Denali for the week sleeping in Park Service cabins and wood heated tents. The dog sleds haul the gear, you ski with a day pack. Experience beautiful sunrises, sunsets on the North Face of Denali, star filled nights and maybe an aurora or two. There will be six skiers, two mushers and about 24 dogs.  Generally, we will travel about 10 miles per day, but there may be a couple days where we ski 15 miles.  This is a new trip in this area and an itinerary will be available soon.


March 18, 2018: Skookum Glacier, Turnagain Arm, Kenai Peninsula

Level: Moderate I (due to distance)
Distance: 12 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 400 feet
Tour Leader: Patti Phillips, 907-240-3742

This will be a kick and glide tour up to the Skookum Glacier.  On a sunny day, you’ll enjoy incredible views of the glacier, Byron and Carpathian Peaks.  Because it’s spring, we have to worry about the warmth instead of the cold.  The ski is flat, but depending on snow conditions, we may need to negotiate some snow bridge crossings.   There are beautiful views of the glacier from ~mile 4.  To get to the glacier, we will need to continue on, ski down and up Skookum creek valley and up on the glacier moraine.  We’ll meet at 9 am at the Chugach State Park Headquarters parking lot (the train south of Potter Marsh).

Additional Information -pdf


March 30, 2018: Friday Night Fun Ski- Prospect Height Trailhead

Level: Easy II
Distance: 3-6 miles
Elevation Gain: Rolling terrain
Tour Leader: Ken DePalma, 907-344-1772

Meet at Prospect Heights at 7:00 pm. We have two options: 1.) ski towards Glen Alps on the Powerline and return on the Rim Trail or 2.) ski out towards Wolverine and back.  There is always a possibility to see moose and bikers.  Bring your headlamp, water and warm clothes. Check the local Anchorage weather forecast before heading out.



April Backcountry Tours


April 7, 2018: Turnagain or Hatcher Pass Tour- TBD

Tour Leader: Mary Vavrik, 907-306-7686

We will scout out the best snow for a spring ski


Additional Information and Contacts

Our plan is to have a fun time on the trail.  So a here is a list of things to bring and what to expect to make this as enjoyable and trouble free as possible.

Frequently on our tours there will be stops on the trail for water, food and visiting.  And to help re-energize and to enjoy ourselves we’ll also take time to have lunch and visit as well.  Bringing a good lunch, break food and water are important.  At our stops, make sure you have a jacket or other layers to put on so you can keep the chill off.

Good working gear is essential.  If this is your first ski trip of the season, check your skis, boots and poles to make sure they are up to the task.  Breakdowns in the backcountry are a real pain in the neck.  Of particular importance is appropriately fitting footwear.  Long backcountry trips with poorly fitting boots spells disaster for your feet.  Nothing spoils any sport like ill-fitting foot gear.

Metal edged skis scale skis are not essential, but are great for touring. The AT and tele tours will require the use of skins.  Most ski tours require waxless, classic skis or classic skis with kick wax. The most popular skis used on our tours are waxless with metal edges.   Since we’ll use the traditional diagonal stride while skiing, skate skis are not appropriate. If you have questions concerning the type of skis to bring, email or call the tour leader.

It’s always good to check the weather and see what gear might be appropriate to bring along.  We strongly advise bringing a day pack and loading it with warm comfortable clothes.  Obviously warm gloves or mittens and something to keep your head warm are important.  You also might want to wear long underwear on colder trips.  Bring a fleece or other light puffy jacket for added warmth during breaks and lunches.  We also advocate bringing something for the wind and if necessary snow (and rain).  Being prepared in the backcountry is always good advice.

Dogs on trips can make them much more pleasurable.  And they are welcome on the trips we lead as long as they get along with other dogs.  Dog fights are repulsive and are unallowable.  We really don’t care who starts the fight, we just don’t want to be there for it.  Dogs staying in the confines of the group are welcome, so those who might chase animals should probably stay home.

Feel free to contact your trip leader if you have any questions.  Asking questions can clear up confusion and assist you in your preparations for your ski trip.  Questions are good.

Weather Links

Area Temps

Anchorage Forecast

Palmer Forecast

Turnagain Pass temps and snow depths

Independence Mine temps and snow depths

Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center

Chugach National Forest Service Avalanche Center


Backcountry Ski Tours Leader, Patti Phillips
Phone: 907-240-3742

Patti Phillips, NSAA Contact: phillipspj@chugach.net, 907-240-3742
Mary Vavrik, Nordic Ski Patrol contact: mvavrik@gci.net, 907-306-7686
Karlene Leeper, Denali View Chalet contact: kbleeper@gci.net, 907-440-0049
Ken DePalma, Friday Night Fun skis contact: traveler@alaska.net, 907-344-1772