arcteryx academy backcountry ski touring jackson wyoming

Arc’teryx Academy: Backcountry Classes From Pro Guides, Athletes

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Arc’teryx hosts three academies every year: backcountry ski touring, rock climbing, and alpine adventures. I attended the Backcountry Academy in Wyoming last week to learn how Arc’teryx educates and entertains thousands of people each year.

I lowered down the lip of the crevasse, placing my survival in the hands of my partners above, rigging a haul system. We practiced 6-to-1 haul systems as part of a crevasse rescue course on low-angle terrain this past weekend. And, of course, this was just a simulated rescue!

arcteryx academy backcountry ski touring jackson wyoming
All photos by Nate Mitka

From February 7 to 10, Arc’teryx held its second annual Backcountry Academy at the Snow King Resort in Jackson, Wyo. I elected to take an intro to crevasse course during one of the days — one of more than 40 clinics offered.

Arc’teryx expanded upon last year’s event for this year’s Academy in Jackson. The Backcountry Academy focuses on backcountry ski touring and splitboarding, in addition to more technical courses like crevasse rescue, ski mountaineering, and companion rescue.

Yet the wintersports-specific clinic is just one of three the Vancouver-based brand offers during the year. People can attend a rock-focused academy in Squamish, British Columbia, and coming up this summer is Arc’teryx’s Alpine Academy in Chamonix, France.

“For us, it’s all about the community, education, and making people feel welcome,” said Jo Salamon, North America media and communications manager for Arc’teryx.

Arc’teryx Academy: What Is It?

Arc’teryx launched its first Academy roughly 14 years ago. The first annual event in Squamish was a climbing and film festival with clinics that grew year after year.

The brand sought to connect with the community in the outdoors and spread a wealth of education to attendees.

Here’s how it works: Over the course of several days to a week, attendees take half- or full-day clinics. And after a nice long day in the mountains, each night is packed with events. From happy hours to film presentations and photo competitions, Arc’teryx keeps the stoke going.

The Backcountry Academy in Jackson consisted of more than 40 clinics, 10 athletes, and countless guides.

This summer’s event in Chamonix will include more than 70 guided clinics and 30 athletes across four days. The brand said it will host about 450 attendees for Chamonix.

Given the nature of the clinics in the backcountry — be it multipitch climbing or skiing down couloirs — safety remains a foundation for all the clinics. The brand wants to give people a platform to ask questions. Time with guides is valuable, and at the Academy, group sizes are small (typically fewer than 10 people).

My Experience: Backcountry Academy

My three hours of crevasse rescue simulation was just enough to understand where I needed to take my education next. The technical clinics don’t offer certificates, but there’s enough information to provide a solid foundation or refresher.

arcteryx academy backcountry ski touring jackson wyoming
Our Exum guide scopes a way down

The day after my crevasse rescue, I headed toward Teton pass for my next clinic, a day of shooting with the senior outdoor photographer for Arc’teryx, Angela Percival. The Intermediate Photography clinic included a full day of setting up shots with Arc’teryx athletes Forrest Coots and Lucy Sackbauer.

But this wasn’t some special media-only opportunity. Anyone could sign up for this session. It blew my mind how much time we spent with such respected names in outdoor photography and skiing. And there were only three other amateurs taking the clinic!

arcteryx academy backcountry ski touring jackson wyoming
Arc’teryx athlete Lucy Sackbauer nails the pillow during our photo clinic

On my last day, we toured into Grand Teton National Park for a proper ski tour. Two Exum guides and Arc’teryx athlete Chad Sayers joined us for the ride.

We toured for a few hours to a windswept zone dotted with the national park’s famous whitebark pines. These trees can live up to 1,000 years and have stark-white bark.

arcteryx academy backcountry ski touring jackson wyoming
Nothing but pine and wind up here

With wind whipping across the ridge and ghostly whitebark pines standing still in attendance, we dropped into a series of couloirs. For me, that day will go down as some of the best snowboarding ever.

Attend Chamonix: Upcoming Arcteryx Academy

My time in Jackson had me itching to look into the next Arc’teryx Academy.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait that long for the next iteration. Arc’teryx holds its Alpine Academy in Chamonix, France, on July 4-7, 2019. Clinic details emerge online on March 7, and registration opens March 20 to roughly 450 people.

The clinics cost between $150 and $300. And the brand cautions it sells out fast.

arcteryx academy backcountry ski touring jackson wyoming
Weston Backcountry offered splitboard demos during the whole Academy

This summer’s Alpine Academy will include athletes Nina Caprez (climber), Will Gadd (ice climber), Ines Papert (ice climber/alpinist), Adam Campbell (runner), and skiers Thibaud Duchosal and Stian Hagen.

And sure, the clinics may seem expensive at first glance. But consider the high cost of private guides for a day, and the Academy becomes more reasonable. Plus, attendees get to experience world-class backcountry activities with an uplifting community — not to mention Arc’teryx athletes!

“More and more people want to go on vacations that are action-packed,” said Salamon. “People are turning this into a vacation.”

Four days in Chamonix learning alpine climbing and ski touring techniques? Doesn’t sound like a bad vacation to me!

By
Midwest born, Nate Mitka is based in the GearJunkie Denver office. He is an advocate of all outdoor activities and has developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.