Ski tour planning


The main and only goal for trip planning is to recognize and avoid potential problems early enough and get ready for them. When planning we are looking at conditions, terrain, and human factors.


What to consider during the trip planning:

  1. Choose an appropriate trip (feasible/realistic). Look up information from various websites, maps, and guide books. Ask for info from local skiers. 

  2. Gather information on weather and snow conditions, terrain difficulty and its aspect, look also for the human factors.

  3. Draw the planned route onto a 1:25000 topo map.

  4. Identify and access cruxes of the route.

  5. Determine decision points and plan alternatives.

  6. Estimate timelines determine fixed times.

  7. Review your entire trip plan and think about what could go wrong.


We can split the trip planning into 3x3 assessment and decision framework.


  1. TRIP PLANNING (done home a few days before the tour) - a trip destination with alternatives and a schedule



  • Avalanche bulletin (forecast)

  • Weather forecast

  • Info on a planned trip from the online community (with caution)

  • Time or the day/season

  • Other info



  • Plan your route on a topo map 1:25000, including alternatives

  • Ski touring guidebook and ski touring map

  • Identify cruxes and assess options

  • Info from locals



  • Who is coming along

  • How many people 

  • Responsibility 

  • Participants’ wishes and expectations

  • Skills and fitness of participants/leader

  • Equipment

  • Timelines  


(time calculator: when planning the approximate time of the tour, you can calculate 1h for every 300m vertical, 1/4h for every km. The lover measure you divide by 2 and add these together. Example: 1,5km vertical / 10km >> 5h + 2,5h >> 5+(2,5/2) = 6,25h)


Considering all these things we need to be able to choose what tour is feasible for a certain group. 


  1. LOCAL EVALUATION (done right at the place when starting the tour) - Compare your beliefs and conceptions to reality. Stay aware throughout the entire day, revise trip planning if necessary.



  • Look for warning signs

  • Current weather, the tendency

  • Avalanche problems? Or is the avalanche situation favorable?

  • Is the current avalanche situation similar to what is described in the bulletin?

  • Visibility 



  • View into the cruxes

  • Possible critical areas

  • Route choice and possible alternatives

  • Existing tracks



  • Transceiver check

  • Check equipment

  • Physical and mental stare (personal, group)

  • Are timelines realistic?

  • Heuristic traps

  • Who else is out there?

  • Encourage feedback culture

  • Group dynamic processes


Does everything look as planned? Does the tour look still feasible for the group considering the conditions, weather, … at the moment?


  1. INDIVIDUAL SLOPE (done during the tour) - Final risk assessment,m trail selection, travel techniques, or avoidance.



  • Avalanche problems in the slope? How severe are they? Or is the current avalanche situation favorable?

  • Visibility 

  • Frequently traveled

  • Other dangers (glacier, cornice, …)



  • Steepness 

  • Aspect and elevation (favorable/unfavorable)

  • The shape of the terrain

  • Slope dimensions

  • Possible consequences/terrain trap

  • Trail selection



  • Mental state (group, personal)

  • Facts vs. feelings

  • Tactics (spreading out, riding one at a time, regrouping at safety spots)

  • Communication

  • Leadership/discipline 


Here we are making the final decision if the slope we wanna ride is ok to be ridden down and how.




Look and pay attention to all possible warning signs which are typical for higher levels of avalanche danger from level 3 (considerable) up. 

  • Recent slab avalanches

  • “Whumpf” sounds

  • Shooting crags when stepping onto the snow

  • New snow and wind

  • Fresh deposits of wind-drifted snow

  • Rain on a dry snowpack

  • Marked warning close to the melting point (0°C; especially after snowfall)


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