Newcomer's Information

Imagine yourself on skis, climbing across wilderness mountainsides in the quiet of winter, stopping for lunch in brilliant sunshine on a peak with a view of snow-covered ridges and valleys stretching to the horizon, and then making a ski descent through miles of untracked snow back to camp. If you share our love of the mountains in the winter and our enthusiasm for challenging skiing on uncrowded backcountry slopes, we'd be pleased to have you join us. The active membership of the SMS consists of men and women who range in age from their 20's to their 70's who all enjoy skiing in the company of a group of friends and who share a love of mountain wilderness in winter.

You should have some hiking experience and be in good physical condition. You will need a daypack with suitable gear (backpack and sleeping bag for overnight trips), and metal-edged skis with tour bindings that permit the heel to lift for walking on the level and uphill.You may use Alpine (latched heel) or Nordic (free-heel) touring gear, or a snowboard. To climb uphill, you will need climbing skins to attach to the bottom of your skis. These are strips of material fastened on skis, long enough to cover the entire bottom, with hairs that lie back to grip the snow while climbing but slide on level or downhill. Many slopes are too steep for the use of waxes or waxless skis except by those skilled in their use. Snowboarders will need lightweight snowshoes or skis for climbing and walking in soft snow.

The SMS sponsors a number of trips designed to allow beginning and intermediate skiers to sharpen their backcountry skiing and winter camping skills so that they may participate in and enjoy some of the section's more advanced activities. Several introductory tours are held at the beginning of each season. The SMS prefers that newcomers to the sport attend these tours, but leaders will accept those with suitable experince who miss the introductory tours.

All outings (which may include fall hikes and other non-ski trips) are led by members of the section certified as leaders by the Angeles Chapter Safety Committee. Backcountry ski tours are led by those leaders who have also completed additional training for ski touring.

Ski Mountaineers Section meetings are held at 7:30 pm on the third Tuesday of each month (except December) from November through May at the Griffith Park Ranger Station Auditorium, 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles. Newcomers are welcome. The meetings feature entertaining skiing programs and provide opportunities to discuss equipment, plan trips, and pray for snow!

To join the section and to participate safely on easy slow-paced tours, you must be at least an intermediate skier. You should know how to tour and to ski downhill well enough to pass the Sierra Club Qualifying (Fourth Class) Test (see test section; snowboard equivalent under development). Passing a formal test is not required, but to participate in tours and become a member you must be able to ski at the level indicated by the test. You can qualify for membership by demonstrating your skills to an SMS leader on a scheduled introductory tour or otherwise. Many tours require a higher level of skill.

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Where We Ski - SMS members organize numerous trips each year into the mountains of Southern California and the Sierra Nevada. Typical trips include:
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What to Expect - Backcountry trips vary in duration and difficulty from introductory day trips to multi-day backcountry expeditions. Many trips involve climbing 2000 to 4000 feet per day and then skiing the return route to the starting point or to camp.

Are You Qualified? The trip leader determines who is qualified for each trip. Call the leader for advice if you are not sure.

Face Plant

More About Training - Introductory and backcountry skills progression events include the following: Tips Up
Equipment - Most SMS backcountry trips require metal-edged skis and climbing skins. Members use either telemark skis with three-pin or cable bindings or free heel alpine touring (Randonnée) gear. Stiff leather or plastic boots are recommended. See the equipment page for more detail.

A number of SMS activities take advantage of Sierra Club and public ski huts. The Keller Peak hut, on Highway 18 across from Snow Valley, accommodates large groups and is used for the training camps. The San Antonio Hut, on Mt. Baldy, was built by the Ski Mountaineers in 1937 and provides immediate access to challenging skiing. See the hut page.

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