Winter Camping School – Frequently Asked Questions

Why would I take this class?

Travelers in the Colorado mountains could encounter cold temperatures and snow at any time of the year.   Though focused on camping, the Winter Camping School provides training and experience in all aspects of dealing with – in fact thriving in and enjoying – colder conditions.

Many people miss the beauty and serenity of the winter wilderness because they feel unprepared to deal with the colder weather and snow.  The Winter Camping School allows those interested in more winter time in the mountains to build their confidence in a non-competitive environment learning from instructors with many years of experience.

For anyone considering the multi-day climbs of big snow covered mountains such as Mt. Rainier, this class is a starting point for building the skills and confidence for the overnight stays on these high snow covered slopes.

What level of experience is required for this school?

The school is open to any CMC member regardless of experience.  However, students will benefit from at least some prior wilderness camping and/or winter hiking experience. Remember, you’ll be hiking and camping – in the snow.  The incremental challenge of cold weather and snow will be much better managed if the student has previous skills and experience of warm weather wilderness travel and camping.  Prospective students who have doubts about whether their experience and knowledge is sufficient should consider taking Wilderness Trekking School or Backpacking School offered by the CMC Denver Group.

What level of fitness is required for this school?

Participating in qualified CMC trips is required for graduation.  These trips usually involve (round trip) travel of a few miles and a few hundred feet elevation gain from the trail head.  Participants will wear snowshoes, heavier clothes and possibly struggle with wind or fresh snow as well as carrying heavier pack (or pull a sled).  The pace will be slow but a fitness level that would allow the student to comfortably manage a CMC Denver Group B-level summer hike is advised.

Is this a survival school?

The school does not focus on survival, however – as with many CMC schools – the skills learned can be invaluable in a survival situation.  The purpose of this school to help participants to manage winter travel and cold camping conditions with confidence and to avoid survival situations.

Doesn’t this require lot of equipment?  I’m not sure I want to spend a lot of money if I don’t plan on camping in the winter a lot.

Winter camping certainly requires more equipment than the typical summer day trip.  However, much of the incremental equipment can be rented, borrowed or improvised.  Tents, warm sleeping bags, larger packs and stoves can be rented. Tents and stoves can be shared. That warm wool sweater your grandmother
knitted for you could work nearly as well as the latest expensive hi-tech insulating jacket as you test your interest in winter trips.

What about boots?  My feet get cold.

Good question.  Boots are one of the items that will require some special attention. It is important to keep your feet warm.  You may already have warm, winter hiking boots or might be able to borrow a pair of warm boots but if not, boots should be one of your first ‘buys’ for this school. Highly insulated flexible sole boots made by Sorel and other companies are warm and moderately priced.  These types of boots may not be appropriate for steep slope mountaineering trips but will work well for school outings, winter hiking, other snowshoe trips and for shoveling the driveway on a really cold day at home.

What if I get too cold on one of the outings?

Instructors and fellow students will be ready to help. Putting on another layer, some physical activity or having something to eat might warm you up.   But if not, in the worst case, an instructor can provide an escort to the trailhead, to the cars and civilization.  Campsites are usually a mile or two from the trailhead.  However, the main focus of the school is teaching how to stay warm and comfortable.

Who teaches in this school?

The instructors of the winter camping school have taken the class and were asked to return as instructors.  Some have taught the school for many years and some also teach in other schools.  They have often hiked and camped in the cold and snow even ascended Colorado’s 14ers in the winter, Mt. Rainer in Washington or Denali in Alaska.  They are experienced, comfortable and confident in the cold and snow and enjoy teaching.

What if I sign up and change my mind?  What is the refund policy?

Click here for the CMC’s statewide Cancellation Policy and look for the School Registrations section.