Winter Sports Club

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The Winter Sports Club is one of the oldest subclubs of the DOC, and has changed more over the years than many of the other subclubs. These days, Winter Sports Club is the home to mountaineering, with a yearly attempt at Mt. Katahdin, ME every January, and backcountry, tele and AT skiing, with the DOC Backcountry account. If you are a student looking for more information, or want to get on the BC ski list, please blitz "hypothermia".

Winter Sports Club


The mission of the winter sports club is twofold: 1) As a group of individuals enthusiastic for winter mountaineering, above treeline hiking, backcountry skiing, ice climbing (etc) we share our knowledge and skills with other leaders in the DOC (such as the DMC and CnT) who would like to become more skilled at leading bigger winter trips. 2) Facilitate cool winter mountaineering and backcountry skiing trips at a higher level (quantity and/or difficulty) than are currently being offered.

Notes on Winter Leadership

Wintertime risk assessment and management will be offered as a small training in which we get all current and prospective WSC leaders together to talk about and practice relevant skills Objective risk a. frostbite b. hypothermia c. weather awareness in the mountains d. avalanches/rock and ice fall e. self and group rescue

Subjective risk a. human risk and limitations to the party including: travel speed and ability on specific routes, mastery of safety measures (for instance, self arresting or rope teams if necessary) ability to make good judgment calls b. Knowing how to gather information such as avalanche conditions and recent weather history c. Limitations of fuel, clothing and equipment in the winter. Also the differences from summer travel (e.g. butane canister gas stoves don’t work below about 25°F, alcohol (i.e. trangia stoves) don’t heat efficiently, liquid fuel like an MSR Whisperlite work best)

Group Dynamics

One of the most important elements of leading winter sports trips. Good group dynamics not only allow for people to have fun, but they enable people to speak up if they see that something doesn’t look right or safe or when the demands of the trip are exceeding their personal abilities (i.e. one of the reasons people get hypothermia is that they are not eating/drinking enough, or stopping the group to de-layer and avoid sweating etc.) The best way to understand group dynamics is to participate in trips, especially where there were bad dynamics. Bad trips are fairly rare, so less can be learned from good trips. But it is always good practice to analyze group dynamics after a trip and think how they could have been facilitated so more goals were met, so that more people had fun, so that more was accomplished, etc…Therefore, for leaders we ask: • That they have familiarity with group dynamics in an outdoor-trip context. This can come mostly through leading trips for other clubs (as a nod to CnT, group dynamics are most integral for a successful trip than for most other clubs). Teaching a PE class is a great way to practice facilitating group dynamics as many of the students will not know each other. • In the application, the prospective leader will give their observations how group dynamics has played a role in previous trips.

Suggested technical skills

General (needed for all leaders) • Assessing participants readiness for the planned trip • Planning routes, food, fuel, equipment etc. for winter (adapting summer experience and knowledge to winter conditions) • Ability to teach snow-school skills • Building camps with deep snow- or no snow – in both planned and emergency locations • Solid winter risk assessment and awareness of the weather and factors like hypothermia and frostbite • Solid map and compass navigation skills • Leave No Trace principles in the winter environment Specific to Winter Mountaineering Leaders • Ability to assess avalanche conditions and weather • Build snow and ice anchors such as with bollards, pickets, deadmen. Set a hand line or running belay (for instance, the top of the saddle on Katahdin can be steep and icy. A leader could climb up and set a hand line, or belay individuals up one at a time). • Familiarity with traditional rock climbing protection and rope management techniques • Lead technical ice (e.g. Shoestring gully in Crawford, Lincoln’s Throat on Lincoln) Specific to Backcountry Skiing Leaders • Use of Telemark or backcountry skis • Different types of turns, stopping, climbing • Put on and use skins • Avalanche assessment class if the trip is going to avalanche terrain (i.e. Moosilauke does not need it) • Ability to teach snow-school skills (if the route requires such skills) • Use of avalanche beacons, wands, shovels


Potential leaders must have demonstrated a high level of experience in winter trips—be it above tree-line hiking, multi-pitch ice climbing, backcountry skiing, winter camping, etc. They must also be experienced enough that they would be able to lead these types of trips. One of the current WSC leaders must be able to vouch for the prospective leader that s/he has the requisite skills to lead WSC trips. This is similar to the way that the DMC does it (i.e. go trad climbing with a current leader and they can make you a trad climber) However, we do not have levels of leadership, so demonstrating specific skills are not necessary. In particular a leader should be comfortable – not only experienced, but comfortable - on multi-day outdoor expeditions in winter – not cabin supported. A person should be able to keep dry, healthy, comfortable and organized for multiple days and nights outdoors. A leader’s skills should be several steps ahead of what is necessary for the trip – a leader should have a cushion of experience to draw upon that includes flexibility, damage control, and rescues.


Historically, there have not been tons of WSC trips, so finding opportunities for co-leads can be difficult, therefore it is possible to co-lead related trips in other clubs such as mountaineering trips in the DMC (not just ice cragging), or winter hikes above tree-line with CnT. Once a person has demonstrated that they have extensive winter experience and are ready to lead trips, the prospective leader must lead a full day trip which is run entirely by the leader in training, consulting with a current leader during planning, organization, the trip, etc. While the leader in training is supposed to run the show, it must be stressed that the leader in training should definitely consult with the leader attending on the trip if he/she feels it is necessary. Because different clubs have different structures for co-leading, etc. If the prospective leader wishes to have a CnT or DMC co-lead count towards the leadership requirement, then he/she should speak to their co-leader ahead to time to make it known that they want to do most/all of the work (including on trail). It is even more convenient if the co-leader is already a WSC leader, but that is not required at this point given the small leadership body.

Subjective peer review process

In order to keep the standard high, potential leaders are subject to an entirely subjective review process where current leaders review the credentials, technical and interpersonal skills, experience, trips, trip-leading-ability, group-dynamics facilitation skills, risk assessment skills, etc. Only if the current leadership body is satisfied will the prospective leader be made a leader.

Future Leader Assessment

Below is a questionnaire that potential leaders can fill out so that the current and past chairs can help understand a potential leader’s qualifications. This questionnaire is not mandatory and the chairs can elect to make a person a leader if the potential leader is already a leader in a club that has some overlap (specifically, CnT and the DMC) and they feel that they have a reasonable understanding of the character, technical abilities and ability to make good, safe judgments of the potential leader in question. This can come from either previous time spent with the potential leader on outdoor trips, or from information supplied by another well respected leader (such as a DMC ice leader, or another WSC leader) who has spent time with the potential leader.


For East Coast skiing stoke, check out New Hampshire AT

For sweet snow pack info for the top of Mt. Washington check out NOAA's site

2011 Student Ski Resort Passes and Vehicles -If you're a Dartmouth student trying to decide what ski pass (if any) to buy for this winter, check out this list, and add yourself to it! When you're looking for rides to the mountains, check the list for people to blitz.

File:Katahdin Summit.jpg‎
Photo: Phil Bracikowski

Trip Reports

Pictures from the 2008 Katahdin trip are up here thanks to Phil Bracikowski.

Any WSC trips that go out, or any WSC members gone skiing or climbing should feel free to post trip reports here. To figure out how to post a trip report, contact the current WSC chairs at Trip reports can help others plan future trips... get a feeling for conditions, hear about new terrain, and get stoked about getting out! Below is a link to a sample trip report. Any new reports should be posted below it:

TR: 02/09/2012 Hiking and skiing on Mt. Washington

TR: 02/09-02/10/2012 Winter Skills Workshop @ Tuckerman's Ravine, Mt. Washington

TR: 2012 Quebec - Katahdin Spring Break Trip

Club Documents

-Educator's Winter Skills Workshop (updated 11/29/2011)