2016 Ski Mountaineering Symposium

The Fifth British Ski Mountaineering Symposium will be held over the weekend of 11 - 13 Nov at Plas y Brenin, jointly organised by the Eagle Ski Club, Alpine Ski Club and Alpine Club.

The format will be similar to the symposium held there in 2011, with a slight change in that lectures will be held on the Saturday and Sunday mornings and workshop sessions will be held in the afternoons. Overnight accommodation will be available in the centre on Friday and Saturday nights, and a dinner will be held in the centre on the Saturday night - making this be an ideal opportunity to socialise, to meet up with ski touring friends, or to make new contacts.

Please note that bookings are now closed. If you would like to be put on a waiting list please email symposium@eagleskiclub.org.uk

Programme - Saturday 12th Nov

09:00 – 09:30 Registration
09:30 – 09:40 Welcome and Housekeeping
09:40 – 10:35 Baffin Island – Simon Christy
10:35 - 11:05 Break - Tea / Coffee
11:05 – 12:00 Latest Wizardry - George Cave
12:05 – 13:00 Avalanches: accessible science – Jim McElwaine
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 14:45 Ski Mountaineering Racing – Ursula Moore
15:00 – 17:30 Choice of Workshop Sessions
17:30 Bar available
18:00 – 18:45 Open Forum. Topic Walkabout
19:30 Dinner


Programme - Sunday 13th Nov

09:00 – 09:30 Coffee
09:30 – 10:25 Great Alpine Couloirs – Hannah Burrows-Smith
10:30 - 11:25 Mountain Photography – Andy Teasdale
11:25 – 12:00 Break - Tea / Coffee
12:00 – 12:55 Beyond Boundaries – John Hayward
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 16:30 Choice of Workshop Sessions
17:00 Close

Detailed descriptions of the lectures and workshop sessions are given below. Workshop sessions are allocated according to availability.

Saturday Lectures

Baffin Island – Simon Christy

An illustrated account of Simon’s recent (2016) expedition to Baffin Island.  Extreme skiing in a remote and relatively unknown region.

Latest Wizardry  - George Cave

How the latest online tools and tech can help with route planning and expeditions.  Developments in tracking devices and cunning techniques to communicate your progress. Examples and demos of what is possible.  Practical application will be offered in the workshop sessions.

Avalanches – accessible science– Jim McElwaine

Recent developments in the science of avalanches.  How improved knowledge can be interpreted to make our journeys safer.

Ski Mountaineering Racing - Ursula Moore (British Women's Skimo Team)

‘Skimo’  is an exploding facet of ski touring and the snow-sports scene. To some it seems inaccessible; only for the super fit, lycra-clad athletes planning to run 3000m days in a few hours – but this is no longer true.  Includes types of racing, preparation, equipment, nutrition, getting involved and more.  What can be learnt from these developments to help ski touring more widely?

Sunday Lectures

Mountain Photography – Andy Teasdale

Making the most of the unusual places we reach and taking opportunities to capture startling images. To include equipment, ideas, composition, landscape and action photography. Safety of all in the party. Choice of equipment and ways to share and show your photographs.

Great Alpine Couloirs – Hannah Burrows-Smith

Where to find and ski great couloirs in the Western Alps that are not especially difficult or extreme.  An eye-opening description of some magnificent descents that are more accessible than we might imagine.

Beyond Boundaries – John Hayward

Skiing in unusual locations.  How to get beyond the boundaries and barriers that are often in our own minds.  Unpicking preconceptions to avoid intimidation whilst remaining safe.  Choosing new areas to try and carefully planning travel in unsupported areas.

Workshop Sessions

Workshop sessions will be held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Participants will be able to attend one session each day. Some of the sessions will be held on both days, but others will only be held on one day (depending on availability and demand). You will be asked to specify your first 3 choices, and allocated on a first-come first-served basis. Some of the workshop sessions require participants to bring their own equipment as shown below.

Hands-on Photography - Andy Teasdale

Making and taking opportunities.  Practical application of Andy’s experience for better pictures – action photos and landscapes. How to get better pictures of skiing down as well as the usual ones of plodding up!   This will be outdoors.  Bring your own equipment. The aim is to get you more familiar with your photographic equipment as well as giving you ideas for taking great landscape and ski action shots.

Please bring your own digital camera (preferably SLR) and outdoor clothing.

Hands-on Technology - George Cave

Using Google Earth and various navigation and communication applications, exploiting the latest software and GPS gadgets.

Participants should bring their own laptops with Google Earth Pro - see www.google.com/earth/download/gep/agree.html, plus any problems or details of trips they may be planning. 

Ski Mountaineering First Aid - Co-ordinated by Declan Phelan

Scenario based learning with practical demonstrations aiming to develop your knowledge, skills and confidence to handle first aid in remote places. Topics will include Hypothermia: prevention and treatment; Avalanche First aid, and many other scenarios you hope not to encounter.

Participants should wear outdoor clothing.

Uphill ski skills - Ursula Moore

Dry slope skills session, with an emphasis on techniques for efficient climbing such as more effective, economical kick-turns and settings for boots and bindings.

Participants should bring their own skis, boots, poles, skins and harscheisen and outdoor clothing.

Avalanche Awareness and Avoidance - Jim McElwaine

Safe route finding and practical planning.  Coping with adverse conditions. Making group decisions – a challenging and decisive impact on avoiding avalanches.  Important factors in the use of transceivers.

Participants should bring their own transceiver (if you have one).

South America - Owen Day

Ski-mountaineering in a whole different hemisphere.  Destinations and planning considerations for some exciting new places to explore.

Mountaineering Skills for Skiers - Hannah Burrows-Smith, Owen Day and Simon Christy

Equipment needs and practical advice for important techniques in Ski–Mountaineering such as crevasse rescue, and ropework necessary for safeguarding passage on steep terrain, both in ascent and descent.

Participants should bring their helmet, harness and any karabiners, slings, prusik loops, pulleys or other equipment normally taken on tour. Wear outdoor clothing. Bring a rope if you have one.

Expedition Planning - Dave Wynne-Jones and Panel

A panel discussion and dialogue to tap experience.

Latest Gear - Simon Christy

What is the latest in the gear world – thinking of buying new kit – this is a chance to explore what is out there.  The latest developments in skis, boots, bindings, specialised rucksacks and more.

Protecting yourself and the Wildlife - Chris Pannell

Chris will highlight considerations for travel into regions with potential predators and how to avoid wildlife conflict. Whilst principally concerned with the polar bear threat faced by Arctic ski mountaineers, much will be applicable to other regions where e.g. brown bears or wolves might find you.   Topics covered will include: considering the risks; avoiding conflict; self-protection options; camp craft, warning systems and firearms - safety, selection, training, logistics and legalities. The workshop is intended to prompt debate and discussion with a view to gathering a range of experiences and best practices.

Avalanche Transceiver Competition

An avalanche transceiver search competition will be held on the Saturday, with prizes for the fastest times. If you have your own transceiver, please remember to bring this along to take part (or if you don’t have one, you will be able to borrow one for the event from the Alpine Ski Club stock). It should be great fun - and a useful refresher for the forthcoming season.

Sponsor Stands

We are very pleased to welcome Backcountry UK, Snowsled and the BMC as sponsors. You are encouraged to visit their stands during the symposium.

Travel to the Symposium

We would like to reduce the impact of the Symposium on the environment as much as possible, and hopefully make this Symposium ”carbon neutral”. The most effective way to do this is to travel by the greenest way you can. Many of you will already have made your plans, but we strongly encourage sharing cars for the journey, and using public transport. See below for some advice and help on both of these issues.

We would also like everybody to consider offsetting the carbon for their journey and the conference itself, through the ESC scheme. We reckon that the average emission for the weekend (with travel) is about 100kg, which would cost 70 pence to offset. There will be a collection point at the Information Desk, and we encourage people to put some coins in this – perhaps 50 pence if you arrived by low carbon means, and £1 if you didn't! We will then buy carbon credits from the ESC scheme with the total collected.

Car sharing

Many people will already have planned to share their car. If not, or if you have a spare seat or two, we suggest you advertise this on the Plas y Brenin lift share board, as this is accessible to members of all sponsor clubs.

Public transport - lift from railway station

The Plas y Brenin web site has good information on rail routes and connections. You can get even more precise route plans from your home from very impressive sites like Rome2Rio.

Of course, the local legs of journeys by public transport can be the slowest, and we will provide a link from Llandudno Junction station at the beginning and end of the weekend. We will pick up from the station at 9:30pm on Friday Nov 11th, and leave from Plas y Brenin at 5:30pm on Sunday to return to the station. Please email to reserve a seat, which will be charged at £5 each way.

Arrival and Departure Times

Accommodation will be available from 6pm on Friday evening. Please check-in at the main Plas y Brenin reception, who will give you details of your accommodation. In addition, please visit the Symposium Information Desk (in the foyer – next to reception) to get your name badge and detailed information about the symposium. The Information Desk will be manned most of the time, but if there is nobody there, please check in later on.

Reception will be open until 11pm on Friday evening. If you need to arrive later than that, then please call 01690 720214 (after 5:30pm) for the code to enter the building and the night porter will give instructions on where the room and key will be.

On Saturday and Sunday morning, you will be able to check-in from 7:30am – 9am. Please leave plenty of time to check-in and complete formalities before lectures start at 9:30am.

On Sunday, please vacate your room in the morning (by 10am at the latest), so that Plas y Brenin staff can clean the rooms. If you can’t take your luggage back to a car, there will be somewhere safe to store this whilst you are attending lectures: either in lockers – needing £1 coin (refundable), or behind reception.

All activities will be complete by 5pm on Sunday afternoon.

Accommodation Arrangements

Accommodation will either be in the Main Centre, Moelwyn Cottage (adjacent to the Main Centre) or Bryn Engan Farmhouse (which is a short walk away – and has separate vehicle access if needed). You will be advised where you have been allocated when you check-in at the main reception.

If you have booked Single or Twin accommodation, bedding and towels will be provided. If you have booked Bunk accommodation, please bring your own towel and sleeping bag.

Catering Arrangements

If you are arriving early on Friday evening, you may like to know that Plas y Brenin will be serving bar meals up to 8:45pm on Friday evening.

All accommodation options (whether single, twin or bunk) are Bed and Breakfast – cooked breakfast (with a range of options) will be served in the Dining Room from 8am to 8:45am on both Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Buffet lunches will be provided on Saturday and Sunday for those people who are taking part in lectures and sessions on those days.

On Saturday evening, the only food available in Plas y Brenin will be the Dinner for those who have pre-ordered. Dinner will start at 7:30pm in the main dining room. Bar meals won’t be available on Saturday evening.


It is possible to select which elements of the symposium you wish to book, as follows:

Day Tickets

£40 per day
or £70 for Sat & Sun together

Day tickets include all lectures and sessions during the day, buffet lunch and tea / coffee at morning and afternoon breaks.
Please note that Saturday tickets have now sold out, but Sunday can still be booked.
Saturday Dinner £28 Three course dinner on Saturday night with waiter service in the Plas y Brenin dining room. The menu will include a vegetarian option. Please note any other dietary requirements on the booking form.
B&B - Single £42 pppn Accommodation in a single room, with cooked breakfast the following morning. Available for Friday and Saturday nights.
B&B - Twin £36 pppn Accommodation in a twin room, with cooked breakfast the following morning. Available for Friday and Saturday nights.
B&B - Bunkbed £28 pppn Accommodation in a bunkbed in a dormitory, with cooked breakfast the following morning. Available for Friday and Saturday nights.

Accommodation is in the main centre, or in the separate buildings of Bryn Engan Farmhouse, Bryn Engan Cottage and Moelwyn Cottage which are all close by the centre - for more details see here.

If you make a single booking for a space in a twin room, this will be shared with another attendee of the same sex. If you would like to share with someone you know, who has made a separate booking, then please mention their name on the booking form. Obviously where 2 people are on the same booking, they will share the twin room.


Please note that the symposium is now fully booked.

Before booking, please decide what type of accommodation you would like, how long you will be attending for, and your choice of workshop sessions (please select your first three choices from the list above).

To book, please use the booking form. This is fully encrypted and takes payment via debit or credit cards. Each booking can be for up to 4 people in a party. If you need to book for more than 4 people, please make 2 or more bookings.