5 Day Winter Skills Course

5 days
Tour Type:
Skills course
Group size:
1 - 6
3 out of 5

Learn all the essential skills to be safe out hiking in the winter hills from navigation for whiteout conditions, to the technical uses for crampons and ice axe. A comprehensive, practical course.


For many, winter sends a shiver down the spine but for a few of us it’s a tingle of excitement. It’s the privilege of experiencing a crystal clear horizon some 70 miles distant, seldom seen during the warmer months. The delicate pinks and oranges of a setting sun interacting with the creations of ice and frost make winter in the mountains a magical time. This course is your passport to this winter wonderland and the opportunity to gain the satisfaction of knowing how to be safe and comfortable in this unique but sometimes hostile environment.

Winter Skills Course in the Cairngorms National park

These 5 practical days out in the Cairngorm Mountain’s will give you a solid understanding of both winter navigation skills and the techniques required to move efficiently and safely over snow covered mountain terrain. The skills are not taught in isolation but are delivered from the perspective of prevention (rather than cure) in a progressive manner. Although it does not include the skills required for very steep terrain involving the use of a rope it, it does form the solid foundation for any aspiring winter climber who understands the importance of a progressive approach. The course also includes winter ascents of the Munro summits of Cairngorm and Sgorr Gaoith.


HIGHLIGHTS – winter skills course

  • 6 nights accommodation
  • all meals included
  • 5 days instruction
  • qualified, experienced, local guide
  • transport to the hill
  • pick up/drop off from Aviemore station or Inverness airport



  • Crampon techniques
  • ice axe arrest
  • contour interpretation/map reading
  • good foot placement
  • route planning
  • emergency snow shelters




Top 10 winter skills tips

Why choose a winter skills course in Scotland?

How do I prepare for a winter skills course?





The course is based from the homely and friendly atmosphere of Fraoch Lodge in the Cairngorms National Park.

Days 1 & 2: After a boot and crampon adjustment check, a good look at the weather and avalanche forecasts and a talk on the equipment that should be carried, we head out into the winter hills. Continuing the ongoing process of avalanche hazard evaluation, we cover the various step kicking and cutting skills. We then move on to the technique of self belay (preventing a loss of footing developing into a sliding fall) and then the various self arrest techniques, both with and without an ice axe to stop a sliding fall. Day 1 is rounded off by ascending the remaining 150 m to Cairngorm’s rime ice encrusted summit (1245m) and panoramic views across the plateau.

Day 3 is a low level navigation day covering a lot of techniques. It acts both as a bit of a physical rest day as well as introducing flexibility into the week to accommodate winter storms. Early on the difficult skill of contour interpretation is introduced and its importance related to attaining a high level of accuracy. Along with looking at compass techniques and micro-navigation (timing and pacings) a whole number of other skills are covered. As well as improving your accuracy in all these techniques we also look at the highly important tactical approaches & techniques that either minimise or negate the effect of error. Your given the right approach and understanding to deal with winter whiteouts.

Days 4 & 5: The last 2 days are spent consolidating and furthering what we’ve learnt in the context of a mountain journeys across the high tops of the Cairngorms. Many regard the Cairngorm plateau as being featureless. It isn’t but the features tend to be a lot more subtle. Under you’re instructors expert guidance and for each leg of the days route you practise compass bearings, timing and pacing as well as the vital skill of contour interpretation both in terms of confirming your direction and distance as well as recognising features as navigational objectives on the ground. By having more objectives you can keep the legs short and hence keep any errors small. Nothing about winter mountain navigation is rocket science but neither is it a sixth sense. It’s down to repeated practise and the experience that results. Further time is given to route planning. On the last day we hope to round the week up by navigating to Sgorr Gaoith spectacular summit 2000ft above the deep trench of Gleann Einich.

This course doesn’t presume any previous winter mountain walking experience though summer hillwalking experience is advisable along with a good level of fitness. Due to the focus on the vital and complex skill of contour interpretation and the repeated opportunity to practise, the course is equally suited to both the novice mountain navigator as well as those with a little more experience. By the end of the course you will have a whole array of techniques and skills at your disposal. You won’t be reliant on the absolute accuracy of just a few and you’ll have an understanding of how they interrelate. You’ll finish the course both confident and proficient in both dealing with steep snow and ice covered slopes as well as winter white-outs.

We asked our guests what sets Scot Mountain Holidays apart, why they return year after year:

“the social aspect”  –  “the camaraderie, food and conversation”   –
“the company of the hosts”  –  “so warm and welcoming”  –  

 “a profound sense of belonging”  –  “the welcome of Rebecca’s home cooked meal”  –  “Andy’s skills as a guide, naturalist and leader”  –  “stewardship, sustainability and a small footprint”  –  “in harmony with the land”  –  “a slice of rural Scottish life”

Scot Mountain Holidays is the ONLY adventure tour operator in Highlands of Scotland with a combined home and guest lodge. We strive to be more than just an tour. We aim to provide you with a ‘home away from home’ on your adventures. We thought of no better way of doing this than to welcome you into our own home.

We have owned and operated Fraoch Lodge as our home base and business since 1999. In that time, we have come to embrace our guests as members of our extended Highland family.

Fraoch Lodge, Boat of Garten

Andy and Rebecca displaying their awards at Fraoch Lodge

winter guide

Andy getting excited about snow in the Cairngorms

We source our meals from locally produced and home grown ingredients to provide you with the most delicious flavours and traditions the area has to offer (while minimising our impact on the environment, too). Our dining room and lounge are shared spaces where we gather with guests and friends to share in the holiday and offer you extensive knowledge of your tour.

No matter the season, the Cairngorms and Fraoch Lodge is a place to relax and explore all its beauty and comforts, and we hope to make you feel as at home as we are.

Top quality food

Enjoy top class family friendly and freshly prepared food.

We have achieved Gold Star Awards from the world’s most highly respected green accreditation scheme, Green Tourism, and were awarded Highly Commended in their Green Star Awards 2013 for both Scot Mountain Holidays and Fraoch Lodge. We offer a Green Travel Discount of £15 to any guests who travel to us by public transport. Our primary aim is to minimise the carbon footprint of our holidays, and to this end we donate 1% of the price of our tours to the RSPB’s Abernethy Reforestation project.

It is a holistic approach we have to the care of the environment. Andy your adventure guide has a passion for the natural world – whether it’s the flora, fauna or fungi. He has a background in geology and a lifelong interest in natural history, as well as being a keen gardener.  He knows a Golden Plover from a Dotterel, a Green Shank and a Dunlin. He also makes no apologies to being very excitable upon spying a Golden Eagle!

For further information, please don’t hesitate to check out our Environmental Responsibility page, or contact us directly at info@scotmountainholidays.com.

Gold award - Green Tourism

Gold standard for Green Tourism

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