Project Description

Scottish Winter Skills Week

Location: Scotland – Fort William
Price: £375 per person
Ratio: 1:6
Length: 5 days

Who is the Scottish Winter Skills Week course suitable for?

Learn all the skills necessary to travel safely through UK mountains in winter, focusing on giving you the confidence to venture out independently and avoid being another avalanche statistic! The ideal course for beginners and those keen to brush up on winter skills for hill walking and graded winter climbs. The course is also ideal preparation for overseas mountaineering trips to the Alps, the Himalaya or other similar adventurous locations.

The normal 1:6 ratio allows us to give each client proper personal attention and allow you achieve far more during the Scottish Winter Skills Week.

Scottish Winter Skills Week

What does the Scottish Winter Skills Week course cover?

The course aims to cover all of the essential skills that you require in winter to be a self sufficient hill walker and enjoy this wonderful time of year safely and confidently. The big benefit of a 5 day course is that we will experience different snow types throughout the week which is really valuable from an avalanche avoidance and axe and crampon skills point of view.

Skills covered on the Scottish Winter Skills Week include:

– Five full days of practical instruction in the mountains
– Choice and use of equipment for the winter environment
– Movement skills on snow
– Use of the ice axe
– How to fit and use crampons – when to put them on and take them off
– Use of the rope in winter (winter belays, snow bollards and as a navigational tool)
– Emergency snow shelters
– Mountain journeys putting all of the skills into perspective
– Mountain navigation
– Planned snow shelters
– Avalanche avoidance & snow analysis
– Diet & nutrition for winter walking
– Cold weather injury avoidance
– Emergency procedures

Sample Programme
Day One: Kit check & discussion
Each day we will use weather and avalanche reports to make route plans for that day. This helps you to develop your own self sufficiency. This first day concentrates on moving on snow, use of the axe and use of crampons if appropriate. We will probably use a chairlift to gain the snow line quickly and are likely to cover self arrest with an ice axe towards the end of the day.

Day Two:
We will head out into the mountains to look at weather, snow and avalanche awareness including safe travel and route choices. We will progress your skills in using crampons and look at using the ice axe for cutting steps. We will also look at how we use the rope in winter to manage the risk of cornice collapse, winter navigation and approaching a scarp slope.

Day Three:
As day two but with the addition of navigation for the winter mountaineer, emergency avalanche procedure ie how to cross a suspect slope, what to do if you see someone get caught & what to do if you get caught.

Days Four & Five:
We will head out into the mountains to look at weather, snow and avalanche awareness and choose an appropriate location to build emergency and planned snow shelters. We will also take in some of the finest summits that the West Highlands have to offer dependant upon group fitness, options include Ben Nevis, Aonach Mor and many more in Glen Coe.

Scottish Winter Skills Week

Despite the seriousness of the subject it was important to remember we weren’t on the course to do anything terrifying…it was all about learning how to stay safe whilst enjoying the winter mountains
Oli Reed, Trail Magazine - Jan 2014 Issue

Where is the course held?

We run the course in the Highlands of Scotland from our winter base in Fort William. We are very handy for Ben Nevis, Aonach Mor and Glen Coe and will often make the most of the ski centre chairlifts on the first day to maximise the time spent on the snow.

Scottish Winter Skills Week


Hello Rob, I would like to thank you for your expert guidance and instruction whilst participating in your Winter Skills Course. I gained a lot of good advice and new knowledge to assist in keeping safe out in the winter environment. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the course. Thank you again, Stay safe, Frank Taylor – March 2020

What about accommodation?

Accommodation is not provided as this allows us to keep the course cost low and you can then arrange accommodation to suit your budget. I stay in Fort William and if you stay anywhere in the town you will be in walking distance of the house that I rent for the season (I am on the Glen Nevis Road in Fort William itself). Try or any of the price comparison websites for a range of accommodation options – there is always lots of choice in the winter months.

Who runs the course?

The course is run by Rob Johnson and Huw Gilbert. We both hold the Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor qualification (formerly the MIC), the highest instructional qualification in the UK. You can read more about our experience and qualifications here.

Did you know there is no legal requirement for an instructor to have any qualification in the UK? People advertise all sorts of unusual titles so ask the question – are they qualified? The only qualification that allows someone to instruct in winter conditions is the MIC or the BMG. The Winter ML allows people to lead groups in the mountains in winter but it is not an instructional qualification.

Travel to Fort William

There is a mainline rail station at Fort William. You can also fly to Glasgow and there is a variety of coach and train companies and road links.

Previous Experience & Fitness

This is not a winter climbing course, you do not need any climbing experience and we will not be entering into steep ground that would require the use of a rope. These courses are strenuous and you need to be physically fit to get the most from them. A little bit of training in the form of cycling, running or swimming beforehand will pay dividends!

Whats included?

The course fee includes instruction and the use of any specialist equipment. You can read our kit list page here. We have a limited range of ice axes and crampons which can be lent out on a first come first served basis. If you are looking to buy your own kit for the course then this article I have written may be of help.

When does this course run?

We run this course from January to March – you can visit the diary page for all of our dates.

Meeting Place & Time

Once you book we will send you a comprehensive set of course notes and a letter of confirmation, this will include a detailed kit list and details of where and when we meet. The first day normally starts at 8:30am in Fort William and finishes in the same place at about 5:00pm.

Other Questions

If you have any questions that you can’t find answers to on the website visit our contact page for details on how to get in touch. We look forward to meeting you!

Book this Course

To book this course please choose a date from the diary page and then click on the button below to complete our booking form and make payment via Paypal. We require full payment to secure your course space.

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Thanks Rob

Just wanted to say thank you so much for the last 5 days. I’ve loved every minute of it and have learned so much. Thanks for pushing me.

I’m not sure what I expected from the instructor when I booked as it’s my first experience but the fact you have a great sense of humour and are a real people person made the whole week. I’ve got no other reference point but I’m pretty sure this won’t always be the case with instructors. Unfortunately for you this means I may book on other stuff in future 🙂

Hope the rest of the winter goes well for you and thanks once again for a fantastic week


Jason, Winter Skills Week - Jan 2017
Hi Rob,

Thanks for a memorable week of winter skills at the beginning of January. Your practical advice was always perfectly judged and I found the discussions of snow and avalanche risk particularly fascinating. More importantly, you conveyed and inspired a real love of the mountains as well.

Thanks too for bringing the group together for five days of good company and good humour which will stay with me for a long time.

All the best,

Richard, Winter Skills Week - Jan 2017
Hello Rob,
I’d just like to say how wonderful our winter skills week went.
Learnt a lot and feel more comfortable heading off to Sikkim for our track and climb.
Your number two, Huw, has been an exceptional teacher and guide showing us the beautiful mountains of Scotland.
So thank you,
Alan, Winter Skills Week - Feb 2017