Reaching New Heights at SheJumps Alpine School

For the past nine years, Alpine Finishing School has become a predominant course for advanced skiers and splitboarders to further their mountaineering skills. With the new Alpine Development School, there's an access point for anyone to further their knowledge.

Photo by Christy Pelland

Sugar and spice and everything nice - that's not what Alpine School is made out of. Since 2012, this course has elevated women in the backcountry through world-class instruction that encourages grit, decision making, and leadership. The program is presented by SheJumps through partnership with Arc'teryx.

Alpine School has two components - the renowned Alpine Finishing School (AFS) and the newly developed Alpine Development School (ADS), a series of online videos that introduce backcountry travel or build on skills towards AFS. While both programs can be completed standalone, they aim to support a skier or splitboarder as they progress their alpine abilities.

Christine Feleki, guide and instructor for both AFS and ADS, is undoubtedly passionate about the mountains. Originally from Canmore, Alberta, she is the first fully certified female ACMG splitboard guide in Canada and ambassador for Arc'teryx. "The company often tries to find ways that they can partner with organizations, like SheJumps, to give back to the communities," she noted. "They're completely supportive of ideas that make the outdoors more accessible to people."

Photo by Stella Lietchy

Traditionally, Alpine Finishing School takes place at Selkirk Lodge in British Columbia for a week. A range of technical rope skills are covered, from glacier travel to crevasse rescue to skiing with a rope. The course is designed to be a stepping stone into mountaineering larger objectives and not the final building block.

Beth Lopez, a member of the 2018 trip, emphasized that this learning environment helped her overcome imposter syndrome. "I picked up lots of little everyday tips that I collectively consider a wise, intuitive, empathetic, feminine style of mountain travel," she explained. "In AFS, we covered a ton of ground each day and navigated challenging, complex terrain, yet we did so without ever leaving anyone behind or leaving anyone coming up short."

This year, the course is getting a good shakeup. SheJumps is splitting the traditional week-long school into three different trip options - Spearhead Traverse, Currie to Wedge Traverse, and Backcountry Basecamp. While the skills stay the same, the dynamic is even more encompassing than before due to the necessary self-sufficiency and winter camping. Christine pointed out that without access to the internet, there will be ample opportunity for in-the-field forecasting and group decision-making.

Photo by AFS Guide, Holly Walker

AFS alumni