Backcountry ski touring in Idaho’s wilderness offers a soul-nurturing experience in Mother Nature that is very different than charging down resort runs. It demands the skills, patience and grit of authentic adventure.


Our unique winter-long ZEN MASTERS Backcountry Program introduces students to backcountry skiing as a skills-based anchor for exploring the concept of “Beginner’s Mind” – an approach to life that lessens the limitations of ego. While learning the skills needed to become proficient and safe backcountry skiers, ZEN MASTERS immerses students in a special curriculum designed to support a growth mindset and provide tools for embracing personal change.

Students learn about selecting and packing gear, practice the basics of backcountry travel, use digital navigation tools (using their smart phone), develop rescue skills, and participate in one overnight expedition to experience winter snow camping/sheltering and introduce emergency survival skills.

ZEN MASTER founder Gerry Moffatt instructs and leads the Winter program with the support of outfitter Sun Valley Guides for on-snow days in the backcountry. By the end of the course, most ZEN MASTERS will be proficient and comfortable enough to enjoy ski touring in non-complex avalanche terrain and know how to safely participate as a responsible member of a backcountry team.  A whole new horizon of winter skiing in Mother Nature’s rugged landscape awaits!

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ZEN MASTERS™ Winter Backcountry Program

One (1) full day per week of instructional backcountry ski touring plus a day of on-snow equipment training = 9 total on-snow days over 8-9 weeks.  On-snow instructor:student ratio is 1 Lead Instructor + 1 assistant instructor : 6 students.

One (1) local overnight snow camping expedition (if COVID allows)

One (1) evening classroom lecture per week (via Zoom): 11 total lectures over 11 weeks

One (1) 2-hour Special Class: Essential Tools for Managing Personal Resilience + Zen Masters Introduction to Guided Meditation

Daily morning Zen Master Guided Meditations (15 mins via Zoom), Monday – Friday weekly, OPTIONAL participation

The Program’s curriculum covers:

  • Proper gear and equipment selection, use and care
  • Ski touring techniques
  • Introduction to assessing terrain and hazards for safe travel
  • Introduction to understanding snowpack conditions
  • What to pack and why
  • Introduction to technology for planning a safe backcountry tour o Using Sawtooth Avalanche Center’s online avalanche hazard rating website o Using a digital mapping app (GAIA) for route planning & navigation 
  • ZEN MASTERS reading/viewing list (required for in-class discussions)

Winter 2021-22 COURSE DATES

December 7, 2021 - Feb 25, 2022

Applications are considered on a rolling admissions basis from October 1, 2021 until maximum enrollment is reached.  First evening class is December 8. Space is extremely limited, early applications are strongly encouraged to avoid disappointment.

*Thunder Dragon proudly partners with Sun Valley Guides as our exclusive outfitter to guide the 8 days of backcountry skiing in our Zen Masters Winter Program, unlocking SVG’s world-class skiing experience and permitted touring in the Pioneers, Smokies, White Clouds, Boulders and Sawtooth mountain ranges.

“Having endured the discomfort and physical effort, the mental and emotional highs and lows required to make the transformation from beginner to competent backcountry skier is only the beginning – the mountains have far more to teach us than we have time available in this lifetime.”

– ZEN MASTERS Founder, Gerry Moffatt