What a trip! British Columbia was on the short list of places to ski but it's tough to organize and stop short of AK. My brother's college friend had four open spots for this trip - her husband and brother both won all 20 lottery spots for this week and a few people backed out. I convinced Hilary that was should take the gamble - 16 strangers in January (early season) and hope for the best!
Leading into the trip the winter snowfall indicated excellent conditions. January could have been low snowpack but not the case this year. Snow depth was anywhere between 170cm - 200cm. So our main concern was snow stability which turned out to settle during the week.
Logistics were easy - fly from Boston to Calgary, rent a car and drive through Banff (3hrs) to Golden. It was a beutiful drive in our Corolla and only had white knuckles for one of the passes. Golden was a cool sleepy little ski town and perfect jumping off point for the heli bump out of chatter creek (20mins north). We were able to stock up on last minute supplies, get our airbag canisters, and eat some gringo burgers. We also had hired a cook who organized all the food which was a godsend for 20 people.
Saturday morning we all drove to the heliport and checked in. Organizing our gear was easy and we just piled up our food and beer. After a briefing we were off! A short 20 minute flight took us through some valleys of the Northern Selkirks. We were dropped off just below the hut in several trips (gear and people). The previous group was bumped out and they told us they had poor visibility and unstable conditions so they were limited in what terrain they could ski. Good news for us!
The first afternoon was spent unpacking and going over some safety items - beacon drills, emergency response plans, and general avalanche awareness. Once everyone was on the same page it was dark and we cracked a few beers wondering what the next day would bring.
Day 1 we split into smaller groups and explored the lower elevation terrain - Swan Creek Trees and Hollywood Trees. Both areas offered deep powder and a lot of pillows. It was important to ski down the edge of the glacial moraine then skin up to see what we'd ski down versus skin up from the cabin then try to make our way down. It took a few runs to get our bearings as well as figure out the snow and features. Pillows took a couple days to build confidence but by the end of the trip we were looking for more technical lines.
In brief, the rest of the trip was flawless. We had clear weather for the most part, allowing us to spend several days in the high alpine skiing couloirs, specifically Houdini Needles. We also summited a rocky Sentinel Peak with a knife edge to make most crawl (of course maddog stood on the summit rock). We tried to ski Outpost Couloir but it choked out with too little snow and rotten in places. The sun hits part of the zone making it tricky to get the safe conditions. Hilary and I ventured down to the creek bed down at the foot of the glacier which made for an adventure. There wasn't much skiing beyond Swan Creek Trees, at least in this snowpack. It was such a diverse zone, with skiing for all abilities.
I have yet to tackle the video but have already sorted through a bunch of photos. My camera lens was having issues (most likely after getting moisture inside the lens after one of our big New England snowstorms) so action photos were hit or miss in terms of focus. Video coming shortly!