Grab your skis and get out here!
Those seven words were the start of the most epic adventure of my life. They came in the form of a phone call from a remote lodge in Eastern British Columbia.
“Man you will not believe what the last 2 days were like. It hasn’t stopped snowing here for 42 hours. Dude it is almost waist deep. We signed up for another 4 days. There is one spot left. Grab your skis and get out here.
“I am in” I hastily declared not quite sure how I was going to get away from work.
When it is waist deep I can always find a reason for getting out of work. I was buzzing. It has been a long time since I have gone skiing in the back country. I quickly threw a couple changes of clothes into my pack, gloves, helmet, goggles, in also. Transferred some money around and I was on my way to the adventure of a lifetime, literally.
I was going to Golden BC to enjoy some great snowcat skiing about 80 north of the small mountain community. Some guys I knew from Calgary were up on a 3 day tour at Chatter Creek and called me after their second day in waist deep powder. The excitement in their voice (and probably a bit of alcohol as well) had me vibrating within seconds of hearing the words “waist deep”.
Of course with a lot of snow falling in the past several days the mountain pass between Golden and neighboring Revelstoke was treacherous to say the least. Traffic had been getting through intermittently between closures for avalanche control.
Getting into Golden was a relief since the helicopter flight to the lodge was in just under an hour. I had just enough time to stop at 7-11 for gum and other junk food, get to the airport, sign a waiver and board the chopper.
The 22 minute flight was something else. We skirted up the valley from Golden with the Selkirks on the left and the Rockies on the right. A final quick jump over the Kitchen Range and we were into the Chatter Creek Drainage. I could see the blue roofing of the lodge appear like a sapphire in the green and white of the surrounding terrain.
The first night of the trip was a blur of food, booze and faces. 35 other people with the same crazed look of powder that I had. It was hard to get to sleep the first night but before long I was woke up by my watch. First thing was to look out the window to see how much new; 22cm on top of the 96 cm that fell in the last 4 days.
The morning continued with breakfast at 7:30 followed by a safety briefing about the snowcats and more importantly avalanche safety and the use of transceivers. This was followed by boarding the cats for a 15 minute ride to the East Ridge.
Running almost east to west for 7 km, the East Ridge is 2200 vertical feet of north facing trees and south facing cut blocks.
The snowcat stopped at the top of a run called Bad Boys. The top 1/3 of the run in the alpine and continued down through old growth spruce and larch. Bad Boys certainly looked great. Our group of 12 got out, the cat roared off to the bottom to wait for us. We all got geared up and followed our guide to where we would drop in. The guide said to stay center and stop at the tree line. With that he turned and disappeared into a cloud of white.
I sliced my way past a couple of my buddies and dropped in. The first turn took me by surprise. It was like there was no bottom. By turn three I was able to get a glimpse of where I was and pointed to where I needed to go. With that the most epic 4 days of powder skiing began.