I just returned from a 17 day road trip through the southern interior of British Columbia. It was probably the best ski trip I have ever been on. With this being my first time to the region, I was completely humbled by the mountains. The amount of easily accessed backcountry skiing is just mind boggling. During our trip, we became quite familiar with the region, but only saw a sliver of what's actually out there. This will undoubtedly be the first of many excursions to the Kootenay's over the course of my life.
The trip started out at Retallack Lodge where I spent 4 days shooting marketing material for Armada skis. Unfortunately, we had to deal with fluctuating temperatures and a very active surface hoar layer in the snowpack. Avalanches were easily triggered the entire time we were there. Given the conditions, we were still able to get into some fun terrain, and deeeeep powder making for some really great skiing. The guides do a great job of getting you into some goods even with a sketchy snowpack
^The first two days at retallack were spent freeriding with some of the fellas who work for ARMADA. Had a blast running top to bottom runs without worrying about getting "work" done.
^Cat driver and tail guide, Jonny 5. "giver till ya quiver"
^Retallack offers up the goods. The food, the lodging, and the staff are all top notch. The vibe is always so positive and relaxed, just the way a ski vacation should be. And we can't forget about the terrain. Its steep, deep and covered with pillows. Great for charging.
After a week of shooting pictures with Chris O'connell, our photo trip was over. I wasn't ready to leave. The conditions were improving and I was itching to get into the backcountry on my own accord. I phoned up Neil who was down in utah waiting patiently for the pow. I told him about all the sick snow and terrain up in BC, and the potential for an epic ski trip. Two days later he was on a 2.5 hour flight from SLC to Cranbrook, BC.
For the next week, we based out of Nelson, BC. With the help of Google Earth, we scoped some areas that looked ideal for ski touring. What we found was better than we could have ever imagined.
^First stop was Whitewater ski area where we hit some sidecountry lines. It was a complete white out the whole day, but from what I did see I can tell its a SICK little ski resort.
^after the warm up day at whitewater, it was time to check out some truly unfamiliar terrain. The weather was starting to work in our favor, and the first day of ski touring offered a few glimpses of what was to come.
^Have to make sure the coast is clear. No messing around in these parts. Fortunately, the snowpack was beginning to stabalize more and more each day.
^Damn surface hoar's! It was a very tricky layer that was showing sings of strengthening, but was still producing clean, planar shears with a moderate/hard force about a meter down.
^Just stoked as can be. The sun popped out for our last run of the afternoon. 1800' back down to the valley with massive pillows perfectly positioned the entire way down.
^We doubled back to the truck after milking the last light of the day. We decided to return the following day to dig out a snow cave and make ourselves at home for a few days.
^good snow coverage even down low
^The next day was snowing and overcast. We were able to make our way into a pillow garden that we scoped the previous day.
^ We began to session pillow lines. With only two people, we had to trade on and off with the camera bag.
^scary dropping into this one.
^Neil airing off the nose
^Towards the end of the day, we began looking for a good place to dig out a snow cave when we happened upon this public cabin. We were beyond stoked! Instead of digging for 3 hours, we just unrolled our sleeping bags on the floor and camped in luxurious form. On top of that, the skies opened up for the first time on our trip. sweet.
^Tea, sausages, and smokes by the fire. we were living nicely.
^The next morning we woke up to beautiful alpenglow skies. An early start to maximize the ever changing light.
^the surrounding mountains were gorgeous.
^a couple good lines in there
^Neil, all up in the zone.
^THIS ZONE!!! The icicle spine wall had all kinds of gnarly stuff going on.
^Neil gets the session going for the day.
^ Nice little air off the pillow spine
^This zone brought me back to my mogul skiing days. Only difference was these moguls were the size of cars and covered in powder!
^ 8/11 stages completed in this shot. I have been dreaming of hitting lines like this.
^ we ended the day with a long run down the megalithic pillow field. Lots of endorphins were released on this run.
^ the next few days also brought patches of blue skies and sunshine. Neil finds a patch of sun on this pillow popper
^then it was time for the icicle spine wall. It really was an ice wall draped with fingers of light powder. Once I managed the pillow line at the top and began making my way down the wall, all the snow sluffed off and I was left with a shear ice ramp. I came out of it fine, and it turned out to be the line of the trip for me.
Our road trip came to a close when I almost totaled my truck and sled on an icy access road. I made it to the top of a steep hill only to start uncontrollably sliding backwards downhill. I thought for sure I was going to slide off the road into the forest. Somehow, some way, I managed to pull a full 180 and finally came to a stop about 70 feet later. We were absolutely gripped, and decided it was best not to try and attempt the hill again. We got lucky.
Our bodies were beaten, our funds were running dry, and an epic storm was pounding utah. All good reasons to say good bye to British Columbia and head home. What we got out of the trip was a great adventure, but only a small taste of what's to come when we return to these beautiful mountains.
P.O.V videos from our trip at Retallack and our backcountry missions should be up in about a week. Check back to catch the action in HD.