Friday, February 21, 2014

Valhalla Lodge

In order to fulfill our eternal Quest for Perfection, last week we leapt into the car and drove 2000 miles round trip to....go ski powder in nice terrain with good friends, very much like we do.....20 miles from our house!  But it's a Canadian hut trip, which  - if I've counted right - I've now done almost 20 of, and they never get less awesome!

This year was a new one for our gang:  the Valhalla Lodge, located a couple of hours north of the border that's north of Spokane.  We'd always heard great things about the terrain and the nice folks who run the place, and our friends Matt and Leigh - who have moved up to that area more or less for the skiing - have been there 6 times, so we gave it a go.

BC had been in an unusual dry spell:  it hadn't snowed for 3 weeks prior to our arrival. But at least it was cold:  the highs for the area the week prior were still well below zero F and nights were getting down to the minus 20's.  But that didn't phase the folks flying out, who had spent their 19th week in there!  So it must be good.  The temps warmed a little - still cold for us weeny Utards - for the first couple of days of good visibility with equally good windjack up high, then it started to snow and blow.  It was hard to tell how much snow actually fell while we were there, because the snow stake kept blowing off, but over the next few days it generally snowed a foot+, and blew enough to both give us a nice refresher and spice up the avy conditions.

Our days pretty much consisted of wake, eat copious breakfast, break into groups, ski hard all day, come back, sauna and appetizer, play dumb games, eat stellar dinner, laugh, laugh, and laugh some more, repeat the next day.  Standard fare.  Fortunately Valhalla has a ton of tree skiing in awesome old growth, which is good because we pretty much tree skied every day while it snowed.  The valley floor was nearly 2000' below the hut, so each day ended with a long grind out of The Hole back up to the treeline hut, but it made the awaiting appies that much better.

A few pics:
Jonny, our erstwhile Trip Leader and human furnace, on our first, cold day
Moments later, his uh....bubble burst.....when his airbag violently deployed when hoisting his airbag pack to his shoulder.....
It took a team of engineers to figure out how to not only deflate it but also detach it from the pack.  
but on to the skiing.  Here's Jeannie in the upper reaches of "Praise Alley"
Praise Allah for Praise Alley.  3000 feet of this with nary a track.
Ash high on Sunlight pass, after grinding back out of the depths attained on Praise Alley 
Coupla Buddies on Sunlight Pass
Most of the time we split into groups, but there were a couple of magnetic places that drew the groups together. 
The Valhalla mountains proper.  Pretty craggy, cool peaks.  
another great run name:  Valhallaluja.  And another 2500' grind out.  
Is that Ted Liggety?  
Ah, no.  Just another Middle Aged Powder Pussy!  
MAPPs are easily identified by their distinctive facial lichen 
Tom Orsini taking "a rest".  Yes it's as dead flat as it looks!  
but he made up for it with a true Face Shot!  
The gratuitous "alpenglow with moonrise" shot from the hut
Mike banging his shins
Our stability was.....ok.  this was a sympathetic trigger from a sick huck on an adjacent slope.  
the game of "Pigs" is not that exciting, until Greg gets involved and winds people up.  Here Ash celebrates her come-from-behind, game-winning throw.....
which game is more fun?  
Margaret and JB lapping it up
Forget Ted Liggety; is that Alf Engen? 
You can take the country boy out of rural New Hampshire, but you can't take the desire to cut wood products out of the country boy
Alas, the flight out.  Michelin Man is ready for flight.  
Of course, I hate helicopters, but they are a pretty fun toy!  I think the pilot's ears are still ringing from this shoutout!  
And our return to Zion, the Promised Land......
Which - contrary to popular belief - actually has some decent skiing.  And only 20 miles away!  
On the way home we spent a day and a half with our great friends Leigh and Matt in Rossland, which has some great skiing very nearby; the quality and proximity rivals anywhere we've been.  And then on the way home we did probably the best roadside tour anywhere; Lookout Pass on the Idaho/Montana border has a 1200' run through a burn that ends 200 yards from the exit off I-90!  An awesome mid-drive leg-stretcher.

thanks again to Jonny for putting together the trip and to The Gang for making the trip worth the drive and more!

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