Thursday, March 9, 2017

Skiing Ice Creek Lodge

We have had the good fortune to have gone to a lot of different great huts in British Columbia in search of (yet more) powder skiing:  Golden Alpine Holidays, Valhalla Mountain Touring, Stanley Mitchell, Sorcerer Lodge, Sol Mountain Lodge, Carlyle Lodge, Kokanee, and Valhalla Lodge, but we hadn't been to Ice Creek Lodge in the Valhalla Mountains (which is one of the many sub-ranges of the Selkirks; this part is north of Nelson, which in turn is north of Spokane, WA).  Every year when I'm sitting at home after another day of great skiing in the Wasatch and I get invited on next year's BC hut trip I wonder why I travel 1000 miles to go skiing when we have such great skiing here, and every year I get done and say "wow, I am so glad I went again!"  And of course, this year was no different.

Skiing Rogers Pass is great, but driving the car every day, staying in a resort town, and bouncing off of other people does detract a bit from the experience, and thus it was great when the helicopter dropped us off:
our own personal helib-blizzard
And realized quickly that we had basically an entire Central Wasatch-sized area with about 1.3 gazillon acres of really awesome terrain all to ourselves
The weather had worked out well for us; the rain that had hit Rogers had fallen as snow at the higher elevation of the Ice Creek Lodge, and the visibility had kept the prior group mostly in the trees and close to the lodge, so we arrived to an almost completely clean slate.  And we lapped it up.

We had heard that the terrain at Ice Creek was pretty big and real, and we were not disappointed.  There are 1500-2500 lines all over the place:
that obvious line in the center was over 2500 feet long.
And the truth is that it would likely be a pretty challenging place to spend a week if it was puking snow and the stability was sketchy.  And when you have to book 2 years in advance (they are full for 2018 already) you have to hope for the best.  Fortunately, we did indeed have good stability, and were able to go fairly big, with some good snow.  Jeannie and Jonny layin' it down:

Our resident telemarker Colter was layin' it down as well

and opening it up a bit
"I'm flying!"
Until he wasn't!

Brother Paul using his racer background to avoid Colter's sizeable sitzmark
One of the things I love about Canada are the rocks.  They create great little jumps:
Colter thinking he can fly again
And make some skin tracks really aesthetic

and can create some dramatic outcroppings

This line went into kind of a no man's land pretty far from the hut; Paul did the first probe:
And I followed:
And below it rolled over and looked like it cliffed out, so we did a big traverse to get over to a line that we could see went through.  However, looking back up, we realized that there were multiple great options to flush through
we started at the little notch in the center of the pic and couldn't see those lower chutes; next time!
Many days ended with a fairly long slog back up to the lodge
And then we had a few chores, like getting water:
But each morning, our resident conehead was ready to charge out again:
We got out and skinned up
Ash in her element
Mike humping over a cornice that doesn't seem very similar to the terrain in his Cincinnati home

And did some skiing
We got some good steeps:
And found some supah deep powder on one of the best 1800 foot tree runs we'd ever skied:
Greg's shot of Jonny got the pic of the week award.
There are also some coolies:
I was pretty stoked about this one:

There were some strange characters:
This is actually not an exaggeration of Greg's physique!
It's nice to have myself around myself to crack myself up
And we got fueled by some great food
If you bring salmon for 10 people, make sure you bring enough for leftover salmon sammies!
Another thing I love about BC is its propensity to create what I call huffalumps:  the snow that stacks up on trees, and stumps, etc.  And the relationship between Huffalump size and the (small) size of the "trigger" (a nudge from a pole) is important.  Here - with the benefit of rapid-firing pics to document it - Jonny gets a good'n.

With some good viz we could see the craggy Devil's range that harbors some big lines:
The day we flew out a trio of us went out to ski what the hut owners call "The Money Line"; we had to get an early start:
And the 2000 foot line -with a steep roll in the middle  - lived up to its name

The helicopter flew in with the next crew, and as they walked down to the hut one of the people said "Hi Tom!"  Turns out it was Becky Bristow, who I paddled with in Ecuador back in 1999!
Great to see Becky after far too long!
And thus we were done.  Thanks again to Tom Orsini who had the vision two years ago to book this hut for this high-value mid-February week, and thanks again to the great - and unusually strong! - crew of Ash, Lara, Mike, Colter, Jeannie, Greg, Jonny, and Paul.  
good skiers, good skinners, good scrabble players, and hilarious smart folks!

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