Monthly Archives: February 2009

Airy Mountain – TR


Airy Mountain – 2562m

It’s about 3.5 hrs skinning on a logging road in from Passmore to the base of Airy Mountain. Not something I’d want to do every day, but the sun was shining, and at arelaxed pace, it was pretty enjoyable. With our early start Andrea, Kirk and I actually reached the base of the East face at exactly the same time as a couple of telemarkers I knew from Rossland, who’d sledded in. Who needs a damn sled!


Kirk – Chocolate Goo on a bagel – Yum.

We got suckered by an existing skin track that seemed promising,  but sent us well off route.  I usually prefer to trust my own judgement and break my own trail, but it probably won’t be the last time I follow a trail to nowhere.



By the time I’d bootpacked up a steep couloir onto some unknown peak a couple south of Airy, Andrea and Kirk had turned back. I hustled through a steep traverse,  a short technical descent, and a climb out of an adjacent bowl to get back on top of Airy’s East face.


Norns Range – Looking south from Airy. 

The snow on the huge open East face of Airy was consolidated consistent powder, perfect for big fast carving turns. It’s a total of about 6200′ of vertical back to the car. By the end of a big day we were all pretty tired, and that first beer tasted like nectar.

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Nelson Range – TR


Kootenay Pass – It hasn’t dumped for a while, but there’s still plenty of great powder skiing to be had if you’re prepared to get out and explore. Andrew’s buddy Kirk was visiting from Vermont for his annual BC ski fix, and Tyler hadn’t been touring for ever, so we headed into the Nelson Range for a few days and showed them a few of our favourite stashes.


Tyler – Dropping into the chute and dropping the knee with a big pack. I like to give telemarkers grief about their inadequate gear, but Tyler didn’t seem to be having any problems.


Kirk – We found powder on all aspects but directly South, and on occasion the sun popped out and made it all beautiful.


Daddy Long Legs – A long legged  friend of ours had the week before established the skin track we used repeatedly, and it was relentlessly steep.

Andrew – Here’s a pretty crappy little video of Andrew skiing one of the endless pillow lines skiable in this zone.  For once I was skiing with others who had cameras, so I didn’t pull mine out too often.


Wolf tracks on Snowmobile tracks – I’d long believed that one of the reasons snowmobiles are prohibited from key Mountain Caribou habitat, was that predators used the snowmobile tracks to access otherwise inaccessible high mountain areas. A Ministry of Environment biologist recently told me that this was a myth, but here’s a pic of wolf tracks following  a snowmobile track on top of Lost creek pass. We saw more snowmobile tracks than ever throughout areas supposedly closed to such use.

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Mt Payne – TR


Sandon – Sandon is a unique little end of the road ghost town surrounded by steep snowy peaks. A few people call the place home through the winter, and the backcountry skiing is incredible. We followed Gary’s lead up and out of town, linking together old mining roads up into the alpine.


Francois on Mt Payne (2276m) – I’ve long wanted to check out Mt Payne. Back in 1999 my now ex-wife received sponsorship to compete on the Freeskiing World Tour from an eccentric benefactor based in Nakusp. He happened to own some property he was trying to off-load on the summit of Mt Payne, and figured he’d promote the property with t-shirts, stickers and ball caps, so for a while I was sporting Mt Payne Extreme Properties paraphenalia.  An internet search revealed that the propert is still offered for sale – only $299,000.


Gary – There’s nothing like having a local to show you the choice line. We pieced togther a slide path, some glades through the forest, and a cut-block for an incredible 3600′ powder run back into Sandon.

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Mt Brennan – TR


Francois and the gals, Mt Lyle in the background – Skiing Mt Brennan is one of the truly classic ski tours in the Kootenays. It’s a massive 6000′  vertical from Retallack to the summit, but with good visiblity and easy trail breaking it was about 5hrs for the climb.


Nadine checking out the Goat Range – On the 2902 m  summit we were blessed with sunny breaks, light wind and incredible views in every direction. 


Francois – It was a little wind packed on the top, and sun affected down low, but in between we enjoyed endless open powder slopes in perfect condition.


Nadine – It was a joy to get into the big mountains again. The only downside was the discovery that Stellar Heli Skiing have incorporated the area into their tenure, and are now operating in this traditional backcountry skiing destination.


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Mt Baldy TR


The North Face of Mt Baldy – We skied the obvious diagonal rock-lined chute.

This particular Mt Baldy (there are 34 in North America) is a prominent 2321m peak rising above Wildhorse Ck in the Nelson Range.  For years now I’ve been eyeing the dramatic north face while working at Wildhorse cat-skiing, and have heard stories of quality skiing from some of the Ymir locals, but finally Andrew put together a trip to check it out. 


On the approach – From the Wildhorse access road it’s a pretty sustained 900m climb to the summit.  This is the only view we had of the face, and it really didn’t help us when we were later trying to work where to drop in.




Ski Crampons – Cam hasn’t yet sorted out ski crampons for his new wider boards, so while Andrew and I were switchbacking up the steep (facets on top of frozen snow) ridgeline, he was working much harder kicking steps. When I read Andrew McLean’s published opinions dismissing the value of ski crampons, I can only assume he’s taken one too many to the head. They can be essential.


Cam Dropping In – By the time we reached the summit, clouds had engulfed us, and working out where to drop-in was far from obvious. Eventually I just skied the most promising line (at perhaps 45 degress) down to where it appeared to drop off, and established that we could connect into what we hoped was the main chute.


Andrew negotiating the Pinch – the chute dog-legged then  narrowed to a ski width. As the third guy through, I was reduced to side-slipping and hopping.


Classic – After another couple of dog-legs it opened up into a classic rock-lined chute, with good quality snow. Then just before it opened out into the bowl below, an ice-fall forced us to boot-pack up and over into an adjacent chute to complete the run.


Powder Skiing – After all the excitment of the chute, it was great to finish with some high quality powder turns. From the bench below the face we skinned up onto an adjacent ridgeline, and skied a 2500′ line of perfectly spaced glades back down to the sled.  Here’s a short vid of Cam on the upper ridgeline.

It wasn’t deep, but given the drought we’re experiencing in the Kootenays, we were all pretty stoked.


Heading Home – Thanks to Trevor for use of the sled.

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Rossland Range Update


Paused atop the WWF ridge (Mt Roberts).

I spent most of last week in the basement of an office building in Kelowna, being trained in GIS software. But I’m back, and stoked be skiing my local mountains. The two small  (8cm and 9cm) snowfalls in the past week have significantly improved skiing conditions. Yesterday I made a few laps on the hill in the morning, then tested my new skis and bindings in touring mode.


Heavy Duty.

Huge Troubles with Dukes make for an absurdly heavy touring set-up, but I slogged up Roberts, then Grey and Kirkup. I think that’s about as much walking as I’ll ever want to do in these clunkers, but I did appreciate the extra control billy-goating down the WWF ridge on Roberts. The snow on all the North and North-East aspects was sensational. 


Old Glory – Looking friendly on a sunny day.

I had the pleasure of skiing one of my favourite lines (not a secret, but I don’t need to increase the traffic) for the first time this year, after a certain dedicated local backcountry skier had obviously put in lots of work to clear out the alder. Nice work B.


Jeff – About to drop the Cornice on Kirkup.

After a slower start this morning, a group of us toured up Elgood Ck onto the peak and skied the main chute. Another perfect sunny windless day, and the snow was effortless (other than a few unpredictable turns on the apron) consolidated powder with a frosting on top. In contrast to the day before, my Dynafit setup had me feeling like I had wings on my feet!


Francois – Nice form in the Elgood Chute.

We are so very fortunate to live in a place where we can drive for a few minutes out of town and access any number of classic lines from the roadside.



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