This article was sponsored by Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
Backcountry skiing is rising in popularity. If you haven't yet, you might want to jump on the trend.
As resorts fill with keen skiers and snowboarders, explorers naturally start looking for fresh powder and wide open spaces. “At the top of the run, skiers see the boundary line and wonder, ‘what’s beyond that? What else is out there?’ There’s a desire to explore further,” says Sylvia Watson, marketing manager at Canmore-based Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.
“Backcountry skiing has been a component of our programming right from the beginning,” she continues. “Back in 1977 when we started as an organization, skiing was a part of our mountain skills semester.”
“It’s evolved,” adds Jesse de Montigny, managing director and full mountain guide. “When we started skiing, equipment wasn’t where it was today—neither were the crowds.”
“We ski in Kananaskis Country, Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, the Selkirks, Roger’s Pass and internationally in Japan, Iceland and Europe," Jesse says.
“The first thing you’re going to notice is that there’s not many people, so you tend to find a lot fresher, softer snow. The terrain is different—you’re typically not skiing on moguls in the backcountry. On a week-long itinerary, you wouldn’t go skiing in the same spot every day. In fact, you could see different mountains every day.”
Backcountry skiing isn’t pegged as the ‘experts only’ sport it once was, either. “That’s one of the nice things about backcountry skiing—it’s accessible to many people of differing levels, from 12-years-old to 70-somethings,” Jesse says. “You need to know how to ski and have some hiking fitness, but those skills can vary. You can do a shorter day and still have a great time.”
Rishiri Island japan
“There are also options for people who have already done day tours on their own in the backcountry, but they want to extend their skills—maybe they haven’t done as much glacier travel, for example, so they want to take a guided traverse,” Sylvia explains.
“One of my favourite trips is the Wapta Traverse,” says Jesse. “The trip has a great group dynamic, since we’re together 24/7. On the first day, we ski until we reach the Bow Hut. It’s one of the few older mountain huts in the alpine. We try to get up on the glacier that day for a short run above the hut. It’s nice, open skiing and there’s tons of snow up there. The next day, we traverse from that hut to the Balfour Hut, often climbing summits on the way and getting ski descents. We use skins to climb, and for a lot of people that’ll be a new, engaging experience. Our third day on that trip, we go up and over the Balfour High Call and that is spectacular. There’s blue ice showing out of the glacier, while we pass by the biggest mountains on the trip. It’s rare to see anyone else throughout the day. We make our way along an easier ski run to the last hut. The final day, we travel down towards Lake Louise along a traverse and down through the trees. Then we’re picked up and head back to Canmore. In terms of objectives in Canada, it’s one of the big ones. People come from all over the world to do this trip, and they often walk away feeling accomplished. It’s a good mix of ski mountaineering, skiing and traversing.”
New steep skiing programs for 2020 include the Ultimate Steep & Deep Camp and a Remote Backcountry Ski Camp in a base camp situated in a rugged corner of the Freshfields Icefields in Banff National Park. There are also women-only trips taught by female adventurers. Visit yamnuska.com to learn more and book your adventure today.