Valhalla Mountain Touring !
A week before Christmas I cracked an e-mail from lead guide “Evan Stevens” of Valhalla Mountain Touring (VMT), saying there was spaces available at the lodge. It was the ideal opportunity for me to get as far away as possible from the unfolding chaos during the final week of Christmas shopping. Fellow MEC Envoy, Tobin Seagel, Coast Steep Skier Trevor Hunt, and my partner Julie quickly packed our bags and headed inland in search of the great conditions we had been seeing through social network sites. As we departed Squamish, it was difficult to concede that the coastal mountains were having a subpar start to the season, especially with being exceedingly spoiled the past few years.
After making good time to Revelstoke and heading down Hwy 6 towards the ferry at Arrow Lake, it was starting to look like the winter we are accustomed to. It was clear the central interior was experiencing normal accumulations and reporting good stability. Perhaps we were in for the pre-Christmas powder gluttony we all were daydream about…or so we hoped. Anticipation built on the short ferry ride across Arrow Lake as we eyeballed potential ski lines high above the waters. After departing the ferry and pulling into Nakusp, we made a mandatory stop at the local bakery to fill up on the savory goods. I recalled this bakery from a visit a few years prior and stopping was an absolute must. A short drive from here brought us to the meeting place to begin the 1 hour snow cat ride to the lodge.
VMT is unique as it is one of the oldest commercial backcountry operations in BC. It was started in 1978, and Dale and Lynda Caton purchased it in 1993; it has been a family run business ever since. Daughter, Jasmin Caton, who is now a certified Ski and Rock Guide, bought VMT with her husband Evan Stevens and together they run the updated 7 bedroom Timber Frame Lodge. The lodge boasts incredible comforts for such a remote location. Collectively Jasmin and Evan guide the clients, maintain the facilities, and manage a micro-hydro project that is designed to have no impact on the stream ecology. The land tenure has over 80km² of skiable terrain that would take a lifetime to fully explore and understand. With ambitions high, our aim for the next 4 days was to see and ski as much of that 80km² as possible. With the slow start to our Coastal touring season, fitness was a little low but we knew that this would be the perfect way to build a base for the winter. Ambition drove us as we were excited to arrive at the lodge and acquaint ourselves with the folks that were already there having fun.
In the morning we fuelled up on Bean Brackendale Roast while Evan gave the pre-trip avalanche advisory and updated conditions on what the group could expect.
|Spro and Go !|
The settled snow depth was amongst the deepest in the province, and with this report we were hard pressed to wipe the silly grins off of our faces.
|Lead Guide Stevens..Daily routine of measuring "Faceshots"|
With the amount of varied terrain at our doorstep, we thought we would head up to Ruby Ridge to start. After all we had pulled Evan and Jasmin aside for the inside scoop on where to find sheltered north facing lines.
|Smarties do Tour.. We saw them !|
As we put our skins on outside the cabin we weren’t exactly giving up our secret stash to the other guests. Quietly we sauntered away downplaying any knowledge of the area so nobody would follow us. We had a good laugh when all the groups collectively merged an hour or so later on the ridge.
|Ha Ha Ha.. Hooo.. what you guys doing here :)|
Apparently we weren’t the only ones with a good Idea. It was awesome to hear the hooting and hollering from those we could not see. The ridge provided plenty of space for everyone to safely drop a few private lines on multiple aspects. It was the perfect day to test out the legs and dust off the early season "Pow-Webs".
Dusk arrived at 4:00pm saving us from completely burning out, and the incredible 2000-foot line back to the lodge for après and sauna was the feather in the cap.
|Onion Duty !|
There is something special about skiing powder and being in the mountains. It brings a unique and childlike energy to a group, giving grown adults a new sense of discovery. Relived moments and experiences around the dinner table brought our different snow experience together.
|Shredding pow by day, Shredded Cheese by night !|
|One big Powder hungry family !|
Over the next few days, our confidence in the snow pack increased and we ventured out into bigger terrain.
|Good to Go !|
All around us you could see an abundance of natural paths from steep summits and chutes, to low angle tree line bowls.
|Views like this, it's also about the Up !|
The area is as diverse as it is playful, bringing in many considerations and aspects when navigating the terrain. On my last trip to VMT I had scoped out ‘Rugged Peak’, and Evan had mentioned some of the longest unbroken lines were to be had up there. From the col, you could see as far as the Bugaboos and Howser Towers. With a 2500ft powder run on the line, there was little discussion on the day’s objective.
|But I like the "Deep Down" Trevor Hunt|
Once again after studying the terrain, we discovered a safe passage to the goods. All week we had been utilizing ridges and well protected forested areas to gain access to the skiing.
The balance of tree skiing and Alpine terrain was always perfect, and this day would be no different. At our high point we were treated to a spectacular 360° view of the entire tenure including the Howser Towers off in the distance.
|Tobin did his best to keep snow out of his boots !|
|He eventually gave up and goes in deep !|
|Heading home for dinner !|
|Evan Leading by example !|
|Yours Truly lost in front of the lens ! Freds Image..|