Rogers Pass, BC Backcountry Report: Gargantuan Pillows

Olivier Denis-Larocque | BackcountryBackcountry | Conditions ReportConditions Report
snowboarder on pillows in rogers pass
Duncan flying off a massive pillow line. image: Olivier Denis-Larocque

Report from January 20th, 2019

When skiers think of British Columbia’s mountains, they think of big terrain, deep snow, thick clouds, but most importantly…

Gargantuan pillows.

That is exactly what Duncan and I hoped for on the 45-minute drive from Revelstoke to Rogers Pass. As we were approaching our destination, I glanced at the side of Highway 1. The pillows were rapidly growing in bulk, from the size of a small box to that of a large SUV.

pillow field bc
Pillows, typical of our neck of the woods. image: Olivier Denis-Larocque

After considering the avalanche hazards in the area, we choose to explore a very conservative eastern aspect terminating at treeline. The warming temperatures close to the freezing point combined with solar heating and an underlying sun crust from a weeklong drought rendered the alpine snowpack relatively unstable.

It only took 20 minutes to reach our objective, a 600m long slope littered with untouched pillows that would tower over a small house. Fortunately, someone had already carved an uptrack halfway up the field. With 25cm of new snow, we raced up the run, hoping to get some half-decent face shots.

splitboarder touring rogers pass
Tiny Duncan, large giant pillow field. image: Olivier Denis-Larocque

As we neared the end of our uptrack, the sun soared high over the mountains, filtering through a thin veil of clouds.

ski touring up rogers pass
Oli, trailblazing, Mt Swanzy and Clarke Peak in the background. image: Duncan Ross

At the top, the sun was visibly getting stronger. We noticed pin-wheeling and wet sloughing across the landscape. Our backcountry instincts kicked in. Alarm bells rang in our mind. Time to move!

We quickly transitioned into ski mode. Duncan moved in position for the shot while I meticulously planned my line.

skier hiding sun
Oli, leaping off the sun. image: Duncan Ross

We crisscrossed the treeless pillow field searching for our next line.  We felt the sun crust resting below the fresh powder. Our knees took the brunt of the impact as we bounced off from one frosty mushroom to the next.

snowboarder in rogers pass
Duncan slashing a big turn, Highway 1 in the valley. image: Olivier Denis-Larocque

Duncan has just the eye for it. It didn’t take long for him to spot a spectacular pillow line.

snowboarder flying over pillow line
Duncan flying. image: Duncan Ross

Duncan pushed on for a second serving. I rested my bruised shins and aching knees from an unsuccessful stunt, a gentle reminder of the importance of risk mitigation in the backcountry.

Any day in the mountains is a good day. image: Duncan Ross


image: Avalanche Canada


image: Avalanche Canada


ski touring up ross pillows
Oli, performing a kung-fu kick-turn. image: Duncan Ross
splitboarder touring up rogers pass
Duncan catching up to Oli. image: Olivier Denis-Larocque
skier slashing through powder overhead
Spines, our next objective in the back! image: Duncan Ross
Run #1, plenty to share with friends. image: Olivier Denis-Larocque

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