“ I can’t see you, lodge”
Coming up through the notch in the mountains below Powder Creek Lodge, the helicopter pilot sounded calmer than it seemed he should be. The machine puts down in a cloud of powder and as the rotors slow, we can see our home for the next week. A lodge building, sauna, and outhouse, perched on a ledge at 2100m above a small lake in the Purcell mountains, 10 minutes flight time across Kootenay lake from Kaslo, in British Columbia. Not much else is visible, apart from the huge grins of the clients from the week before waiting to get on the flight out.
This is the first week in April of what has been a legendary snow season all over North America. This is how a getaway for ski touring should be. Two hours of internet a day, shared common areas, composting toilets, sauna heating water for showers, and a feeling of quiet anticipation. The ground floor of the lodge is a full open plan area, with a kitchen, dining room, wood stove, and picture windows facing what would turn out to be a view we couldn’t take our eyes off, once the clouds cleared.
I lucked into a place on this week when I saw a Facebook post from the owner John Peachell, and gave him a call. Someone had backed out a couple of months before. The first day was a shakedown day, we dropped over into a tree filled area on a more northern aspect, after a short shot on an open bowl above the lodge. Talking to the guides, their biggest worry was the warming trends causing cornice falls. As it popped blue the second day, we could see everything. The cameras came, the smiles were ear to ear, as we looked across the valley. The terrain is a bit of everything. Just above and below the lodge there are mellow, low angle tree runs, short laps full of little hits, and hidden powder stashes. A little further afar, the skin tracks gain ridges on all sides, with open alpine bowls, and spines above steep trees on every aspect. Lines were picked, questions asked. “ Can we go ski that?”
So, here is the thing. We’re human powered all week, no lifts, no helicopters, nothing. This means that we have to be aware of how far we can seriously travel. In order to get to this incredible terrain, we have to ski down to a lake at 1700m, then up the skin track they call “ The Elevator”, and up into the alpine. This means that the lines have to be within the abilities of a varied group. We reached the top of the moraine, and made a decision as a group to summit Mistletoe mountain, named, as most of the peaks within the drainage, after Norse mythology.
From here we skied what was called ” Happy Valley” by the guides. With 10cm of hero snow on top of a supportive crust it lived up to it’s name. We lapped in this same area three times, then skied out to the lake, and skinned up to the lodge, where there was beer, appies, and amazing food waiting.
Day 3 was a little further east, on the same side of the bowl. We pushed up to the shoulder, after leaving those who wanted a shorter day at the top of the Elevator and had what were the best three runs of the trip. The rolling morainal terrain lent itself to floaty airs, and slashes, turning 15cm into face shots, and high fives, energising the crew for another foot powered lap, until it was time to head home. Once again the skin track back up 300m vertical to the lodge seemed a quick hop to beer. Ahi Tuna salad and cevice finished off an amazing day.
On the last day, we tried, after a lunch break to gain some elevation and change the aspect, guides looking for one last good day. In two groups we found storm skiing that would rival most places in February. Our tracks almost filled in on the 20 minute skin laps, tree skiing through lighter powder than expected. A fantastic way to finish off a trip to a hideaway in the Purcells.
If you’re looking to go human powered, there aren’t many better places that the Powder Highway area of southern BC for huts, and lodges. This is one of the best. You may not get rock star lines, that depends on your group, and your willingness to stomp uphill for them, but they are here, as are mellow alpine rolls, and tree skiing for the high hazard days. This may well be the trip of a lifetime.
Powder creek is already booked out for next winter, but has some availability for 2018/19.