Revelstoke, British Columbia has been on Alps & Meters Founder Lou Joseph's bucket list for years. This March he snuck away from the office for a week in the Monshees with a crew of friends, new and old. This is his Journal.
March 14, 2016
Wake up at 4:00 am for my flight to Seattle and then on into Kelowna for a drive to Revelstoke, BC. Will be fun to see old friends and meet new ones. Revelstoke is supposed to be BIG and I’m excited to ski tomorrow. First time to BC!
Long drive from Kelowna to Revelstoke after flight across the US and the ease back into Canada. Beautiful scenery on the drive and took a pic of an old railway car and then a moving train passed through the mountains and trees which seemed a perfect Pacific Northwest/Canadian moment.
Our home in Revelstoke is wonderful- small/quiet and roomy- a great place to hang our hat for the week. The group on this trip is big...I think that there are 12 of us in total and from places such as Boston, California, and Seattle. The house on La Forma road is owned by a great gal named Jess and like all proper ski chalets is equipped with nostalgic board games, old VHS movies, and multiple decks of cards. Although all of us were tired from a long day of travel we ended the night with a lengthy game of ‘hearts’ and then retired to our rooms, some of which were classic bunk style setups, to get some sleep before our first day on the mountain in the morning. It was great to have landed safely in Revelstoke.
MARCH 15, 2016
We were up early and on the mountain by 8:30 when the lift operated services began. Revelstoke received 2-3 inches and the majority of our time was spent in the North Bowl area riding the Stoke and Dipper chair lifts. During one ride on the Stoke chair I had a pleaseant chat with a gentleman named Cam. Cam was Canadian, actually from Toronto, but spends 3-4 weeks per year in Revelstoke. Needless to say that Cam became quite the ambassador of good relations by taking our group on a fantastic tour of the North Bowl and some of its steeper aspects.
During our final lap we experienced the significant vertical drop of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, traveling approximately 6 miles from top to bottom; making our way downward through cold powdery snow, then spring corn, and finally “wet cement” as we neared the base lodge. Our legs were tired but there were smiles all around and during the evening we fell asleep easily thinking of the fun day that had passed as well as the backcountry cat skiing to come tomorrow.
March 17, 2016: K3 Cat Skiing
Today was a fantastic adventure as we headed into the backcountry of the Monashee range led by the K3 Outfit of Canadian guides. Access to the ragged and high alpine terrain of the mountains was made possible by snow cats and cat tracks. Upon arrival I learned that the operation was founded by 3 local backcountry enthusiasts who toured the region frequently before slowly developing their ski/tourism business designed to treat visitors such as myself and my friends to the dry and deep snow of areas with names such as The Dark Side, Hold My Beer, and Single Malt.
Our lead guide was named Penny from down under in New Zealand and along with additional guides named Audy, Rich, and Agathe (all Canadian), we explored the acres of terrain offered by the surrounding peaks, trees, gullies, and steep roll overs accessible to our cat which climbed pitch after pitch without difficulty. From the top of each series of runs we looked out all around and in the distance could set our gaze in the direction of the Monashees’ sister mountain ranges, the Selkirks and the Caribous. Up and down we went throughout the day, setting a series of fresh tracks on northern facing aspects where the snow was dry and deep.
Coupled with the beautiful silence of high alpine environment were the hoots and hollers of our group as we descended steep snow fields into dense trees where flashes of skiers were visible in quick bursts between the trunks and snowfilled branches of the area. When skiing beneath the high alpine climate we encountered softer, spring-like conditions but enjoyed a thigh-burning run of soft corn through the low angle trees and hills until taking to the cattrack road for a teeth-chattering final push towards base camp. At the end of the track we once again ducked off-piste through heavier spring snow warmed by the rising sun.
Near the end of the final trail and just above the base camp was a small jump where each of us tried to revisit our youth in a fun display of tricks that had the peanut gallery below laughing and yelling with encouragement. At base camp, we circled up with other cat skiers, guides and drivers for a well deserved beer to recount the day’s stories and events. Thereafter, in the midst of smiles, handshakes and photographs, we headed home to our quaint abode in the town of Revelstoke but ready to return two days later for the final turns of the trip.
MARCH 18, 2016: A day about town
Skiing three days straight along with the forecast of our last day of cat skiing tomorrow brought a day of rest. A later than usual wake-up was pleasant, and spending time making breakfast, brewing coffee, and taking in the fresh mountain air without the demands of getting on the hill was a nice change of pace.
During the morning, all of us lounged about, dried our gear by the fireplace and hung garments in our rooms where they might continue to dry in preparation for tomorrow’s activities. Shortly after breakfast, a few folks made their way into town for a walk about in the fresh air and to take in more of this far away destination where we were residing for the week. During the trek back and forth from town a friend took a photo of the sign board at the Revelstoke Lodge which stated “Your mom called and said you should stay here.” If that statement was also speaking about Revelstoke itself, we couldn’t agree more.
MARCH 19, 2016 : Return to the Dark Side
With a day of rest under our belts, we woke up early like children on Christmas morning. Today we were skiing our last day of the trip and were returning to the backcountry of British Columbia accompanied by the K3 Cat Skiing guides. Our group was already outside of our rented Revelstoke home when the K3 SUVs pulled into our driveway. Once again, we were to be accompanied by three of the guides from our prior excursion, Penny, Agathe and Rich.
The drive to the K3 base camp that morning felt longer than most; it was likely the anticipation of the day ahead which we knew involved nice cold temps on a bluebird day which would make for dry snow and great visibility. We loaded our gear into the snow cat quickly and soon enough we were underway and headed once again to the North Facing aspect of the area called the Dark Side.
As before, the snow was light and deep. Skiing one at a time behind our guides, the flakes flew up from the bottoms of our skis over the knees and all of us felt that magic sensation of floating freedom that is the dream of skiing.
Many lines that day fed into diverse forests of trees where the quiet of the Monashees could truly be appreciated. Tight turns and then a series of quick roll-overs fed to a series of paths through the woods down to where the snow cat waited. Like the Hall & Oats music and songs spilling from our portable speaker, we hit repeat on the series of slopes skied that day, making our way up and around the Dark Side where there wasn’t another soul in sight for miles. In addition to some of the terrain skied during our first excursion, we explored a variety of new areas, one of which became an all time favorite of the trip. That particular run commanded A LOT of thigh-burning vertical and was an area, due to its snow stability, where we could all ski together without the terribly cautious approach taken in the steeper avalanche terrain.
Set free by our guide Penny, this expansive bowl saw a bunch of 30 and 40-somethings transformed into a posse of boys hooting with delight in a series of criss-crossed powder tracks from top to bottom. Some of us made powder-8s, others straight lined certain sections to bring snow up to their chests while still a few even stopped from time to time, to take in the view of the mountains and to survey the bouncing, bobbing and smiling skiers below. In the midst of this scene I couldn’t help but think that Peter Pan would be proud: grownups with jobs, children and responsibilities acting exactly as they did when they were 10 or 12 years old and all because of frozen water that had fallen in the mountains.
In the midst of great skiing, fantastic camaraderie, and the wonderful up and down rhythm of the day’s events, the afternoon sun began its descent and before we knew it, the adventure was coming to a close. However, like the boys we became, we begged our guide Penny for more more run. She did what all fairy godmothers would do and granted our wish. So we had our last and final ski of the trip down the favorite pitch that had been our playground for the afternoon. Tired but utterly satisfied, we made our way to the base camp where a series of additional handshakes, hugs and pictures ensued. It was sad to be leaving but the people, places and memories of our time in Revelstoke were certainly not elements that we would easily forget.