Ski Bliss in Avalanche Country

I've just returned to the warmth of my brother and sister-in-law's apartment outside Paris after wandering around the Puce de Clignancourt in the rain. Rain... Yuck! It made me yearn for snow, and when I dropped by the New York Times for a look at the world, "Finding Bliss in Avalanche Country, British Columbia" grabbed my attention. I'm ready to go skiing.

"What makes the skiing there [Rogers Pass in the Canadian Rockies], great is also what makes it foreboding: its annual snowfall of 567 inches — over 47 feet — one of the deepest in Canada."

Mark Sundeen's article is a good read, not just for the good storytelling, but for his get-me-out of the mainstream approach to skiing.

"Hot tubs and sushi notwithstanding, for someone who likes the backcountry, skiing at resorts and sleeping in motels is ultimately a bummer. So the next day, we pasted climbing skins to our skis, tested our beacons and skied into the woods, where we would spend the next two nights at the A. O. Wheeler Hut, a rustic log cabin about half an hour from the road."

Of course this is after a day of lapping the groomers at the Kicking Horse resort in Golden due to the high avalanche risks brought on with the massive snowfall. But as soon as the conditions are safe (safer?) he and his buddy head for the wilds. After crashing out for the night with a couple of dozen Canadians, they awake and for higher elevation, treking on their skis. Despite carrying avalanche security beacons in their packs, the feeling of security was distant for the the author as they advanced into the avalanche-prone backcountry.

"I didn’t feel particularly safe. Munzke predicted that our ridge would very likely split an avalanche from above onto the flanks on either side, and assured me if I just breathed a bit more slowly everything would be fine. So we dug a pit to analyze the stability of the snow, which Munzke declared to be favorable, then sat on our packs and ate salami and cheese and pieces of chocolate."

Then they were off, floating down toward the valley below through thigh deep virgin powder. Sound good? Still raining in Paris...


  • To get to Rogers Pass you'll need to fly into Calgary or Spokane, Washington.