After a long day at the Calgary airport waiting for my luggage to arrive on the same flight as our photographer Juan Aizpuru, following a couple of hours of trying to unblock my bags at customs, we managed to get them and make it on time to pick up our car. It wasn’t long before we were driving along the dramatic Trans-Canada Highway through the Banff National Park. After a brief stop in Banff to grab something to eat, we arrived at dusk in Cedar’s House Chalets in Golden, our home for the following days.
Golden is located in the southeast of British Columbia; its history is strongly linked to the Canadian Pacific Railway and forest exploitation. Since Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and other outdoor companies started, their economy is mainly based on adventure tourism. Their winter is mild when it comes to snowfall but also colder compared to other eastern Rockies areas – it is one of the Canadian powder Meccas.
Due to jet lag we’re up really early. We have a couple of days ahead of us before meeting Ty, so it’s time to be true tourists and gather some information to be able to get out and stretch our legs. After a chilled breakfast at the Bluebird Cafe, a tour around local shops to ask for some info which left us not knowing what to do or where to go, we ended up at the 12 Mile Creek parking lot, where we run into a couple of locals who where just about to go out on their sleds. We ask them if they can give us a lift to the track leading to the bowls.
They tow us up with some ropes. After a long approach on the sleds where we freeze our asses, we start our track on dry deep powder. After almost a month without any snowfalls in an exceptionally dry February, we were kind of worried about the conditions, but high pressures maintain the snow in perfect conditions on north and northeast faces. Besides, the stability is good on alpine terrain…you can’t ask for more when you cross the pond searching for epic days. After a short approach, a dense forest gives way to endless options on alpine terrain. We keep skinning towards the southwest along a ridge until we reach the highest point and …we drop in! It is late and we have to make our way back down the track with Brad and Brian. It’s extremely cold, the light is fading but we sport our biggest smiles. We say goodbye to these guys to some beers and nachos in Golden. You made our day guys!
The following day, after realizing that considering the long approaches we’re perfectly screwed if we want to access the good terrain without a sled, we stop at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to check out the most obvious slackcountry. We take the gondola to Eagle’s Eye, where we are totally blown away by the view of the Purcell mountains and the Columbia Valley towards the east, and the unmistakable outline of Mt. Sir Donald (10,774 ft.) towards the west, located at the Rogers Pass area, in the heart of Glacier National Park in the Selkirk Mountains. We get on the Stairway to Heaven chairlift and we follow the ridge towards Blue Heaven and the new Ozone area –known as the venue for one of the FWT stops. Our eyes immediately meet the back bowls outside the ski area. Open wide terrain, wind lips, and a sick playground for splitboarding with swift and comfortable lifts, which take us back to the resort. After a couple of runs, we decide to call it off for the day and rest for the upcoming days.
The Doogtooth range is the northernmost area of the Purcell Mountains. The terrain seems to come out of the wildest dream any freerider might have. A series of ridges shape a setting of steep couloirs, gullies and wide bowls followed by ‘The Molars’, a series of peaks shaped like a dog’s jaw, hence the name of this mountain range. This is probably the sector that offers the easiest access to alpine terrain on a splitboard in Golden, coming out of the resort towards the west to Rudi’s Bowl up to the crest, or traversing north bound towards the Molars.
I met Ty during Winter 2018 while he worked as lead guide for 40 Tribes in Kyrgyzstan. Ty is a mellow, cool guy, although he is also the guy who has managed to motivate me the most, transmitting the best vibes and confidence on the mountain. Ty is a local legend in Golden, and the right person to contact should you think about spending a few days in this small town in British Columbia. Ty is in charge of All Aspects Alpine, his own guiding company, whenever he is not guiding for Eagle Pass Heliski or any of the most renown lodges in Canada, such as Baldface, Retallack o Golden Alpine Holidays.
We meet Ty at the Bluebird Cafe and we head to Kicking Horse. We get on the gondola again and on the same Starway to Heaven chairlift all the way to the ridge, where we keep progressing until we leave the Ozone sector behind us and exit the ski area. We keep advancing on the crest until our goal is at sight. The Wisdom Tooth is one of the classic descents in the area, and we are surprised to see there are no tracks considering it’s been long since the last dump, as well as the accessibility of the area. Once again we are amazed by the snow conditions despite the dry month of February. Epic, stable powder in a line that will certainly stay in our memories. We wrap the day up going back up to play in a bowl at sunset, before heading back down to the resort.
Our mate Michael Wigley joins the group to share the trip with us for a few days, and we’re all bound to Rogers Pass, the iconic mountain pass which traverses the Selkirk mountains, located in the heart of the Glacier National Park, well known for being the epicenter of every mountain activity in Canada. The search for powder becomes more and more complicated due to the dry weather and the wind, which has spoiled the snow on many high mountain sectors. Nevertheless, we managed to scratch some epic turns under the great granite wall on the eastern face of Mt. Cheops. We would have loved to tell you more about the Pass during our stay in Golden, but it for sure deserves a few more trips to have a clear and fair opinion about it. The conditions we had weren’t favorable.
For our last day in Golden, we head back to the Molars still looking for good snow. We would have liked to score a line we spotted on the gnarliest sector, but it couldn’t be done. This only adds to our urge to come back in the near future to a place that enraptured us in every aspect. Those were great days! It’s time to hit the road and make it to Revelstoke, BC.
We would like to thank Andy Brown from Tourism Golden, Cedar’s House Chalets and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort for making things convenient, and mostly Ty for making us feel better than home.