I’ve been skiing since I was 5 years old. Every weekend, my parents would drop me off with the YMCA ski school which would take us to a different mountain for the day. The surrounding area of Montreal has the highest concentration of ski hills in the world. Mont Saint Sauveur, Owl’s Head, Orford, Tremblant, Mont Blanc, Sutton, Jay Peak, Bromont, Chanteclair and many more. While these hills are nowhere near the majesty of Canada’s West Coast Mountains, they sufficed for my adolescent and teenage years.
About 6 years ago, I went to ski Whistler and Blackcomb in Canada’s West– and learned what a true ski mountain consists of. Extremely long runs, inspiring views, and powder… lots of powder! Yet this was not to be the final step in the evolution of my skiing, for indeed it was only a few years ago that Bella and I got into the world of back-country skiing and touring.
Exponentially harder, back-country skiing consists of heading into remote regions with a special ski binding that allows your heel to lift. By donning ‘skins’ (fuzzy mohair strips that attach with glue to the bottom of your skis) you are able to literally ski uphill. You begin below the tree line and wind your way through pine trees, across avalanche chutes, and up into the alpine.
It can take hours to reach your destination– always heading higher and higher. The exertion is exhausting, as you carry your gear/food/water in backpack. But it is well worth it. For once you reach the top, you get to lay fresh tracks in knee deep powder, with not a soul in sight except for your ski partner. It’s liberating and extremely rewarding.
In this photo you see Bella after an awesome descent in British Columbia’s Marriot Basin.
Where to stay while you ski: Canada’s back-country has a network of huts up in the mountains, so that you can leave all your camping gear in the hut while you run epic powdery run after epic run.
It took us 5- hours to reach the Wendy Thompson Hut in Marriot Basin which is owned and operated by the Alpine Club of Canada. We did it in a snowstorm and late in the day and without knowing the route. You can easily shave off a couple of hours if you know the way.
1. Back-Country Skis, or Snowboard
2. Avalanche Transceivers
6. Ski Poles
7. Gloves/ Tuque/ Wool Socks
8. Shell Jacket
9. Down Jacket
10. GPS (not necessary, but good to have in the back-country)