BACKCOUNTRY SKIING CANADA

Disclaimer:

Our experience of the following skitouring trips were of course completely dependent of the snow quality, weather conditions and avalanche danger. 

Joffre Lakes

Lazy Boy 

We bought this topographic map in a local store in Whistler

Google Maps parking location, this is just a pullout
GPS route tracked with our Garmin watch

FAVORITE SCORE

ROOKIE SCORE

INTENSITY

Summary

We were here 13 march 2019

 

If you are hanging around Whistler and are looking for a free but wonderful trip, make sure to stop by here. The intensity of this skitour was just a tad harder than your moderate day out due to a solid sustained ascent. However, the ascend was not really technical and basic off piste skiing skills should get you down safely.

 

Details

Distance: 12,4 km

Elevation gain: 750 m

Type: Loop

Trail description


WHAT?

The first part of this track follows the forest road north leading up to a hidden cabin. The road has some steeper and mellower parts until it levels out before turning west. Here a slope on the left-hand side supports some low growing pine trees. When reaching the end of the forest road, you can leave it to the right to find the hidden cabin in the woods (Coordinates: N50° 24.018' W122° 29.179'). It is possible to stay here and camp out for free (It's a good option if you plan to stay multiple days on this side of the valley). After passing the turn off to the cabin, head left up the slope with low pine trees following some tracks. When reaching the bigger forest on top keep left to go around a rocky slope and come out the back to reach the ridge. Follow the ridge down until an open bowl becomes visible on the right. Take the skins off your skis and head down over 'Lazy boy', we had really fluffy snow, until you reach a frozen lake. Traverse right through the trees into the 'Ottoman' slope. Head further down until it is time to move over to the right and head back to the forest road. Watch out not to descend to low or you’ll have to put the skins back on.   


WHY?

This trail is a good and fun day out for the less experienced backcountry skier. This beautiful area is located not far from Whistler, so facilities are not too far off, but it is definitely much calmer around here. Not too many people so the powder is often still nice and fluffy, but just enough people so there are some tracks to follow. The pine forest, in the beginning, is beautiful with a bit of snow and when you get higher up there are some definite views to be taken in. There is loads to do around here on both sides of the parking area, so plan to stay a couple of days!

 

Gear up with

  • Avalanche gear

  • Preferred back country skiing gear

Joffre Lakes

Swivel rocker

We bought this topographic map in a local store in Whistler

Google Maps parking location, same as Lazy Boy
GPS route tracked with our Garmin watch

 

FAVORITE SCORE

ROOKIE SCORE

INTENSITY

Summary

We were here 14 march 2019

This skitour has about the same intensity as Lazy Boy (above) with similar elevation gain and distance. However, the route ascends and descends through a quite dense pine forest with steep sections, making it technically much harder. For this reason, we rated this skitour a little lower on our favorite scale. It is still a fun day out but the Lazy Boy nearby was more enjoyable to ski down. If you are into some steep bushwacking, however, this is the trip for you.

 

Details

Distance: 10,3 km

Elevation gain: 613 m

Type: Out and Back

Trail description


WHAT?

If you start from the parking, the first part of 'Swivel rocker' follows the same path as 'Lazy Boy':

Follow the forest road north leading up to a hidden cabin. The road has some steeper and mellower parts until it levels out before turning west. Here a slope on the left-hand side supports some low growing pine trees.

When reaching the end of the forest road, you leave it to the right to find the hidden cabin in the woods (Coordinates: N50° 24.018' W122° 29.179'). It is possible to stay here and camp out for free (It's a good option if you plan to stay multiple days on this side of the valley). After the hut, choose one of the many tracks leading west into the denser wood straight in the direction of Cayoosh Mountain. Bend of to the right and into a valley while ascending along a small river. Cross the river a couple of times until the slope opens up. Afterward, take in a breath and head left onto the steeper slope of Cayoosh Mountain, push up through the trees until the ground becomes more level. If you are high enough the Swivel rocker slope becomes visible on the right. Keep left of the rocks and keep pushing up it until you come around the back of the bowl. We turned back early because we were a little bit concerned about the avalanche danger above the treeline, but if the conditions are good you will be able to ascend almost to the top of Cayoosh Mountain without taking your skis off.

Take the skins off and enjoy the ride back down! Until you reach the horror of the steep slope with trees that is (Britt here ;-)). No, for you experienced backcountry skiers this will be fun as well! Then just head back down the way you came up.  


WHY?

This trail is a bit harder than 'Lazy Boy' and might be more fun for the more experienced backcountry skier. This beautiful area is located not far from Whistler, so facilities are not too far off, but it is definitely much calmer around here. Not too many people so the powder is often nice and fluffy, but just enough people so there are some tracks to follow already in place. The pine forest, in the beginning, is beautiful with a bit of snow and when you get higher up there are some definite views to be taken in. There is loads to do around here on both sides of the parking area, so plan to stay a couple of days!

 

Gear up with

  • Avalanche gear

  • Ski crampons. If the steep slope has some ice spots these could come in handy.

  • Preferred back country skiing gear

  • Helmet to head butt the trees 

Lake Louise

Little Crowfoot

Google Maps parking location, with tiolets
GPS route tracked with our Garmin watch

We used the Gaia app with free topographic maps for this route

FAVORITE SCORE

ROOKIE SCORE

INTENSITY

Summary

We were here 30 march 2019

 

If you are looking for a skitour trip with an amazing backdrop all around and are willing to get some work done to get to the top, this trip is the one for you. You get to enjoy the wild side of the Icefield Parkway with a lot fewer crowds. It is not an easy road up though. You will do a fair amount of distance with almost a 1000 m of elevation. Basic skinning and off piste skiing skills will get you safely up to and down from the glacier. However, when the glacier is exposed you need knowledge of glacier passage to safely reach the top. 

 

Details

Distance: 16,7 km

Elevation gain: 918 m

Summit: 2630 m

Type: Out and Back

Price: 136 CAD, entry included in our annual Canadian ‘Discovery Pass

Trail description

 

WHAT?

Depending on the level of snow it is possible to strap on your skis right at the edge of the parking lot. From the parking lot go straight across in southern direction over Bow Lake until you hit the trees on the other side. In our case the lake was completely frozen, otherwise, you need to go around the shoreline. Follow the trees into the next open valley and keep the line of trees on your left until you hit the far left corner of the valley. From here, start ascending up through the trees and keep moving south. At the end of the tree section, there will be a small descend and on your left-hand side you will see a canyon opening. Go south through the canyon for 1 km until it becomes impassable. Head up to the trees and keep the canyon on your right moving south for another 1 km. You will notice a drainage. From here it is possible to stay on the left or the right of the drainage while heading up through the trees. Depending on the present tracks choose the easiest path for your ascend. Head up until you reach a flattened spot overlooking a dip in the next valley. If possible follow the slope to the right and cross over to a rise in the terrain to bypass the dip. Skin up while heading in southwest direction until reaching the Ferris Glacier. In our case, we didn’t need to rope up since there was so much snow, but we brought a rope in any case. When attaining the next flatter section direct your skis southwest to the little summit in view. Prepare for the last short but steep section of the route. You are now on the summit of Little Crowfoot. If you’re feeling extra energetic it is possible to go for the main summit of Crowfoot Mountain on the same day. Beware that it will be a long day though. After enjoying the summit, strip off the skins and head down for some nice fluffy skiing. It is possible to head down the slope in a couple of different ways. Just be sure to head for the back to the flatter section with the trees in time. We made the mistake of going too far down (see gps route) and ended up banging through the trees almost all the way back to the canyon. Once reaching the canyon go back out the way you came in. Make sure that you keep some extra energy for the long way back over the lake. For you to choose if you want to put the skins back on or skate through this last section.  Now, sit down, relax and have a bit of chocolate while tourists come by to take their pictures on Bow lake.


WHY?

Aside from being a good cardio workout, this backcountry ski trip has a lot of different sceneries for you to enjoy. There are several small forest passages, a beautiful lake crossing, a fun canyon with snow bridges and different snow slopes while going up. In total you will pass three different valleys and when it is a clear day on top you get a beautiful view of the fourth one. Because it is such a diverse path, it keeps your mind off the fact that it is quite a long way to come in with 900 m of elevation. If the snow quality is good it is a fun run down as well with fluffy snow humps on the way. If the glacier is snowed up you can ski freely for 600 m which makes for a nice run.

 

Gear up with

  • Glacier safety gear. If the glacier is exposed you need to rope up, but if it is fully snowed up it is safe to walk over. Ask around about the conditions!

  • Avalanche gear

  • Ski crampons. If the route has some ice spots these could come in handy.

  • Preferred backcountry skiing gear

Lake Louise

Surprise pass

Google Maps HUGE parking location, with warm toilets and drinking water
GPS route tracked with our Garmin watch

We used the Gaia app with free topographic maps for this route

FAVORITE SCORE

ROOKIE SCORE

INTENSITY

Summary

We were here 1 April 2019

This trip gets a high favorite score due to its diverse nature, beautiful views, the fact that it is a loop and the fun skiing downhill. You will need to work a little to finish the loop, but there are good breaks in between to catch your breath. For this trip you need to be familiar with avalanche danger, falling rock possibilities and ski crampons. Skiing down the first hard slope also needs some more technical skiing skills to be sure not to slip off the icy patches. If you are looking for a road less traveled around Lake Louise to lose the crowds and are keen to do some fun but slightly technical backcountry skiing at the same time, this is the trip for you.

 

Details

Distance: 13,1 km

Elevation gain: 875 m

Elevation Surprise pass: 2672 m

Type: Loop

Price: 136 CAD, entry included in our annual Canadian ‘Discovery Pass

 

Trail description


WHAT?

Depending on the level of snow it is possible to strap on your skis right at the edge of the parking lot. Walk in the direction of Lake Louise. Keep left around the lake and spot the trailhead called ‘Saddle Mountain’. Follow the trail steadily ascending in SSE direction. The first part leads through dense pine forest, afterward more open areas and forest alternate while the trail keeps ascending. You will pass over an old avalanche while spotting some rugged peaks on the right-hand side. Keep moving in SE direction until the peaks of Saddle mountain come into view straight ahead. Now start moving directly up the slope in SSW direction keeping Saddle mountain on your left. When the trail starts leveling out, head for the spaced-out trees in W direction. This slope can be very icy, so beware of slipping off. Stay as high up in the valley as possible until it becomes impossible to go further while walking. Take the skins off and plunge into the valley on a possibly icy section, while heading in SW direction. Try to get as high as you can on the other side of the valley and then put the skins back on. At this point, you should have arrived in an apparently closed bowl. Keep on the south side of the valley while generally moving in W direction. Once far enough into the bowl look over to the north side of the valley and be surprised by a steep pass sneaking up between the mountains. Head over to this slope, moving as quickly as possible out of rockfall danger on the left side of the slope and be prepared to work hard to get on top with a couple of switchbacks. Ski crampons are highly adviced for this section. Once on top take a breath and enjoy the view from the highest point of the route. On a clear day, Lake Louise is visible from here. Now the fun begins. Prepare for a good 800 m of skiing fun, starting with a narrower section which widens up quickly. When nearing the bottom steer right in NE direction until you hit Lake Louise again. Here it is up to you if you want to put the skins back on or if you want to skate the flat section of the lake. 


WHY?

‘Surprise pass’ is definitely an apt name for this trip. It is really diverse with forest passes, a lot of different peaks and a lot of different valleys. All of these together amount to a trip where the view constantly changes. The fact that some parts are slightly more technical make it a really fun challenge and in between there is enough time to recover from the more challenging parts. The surprise pass itself also takes you by surprise by suddenly appearing as if from nowhere. The skiing is a good ride from the top all the way down. And the cherry on top, you will get a view from Lake Louise without the huge crowd from a really cool perspective.  

 

Gear up with

  • Avalanche gear

  • Ski crampons. Chances are you will need your crampons for more than one section of the route, especially when going up surprise pass.

  • Preferred back country skiing gear

  • Bear spray