Wilderness Ski Traverses

Bugaboos to Rogers Pass, Selkirks, Monashees and Rockies Ski Traverses / Canada

3 to 21 Day Backcountry Ski Traverses through the Remote Wilderness of the Canadian Rockies, the Selkirks or the Monashee Ranges.

Wilderness Ski Traverses Highlights

  • The ultimate ski touring adventure
  • 33ft avg. snowfall / year
  • Endless wilderness terrain
  • Breathtaking scenery – big glaciers
  • Absolutely no people!
  • Food caches = smaller backpacks
  • Bugaboos to Rogers Pass classic

The big ski traverses in Western Canada are the crown jewels of backcountry skiing in North America. Best known is the 8-10 days Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Classic. Others are just as remote with breath taking, glaciated scenery but easier to access and to set up.

All wilderness ski traverses guarantee big adventure! Aside from a lot of backcountry skiing mileage you need a high level of stamina and commitment, the ability to carry a multi-day backpack and camp out in wintery conditions. For most trips we set up supply caches ahead of time in order to keep our loads manageable.

Ski Traverse Itineraries include (see below for more details):
Wapta Icefields Traverse, 3 – 6 Days
Bugaboos to Rogers Pass, 9 Days

Northern Selkirks Traverse in two parts:
Rogers Pass to CMH Adamant Lodge, 6 Days
CMH Adamant Lodge to Fairy Meadows, 7 Days

Southern Monashees Traverse, 3 – 5 Days
Lake Louise to Jasper, 18 – 21 Days
Wapta to little Yoho Traverse, 3 – 6 Days

Itinerary

Wapta Icefields Traverse, 3 – 6 Days

Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Traverse

This is undoubtedly the Super-Classic of all Canadian Wilderness Ski Traverses. It was first done in 1958 in 9 days without any helicopter support – a remarkable effort! It is nowadays done in anything from 4 days to 10 days and we budgeted 8 days of touring for our trip. A must do trip for every seasoned ski tourer with a good sense for adventure.

Best Season: Mid March – Mid May
Start: Usually ACC Konrad Kain Hut
Finish: Rogers Pass Asulkan Valley Trailhead at the Transcanda Highway in Glacier National Park
Lodging / Camping: There are a number of usable shelters on the way, some well equipped like the ACC Kain Hut (open only from mid April on), the International Basin Hut or the ACC Glacier Circle Hut. In addition there are the Maloy Igloo and the Mc Murdo Hut, which are very basic shelters without any equipment. Given that the timing works out, we usually end up camping in tents for two to three nights.
Food caches: We usually arrange to deposit a food cache mid-trip at the International Basin Hut to keep the packs manageable. Additional food caches are possible at additional cost.
Difficulty / Trip Crux: This is a tough trip that Choosing the best way around Mt. Syphax (we can rely on some seasonal inside knowledge from our friends at CMH Heli-Skiing from the Bobbie Burns Lodge) and finding the 4 rappel stations to descend from the Deville Neve.
Access: Either by helicopter from Golden to the ACC Kain Hut (long flight, requires a permit with BC Provincial Parks) or by our friends at CMH Bugaboos (shorter flight, only on Saturdays available, still requires a permit with BC Provincial Parks). Access by foot / snow mobile is lengthy and the climb to the Kain Hut is cumbersome as the summer trail leads across steep moraines and rock slabs that are hazardous in winter / spring.

Southern Monashees Traverse

A bit of a less known gem: Easy approach either from trailheads reachable by car or better by short helicopter flights, huge snow pack (more than any place in the Selkirks or the Rockies) and pretty mellow glaciers. Nevertheless spectacular terrain with huge runs to 2000 meters vertical (7000 ft).

Start: Helicopter drop off south of Cranberry Peak (about 50 km from Revelstoke BC
Finish: Either a) Transcanada Highway close to Three Valley Gap or b) Mt. McPhearson Cross Country Trailheads about 7 km from Revelstoke BC
Best Season: Possible usually from Mid-December, best time Mid January – Mid May
Lodging / Camping: The only official hut along the way is the Blanket Glacier Chalet, which is a commercial ski touring lodge that is commonly rented out on a weekly basis to touring groups and usually not available for single overnight stays. There are rumors about one additional “secret shelter” en route which offers no facilities / equipment but a roof and four walls. Hence, it’s four nights of camping in super scenic spots at tree line or below, usually with access to running water / frozen lakes.
Food caches: We commonly arrange for a food / fuel cache in Blanket Creek (two days into the trip), which will be set up by helicopter.
Trip Crux / Difficulty: This is a good trip for wilderness ski expedition beginners. Most glaciers, while large in size, are relatively mellow and with a bit of local knowledge, relatively easy to navigate. Difficult and requiring quite a bit of local knowledge is the final descent from Mt Begbie or Mt. English all the way to town level (600 meters above sea level), especially in late season! Then again, there is an excellent helicopter operator based in Revelstoke and getting a pick up higher up is only a short (and relatively cheap) flight away. It sure beats sinking in to your hips in isothermal snow late in the season.
Access: Either by helicopter from Golden to the ACC Kain Hut (long flight, requires a permit with BC Provincial Parks) or by our friends at CMH Bugaboos (shorter flight, only on Saturdays available, still requires a permit with BC Provincial Parks). Access by foot / snow mobile is lengthy and the climb to the Kain Hut is cumbersome as the summer trail leads across steep moraines and rock slabs that are hazardous in winter / spring.

Northern Monashees Traverse

This trip picks up where the Bugaboos to Rogers Pass finishes and offers a continuation of the Selkirks Traverse for another 10 – 14 days all the way to Mica Creek at the Northern most tip of the Selkirks. Starting at Rogers Pass is convenient and cheap (no helicopter access) but also requires a good amount of bush whacking and wild river crossings in the northwestern reaches of Glacier National Park, namely in Ursus and Mountain Creek. A few dollars well spent is a helicopter drop off just outside the National Park. We commonly split this traverse in tow parts: Rogers Pass to CMH Adamant Lodge (5 days) and CMH Adamant Lodge to Big Mouth Creek or even all the way to Mica Creek (5 – 8 days).

Start: Part 1: Rogers Pass or helicopter drop off in Alder Creek south of the Glacier National Park boundary. Part 2: Vehicle / Snow mobile approach up the Goldstream forest road or helicopter drop off on the Goldstream Neve.
Finish: Part 1: CMH Adamant Lodge or Goldstream Neve Part 2: Little hamlet of Mica Creek (road access) or by helicopter from a pick up close to Kinbasket Lake.
Best Season: Early March – Mid May
Lodging / Camping: There are three well equipped huts along this itinerary:Sorcerer Lodge, ACC Great Cairn Hut and the ACC Fairy Meadows Hut. All except the Great Cairn Hut are usually rented out on a weekly basis to ski touring groups but an overnight maybe possible depending on current bookings. Most nights require camping with the camping spots commonly used for the first part of the trip are all at treeline with access to running water. The second part of the trip requires some above treeline camping.
Food caches: We commonly arrange for a food / fuel cache at Moberly Pass (Part 1) and Fairy Meadows Hut (Part 2).
Trip Crux / Difficulty: This is a very remote trip that requires a lot of stamina. The descent in Bachelor Creek can be challenging due to low elevation in spring and climbing out of it involves a short bit of bushwhacking. Walking out to the Goldstream forest road can also require a good bit of walking to get to a vehicle pick up point.
Access: Best by helicopter on both ends, although part 1 can be ended by a vehicle pick up on the Goldstream forest road.

Detail and Logistics

Meeting Point

Depending on the itinerary, we commonly meet in either Canmore, Golden or Revelstoke on the evening before the first day of ski touring.

Climate/Weather

The Columbia Ranges of BC are primarily influenced by a moist, maritime climate (very much in contrast to Canadian Rockies) with moderate winter temps. During a typical ski touring week, you should be prepared for heavy snowfall and temps from -1C (30F) to -15C (5F). But of course, it can get as cold as -30C (-22F) in a cold mid-winter week and as warm as 10C (50F) during a warm, spring skiing week in May.

For spring skiing weeks, powder snow (dry, cold snow) usually preserves well on the many northerly aspects even if it hasn’t snowed in days. At the same time, the southerly aspects will start to corn up (melt-freeze cycle) with sunny weather, which yields nice spring skiing, if the descents are well timed with the day time heating. Unfortunately, as with any backcountry skiing, we can’t exclude (but do our best to avoid) the “in-between stages” of powder and corn: Crud a.k.a breakable crusts!

Services Included in the Total Price

Guiding by a UIAGM/ACMG certified Mountain and/or Ski Guide, possibly assisted by an apprentice guide depending on group size / preferences, access by helicopter, depending on the trip itinerary, lodging in basic alpine club huts on some itineraries (bunks with foamies), all trip food (home-prepped, light weight dinners, breakfast and lunch supplies), avalanche safety gear (transceiver, shovel and probe), glacier equipment (harness, rope and crampons, if necessary), National Park wilderness overnight fee fees if applicable, pre-trip meeting and all guide expenses.

Not Included in the Total Price (most can be quoted separately) are:

Lodging in the valley before or after the traverse, transport to and from the trailhead, ski touring equipment rental (if necessary), any additional cost for transport including helicopter evacuation in case the trip has to be abandoned due to adverse weather or snow stability, equipment failure etc.

This is a trip for seasoned individuals with an extensive ski touring background (except for the classic Wapta Traverse): Very strenuous backcountry ski traverse in remote, alpine and often glaciated terrain on alpine touring (randonne) or sturdy telemark equipment.

You must be able to ski safely and controlled at all times while wearing a heavy (15kg – 25kg = 33lb – 55lb) backpack. In spite of the existence of some huts and possibly pre-arranged food caches, the ski touring party has to carry all technical equipment, winter camping equipment, cooking fuel and dehydrated food.

Depending on the conditions, we might have to rope on while skiing both up and downhill.

You need to be in EXCELLENT physical and mental condition, ready to be on your feet for about 10 hrs. On some of the days, followed by setting up camp. If in doubt whether you have the required skills, give us a call!

FAQ

Why book with us?

Aside from our credentials as ACMG / IFMGA certified mountain guides we have excellent knowledge of the remote ranges of the Canadian West. Most of us also work as heli-ski guides for Canadian Mountain Holidays who is operating in some of the areas traveled. Local expertise and insider knowledge enables us to arrange food caches, drop offs and pick ups by helicopter, snow mobile or truck in a cost efficient manner or make terrain choices with the background of having skied in these ranges for the entire winter season.

Additional Risks of Wilderness Traverses

Wilderness Ski Traverses involve substantially more risk than other ski touring trips. Especially once most helicopter-ski operators finish their season at the end of March / early April, help can be far away in case of avalanche or other accidents. Equipment failure, bad weather, fatigue or high avalanche hazard might force us to interrupt the trip in a spot that is far away from the next road access. This and other unforeseen circumstances may require helicopter evacuation (provided reasonable flying weather) that comes at additional cost. A risk that has to be shared by all participants.

Equipment

You need either sturdy telemark equipment or (more common in Canada) alpine touring equipment – either is available for rental at our base in Canmore, Banff or Golden, BC. however we do recommend you bring your own gear. Equipment failure can put an end to your trip and cause a costly helicopter evacuation.

Gear List

EQUIPMENT LIST: BACKCOUNTRY SKI TOURING

1. Technical Equipment

• Telemark or Alpine Touring skis*: Only bring your telemark skis if you are at least an advanced/intermediate telemark skier with backcountry experience.
• Telemark or alpine touring boots*
• Collapsible ski poles*
• Climbing skins (stick-on) that fit your telemark or alpine touring skis*
• Avalanche transceiver (475 Megahertz)**
• Lightweight snow shovel**
• Avalanche probe**
• Large backpack (at least 50 liters) with rain cover. Some have built-in rain covers (eg. Deuter backpacks). Rain covers can also be bought separately. Otherwise bring a big plastic (garbage) bag as an inside liner for your backpack.
• Climbing harness for glacier travel**
• One locking carabiner**
• Crevasse rescue equipment, if you are familiar with it. (Prusik slings, webbing, pulleys, auto-locking device). Your guide will bring a full set.
• Ski crampons * (optional, but might make your live much easier in some of the steeper sections in spring)
• Repair kit for your skis (can be shared between 2 people)

All items marked with ‘*’ can be rented from a rental shop locally.

All items marked with ‘**’ can be provided by OnTop ltd. Please bring your own equipment if you have it.

2. Clothing

Temperatures in the Canadian Rockies vary hugely. Early season (December – February) temps can drop as low as –30C overnight, whereas in spring (mid-March – May) it can warm up to above freezing temps and overnight lows are not usually below –10C. The list is meant as a guide line, but we realize that our guests have their clothing priorities and substituting certain items with other equivalent pieces of clothing might be a valid alternative. If you do so, you should discuss it with your guide in the pre-trip briefing.

• Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore Tex or similar)
• Wind and waterproof over pants (Gore Tex or similar)
• Warm pants (insulated / fleece/ polypro)
• Fleece or wool pullover or jacket
• Medium weight fleece shirt
• Capilene, fleece or wool underwear, top and bottoms
• 2 Pairs of gloves (lightweight and heavier weight)
• Scarf or neck gaiter
• Socks: thick (wool) outer and thinner liners
• Wool or fleece hat, covering the ears
• Gaiters (unless pants lock tightly to your boots or ski pants have integrated gaiters)
• Sun hat, preferably with wide rim
• Bandana (optional)

3. Hut lodging

• Spare underwear, socks
• Down vest or light insulated jacket (optional)
• Light stuff sacs or zip lock bags to keep your backpack organized (optional)
• Sleeping bag and stuff sac (should be a “three-season sleeping bag). Expect hut temperatures to be below freezing overnight.
• Ear plugs (Optional)
• Very light hut slippers / down booties (optional – socks or boot liners work too)
• Toiletries ((Keep to bare minimum – none of the huts has wash facilities or even water other than from melted snow)

4. Other items

• Sun Glasses (with very good UV protection, extra pair is a good idea), goggles
• Sun screen and lip protection
• Water bottle, preferably insulated, minimum volume: 1 liter or camelbak (if too cold, bladder tube might freeze up!)
• Head lamp with spare battery and bulb
• Blister kit (optional)
• Snacks (candy bars, dried fruit, sandwiches, nuts, etc.)
• Personal items (Prescription medicine, extra contact lenses and maintenance equipment, extra pair of prescription glasses etc.)
• Pocket knife or leatherman tool
• Passport
• (Health) insurance documents
• Zip-lock bag for wallet and documents to keep them dry (recommended)
• Camera, spare films, batteries (optional)
• Compass, maps and GPS (optional)
• Ski wax / skin wax (optional)

GROUP SIZES
Client / Guides

Min of 3, max of 7 / guide for scheduled trips

DIFFICULTY
  • Experts Only
  • Excellent fitness
  • 15 – 20 kg packs
  • Camping!
2018 DATES

Bugaboos to Rogers Pass
8 Days Touring
Custom trips / group bookings only

Southern Monashees
6 Days Touring, shorter duration possible!
CD$ 1550 or less, depending on helicopter access and trip duration
Jan 15 – 19
Feb 6 – 12
Mar 11 – 16
Apr 8 – 13
Apr 28 – May 3

Northern Selkirks
Apr 1- 7
Apr 15 – 23
7 Days Touring
CD$ 1800

PRICES

Southern Monashees
CD$ 1550 or less, depending on helicopter access and trip duration

Northern Selkirks
7 Days Touring
CD$ 1800

Includes: Guide + Guide expenses, lodging huts, food, avalanche safety gear, glacier equipment, wilderness fees (if applicable).

Extra: pre or post lodging in valleys, transport to/from trailhead, ski touring equipment.