Wilderness Ski Traverses

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

3- to 21-day backcountry ski traverses through the remote wilderness of the Canadian Rockies, Selkirks or Monashee Ranges.

Wilderness Ski Traverse Highlights

  • The ultimate ski touring adventure
  • Tons of snow = good skiing and good glacier coverage
  • Endless wilderness terrain
  • Breathtaking scenery with big glaciers and spectacular summits
  • Very few, or more likely, no other skiers!
  • Pre-placed food caches = smaller backpacks
  • The mega-classic Bugaboos to Rogers Pass

The big ski traverses in Western Canada are the crown jewels of backcountry skiing in North America. The most renowned is the 8- to 10-day Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Traverse. Others are just as committing, challenging, breathtaking, and rewarding.

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 in wintery conditions. For most trips, we put in supply-caches ahead of time in order to keep our loads manageable.

Wilderness ski traverse options include:

• Southern Monashees Traverse, 3-5 days
• Bugaboos to Rogers Pass, 8-10 days
• Northern Selkirks Traverse Part 1: Rogers Pass to CMH Adamant Lodge, 6 days
• Northern Selkirks Traverse Part 2: CMH Adamant Lodge to Fairy Meadow, 7 days
• Lake Louise to Jasper, 18-21 days

Looking for something a bit easier and with more creature comforts? Check out our…

Wapta Icefield Traverse, 3-6 days
• Wapta to Little Yoho Traverse, 3-6 days

Itinerary

Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Traverse

This is undoubtedly the mega-classic of all Canadian wilderness ski traverses. It was first done in 1958 in nine days without any helicopter support — a remarkable effort! The traverse has since been done in just 80 hours (!), but most groups still take between 8 and 10 days in order to enjoy the traverse and allow for some inclement weather. We budget eight days of touring for our trip. This is a must-do traverse for every seasoned ski tourer with a good sense of adventure!

Best Season: Mid-March to mid-May

Start: Usually ACC Conrad Kain Hut in Bugaboo Provincial Park (accessed via helicopter in winter)

Finish: Rogers Pass Asulkan Valley Trailhead at the TransCanada Highway in Glacier National Park

Lodging / Camping: There are a number of usable shelters along the way. Some are well-equipped like the ACC Kain Hut (open only from mid-April on), the International Basin Hut and the ACC Glacier Circle Hut. The Malloy Igloo and the McMurdo Hut are very basic shelters without equipment. We also camp in tents at least two to three nights along the way.

Food caches: We usually arrange to deposit a food cache mid-trip at the International Basin Hut to keep the pack weights manageable. Additional food caches are possible at an additional cost.

Difficulty / Trip Crux: This traverse covers over 130 km /  80 miles with over 10,000 vertical meters / 33,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. It is a tough trip that requires excellent physical fitness and advanced skiing ability. The terrain is steep at times. The packs are always heavy. There are several cruxes, such as choosing the season’s best way around Mt. Syphax (although we can get some inside knowledge from our friends at CMH Bobbie Burns Lodge) and finding the four ice-covered rappel stations that allow descent from the Deville Neve.

Access: Either by helicopter from Golden to the ACC Kain Hut (long flight) or with our friends at CMH Bugaboos (shorter flight, only possible on Saturdays). Access on foot or by snowmobile 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 and spring.

Southern Monashees Traverse

This is a less-known gem with an easy approach either from a roadside trailhead or (better) by a short helicopter flight. The Southern Monashees have a huge snowpack — more than any place in the Selkirks or the Rockies — and pretty mellow glaciers. The terrain is spectacular with huge ski runs up to 2,000 vertical meters / 7,000 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 Trailhead about 7 km from Revelstoke, BC

Best Season: Usually possible from mid-December, but the best time is mid-January to mid-May

Lodging / Camping: The only official hut along the way is the Blanket Glacier Chalet, a commercial ski touring lodge that is rented out on a weekly basis to groups and not usually 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 treeline or below, usually with access to running water and/or frozen lakes.

Food caches: We commonly arrange for a food and fuel cache at Blanket Creek (two days into the trip), 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. The most difficult part is the final ~1,600 m / 5,300 ft descent from Mt. Begbie or Mt. English all the way to town level, especially in late season! If the group doesn’t want to face hip-deep isothermal snow at the valley bottom, 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.

Northern and Southern Selkirks Traverses

These traverses pick up where the Bugaboos to Rogers Pass Traverse ends, and offer a continuation for another 10-14 days all the way to Mica Creek at the northernmost tip of the Selkirks. Starting at Rogers Pass is convenient and cheap (no helicopter access) but also requires a good amount of bushwhacking and wild river crossings in the northwestern reaches of Glacier National Park, namely in Ursus and Mountain Creeks. An option is to spend a few dollars for a helicopter drop-off just outside the National Park. We commonly split this traverse into two parts: Rogers Pass to CMH Adamant Lodge (five days) and CMH Adamant Lodge to Big Mouth Creek or even all the way to Mica Creek (five to eight days).

Start: Part 1: At Rogers Pass or by helicopter drop-off at Alder Creek south of the Glacier National Park boundary. Part 2: Vehicle or snowmobile 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: Hamlet of Mica Creek (road access) or by helicopter from a pick-up close to Kinbasket Lake.

Best Season: Early March to mid-May

Lodging / Camping: There are three well-equipped huts along this traverse: Sorcerer Lodge, ACC Great Cairn Hut, and the ACC Fairy Meadow Hut. Sorcerer and Fairy Meadow are usually rented out on a weekly basis to ski touring groups but an overnight may be possible depending on current bookings. We will be camping in our tents most nights, with the camping spots on the first part of the trip being mostly at treeline with access to running water. Camping on the second part of the trip requires some above-treeline camping.

Food caches: We commonly arrange for a food and fuel cache at Moberly Pass (Part 1) and Fairy Meadow Hut (Part 2).

Trip Crux / Difficulty: This is a very remote trip that requires a lot of stamina. The descent to Bachelor Creek can be challenging due to its low elevation and isothermal snow, and climbing out of it involves a short bit of bushwhacking. It can be a long walk on the Goldstream Forest Road to a vehicle pick-up point.

Access: Best by helicopter on both ends of both trips, although part 1 can end with 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.

Some items may or may not be required depending on the traverse. Your guide will discuss the list in more detail prior to the trip. Remember that you must carry everything you bring, plus food, fuel, and some group gear!

 


Wilderness Traverse Gear List as Downloadable .PDF


 

Technical Equipment

 Alpine touring (or telemark*) skis and ski boots
 Collapsible, lightweight ski poles
 Climbing skins (stick-on), fitted to your skis
 Ski crampons (rent these with rented skis, or purchase your own for your own skis)
 Large backpack (70 or more liters) with rain cover. You will also have to carry some food, fuel, and group gear.

*Only bring telemark skis if you are an advanced telemark skier with backcountry experience.

If you do not have one or more of the following items, you can rent them from the above retailers or from OnTop ($100 for the avalanche safety items, $50 for the harness and carabiner). Please book in advance.

 Avalanche transceiver (modern, 3-antenna, 475 Megahertz)
 Lightweight snow shovel
 Avalanche probe (two to three meters long)
 Harness for glacier travel
 One locking carabiner

Bring the following:

 Crevasse rescue equipment, if you are familiar with it. (Prusik cords, webbing, pulleys, auto-locking device). Your guide will bring a full set
 Repair kit and Leatherman (can be shared between several people)
 Spare parts specific to your equipment

Clothing
Temperatures in the Western Canadian mountain ranges vary hugely. Between December and February, temperatures can be well below 0°C during the day and drop as low as –30°C overnight. Between March and May, it can be above freezing during the day with overnight lows not normally going below –10°C. Having several clothing layering options is important.

 Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or similar)
 Wind and waterproof over-pants (Gore-Tex or similar)
 Ski touring pants (eg. lined Schoeller fabric or similar)
 Thick fleece or wool pullover, or PrimaLoft jacket
 Medium weight fleece shirt
 Thin synthetic or wool underwear, top and bottoms
 Two or more pairs of gloves (lightweight and heavier weight)
 Scarf or neck gaiter (eg. Buff)
 Socks (synthetic or wool, thick outer and thin liners)
 Wool or fleece hat that covers your ears
 Gaiters that fit over your ski boot (unless pants seal tightly to your boots)
 Sun hat, preferably with a wide rim
 Bandana (optional)
 Extra underwear and socks
 Light down jacket or vest
 Down booties
 3-season sleeping bag
 Toiletries (keep to a bare minimum)

Other items

 Sunglasses with high UV protection and side protection
 Ski goggles with high UV protection
 Sunscreen and lip protection with high SPF
 One-liter water bottle with insulator. Water bladders not recommended
 Small thermos (optional)
 Headlamp with fresh batteries
 Snacks (eg. candy bars, dried fruit, nuts, etc.)
 Personal first aid kit and other needs (eg. blister kit, prescription medicine, anti-inflammatory, contact lenses, prescription glasses, etc.)
 Small pocket knife (optional)
 (Health) insurance documents
 Ziploc bags and stuff sacks to keep important items dry and your pack organized
 Camera with spare batteries (optional)
 Compass, maps, 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
  • Winter camping
2019 DATES

Bugaboos to Rogers Pass
8 days touring
Custom trips / group bookings only

Southern Monashees
6 days touring, shorter duration possible
Jan 15 – 19
Feb 6 – 12
Mar 11 – 16
Apr 8 – 13
Apr 28 – May 3

Northern Selkirks
7 days touring
Apr 1- 7
Apr 15 – 23

PRICES

Southern Monashees
CD$ 1,550 or less, depending on helicopter access and trip duration

Northern Selkirks
CD$ 1,800

Includes: Guide + guide expenses, hut lodging (if available), food, wilderness fees (if applicable).

Extra: pre- and post- lodging, transport to and from trailheads.