Backcountry 2018 – 2019

Alf Skrastins has provided a list of trails that are suitable for xc touring skis.

Click to see the

Scroll down to see the trip reports. To leave a report, click on add one.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matt February 17, 2019 at 6:05 pm

Black Prince
My wife and I skied Black Prince for the first time Sat Feb 16. -11 C at the parking lot at 11:15 am with light snow and light winds from the south. We skinned up the drainage until the last turn to the west. We didn’t cut into the forest on the left to ski the glades. Ski pen about 30 cm when we cut out of the uptrack into fresh pow. Soft yet pretty supportive. Saw a group of two skiers and another group of 2 splitboarders and 1 skier. Fun ski out of the upper drainage and spicy in the lower drainage, but very manageable. Looking forward to coming back to ski the glades!


2 darcy February 17, 2019 at 7:39 am

Burstall Pass
Feb 16
-15C start at 0900. Overcast. Light snow. -11
Good travel on green swix. I made it 2/3 of the way up the step after crossing the gravel bar before I put on the skins. Very thin snow pack at the pass. Good turns in the trees just below the pass. Some very large cornices hanging off ridges to the north near the pass, keep your eyes open on the way up.


3 Steve Riggs February 3, 2019 at 8:38 am

Black Prince, February 2
With thirty to forty cm’s of new snow, a base that’s finally offering decent support, mostly, and the bonus of warmer air at minus 5- superb powder skiing at Black Prince! As expected- it was busy due to quick access to safe terrain, but we easily found untracked top to bottom lines in the glades away from the main slope. A dramatic drop in temperature was felt by mid-afternoon, with a reading of minus 17 as we packed up at the trailhead.
Pics or it didn’t happen? Here you go:


4 MaSid January 28, 2019 at 4:56 pm

Mon Jan 28: “east” elk pass.
2-3 inches of fresh at pocaterra this morning. Same at blueberry junction. -18 to start at 930 from the elk pass lot. -6 on return at 330. Hwy 40 was a bit slick in the morning (snow tires) but better than the slush of the afternoon. Broke trail from the lot to the pass but good waxing in the cold temp and fresh snow that made travel efficient on the AT gear. Skins on shortly after leaving the grooming given the snow quality. Boot top to knee deep ski pen off trail. Probably get away with beefy light touring gear if not for all the little drainage ditches. Railway grade on average essentially. You’d want skins as a back up. Navigated through the “hallway” linking the meadows by following animal tracks and midday sunbeams. About 1.5 hrs of travel off trail to get to pass. Wonderful views south down the elk valley and of pocaterra to the east. Lots of great terrain to explore. Intended to go to the knoll to the SW, see if there was a view towards elk lakes, but couldn’t see a cut line for the boundary line that works its way over to the summit. Also very tempting to just keep following the massive long meadows down the west slopes. That would make for a long day trip breaking trail. An excellent day exploring new terrain in brilliant sun and light winds. The only down side to the day was forgetting the chocolate and the walkers in my separate track down the middle of elk pass trail on return that made for alot of back slipping and cursing the ensuing ankle pain. At least they didn’t walk in the groomed tracks eh. Arrrg!


5 Normand January 21, 2019 at 8:13 pm

GIBBON PASS – January 20
Taking advantage of the trail breaking I did partly up from Shadow Lake Lodge last weekend, before any new snow fall, I went back to finish the job and get all the way to Gibbon Pass. This time, my skins didn’t give up on me. No one else skied to the lodge yesterday, as I was skiing back down from it on my own mid-day arrival, over 2 cm of fresh snow. Skiing on Red Earth Creek is still quite good and fast. To put things in perspective, after getting to the lodge and 13 km of skiing, half the elevation 900 m elevation gain to the pass from the road is to be covered in the remaining 3 km. The first near 2 km up from the lodge was made much easier for me, as I did not have to break trail again. Picking up the last km of distance and 150+ m of elevation, I was quite happy to come out in the open meadows with a few larches spread apart. New trail breaking to the high point general area of the pass involved 20-25 cm of (light touring) ski penetration. The cliff faces of Storm Mountain and some unnamed connecting ridge, respectively NW and immediately east of the pass, are imposing when you stand there alone. No wind at all at the pass and about -4 C. Got some views of Mount Assiniboine, as I was breaking out of the thinly forested area. Unfortunately, by the time I reached the open meadows, clouds were hiding the Rockies Matterhorn. Either way, other views from the pass made the long climb worth the efforts, in such a very peaceful wilderness setting. Some interesting terrain toward Little Copper Peak, for turns in the alpine and subalpine (with wider skis of course). Another day maybe. Nice to be out there.


6 Alf Skrastins January 20, 2019 at 10:08 pm

Rummel Lake
It was a quiet day for skiers at Rummel Lake. We saw several groups of snowshoers and hikers, but no other skiers. Travel conditions were good on a well packed trail. Trail breaking beyond the well beaten trail was mostly supportive, with some unsupportive spots around shrubs and in thin areas. Nice November conditions… but this is already late January.
It’s interesting to note that the phenomenon of golden needles lingering on larch trees seems to be very widespread this winter. Perhaps that early October snowfall and cold weather was a big shock for the larch trees and many of them just forgot to drop their needles?


7 MaSid January 17, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Looks like sundance and west side of sulphur mountain will be closed for the majority of the ski season:


8 Alf Skrastins January 18, 2019 at 9:39 am

“Mechanical forest thinning”…outside of Banff Park, that is called logging.


9 Eedee January 18, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Good one, Alf! I would guess this is part of the FireSmart program.


10 MaSid January 31, 2019 at 3:24 pm

My drive by assessment this morning was definately logging. Looks like it has been clear cut quite a bit on that west shoulder. Protecting the interests of new summit infrastructure maybe. An unfortunate and conflicting decision.


11 Rick B January 17, 2019 at 11:20 am

Following in Chuck’s Tracks in the Upper Spray Valley
Yesterday, we decided to take advantage of Chuck’s trail breaking before the next big snowfall. A beautiful, cool day with little wind and spectacular hoar crystals everywhere. The broken trail made travel easy although Chuck must have had some pretty special wax to make it up some of the hills without side-stepping. Blue wax worked well while it was on the skis but we all found that it wore off pretty quickly in the very abrasive snow so we needed to rewax multiple times. There was evidence of a few other skiers had also skied there in the past week and some very old tracks. And Chuck’s tracks have made this valley much more accessible to wolves as we saw a lot of evidence of them most of the way to the meadows. Two skiers turned back early in the vicinity of the upper meadows and the other two skied on to the warden’s cabin. Parks needs to have a word with the moose who postholed the lower two kilometres of the trail some time during the day between our trips in and out. The last few kilometres of the groomed track was done in moonlight and it was magical – the moonlight would briefly reflect/refract off the hoar crystals making it appear like fireflies.


12 Chuck January 17, 2019 at 9:18 pm

Great report Rick,,, glad you enjoyed the trip.
Thanks for keeping the trail open!


13 Chuck January 15, 2019 at 8:58 pm


An exploratory trip up Johnston Creek, on a beautiful blue sky day.
Details available by reading the captions in this album:!AgTx5EOCG7eShwL6FyFlQafBWqw5
Climbing skins and metal edges are beneficial on the heavily used snowshoe portion.


14 Chris and Karl January 14, 2019 at 8:43 pm

CHICKADEE VALLEY – cold day today…..we used our BC skis and skins to ski up the Valley. The snow is hard and packed up the creek from the snowshoers. Nice trail to the end of the valley but lack of sun made for a cold ski. We skied down the steep parts with our skins on so that we wouldn’t land in any of the hiding water holes!! A beautiful valley, we will go back again when the sun is higher. Lots of animal tracks.


15 MaSid January 14, 2019 at 8:11 pm

Avalanche awareness day Jan 20 in k-country, burstall pass parking lot.


16 Normand January 14, 2019 at 3:35 pm

GIBBON PASS’Almost – January 13
This was my 3rd trip to at least Shadow Lake lodge in the last 6 weeks. Given the excellent conditions to get there as described in recent reports, it was time to go back and do some exploration in the terrain around. After a fairly smooth and easy ski in to the lodge (great trail conditions made a difference, along with a glider applied to my light touring skis for the 1st time in 5 years!), I decided to ski up to Gibbon Pass, a trip I normally do later in the spring. I can guarantee you I was the very first one this winter to tackle the trail breaking up from the lodge. I enjoyed the suffering of the collapsing snow layer, sometimes to the ground while in the trees. I was able to follow the summer trail for most of the way, with rabbit tracks on it (they know where to go). Quite hard work over the steep switchback section, for the first 300+ meters elevation gain from the lodge. Far more time taken, as opposed to follow an already broken trail in the spring, by clients at the lodge doing day trips. Once I hit the opened gulley higher up (the skier-left one if you ski from Upper Twin Lake) toward the larch area, the snow support for travel got a bit better than in the treed area. Unfortunately, my skins keep getting unglued to my ice-up ski base. I turned around at my planned cut-off time of 2 pm. Given the conditions, I figured I was about 45 min from the large Gibbon Pass cairn and another 100 m elevation gain. Going back down to the lodge was not pretty (!!), but I did not fall. Being alone, that’s all matter, right? Didn’t see anyone, until about 3:15 pm when a group of 3 was about 1 km from the lodge. In all, a 30-km day. Not my longest distance of the year (GC-Banff return, it was last weekend), but certainly the longest time on skis this winter for a day, with close to 800 m elevation gain on light ski touring gears. The ski cruise on the way out from the lodge was much was much welcome to end the day. Got a great shot of the moon over Pilot Mountain, looking straight up the lowermost avalanche runout area on the REC trail. A great day to be out there. Enjoy the scenic (or not-so) shots of the days.


17 Chuck January 13, 2019 at 4:45 pm


Pure Magic… our best day of the season so far.
Details available by reading the captions in this album:!AgTx5EOCG7eShmbh3h-hi1Xzad-6
Cold powdery snow, and sheer beauty in the trees.


18 MaSid January 13, 2019 at 6:19 pm

Wonderful! More sunny than redearth.


19 John Blum January 12, 2019 at 8:30 pm

Upper Spray
Followed Chuck’s tracks along the Upper Spray, although not all the way. Thanks Chuck.
Some postholing by wolves on the lower portion of the track. Perhaps Bob could have a word with them. Another blue sky day on the Upper Spray. Saw 2 people at Mt. Shark, otherwise no one else all day.


20 Alf Skrastins January 11, 2019 at 11:18 pm

Healy Pass and Chickadee Valley
Toured up the Healy Pass trail from Sunshine Parking lot on Jan 10. The snow coverage was quite good… enough that you didn’t have to cross that stupid skinny bridge over Sunshine Creek. The trail has seen enough traffic to be well packed, with enough new snow for smooth skiing on the way down. At tree line elevation, there was a good deal of wind effect, with scouring and wind slabbing, but enough soft snow in sheltered areas for some turns.
I headed up Chickadee Valley on Jan ll. There were no other skiers, just a large group of snowshoers. The creeks and marshy areas are well filled in, so the tour along the valley and back out was most enjoyable. The mountains along the south side of the valley have huge, vertical walls… which means that no sun reaches the valley bottom at this time of year. It’s spectacular, but don’t expect to find a sunny spot for lunch!


21 Chuck January 10, 2019 at 8:17 pm


Consider this as a continuation of my January 7 trip, described below in the Upper Spray.
Traditionally, Burstall Pass may be an easier access to this destination, but with a trail already broken in the Upper Spray, and high avi risk via the pass, this was the chosen route.
Details available in the captions here:!AgTx5EOCG7eShkoIoZBVOozXCySS
Did not have to use climbing skins today, as I had already broken trail up all the steep slopes, so this is now an easy day trip to an amazing area.
“Saw no one else all day”


22 Chuck January 7, 2019 at 7:27 pm


Snow continues to fall in the Mount Shark area, and today was a trail breaking day. Made it to the White Man Pass junction. Details are in the captions here:!AgTx5EOCG7eShicVAgWncSm9XWU1
Intrigued to meet John Blum again, this time coming out from Bryant Creek Shelter… the only other person I saw all day!


23 Chip Scialfa December 30, 2018 at 7:53 pm

Three great days of skiing the Rossland Range under generally cloudy but otherwise pleasant conditions. First day was spent going to Cutblock Peak near Mount Plewman, second day to the Summit Trail and today to Elgood trees. Lots of snow, generally stable and, until today, little wind effect. There has been about 15 cm fall in the last 48 hrs and that has meant some great skiing on windward slopes at treeline and below. Tomorrow will likely be an XC day at Champion Lake or Nelson Nordic. It’s great that there are so many choices in the area.


24 Normand December 28, 2018 at 9:35 am

With the recent track setting on the Red Earth Creek trail, I figured that some may have already ventured all the way to at least Shadow Lake lodge. However as of 11 am yesterday, the skier track had not gone past the lodge turnoff. Trail breaking to the lodge was relatively easy with about 10 cm of fresh snow on top of the previously broken trail. As soon as I would step asides the trail, skis would sink almost to the ground across about 30 cm of snow. Arriving at the lodge under sunny and windless conditions was much welcome. Broken trail to the Shadow Lake outlet bridge. Snow stability is pretty poor, as seen from propagating hairline cracks around my skis, when breaking trail (see photo). With my poles, the profile across the snow cover in the meadows to the lake was fairly simple: 5-10 cm of loose fresh flakes on top of 25 cm crust, itself on a depth hoar loose layer above the ground. Given this, lots of slabs are bound to slide in the alpine, once snow falls add weight on the pack. I figured the bridge at the lake was a good turn around place, given the trail breaking done. The views of Mount Ball were as always very scenic, with its snow flutes running down from its broad and imposing summit. When arriving back at the lodge, it was nice to meet David Mulligan, a fellow I climbed Mount Fairweather in 2006 (Rocky Mountain Ramblers expedition). He had skied with good old wooden skis! On the steep section before reaching the Red Earth Creek trail, I met James who was working hard on packing the snow on that difficult section. With all the traffic to the lodge yesterday, the trail is now well broken pending a snowmobile packs it down further. The fast ski out down to the highway is always a treat, after the slow trail breaking higher up. Enjoy the photos the captions.


25 Chuck December 28, 2018 at 10:36 am

Thanks Normand for the excellent report with informative pictures


26 Normand December 28, 2018 at 10:59 am

Thanks Chuck.
More snow is needed to exit via the lodge meadows area via the canyon, given also the poor slabby conditions to stabilize down to the ground.


27 Chuck December 27, 2018 at 7:28 pm


Choices for Light Touring, Alpine Touring, snowshoeing, walking, dogs or maybe even fat bikes!!AgTx5EOCG7eShSiMo2GhxjVbAsPR


28 Martin & Jip December 24, 2018 at 10:42 pm

Mt Shark to Big Springs BR9 return, good cover and skier set track throughout, air temp was around -10, VR40 on light touring work well, even on the big hill back from Upper Spray River bridge. looked like good skiing to be had on the trails around Mt Shark.


29 Charles Scialfa December 23, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Black Prince Cone Dec. 23rd.

Ray and I ventured back to the same area skied this past Tuesday. More storm snow had fallen and, with colder temperatures, the snowpack is not consolidating quickly. We skied to the cone-shaped slide area just west of the tarns. As we approached the run-out zone we crossed last Tuesday, it became apparent that a slide had come down, almost to “valley” floor. We couldn’t see a start zone, but even at our elevation of about 1750 m, the size was large enough (maybe size 1) to break trees 4-6 inches in diameter.

There was also evidence of a slide of, perhaps size 1.5-2 that ran at least 200 m down from above the pinch-point of the cone and covered much of the low-angle slope that I’ve skied on several occasions. The start zone was under an east-facing ice feature at the base of a rather steep rock face. Couldn’t age this slide.

Conservative skiing above this point on a SE 20 deg slope was not terribly supportive and we had remote whumpfing to remind us of the risk. We dug a pit at that elevation and slope, HS=70, CompTest failure at H23 down 47 cm. I ‘m sure that the verbiage has some errors, but you get the idea.

Start temp was -14 C at 9:30. Ending temp was -6 at 1:30. Fortunately, no wind in the area and partial sunshine made the day worthwhile. Other parties skied the normal glades north of the tarns and said the snow was good, though inconsistent, with much the same profile as we had down below.


30 Steve Riggs December 21, 2018 at 9:43 pm

Another Chester report! We lucked out on our afternoon ski tour up to the Elephant Rocks, as the intense blizzard that we drove though turned to brilliant sun at treeline.

With about 10 cm of 24hr new, over a well traveled trail with a firm base- the skiing was easy and fun, both up and down. Breaking trail off the beaten track is best described as tedious through the 40 cm of storm snow which lies atop above a weak, not always supportive mid-pack crust. One highlight of the afternoon was being able to enjoy a smooth skier set track that was completely untrampled- a rarity these days it seems. That is- until we encountered a doofus on our way out, who was walking up the final km of trail, all the while inexplicably carrying his skis (complete with skins) on his pack. Go figure!


31 Alf Skrastins December 21, 2018 at 10:46 pm

We didn’t run into Steve and Jo, although we were also in the Chester Lake area today… but we did see the guy and his two dogs, walking towards Chester Lake carrying his skins on his pack. I’m still shaking my head.
One thing that Steve didn’t mention is that there were still golden needles on a number of the larch trees. Those needles have managed to hang on from the autumn equinox to the winter solstice, through snowfalls and wind storms. Remarkable!


32 Eric R December 22, 2018 at 5:56 am

Larches are still golden up in Healy Pass as well !


33 Diana Piggott December 19, 2018 at 8:06 pm

Chester Lake – Elephant Rocks

The south end of Smith-Dorrien road is recently plowed and in very good shape. The Chester Lake parking lot was full of snow today, and a lot of cars! Quite a few got stuck in the deep snow and needed help getting out.
Lots of snowshoers and dogs, all on the snowshoe trail!! 😀
A few skiers ahead of us also, on the ski trail, which was fabulous with tons of fresh snow and really ideal conditions for that trail.


34 Patrick Mahaffey December 20, 2018 at 11:04 am

I second Diana’s report! I skied to Chester Lake & the Elephants on Wednesday too, and the brand new 30 cm of snow made for very good skiing conditions.


35 Chip Scialfa December 18, 2018 at 6:44 pm

Black Prince Area Dec. 18th

After a final field day of the AST2 course, a few “graduates” headed out to Black Prince for some practice and, we hoped, a few turns. We arrrived at 11 a.m. to the resident moose cow and calf, waiting to lick the salt from our car. The predicted winds were not to be, with barely a breeze to be felt. There was heavy snow falling, the mercury read -2 and it was clear that there had been substantial accumulation recently. We dug a pit at about 1800 m, near the tarns. The snow depth was approximately 80 cm, with 25 cm of fresh on top of another 25 cm of faceted snow before hitting the Oct. 26th crust. Continued on in a westward direction, as if going to the Warspite Cascade. Several avalanches, one at least 2.5 were seen/heard. Dug another pit at 1850 m on a 20 deg, east aspect, below the fan. Comp Test failure E4, EPT M11. We turned back and had a wonderful run down to the car, and the moose licking on the only other vehicle in the parking lot. Things need to settle down quite a bit before it’s safe travelling in avi terrain, I think.


36 Duane December 17, 2018 at 12:24 pm

We did a recon of the Robertson Glacier route: Plenty of snow along the road in to Burstall/Robertson – just a few roots exposed on the singletrack section. We followed ski tracks for a short while once on the outwash plain, but cut our own along the proper route.

Several size 1 recent avalanches skiers right as you head towards the narrowing of the valley down the gullies reaching the valley bottom. Winds calm, but wind effect on snow evident. We stopped in the narrow area in a safe place to de-skin, as the snow pack is not sufficient for those caring about life and limb to go any further. Abundant evidence of wind scouring on the glacier and outcrops. Wait a while.


37 David P December 16, 2018 at 9:23 pm

Headed up to Boom Lake on Sunday. Lots of snow made for generally excellent coverage. A couple of small ice flows have been almost entirely covered up and the occasional creek bed crossings have been largely filled (small depressions only). If you are comfortable with the usual mix of snowshoe and occasional hiker traffic, not a bad option for the chronically snow deprived!


38 Jeff December 15, 2018 at 8:20 pm

Went to Chester Lake today. Late start and arrived at 2pm. Minus three. Skinned up to lake. Their was about 5cm of fresh snow. No wind. Trail was in good shape and most of the hazards were covered. It would be nice if the snowshoers and walkers could stick to their trail. Back at the vehicle by 3:40. Nice to out in the mountains.


39 Chuck December 10, 2018 at 5:07 pm


A nice change from another day on the Great Divide! Had the place to ourselves too. I have never seen so little snow here at this time of year, but it was quite skiable on light touring metal edge skis. Any rocks could easily be seen on the well worn ski trail. Many snowshoe hare tracks, wolves cut a highline track… great views. Check the captions for details:!AgTx5EOCG7eShCMm5MWNYH_tr1H5
Amazing to see that recent rock slide on a popular ski slope. For more info on this, check out:


40 MaSid December 10, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Wow! That’s significantly large. Must be all the snow compaction due to skiing, allowing slower spring melt and more percolation. (-;


41 MaSid November 21, 2018 at 4:19 pm

Wed nov 21: Quartz ridge
Another day in the sunshine meadows, wandering about in the sunshine getting a good winter tan base. Went up the ridge at the north end of Quartz hill and trundled along over the pine and larch covered hills to rockbound lake. Lots of trails in the area offering lots of opportunities to expplore, some more efficient than others and with various destinations. Surface hoar is present right up to ridge top (10 mm). Like skiing through chandelier carpet. Snow depths vary a bit more along the ridge, from 1 to 3 ft. A bit deeper trail breaking along the ridge (10″) compared to the meadows. Only the odd punchy spot near trees and rocks but otherwise excellent travel. The second day out is always so much better than the first time using those dormant ski muscles.


42 Chip Scialfa November 18, 2018 at 6:32 am

HIghwood Pass West

While Steve was skiing Arethusa cirque, we went west, battling a pretty marginal and at times icy trail through the trees until things opened up underneath Mount Tyrwhitt. While some young bucks set an up-track on steeper, east-facing slopes, we continued to easier terrain on the south end of Pocaterra Ridge. We didn’t have as much sun as on the east side of the highway, but the views were amazing. We need more snow!


43 Steve Riggs November 17, 2018 at 11:12 pm

Arethusa Cirque.
Not much of a snowpack yet on the sunny side of the Highwood. Fifteen cm of sparkling new under bluebird skies had our hopes up. In treeline glades there was a bit less than 40 cm at most, consisting of a thin icy layer at ground, then a variable midpack with an inconsistent crust or two. Travel was easy, but the often grabby crust and variable snowpack made for poor-fair ski quality overall, although a few short pockets of decent turns were had. Nonetheless- it was an absolutely glorious day to be out in the backcountry, and we lingered to savour the warm sun under glowing larches, many of which still had some color to them. The narrow trail out was very thinly covered in many spots (don’t bring your good skis!) but easy enough to carefully negotiate on skis.


44 Gord Ferguson November 17, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Skoki Trail – Halfway Hut.
Toured along the Skoki trail today, but just to the Halfway hut and back. Good supportive snowpack the entire tour even though there is plenty of low brush poking through here and there. We had planned to head up toward Hidden Lake and Richardson Ridge but got a bit of a late start and found the trail past the halfway hut unbroken so we bailed. We did manage some powder turns on some of the lower Lake Louise ski runs on the way out.


45 Gord Ferguson November 7, 2018 at 7:26 pm

Chester Lake.
Spent the day (Nov 7) looking at conditions in the Smith Dorrien Valley. Snow is thinner in the south around Black Prince and a bit better at Chester Lake and Burstall area. We attempted to climb in to Mt Murray Glades but turned back due to thin snow, weak base and open water. We climbed up to Chester Lake and to the slopes above the Elephant Rocks. Snow depth is around 20-25cm with intermittent base. If you want to get some turns, don’t bother, however the views are magnificent. The trail up to Chester is quite good. We skied from the parking lot and the descent was fast.


46 MaSid November 25, 2018 at 3:52 pm

While I have been into Murray north in november before, it’s only ever been after a week or so of solid cold temps to freeze up the second creek crossing.


47 Chuck October 25, 2018 at 2:21 pm


A lot less snow than when I last skied at Sunshine on September 16:!AgTx5EOCG7eSgmOQ28D4CEGkTG4s
No risk of avalanche yet, but bring bear spray!


Leave a Comment