After nearly every single perfect run, our local guide with that classic sense of dry Canadian humor would yell, “Well that didn’t suck, eh?” He was always right. It was actually quite the opposite of sucking…too good to be true.
If you’re a skier or snowboarder, just the name British Columbia itself carries with it an air of mysticism. I’m not talking about the big ritzy areas like Whistler or Banff either, the BC backcountry is a place which may appear to many as though it exists only on the explore pages of our Instagram accounts. Every day, especially during a storm filled winter like this one, there’s an endless supply of GoPro clips, mini edits, and still-frame shots illustrating pristine pillow lines, cliff drops, pow shacks, and tree zones that seem hopelessly out of reach for us mere mortal skiers.
So when the opportunity to journey into this paradise of flawlessly spaced pines and pitch perfect powder fields arose, anticipation levels approached “death by stoke”. Once your mind is dead set on travelling to a place with as much hype as this, the adrenaline and pleasure pathways in the brain (dopamine in particular) are already kick started as if you’d be floating in bone dry Canadian Parmesan the very next day.
Before I speak of the place and the people, it’s important to try and depict what pure powder skiing is really like for those who may not have ever had the chance to experience it. Floating weightless, surfing, arcing, and blasting your way through a healthy serving of freshly fallen (or well preserved) snow shrinks your existence down to such a degree that you’re aware of only your immediate surroundings and actions. It connects your mind to the innermost limits of pure euphoria. I’ve not found anything else in life that provides this feeling. Sex is the obvious comparison but I won’t go as far as to claim the cliché “It’s better than sex,” although I don’t think many older ski bums, past their pick-up-line prime would argue that statement. Surfing comes close to the intensely blissful sensation powder provides, especially in the barrel, but I myself haven’t logged nearly enough tube time to accurately compare it to powder skiing. You find yourself giggling and laughing almost uncontrollably on an epic powder line. The proverbial “YEWWW” is shouted from every which direction. Every second feels like an hour, especially when you’re completely submerged in a cloud of white smoke after a big powder hack, but it’s all a blur when the run’s over. These are the sentiments you hope to experience with every line.
Ok so the skiing was thaaat good. World Class. Doesn’t get any better. However, the people you meet, the food you eat, and the vibes that greet you are the heart of any travel experience. The lodge we stayed in was no different. Trout Lake, British Columbia-----Population: 10…ish. Fellow skiers and riders from Germany, Sweden, Canada, and the Western US all made the trek to the deep north to indulge in the waist deep fluff and the vibes they brought with them were made of pure stoke and all smiles. Meeting people from different walks of life and gaining perspective into different parts of the world is something everyone should experience. That’s how you know the terrain is cookin’, people from other continents come to enjoy the empty mountains and deep snow. The crew included some cruisy Swedish skiers, some Toronto based hockey enthusiasts, a surfboard shaper from Oregon, a fellow snowboarder from Munich along with his sister and their mother who was 60+ and shredded like she was 20. An eclectic pow hungry crew.
The guides and staff were also incredibly original and unique. They say living an active lifestyle in the mountains or just out in nature in general keeps you looking and feeling young. This notion was solidified by our guides who were all in their 30s but didn’t look a day over 20. One particularly unique guide, Eliel his name, grew up off the grid in a self-sufficient hippie town somewhere in remote Canada. He said he hasn’t had an address in 15 years. Along with being a savagely smooth skier, he also had the most deadly-accurate ping pong stroke I’ve ever seen. He was not beaten throughout our stay. Another guide was issued a nickname, Pillow Pat, based on his affinity for pointing big lumps of deep snow that are completely blast-able and send-able. We call these features “pillows.” Pillow Pat led Kyle and I on the best line of the whole trip. Steep and deep through a pillow laden tree section, all you heard were three grown men screaming and laughing like school children.
The housekeepers were cooking up all sorts of fine meals and delicacies which were on another level of delicious after a long day of skiing. 5 star dishes different exotic fishes, most notably an exceptional fried halibut with lemon aioli. Perfecto. Beers were also crushed at the end of each day, even before any changes of clothes were made, and there are some fine exotic 6 packs to be found anywhere out west. So many craft beers and small breweries produce some tasty American Pale Ales. Alaska and Deschutes are the brewers we indulged in and would strongly recommend their pale ales to anyone who has a chance to try them. I’ve not yet sipped a small town brewer’s American Pale Ale without proclaiming it the best beer I’ve ever had. IPAs however, suck.
And so, upon returning from this trip of a lifetime our ambitions and dreams were significantly shifted, at least for a few days…or weeks…ok I’m still contemplating a life savings pilgrimage out west. Our new goals in life strongly veer towards “must float in pow” at all costs. Our existence on the mini-mountain, ice-skating-not-skiing East Coast was called into question. Why do we live here when others get to devour powder for breakfast lunch and dinner? On a separate train of thought, those 3-5 foot hollow peelers of the more moist variety are sounding immaculate at the moment. The Jersey Shore sand bars and jetty breaks provide some bliss of their own when conditions align. But that discussion is for another day.
Edit: As I write this a big Nor’easter is fixing to dump a large sum of white gold on our local stomping grounds. 15+? 20+? 30+? The storm track is tough to predict but it’s a massive system so chances are good. Wednesday March 15th is looking like not only a deeper than deep day at nearly every mountain on the east coast but also a day with firing surf all up and down the coast. If trump was a surfer, no matter snow or water, it’d be declared a national holiday.
Author: Kevin Tempsick