What a snow filled week at the Fairy Meadows Hut near Golden, BC! It hardly stopped snowing the whole week which made for fun and challenging skiing. In the 7 days we got nearly 70cm of snow.
Our group of 8 friends had a nice mix of experience but all were at least strong intermediate or advanced resort skiers. Three people had never backcountry skied before and it was amazing to watch their skills progress as the week unfolded. After our avalanche beacon and search training, we started shredding the powder on the slopes just above the hut. The avalanche conditions were solid when we arrived so that provided ample opportunity for everyone to get comfortable skiing knee deep powder with a day pack – this was clearly the biggest learning curve. There is a huge difference from carving up groomed runs to skiing untracked lines with a pack but we did lap after lap until everyone was feeling pretty good. A few people experienced their first ‘face shots’ and it was all smiles from there!
With that much snow falling, the visibility high up in the alpine was pretty poor so we felt skiing at lower elevation was best. We then hit the tress just below the hut for some incredible lines. The tree skiing offers everything from wide open glades to steep and tight chutes so everyone was able to find their comfort zone. Originally we felt like we were relegated to the trees with the bad visibility but as one person put it ‘if skiing the tress is wrong, then I don’t want to be right’!
On Wednesday our daily snow storm was joined by strong winds which scoured the alpine slopes and formed a hard wind slab. We steered clear of any open terrain and thankfully the wind left the tree lines in pristine condition – more deep powder!
The week ended with a snowstorm Thursday evening and blue skies Friday morning. We did an amazing ski tour up in the alpine, took in the spectacular views, and then enjoyed the deep ride down. Unfortunately the visibility was never good enough for us to venture too far out on the glacier (there are some huge crevasses in this area) but we all committed to coming back again…this time with everyone now experienced backcountry skiers!
Some beta if you are planning a trip there soon:
- Beware the pine martens. Four of them managed to snag a pumpkin pie and the best part of a polenta even with diligent management. They are cute but shifty.
- Respect the slopes behind the hut. The other group was calling them the ‘Bunny Hills’ but they are far from that.
- The moraines to the west of the hut look like great short ski lines but the snow was shallow and faceted
- If avalanche conditions deteriorate, access the tress from the meadow and beat a track up from there
- We had sloughing in the trees and got our worst compression test results (9taps) about half way up the treed slope. They will slide.
This is a serious area with complex terrain. If you are uncertain about your experience, consider hiring a guide. It takes the guess work out of terrain selection so you can concentrate on the skiing. We can provide a guide and/or food for any hut or lodge based trip you have planned. We’ve also got our Icefall Lodge ski mountaineering trip coming up in April. This is going to be a fantastic spring skiing week with lots of long days and hopefully great spring skiing conditions!
Enjoy the area – it’s pretty special.