In his book “Summits and Icefields”, Canadian Rockies ski touring legend Chic Scott describes this area as “the quintessential Canadian Rockies skiing experience”. With seemingly limitless options for summits and long powder runs, we would have to agree. Join us as we traverse from Bow Lake across the Wapta Icefields to the Yoho Valley. This lesser-known, big brother to the Wapta Traverse travels through the classic peaks and long powder slopes of the Wapta and Little Yoho areas. It offers great rewards of spectacular ski mountaineering summits and powder skiing from the historic Stanley Mitchell Hut in Yoho National Park.
The Bow to Yoho Ski Traverse is a natural extension of our Wapta Traverse or other ski mountaineering programs. Nights will be spent in alpine huts including the new Richard and Louise Guy Hut near the Des Poilus Glacier.
This ski tour may be challenging, crossing glaciers and avalanche terrain, but at the end of a great trip, you will have just completed one of North America’s finest ski traverses.
The Bow to Yoho Traverse is a challenging but very fun and rewarding itinerary.
Day 1: Meet us at our office in Canmore at 8:00 am for introductions, trip review, equipment check and to pack gear. After distributing group food and gear amongst guests, we will drive 1.5 hours North to Bow Lake, where our journey begins! After an avalanche safety session, we cross a frozen Bow Lake then ski up the scenic canyon which leads to the amphitheatre below Mounts Olive and Mount St. Nicholas. After a final steep section, we reach the welcome warmth of the spacious Bow Hut which is located at 2300m on a shoulder just below the Wapta Icefields. If time and energy permit, we can head back out and get some powder turns on the headwall of the Bow glacier above the hut. We travel 6km and climb 450m which can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours of skiing.
Day 2: We will leave the comforts of the Bow hut behind and gain the Wapta Icefields Neve. We will continue traversing across the icefield under the beautiful Mt Rhonda and Mt Collie before descending to the new Louise and Richard Guy Hut overlooking Mount des Poilus and the des Poilus glacier. A truly beautiful spot! This will be our home for the night. Expect a full day with 11 km travelled and 760m gained.
Day 3: Today is our chance to explore the ski runs and summits in the area. If conditions permit, we will set our sites on the 10387 foot Mount des Poilus. This is not only the highest peak in the area but offers an amazing 500m ski decent! We will sleep a second night at the Louise and Richard Guy Hut. Expect a full day of skiing covering 9 km and 800m gained as a minimum for the day, more if we decide on a second run.
Day 4: Crossing Isolated col is our objective today and is one of the cruxes of the trip. You have a good view of the col from the hut and a short ski will put us under the steep 300m ascent. Once we arrive at the col we will be treated to an amazing view into the Little Yoho Valley which is commanded by the President and Vice President peaks. An excellent ski descent will bring us to the historic Stanley Mitchell hut. We will likely have the chance to explore the area surrounding the hut if time and energy permit. Minimum travel will be 7.5 km and 350m of elevation gain.
Day 5: Our reward for the previous days of hard work will be to explore and enjoy the rarely visited Little Yoho Valley. In “Summits and Icefields”, Chic Scott continues his description by saying: “The Little Yoho Valley in Yoho National Park offers some of the best backcountry skiing in the Canadian Rockies. The terrain is excellent – there are long and uniform descents and some bad weather glade skiing below treeline. Situated along the great divide in what is called the Yoho Snow Belt, the valley gets deep and consistent snowfalls. Finally, the presence of the beautiful Stanley Mitchell Hut makes for a perfect combination.” The Presidents will be top on the tick list but many other options exist depending on conditions. Light packs, enjoying a beautiful area, and looking for amazing powder turns are the goals of this day.
Day 6: We will be starting early in order to travel out to Field, BC, and the end of a great trip. Expect a full day as we slide out the 25 km to the road and descend 760m past the famous Takakkaw Falls and the slopes of Mt Field.
Instructors and Group Size
Your guides are certified by the internationally recognized Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and also licensed by Parks Canada. There will be a maximum of 6 participants per guide.
We will meet the group at 8:00 AM on the first day here at our office in Canmore (Map). Please come prepared with all of your personal gear and clothing, but leave enough room in your pack for some additional group gear and food as well.
Participants are responsible for their own transport to Canmore which is a 1 hour (100km) drive west of Calgary.
We rely on guests’ personal vehicles to reach program locations. We will assist with the vehicle shuttle at the beginning or end of the traverse.
Frequent shuttles connect Calgary International Airport and Canmore.
Please note that program venues may be within National Parks and/or Kananaskis Country. For programs where transportation is not provided by Yamnuska/Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska, guests will be required to purchase their own pass.
National Park passes are available both online at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/voyage-travel/admission and in-person at National park gates and some information centres.
Kananaskis Country conservation passes are available online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx
Accommodation and Meals
During the trip, we will be staying and the Alpine Club of Canada’s Bow, Guy, and Stanley Mitchell huts. Sleeping areas in the huts are communal and facilities are basic. Cooking in the huts is done on propane stoves and all dishes are provided.
All meals, snacks, and drinks are supplied from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last. Meals are prepared by our in-house chef from fresh, nutritious ingredients and then dehydrated to make them suitable for backcountry travel. For guests with dietary restrictions, we are able to modify the program food pack to meet your individual needs. As food pricing and preparation for these diets is more costly, there is a surcharge. Our kitchen staff will assess your restrictions to inform you if the diet can be accommodated and what surcharge would apply. Vegetarian meals will not be surcharged.
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly.
Weather and Conditions Note
This is a challenging program in complex terrain and as with any trip into the mountains, neither weather nor avalanche conditions can be guaranteed. Poor visibility or avalanche conditions on day 2 or 3 may require a change to the itinerary. This may involve an extra night at the Bow hut or the inability to reach the Stanley Mitchell hut due to avalanche danger. Regardless expect the trip to be a great adventure in a beautiful area.
Equipment and Clothing
You will need to bring your own clothing, skis, poles, climbing skins, avalanche gear, backpack, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. We have many of these items available to rent and can pre-arrange them for you. We supply group items (ropes, harnesses, crevasse rescue gear, tents, stoves, etc).
You will be able to leave excess gear in Canmore while on the trip.
The equipment and clothing you bring will have a big impact on the quality of your experience. Please be sure to bring all the items listed. If unsure about anything please don’t hesitate to call and ask us!
Alpine Touring skis are essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding that allows the heel to lift when going uphill or across the flats and then locks down to become a regular downhill safety binding. We recommend this system to anyone with a background in downhill skiing.
Snowboards can be used on this program however, due to the number of flat areas you are better off on skis. If ‘boarding’ you need to be an advanced backcountry boarder and you need to be on a split board.
Skis, boots, poles, and boards can be rented in Calgary and Canmore prior to the trip.
You need to bring:
- Skis. We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder. Please see the note under rental information if you are renting ski equipment.
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’
- Ski Poles
- Ski Boots
- Ski Crampons (required for April departure)
- Climbing harness (lightweight if possible) loaners available
- Locking biners (2), non-locking biners (2) loaners available
- Prussick cord (1) loaners available
- 120cm sewn sling (1) loaners available
- Avalanche Transceiver – digital transceiver with triple antennae rentals available
- Collapsible Avalanche Probe rentals are available
- Avalanche Shovel (lightweight snow shovel designed for companion rescue) rentals are available
- Backpack (at least 65L, large enough for a sleeping bag, spare clothes, and your share of group food & equipment) rentals available
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Water bottle (at least 1-litre capacity), and a Thermos for Hot Drinks is optional
- Sunblock and lip cream
- Pocket knife
- Sleeping Bag. We recommend a three-season bag rated between -7 to -9 °C. Expect hut temperatures to be cool overnight. Make sure you bring a stuff sac that will reduce your bag to its minimum size (i.e. one with compression straps) so you don’t use up all the room in your pack. Rentals available
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister and Personal First-Aid Kit
- Small repair kit for bindings, skis or split-board (this may include straps, nuts, bolts, and small Leatherman)
- Personal toiletries including hand sanitizer (keep to a bare minimum)
- Ear Plugs for dorm sleeping (optional but recommended)
- Insulated Booties or Sandals
Additional gear info:
- Skis/split board: There are two viable backcountry systems, Alpine Touring and Splitboard.
- Alpine Touring: Essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding which allows the heel to lift when going uphill and then locks down to become an alpine binding for the downhill.
- Splitboard: If you are a rider and proficient on a snowboard, the backcountry touring version is called a splitboard. This is a snowboard that can be split to make two ski-type platforms for touring on the uphill ascent. The bindings have two positions and can be switched depending on whether you are climbing or descending. Split boards also use climbing skins for the ascent. For the downhill, the board is reassembled or joined to be in snowboard (ride) mode. If you are new to this system, you will need to practice the transitions of switching the board from touring to riding and back again. Your enjoyment will be vastly greater if you are efficient and practiced with this transition. For splitboarders, regular snowboard boots will work. A splitboard specific boot will give you more comfort when in touring mode and offer extra support to make sidehilling and traversing terrain easier to manage.
- Boots: Backcountry boots are different from regular alpine ski boots. In the backcountry, boots need to have an uphill mode that allows a free range of motion in the upper part of the boot. You should not use your regular ski boots for touring and walking uphill.
- Climbing skins: The glue on the base of the skin should be in good condition and the skins need to be properly fitted. Try the skins on your skis/splitboard to make sure they are the right length and width before you arrive.
- Ski poles: Backcountry poles need powder baskets on the tips.
- Avalanche Transceiver: A three antennae transceiver is required.
- Probe: A minimum of 240 cm in length.
- Shovel: A metal blade shovel is required.
Glacier gear: The key with the glacier travel kit is minimizing weight and bulk
- Harness – Ski Randonee harness is strongly suggested to cut back on both weight and bulk.
- 2 Lightweight Locking Carabineers
- 1 Lightweight Pear Shape Locking Munter Carabiner
- 2 Lightweight Non-Locking Carabineers
- 2 x 6mm x 5 m Cordelette/Accessory Cord – minimum breaking strength 10KN
- 1 x 120cm Sewn Sling (double length sling)
- 1 x 19cm Ice Screw
- Aluminum Ice Axe – The shorter and lighter the better.
We suggest layers of light, easily carried clothing that allows for fast and easy adjustment to best suit fast-changing temperature conditions. Cotton clothing is not appropriate as it causes rapid heat loss when wet. Feel free to call us if you have any questions about what to bring.
- Long underwear top and bottoms (lightweight synthetic or wool)
- Extra warm shirt (synthetic or wool)
- Medium weight fleece sweater
- Softshell or fleece jacket
- Softshell pants
- Insulated jacket (down preferred)
- Insulated pants (fleece or other synthetic) (optional)
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or equivalent)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or equivalent, with side zippers)
- Socks – ski socks (wool or synthetic) – 2 to 3 pairs
- Wool or fleece hat
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Lightweight ski gloves
- Neck tube or balaclava
- Sun hat
- Face Mask
Skis, Boots, Boards, Skins & Poles can be rented from:
- Calgary: Mountain Equipment Co-op. – 830-10 Ave. S.W. Calgary (Tel: 403 269-2420)
- Canmore: Gear Up – 1302 Bow Valley Trail (403 678-1636)
- Lake Louise: Wilson Mountain Sports – (1-866-929-3636)
*Please note that your ‘DIN’ or ‘Release Value’ settings on your ski bindings are critical to your safety while skiing. Our expectation is that everyone arrives on programs with their ski binding’s release value correctly set. We have noted that some ski rental shops will not set release values on touring bindings. We advise you to rent from a shop that will set release values on your ski touring bindings unless you are proficient and comfortable setting your own DIN/release value. Failure to have Release Values correctly set could result in a serious injury.
Yamnuska has equipment as noted above for rent should you require it. Please advise as early as possible.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require a 35% deposit on booking.
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident while here. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for a rescue so long as you have a valid National Park Entry Pass which you can obtain on entry to Banff National Park.
We ask that you familiarize yourself with our detailed booking instructions and conditions.
Risk is an inherent part of all mountain activities. We strive to manage and reduce it however, it is impossible to totally eliminate. Learn more about our safety and risk management approach here. Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travellers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the national and provincial parks, however, costs such as air or ground transportation, long-term care, and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries, and other unplanned events. For these eventualities, Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical, and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure trip.
Private guiding options are available. Please contact us to discuss this option. Note that huts book up quickly. We suggest contacting us as early as possible to secure your dates.
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
Please note you will be required to sign the Yamnuska Release of Liability, and Waiver of Claims prior to commencing the program. Please review the sample waiver prior to booking and call us with any questions.
Is it for you?
Guests on this trip should be advanced backcountry skiers in all conditions on either alpine touring, telemark or split board equipment. There are a variety of descents on this trip that require skiing blue/black type runs wearing a 45-50lb pack. Participants don’t need to be experts, however, you must be able to safely descend these slopes. The most difficult accents with a heavy pack will be on the second and third days with up to 760m of elevation gained and 11 km travelled. Previous ski mountaineering experience on a course such as the Intro to Ski Mountaineering or the Wapta Traverse is required.
Skiers and Splitboarders should be competent with their transitions (switching from ski tour mode to downhill mode). Some descents on this traverse are low angle or rolling and are not possible in board mode. Splitboarders will have to ski downhill in split mode with a pack on. If you have never done this before you must practice these skills prior to the traverse.
Splitboarders should have their downhill kick turns dialed, as this skill will be used frequently to traverse downhill and across slopes at mellow angles.
We strongly urge skiers and Splitboarders to bring spare parts for their setups. Most of our guides are familiar with splitboarding sets ups, but each system is different, and our expectation is that guests will have basic knowledge of common Splitboard concerns (i.e. replacing toe straps on Splitboard bindings).
Understanding the prerequisites should help with your training throughout the winter. Winter ski tours and walks with a 45-50lb pack are recommended as the best training, however other activities such as cross country skiing and hiking can also be good training. Please read the itinerary and difficulty sections and be both physically and mentally prepared for the trip. If you are uncertain about your experience level, please call us.
Map To Bow Lake – Trailhead for skiing into Bow Hut
View Bow Hut Trailhead – Bow Lake, Alberta on a larger map.
PLEASE DON’T HESITATE TO CONTACT US IF YOU NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS COURSE!