One week in the kootenays

A little while ago Jesse Matthewman spent a week in the kootenays backcountry, ski touring and searching out powder. he wrote us a little something, and filmed!

So a hut eh.

I've heard about these places. Legendary creations that turn everybody into a saw wielding, wood chopping, societal leper. Needless to say, I'm none of these. well, maybe the first two. Also there's another part where you have to walk uphill for 8 hours a day with a pack on and heavy skis, only to descend through a couple minutes of glory, rinse and repeat. If that doesn't put hair on your chest I dunno what does. You see, I own a sled. A little bit of mechanical knowledge gets you deep into terrain (and into creeks courtesy of kyle) with much less effort.

I’d first found out about touring three years ago when a family friend offered to take me. I was rockin' a pair of 195 Hagan titan texes (112-65-90) with Fritschis and Lange boots, circa 1983. Didn't tour for a year after that. I picked it up when I finally decided to buy myself some Rossi S3's and was on and off for a couple years, until the sled was acquired, at which point I decided that I needed some new skis. So I made a few pairs and ended up with some fun models. (They're sitting outside held together with duct tape as I write this.) Now I got some 185 Blogs from Atomic, Dynafits and the whole shebang. Anyways I digress.

It's snowing. A lot. The wood stove is cranking, and the smell of salmon on the grill and cornbread in the oven battles for supremacy with the dank stench of drying touring gear. I have parked myself on one of the huge couches that surround a handmade cedar coffee table. Actually the whole lodge is handmade from cedar logs that were milled by the owner, that he harvested from his 1000 acre parcel. By hand, naturally. Probably with his teeth. His name is Martin Glasheen, aka Glasheen the machine, known for having planted over 3 million trees in his 30 years of service as one of the many people responsible for reforesting cut blocks, after the logging companies desecrate them. Sporting a huge beard, rosy cheeks and always smiling, he's always happy to relish you with a crazy tale.

On to the skiing. Yes there is lots of snow. Yes it snows every night. It's deep. Like real deep. A few runs I had to remind myself to stop breathing, or yank my bandana down over my face cause I was ingesting too much snow (fun fact, you can actually drown from that.) Majestic 1000 meter runs, steep trees, open bowls, pillows, everything. We skied madly, every day pounding out at least two or three of these runs, which doesn't sound like a lot, but believe me, when you're sinking into snow up to your thigh with every step, it's a lot of work. Snow stability was bomber for the whole week, despite it being “extroyme” on avalanche.ca, and we got to slay some areas that were pretty crazy. One pitch had to be at least 45- 50 degrees, and populated by big timber (they don't move, I tested this.) It was so steep I had a taste of Alaska style spines in the trees as my sluff quickly outran me and chewed troughs down slope. I tend to fall a lot when I ski, not because of any lack of skill really, just cause sometimes it's the best option for saving your strength. Take the fall, get back up, no struggle. Although on this particular slope I chose to give up right in front of a very formidable branch of the aforementioned big timber. I didn't stop to think that these trees were probably in excess of 500 years old, being cedars, and are extremely tough. So as I tried to go logging with my face at speed, the branch decided it was best to pull a full clothesline on me, and throw me a good 15 feet down, to be engulfed by sluff and carried another 20 feet downhill.

That's pretty much the theme for the whole week. Lots of steep skiing, lots of good food, beer, and company, and a little bit of bootcamp. If you're thinking of going on a hut trip, give the good people at Valkyr adventures a call! Check out the edit, coming soon!

Jesse Matthewman