2023 Meadow Hut
In mid-January 2023 I had an opportunity to do some skiing in the Selkirk Mountain Range near Rogers Pass, Canada. It was an amazing, humbling, educational experience that not only reinforced my love of the mountains but also my respect for them. It was some of the best skiing conditions I’ve ever had in my life while also some of the touchiest avalanche conditions I’ve ever had to navigate. I cannot wait to get back.
The trip started by flying into Calgary where we had the opportunity to do some shopping and fill avy airbag canisters etc. Breakfast/Lunch for the trip was ‘on your own’ whereas group dinners were pre-made by a local business in Golden.
The hut was located just north of Rogers Pass in the Selkirk range:
Skiing = fricken’ unreal
The day we flew in we got about 8” of fresh powder with some minor refills (<1in) each evening between wind transport and trace precipitation. Visibility was pretty spotty for most of the week which meant that we stayed at/below treeline so we could see where we were going. At one point we were trying to get above treeline and I did a full faceplant from skiing into a snowbank due to flat light. Face shots come in many forms I guess. On the last day we were rewarded with totally clear conditions which was a spectacular way to end the week.
MTV Cribs: Meadow Hut Edition
The hut was very comfortable and much less rustic than some other huts that I’ve stayed at. We had electric lights and outlets for charging devices. There was a well stocked kitchen with an oven and various amenities which was awesome.
I am an avid user of technology and am not against the use of it by any means but on the other hand it is a little disconcerting at how harder it gets every year to escape from the doom scrolling - I made a conscious effort to not use the internet all week and it was liberating overall.
Most of my long(ish) duration trip experience has been in the form of river trips. This trip felt a little different because the whole group didn’t necessarily have the same common objective.
Conditions were fucking spicy - no real other way to put it.
The morning of our flight day I was reading the Avalanche Canada Center forecaster blog and they wrote something along the lines of “this is the worst snowpack we’ve seen in 20 years” which sent the tone for most of the week. The skiing was excellent all week but conditions we also sketchy. It was an educational trip to say the least and hopefully the most actual snow movement I see for the rest of my backcountry career.
Avy problems were a combination of persistent slab, deep persistent slab and storm slab on all aspects at all elevations. The table below summarizes avy conditions and notable events for the week; notable events each have their own write up. Images are included of each slide. Red arrows indicate trigger point (unless annotated differently) and red lines show the crown.
|Day||Avy Conditions||Notable Incidents|
|Day 1: Friday||4 Above Treeline, 3 At Treeline, 3 Below Treeline|
|Day 2: Saturday||3-3-2||Paradise Ridge|
|Day 3: Sunday||3-3-2||Passionate, Cheese Fondue|
|Day 4: Monday||3-3-2||Chocolate Fondue|
|Day 5: Tuesday||3-2-2|
|Day 6: Wednesday||3-2-2|
|Day 7: Thursday||3-2-2|
Our group approached paradise ridge to find another group of 3 spread out below the ridge (under significant overhead cornice hazard) traversing and trying to find an area where it was safe to gain the ridge. There were two total skier triggered avalanches:
This was a pretty disconcerting start to the trip and definitely illustrated different levels of risk tolerance amongst the overall group. We had a group discussion the next day and the involved parties didn’t really acknowledge that they were in a sketchy situation; their common refrain was that this was a self-guided trip and they were within their comfort zone so we shouldn’t worry. In general I agree with this sentiment but it was interesting because at the end of the day we were also in the zone (albeit far away and out of any potential slide path) and in good conscience would have to respond if something happened.
More bluntly - I think this was extremely loose (at one point during this we radioed them to ask what their plan was and the response was “its under development”). I don’t really care if people want to take on different levels of risk than I am comfortable with but being in the same zone/hut means that their decision making implicitly impacts mine. It made for some interesting discussions and viewpoints but ultimately I was not a fan of this whole event.
These two events were pretty small/not super notable but I’m mentioning them because it was the first activity I’ve ever personally triggered and the rollover slide was demonstrative of how “touchy” the snowpack was throughout the week. You could literally step onto a slope/rollover and the storm slab would trigger immediately. This was made for some pretty sketchy feeling drops. Snow is eerily quiet when it slides.
This one scared the shit out of me. A skier in my party triggered a fairly large slide on their first turn down a convex rollover. They were headed to a safe-zone along the saddle of a ridge when the slope popped; the actual area they were in was not super steep so it is unclear if they would have been carried; nonetheless they quickly grabbed a tree and were not transported.
This was an eye opening experience not only because a good friend of mine could have been seriously injured during this event (the slide traveled pretty far down a steep slope through a lot of small trees) but also because it was a big reality check. Up until this point (and afterwards to an extent) we were making pretty aggressive terrain choices; we definitely were skiing in avalanche terrain a lot during the week and I guess something like this was inevitable. It was really challenging to balance feelings of “powder fever” with terrain/hazard mitigation. Skiing steep pitches is really fun in powder but unfortunately that has an inherent risk. I think we did a good job only exposing one person at a time between safe zones but ultimately I think better decision making could have prevented this close call.
|Day||Runs Skied||Total Vert|
|Day 1: Friday||Front Door (M6), Back Door (M14)||1.4k|
|Day 2: Saturday||Elevator Shaft (M30, lower part only), Cheese Fondue (M8), Back Door (M14)||4k|
|Day 3: Sunday||Passionate (M10), Cheese Fondue (M8)||4.5k|
|Day 4: Monday||Jalibi (M28, lower part only), Cheese Fondue (M8)||3k|
|Day 5: Tuesday||Better than Sex x2 (M29), Back Door (M14)||5k|
|Day 6: Wednesday||New Years Day (S12), Cheese Fondue (M8), Back Door (M14)||5.2k|
|Day 7: Thursday||Paradise Ridge above treeline x3 (between better than sex M29 and paradise found M1), 1⁄2 Better than sex (M29), Jalibi (M28)||4.7k|