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Ski Report Blog

Into the Assiniboine powder


It's always so cool to visit an area in both summer and winter - to see how the landscape changes and how we interact differently with a slope depending on whether you're wearing skis or hiking boots. Which is why, after a trail run into Assiniboine Lodge a couple summers back, I really wanted to explore the park in winter as well.


The Family Day weekend, given the crowds I knew I'd face at resorts, seemed like a great time to do just that. Rather than making the roughly 25 kilometre trek in from Sunshine Village or Mount Shark, this time we opted for a six minute helicopter trip. Flying in helicopters is always so belittling for a backcountry skier - to see just how much ground a machine can cover in such a short time! But taking the high road meant there'd be more time to explore.

Assiniboine is the oldest backcountry ski lodge in North America. It's owned by the BC Government and was built in alpine meadows a quick ski from the provincial border. Just below Mount Assiniboine, the lodge was built in 1928 by CP Rail as a means to draw wealthy mountaineers west. Nowadays, around 65% of its visitors are Calgarians looking for a quick mountain getaway. It's a luxurious, unintimidating way to get into the backcountry. Here's a video that Claude Duchesne, one of the managers of the lodge, showed me that sums up the philosophy of the lodge. Sepp, the main character in the film, managed Assiniboine for years before passing the reins on to his son Andre and Claude back in 2011.

1794749_10153811562700284_823402828_n.jpgThroughout the trip, Claude and the rest of the staff hammered home the message that this lodge is geared toward beginner and intermediate skiers. With backcountry skiing exploding as a sport and dozens of other lodges popping up across western BC that are perched right in the middle of advanced, high alpine terrain, the less intimidating approach of Assiniboine is a much needed niche. Each morning, after a hot (and amazing) breakfast, the guides would split us into three groups - snowshoers, cross country skiers and backcountry skiers. We then ventured out into gorgeous yet mellow terrain for a day long tour. The avalanche risk was high during our visit so having guides who knew the terrain and managed risk gave guests great piece of mind. Everything is taken care of for you at Assiniboine, which can take some getting used to if you're more accustomed to self-serve huts in the Rockies. I wanted to roll my sleeves up and help with dishes! But once you get into the rhythm of the lodge, it's a very special place to be.


Powder University: Freeride Camp


I'm just back from a trip to CMH Revelstoke where I took part in their first ever Freeride Camp - an opportunity to ski bigger lines and improve my big mountain skiing. It's part of CMH's Powder University concept. Here's a photo from a particularly stunning day (credit: Mike Aucoin). You can read the full trip article on Toque and Canoe.