British Columbia

Spearhead Huts Project to make Whistler backcountry more accessible

The Spearhead Traverse near Whistler has been a destination for winter and summer backcountry enthusiasts ever since it was first completed 52 years ago.

"These aren't going to be in the European mould where you can have a bowl of pasta and bottle of wine ..."

An estimated 4,000 people complete the Spearhead Traverse on skis every winter. (Anthony Bonello/Spearhead Huts Project)

The Spearhead Traverse near Whistler has been a destination for winter and summer backcountry enthusiasts ever since it was first conquered in 1964.

The spectacular 40-kilometre route through the mountains counts endless scenery and wildlife, 13 glaciers, 14 peaks, and, in the near future, three shelter huts. 

Jayson Faulkner, the founding chair of the Spearhead Huts Committee, says thanks to a major donor the $1.5 million dollars needed to build the first hut near Russet Lake has been secured. 

An artist's rendition of the first hut to be built along the Spearhead Traverse at Russet Lake. (Spearhead Huts Project)

"You're not talking something super fancy, these aren't going to be in the European mould where they're fully catered and you can have a bowl of pasta and bottle of wine at the end of the day," said Faulkner. "No, these are going to be very nice shelters but relatively simple in what they provide in amenities — toilets, running water, non potable water, heat."

Faulkner says the idea behind the huts — which can accommodate 35 people — is to make the Spearhead Traverse more accessible for the average person.

"When you give people an opportunity to enjoy and see a landscape that is typically only available to half of one percent you change people's perspective about nature and wilderness and the value of those places," he told Rick Cluff on the CBC's Early Edition. "This opens it up to families."

The Spearhead Traverse was first complete in 1964 and has been a destination for back country skiers, hikers and mountaineers ever since. (Spearhead Huts Project)

The huts project is being led by local not-for-profit alpine clubs and has been in the making for almost 50 years. The Russet Lake hut is expected to open in early in 2018, with the other two huts following in quick succession, assuming another $3 million can be raised. 

"We're in a very unique situation unlike anything else in North America because you're adjacent to one of the top three and largest mountain resorts in the world in Whistler. In B.C and we're blessed with this really remarkable landscape — heavy glaciation, so very dramatic terrain. " he said. "So what makes it special is that unique combination of wilderness, but you're actually quite close to first world infrastructure."

Faulkner says the huts will be bookable online and will cost approximately $50 per night per person.

With files from the Early Edition