What happens when you combine a dozen friends, 20,000 acres of skiable terrain, and a sweet backcountry lodge? You get a ski trip done right.
For New Year’s Eve, a group of friends descended on Valahalla Mountain Touring, a backcountry lodge accessed via snowcat deep in British Columbia’s Selkirk Mountains. This isn’t your ordinary hut—it’s a seven-bedroom lodge with a chef, a wood-fired sauna, and (not that you need it) Wifi. Out the door,VMT leads guided ski touring into nearly 20,000 acres of high-alpine bowls, steep chutes, and perfect glades, including some descents that grant you 2,600 vertical feet of powder back to the lodge. This group included Flylow co-founders Greg Steen and Dan Abrams and many of their closest friends (many of whom were gracious enough to do some product testing for us during the trip). Here, Abrams gives us a little behind-the-scenes glimpse at the trip.
The first morning at the lodge, the sunrise was just stunning. We later discovered we could only see the sunrise because a guest from the previous year had criticized the obstructed view from the lodge—there was one tree blocking the view of the valley. That prompted Jasmin Caton, the lodge’s owner, to walk outside in her pajamas and grab a chainsaw and cut the tree down.
Flylow staff geologist and trip organizer Seth Dee stares down lodge dog Louise, our friend Jake’s dog that made the trip in by snowmobile. This is taken at 7:45 a.m., after both a cold and hot breakfast had already been served. We were all well fed, ready to go. We’d then spend the next eight hours climbing and skiing through the finest powder in Canada.
Our first day, it was cold but clear. We could see it was going to be stormy in the forecast. It took us an hour and a half of skinning from the lodge just to get to this point, then we had to cross the lake, then start climbing. It was a good taste of how long the days were going to be. The snow was amazing.
We climbed out of Shannon Lake, on our way to ski the Throat, a glade that rolled over to a cliff band, into a wide apron of powder. When we got up to the top of this glade, we were all ready to rip our skins and start skiing, but the guides wanted to push onward, even farther into the alpine.
This is me, getting pitted in British Columbia’s finest pow. I finally found the powder I’ve been training my whole life for. It wasn’t for lack of effort. We had spent two hours trudging up in a full storm before dropping 2,500 feet away from the lodge, knowing the whole time that we would have to climb back up the steepest terrain we’d skied the whole week. On the climb back up, nobody said a word for a full half hour. Then we all started making jokes as we slowly climbed our way back out.
After a day of skiing, we’d get back to the lodge, change out of ski clothes, and join everyone for an après-ski session of beers, homemade hot soup, and other snacks, followed by a sauna and a shower. This is the sauna. The whole lodge is powered by a micro-hydro system. All of the excess electricity is diverted to the wood-fired sauna to keep it extra hot.
Meals were always delicious and festive. You can see Nick Waggoner, from Sweetgrass Productions and also a guide apprentice and lodge host, in his blond wig costume on New Year’s Eve. The food was plentiful—three-course dinners, made in a true organic, farm-to-hut way.
Annie, the cook who joined us to ski every afternoon, brought costumes from what they called the tickle box. On New Year’s Eve, everyone outfitted themselves for dinner and the rest of the evening. The Steen brothers, seen here, brought their own costumes.
Brita U tested Flylow’s new all-white Foxy Bibs, due out in fall 2019. Here she is heading toward the Crown Jewel, 2,500 vertical feet of powder perfection.
Here you can see the full alley that was the run aptly-named Double Dessert. The storm had refreshed the line and it was untracked powder for the entire route. That night, I also treated myself to a second helping of the apple strudel dessert.
On New Year’s Eve, we were all so tired from a week of ski touring, we ate dinner, had some libations, and really tried to make it to midnight. But at 10:30, we decided to light off all the fireworks we’d procured from a Canadian roadside shack. We were all asleep by 11 p.m.
Nothing says it’s the end of an incredible ski trip like a pair of unicorn slippers and a Coors Banquet beer. At day’s end, we’d take off all of our gear in the sauna’s changing room and hang it there to dry throughout the night. This was one of the best ski trips I’ve taken—I’ll hopefully be back.
A Canadian hut trip is a right of passage for many skiers. There's no place else on earth that allows you access this high quality of terrain and snow all from the comfort of beautifully maintained backcountry lodge. If you're interested getting a BC hut trip on the books, check out the Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia. It's the best resource for starting your research. Most lodges can be booked either guided or unguided, catered or self-catered. Guided and catered is definitely the way to go. You'll eat way better food and ski way better snow. The most important thing is to plan ahead. These lodges are becoming more and more popular with many booking out years in advance. Gather a posse, throw down a deposit, and make it happen. You won't regret it.