Rogers Pass Ski Touring — An Introduction

Post by blogger | April 12, 2016      

Revelstoke! Once thought of as a stop on Canada’s east-west TransCanada Highway, its name has become synonymous with deep snowpacks and skiing. Located just an hour east of “Revy” is Rogers Pass — aka backcountry skiing heaven.

This article showcases some very quick and easy touring opportunities in the Rogers Pass area. For a more indepth look at tours in the Rogers Pass area you would be well-served to read other articles about the Rogers Pass guidebook (authored by Geo Backcountry’s Douglas Sproul) discussed in two parts on Wildsnow (part 1 and part 2). Secondarily this article discusses some of the slackcountry touring options available from Revelstoke’s RMR ski resort.

Rogers Pass

Rogers Pass is located in Glacier National Park in British Columbia, Canada. A major highway winds its way through the park topping out at Rogers Pass at 1330m. The highway winds through the heart of the Selkirks; one of the world’s astoundingly beautiful mountain ranges. From the Pass and from various access points located close to the highway, multiple ski touring zones can be accessed.

Your first stop will likely be to head to the Rogers Pass Discovery Center. Access to many (but not all touring locations) in Glacier National Park (“GNP”) is through a permit system designed to allow for safe travel for backcountry travellers during times of avalanche control. Frequent visitors will get an Annual Permit; something you can also do online if you want to avoid a lineup and wait at the Discovery Centre. Avalanche control in the Pass may result in areas being closed so it is important to check to see what’s open before you go.

The Trans Canada highway through Rogers Pass affords access so you can gain elevation quickly. Unfortunately there are logistical challenges in skiing the Pass. Some of the challenges are due to the usual mix of terrain, snow and avalanche control and consequent closures. Parks Canada can be frustratingly slow in updating closure information, so if you want to ski at the Pass during storm cycles expect to spend a fair chunk of time waiting for information.

Michel giving lot of info to the tourers who ventured here this weekend.

Michel giving lot of info to the tourers who ventured here this weekend.

Unfortunately the Glacier Park Lodge is no longer open. Camping overnight is permitted in the Visitor Centre parking lot. You can also stay at the Wheeler and Asulkan huts south of the highway

Unfortunately the Glacier Park Lodge is no longer open. Camping overnight is permitted in the Visitor Centre parking lot. You can also stay at the Wheeler and Asulkan huts south of the highway.

Example of a place where a permit is required is the MacDonald/Avalanche areas just E of the Discovery Centre. One look at the NRC Gullies avalanche paths running 1000’s of vertical metres to the highway will tell you why permits are required. A well placed bomb on the slopes could really ruin your day.

One of the attractions of Rogers Pass is the quick approaches and the subsequent ability to ski directly back to the parking lots. The MacDonald/Avalanche area is no exception. In a short time you can climb from 1300m at valley bottom and be above glaciers at 2350m. From this area your can enjoy fine views south towards the Illecillawaet/Great Glacier area, east to the Grizzly/Sifton drainages or north to the Swiss/Tupper area. If conditions permit this has to be one of the best bang-for-the-buck tours in the area. You can then drop over Avalanche Crest to Avalanche Glacier; or north towards Tupper through some spicily steep couloirs and paths, or come right back down where you skinned up. This is just one touring possibility among many in the Rogers Pass area, and a gateway to other tours.

Up to the top of Avalanche Ridge by way of the Avalanche Permit area

Up to the top of Avalanche Ridge by way of the Avalanche Permit area.

Shredding the NRC Gullies and MacDonald slidepaths

Shredding the NRC Gullies and MacDonald slidepaths

Another popular touring area is the Connaught Creek drainage, one of the few places where a permit is not required for winter travel (along with the Asulkan valley areas). Although these drainages are not winter avalanche controlled it is important to note that by no means does that mean that they’re not exposed to avalanche hazard. In fact the Connaught drainage is vulnerable to multiple slidepaths from many directions.

Despite objective hazard, the Connaught is one of the more popular areas in the Pass so expect to encounter fellow tourers, especially on weekends. Another “gateway” area, the tour to the head of the valley allows you to connect to other longer tours but many will session the more intermediate slopes of Balu Pass.

On this tour we did the milk run to Balu Pass then skied part of the way down W facing slopes towards Cougar Brook till snow quality deteriorated then reversed back on the ridge N of Balu Pass then dropped into 8812 Bowl at its 3/4 mark. There are infinite variations possible.

At Balu Pass at the head of Connaught Creek

At Balu Pass at the head of Connaught Creek.

Looking W from Balu Pass towards the Cougar Brook area

Looking W from Balu Pass towards the Cougar Brook area.

Views into 8812 bowl

Views into 8812 bowl.

Turns down 8812 Bowl

Turns down 8812 Bowl.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Revelstoke’s RMR ski resort.” target=”_blank”>RMR is Revelstoke’s local ski hill. With 1713 vertical metres of elevation its not just any local ski hill but a worthy sidebar for any ski tourer in the area. Unfortunately during winter storm season the highway to Rogers Pass can often be closed or openings delayed. Fortunately RMR’s lift-system and terrain accessible by a short skin or even hike gives one lots of opportunities to explore. In terms of avalanche awareness and openness of terrain RMR definitely seems to get it. For example, the mountain has an Avalanche Ranch where 8 transceivers are buried so you can practice your beacon skills. RMR also has an open policy towards backcountry travel (tempered by much education) where guests can access more difficult terrain by way of various exit points.

One of the easier to navigate areas are the south bowls into the cat-ski terrain. This area is not avalanche controlled but has an exceptionally conveniently plowed road for cat-ski access. A short skin takes you into the area where you can then ski some 500m sub-alpine into treed shots. Just make sure you up the 1830m contour to skin and traverse back to the resort and in no-time you’ll be getting your fill of quasi-lift-served triple overhead blower pow. Decadent to be sure! Be nice to the cat ski guides and clients and make sure you’re well off the road as they come past you.

An exceptionally convenient service offered is a (Revelstoke) town to resort shuttle (check shuttle schedule here). It’s a nice option to not have to drive and be able to enjoy apres at the Rockford Grill.

RMR inbounds. Looks like everyone ditches their packs at the Stoke Lift, rips inbound laps then collects their when they go for the slackcountry powder shots - so we did the same

RMR inbounds. Looks like everyone ditches their packs at the Stoke Lift, rips inbound laps then collects their when they go for the slackcountry powder shots – so we did the same.

Inbounds pow - slackcountry pow

Inbounds pow – slackcountry pow.

Where to stay and to eat

We were guests at Sutton Place Hotel Revelstoke Mountain Resort. The Sutton Place is palatial and customer service is a premium. It has a couple of hot tubs is obviously as close to RMR as you can get. While a bit removed from town, this means that it is quiet. It only takes an extra 5 minutes to get to the highway if you want to get to Rogers Pass. Once you do the numbers the 2 bedroom suite in the Sutton Place is reasonably priced albeit at the higher end (prices vary through the season but you’d be looking at approx $ 300 – $ 500/night). It’s entirely possible to share the suite with one or two other couples (there’s a pull-out bed) or with a family and cook your own breakfast in their full kitchen.

The main hotel building.

The main hotel building.

Dinner at the Rockford Grill

Dinner at the Rockford Grill.

Sutton Place - two bedrooms, living area and storage

Sutton Place – two bedrooms, living area and storage.

Balcony, hot tub in our building, Mackenzie Pub and outdoor swimming pool.

Balcony, hot tub in our building, Mackenzie Pub and outdoor swimming pool.

An alternative to the Sutton if you want to be closer to town is the Best Western. It’s a modern comfortable hotel also served by the town to hill shuttle. Very importantly for ski tourers they have an amazingly huge buffet breakfast and comfortable, warm and quiet rooms. There’s tons of room to spread out and dry your touring gear.

Hotel exterior and their huge breakfasts

Hotel exterior and their huge breakfasts.

Comfortable big rooms and hot tub

Comfortable big rooms and hot tub.

You can’t have enough places to eat. Another place we recommend is the Woolsey Creek Cafe. It’s consistently the top-rated restaurant in the region. We’ve been going here for 14 years and we keep coming back over and over again.

Dinner at the Woolsey - good food and ambiance.

Dinner at the Woolsey – good food and ambiance.

Rogers Pass useful links

(from Geobackcountry’s Rogers Pass North epic guide – thanks to Doug Sproul for permission to reproduce)

Parks Canada

Parks Canada Revelstoke office (250) 837-7500

Parks Canada (Rogers Pass Office) (250) 814-5202

Road Conditions (Banff) (403) 762-1450 (Jasper) (780) 852-3311

Winter Permit Information

Winter Permit System explained

Winter Restricted Area status (250) 837-SKIS (7547)

Weather, Snowpack and Avalanche

Avalanche warnings

Glacier Park Avalanche Bulletin

Glacier Park Avalanche Bulletin (250) 837 – MTNS (6867)

Other information

BC road conditions
Avalanche advisories for BC highways

Highway webcams

Macdonald Snowshed East of Revy
Rogers Pass



18 Responses to “Rogers Pass Ski Touring — An Introduction”

  1. Mike April 12th, 2016 12:18 pm

    Nice to see a write-up on this! I went to the area a couple of years ago and wound up with a ticket because I screwed up the permitting process. I’d also highly suggest people consider staying in Golden, BC. It’s generally much easier to find last minute lodging, is more affordable, and if you’re flying from the states, there are more/cheaper flights to the Calgary airport than Kamloops. You’d also be well positioned to hit up the Yoho, Lake Louise, and Banff areas, as well as Kicking Horse Mountain Resort right in Golden.

  2. Louie III April 12th, 2016 2:49 pm

    Wow, lots of great info here. Awesome intro to the area Lee. Rogers is an incredible place for ski touring.

    On the more dirtbag end, there’s good options for hostels in Revelstoke, and I’ve found some nice, inexpensive places on Airbnb in the past. Worth checking out.

    The rec centre in Revelstoke is also really awesome. It’s got a sweet water slide and even a climbing wall above the pool! Great place to relax and have some fun after skiing (not to mention the showers), if you’re really camping or staying in your car.

  3. Jerky Schmilkus April 12th, 2016 2:51 pm

    The back door of the old Glacier Park Lodge was open when I was up there two months ago. Next time I’m up there I plan to bring a sleeping bag and a propane heater and stay in one of the rooms for free.

  4. Lee Lau April 12th, 2016 3:45 pm

    Another way to do things is to camp in Visitors Centre or the Asulkan lots. They’re a bit noisy but its so warm now it should be good

  5. Lee Lau April 12th, 2016 4:39 pm

    @Jerky – careful of the rats in there! They get into food and chew up soft goods. Hang up everything so they can’t get to it

  6. Matt April 12th, 2016 5:44 pm

    Nice writeup on a tour area, appreciate all the details. Quick question came to mind looking through pictures, am I seeing scarpa f1 evo there? no issues/ignore recall?
    hoping they re-release that boot w/o that problematic walk/ski mechanism.

  7. Lee Lau April 12th, 2016 6:13 pm

    @Matt. I loved those boots but Scarpa recalled them on me. I didn’t have the issus but I guess they wanted to be safe

  8. T April 13th, 2016 1:29 am

    Glacier Park Lodge was incredible! Someone please buy it (its cheap), comply with National Park regs, and it’ll be the best ski touring place to stay on the highway in N America.

    What is the problem, as far as the Park, for getting the hotel operating? Anyone else w/more info?

  9. Greg April 13th, 2016 9:10 am

    Thanks for the info; I am ashamed to say that I have yet to make it to Rodgers Pass even though it has been on my list for a while. One question: what is the “season?” Obviously it depends on that years wether, but is this a mid-winter destination, Spring skiing, or both?

  10. Darren Jakal April 13th, 2016 9:30 am

    Glacier Park Lodge is well past its prime and after this many years of no maintenance it is most likely condemned. There is probably nasty stuff like asbestos and mold and looking in the old shed outback it should probably be considered a toxic waste site. I didn’t want to stay in the Lodge anymore near the end, but at least the bedbugs and scabies are probably dead. I think a better option for some kind of lodging would be the old gas station.

  11. XXX_er April 13th, 2016 11:16 am

    A ski bud looked very closely twice at buying the GPL but decided It was too hard to run a hotel in the middle of nowhere, the place was a little tired but I always liked the glacier park lodge, necessary equipment was a 50′ extension cord to plug in the TDi thru the hotel window, a toaster oven, a kettle and check the hall for your breaker panel before you plug any of it in!

    Of course everyone has heard the stories of the place being taken over for swinger conventions … I hope they found some better food!

    apparently the gift shop made a LOT of money

  12. Lee Lau April 13th, 2016 3:07 pm

    Greg – Rogers Pass is good to go right now. As you’ll be able to see from the links discussing the Doug Sproul guidebook there’s so much terrain that its also an early winter destination. The season there is long

  13. VT skier April 15th, 2016 6:29 pm


    I heard a rumor that the GPL was taken over by bed-bugs..

  14. VT skier April 15th, 2016 6:42 pm

    I stayed at the Sandman, when I was in Revelstoke for an Avy course two years ago. Great room we had , 172 which had two doors, one to the hallway, the other directly into the enclosed courtyard, 10 feet to the hot tub, and small pool. There is a Dennys on the premises too.
    It was pretty cheap.

  15. ShailCaesar! April 19th, 2016 10:39 am

    How is it now after this major Major MAJOR warm up I wonder?

  16. Lee Lau April 21st, 2016 8:56 am

    7 degrees in alpine even in morning!

  17. matthew donahue January 5th, 2017 9:06 am

    Hello Lou,
    First time commenting on the site! Thanks for all you do with this site and really enjoy listening to you on the totally deep podcast. I am heading up to Revelstoke/ rogers pass late February and we are looking into getting a guide. We are between CAPOW and Revelstoke Mountain guides(Mike Bromberg) we are looking for a guide that we can learn from as well as ski great snow. any recommendations or beta on our first time up in BC?

  18. Lou2 January 5th, 2017 10:38 am

    Hi Matt, thanks for visiting! Guides are so good these days it is indeed hard to pick… I don’t have any beta on those guys that would be useful but keep networking out and you’ll get a take. As far as other beta, my feeling about BC has always been that it can be wonderful, but so easy to get into big terrain with big consequences, so the operative items are plan carefully and be conservative, and yeah, being guided is an excellent way to achieve those goals! Have a wonderful trip. Lou

    P.S., sometimes it gets pretty cold up there, so be sure you have kit that will work if the temps drop.

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