A big thanks to Onx backcountry for making these post happen. Check out the Onx mapping app for your next backcountry adventure and click here to use the app to support your local avalanche forecasters
(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry. Valkyr Adventures provided Lee and Sharon with accommodations. Valkyr neither reviewed nor pre-approved contents before publication. All images used by permission of Lee Lau.)
To borrow a turn of phrase from Evan Stevens of Zenith Guides the terrain around Valkyr Lodge is like a mullet. Clean and nice in the front. Business in the back!
It’s in the back bowls on the Valkyr Lodge tenure that the longer, steeper, rowdier runs lurk. The inversion of earlier in the week had rendered solar aspects uncharacteristically poor for skiing; unusual for Kootenay mid-winter conditions. However, accessing and exiting the back bowls meant that their north facing goodness was unlocked.
The Viking zone is the lee-side of the prevailing SW’ers pluming off Naumulten Mountain. Viking is massive; entry guarded by pure north facing slopes with steep rocky entrances and cornices. All those cornices off Naumulten’s East face as well as the wind deposition results in powder on north facing choice lines off Viking.
The easiest way (but by no means the only way) to access Viking and hit the north facing aspects was via Viking Ridge. Another relatively simple way to get into Viking is via a south facing bench leading to the Rune Stones col from the heart of the Rollins Zone. We tried both ways and it’s a toss-up as to which is nicest. Of course south facing shots from the logical Glasheen step and the Grind crux can also result in south facing pow goodness to enter Viking if conditions warrant
It’s one thing to get into Viking. It’s quite another to get out. As well as being a good ski-line Rune Stones has enough islands of safety and treed protection for exits via uphill skin tracks. Another way is via the lake at 1880 meters and then via Norseman Lake to the Viking-Grizzly Col. The elevation gain between 1880 meters and the upper lake at 2051 meters is lined with cliffs along both sides of the drainage splitting the face. There is one easy out via a bench at approx 2010 meters — a rather sniper line to hit but which can be seen from the Rune Stones entry or at any point on Viking Ridge. If you miss this exit you’ll find yourself doing about a 100 kick turns so be warned.
Rollins is another gem of a zone with so many options for north facing blower steep pow off Rollins Ridge. Access is pretty simple with the main routes being off Naumulten or the Prow into the Heart Zone then a simple gain of the Heart-Rollins ridgeline. Then pick your route down Hi Rollins or Lo Rollins into the zone then dropping to the natural bench below Rollins Ridge where you can inspect your lines down. The only downside of this zone (as with Far Bowl or the McBride Zone) is the risk of being late for dinner and missing hors d’oeuvres. It’s a good distance and elevation back to Valkyr Lodge so either manage time or bring headlamps — or maybe do both!
Grizzly is the zone that, once unlocked, opens up the most north facing goodness. Not only are the runs a lot of fun, access and return to Valkyr Lodge is ridiculously simple from Grizzly. Grizzly’s polar aspects weren’t sun affected and the prevailing SW’ers dropping in snow distributed a fine amount of snow on Grizzly’s slopes. There’s more than enough treed terrain to explore if the weather stayed cloudy with options to get higher in the alpine if the visibility improved.
Our group put in the Dragon Low Entrance which then switchbacks up through the Dragon to get back to Stoney Zone. The Low entrance starts at 1810m. It’s also possible to bootpack or ski-crampon up the grind from the Grizzly – Norseman col which then sets you up for an easy cruise back to the Lodge
Lodge Life – some randoms
Did we mention that, in our opinion, catered trips are the way to go? For a few more hundred a person a dedicated cook who knows how to make tasty food sets you up for breakfast, lunch, appetizers and dinner. Valkyr also provides a staff custodian who stocks the fireplace, preps the sauna, makes sure the generator is working and keeps the lodge spic and span.
Valkyr itself is one of the premier offerings in the Kootenays as far as lodge comfort. Let me mention once again: hot water! This is a backcountry luxury to which one can get accustom!
Guest blogger Lee Lau is an avid skier and outdoorsman embarking on many adventures with his loving, and sometimes concerned wife, Sharon. He has over 15 years of experience skiing, ski-touring and dabbles in mountaineering. In the “off-season” he is occasionally found working in his day job as an intellectual property lawyer when he is not mountain biking. As a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Lee’s playground extends mainly to Western Canada, including South West B.C. and the Selkirks.