Oh Canada, would my country of origin disown me if I confessed my love for you? Shhhh, please don’t tell.
Louie and I were psyched to be invited on a trip up to Kokanee this March. After wrapping up a forever week at work, we headed out to Nelson, B.C. on a Friday evening. The next morning, after final packing touches, our whole crew headed to the safety briefing at Kootenay Valley Helicopters.
Kokanee Glacier Cabin is located next to Kalso Lake in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. The hut was built in 2002, with funds collected primarily from donations. There is an older cabin nearby, called Slocan Chief, that was built in the late 1890s and originally used by mine workers. Starting around 1922, as Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park was established, a group of outdoor enthusiasts volunteered their time to keep the cabin standing to be used by various backcountry travelers for many years. Now it is preserved as a museum and a cozy place for a quick stop during a tour around the area.
Due to the growing interest in backcountry skiing, one must enter a lottery to be able to snag a spot at the Kokanee. If you win the lottery, the only option is to book the whole hut for a week, which in the winter accommodates 15 people total. We are lucky to have some proactive friends, who snagged possibly the ideal week! (Thanks Chris and Theresa!)
Once at the airport parking, as we got out of the car Louie and I heard loud hissing noises. Alas, I had ran over a giant nail and the tire on my 4-Runner was rapidly deflating. We eventually shared a good laugh, as we discussed our options. The day we were to return from Kokanee, we were planning to head straight to Revelstoke for our next adventure. To our luck, the Nelson Kal Tire took our car in and had no problem keeping it for a week until we returned. Whew, that worked out well.
Post nail-in-tire adventure, we headed back to the airport. I’d never been in a helicopter before, so I was extra excited. Sadly, the weather was foggy and the viz was low, not giving us much of a view on the flight in. I spent a good portion of the flight time checking out the various controls: holy switches, there were too many!
After arriving at the Kokanee cabin, we were greeted by the ACC custodian, Hugh, and given a brief overview of the hut. About an hour after arrival, as we were done settling in, Hugh led a safety briefing presentation followed by a group companion rescue scenario. We wrapped up the practice and headed for a quick skin in the trees to test the snow. Louie and I were extra psyched and opted to ski a few totally blower pow laps.
We had 6 total days of skiing at the cabin, with a possibility for a dawn patrol on the 7th day prior to flying out. Louie and I were ambitious about it originally, but 6 days of skiing paid off. We were beat and opted to rest on our last day.
The weather we experienced was nothing you’d think the end of March or sping would be, but exactly what we hoped for from the intermountain snowpack in this region in Canada. We only had about 2.5 days of clear-ish weather which allowed us to explore some of the bigger alpine terrain. For the rest of the days, we mostly skied in and around tree line. I certainly don’t have any complains; deep powder in the trees makes me a happy camper.
I have to give thanks to the weather gods — have you ever heard of Canadian flurries? They are the good stuff, or as our custodian Hugh put it, “Flurries are any amount of snow between 1 cm to 30 cm.” We got lucky and continuously experienced the upper end. It snowed a total of ~110 cm during our stay at the hut. Trail breaking was never ending.
The areas where we adventured included: Mount John Carter, Robert Smith, Giegerich, Nansen and Pyramid. John Carter offers amazing open bowl skiing that we did not get to experience due to avalanche concerns, but we still got to get on top of it! The day myself, Theresa and Jenny (lady crew!) skied on Robert Smith, we checked out Mark’s Slot: a perfect lower angle alpine line. While ladies were out crushing, the boys were as well, skiing two couloirs up around Pyramid.
On the stormier days we skied off Generator Ridge, above Slocan Chief Cabin, in and around Griffin Creek Area between Giegerich and Nasen, as well as the area known as Enchanted Forest. Our bigger group of 15 people divided into smaller groups to explore different areas each day.
One night, a motivated member of the crew got 14 out of 15 people out for moonlight skin. It was a clear and frigid night, but oh so gorgeous. I definitely would recommend this as one of the “things you should do on a hut trip.” Unfortunately, we mostly found breakable “moon crust” on our descent but enjoyed some warm beverages and lots of laughs.
Everyone took advantage of the excellent snow conditions and skied their hearts out. In the evenings, we feasted on delicious food, played games and engaged in thoughtful conversations. There was no cell service or Wi-Fi so the time was truly refreshing. I even managed to somehow read a few real books, which, as I will shamefully admit, I had not done in a while.
The week came to end way faster than expected. As we packed up our gear and awaited for the chopper, I couldn’t help but dream about another trip. The flight back was bluebird and gorgeous, showcasing peak on peaks of many breathtaking Canadian ranges. Hope we get to come back next year!