Summits and Icefields – Alpine Ski Tours in the Canadian Rockies

Post by blogger | February 21, 2012      

Chic Scott needs no introduction; which of course means that I am going to introduce him.

Chic has been an alpinist for almost fifty years. He is one of the pre-eminent ski-tourers in North America. He pioneered innumerable ski routes and traverses in the Canadian Rockies (the one that is most notable to me is the flabbergasting 1967 Great Divide Jasper to Lake Louise ski traverse).

Chic wrote the first Summits and Icefields in 1994 and updated it by breaking the guidebook into the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountains editions in 2003.

In this new edition, Chic was aided by Mark Klassen who wrote several large sections of the book (eg descriptions of the iconic Jasper to Banff along the continental divide Great Divide Traverse). Mark became a mountain guide in 1996 and has spent a serious amount of time in the mountains.

Summits and Icefields follows the standard guidebook format: Introduction, General Information then trip information.

Trip information is broken out into various logical topics starting with regions. Fernie area, the Southern Rockies (Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise), Jasper area and the Little Yoho Valley are profiled probably in an effort to cater to people who’d tour in those regions from a central town where they either live or are located.

Mount Kemmel

Mount Kemmel

Summits and Icefields then proceeds to describe lower-hanging fruit accessible off major (plowed) roads.

The guidebook then follows with “short” (i.e. some one to three days traverses) then continues with the classic traverse for which the Canadian Rockies are known (e.g. Wapta Traverse, Clemenceau to Columbia, Lyells and Mons). Last but by no means least, The Great Divide Traverse is given special mention as it should be with 50 pages of exquisite detail, pictures and maps).

Maps in particular are beautifully done. According to the mapper (Will Meinen) they are all made from scratch compiled in a GIS environment using a Digital Elevation Model and a Landcover Dataset, projected in UTM 12 NAD83.

Tusk Peak in the Clemenceau Icefields

Tusk Peak in the Clemenceau Icefields

Finally Chic concludes Summit and Icefields with short descriptions of noteworthy hut-served touring locales which includes some huts that did not exist in the previous iteration (eg Icefall Lodge).

Dropping to the LaClytte Glacier, Icefall Lodge

Dropping to the LaClytte Glacier, Icefall Lodge

Here are some changes from earlier editions of Summits and Icefields and random comments about the information as its presented in the guidebook

•The entire guidebook is in colour. It is eye candy of the finest order.

•More detail is presented via maps, pictures and text (344 pages vs 244 pages in the older book).

•More detail is presented in each individual tour (sample PDF of the Mt Field tour accessed off the Trans Canada highway is here )

•GPS coordinates are now given in NAD83/ WGS84 (older versions were in NAD27)

•Maps are in colour and beautifully presented

•More tours are presented (index of tours and placenames is about 35% bigger than the previous index)

More eye candy pictures

Clemenceau Icefields from Mt Shipton

Clemenceau Icefields from Mt Shipton. Click to expand into panoramic goodness.

Mt Forbes and the Mons Icefield from Mt Laclytte

Mt Forbes and the Mons Icefield from Mt Laclytte. Click to expand into panoramic goodness.

Not much more need be said. Get this guidebook if you’re a backcountry skier and live in the area or plan to visit. Heck, get the guidebook just for the sheer vicarious pleasure of reading about one of the places that is the holy grail of alpine ski touring.

(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 fifteen years of experience backcountry skiing 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. Lee blogs here.)


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4 Responses to “Summits and Icefields – Alpine Ski Tours in the Canadian Rockies”

  1. Mark W February 21st, 2012 11:16 am

    A must have for the mountain books shelf in my house. Awesome.

  2. Joe February 21st, 2012 11:45 am

    Chic is a Canadian institution unto himself. We’re blessed to have him. To his credit he leaves enough out of the book to allow for some discovery, and local knowledge to carry the day.

  3. brian h February 21st, 2012 12:37 pm

    Mr Scotts’ lifetime of exploration and authorship is amazing. A life, it seems to me, truly dedicated to the mountain ideal…

  4. Lee Lau February 22nd, 2012 8:30 am

    Should you feel the need to drool over more Canadian offerings see Mark Klassen’s site at

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