Rogers Pass Part 1: Hippy Powder and Great Views
College Spring Break. A time to leave behind the cold north country and head to Cabo, Mexico and run wild on sunny beaches while drinking away the previous night’s hangover with cheap tequila and gallons of Tecate. That, or join up with 3 other smelly guys and go to Roger’s Pass Canada.
The day we left was a warm one for New Hampshire, one of a record-setting 46 days of at or above average temperatures. With sunny skies and the mercury pushing 55 degrees, it felt strange to be packing up big puffy coats, but we were soon standing on the polished marble floor at Logan with enough gear to equip a small Himalayan expedition (hi allen and sam!)
Packing up gear in sunny New Hampshire
Noah was hungry on the trip out
We opted to do this trip without driving or renting a car. This made for some complicated logistics. We arrived at the Calgary airport around 12:30 am local time with nothing to do before our bus at 6 the next morning. We set up camp in a corner of the terminal, spread out sleeping bags and tried to grab a few hours of sleep with the melodious sounds of the floor polisher ringing in our ears. At one point during this period I woke up to see a Canadian police officer slide up on a Segway, stop, look at us, turn in a complete circle in place, then Segway off to wherever Segway-mounted police officers in Canada go at 2 am. Our trips to the great white north have always been a bit of a cultural experience.
Our decision to go carless quickly raised an important issue: what would we eat? After all, we were trying to stay in Roger’s Pass for 10 days without any method to resupply short of hitching the 50 km to Revelstoke or 80 km to Golden. We decided to try to get food in Golden on the way up, so we got off the bus at the Golden “bus station,” and did a whirlwind shopping trip before heading up to the pass. 3.3 kg of pepperjack cheese later, we found ourselves standing at the side of the trans Canada highway at 1300 meters, staring up at steep mountains rising into the clouds.
The Golden, BC Greyhound station
This has been a bad season for avalanches in the Canadian Rockies. Several persistent surface hoar layers are buried throughout the upper meter of the snowpack, and 50 cm of new snow fell a few days before we arrived, further complicating matters. The day before we arrived was very warm, sending freezing levels to above 2000 m, so the low elevation snow was in the middle of a freeze-thaw cycle. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we decided to head up to Balu Pass, a moderate tour that would give us a good opportunity to look around the area and get a sense of the snow. The skintrack left from the parking lot of our hotel, so we soon found ourselves climbing through the upper reaches of the forest and into the slidepaths coming off of Mt. Cheops.
Mark likes Balu Pass
The snow down low was bad, re-frozen stuff, but by the time we climbed to the upper bowl below the pass things improved a lot. Around 4-6” of new fluff had fallen overnight, freshening up the old surface considerably. We decided on a safe route to skin up, and made it to the top of the pass.
This was my first trip to the Canadian Rockies, and I was not prepared for the view that awaited us at the top of the pass. I’ve seen some big mountains in the American west, but nothing like this. Across the valley, huge glaciers clung to 3000m peaks rising sharply out of the valley floor 2000 m below. Ridge after ridge of mountain faded into the distance as far as we could see, and almost everything looked skiable if the conditions were stable. I quite honestly have never been somewhere with as much easily accessible, skiable terrain as Rogers.
Tom standing looking at the south side of Roger’s Pass
After soaking in the view for a while, we dug a pit to assess the stability. As expected, we found some surface hoar about 60 cm down, with another layer around a meter down. Both of these contained the potential for big slides, but it took a lot to get them to react, and we decided that we could safely ski mellower stuff.
Tom likes the Canadian powder
Noah skis with Mt. MacDonald in the background
Tom is stoked!
The bowl below Balu Pass skied great. The powder on the surface made the skiing effortless, and the scenery made up for any shortcomings in the terrain.
Noah points the way downhill
Mark on the same slope
Tom doesn’t want to be outdone!
Mark and Tom want to go ski 8812 bowl, but we decided the avi conditions weren’t good for it.
Fortunately Tom found some skippable meadows on the way down
The next day was warm and sunny, so we decided to head up higher. Noah’s friend from high school, Kye, happened to be in the area, so he joined with us as we headed up toward Bruin’s Pass. We gained elevation quickly on a much steeper skintrack than the day before, and were soon leaving the trees behind as we climbed a thinning ridge up toward the pass with wild views on all sides. Climbing under the perfectly cloudless bluebird skies made for skinning that was better than some days of skiing I’ve had.
The sun coming over the summit ridge of Cheops. I want to come back here with stable snow!
Tom skinning up toward the ridge with Video Peak in the background
Noah, Tom, and Kye with Balu Peak in the background
I promise this skinning is fun!
Unfortunately there were no good views
We ate lunch at the top of the pass at 2500 m, then debated what to ski. Several previous tracks had gone down into 8812 Bowl to the south, but the snow looked better on the east-facing slopes on the other side of the ridge. After digging some and trundling a cornice, we decided to ski a mellow east-facing slope into the broad bowl below. It turned out to be a good decision as the snow was even better than the day before!
Tom, Mark, Noah, and I are ready to ski (photo: Kye)
Tom dropping in off the ridge
and likes the snow
Noah was going to complain but then some snow hit him and he forgot
He tried to remember on lap 2, but got distracted by the light and wavy snow
Skiing out across the valley floor
That night we packed up overnight bags in our rooms and prepared to head up to the Asulkan glacier for a five-day ski tour. Check back soon for pictures and the story!
Read about the author: Ben