Epic powder dreams: Selkirk Wilderness Skiing.

Have you ever dreamed of that perfect bluebird day? Floating down a pristine tree run into deep, steep, untouched fresh as far as the eye can see?  As an advanced skier, you find yourself always chasing this impossible dream, the holy grail of powder skiing. You might catch a glimpse on occasion, when the stars align, perhaps on the first run of the day at Alta, after a big dump, but within an hour the rest of the powderhounds have arrived, and its tracked it out by 9am.

This winter my dreams came true, but instead of just one run, it happened over and over, for an entire week straight. This place is remote, and it ain’t cheap, but if you’re willing to haul your ass to a little lodge tucked up in the Kootenay mountains in BC, then perhaps this place is for you. Im talking about Selkirk Wilderness Skiing, a catski operation that is the oldest and most extreme in North America. They’ve been operating for almost 40 years, and every week, they treat 24 skiers and boarders to five days on ten thousand acres of the most epic shit you could possibly imagine. There are no lifts or trail markers, just a snowcat that hauls you to the top of the run, and two trusted guides to get the group down the mountain. Everyone is set up with beacons, probes and shovels, and the group is constantly respectful of the risk of an avalanche. The guides are excellent, and their in depth knowledge of the mountain becomes readily apparent.

Here’s a great video on the history of Selkirk, and some great shots of some pros shredding the backcountry

To be honest I had never experienced anything like this. The snow was so deep that if you took off your skis you would fall down three feet into the snow. There were cliffs, hazards, and treacherous tree wells everywhere. A tree well is the empty space that surrounds the trunk of the tree, these can be over 6 feet deep, and can easily swallow up an out of control skier. To make matters worse, the tree wells can be impossible to get out of. My friend fell headfirst into one, and he described total darkness, and the feeling of breathing snow into his lungs. He was able to breathe, but despite being one the most in shape guys I know, he was stuck, and the more he struggled the deeper he sunk into the well. He had to blow his safety whistle for the guide to rescue him, we later poured some bourbon shots for that guide, thank god.

Despite the hazards and our unfamiliarity with this type of skiing, I could not have felt safer with the professional staff, and the care they took into ensuring our safety. To be honest the danger factor made each day just a little more exciting, and forced you to realize how insignificant we are in the face of such powerful forces of nature. There were times when I was floating down the mountain, with my heart pounding right in my throat, screaming at the top of my hyperventilating lungs. At this moment i realized this was an experience worth living for.

BACK IN THE LODGE:

There are few things better in life than a quality hot tub session after a long day on the slopes. Selkirk’s lodge had it all, Their hot tub was big and situated outdoors with a view of the mountain. Their sauna was top notch as well, and they had a full time masseuse on staff. Their cooking was incredible, as BC is known for organic produce. They did an impressive job of offering different choices every day. They had a spread of healthy and hearty snacks from the minute you arrived at the end of the day, followed by a gourmet dinner in the evening. A great local beer and wine selection was available as well. In the morning you were served fresh smoothies and a big hot breakfast, and really I can’t say enough about the service.

Here you can see the attention to detail by the staff. Every morning they had that little soy milk thing for me with my name on it.

 

As you can see plenty of opportunities for epic lines.

This image features a wind well, a massive feature formed by wind blown snow at the top of the mountain.

The snowcats back at the lodge

 

GETTING THERE:

You either have to fly into Spokane WA and drive about three hours north, or fly into Vancouver and the catch a small plane into Nelson BC. From Nelson you can drive up into Meadow Creek, BC, and you meet at a small lodge there and jump into a cat for an additional one hour cat ride to get to the base lodge.

A word of caution on travel: I took the spokane route but made the mistake of getting screwed crossing the border on the way back, it was a one hour wait in line at the border. This resulted in me missing my flight and spending an extra night in spokane (not all that cool).

 

BOOKING THIS THING:

Booking this trip is an all-in endeavor. Its about $5G all inclusive for the week, you have to pay upfront in full to hold your spot and there are no refunds, however insurance is offered. Most of the peak weeks fill up months in advance, and often by the same people every year. This place has loads of regulars who have been skiing the same week for years on end. Once you get a taste of it, its easy to understand how you can get hooked, it’s the ultimate in freeskiing.

Despite the time energy and expense of getting there, the hazards, the conditions, these things all become trivial once you achieve that weightless moment. The moment where you begin to float at high speed down the mountain, with a grin so big on your face it hurts, leaving you with no choice but to howl at the top of your lungs into the mountain sky. At this exact moment, you’ll know you made the right decision to come to Selkirk.

 

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