Sol Mountain Lodge is situated at an elevation of 1925m just south of Monashee Provincial Park in Canada, British Columbia. It is coated in classic Monashee powder. Don’t know what that is? If you’ve ever dreamed about perfectly spaced old growth mature timbers, huge canopies of forest-covered slopes pitched at 35 – 45 degrees, blower choking pow wafting over your head in diamond dust contrails then you might have dreamed about the Monashees.
The Monashees climate is where storms go on a bender as the moisture laden air of coastal B.C. cools down as it transits from the Pacific, dips down to interior valleys, then picks up speed as it rockets into Interior mountain ranges then dumps its desiccated moisture laden powder bounty onto 2500m perfectly pitched peaks
Sol Mountain’s location allows for access to a variety of terrain in all directions and boasts 5 distinct ski zones. While there are no glaciers, there is plenty of alpine terrain when the visibility is good, and tree skiing when conditions warrant.
The lodge is about 10 years old and well designed for large groups. With three bathrooms upstairs, two showers, a bathroom in the main floor and two toilets and one shower downstairs there are few morning coffee emergencies. The lower floor is where you keep your boots and gear, with 3 bedrooms. The main floor is well designed for hanging out comfort, and the upper floor contains the majority of private bedrooms and a west facing yoga room in which to stretch as the sun sets in the distance.
The helicopter leaves in the morning from Revelstoke, the remaining people stage in Cherryville near Vernon. This allows for a quicker turnaround and other access options on variable vis days. The valley location and calm conditions in the Cherryville valley means that the lodge does not often get whited out on exchange day; a convenient aspect of Sol’s setup.
On exchange day we were all in the lodge by 12noon. You get a chance to practice transceiver searches in their beacon basin and right away get a chance to ski a half day. On that day we skied trees with broken skies at -14 temps and then back to the lodge by headlamp. On our second day, we got to lap 600m powder laps in the eastern side of the Homer Glades. Skies were clear and temperatures still cold. Even without measurable new snow in a week and a half we had fast knee deep powder of high quality.
We were unguided but had brought in a cook. It’s quite a treat to come back to a comfortable lodge and four meals a day (breakfast, packed lunch, appies, dinner).
On our third day we toured out to to check out the north face of Mt Fosthall, the highest mountain in the Gold Range at 2686m elevation. Unfortunately the winds wreaked havoc on the Alpine making the best snow to be found in the trees. We did have a good run from Cirque Lake to Peters Lake and crossed a hiking trail that is in Monashee Provincial Park. We then had a long meadow tour, trekking 5km back towards Margie Lake then back to the notch overlooking the ridgeline immediately north of the lodge for an easy ski back.
It’s notable that we traversed a good chunk of the NW end of the Sol Mountain tenure skinning by umpteen runs including treed and alpine runs that afforded access to terrain of immense variety. The size of the tenure and the terrain gives one an insight into why Sol Mountains’ ski season extends deep into mid April.
A storm was predicted to blow in toward the end of the week. Thus ensued a couple more days where we marvelled at how two week old powder snow could be so perfectly preserved and ski so well. It had been cold and stayed cold so it was the rare time when solar aspects skied well from treeline to valley bottom giving us the first world problem of having massive terrain at our disposal with all aspects in play. We took advantage accordingly.
Temps in the next few days held in the -18 range. Blue skies dominated but with winds having negatively affecting snow quality in alpine we first skied trees in the Chicken Notch and Baldur zone to the SE part of the Sol tenure. This is an area with 300 – 500m shots of pow, hucks and fun terrain. If conditions allow you could even get into this area from higher up for even longer runs. The next day was the coldest day of the week. We stuck to the low hanging fruit of Baldur Trees closest to the lodge. These were yet more perfectly spaced trees affording multiple 300m laps in fast sendy pow.
If 2 week old Monashee pow is of satisfactory quality then new snow makes Monashee powder skiing of a powgasmic state. The clouds started coming in shutting out the alpine, but this didn’t limit options if you were into practicing white out navigation. We opted to trek out to Solace, a rarely visited part of the tenure towards the east. The run started out with 850m of choking blower fall line and just got better as we did laps in a full on Monashee storm coming in at rates of 3 – 4 cms/hour.
The downside of heading out so far is that you have to tour back. Fortunately the lodge provides an excellent geo-tagged map. A network of logging roads gives one quick easy return to the Lodge. Getting back by headlamps to appies and dinner isn’t a chore after a day of pow.
Snow kept up overnight and another 10-15cms fell overnight bringing the 2 day total to 25-35cms with quite a bit more in the alpine. We headed back to the South Fosthall Creek area banging out a 1800m day to come back to the lodge with flayed faces from pow, blown legs from trailbreaking and massive grins. Of course double helpings of dinner and dessert didn’t hurt.
A week of unguided catered skiing at Sol Mountain Lodge is approximately $1950 CAD per person. For rates and availability for different combinations (guided or otherwise check here). Bring spare goggles, gloves and snorkels.
(Sol Mountain Lodge supplied accommodations to Sharon and Lee, lodge owners and staff did not edit or have a say in the content of the article.)
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.