We haven’t been to Canada since the start of the pandemic; Louie and I were itching to ski that fine Canadian pow. The Pacific Northwest has mainly gifted us atmospheric rivers. And with slim margins, temps have fallen on the wrong side of freezing. The weather destroyed any snowpack that had a chance to form under 7k elevation, so skiing locally hasn’t really been worth it.
Louie had found decent conditions at the Asulkan in November before, and as he watched the Alpine Club of Canada open up winter reservations, he jumped on it. We decided to spend this Thanksgiving in the mountains with a few friends.
The Asulkan Cabin sits at the head of the Asulkan Valley at Roger Pass in British Columbia’s Glacier National park. There’s a bounty of skiing found around the hut, both in the alpine and tucked in the trees, making it suitable for most weather and avalanche conditions. The hut has a heater, propane cooking stove and lights. Bunk beds on the upper level sleep up to 12 people – sleeping pads included. The kitchen is well stocked with pots, pans, plates, and utensils.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading travelling across the border for the first time in over two years. There were some hurdles: we had to get a covid test result within 72 hours of testing, fill out various forms online, plus the general stress of border crossing was getting to me. Thankfully, everything went smoothly. We were tested, received the results within the right window, and crossed the border with no issues.
We drove from North Bend to Revelstoke in a single day, spent the night, and arrived at the Rogers Pass visitor center Wednesday morning. To enter the Asulkan, you need to purchase permits ahead of time. The AAC website does a great job outlining what is needed, we thought, but somehow we still got confused. Learn from us: the required permits include an overnight parking permit (group, for each car left at the trailhead), overnight winter permit (individual), backcountry camping permit (individual), and a national park pass (per car or individual).
After sorting all the permits and ensuring we left the correct information on our car dash (a friendly ranger even stopped by to check as we were packing up), we skinned towards the Asulkan cabin. The approach took about four hours, measuring at ~seven miles and ~3500 feet of gain. On the last 200 feet of our climb, a relentless wind greeted us, discouraging us from leaving the hut to ski that day. We settled in, listening to gusting sounds outside, debugging the less than functional heater, and sipping whiskey to stay warm.
When we arrived at the hut, the temp inside was a frigid 3°C. For the conversion wary, that’s roughly 37 degrees Fahrenheit; we’ll call it brisk. We were hopeful the heater would kick in to warm up the hut eventually; we remembered it being toasty on our previous trips. That never really happened. Thankfully, we all brought suitable sleeping bags, so outside of the discomfort of wearing all our layers while hanging out, we were cozy while sleeping. Surprisingly, our gear dried just fine.
The following day the winds still whipped near the hut, but it was much calmer in the tree-triangle right below. After breakfast, we headed down to enjoy some pow; the upper portion of the tree triangle was a bit variable, but we couldn’t complain about skiing light-ish variable snow – a luxury that currently doesn’t exist back home. We spent all day lapping the trees, feasting on pillows, hooting and hollering. Those same strong winds buffeted heading back up to the hut, and as we settled into our home for another night. Kristen and Connor cooked up a feast for Thanksgiving dinner (the hut warmed to 13 C!) and had more whiskey. We wrapped the night up with an enthusiastic game of Durak.
We woke to calmer weather and the heater finally cooperating. Breakfast and clean-up in a warm hut; much better. We weren’t sure what snow conditions to expect given the wind but were pleasantly surprised as we descended below the hut. All the variable pow was now covered with about 10 inches of perfection: smooth, light, gorgeous snow. We skied to the bottom of the tree-triangle, picked a tree to hang our overnight gear, then headed up for more face shots. Our strategy was to wait until the next group crossed into the tree-triangle on their way in, ensuring a nice track was set for us for our way out – the plan worked.
It was such a treat to be able to get back up to Canada early this year, being gifted with stellar conditions even without making it out into the alpine. I’ll let the photos fill in any gaps. Here is to hoping the next atmospheric river in PNW flows as snow.
Read more about Asulkan.
WildSnow Girl, Julia Dubinina, is a weekend warrior chasing snow in winter and sun in summer. A lover of long tours and steep skin tracks, she explores the Pacific Northwest and beyond. When she is not out adventuring, she is working away at her corporate desk job for a software company to make her next adventure happen.