Words: Brett Menter, Photos: Drew Copeland & Brett Menter
It’s time to scrape the wax, patch the gore-tex, and ready our kits for the new season. Tuning in to another season of early mornings and long days doesn’t come effortlessly. This time of year the majority of us are itching to get out into the hills and follow our splitboarding inspirations; however, remembering to tune in mentally is the most important pre-season assignment. As we patiently browse the satellite and radar images, practice transceiver searches, and dial in our layering systems, we set intentions for that first big touring mission and stay focused on the longevity of our snowboarding careers.
Finding myself based in the Coast Mountain of British Columbia for the start of this year, I can’t help but experience excitement, motivation, and a sense of purpose. My early season goals are similar to most; getting back splitboard fitness, getting the rust off my rescue skills, and dialing in my weather and snow forecasting. The beginning of the season here on the coast can be challenging, with freezing levels threatening to drench the alpine in rain at any moment. With an early season Pineapple Express, that’s exactly what happened. A warm Southwest flow brought warm air and undesired rain into the alpine and put most people on a hold as the ski quality was heavily affected by the event.
Jocelyn and Frederique crossing a scree field during the first portion of walk in. Photo: Brett Menter
Fear not. After the warm low pressure system, temperatures started to drop and snow crystals layered the hills once again. For myself and three of my friends, we took our calling from the high mountains and planned our first multi-day touring trip of the season. As we all have different experience levels and objectives in mind, communication commenced as we manifested our plan and set stoke upon a distant location. Our plan was to locate a remote cabin accessed by the Duffy Lake Road northeast of Pemberton, BC. We had 75+ kilometers of highway, 10+ kilometers of forest service road, and 8+ kilometers of bush whacking to bring us to the remote cabin.
Touring up from the hut with lots of stoke and mouth breathing. Photo: Brett Menter (L to R Frederique, Drew, Jocelyn)
With a wood-burning heater, stylin’ stereo set-up, and a functional roof, this hut provided the much needed base-camp for our team’s desired early season trip. With the stoke meter on high, we ventured up to the cabin, dropped our sleeping gear and food, and proceeded to lap a mellow short run before the sun set on us. The surface snow was soft as temperatures hovered around -5C during the day. Although all the fresh cold snow was accumulating on a significant rain crust, the feeling of stellar dendrites under our skis provided permanent smiles and endless psych.
Brett looking down at a short, but fun line on the last day. Photo: Drew Copeland
Setting our intentions on snowpack observations and fun descents, we made our way into the alpine around the hut and stayed conservative on our first trip. While observing the snowpack on mostly NW-N-NE aspects, we noticed surface instabilities and combined with moderate wind and low visibility, proceeded to locate safe and fun climbing and riding objectives. The instabilities came from a poor bonding between the recent snow load and the bulletproof snowpack that existed before. I personally ski-cut 2, size 1 soft slab avalanches and we observed 2, size 1.5’s. Not huge by any standard, but eye opening and clear snowpack information. Anticipating where small avalanches will occur can be very advantageous in complex terrain. And remembering our goal to stay safe motivated smart choices for the start of this season.
Brett enjoying a soft heel-side slash. Photo: Drew Copeland
Overall, the riding quality was very good and we made ample time for rescue practice and dance parties in the cabin. With our snow fitness developing and our mental awareness building again, we feel content with our early season journey and live to ride on. Descending to our truck three days after arriving felt a bit too soon, but we desired hot pizza and cold beer. With a load of laundry and couple days rest, this hills will call once again.
A delicate creek crossing at the end of the trip. Photo: Brett Menter