The Path To Powder


Eric Jackson getting it done. PHOTO: Scott Serfas

The flakes are dropping at well over an inch an hour. It seems foolish to go out under such conditions, but you only come here once I think as we unload the snowmobiles with former-Sledneck-turned-guide Jeremy Hanke. Jeremy has sent jumps and cliffs on his snowmobile that rivals what our crew would attempt on a board. We’re nervous and excited and rip off into the storm anyway. It turns out to be an aggressive day of ’neckin’, digging, and seeking in foggy, vertigo conditions and sled-swallowing snow.
“This is the deepest snow I’ve ever sledded in,” E-Jack laughs.

“Yeah, Jeremy, is this almost too deep for snowmobiling?” Danny asks.

“Yeah, we’re pretty close to it.” Jeremy replies. After a long day of searching for spots we return by night—cold, wet, exhausted, and stoked.

Tits Deep

This zone at Island Lake is called Amber’s Patch. It’s a long story and Craig Kelly was involved. That’s all we’re saying. PHOTO: Andy Wright

Our guide Al at Eagle Pass peps us as we head out of the staging room and onto the cold heli pad: “Nothin’ but blower white up dar, tits deep!” he says in a thick French-Canadian accent. He’s right. It’s literally that deep. The day of heli riding is insane and enough for Jack Mitrani’s grin to stretch even farther than normal. “That’s the deepest pow I’ve ever ridden,” Jack says. “That really changes the whole snowboard game for me.” I feel better knowing it isn’t just me.
I continue the tour down the Trans Canada Highway 95 to Island Lake Lodge with monstrous peaks on the horizon. There I hear similar, animated tales when I join up with Eero Niemela and DCP who are frothing at the nonstop snow. They’d been chowing face loads of the stuff with cat laps. Here, six hours south of Revy, the conditions are still prime—it’s almost inescapable.
Then the unthinkable happens—the clouds become thick—the weather warms, and all that was good is gone in the rip and rumble of avalanches. I try to savor the last bit with laps at Fernie Alpine Resort the next day, but it’s closed from the conditions too. Instead, I bide time with longtime photographer Mark Gallup. He takes me in and tells stories of when he and Craig Kelly used to explore this area, the inspiration they found here, and the magnetism of frozen peaks. The more we talk, the more I feel the pull too. I have to continue; I have to return North where it has stayed cold.

Back in Revelstoke, Austin Smith picks me up in his diesel flatbed. It’s late afternoon and we stop for gas and directions before heading farther north into the unknown. The drive wears on and the flakes become bigger and the road narrower. Soon the blinding snow has shrunk the passage to a one way of white. We keep pushing on, unsure if we came the right way, then the road ends and the destination appears—the warm CMH heli lodge deep in the Monashees.
Curtis Ciszek joins us now as the game of weather roulette begins. On no fly days we find ways to pass the time. We play a mindless game of nagel (smashing headless nails into a stump with a pointed hammer). We rack up a bar bill. We stretch, boulder, read, eat—basically do anything to keep active and away from dwelling on riding or weather.
“We really need to work on getting that heli budget, seriously, [Travis] Rice is on to something.” Curtis Ciszek jokes in the lounge as we all stare out into the flakes and fog.
When the weather finally lifts, the riding is on point. It’s the deepest yet and strewn with rollers galore. We find there’re over 300 “runs” here. We’ll be lucky if we tackle 20. Repeated pow days begin to run together, but the last day stands out—more new snow, stable conditions. Austin takes down arguably the largest pillow line I’ve ever seen, a five stack that’s well over 100 feet tall.
“I’ve had some powder days before, but this—this is unreal,” Austin says as he plops down in the snow. “This is the best day of snowboarding I have ever had, hands down.”

Boning is always the best when there’s lots of pillows around. Curtiz Ciszek knows this all too well. Monashees. PHOTO: Nick Hamilton

“Yeah, this is the best trip ever,” Curtis affirms.
And you know what? They’re 100-percent right. There is no other way to describe it. Greatest, finest, raddest—they all get the point across, but really, it is the best. Standing at the bottom of a run, after the biggest pillows, in the deepest, lightest snow imaginable, with some of your best friends and a big bird ready to take you right back up—it’s a place I’ve always imagined. And as we pile back into the heli, the strangest full feeling envelops me. The trees blur into toothpicks as we fly down the valley beneath the fog. A lone moose wades by the shore near the lodge. Amid the whirr and buzz of the turbine I relish this magical place I’ve never reached before. I could die now. I could never snowboard again. And I’d be completely happy.

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