Lone Wolf: Sled in, wreck shop, sled out-snowmobiling the B.C. Backcountry

“The cabin’s a long way from where you park, probably a full hour by snowmobile,”photographer Curtis Kroy warned as I jotted down directions to Lone Wolf over the phone. If reality wasanything like the stories Curtis had told me about the area surrounding Lone Wolf cabin, we were in forsome seriously great snowboarding.

“The snow is deeper and drier than Whistler, and there are tons of amazing steep lines and chutes, all accessible by snowmobile,” he said. I couldn’t wait to judge for myself. I was counting on the longer spring days to get me in to the cabin before dark, but by the time I got my shittogether and left Whistler it was already late afternoon. The others had been at the cabin for a few days andplanned on sledding out to meet me at a predetermined point on the trail, but I must admit I felt a littleanxious making such a long, gnarly snowmobile trip alone. As I drove north, towing my sled behind me, Ipassed through the town of Pemberton. A few hours outside of Whistler I started to climb the steep gravelswitch backs of the pass, and after an hour of gravel crunching and pothole pounding, I finally reached mysnowy destination.

Ahhh. I turned off the engine and stepped out into a cold, dark, silent night. My minddrifted, and I wondered if this is the kind of silence a lone wolf might experience while wandering through thesolitude of the mountains … Whoa! It was definitely time to fire up my sled and hit the trail. The snow wascovered in sled tracks, and all I had to do was follow them. I rode up the smooth pass, jumping a fewroadside bumps here and there. After roughly twenty minutes I reached back to make sure my load wassecure. Backpack? Check. Snowboard? “Shit,” I said under my breath. I turned around and spent the nexttwenty minutes backtracking in search of my board. I found it eventually, but not laying on the side of thetrail somewhere. It’d been hooked to a strap of my backpack and was dragging behind my sled the entiretime.

Needless to say, I felt rather stupid and was now even later for my meeting with the boys. I carried on,down the road lined with big mountain hemlocks and fir trees, and eventually approached a fork with a signthat read “Bralorne.” Yes! This was where we planned to rendezvous (or so I thought). I turned off mymachine and listened to all the sounds of the forest and watched as the sky revealed patches of bright stars. Iwas at least two hours late and there was no sign of my friends, but as I recalled Curtis’ descriptions of theterrain and the snow, I knew I could never turn back. I was prepared to spend a cold night in themountains-there was no way I going to miss this experience. The boys had to show! I heard the faint noiseof snowmobiles in the distance, and before long two lights came into view. A pair of sleds pulled up besideme, and I was never so happy to see two Pemberton rednecks out on an evening cruise. We bullshitted abit, and I explained my situation to them. They hadn’t seen any other snowmobiles that night, but knewwhere the cabin was and offered me detailed directions. We said our good-byes and I charged ahead.

Eventually I saw some lights coming toward me in the distance. More rednecks? I was stoked to find CurtisKroy and Brad McGregor-my search party had arrived. They were happy I’d made it safely, and excitedlytold me about the foot-and-a-half of new snow and the clear skies expected the next day. Finally I steppedinto the cabin, relieved to be among friends. It was small-two cots, a table, and an old wood stove as warmas the smiling faces greeting me. I met our guide Eric Smith, who was not only familiar with the area’smountains, but also quite handy with the skillet. He explained that the cabin was built by his snowmobile clubsome years back. Jason McAlister and Marcus Egge were also present-perfect company for this crazy littlecabin.

Other riders had made the trip out to Lone Wolf over the course of the season, including DaveBasterrechea, Jube Bernard, rtin Gallant, and Marc Morisset to name a handful. It’d been a taxing dayand I was ready to get some sleep. The cots had long since been spoken for, so it was the Therm-a-rest andsleeping-bag program for me. Brrr, what a cold night! My ears were stinging in the morning. Six-thirty camepretty quickly, but I could see first light already beaming on a magnificent mountain face through the cabin’sonly window. Despite the mental picture I’d created when Curtis described the area on the phone, I wasn’tprepared for what I witnessed when I opened the cabin door. The mountains were so spectacular, I justcouldn’t believe it; the stories were understated. A crisp, clear sled ride to get water led Marcus and me to atiny stream where we cracked the ice to get the bucket in. Then Eric cooked up some hot oats, perfect tofuel us through the day. Under clear, blue skies and surrounded by fresh pow, it was time to make it happen.

We unanimously decided to start with the face visible from the cabin window, and made a direct line for itthrough an open bowl and up the shoulder at about 70 miles per hour. Eric dug a pit and noticed someinstability at ten inches. He gauged the avalanche danger to be moderate, but said, “The face is short andposes no serious threat.” While he assessed stability, we were up top scoping other lines we couldn’t wait tohit next. We heard Eric’s report on the radio and waited for the green light from the cameramen. “Okay,come on down,” we heard after a few minutes. “Three, two, one, dropping,” I called over the radio as Ipointed it to pick up speed. The snow was deep and I could barely see my board as it submerged. Theslope began to roll away so I checked my speed, then dropped over a small rock. The landing was plush,and I pointed it to the bottom, smiling the whole way. Marcus went next; I couldn’t believe the size of theplumes he was making as he turned above a large cliff band. Then, without slowing down, he popped a nicetail-snatcher off a 30-foot cliff and was right beside me in no time. Jason approached a line farther over. Helaunched over a nice cliff, but the slope fractured when he landed. Realizing what was happening, hestraight-lined it to the bottom, easily outrunning the slide. The fracture was about a foot deep, just as Erichad called it.

At that point, we decided it’d be best to give the new snow on the bigger terrain another day tostabilize after the storm. Back on our sleds, we cruised to the other side of the huge bowl and found one ofthe most fun hits of my season. It had a good kick with a nice, steep landing. We sessioned it for a while,using the sleds and the guide to shuttle us back to the top. By early afternoon the clouds rolled in, so wedropped our gear off at the cabin and headed out on a mission to discover new lines. We ripped up andover saddles, between mountains, then down into valleys with ice caves and snowfields, each new horizonrevealing a thousand snowboard possibilities. You could literally ride forever out here. Morning once againgreeted us with cloudless skies. Curtis mentioned this place is notorious for clear days when everywhere elseis gray or snowing. We enjoyed a leisurely morning, sipping cowboy coffee and chewing on bagels. Thesurroundings were peaceful and relaxing and there was no panic to get going. But once we fired up thesleds, we hit everything-steep chutes, huge cliff drops, and wind lips that shot us up like human cannonballs.

The conditions were great, but not without hazard. Jason, the avalanche magnet, just managed to stop safelyabove a slide as it tore off half the mountain. We took that as a sign to call it quits and head back. At thecabin we watched the sunset, our last one since we’d be riding out the next day, and I was again struck bythe beauty of the area. We casually packed up our gear the next morning and prepared to leave-a goodthing because out of nowhere about fifteen hardcore snowmobilers showed up on extra-loud sleds. Theywere boozing on some crazy shit from a three-gallon gas can. They explained how they’d heard about thisgreat sledding place called Lone Wolf, then one of them decided to drop ’em and show us his ass. “Time togo,” someone muttered. I had mixed feelings as we rode out. I’d had a mind-blowing mountain experienceand ridden some of the best terrain I’ve seen, but I was also a little sad knowing this lone wolf would soonhave plenty of company.me crazy shit from a three-gallon gas can. They explained how they’d heard about thisgreat sledding place called Lone Wolf, then one of them decided to drop ’em and show us his ass. “Time togo,” someone muttered. I had mixed feelings as we rode out. I’d had a mind-blowing mountain experienceand ridden some of the best terrain I’ve seen, but I was also a little sad knowing this lone wolf would soonhave plenty of company.