Chasing Chargers - Skiing at Tunnel Creek

Chasing Chargers - Skiing at Tunnel Creek

Sometimes you just want to charge. Sometimes you want to bring together a super strong party of skiers so that you can pick any line on the mountain and know that every person there can drop in and rip.

I really enjoy the mentorship side of things when it comes to doing stuff in the mountains. The mountains are amazing places and I like helping people experience that. It’s incredibly rewarding. The result though, is that I spend a lot of time on trips with mixed skill levels and picking terrain accordingly.

It’s not like I’m an awesome skier though; there are a bunch skiers in my circle of friends that can kick my ass.

A while back it occurred to me that it would be cool to put together a party for a trip where I was the worst skier there. It would make for a trip that would push my technical skiing – I really liked that idea. So, I booked the Tunnel Creek Hut and then emailed a few friends who can spank me on the down and asked who wanted to go skiing.

The party we assembled was epic.

 Sheena – an ex-racer who is a 5’2” monster on skis - most rock solid technique I've ever seen.

Sheena – an ex-racer who is a 5’2” monster on skis - most rock solid technique I've ever seen.

 Kyle – the sort of guy who’ll huck cliffs, nuke trees and just basically charge the terrain.

Kyle – the sort of guy who’ll huck cliffs, nuke trees and just basically charge the terrain.

 Gig – an old team mate of Sheena, he’s like a combination of the two. Racer technique right off a cliff.

Gig – an old team mate of Sheena, he’s like a combination of the two. Racer technique right off a cliff.

Couldn't ask for a better group to kick my ass.

So, we had a hard charging party, a hut and a weekend with a questionable forecast.

Leading up, I was worried the weather was going to suck or the avi danger was going to be stupid high – either of which would have spoiled my plan as it would have kept us from really getting after it. Nothing for it but to cross my fingers.

Friday night, with an encouraging avi bulletin but questionable weather, we drove out to Fernie, BC and stayed with Kyle’s incredibly welcoming family.

Saturday morning, we loaded up the car and drove the 20 minutes out of town to the Tunnel Creek trailhead, got our skins on and started up. The ‘trail’ is actually a logging road most of the way so you can actually get up to the hut pretty quickly – as in we got there by lunch.
When we had gotten up earlier that morning things were pretty socked in and things didn’t improve much during the slog to the hut. We stopped to eat and try to come up with a plan as we looked at topos.

 Sheena arriving at the hut.

Sheena arriving at the hut.

Kyle let us know that there were lines off pointy thing called Planetary Peak that he’d always wanted to ski, but had never had the weather for. We therefore decided that given the not-perfect weather, we’d tour directly up through the trees North of the hut and work with that. If the weather improved, we could head West towards Planetary Peak, if not, we could milk the steep tree lines above the hut.

At the top of the ridge above the hut, we skied a super fun North aspect line down through some steep trees into the bowl below Planetary. As we stood down there looking up the mountain, we managed to convince ourselves that we could see enough of things to make something work off of Planetary.

 Gig and Kyle bust out the adventure saw to do a little trail grooming on the way up.

Gig and Kyle bust out the adventure saw to do a little trail grooming on the way up.

We skinned West up the ridge and as we got to the top of a sweet looking line, things suddenly started to really clear. As we de-skinned, things went from whiteout to borderline good visibility. I got a good vantage from which I could get some photos of the crew and one after another Gig, Kyle, and Sheena tore into the line. No core shots, no badness, just wicked skiing.

 Gig threads through the trees

Gig threads through the trees

Kyle’s been up there a few times and this was the first time conditions had ever come together enough that he could ski a line off of Planetary. Here we were knocking out one of these illusive lines on only our second lap of the trip.

 Kyle launches into his first line on Planetary Peak

Kyle launches into his first line on Planetary Peak

Skins on, charge back up the mountain. Sheena and I skied one side of the mountain while Gig and Kyle traversed to the other and we met again at the bottom, grinning like idiots. Solid stability, good boot-top snow, can’t really ask for much more.

 Kyle celebrates nuking another line on Planetary Peak

Kyle celebrates nuking another line on Planetary Peak

Having knocked out three runs including two in Planetary Bowl, we popped back South over the col and ripped down to the hut through some awesome trees and slide paths. Back at the hut we ate a monster pile of cheese and crackers that Gig brought up, drank the finest box of wine Sheena could find and then had a giant batch of Spaghetti Bolognese. We then steadily burned those calories staying warm in the hut which never seemed to want to get quite warm enough.

 I'm outside taking photos while everyone stays warm inside...

I'm outside taking photos while everyone stays warm inside...

Sunday morning, we woke up just a touch hung over and started pouring over the maps again. Kyle had never worked his way farther up the valley due to the perpetually lousy weather up there and given that the morning dawned bluebird, we decided to check that area out. 
We headed West of the hut to a North facing slope punctuated by a ridge. We’d found some sun crust on South facing stuff the day before and were hoping to avoid it while still getting tree skiing in. 

It turned out we’d had exactly the right idea. We found incredible steep trees. The spacing is perfect for skiing and it’s mostly large, mature trees so nothing’s grabbing you. The lines aren’t super long – generally around 200m, but quick laps let us explore a few different aspects and we never found anything that wasn’t awesome.

 Sheena gets articulated in the trees

Sheena gets articulated in the trees

Eventually we realized that if we didn’t start making some progress towards the cars we were going to run out of daylight before we got there, so we headed back to the hut to clean up and grab our stuff.

 Kyle charging the trees

Kyle charging the trees

From the hut we had two options – ski straight to the car back down the road or tour up to the top of a route called Home Run which swaps half of the logging road slog for yet more steep tree skiing. My advice to anyone visiting Tunnel Creek is always take Home Run as your way back – it was possibly the best line of the weekend.

The whole weekend was fantastic and exactly what I’d been looking for. I got to ski with a great group of skiers, all of whom can ski the pants off of me. We never skied a line that was too crazy technical, but it pushed me to ski quickly. Instead of dithering in the trees to figure out the best line, I found myself committing to lines and making things work – exactly what I was hoping for.

 Couldn't ask for a better group

Couldn't ask for a better group

While Tunnel Creek is a basic and in some ways less than ideal hut (the outhouse is a disaster at the moment and the place would benefit from better insulation), it’s location is very possibly my new favourite place to hang out.

Great people, great destination, great snow, great weekend.

Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.