The mountains are in charge.
Make no mistake, Whistler has some of the best resort-accessed backcountry in North America but it’s incredibly important to never take anything for granted out there. The peaks and bowls surrounding our ski hill boundaries are big, beautiful and just beyond the rope but no one should ever venture out of bounds without the proper knowledge, training and equipment. Or you could just go with a professional mountain guide.
Guided backcountry skiing offers any strong skier or rider a chance to get out and taste the solitude and beauty of the Coast Mountains in a safe and supervised manner. Whistler’s guides are world class, certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) which essentially means they put as much time into their education as your average doctor does. These are serious mountain professionals who have parlayed a love of the outdoors into a career where they get to share the stoke.
On tours like the Extremely Canadian Backcountry Adventure (featured in the video above) guides like Keith Reid not only impart key safety and rescue knowledge, they also take skiers out to whatever zones are safe and snowy at the time. For us, that meant knee-deep pow turns in the glades off the backside of Flute Peak but with thirteen glaciers spread across the 35-km Spearhead range stretched between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, there is really no limit to the variety of world-class terrain a Whistler guide can dip into.
LEFT:A sunny day out back. Photo-Mark Going. RIGHT:Guide Keith Reid checks snow stability. Photo-Jackson Huang.
Granted, ski touring is not for everyone — there are no chairlifts once you leave the ski hill boundaries, no free rides. Backcountry adventurers need to be ready for a self-powered journey that involves skinning/hiking back up after bagging all those un-tracked turns. Participants need to have skills on their sticks but as far as the hike back up goes, pro guides always travel at the pace of their slowest group member.
“You don’t need to be an athlete,” Keith says. “But you do want to be in decent shape.” Call it sweat equity but there is a definite feeling of reward that comes with earning your turns out in the silent, pristine wilderness. That it’s just a short jaunt away from all the amenities of North America’s premier mountain resort is just a bonus. A day out back makes the hot tub all that much better.