Thunder Meadows round 3: The winter edition

Above: the crew from left to right, Michael, Jeremy, Willsy, Germaine, Rob and Alaina.

It’s been a while since the last posting, not that there has been a lack of exciting things to write about but mainly due to laziness and procrastination have the updates been slow coming. That aside a couple weeks ago I got to tick off a Fernie bucket list item, that is venturing up to the TM cabin in winter time.

I’ve always had a romantic notion of hiking out into the back country in winter and staying in a cabin over night. Not the erotic kind, but an adventure that would be physically demanding and at the same time rewarding with untouched snow and an always fun taste of cabin life. Having done the hike now twice in summer, I was eagre to trade the hiking boots for skis and skins and make the journey up before the season and snow would be done.

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A group of 7 of us made the drive early in the morning to the carpark at Island Lake and after a final check of equipment, made our first skin tracks up the road in the light rain. Having met the night before to discuss a route, we followed the road for a decent 20 minute skin until we turned into the Old Growth Forest track. We consulted some photos that we found online to help guide us, as apart from this, it would be difficult to find your way especially if it was the first time heading up to the hut in winter or summer (I will post some pictures of the maps/guides at the end).

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The initial skin was a good warm up for what was to be 3.5 hrs of uphill along a well set track on cabin ridge and then into cabin bowl for the final ascent. We would have ideally liked to set off from the ski resort from Polar Peak down into Polaris bowl and easy street however the day before there had been a fatality after a young girl had fallen from a cliff, so the chair was closed. Despite this sobering fact, it was satistying to have completed the slog all the way from the carpark and it didn’t take long before we all cracked the first celebratory drink at the top.

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After arriving at the cabin (which looked much different buried in metres of snow) we made quick work of lighting the stove, melting some snow for drinking water and refuelling for the afternoon whilst Michael dug a pit out the front to examine the snow pack. The days sun and relatively mild temperatures had softened up the snow nicely for a couple of quick afternoon laps but tired legs forced us into a chilled out afternoon and some shenanigans.

After dinner, drinks and some cabin chat we all decided to put our head torches to good use and boot packed up in the dark for a night lap.  Under an almost full moon, we got a few turns in accompanied by a pyrotechnics show from Willsy. It was definitely one of those Fernie moments that makes you appreciate living here (pics below from Willsy).

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After a decent nights sleep we woke to find the temperatures had dipped quite a bit and the nice spring like slush we had skied in the afternoon had now turned hard and crusty. The sun was covered by a decent layer of cloud and after a quick scouting mission up the ridge, some weather blew in and led to momentary white out conditions. We all decided to head back down to the cars as we were all low on food and didn’t want to wait til the afternoon for the snow to soften up.

After a cruisey descent and a sweaty skate through slush back to the carpark, we had all made it back in one piece. It wasn’t the amazing powder that I had envisioned however it was still a very enjoyable trip and drove home the fact that the turns on the way down are only part of the whole experience. There is talk of some other mates doing a trip up there in the coming week so hopefully I’ll get to go again before the snow is well and truly gone (as I write this it’s 25 degrees outside!!!)

Cheers 🙂

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