From the Road – Four Girls on The Powder Highway

February 07, 2017

Road trips almost never go as planned, and dirtbag trips don’t have much of a plan to begin with. As much as anyone tries to hold onto the reins, at some point you just accept what’s thrown your way - what could go wrong, what could go right, and what will happen next? Earlier this month ladies from across the west came together for a Canadian ski trip that I suggested on a whim. The bumps along the way are what make these trips so great. 

I started driving north while checking the new snow report for Alta. 11” overnight?! Whew…It’s okay, Powder Highway here I come. 12 hours, two pick up detours, and a night in Bozeman later, I had Amy David and Mackenzie Lisac in tow. One way or another we packed three girls, seven pairs of skis, four pairs of boots, a drone box, a stool (I’m vertically challenged), snacks, three handles, and about five 6-packs into my Jeep Renegade.

Not long after leaving Bozeman did we discover I was the only one who knew how to drive a manual. Thankfully Mackenzie decided she could be the first victim of my driving instruction course. I don’t know that I’ve laughed so hard while simultaneously fearing for my life when coming to a stop sign before. We rolled into Fernie hours later than we planned and naturally I misplaced my Yakima box key. Shit…is this how it’s going to be for the rest of the trip?

After joining Emily Tidwell and meeting up with my friend John, we unloaded our other gear and stacked the skis inside my Jeep. For the next two nights, we crashed in the employee housing/ hostel living room where John lives. Amy and Mackenzie snagged the couches, while Emily and I took the floor under the table for some “shade” from the hall lights - which couldn’t be turned off. 

Emily and I started a ritual of sharing Dayquil packs in the morning that lasted throughout the trip. Mackenzie also introduced us to “sludge”, a gnarly green slime made of God knows what, to kick the funk we were all getting. Fernie was our first stop, and while it was absurdly frigid, our one and only day there left us yearning for more. It’s the type of place I want a storm chase my way back to. The resort itself and the backcountry access off the lifts deserve at least a week to explore. It was also where I began to realize just how cruel my transition into my new boots would be. The Harvey Pass tour we had planned the next day was unfortunately cut out due to wind affected snow, but I can’t complain about the hot springs hunt we replaced the tour with.

In addition to the hot springs find, we bought walkie talkies (a hilarious necessity for life on the road), scored some gas station raccoon hats, and I FOUND THE YAKIMA KEY! Phew! Next on the list was Sunshine Village. In all honesty, there should be a distracted driving warning in Banff National Park. Something along the lines of  “BEWARE: epic views may lead to accidental swerving and/ or unexpected off-roading.” We couldn’t have timed the Sunshine Village leg of the trip much better. A bluebird day there is a jaw-dropping panorama, and the sunset is even better.

At last we made it to Jess Oundjian’s house in Revelstoke -  “The Futon Palace” was our home base for the next several days. We spent the next afternoon getting our bearings on the hill. Crystal clear visibility made it a bit easier to find our way around. A rarity for Revelstoke I’ve been told. However, those unclouded views did mean that it was not snowing and hadn’t for a few days. In the meantime, my phone was being flooded with updates on canyon delays, interlodges and backcountry closures from the storm I left back in Utah. Every. Single. Day. Luckily pitches like this were a welcomed distraction.

Low and behold we were finally treated to a powder day on the powder highway! In contrast to Little Cottonwood Canyon, finding un-skied terrain here is a dream, both on storm days and those following. There are nooks and crannies, pillow lines, and access gates galore. We met up with Sydney Ricketts at the start of the day, befriended a crew of Tahoe skiers and set off to ski. Right off the bat, two of the guys in the crew ended up needing stitches and a reset shoulder. A case of cliff induced powday overzealousness… Jess, who happened to be a volunteer patrol, elected to stay behind to help and let the rest of us romp around the mountain in the ultimate powder-day pack.

I found myself having so much fun that I fully neglected the fact that I hadn’t felt my feet for hours. That night my big toes were slightly discolored and swollen. At first I thought it was bad toe-bang.  I slowly came to realize… nope… frostbite. I ignored it the following day (I do not recommend) and in the end, I had to have Amy and Mackenzie go after my toenail with a hot needle to relieve the pressure.  I BootGlove'd up (yes you read that correctly, the Jerry-fix) for the last two days and had an incredible time with our random super crew. Amy and Sydney shredded the competition there at the end of the week and then we booked it back to ski the new Wasatch snow.

All in all, between the miscellaneous mishaps and Utah powder FOMO, our trip up north was a blast. I tested out my dirtbag hostess gifts (beer, whisky, bacon, and toilet paper), added an ingredient to my hot toddy recipe (ginger), skied some pooder 'eh? and met new shred friends from what will likely be the next dirtbag trip location.  Other than frostbite, the only thing I would change about our mission up north was the storm timing. Until I learn how to control the weather I guess that’s just how it goes. Boot heaters are nearly acquired; in the meantime you’ll find me rocking my incredibly stylish BootGloves at the top of highboy at Alta. Exited to see what happens next, stay tuned - game on! 

-Katie Hitchcock

Images: Emily Tidwell