After a wild ride through New Zealand in an unreliable Delica van, Kyle Miller landed back in the Northern Hemisphere. But our resident splitboard vagabond is a tough man to pin down, especially when the snowpacks are abnormally thin in the Pacific Northwest. Before we even knew he was stateside, Kyle was back on the road again, traveling north to Rogers Pass in the Canadian touring mecca of Glacier National Park. To keep us up to speed on his wanderings and his whereabouts, Kyle sent us this report of attending the Canuck Splitfest, linking up with Holly Walker and Liz Daley, touring into the Asulkan Hut with a big Washington crew, and slaying the famous lines of Forever Young and Seven Steps to Paradise in the heart of the Selkirks. —LYA Editor
Words by Kyle Miller, Images by John Cocci and Kyle Miller
It’s crazy to think that a little over a week earlier, I was enjoying the summer solstice in New Zealand, and now I was riding waist-deep blower powder in the Canadian Selkirks. I thought it would take a while to adjust, but after a few turns, the heat of summer was all but forgotten. Splitboarding has grown in numerous ways, from the gear to the number of people who share the slopes with skiers in pursuit of – fresh tracks and big adventures. I am in love with the terrain around Revelstoke, but I was out in the area to celebrate the 4th annual Canuck Splitfest, meet like-minded adventurers, and give a brief slideshow of my New Zealand winter and spring missions. The plan was to enjoy riding the local haunts around Rogers Pass, then do a side trip to the Asulkan Hut, a world-famous location with endless terrain options if weather is favorable. I packed my bags with the usual gear and it wasn’t long before I was living out of my duffel…again.
I headed north with my friends John Cocci and Scott Rinckenberger. Our nine-hour drive up to Revelstoke was uneventful. Three hours into the drive, we read a sign indicating Rogers Pass was closed due to avalanche activity, but we decided to take a chance and go for it. Fortunately we were able to make it to the outskirts of Revelstoke around 6 p.m., with enough time for some dinner and packing for an early departure the next day. We were awakened in the morning by the sound of an alarm, letting us know our peaceful sleep had come to an end and it was time to get moving.
We decided on a breakfast buffet after hearing that it had snowed almost 50cm (2 feet) in the past few days. With snow still settling and the sky filled with clouds, we decided to go to an area called McGill Shoulder, which is filled with steep trees that allow for safe navigation and minimal exposure to avalanche terrain. Once arriving at the parking lot, we met up with a group of six additional snowboarders, so we were now up to nine people. We made our way up the slope, breaking a knee-deep skin track along the way. Once on the summit, we knew conditions would be amazing, and one by one we made our way down, the face shots delivered on every turn verifying how good it really was. Once at the bottom, we gathered. While the main group was done for the day, our party of three decided to head up for one final lap, taking advantage of the last two hours of sun. That night we refueled on food and made a generalized plan based on the forecast, which was calling for sunny skies.
The forecast came true as we drove up to the Rogers Pass visitor center and grabbed permits for a local area called the Hermit Zone, which had an abundant amount of alpine, affording both amazing views and fall-line riding. From the moment we starting skinning, we knew it would be an awesome day. The terrain around us was smothered in new snow, with trees buried in a heavy snowpack, millions of buried rocks turned into pillows, and big peaks standing proud all around us. Occasionally we would break trail, which was excruciatingly slow, but near the end of the day we found ourselves summiting an area called Grizzly Shoulder. Below us dropped over 5,000 feet of fall line riding but, looking at our watches, we had only 45 minutes of daylight left. We ripped off our skins and let gravity do its part. I expected the snow conditions to change as we got lower on the slopes, but top to bottom the snow stayed light and dry, having us exit within 5 minutes of our parking spot. In total, our run took us 30 minutes and every turn was deep, untracked snow, but this is the usual at Rogers Pass.
The festival was a total success and while everyone else seemed to be heading toward home, we were packing for a 3-day trip up to the Asulkan Hut to take advantage of high pressure and amazing conditions. We met our friend Holly Walker at the hotel and then made the quick 3-hour skin up to the hut, where our friends Liz Daley and Blaine Warner were packed up and ready to head back down to the parking lot. We said our hellos and got some input on conditions before saying goodbye, throwing our stuff in the hut and heading out for a sunset run. We skinned up with astounding views of glaciated terrain surrounding us and made our descent directly back to the hut, where we met six other Washingtonians who had also migrated to the Pass in hopes of good conditions. That night we all shared plans and made an early departure for our sleeping bags.
One by one, everyone made it out of their sleeping bags and started cooking breakfast. We were all in a race with the sunrise, wanting to take advantage of every second of daylight. Our group enjoyed a nice breakfast of french toast (breakfast is important) and made our way up an area referred to as the Seven Steps to Paradise, finally arriving at the summit plateau about two hours later. There are two areas around the Asulkan that are considered dream lines. One of them is the direct descent of the Seven Steps, and the other is a 3,000-vert couloir named Forever Young. Knowing the couloir had been skied the day before by Liz and Blaine, we decided to head that way.
The line looked both aesthetic and filled in with soft edge-able snow, so one by one we made our way down a line worthy of being called a dream line, arriving at the bottom with huge grins on our faces, excited and wondering what to do next. Good weather in the region is rare and we still had the afternoon to work with, so we decided to go for Seven Steps. The conditions on the second 3,000-foot run were top-to-bottom untracked and knee- to waist-deep along the way. We knew we had scored–riding both famous lines in a single day–arriving back at the hut as a front slammed into the region, dropping quarter-sized snowflakes and burying the skintrack within minutes. We knew the next day would be storm riding. Upon our arrival at the hut, Liz and Blaine had come back to stay the night. We had a blast, doing everything from playing cards to having a calf competition, before a toothbrush dance party and heading off to our sleeping bags.
We woke up with better weather than expected. The clouds hung around the top of the alpine peaks and we decided to head for lower, tree-covered slopes. We made sure to be aware of and cautious about avalanche conditions, making our way down one at a time and always within sight of one another. The snow was deep and getting deeper by the second. By our third run, we decided to go find some pillows that we had seen across the valley. Within a 45-minute skin, we were descending a pillow zone that delivered 20-foot drops in abundance before putting us on a steep spined wall. These spines held the deepest snow of the trip, with each turn exploding all around you and providing face shots of epic proportions. I wanted the run to never end, but after about 20 minutes we were back into the valley and heading towards the hut for one final night of drying out the gear and feeding on the last of our food. We decided we would leave first thing in the morning since we had a minimum 9-hour drive to get back to Seattle.
We thought the exit would take hours, but within an hour and a half our gear was packed into the car and we were on our way back to the States. This trip confirmed my love for the greater Revelstoke region since there are not many gems in North America that can compare with such great peaks surrounded by roadside access, with moisture that comes down light and dry due to the northern latitude. I didn’t expect the weather to work out the way it did, but it was perfect—sunshine when we wanted to go big, and cloudy when the snow needed time to stabilize. When I first landed back home in Seattle from New Zealand, I thought it would take a while to adjust back to winter, but all it took was an amazing trip to Revelstoke with a few good friends.
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