Icefall Lodge: A week in Winter Wonderland

In January of 2016, Korey Heatherington, Ian Hamilton, and Danny Arnold took a dream trip to Icefall Lodge, a heli-accessed touring paradise outside of Golden, BC. Here’s the trip report from Ian.

I first heard of Icefall Lodge in the summer of 2015 while I was beginning to plan out my winter.  Bill at Revision contacted me and extended an invitation to do a week long stay at an awesome lodge outside Golden, BC.  When I found out my best buddy Danny Arnold was also going on the trip I was completely sold.  I had never been on touring trip for a entire week, especially not one deep in helicopter-accessed mountains. 

As it snowed more and more throughout December my anticipation built.  At the start of January I flew to Vancouver to shred a couple days at Whistler Blackcomb before linking up with Korey Heatherington for the 8 hour drive to Golden.  After an eventful trip with car breakdowns and snowstorms, we all managed to get ourselves to the meeting point to fly into the lodge. 

Sunset outside of Golden, British Columbia at Icefall Lodge.

The flight in was awe-inspiring.  Gigantic peaks and expansive glaciers entranced us as we stared out the window of the heli.  After a short flight we touched down right in front of the three-story Icefall Lodge.  After unpacking Danny immediately crashed into his bed for some well deserved travel recovery while Korey and I did a little exploring and jump building.  The first thing that struck us was the absolute enormity of the terrain around Icefall. 

Nestled between avalanche paths at 6000 feet, Icefall Lodge offers easy access to both alpine and tree skiing.  There is terrain to please anyone from the hardcore mountaineer to the mellow tree skier.  The added benefit of this wide range of terrain is there are places to ski no matter how dangerous the avalanche conditions become.  The lodge itself is a paradise despite being so far from civilization.  We had three delicious meals a day prepared by our personal chef, Mat.  From salmon and steak to mousse and carrot cake, the food was top notch.  There is even a sauna and showers to relax after a long day.  Lacking plumbing, the showers are repurposed watering pails and there are two outhouses that can also be used as backyard jumps.

Popping and pooping at Icefall Lodge, Golden BC.    

In addition there is even a climbing route on the ceiling of the second floor and yoga mats to stretch out sore muscles.  It is the coziest spot in which I have ever stayed surrounded by the most epic mountains I have ever witnessed.

Serene, starry sky at Icefall Lodge.

Snow conditions and weather are the ultimate dictators of terrain choice and when we arrived the avalanche danger was considerable.  The snow skied great but about a foot down there was an intensely weak layer that sheared very easily and made us reluctant to venture out of the trees.  This was compounded on day two when a storm started puking powder on the lodge. 

We were able to find some great pillows and cliffs in the trees but even some of these were dangerous as the pillows would break immediately and if you didn’t stomp the landing you could be crushed by a pillow falling behind you.  We got a lot of practice in risk evaluation and management, and unfortunately we had to back off of our goals to ski big lines in the alpine but we did manage to to pillage the deep snow in the trees.  In terrain so immense and remote even a small injury can be dangerous so we played it safe. 

Icefall Lodge offers some sick terrain.

The next day we awoke to clear skies and immediately headed into the alpine bowl above the lodge.  We only made it to the first ridge before the an incoming storm and unstable snow conditions forced us to turn around.  You can’t fight the snow Gods, so we got creative with what we had and built a veritable terrain park around the lodge.  Jumps off both the outhouses combined with a pillow transfer jump kept us entertained while the snow kept falling.  Our decision to turn back from the alpine turned out to be a good one as we heard multiple huge avalanches from the lodge, two of which were right next to the zone we had been in. 

The sun finally pops through at Icefall Lodge.

The snow, however, treated us to some extremely deep runs through the mellow trees below the lodge.  The fluff continued to fall and the stability didn’t improve the next day so we had to get extra imaginative.  We adapted our pillow gap into two separate jumps and practiced our timing in order to get a perfectly simultaneous two man jump shot.  It took a few tries but we nailed it on our third attempt. 

Timing double jumps at Icefall Lodge, Golden, BC.

To celebrate we took a pow lap and did some backflips.  Unfortunately Korey managed to find the only skin track in the landing, with his ribs, and put himself out of commission for the last day.  Although the weak layers were beginning to heal we were uneasy venturing up into the alpine one man short.  Instead we followed the other two guests at the lodge, Tom and Chino, to some of their favorite runs for some great POV pillow popping. 

Popping pillows at Icefall Lodge.

We were exhausted after a week of touring through deep snow, so the Icefall Lodge sauna was much appreciated and we slept like rocks.  The next morning we woke early to pack and clean with a sense of nostalgia.  The week truly flew by. None of us could believe it was over and we still can’t wait for our next trip back to the majestic Icefall Lodge.

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Summer Reinvigoration – Recovering after a brutal ski crash

My 2014/2015 season ended on April 10th, on the third jump of the Association of Freeskiing Professionals World Tour Finals Slopestyle Course on Blackcomb British Columbia.  It was ended by wet snow, a slow takeoff, and a brutal ski crash.

Halfway through my Doublecork 1260, I spotted my landing and knew I wasn’t going to reach it.  I opened up out of my rotation and landed on my left hip, side, and outstretched arm on the knuckle of the 75 foot jump.  I bounced and slid to a stop in the landing as I tried and failed to shout for help due to the lack of air in my lungs.

After regaining my breath after this brutal ski crash, I was joined by my best friend, Dean Bercovitch, and then a ski patroller.  I was able to gently ski down off the course and then the worry began.  I was thoroughly in shock and the pain was growing the longer I waited.  The common thoughts floated through my head, “What have I done to my body?  Ligaments? Bones? Organs? Joints?”  I hurt all over and decided I was unable to ski to the lift, thus began the trip to the Whistler Clinic. The patroller was worried about my ribs, my spine, my knee, my shoulder, but most of all my spleen.  I had growing pain in my upper chest which he informed me is a sign of a ruptured spleen.  So it was into the toboggan and down to the lift, followed by two lift rides to the village, a taxi ride to the clinic, a 15 minute wait, a chest X-Ray, an Ultrasound, and a urine analysis.  Over these hours a growing worry vied with a growing relief pending the results of the tests and the prognosis of my injuries from the Doctor.

After a couple hours in the hospital with my friends Dean and Bobby the doctor gave us the results of this brutal ski crash.  None of my organs were ruptured, but the urine analysis had traces of blood which indicated that my spleen and possibly one of my kidneys were bruised.  My knee was stable, my ligaments were all intact but my muscles and bone on the inside of my knee were bruised.  My left hip was similarly bone bruised.  My shoulder was alright.  My AC joint and rotator cuff weren’t damaged, I had simply severely bruised and strained my shoulder muscles.  My ribs were intact as was my spine.  All in all the doctor said he wasn’t overly concerned with anything but the bruised organs, which could rupture if they sustained any further trauma. So I was sent back to the hotel without any life or career threatening injuries, just a thoroughly traumatized body.  I have never been so sore in so many places.

The simple act of moving was a difficult dance of pain avoidance and the return drive to Montana was long and rough. Once back at home I was able to start the journey of recovery in full.  Ice baths, hot tubs, stretching, massages, and the occasional doctors visit filled my days.  I slowly improved as my muscles relented and the bruises faded from my bones and organs.  Slowly and gently I began to return to the activities for which my mind and body yearned. This is the most challenging, but rewarding aspect of the recovery process.

Recovering from a brutal ski crash takes patience. Having the patience and foresight to rest long enough, then relearning and remembering the movements which before were so natural before.  Golf was the first passion to which I returned.  The golf swing is a precise and flowing thing, and my doctor, Robert Amrine, believed it would actually be beneficial for my shoulder and back muscles to be stretched and moved. I started with just putting, then chipping, then the driving range, and finally a full round.  It is amazing how restless and pent up the body becomes after a month of inactivity and soreness.  The simple act of walking on grass, swinging a metal stick and hitting a little white ball relieved a a small, annoying black cloud of stress that had been hiding over my head for a month.

UMgolf

For me, the worst part about an injury is the period of time for which I am unable to do the activities I love. I always have a renewed energy for sports and the outdoors after having been denied them.

In a way, an injury has the bonus of giving you a different view on the life you live and the activities you enjoy.  It emphasizes how much the things we take for granted must be cherished because our ability to do them will not last forever.  My passion for using my body to interact with the world in a creative way is stronger than ever.

It is with this passion that I headed for Woodward at Copper.  I stopped halfway in Salt Lake for the night and 18 beautiful holes of golf the next morning before finishing the drive to Copper.

golf UT vista

I drove by the massive buttes and rock walls of Colorado and Utah as the sun set and pulled into the EDGE parking lot around 10.  I met up with my good friend and Revision Filmer, Mike Kvackay, before passing out for the night.  The next morning was my first real look into the world of Woodward.  Breakfast was great and it was gorgeous weather outside. We met up with the rest of the Revision crew in the lobby; Sandy Boville, Tanner Berg, and Chris McKeever, and hopped in the van to roll up to the main park.  The first couple laps are always the best when the snow is still cold and fast and it was a blast to have snow back under my feet.

The jump line was super fun to warm up on and start getting some tricks back. Especially one of my favorites, Switch Misty 9 Truckdriver:

woodward truck

 

The rail line was fun too, with some sweet down bars, a down-flat-down, a transfer rail, and a tube-spine.

woodward dfd

 

The mornings are great at Copper because you ski hard from 9-12 then get a break for a delicious lunch before deciding whether to ski more at one of two parks or have a blast doing some other activities in the Barn or at the Cage.  The other great thing about Colorado is the plethora of epic outdoors activities readily available.  Tanner Berg and I opted for a hike and found an epic CO mountain lake composed of direct snowmelt runoff, making it perfect for a short ice bath of the ankles.

COlake

 

The next day, we had a blast doing a Revision Skis Quarterpipe session on the side of the last table.  Many face-masks and stickers were distributed and much fun was had by all.  Campers and Revision skiers alike were throwing down surfs, stalls, and airs.

woodwarddubtip

The last day, we sponsored an afternoon activity, the “Ninja Challenge”, an obstacle course of our own design in the barn.  We utilized the pits, mats, wedges and foam blocks to create a challenging course and gave a pair of skis away to the fastest time.  Much fun was had by all.


Here is a camper demonstrating perfect diving form into the foam pit. Video Cred: McRae

 

 

Overall, Woodward at Copper was an awesome way to spend a week of summer.  Great crew of people, good vibes, good food, and two fun parks.  After a week at Woodward I feel super confident heading down to Chile in a couple days to film with the Poor Boyz Productions crew for the Undiscovered Project.  Keep your eyes peeled for some fresh content from down south!!

 

Just dropped: The first summer camp video of the season.Watch as Revision Skis athletes Sandy Boville, Ian Hamilton, Chris McKeever and Tanner Berg invade Woodward Copper.Video by Mike Kvackay.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153126201664877

Posted by Freeskier Magazine on Friday, June 12, 2015