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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Filming Advance at Grand Targhee Resort

 Over the winter of 2014/2015, Grand Targhee Resort was the playground where the Revision crew filmed part of our short film, “Advance.” Revision skis athletes Chris McKeever, Danny Arnold, and Jake Fagrelius, filmer Mike Kvackay, and photographer Arthur Balluff hit the resort on March 12th. Half of the guys had road tripped from Colorado, a 6-hour white knuckle ride through a blizzard in a rented Toyota Camry (note from Mike, Teton Pass is not advisable in 2wd in a whiteout). We caught up with the guys to talk about the trip and also to gain some perspective on everything that goes into creating a film like “Advance.”

Grand Targhee Resort is located in the Teton Mountains, in the town of Alta, a quick ride north of Jackson. The crew was put up in the Sioux Lodge, which is conveniently located right at the base of the hill and made for a great bonding experience in the comfy quarters of the lodge.

The overnight snowstorm ended up dumping about 8″ of freshies, and the crew headed out the first morning to what Kvackay describes as “probably the gnarliest in bounds terrain of any resort I have been to.” Grand Targhee offers over 2,600 acres of terrain, has a vertical drop of nearly 2,300 feet, and five lifts which spread out the crowds and keep lift lines short. With awesome terrain and the cold smoke powder found in the interior, it was the perfect setting for the opening scenes for “Advance.” 

Danny Arnold backflip

Danny with a nice backie into that perfect Grand Targhee pow – photo credit Arthur Balluff

After the first dump, the rest of the trip was quite warm and dry. No more snow fell and the temps climbed into the 40s, but still, freshies were to be found. “The backcountry access was perfect. 3 days after our storm, we could still find fresh tracks only a few hundred feet from a lift.”  – Mike Kvackay, Filmer

Creating even a short film like Advance is an exhausting effort that a lot of people take for granted. Even working with the rad Grand Targhee terrain, the crew shot for 6 days, with only a handful of shoots ever making it to the viewer’s eyes. There can be a lot of variables in a shot, such as camera errors like missed focus or simply the skier just didn’t land it. On hill, Kvackay was the only snowboarder on a “ski only” trip, which was hard. Whether traversing to a film spot, or unstrapping after getting stuck, and lugging 20 pounds of camera pack, the going was tough for him. After the filming is done, Mike needed to edit and label shots for hours after 6 hours of hiking and skiing around. “Let’s just say that it is a full time job with everything combined together.”

Revision skis athlete Jake Fagrelius spinning on Subtraction pow skis at Grand Targhee

Jake Fagrelius jibbing a Grand Targhee pillow – photo credit Arthur Balluff

“All of the athletes stepped up their game. Danny killed it. I love skiing with him and he really pushes himself on every feature. I would have to say his naked backflip was my favorite. The snow had been sunbaked so getting speed was an issue but he pulled that bad boy around with nothing on but his ski boots and his transceiver. Chris also charged hard on resort, not even speed checking through gullies riddled with moguls and trees. Everyone was super friendly, the stoke was high and we got some killer shots from the trip. I cannot wait to head back soon.” – Mike Kvackay

 

All told, Grand Targhee turned out to be the perfect place to film for “Advance.” We’re thankful for the opportunity and their generosity in hosting us.

 

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8″ of dry Grand Targhee powder on Day 1

 

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Grand Targhee Day 2

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Grand Targhee Resort Day 3

Danny Arnold Skiing Season Edit 2013-2014

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Danny Arnold

Danny Arnold spent last season living in Whistler, British Columbia and traveling around BC. Here is Danny’s season edit with a bunch of great powder skiing and big lines in Fernie, Whistler, and Revelstoke.

While Danny was living in Whistler, he supported his skiing lifestyle by working at a hostel. When Danny wasn’t working, he was taking advantage of the vast terrain at (and near) Whistler Blackcomb. Whistler Blackcomb is located 75 miles north of Vancouver and is considered the largest ski resort in North America.  It is 50% larger than the next largest competing resort and also features the iconic Peak 2 Peak gondola which transports skiers from the top of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The Peak 2 Peak gondola holds two world records – it is the highest cable car above ground and the longest unsupported span between two cable car towers.

 

Whistler Blackcomb is situated in the Fitzsimmons range of the Coast Mountain range in BC, Canada. It is located on the north western edge of Garibaldi Provincial Park. Whistler was originally called London Mountain because of the frequent fog at low elevations. Consistently ranked as the top resort in North America, more than 2 million people visit annually. Whistler Mountain has a vertical of 5,020 feet and a skiable area of 4,757 acres. Blackcomb Mountain has a vertical of 5,133 feet and a skiable area of 3,414 acres. The longest runs at both Whistler (Burnt Stew) and Blackcomb (Green Road) are 6.8 miles long. Whistler Blackcomb is a large enough resort that they have terrain options for any type of skier.  Options abound for skiing legendary chutes, steeps, cliffs, couloirs, high alpine, powder filled bowls, gladed trees, and flowing groomers.

Whistler also has a wide variety of summertime activities and is famous for the Whistler Bike Park.  The bike park is world class and draws both amateur and professional mountain bikers from around the world.  Other summer activities include camping, hiking, bungee jumpingglacier skiing, and more.

Catskiing Canada with Fernie Wilderness Adventures

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Catskiing Canada

After a few months of somewhat hit or miss conditions here in the states, we were ready to go catskiing in Canada. The Trimmings crew along with the Revision Skis crew packed up and rallied north to go to the Canadian promise land. As we pulled up to the lodge at Fernie Wilderness Adventures (FWA), the snow had been hammering down all afternoon and we knew instantly that we would not be disappointed. Located in the northern Rockies, Fernie Wilderness Adventures’ catskiing Canada paradise has over 5,000 acres of gladed meadows, pristine pillow fields, and endless tree skiing. Serviced by two large passenger snowcats, and a handful of the happiest employees I’ve ever met, we knew we were in the right place. After day one, the common phrase repeated by everyone on the trip became, “I’ve never experienced that before!” Whether we were describing the bottomless powder, the amazing terrain, or the guides who couldn’t have been more accommodating, FWA had literally everything we could have asked for. Each day began with a delicious hot breakfast cooked by the staff before we piled into the snowcat and headed straight up to 7000 ft. Our options seemed endless plowing up and over knife ridges through blower pow as we hung our heads out the cab windows in anticipation of our next run choked with the lightest snow any of us have ever experienced. Each day was concluded with countless high-fives, a huge feast, and a soak in the wood-fired hot tub complimented by a few ice cold beers. After four days of living the life of luxury, reluctantly, it was time to part ways and return to our own lives. It goes without saying that we will, without a doubt, be returning next season to pick up where we left off! Thanks again to the entire staff at FWA for showing us the goods! Words by Jake Fagrelius.

Jake Fagrelius Hand-Drag Cork 360 Skiing

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Hand-Drag Cork 360 Video from British Columbia

This hand-drag cork 360 video is from last winter when we went on a snowcat skiing trip in British Columbia, Canada. We had a blast skiing deep, untracked powder while testing out Subtraction prototype skis. We were pretty nervous leading up to our trip as it had been a season with very little snowfall.  A week before the trip we were considering cancelling and rescheduling for the following ski season.  We ended up deciding to go on the trip as planned and hope for the best.  To our suprise, the weather unexpectedly turned in our favor on our drive up from Montana.  When we arrived at the snowcat skiing lodge in British Columbia, it was a full on storm.  The next morning we woke up to some of the deepest snow any of us had experienced in our lives.  The snow kept falling over the next few days and nights. We were skiing insanely deep powder for the entire trip and ended up scoring lots of great video and photo.

Snowcat Skiing in British Columbia, Canada

Do you dream of taking catskiing laps in the backcountry of British Columbia?  There are a lot of great snowcat skiing operations that can guide you safely in large, uncrowded powder skiing tenures. If your looking to ski some deep powder in BC and land your first hand-drag cork 360, a good starting off point for learning about the many lodges and operators is Catskiing Canada.

 

Backcountry Skiing Montana Video

Take a trip with Jake as he enjoys backcountry skiing Montana. This 30 second video of powder skiing shows a trip through the trees along with some faceshots. Backcountry skiing Montana takes a little work, but it is well worth it when the reward is deep powder and perfectly spaced trees.

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Backcountry Skiing Montana Resources

If you are looking to start backcountry skiing Montana, your best bet would be to link up with one of your ski buddies that has deep knowledge of the various zones and snowpack. If you’ve never been to Montana and don’t have any personal connections that can show you around, your best bet may be to make your first trip via a reputable guiding service.

Yurtski is an operator that offers backcountry yurts that you can use as your base while backcountry skiing Montana.  You also have the option to book a guided tour and there are catering options available too.

Beartooth Powder Guides is another operator that offers ski guiding services in the mountains that surround Cooke City. Their services include day trip powder tours, high alpine tours, full guided and catered hut trips, and Beartooth overnight trips.

If you are looking to do less work going uphill and get more runs skiing down, Great Northern Powder Guides is worth a look.  They operate out of the Whitefish area and have a large catskiing tenure along with a yurt for those desiring overnight accommodations.

Other options for those that are properly educated for a self-guided trip include “The Montana Backcountry Ski Guide” ebook or the “Backcountry Skiing Bozeman and Big Sky” paperback/ebook/app.