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If you’ve been around skiing or snowboarding over the last couple of years, you’ll know that the cultural landscapes of the sports are changing. Increasing global temperatures are making solid snow accumulations less common, and as a result, causing skiers and snowboarders to reconsider not only their methods to get to the mountains but also their methods of getting up them. Enter touring.
Ski and splitboard touring employ specialized equipment to literally aid in hike-skiing or ‘skinning’ up a mountain. The process involves placing a synthetic fur-like material, called skins, on the bottom of skis and boards, to create an equipment system similar to a mix between cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
All of this is to say, it’s a completely self-propelled method of getting to the top of a mountain, in effect, negating the harmful environmental effects of powered chairlifts while also giving participants access to unique, untracked terrain.
Recently, some friends and I were able to fly into Sol Mountain Lodge for some spring touring. The lodge is perched high in the Monashee Mountains south of Revelstoke, British Columbia, sitting at an elevation of 1900 meters. With 30,000 acres of terrain and a four-meter snowpack, we were in spring touring heaven. The Monashee terrain is a literal playground for skiers and snowboarders, featuring pillows, drops, gullies, well-spaced glades, and wide-open bowls.
Much of the adventure inherent in splitboarding and ski touring lay in mapping out the terrain, and exploring topographic maps to find new lines and zones to explore. Our crew wasn’t disappointed; finding perfectly spaced glades, wide-open peaks, north-facing bowls, and pillow zones.
When each day was done and our legs were screaming, “no more,” we were able to return to the lodge. Sol Mountain Lodge is truly a lodge, not a hut, nor a cabin, this three-story structure features over a dozen private bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, hot showers, a drying room, a wood-stove heated sauna, a yoga studio, free Wi-Fi, and a massive kitchen and bar.
The diversity of terrain and the comfortable lodging provide a perfect setting for one’s first week of touring, so if you’re apt to try this activity out, Sol Mountain Lodge could be one of your best options. The mountain has a number of on-staff guides who can help you tour the terrain and find the best locations, in addition to providing Avalanche Safety Training (AST) and gear rentals.
What you need to ski or split board – Skiers will need alpine touring skis, boots, and bindings. Splitboarders will need a split board and touring bindings. Both will need skins, a beacon, a probe, a shovel, and a backpack. If needed, Sol Mountain Lodge and Mountain Equipment Co-Op can provide rentals for all of the aforementioned gear.
Getting there – The helicopter pickup, or staging, is in either Revelstoke or Cherryville. Both are about a six-hour drive from Vancouver, B.C. Those coming from out of province can fly into Kelowna International Airport for the easiest access.
Hotels – The helicopter departure usually takes place between 7AM to 8AM so you’ll need to stay somewhere the night before your departure. We stayed at the Marriot in Vernon the day before our departure and found it to be comfortable, clean, and inexpensive.
Safety – It would be pretty reckless to venture into the backcountry without knowledge of snowpack and avalanche terrain. I recommend most people take their Avalanche Safety Training (AST-1, and AST-2) to get a basic understanding. Additionally, you must rent or purchase a beacon, probe, shovel, and backpack to carry said items.
Food – We did a self-catered trip, which means we brought in our own food. The kitchen at Sol Mountain Lodge has a lot of the basic necessities like spices, cooking oil, flour, sugar, etc. The size of the kitchen and utensils allows you to cook anything your heart and stomach could desire. Alternatively, the lodge offers catered trips.
Tips – Familiarize yourself with the terrain beforehand so you can jump right into it upon your arrival. Cherryville Golf and Roadhouse café is a great option for a great and inexpensive breakfast the morning of your staging. Climbing a mountain is hard work, so be sure to bring plenty of snacks and a water bottle with you. Bring a camera or an iPhone; you’re going to score some epic photos.