Date: Feb. 17, 2019

Partner: Jessie McAuley

Ski touring above the Sea-to-Sky gondola has been steadily growing in popularity. On a busy weekend it can feel downright crowded. However, like most places, with a bit of effort and creativity it’s not hard to find some solitude. The traverse described below is one example. With about 1800m of ascent over 32 or so kilometres it could be done as a daytrip or broken into two days with a night at the Mountain Lake Hut and some side trips along the way. The biggest downside is the long and gentle Furry Creek FSR at the end which will almost certainly require that you carry your skis for a number of kilometres.

The chief obstacle to this traverse is getting around the rocky bulk of the Sky Pilot group. One obvious option would be to climb any of the large couloirs rising out of the Ledge Basin, such as the one that leads to Gunsight Gap between Sky Pilot and Ledgelette. However, this involves a strenuous bootpack without the reward of a good descent from the top. A better option is to descent a couloir that drops from a notch above the Stadium Glacier. While it is possible to descend from the col directly below Sky Pilot’s West Ridge (downclimbing or a rappel may be required depending on conditions), a better couloir is found two cols to the right (see photo below).

Looking up at the Stadium Glacier, with the red arrow showing the correct col.
Looking back up at the couloir from the bottom of the run. The ridge between Sky Pilot and Copilot is rather more impressive from this side.

The couloir drops into the valley at the head of Marmot Creek. A short climb then leads to the saddle below Sky Pilot’s lower South Ridge. From here it is possible to descend and contour through a few bits of steeper timber above the upper Britannia Creek Valley, overlooking Utopia Lake. A series of benches ascend below Mt. Sheer before a short, traversing descent leads to just below Mountain Lake. The small but well-maintained BCMC Hut here would be good way to break the trip into two days.

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The general route below Mt. Sheer. The arrow marks the approximate location of the Mountain Lakes Hut.

From the Hut, follow the summer route which climbs gently over the rolling plateau before descending to Wind Lake. From the Lake, follow the approximate line of the summer trail until it hits the old road grade. At certain points on the road, it may be possible to ski more directly down through old cut-blocks or down open gulleys to avoid some of the switchbacks.

Skiing above Wind Lake with Howe Sound below. Photo: Jessie McAuley.

The worst part of this traverse is undoubtedly the long section of road leading back to the highway. The upper part is relatively flat and will likely require crossing a number of small creeks and ditches. With firm snow conditions, this could go quickly but with soft snow and no track it might necessary to put on skins. Depending on the snowline, consider carrying light running shoes for walking back to the car after the snow runs out.

Jessie and I made a side-trip to climb and ski Ben Lomond. Although not particularly big, it’s a nice summit and an aesthetic ski descent.