Canadian Rockies Pillow Skiing at Icefall Lodge

For this Adventure of the Week, we envy Canadian Rockies skiing, hearing from former Couloir magazine editor Matt Samelson of Boulder, Colorado, who’s been writing our blog’s Colorado check-ins. But last week, he apparently could’ve cared less about Colorado snow.

WHO: Matt Samelson and friends


WHERE: Icefall Lodge in British Columbia, Canada

WHEN: January 2011

GEAR: TwentyTwo Designs Axl bindings, deep powder skis, snorkel

I heard it snowed 32 inches at Copper Mountain, one of my favorite resorts in Colorado.  And I couldn’t have cared less.  That’s how good Icefall Lodge is.  It didn’t hurt that it snowed upwards of 8 feet the week prior to our arrival at Icefall and another 2-3 feet the week we were there.

Located a 20-minute helicopter ride north of Golden, British Columbia, Icefall is tucked up against the B.C.-Alberta border with Mt. Kemmel and Mt. La Clytte standing guard above it all.  Although, under the midwinter January skies, we rarely saw either peak.  With near-constant snowfall and the prior week’s dump, there wasn’t much reason to head to the alpine.  Especially with evidence of a large slide near the hut that had demolished trees 20 feet and taller.  Nope, there was no reason to venture into the alpine.

Pillows.  Pillows were the name of the game.  Our group of 16 had a large contingent that either lived in Gunnison or had spent time in Crested Butte.  These were the types of skiers that sought after bizarre lines in the trees and over rocks during a normal ski day, not necessarily a crew lusting after wide open turns.  And with all the recent snow, everything pretty much went.  The typical response to “Does this line go?” was “Doesn’t matter.  You can’t get hurt in this stuff.”  So every morning we went looking for pillow lines.

I’ve never really been able to peg why pillow skiing tops my list of fun things to do on skis.  Maybe because it’s rare that you get to ski them.  Or maybe it’s because of the way they explode when you land on one.  Either way, there’s no type of skiing I look more forward to.

On self-declared “Go Big Friday,” I popped into a clearing between Seduction chute and Crap Shoot after wallowing through near waist-deep snow and slammed on the brakes just before the bottom dropped out.  While composing myself, I heard my roommate Stuart yelling at his buddy Harris about a line, but I couldn’t find him.  Mainly because I needed to be looking straight up.  Stuart had been eyeing up a 45-50 foot drop for most of the week.  The particular rock face he was teetering atop had two intermediate pillows that looked like he might be able to tap with his tails if he really wanted to.  But it was Go Big Friday, so he went and stuck it.  You really couldn’t get hurt in this stuff.

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