Written by Todd Lawson. Photography by Reuben Krabbe.
Few backcountry experiences can compete with watching the waters of Howe Sound as they gleam through the tips of your skis. Determined adventurers have been experiencing this true Sea to Sky euphoria for decades — it ain’t no secret — but those glorious ocean-view turns usually meant pricey snowmobile excursions or a long day on the skins.
This is why, for many, winter is the most intriguing season for Squamish‘s new Sea to Sky Gondola. Skiers, with the right experience and knowledge, can quickly be whisked up to explore a new powdery realm, and still be home for dinner. Getting a jump on everyone, Whistler skiers Matty Richard and Stan Rey joined MEC Envoy Tobin Seagel and photographer Reuben Krabbe for an exploratory mission last season to scope out the terrain.
Mountain Life called up Matty Richard to talk about the terrain.
Mountain Life: So, a new lift-accessed zone has opened up in our backyard, but it’s definitely an earn-your-turns situation after you step off the gondola. What kind of game plan did you guys have?
Matty Richard: The fun part of that day was the not knowing — we didn’t really know what to expect. Jayson Faulkner (Sea to Sky Gondola GM) gave us a quick lay of the land and then we skied away on the logging road. It’s always more of an adventure when you don’t really know exactly where you’re going.
ML: From the photos, it looks like there is a plethora of terrain options up there.
MR: There’s lots of cool terrain up there to ski, I’m sure there’s so much cool tree skiing around that zone. We skied some real nice sub-alpine fat gullies. Goat Ridge — it’s full of gnarly chutes. After this season, I’m sure people will open lots of little zones. That’s a pretty rad thing about the whole area, new lines for the public to explore and claim. With the whole backcountry craze these last few years, I think it’s a great addition to the corridor.
ML: How was the approach?
MR: We bushwhacked for a few hours to get high enough to see some skiable lines. Once we got up on the ridge, we were amazed by the endless features. It’s not your typical resort, right? I’m interested to see how they will map out the zone.
ML: It’s definitely not a resort and the terrain is anything but a walk in the park, any words of wisdom for those who are looking to explore the area on skis?
MR: Be ready for anything. Travelling in the backcountry is never easy. Be equipped with the proper gear, proper group, and proper knowledge, and never take those glorious mountains for granted. Be safe and smart.
ML: Experience is obviously an asset when exploring any new region or territory. How has your own personal learning curve evolved, with more new lines under your belt every year?
MR: Lots of it is mental as far as distance of objectives. The more you do, the more realistic things become. Looking at a peak from far is always discouraging, but the more experienced you are at route finding etc., the easier it is mentally. Only experience can help you here, get out there and start walking. You never know everything!
The Sea to Sky Gondola will now be open to ski-tourers at 9am, Thursday through Sunday.