Squamish Exposed: Notes on Coastal Steep Skiing

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” —Albert Einstein

Exposure is an arena for the mind. Mentally, skiing above a 500-foot cliff is scarier than a one-hundred-foot cliff, yet if a mistake is made, the resulting reality will be very much the same.

Words and photos: Trevor Hunt

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Contemporary society has woven itself a very tight safety net to allow us to live comfortably within our own reality. Make a mistake, or overstep our abilities, and we’re whisked off to the hospital for a second chance. Absolute exposure on a mountainside forces a momentary respite from this persistent illusion — faced with the Reality, honesty is recommended.

Numerous guidebooks and a well-marked trail system make Squamish a world-renowned mecca of rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking for locals and tourists. No one comes for the skiing though, and for good reason — lurking in the wilds above town are pockets of terrain unfit for the local tourist guide and a two-week holiday won’t unlock the logging road labyrinth that leads there. Home court advantage is key: a winter’s worth of observations, snowpack evaluation, and years of interaction with the terrain on foot, only begin to expose subtle possibilities for a descent on skis.

 

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Screw the action sports stereotypes — this adrenaline isn’t addictive. No one yearns for these types of scenarios. And yet they exist. However improbable, they sit there just begging to be skied . . . patches of snow among the vertical world. For me, their close proximity to Squamish only further reduces healthy excuses, whereas that line overseas can always wait due to life commitments and a lack of funds.

 

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Like any established ski community, the Sea to Sky Corridor has its classic couloirs and faces, lines of obvious beauty that get multiple descents each season. But as generations of skiers pass, it becomes almost impossible to find untouched lines that fit these criteria. As fate would have it, what my hometown lacks in ski line classics, it more than compensates with un-skied lines more akin to circus freaks. These geological anomalies have slopes so steep and exposed that they will never be skied on a regular basis, or attract skiers from elsewhere. Each of these lines were fleeting events for me, momentary escapes that were only meant to be experienced once. – unreal memories for the alter ego.

“. . . up there, with a split-second of indecision, the difference between survival and its opposite, right action and right thought, and the very nature of life is absolutely clear.” —Mark Twight

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