Big mountains, deep snow and long runs are what Icefall is known for. Icefall Lodge is situated in a rugged corner of the Rockies 70 km north of Golden BC. Winter access is only possible by helicopter. You will not see or hear anybody else during your visit; no helicopters, no snowmobiles, just the group that you flew in with.
The area is huge, more than 10 times the size of Whistler Blackcomb. This make for lots of variety in the terrain available. You will never have to ski tracks. With over 100 ski runs available, there is something to suit everybody’s ability.
To access this huge area, Icefall has built two satellite huts. These are both a day’s travel from Icefall Lodge. These huts allow access to the big glaciers and high peaks along the divide. They are fully equipped and allow hut to hut travel with only a light pack. The Lyell Hut is built on a rock outcrop and is completely surrounded by glaciers. The Mons Hut sits at the toe of the Mons Glacier with a 2500 foot north facing glacier run right out the front door.
In good weather, groups head to the high alpine and glaciers. Icefall has over 30 separate glaciers, some of them covering over 20 square km. There is also an abundance of seracs, icefalls and unique glacier forms. This is how Icefall got its name.
While the emphasis is on good skiing, having it from a summit is even better. Ernest Peak is the highest ski peak accessed from any hut in Canada. If you ski the run “Wild West” from the summit, you are in for a 7600 ft run. There are 6 peaks over 11,000 ft and an additional 12 over 10,000 that can be skied from Icefall
Sitting on the west side of the divide, Icefall gets a deep consistent snowpack. It normally snows with little wind, making for some of the lightest driest powder you will ever ski. Some of the highest peaks in the range are immediately to the east. This forces storms coming from the west to rise over the height of the divide leaving most of their moisture behind. The snowpack at tree line is normally over 3m by mid season.
On the Diamond Glacier (at 8000 ft) the snowpack is normally over 320cm, as deep as a probe pole, by early January. After that we lose track. Perhaps the best indication of the amount of snow is the glaciers. There is close to 40 square km of glaciated terrain in the icefall area. This means a lot more snow falling in the winter than there is melting in the summer. The lines in the ice indicate how much snow has fallen, been compressed into ice and is left after a summer of melting. Global warming may be coming but the glaciers at Icefall aren’t disappearing any time soon.
Area: 200 square km (50,000 acres)
Highest ski peak: Ernest Peak (Lyell 3) 3511m (11,519 ft).
Lowest point: Icefall Brook 1035m (3,400 ft)
Longest run: Wild West from the summit of Ernest to Lyell Creek 2323 vertical m (7,620 ft)
Icefall Lodge elevation: 1920m (6,300ft)
Lyell Hut elevation: 2870m (9,400 ft)
Mons Hut elevation: 2370m (7,800 ft)
23 ski peaks
The sun doesn't always shine. When the snow comes, skiing in the trees offers better visibility and the deepest powder skiing. Icefall has extensive tree skiing on all aspect and ranging from 3500- 7000 feet elevation. There is a large variety including open glades, open avalanche paths, burns, pillow lines and low angle beginner terrain. There is also safe tree skiing close to the lodge without crossing avalanche paths.
Lyell Hut Traverse
If conditions permit, your guide can take up to 10 people over to the Lyell Hut for a night. This is the highest ski touring hut in Canada and offers access to some of the highest peaks in BC. You can watch the sun set from the summit of Christian Peak, (3390 meters, 11,122 feet) and ski down to the hut in the last light of the day. The terrain is on a different scale with massive glaciers and long runs. The hut is high enough that you get the full alpenglow colors. There are unforgettable sunsets and sunrises out the front window.
The traverse exponentially increases the amount of terain available at Icefall Lodge. It also means a lot more high elevation north facing glacier skiing which is a big advantage when the weather gets warm. The traverse can be done with a light pack. It is normally 6- 7 hours to the hut. The crux of the traverse is Crampon Col. Although you don't need crampons there is a steep section that is noramlly boot packed. Returning from the Hut is much faster, normally about 2-3 hours.
Mt Kemmel 3150m, 10,300 feet
This is a classic ski touring objective that can be skied in most conditions and offers outstanding views in all directions. The normal line skis up Home Run, traverses the Kemmel Glacier, and then ascends the south east ridge to the summit. Although skis can be worn to the summit, the final traverse of the summit ridge has more of a ski mountaineering feel to it, as you want to stay well back from the cornice on the right hand side. After you have finished taking in the views of the Columbia Icefield to the north, the Selkirk Mountains to the west, and Mt Forbes to the south you are treated to 1200m (4000 feet) of skiing back down to the lodge. Descent options vary from the relatively safe line that you ski toured up, to the more committing couloirs on the East face. Some of these lines are up to 45 degrees and offer over 600m vertical before reaching the Kemmel Glacier.
Mt La Clytte 2900m, 9500 feet
The north east facing glacier on La Clytte was made for skiing; long consistent fall line slopes, sheltered snow, and enough room to spend a couple of days. The ski summit offers superb views, while the true summit (50m higher) requires rope and crampons to ascend. The approach from Icefall lodge follows the summer trail for a couple hundred meters through the forest before breaking out into the open. A broad treeline ridge is followed to Keffi Pass at 2350m (7800 feet). From here there is a 200m run down the east slopes, before climbing up to the icefall at the toe of the La Clytte Glacier. The La Clytte Glacier starts flat getting steeper as you approach the summit. Some of the steeper shoulders on La Clytte offer pitches up to 45 degrees. Returning to the lodge is by the same route or several options including a skin up to Espresso Ridge and a steep ski straight down to the lodge. In good stability the Groove Tube, a broad chute up to 45 degrees, offers the most direct decent off the south west side of the summit ridge.
This is a long loop tour that takes you under the dramatic East Face of Rostrum Peak and all the way down to Icefall Brook. From the high point of Porcupine Saddle, it is a 1600m (5,000 ft) ski to the valley bottom. This tour takes you through some of the most impressive glacier landscape that you will see anywhere in the world. The glacier features at Porcupine Saddle chage from year to year but are always unforgetable. The variety is huge with everything from tree skiing, to glaciers and unforgettable rock features. There is almost 2200m of skiing (and skinning) on this day.