backcountry skiing

March 1st 2015 - Written by: Kelsy

Earn Your Turns: 101 Months in a Row


From suncups to blower pow, huge peaks to bunny hills, North Vancouver brothers Mike and Andy Traslin have been consecutively earning their turns every month of the year for the past…wait for it… 101 months. They’re not alone in the endless pursuit of ‘turns all year,’ but they sure are passionate about it.

The quest for earning your backcountry ‘turns all year’ is especially popular with zealous skiers and riders in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and of course here at home in BC. With huge peaks holding snow year round, especially the Cascade Volcanoes, it almost makes you wonder why every skier doesn’t do it.


Like Mike says — if you’re really jonesing for some ski turns in the fall, why wait? Just go do it!

In celebration of Mike & Andy’s 101th month (and hopefully hundreds more to come) here is a quick freeflow of thoughts from Mike, and some image highlights from the last 30 or so months: (more…)

May 10th 2013 - Written by: Kelsy

Double-Time on Cook

For a while now, Owls couloir has been the objective but Mt.Cook has been blocking it. I’ve been wanting to ski this line since I did the Wedge to Currie traverse from parking lot to Pemberton in under 22 hours with my brother and a couple of elite mountain bike racers back in the 90s.

It’s close, but far as day trips go. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Wedge area from the introduction to mountaineer days. Neck belays, grovelling on the south side of Wedge up the boulder fields and cornice drops on the NE arete.

So it seems interesting to come back years later to feed my couloir addiction. Surprisingly you can have some cool adventure skiing so close to Vancouver. And there’s a good bet you won’t run into many people on these couloirs.

Thanks to the weather blocking the access in the morning and afternoons, we were able to ski some fun lines on the over looked peak of Mt. Cook on the north and south side on two seperate day trips.

If you’re interested, go for it; just be prepared to do the 5,000-foot stair master approach with a pair of two-by-fours on your back.

Photographers: Alex Gibbs, Cameron Coatta, Mathew Koziell, Sam Yeaman.

Story: Andy Traslin

January 28th 2013 - Written by: Kelsy

4 Million feet of climbing, The higher you get the higher you get!

I had re-started my watch after last year’s previous million vertical feet. I wasn’t too concerned about going for it again.

Later in the season, I was up in Kelowna mountain biking with my brother, when he asked me “Are you going for another million”? As I looked at my watch, I was aloof, but all of a sudden something in me ignited. I got motivated. I did some quick calculations. Well, I wouldn’t say quickly. I actually had to grab a calculator. I was at 750,000 with only two months to go. I would have to average over 5,000 feet per day for the next two months. If I was this close I might as well keep going, right?

In the past on the bigger mountains I had a bad attitude and when I didn’t feel like it, I would bag it. So I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Yes, it was going to be hard and boring, and motivation would be low in the fall with less daylight and usually less snow. But the snow soon arrived with a vengeance and I was ready to rock.

Along the way you can’t help but ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Where’s my lift pass”? But then you have those moments when you push on whether it’s raining or dark, where you find that flow state and start begging for more. That happens when you push through the pain and pressures in life and live in the moment; a moment you can only achieve through human powered travel. When it’s your tenth lap and the temps cool, the weather clears, and all of a sudden you are skiing knee deep pow when everyone went home, you know you were there for the moment because you were in the cycle.

The streak was still alive! I compared it to Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks game playing streak for some extra motivation. Like they say, it’s not the end result but the journey that counts.

I’ve been given the nickname Andy Gump for my obsession with traveling uphill. But as much as I enjoy the climb, it still really is about the down. It just feels more rewarding when you have to work to get there.

As in life, people will make fun of you for you doing something against the grain; like skinning up a run when they are skiing down. If I was a kid, I probably would have done the same thing. Not every day are the conditions right for backcountry travel due to snow stability.

Sometimes this game even leads me to where there’s no snow and I’m skiing on rocks. That was the case when I was visiting family in the Okanagan, so I had to make the most with what I had. There wasn’t really a dedicated backcountry zone, so I was relegated to doing short laps on Kelowna mountain with a 40 cm base. Now that tested the motivation!

In the end you have to follow your passion and enjoy being outside. I want to be out there every day, so I try to make it happen. This is where I truly feel alive and free.

Hopefully my 4 million feet motivates somebody to get out there and get off the couch, be it by climbing ten feet or riding the bike to the corner store.

Be calm like water, roll with the punches. Sit back, hold on, and enjoy the ride.

September 10th 2012 - Written by: Kelsy

Summer Skiing on Mount Baker

If you do something enough… does it become the new normal? I am not sure about that. But skiing on the Northwest volcanoes has become a fun tradition. And maybe if turns all year and summer skiing become popular with the masses, it will become the new normal. We’ll see… check out some photos from our latest trip to Mount Baker in Washington State.

May 19th 2012 - Written by: Kelsy

Two Days in the Mountains: Climbing and Skiing Mount Baker and Mount Cheakamus

We live in a pretty spectacular place, so earlier this month, I hatched a plan to take advantage…

Day 1: climb and ski the Coleman Deming route of Mount Baker in Washington State.

Day 2: Do the beautiful Spearhead ski traverse, and if the stars align, ski the North Face of Cheakamus Mountain in British Columbia.

To prepare for a trip like this, it’s important to study the weather forecast and avalanche stability. It’s a lot of hurry up and waiting for a two-day weather window.

Even then, there are no guarantees in the mountains and success is not just in achieving goals in terms of summits and descents. It’s all about new experiences, meeting new people and maybe a new sense of purpose and energy after returning to the real world.

Here is a short video and photo gallery after our trip to the mountains…

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Special thanks to Matty Richard, Tim Grey and Dominic Melanson who unbeknownst to us had the same aspirations to ski Mount Cheakamus, but started from Whistler Mountain (the other side of the traverse). Lucky for us, they were friendly and set a good boot track up. Good vibes! Thanks for your humble offerings and gracious boot pack.

Mike Traslin grew up skiing on the North Shore Mountains of British Columbia. Starting on plastic skis at the age of 3, his passion has remained steady ever since. Being Canadian, it was always ice hockey and skiing for Mike in the winter, but soon it turned into racing gates and then freestyle skiing. And once he discovered powder and backcountry skiing he was hooked, and never looked back.

April 12th 2012 - Written by: Kelsy

Capturing the Snow Spider After 15 Years

The first time I attempted to climb and ski the Snow Spider was around 15 years ago. But with poor visibility and a touchy snowpack, I ended up just looking at a map and compass for most of the three-day trip. The second time was about five years later, with much of the same results.

So recently when my brother Andy said some friends were going out for three days of skiing with the main objective to ski the Snowspider, my initial motivational level was pretty low. By the time I was packed for two days, I was starting to look forward to it a bit more. I figured I would keep my expectations low, then build from there as the trip progressed.


February 13th 2012 - Written by: Kelsy

High Pressure Bonanza at Rogers Pass, British Columbia

Inversion in the Pass

From my last post you might think that all it does is snow up here in the Selkirks of BritishColumbia. Well, usually it does and for most of January it sure did. Alas, last week the snow hose shifted its focus, and squinty eyes and sun burned noses returned to the mountains of BC.

With my father in law, the original owner of my backcountry ski lodge Valhalla Mountain Touring, in place as the hut keeper, I knew I needed to get out of my neck of the woods and go play in the big peaks of Rogers Pass. A quick 2.5 hour drive from home (not including the snowmachine ride to my truck and the half-hour ferry ride inland), Rogers Pass is the number one place I go to play when I have some time off.  If you haven’t been, its time to change that, as it is host to some of the best road-accessed ski touring in the world, hands down.


February 8th 2012 - Written by: Kelsy

Vertfest: Festival of Freeride and Mountain Mettle February 18 to 19 at Alpental in Washington

“Vertfest is filled with awesomesauce!”

VertFest is the biggest sidecountry and backcountry skiing and snowboarding festival and rando rally race in the NW. Come join us for the 6th annual Festival of Freeride and Mountain Mettle!

When: February 18 and 19, 2012

Where: Alpental at the Summit on Snoqualmie Pass, Wash.

All proceeds from VertFest support the Friend’s of NWAC, so you have no reason not to join in the fun! Thefestival kicks off Saturday with the Monika Johnson Memorial Rally and the Stanley Cup Fun Race. Saturday will be capped by the gear-filled awards ceremony, including our Karve sidecountry pack prizes, and live music with Daydream Vacation and headliner Head Like a Kite. The beer will be flowing after racers cross the finish line, so come join in the festivities and catch up with your friends even if you don’t tape on a bib number. Clinics will be on Sunday with some of the best athletes and guides in the business. Take a look below for information on all of the race categories and individual events. Gear vendors will be on hand both Saturday and Sunday to show you the latest gear for sidecountry skiing and riding. Check out gear from Outdoor Research, Jones Snowboards, Osprey, Scarpa and many, many more.

We’re especially excited for our Sidecountry Steeps clinic with Osprey athlete Kim Havell. Check it out:

AM clinic – 9am to noon

PM clinic (women’s only) – 1pm to 4pm

Learn to ski the steeps with renowned skier Kim Havell. Kim’s travels have taken her to all seven continents for steep descents on peaks such as Ama Dablam and Aconcagua. Kim’s knowledge and skill as a guide and instructor will help you build skills for navigating steep terrain and boost the confidence you need to ski the steep lines here in the Cascades or beyond. Participants must have a season pass or purchase a lift ticket.

Learn about the rest of the clinics here. Stay updated on event details on the Facebook page here. And don’t forget to buy your tickets for each event. See you there!

February 17th 2011 - Written by: Kelsy

Coveting Couloirs

© Kim Havell

by Kim Havell

Wikipedia defines Couloir (from the French word meaning “passage” or “corridor,”) as a narrow gully with a steep gradient in mountainous terrain. A couloir may be a seam, scar, or fissure, or vertical crevasse in an otherwise solid mountain mass… Often hemmed-in by sheer cliff walls.

There is something really special about skiing a couloir.

It’s the general nature of these formations that seems to appeal to backcountry skiers. Like the perfect barrel is to a big wave surfer, so is the pure, aesthetic line of a couloir to the backcountry skier.

Due to their location in bigger mountains, couloirs often require travel into more remote areas, with less people, surrounded by stunning views. Then, there’s the skiing itself. Couloirs often hold more snow and are more protected from the wind and other elements thereby making them ideal options for fresh, untracked powder conditions.

Read the rest of Kim’s post over on Outside TV’s blog

A blog in conjunction with Outside TV.


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