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Birkenstock Couloir

April 10th, 2013

I attempted this line a couple of weeks ago from the snowmobile-accessible side of the peak with my friend Naomi. Unfortunately, new snow and warming temps aren’t a great mix, so our day was doomed from the get-go. Heavy snow was sticking to our skins like you wouldn’t believe. Wax didn’t help, and after dragging those leg weights through avi debris, high winds and fading light, I was forced to pull the plug and try again another day.

The next time we approached from the Blackwater Creek road for a more direct line, with a fast and fit team that was on the same page. Liam and Adrian were as keen as I was to ski this line. With good weather and stability lined up, we just needed an alpine start to seal the deal so we camped at the road and woke up plenty early. Bringing the true style and ethics of ski mountaineering — climbing right from ground zero — we were ready to climb what we wanted to ski.

The pace was fast right from the get go, and I settled into a rythm I knew I could hold all day.

When we gained a view of the wicked couloir, we knew there were good times ahead. Step kicking was solid, until we hit a hanging snow field. Overhanging snow climbing led into a narrow section.

There was one more crux that involved climbing through the cornice with an extra axe for four points of weight-bearing contact. With one last step we had a warm welcome into the sun and were ready to ski.

We excavated the cornice to fit skis. Liam dropped in first, or rather ‘aired in’, as falls were not an option. Adrian was next, then I carved the lip of the cornice a little more for my entrance. I shuffled down, controlling my fear into the no fall zone, and once in the zone it was all good… we were through the first crux and into a classic steep coastal couloir.

Definitely a top ten ski line!

Photos: Andy Traslin, Adrian Armstrong

Story: Andy Traslin

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Coveting Couloirs

February 17th, 2011

© 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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