Andrew Whiteford is different than you. His turns are faster and his backflips are bigger. He has better taste in music and more skill with a GoPro. And when he and 19 of his best friends spend a week at the Fairy Meadows Hut in interior B.C. they don't spend their days nursing hangovers, playing cribbage, and going for casual low-angle tours. They get after it. His best day of the season was a "casual" 5,000 feet of uphill-downhill skiing in British Columbia's Selkirk Mountains.
As told to Heather Hansman
We heard about the Fairy Meadows Hut from friends here in Jackson. It's in the Adamant Range of the Selkirk. The spring prior we put in for the lottery to get a week there and ended up with the first full week in March.
Fairy Meadows is more of a beautiful cabin than a hut. There were 20 of us at the hut. Half of the group had connections in Jackson and the other half was from Colorado. It never felt cramped with all of us in it. The hut even has a side building with a sauna and a shower. You take a heli in and out, so we brought tons of food and beer. We were totally, totally psyched.
Flew in on Sunday and the Selkirks had just wrapped up a pretty heavy snow and avie cycle. We were definitely concerned with stability heading in, but after tiptoeing around the terrain for the first few days we realized we were in good shape: fresh snow and tracks anywhere we could see. We lucked out.
As the week progressed we settled in to a routine. There's so much skiable terrain and we had relatively long days, so we weren't in too much of a rush. We delegated tasks and everyone signed up for chores. On Thursday, my favorite day, I was on morning dish duty. After a huge breakfast, I saw people start skiing away and my instincts as a skier kicked in. I was like, "I got to get out."
I chased after them up the skin track towards the Houdini Needles group of couloirs. They had a half-hour head start and I could see people ascending all the couloirs. I was disappointed about the delay my chores cost me, but on the way up I spotted a hanging snowfield between a few of the couloirs with a narrow exit.
After a half hour of climbing and scrambling, I looked down at a totally untainted slope. I was by myself and didn't want to take unnecessary chances with no eyes on me. I scooted into the line and made the most of it with little hippie turns. I skied down to the basin below and watched everyone else ski lines with big, fast turns Jackson-style.
After a snack, I headed back up toward the Friendship Col with one of my good friends for the last 10 years, Brett, who is a paramedic and is well versed in mountain travel, so he’s really confidence inspiring. By the time we reached the col, the weather was looking really good, so we took the opportunity to climb Damon Peak (and we automatically through of Team America and “Maaatt Damon” so we were feeling really light, really enjoying ourselves). As we reached the summit, the clouds started coming in. We peaked over the edge, about a thousand-meter drop. Our stomachs were in our throats, and we loved the exposure.
We skied the casual 35-degree slope down and at the bottom, we reassessed timing, had a sandwich, and took off across Gothic Glacier. Snow started falling in huge goose-down flakes. We felt like we were in a snow globe. It was a really calming experience deep in the wilderness.
Made our way up to Pioneer Pass. At that point I'd estimate we'd covered about 5,000 vert. But my body was strong at that point in the season, I had new equipment and adequate snacks and fuel. We decided we had enough to make it up Sentient Peak. Brett was getting tired, but I kept going to the peak.
I don't have a ton of ski mountaineering experiencing so it was nerve-racking scrambling around on rocks. The alpenglow hit the peak with a beautiful orange glow. Exposure to both sides kept me focused on the moment. That's a special feeling—having friends close by but being on your own adventure.
I dropped back in on the east face, and made a couple of turns until I got to where Brett was positioned. Hop scotched back down across the glacier. All that snow that fell laid down the smoothest powder I'd seen all season and we made powder eights back toward Friendship Col and then 3,500 feet of open GS turns back toward the cabin.
There's really good mini golf right near the hut and every night I tried to put down a different line, so I was the last one down. Most of the group was outside drinking beers, and they had a cold one for me. It's totally cliché, but I felt completely fulfilled being out in the mountains with friends, having a casual but awesome day where everything lined up.