We here at Earlyups have a dream. A dream of a place where steep, high alpine, granite framed couloirs melt into endless powder fields continuing into the most playful spines and pillows one has ever seen. A place where the vert is big, the snow bottomless and conditions never turning bad. A place so remote no one can reach it except by a once-a-week heli. A place with a backcountry palace sitting right in the middle of the goods. Oh, wait, that’s no dream. That’s just our trip to the Bill Putnam hut in BC. Take a read for the scoop on the best ski trip of our lives…(so far).
The Bill Putnum AKA Fairy Meadow Hut is located in the Selkirk range of British Colombia about 50 miles as the crow flies from Golden, BC. Built in 1964, the hut requires a heli bump during the winter months to visit. Positioned ideally at treeline with expansive glaciers and jagged peaks above and steep treed pillows below there is a reason its known as one of the premier backcountry huts in the world.
The entire Earyups office got the invite last April to visit the hut for 7 days in early March. In typical hedonistic skier fashion, most of the packing and Fairy Meadow specific gear purchases waited until the last minute. From climbing harnesses to hut essentials for 20 people, it was a real world gong-show just prior to heading for the great white north on the last day in February.
After a 14-hour drive through the night, we arrived to a gloomy Golden, B.C. at 10 AM. For those that haven’t been, Golden is somewhere between a “ski town” an an “industrial crossroads”. Located on a major rail line and near the Colombia River, it appeared to us the town of 5,000 or so had some grit and authenticity perhaps not as often seen these days.
Up the road, Rogers Pass would close due to avalanche danger later that day, filling up every bed in town. Luckily our first order of business was locking down a hotel room, after which we headed up the road a short 14KM drive to Kicking Horse.
What better way to check out a new (rad) ski hill than on a sleeper powder day?
Jeff Brines samples the first of the B.C. Goods
There is some seriously impressive terrain at Kicking Horse.
Beers, Poutine and Nachos followed with conversation about the terrain and snow Kicking Horse has to offer. While we thought that life couldn’t get much better, the next day spirits were crushed a bit by the fog of hangovers and conditions not conducive to flying into the Bill Putnam hut. As fun as down day activities like ski-boot-field-goal-competition and day drinking are, we were bummed to not be able to find our way into the hut that day.
The consolation prize later that night was a riding in a school bus driven by a man by the name of Infinity Solstice (who was wearing a cape) and getting dropped off at a bar in Golden. But not just any bar, a bar hosting the annual Golden wet t-shirt contest. Calm down fellas, it featured a whopping total of 5 of Golden’s finest contestants (plus I believe the intern got on stage).
The next day with hangovers in tow, weather was good and we were able to fly into the hut. The hangovers became distant memories immediately upon the smell of jet fuel and a flight through the Selkirk’s and scoping out our new playground for the week.
The bird. A Bell 407. Oh, if you have the means…so choice.
The recent storm that had precluded us from flying in the day before had turned into a blessing in disguise, as we now had a blank slate of deep, untracked snow to work with. With high avalanche danger lurking, we kept it to lower angle stuff to start. As time waned, we began to creep our way into the vast pillow zones that are within quick striking distance of the hut.
The following days were filled with venturing higher and higher into the alpine going after some of the most aesthetic (and steep) couloirs we’ve skied and more creative pillows down low. As a member of our group said “This place is magic”. And we really have to agree. Where else does rowdy high alpine quickly and effortlessly roll into mellow hippy pow followed by the coolest tree skiing of your life? We can’t think of many places…
With the late light of March, we were able to ski after 6PM every night. At this point, everyone had drinks in hand to cheer for the nightly 6:30 PM Andrew Whiteford show. Like clockwork, Andrew would magically appear atop the rock face adjacent from the hut at 6:30 pm every night to air off this rock in a different way every evening, low light be damned.
“Yup, that was where I skied. How ’bout one of those be
A view into the hut. Twenty people can hang out far more comfortably than you’d ever imagine in these digs. Its the skid version of a dream house…
More of Mr. Whiteford.
While hiring a cook for the week is an option, the group decided to cook our own meals. While this saves some money, don’t forget about the associated chores, the worst of which is breakfast dish duty. This involves doing the dishes sans running water for 20 people while everyone scrambles out the door to go skiing. You better skin fast, because nobody is waiting for you to finish the dishes. The view doesn’t suck, however.
Water duty is not a bad gig. Andrew Whiteford does his best Bobby Boucher impression.
The MVP award for the trip probably has to go the Intern, who skied the entire week with a broken back and a brace on. Booting and skiing steep couloirs with a back brace? If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough- here is the intern’s point of view heading down Outpost Couloir: