Ski Traverses in B.C.

February – April is prime time for ski expeditions. The days are longer and glaciers are filling in nicely. A perfect time for some overnight trips into far reaches of the southwest B.C. In this post I will offer some ideas for popular traverses within 100 km from Vancouver. They are sorted in the order of logistical & technical involvement, with those accessible most coming up first. For more information be sure to read my detailed trip reports and further planning resources linked in each.

Table of Contents:

  1. Garibaldi Neve Traverse
  2. Spearhead Traverse
  3. Powdercap Traverse
  4. Currie-Blackcomb Traverse
  5. Pemberton Icecap traverse
  6. Ashlu-Elaho Traverse
  7. McBride Traverse
  8. Misty Icefields Traverse
  9. Lillooet Icefield Traverse

Garibaldi Neve traverse, 48 km / 2 days

Looking N towards the Garibaldi Neve and The Tent

There are two west coast ski classics – Spearhead traverse and Garibaldi Neve traverse. Being easier of the two, Garibaldi Neve will likely be be your first touch with the glaciated landscape of the southwest British Columbia. The well established ski route is fairly mellow. The scenery, however, will be grand.

Read detailed route description and planning guide HERE.

Spearhead traverse, 46 km / 3 days

Spearchead-CheakamusMtn
Camp below Cheakamus Mountain (Diavolo Glacier)

Now, this might be one of the only two traverses on this list where you will NOT be alone. Spearhead traverse used to be a major undertaking but nowadays, with chairlift access and more and more people venturing into the backcountry of Whistler-Blackcomb, this has become a very popular trip and you will have no trouble following tracks of other people, even following groups of other people. It is still a beautiful traverse, with lots of up and down, best done over 3 days. Crossing some large slopes so make sure avi rating is favourable.

Read detailed route description HERE.

Powdercap traverse, 50 km / 3 days

Looking towards Mt. Fee from Squamish-Cheakamus Divide.

This ski traverse west of Squamish gets a bad rep for being overrun by snowmobiles but when we went at the end end of March we saw NONE. Granted, there were signs of motorized usage but if nothing else then the tracks allowed us to follow the route with ease. Combined with generally benign terrain this might be a good option for a ski traverse if you are just starting to venture into overnight ski trips. Impressive, jagged summit of Mt. Fee and Mt. Cayley provide a stunning backdrop. Arrange for a car shuttle between Alexander Falls and Brew Hut trail head.

Read trip report and route description HERE.

Currie-Blackcomb traverse, 40 km / 2-3 days

Currie_Blackcomb_WeartGl
Descending towards Weart Glacier

This traverse gets less credit than it deserves. One drawback perhaps is that it requires a short, 10-minute, helicopter flight from Blackcomb heli base to the summit of Mt Currie (~$250/per person, can take up to 5 with packs and skis). But from that point on it is a smooth sailing down and towards Weart Glacier. Once there, you are in a familiar country and really close to Wedge Pass and Decker Glacier just out of Blackcomb ski resort.

Currie-Blackcomb

Pemberton Icecap traverse, 75 km / 5 days

Pemberton Icecap as seen from Little Ring Mountain.

Pemberton Icefield is a large glaciated area spanning from upper Squamish Valley all the way to Meager Creek. To traverse the entire length of the icefield would be a 90 km trip but many entry and exit points exist. For example (from N to S): Rutherford Creek, Soo River, Callaghan Valley, Ring Creek, Dipper Creek. Most of these, with the exception of Callaghan Valley, will require a long approach on logging roads, if free of snow, or ideally an assistance of a snowmobile. In fact, the entire Pemberton Icefield is criss-crossed with snowmobile tracks as it is a popular area with the sport aficionados.

If that is not a deterrent (and it shouldn’t be), the area offers some expansive vistas towards the west and relatively easy travel over mellow glaciers.

Read THIS POST describing a 5-day trip over the southern portion of the Pemberton Icecap.

Ashlu-Elaho traverse, 48 km / 4 days

A wonderful shorter traverse on the west side of Sea-to-Sky highway. Relatively gentle terrain and few technical difficulties. Access, though, is a big unknown at the moment. With forest roads in the Ashlu River valley no longer maintained by the logging/IPP projects, many of the access points are no longer easy to get to by car. Still doable for a determined party though!

Read detailed trip report HERE.

McBride traverse, 105 km / 6-7 days

McBride_MtSirRichard
Ascending towards Mount Sir Richard

McBride traverse crosses the entire length of Garibaldi Park and requires great route-finding skills. This is definitely a trip for someone who already has a few years experience in the backcountry as it requires travelling on glaciers and navigating in an unfamiliar terrain. While remote and involved I see more and more people doing this quintessential southwest B.C. traverse every year. Many variations of the entry and exit points exist.

See the map and read detailed trip report HERE.

Misty Icefields traverse, 120 km / 8-10 days

Misty-OldPierre
Looking towards Old Pierre Mountain (far left)

The mysterious, unknown Misty Icefields…. this is the feel you’ll be having crossing this rarely visited terrain where none of the peaks will be familiar to you (as they are not quite visible from Vancouver or Sea-to-Sky). Navigation is fairly straightforward as the terrain is mostly open and easy to read. The logistics, however, won’t be. This is a Point A to point B traverse so you will need to arrange for some transportation to your starting point on the Lillooet Lake side and exit point at Pitt Lake – two vastly distant places!

Lillooet Icefield traverse, 110 km / 8-10 days

Skiing towards Mt. Alecto.

A fairly involved traverse that makes a horseshoe around upper Lillooet River taking you deep into the coast mountains with their tumbling glaciers, deep valleys and awe inspiring peaks. The 2010 Capricorn Creek landslide made this traverse more complicated by washing out the bridge over a major river out but alternative exit options exists.

Read detailed trip report HERE.

In conclusion:

There are many more ski traverses that can be done around here, the options are literally limitless as anything past Squamish going NW is just one big backcountry stretching all the way to Alaska. The traverses I have described here are those that are well documented and easily planned and executed from Vancouver.

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