This February I had a fantastic trip to Tunnel Creek with Nicole, Adrian, Tobias, Alan and his nephew Bobby. My only regret is that we only had three days of skiing!
We drove out to Fernie on Friday, February 19 and were a little concerned at the amount it was raining in town. The hut is ~750m higher than town, so we were hopeful for good conditions, but the avalanche risk was elevated. With the risk being Moderate, Considerable and Considerable we knew we would be making conservative choices. Luckily Tunnel Creek has all kinds of terrain to choose from!
The next morning we got up early to head to the hut. The snow was pretty wet and slushy at the highway, but it steadily improved as we climbed. Most of the climb is on a closed logging road, which makes travel pretty easy and fast, so we were able to reach the hut in 2 hours. We were quite wet, but also eager to ski.
We took off to ski the ridge above the hut for our first run, looking for something low angle with trees. There was wind slab in open areas, but good skiing in the trees. Our first run had great snow, but we had to keep our eyes peeled and continually cut across the fall line to avoid rolls, open spaces and steeper sections. On our second run we skied more directly over the hut and were able to stick to the fall line without running into terrain concerns, which made for a better run. That was all we had time for that day, but it was a great two runs.
The hut has been expanded to include a day use area and as part of the change the propane heater was replaced with a wood stove. We had to shovel the roof off to ensure the chimney was clear and the stove took a while to get warm initially, but after the first day it kept the hut extremely warm.
When we returned to the hut we discovered that Adrian had not only carried a glass bottle of Fireball up, but also a full can of hot chocolate mix, a loaf of bread and a can of cherry pie filling. No wonder he was slow on the way in! We appreciated all the goodies when it came time for dessert though. Cherry pie inside grilled bread makes awesome ‘Hobo pies’.
The next day was clear and we headed through the corridor to ski some west facing lines on the other side of planetary peak. We had beautiful clear skies all the way up the ridge and the snow quality and stability was much better than the previous day. Almost everything we could see on an Easterly aspect had slid, including slopes well below treeline. As a result we again stuck to tight trees, low angles and kept a close eye on the snowpack as we went up. The ski quality was fantastic and the ridge was full of exactly the type of terrain we wanted to stay in. After our first run full of face shots and sunshine there was no discussion about where to go next- we all wanted a second lap! The second lap turned out even better than the first, so we all headed up for a third. With the up-track packed out, the laps kept getting easier.
We snuck in one more run on the shoulder above the corridor on the way back to the hut and then it was time to head back. The snow above the hut had obviously seen a lot of sun and a surprise sun crust led to a lot of crashing and laughing.
The last day we decided to check out trespass ridge, which is across the headwall from the hut. We once again saw many recent slides and continued to stick to low angles and avoid eastern aspects. The first run was a mellow, low angle bounce down the ridge. For the second run we worked our way to the treeline on trespass ridge, which provided beautiful views in all directions. There are many great lines from that point, but we stuck to the ridgeline itself to take advantage of the low angle and tree cover it provided. The run was amazing and everyone was whooping the whole way down, except for Nicole and Adrian who were whacking their thighs and groaning. 3 day of skiing had exhausted them, but they were determined to enjoy every turn, even if they needed frequent rests. The only problem with this last lap was that we ended below the hut and needed to head back up to grab our stuff and ski down. Luckily the headwall felt much easier without packs.
After grabbing our gear, we headed down the mountain into snow that was quickly turning into sticky cream cheese. As soon as we hit the road it turned into a snowplow fest and Nicole and Adrian weren’t the only ones groaning. We made it to the cars without incidence, although a couple of the creek crossing dips comes up pretty fast!
Tunnel creek is a great, easily accessible hut that I would highly recommend to anyone who likes fun skiing 🙂