While staying in Nelson, British Columbia over the Christmas long
weekend, Zosia Zgolak and I hooked up with Philip Walters on 25 December
2016 and visited nearby Whitewater Ski Resort to do some AT skiing.
Although the resort is renowned for its backcountry skiing opportunities,
it is surprisingly restrictive in allowing uphill skinning within the
resort boundaries. According to Whitewater's
website, a single cat track on the northern margins of the ski resort
has been designated for uphill travel, and this was where we chose to
climb up even though we had no specific objectives in mind when we
started the day. After an easy and somewhat mundane climb to the
top of Silver King chairlift, we continued up a signed backcountry access
trail which eventually turns west and makes a long rising traverse to a
broad saddle. From this saddle, we climbed the ridge to the west
and eventually topped out on a spacious summit which, I would later
learn, is known as White Queen. Although there were some
discussions about continuing westward and descending to the nearby Nordic
ski trails, I was not in favour of this option since it would entail
having to skin uphill at the end of the day to return to our starting
point. Instead, I convinced everyone to ski back down the ridge we
came up and then continue eastward past the broad saddle and over another
minor high point. From looking at the resort's trail map, I was
convinced that there was another backcountry access trail just east of
the minor high point leading back to the top of Silver King chairlift.
When we dropped down the east side of the minor high point, we spotted a
few ski tracks descending into thick forest but nothing resembling an
obvious access trail. After some fruitless searching, we eventually
decided to try and drop down through the trees in order to get back to
the ski resort. The terrain here is both steep and challenging with
hidden cliff bands and narrow breaks between trees. While this was
not an issue for Philip who is an expert skier, Zosia and I had a lot of
problems descending here. At one point, I lost one of my skis in
deep powder after a small wipeout, and I had to dig quite extensively to
find my missing ski. To his credit, Philip exhibited a lot of
patience in waiting for Zosia and me to muddle our way down the slope,
and we all felt relief in one form or another upon regaining our original
up-track. Returning to the resort area, we enjoyed an uneventful ski
back to the parking lot. Despite all the grief Zosia and I endured
on descent, this was still an enjoyable outing and a great way to spend
||The cat track designated for uphill
travel begins just beyond the orange fence and heads out of the photo
to the left.
||Philip stops for a drink on the cat
track while another skier and Zosia come up behind him.
||Philip and Zosia arrive at the signed
backcountry access trail near the top of Silver King chairlift.
||The backcountry access trail is easy
to skin up.
||The backcountry access trail turns
west here and makes a long rising traverse.
||Philip climbs up to a broad saddle.
||Philip follows Zosia westward from the
||It truly is a winter wonderland up
||Zosia and Philip continue to climb
westward up a ridge.
Sonny, Zosia and Philip stand on the summit of White
Queen (2179 metres).
||Zosia and Philip prepare to ski back
down the ridge they came up.
||After returning to the broad saddle,
Philip and Zosia climb up the other side to a minor high point.
The mist clears briefly to allow this partial view of
White Queen from the minor high point. Note the skiers at the
broad saddle (left) and on the summit.