Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Non-Motorized Designation for the North Blue Backcountry Ski Area

The Banff Mountain Film Festival was a huge success and a great opportunity to get the word out about our Backcountry Ski Chalets and Blue River skiing in general.

Setting up in the Eric Harvey Theatre at the Film Festival!

he North Blue River valley where our Chalets and Licence of Occupation is situated has recently been designated Ungulate Winter Range Habitat or "Protected Mountain Caribou Habitat".

The trees around our crew tent from last winter are loaded with arboreal lichens...this is why it is protected Ungulate Winter Range specifically for Mountain Caribou.

This area is designated as "Ungulate Winter Range ID#3-004" This level of protection is specifically for preventing displacement of Mountain Caribou in their winter habitat". The high elevation forests that exist in the valley surrounding our chalets supports a rich source of arboreal lichens that are the primary winter food source for Mountain Caribou.

The BC Provincial Government supported a fourteen member independent mountain caribou science team that convened in 2005, under the direction of the Species at Risk Coordination Office (SaRCO) to identify potential constraints to the maintenance and recovery of Mountain Caribou populations. A draft of the recovery plan was released in November of 2006. The primary concern under the public recreation component was the huge problem of public snowmobiling in core Mountain Caribou habitat.

Cariboo tracks in the narrow valley bottom of the North Blue River - Snowy Mountain Tenure

Trees heavily laden with Caribou Food in the North Blue River headwaters.

Caribou Antler - Cariboos

During the spring we have observed that the Mtn.Caribou love to eat the fresh herbaceous shoots such as fireweed, groundsel, arnica when they emerge in the spring. In late spring the animals stay in the valley bottom where these plants are coming up in the natural openings. Unfortunately, we also see them munching heavily in the cut blocks where their winter food source used to grow.

During the summer the animals have a route that they use during daily migration between tree line and the valley bottom. This route is also used to escape predators from the narrow valley bottom during early and mid-winter. They also move up in elevation as the snow recedes or when the females separate from their group to give birth to young in late spring.

In the winter the family group that inhabits the valley bottom in the North Blue stay in the Old Growth forest in the lower middle section of the valley where they utilize the abundant and rich winter food source of lichens.

Below is a Mountain Caribou leg we found in March of 2010 in the North Blue River valley...we did not find the remainder of the carcass. It is suspected that the demise of this "Endangered Animal" was either due to a low elevation avalanche or predatory hunting by Wolverine.
In the North Blue River the Mtn.Caribou use the lichen rich old growth forest to sustain themselves throughout early and mid winter. In early December we can also find large groups of animals feeding above the trappers cabin on the north facing slopes.

The Mountain Caribou is listed as "threatened" if populations don't stabilize or recover to a sustainable level this ungulate could easily slip into the "Endangered" category. There are less than 1800 animals left in the world. The Mountain Caribou is a sub-species of woodland caribou, most closely related to the now extinct Peary Caribou.

Below are Wolverine tracks a few hundred meters above our Chalets from last February. The North Blue snowpack is not conducive for travel by Wolf packs as the snow is usually too deep and unconsolidated. Good for us not so good for wolfs.

However, the Wolverine exist in this valley in very high numbers...they also prey on vulnerable Mountain Caribou. The Wolverine is currently listed as a "species of concern" in Canada by Cosewic.

Below is just a small sample of the fine ski terrain of the North Blue...

We have engaged land managers, politicians and local stakeholders to formalize our commercial activities in the North Thompson. Receiving the first non-motorized multi-season commercial licence of occupation tenure in the North Thompson in the past 40 years. This also a first for a crown land tenure in the entire Cariboo Mountains that is self-propelled.

The north end of the Snowy Mountain Tenure...and the eastern boundary of Wells Gray Park will see additional mountain huts to facilitate excellent access to huge amounts of skiing terrain. Combine your spring ski trip to the North Blue with a traverse of the Southern Cariboos Haute Route...Summits and Icefields author Chic Scott.

So come and ski the Cariboos deep powder and long runs...we will guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dave, Conrad and Steve.G warming up at beer thirty in the Alpha tent. We can't quite put our finger on it but those who come to work in the North Blue are captivated by the place...they just want to come back. I think it's the energy given off from the Old Growth forest, maybe its the power of the snowy mountains...maybe it's the purity of living under the stars...or the sound of the Blue River rushing towards the sea...perhaps it's the magic of wilderness. There is a deep human desire to feel bare in the rawness of nature...something primal deep inside each one of us...It is there inside you too!

Ryan just after shredding his pants on....something. Here is the footbridge crossing the mighty North Blue River half way between the trailhead and the Chalets.

Supporting the local economy with jobs and product purchases.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Below are some photos of the sleeping Chalet as of October 13, 2010. Rustic luxury in backcountry BC. More snow coming to the high country this week. The snowpack will begin to lay in... but what will winter bring this year? One thing we know for sure, this area of BC's backcountry has cooler temps and fewer rain events producing a more generally stable snowpack. This is partly due to the immense amounts of snow the area receives. We have the fattest snowpack next to the coast range....can you tell we're excited?....Winter is coming soon to Blue River!

The delivery truck having a wee problem, this load contained about 18 000 lbs of building materials. Amazing truck and even more amazing driver. Thank you Huey!

The snow line is beginning to drop in the Cariboos. The wind has picked up bringing the sharp crispness of winter in it's wake. The construction crew just spent another nine days working on the sleeping chalet in the North Blue. The flash flood that occurred at the end of September just about severed the thin thread that links us to the outside world...our road almost washed out. It also wreaked havoc at the Bone Creek project. The cold wet weather of September left a foot or more of fresh snow in the alpine. A cell of intensely warm air drifted through the region then it was immediately followed by a day of torrential rains. The snowpack runoff combined with the heavy rainfall was too much for waterways to bear pushing the limits of culverts, ditches and eventually road and trail beds.

The second floor of the sleeping chalet with master builder Dave working until late in the evening.

The bedrooms each have a window looking out at the wild snowy peaks of the Cariboos. Each room is small but provides a private space to rest in the glory of powder skiing nirvana. Downstairs there is a cozy wood stove to sit and enjoy the views or read a book by. The facilities are starting to really take shape and this dream to have a cabin in the mountains is slowly becoming a reality.

To be honest we just love and live for powder skiing. We can describe what we are selling with all the applicable superlatives that get slung out into backcountry skiing advertising campaigns...we have fallen victim to that. Here you will only understand what makes this place different and worthy of the most discerning backcountry skiers, if you come to experience it.

We can tell you it's the best and the biggest and the deepest and all that...but really we are first and foremost skiers so this place was chosen for the outstanding ski terrain. We are wilderness lovers and we know.... there is something extra special about the the secret Cariboos.

This is our first operational season the bits and pieces are coming together to give us a solid and successful beginning.

Blue River backcountry skiing will get into your bones....Blue River will get into your bones...most people find it hard to leave...and they always, always can't wait to come back.

Come join us and we'll take you someplace very special.

There is no turning back....

The snowcat in with comfy heated passenger box coming this November.

Snowy Mountain Alpine Tours and Chalets will be exhibiting at the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Trade Show November 5-8th, 2010.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Glimpse into the Past...Blue River BC

Brenda rippin' the pow in the Cariboos

Blue River BC was established as an outpost for trappers and prospectors prior to the establishment of the CN Rail Line.

Most folks understand this history of Blue River, BC, however what is not widely known is that Blue River is one of the primary birthplaces of "Backcountry Skiing" in Western Canada. We know lot's about the Canadian Pacific Railway legacy of bringing organized mountain vacations to the Rockies and Selkirk ranges in eastern BC around the turn of the past century. What most people don't realize is that next to Revelstoke, Blue River was the hub of backcountry skiing.

Since the early, early 1900's prospectors and trappers who made it to Blue River were from many different countries including the Scandinavian countries. It was one of these Norwegian immigrants that brought backcountry skiing to Blue River, while surveying the rail line for CN. These intrepid explorers felt right at home under the extensive alpine lands surrounding Blue River. Seeking out to establish a high elevation cabin they choose one of the nearest peaks to build their mountain getaway, around 1916 at an elevation of 5200 ft. This established Blue River as a "skiing destination" decades before the development of Mike Wiegele's helicopter skiing venture.

This private mountain cabin is still owned by the family today and it stands as testament to the early history of backcountry skiing in Western Canada. Ski clubs from around BC made their way to Blue River to experience the immense amount of snow and fine powder skiing of the Cariboos. Many members of these early ski clubs made their way up the mountain on foot and skis to the cabin on the lower slopes of Mt.Cook. This historical and magical place is where I began backcountry skiing two decades ago.

It remains in my heart as a sacred place in the nearby snowy mountains.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Beta Season

Thirty two heli sling loads later...and were still not finished! Two nine day sessions with the crew and we have our 27ft Yurt ready for our Beta season. We are busy constructing the sleeping/sauna chalet this fall and getting ready for another deep powder winter. We want to provide El Nina with the best hospitality ever, hopefully she will be our special guest for this upcoming season in the North Blue.

We experienced a short delay this summer when a wildfire sparked up at in early August and cut off our access. Travelling up to the North Blue that day and seeing the smoke our stomachs sank thinking we're already going up in smoke! We soon discovered the awesome response by Clearwaters' Initial Attack fire crew made short work of that fire! Good thing we brushed and improved the road last fall as they accessed the area much quicker.

The construction crew enjoyed meals created right here in the work camp kitchen...including salmon phyllos, moose meat balls with huckleberry ketchup and our favourite flambayed single malt bananas. Lee Ann never disappointed us with her magic meals...Our ciders and beer stayed cold in the mountain stream during the blistering hot days and we all looked forward to the cool evenings and mornings.

The lower valley in the North Blue has Old Growth cedar trees that rival those in Carmanah....almost. We counted the rings on a an old snag near the chalets' and it appears to be around 500 years old!

You can see Brenda hiking the Mountain Caribou trail just west of Mt. Nelson....this is the most amazing trail. We followed it and found ourselves easily hiking up through the forest to TL in no time. We could see that this wildlife trail is a vital link between upper and lower elevation habitats. Both Caribou and goat hair hang in thick bunches on the tree branches and bushes.

The second fly in was shrouded in the thickest forest fire smoke we have ever experienced in the North Thompson....they say the smoke stretched all the way out to Saskatchewan. It was unreal and at times we only had a few hundred meters of visibility.

Check out our new website and don't miss out on skiing the Cariboos...deep powder skiing, sighting the elusive Mountain Caribou and ripping in the best tree skiing on earth. Come join us and we'll name a run after you!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Welcome to the Snowy Mountain Alpine Tours blog. We are a backcountry adventure travel company that delivers guided backcountry skiing, hiking, avalanche safety training and mountain skills clinics in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. Our base of operations are the communities of Blue River and Clearwater in the beautiful North Thompson Valley, fortunately situated smack dab between the Cariboo and Monashee Mountains.

What is new?

We are very pleased to announce BC's newest and largest backcountry skiing venue and the first guided backcountry ski operation on crown land in the Cariboo Mountains! The tenure sits at the eastern edge of BC's fourth largest protected wilderness area, Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Our backcountry chalets will support wilderness skiers and hikers in Rustic Luxury. These accommodations provide access to over 100 square km of mountain terrain.

The Cariboo mountains possess the highest concentration of many things "wilderness" including very, very deep and dry powder snow. At a higher latitude than most other BC backcountry lodges this area possesses unique Old Growth tree skiing forests in huge amounts. Picture 30m spacing between trees that were born before your great, great, great, great, great (you get the picture) uncle, the perfect incline for deep powder and a 4.0 m settled snowpack. There is no touring on the flats here to get to the goods either, each chalet (think hut to hut) is placed carefully, to take advantage of direct access to bread and butter runs.

Wells Gray Provincial Park..backcountry skiing? Until now there has been essentially no easy access to the goods. Being situated along the eastern boundary provides groups access to huge areas of unskied wilderness including the Wavy Range. With no recorded ski touring exploration here you are guaranteed to have fun!

Summer here is incredible, the alpine and sub-alpine zones contain a vast area of alpland, hundreds of lakes and glaciers that beckon for exploration. Even though we live here, we have only scratched the surface of this magical wilderness area. Oh! Did I forget to mention that the forests are also protected from harvesting for Mountain Caribou habitat...thanks to the BC Liberal government! You gotta love it!