Steep Ski Progression in BC's Coast Mountains

Highlights of preparation during the 21/22 season for a bigger spring expedition - pushing my ski mountaineering skills!

Eric Carter










Owls Couloir is centre while the Owls Jr is the ramp/couloir lookers left.












This season, I'm making an effort to explore new terrain and tackle bigger and bigger lines in preparation for a spring trip to the Himalayas. My team and I need to be prepared to climb big alpine faces and problem solve along the way. I sought out routes this season that presented interesting challenges and took me to beautiful and aesthetic places. This guidebook sums up some of my favourites from the year.

Skiing the North Gully of the Chief in Squamish was an early season novelty but still provided a challenge in technical difficulty. We had to establish anchors and use the rope repeatedly to get our team of three through the terrain as quickly and smoothly as possible.

The Big Howie Couloir was an exciting on-sight descent of a line we had little information about beyond the satellite imagery on FATMAP. Dropping into the unknown was exhilarating and gave us confidence in our abilities to deal with what was coming.

The Owls Jr. ramp and couloir was a test of calm under pressure, climbing and skiing a very steep, firm, and exposed line. This was a good reminder that my ski skills are solid but focusing on technique is still important.

Dalton Dome was a solo trip where I was able to listen to my own thoughts and deal with challenges as they arose entirely on my own. This was a massive face with intimidating terrain and made me think of what I should expect in the Himalayas as conditions vary from mountain top to valley bottom.

Bagheera was an excellent combo line. We had tired legs from skiing equally rad terrain the day before and a big group of 5 to get through highly technical and exposed terrain. We had to work together efficiently to get the skiing done and still handle a long trip out to the car.

Skiing these types of lines should never be a question of "can I ski this?" but rather an exercise in logistics. The achievement is completing them in a timeframe that fits your schedule and minimizes exposure to hazards encountered along the way - essentially getting in, skiing, and getting out safely and efficiently.

I've purposefully only marked the descent lines for these trips as part of the process of skiing them was researching all the options for ascent and exit. As conditions change, the best approach will change as well. To simply follow my routes would be inadvisable so take the time scouring FATMAP and making recon trips before you commit completely.


Owls Jr. Couloir

A slightly smaller but much more intimidating line next to the classic Owls Couloir.