Back in front of my computer screen in my Montreal office, I’m just starting to realize that a few days ago I was in the middle of the Rockies on the iconic Rogers Pass. Cut off from any civilization, I tried for the first time the experience of Alpine ski touring. I took part in this trip with 20 other outdoor industry professionals from across Canada to test my limits and those of Smartwool products.
Since I had never done alpine skiing before, I immediately read articles on the subject to determine what I would bring in my bag. The essentials were, therefore, the compulsory ski equipment for adventures in the backcountry: shovels, probes, and beacons, as well as the appropriate clothes for an effective layering system: Smartwool merino base layer tops and bottoms, a SmartLoft for the climb and a shell descent.
Coming from all over the country, we ended up at the Calgary airport to begin our journey to Rogers Pass in British Columbia. The road to get there passes between the snowy peaks of Alberta and, by chance, that day was sunny. I spent the next 4 hours driving to watch the spectacular scenery, already imagining myself climbing up and down these great ski mountains.
After a few stops to get the essential materials for our epic adventure, we arrived in a lost parking lot in the middle of the mountains. Rogers Pass rising in front of us, massive and impressive. We started preparing our equipment for the next 3 days before putting on our boots. In doing so, I learn with my more experienced friends how to put my skins on and, above all, some tips for skiing well. To get to the base camp, Wheeler’s Hut, we already have 20 minutes of skiing. A little training for what we would expect the next day. After putting our stuff in our rustic home, we had training on how to use our transceivers with our guides. Indeed, in Alpine ski touring, it is more than important to know that it is nature that takes back its rights. It is, therefore, crucial to be ready in case of avalanche or accidents.
After a good meal prepared in a group and a good evening to discuss our adventures around the fire in an atmosphere of camaraderie, we prepared our lunch and our snacks for the next day. We also decided our groups for skiing: the most experienced on one side and the novices on the other. Having never done ski touring, I decided to go with the novices: for all of us, the adventure would prove incredible and full of pitfalls!
In the early morning, after a good night’s sleep and a great breakfast, we were ready to leave. Smartloft, on the back, 150 Merino base layer underneath, then ultralight socks to avoid getting too hot. “Multilayer” being the keyword for ski touring.
We finally left under a rather low cloud cover and a thick fog. Nevertheless, I was amazed at the beauty of the landscape that stood before me. I spent my time wondering if I was in a dream. The landscape looked like a black-and-white photograph and we were alone in the middle of this imposing mountain! My Smartloft was perfect for the climb. Light enough and very breathable for difficult moments, it kept me warm enough during breaks where our body temperature tends to go down.
After a few hours of climbing, a mixture of fatigue and excitement was felt in the middle of the group. Some were eager to stop the climb that had already begun, while others wanted to continue. I took part in this trip to test my limits, so I decided to climb to the top with four of my fellow novice skiers and a guide. An hour after leaving our friends, and more than 4 hours since the start of the climb, it was increasingly difficult to climb. Our legs were starting to burn, but all eager to accomplish this challenge, we pushed on. With a lot of collective encouragement, we all came to the top. Exhausted, but alive!
Once we reached the summit, we took a few seconds to see what we had accomplished, contemplating at the same time the magnificent view that surrounded us. The respite, however, was short-lived: we only had about ten minutes during which we had to eat our lunch to regain strength, put on an extra layer to keep warm, all in view of the next adventure awaiting us: the descent.
Conditions had, however, deteriorated. A white light made the vision difficult and hid the slopes of the mountain. The guide warned us that we had to be extra cautious and follow his tracks so as to stay safe because the weather would not allow evacuation by helicopter in the event of an incident. These words cut through the air and made the descent a little tense. Fatigue, especially, was beginning to be very present, our last reserves of energy having already been nearly exhausted on the climb. We still enjoyed an incredible powdery descent through the remarkable and unusual scenery. We were alone, off the marked trails, in an environment very different from the ski areas we were used to.
At the end of the day, all groups finally ended up at the chalet without incident. We were tired, but above all, still amazed by the day we had just lived. We spent the evening reminding ourselves of our challenges, our adventures, our galleys, but also our joy of having shared such a great adventure. It was an exhilarating experience and unique, shared with people we had just met, but we suddenly had the impression to know for years.
Smartwool‘s vision “Go Far. Feel Good “represents what we experienced on this trip: pushing your limits without having to worry about your clothes or your comfort during the effort. This trip, made in conditions as beautiful as chaotic, was for me an experience as difficult as enriching. Thanks to Smartwool for this adventure. Thank you for showing us the meaning of the community. Thank you, above all, for helping athletes of all levels to excel in comfortable, quality technical clothing.