Valkyr Outpost Lodge Backcountry Skiing

Jan 29 – Feb 5, 2023

The Outpost is one of three lodges owned by Valkyr Adventures, located in the Valkyr Range of the Southern Selkirk mountains. Nestled at the base of Mount Lequereux, the lodge is also referred to as LQ.

Like most backcountry ski lodges, this is a fly in/fly out lodge. Unlike heliskiing, the helicopter drops us off and picks us up one week later. We ski tour on our own power for the week. We were a self-guided and self-catered group, however fully guided and catered groups can be booked, which is a real treat but more expensive.

Day One – loading our gear, food and clothes into the helicopter for the short ride to Outpost Lodge. While it might not look too wintery here, it’s a different story up at the lodge.
The helicopter bringing in another load to the Outpost Lodge. Photo credit: Doug Slather.

The Outpost Lodge recently underwent a major renovation and addition, with several new bedrooms, bathrooms and storage areas added. The lodge has private bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two indoor showers. There is also a sauna, with a water bucket shower.

The Outpost Lodge by Valkyr Adventures. The original structure was recently expanded. The new section on the left added another bathroom, bedroom and a Custodian office. The back addition expanded the living room, and added three new bedrooms and an extra bathroom downstairs.
The sauna is located upstairs in this unit, across the way from the lodge. If you wonder why it seems so far away, I imagine it’s because Martin was a Fire Fighter for years. I’m sure he’s seen his fair share of buildings go up in flames. I’d keep them separate too! Photo credit: Doug Slather

This trip was booked through the Rocky Mountain Section of the Alpine Club of Canada, and was organized by the very competent Gail Crowe-Swords. I met Gail two years ago at the 2021 ACC Mount Mummery General Mountaineering Camp. Gail was a volunteer leader, and I was a participant. Selecting people to come on these ski weeks is not easy, and I have to give it to Gail for bringing together twelve of the most fun and well-suited people. The group naturally split out into skill and speed levels, while the aprรจs ski food and banter was the best I’ve ever had.

Gail (right) organized the trip. While I skied ‘near’ her, I can’t say I actually skied ‘with’ her as she’s just too darn fast. Kelly (left) and I skied together most days as we were similarly matched.

Outpost Lodge

The Outpost is a cozy, yet roomy lodge. The living room is spacious, with several sofas, and plenty of extra floor space to stretch or do puzzles.

The kitchen has a range and oven, plus another 4 burner cooktop. There is a prep area, and a serving counter. The full-size fridge was nice, and there was also a cold room with a full size deep freeze on the lower level.

This is just half of the living room. The rest is behind me. It has two futons, plus a large open area for stretching. There was even a fold out table for puzzles.
The kitchen as seen from the living room. The big table is to the right. While there is not a lot of counter space, most food is made at home and simply reheated and served here.

The large table easily fit the 14 of us (12 participants, the custodian Jordan, and owner Martin). Downstairs were six bedrooms with single over double bunks, and two full bathrooms with showers.

While the Outpost Lodge has running water, and on-demand hot water, there was an issue with the pumps when we were there. I have to commend Jordan and Martin for giving it their full attention, and even managed to get the water running one day mid-week. Hydro systems in these mountain huts are finicky things. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a week anywhere without some issue popping up. When the problem was diagnosed, Martin flew out to buy parts, and then flew back in to fix it.

Meanwhile, Jordan the Custodian has his work cut out for him. He hauled about 150 litres of water up from the lake daily. Once Martin left, we helped with the water hauling.

Mike hauling the empty water jugs back down to me at the lake to fill up. Hauling the filled jugs back up the hill was a two person job.
I had the easy but cold job of filling the buckets. With such a small hole and cup, it did take a while. To be fair, this is NOT normal and you should expect hot running water while you’re here. I personally think hauling water adds to the experience and makes you appreciate the water more.

Avalanche Awareness and Safety

Backcountry skiing is inherently dangerous, but even more so when the avalanche conditions are tricky. This has been a heinous snowpack year, with no signs of it getting any better. Even in the trees, we had Moderate avalanche conditions, and the alpine was a no go with ratings of Considerable and High.

To keep us on task and safe, Gail held morning safety briefings. We reviewed conditions from the day before, temperatures, and snow fall accumulation. We also reviewed the major snow problems we had, like wind slabs, deep slabs, and the deep persistent slab. To mitigate risk, we skied low angle terrain, and treed terrain. There were some fun looking ridges and alpine areas that stayed tantalizing out of reach. I’d rather stay alive to ski another day.

We also dug snow pits and analyzed the layers. This was a daily task as we got all kinds of weather from high winds at night, to a big dump of snow, to warming temperatures throughout the week. Terrain management was key, as was good communication. We all carried radios, and checked in at the top and bottom of every run.

Digging pits is a team effort. This was the evening of our first day. We did transceiver practice, and then headed up the ridge to dig some pits. Adrian (green) and Jim (blue) are making some final adjustments to the snow column before the stress test. We really had to slam on the column to get it to release, but when it did, watch out. Photo credit: Doug Slather.

Ski Areas

There are several main ski areas at Outpost. I got really spoiled at this lodge because most of the runs were within sight of the lodge. It would have been super easy to head in for lunch, but knowing me, once I get back to the lodge, I don’t want to leave again.

Do to high avalanche conditions, we mainly stayed to four areas – Koch Valley, Broom, Windy and the Machine.

Map of the Outpost ski areas.

Koch Valley

This was a gorgeous area that we saved for blue sky days as we needed good visibility. Mike and I skied here twice, and love it both times.

The first time, we ran laps from the col down through the trees to the first flat valley bottom. We had two groups in the area, and no matter where you were, we could hear the other group and keep in good communication.

Our second trip took us further afield, as we wrapped around the south east flank of Mount Lequereux. As we hauled higher and higher up the narrow ridge, it looked like we were so close to summiting. A quick map check dashed our hopes as this was only the false summit, with the summit being a ways away. Funnily, Gail and her group also attempted the same thing, and turned around dejected after consulting their location.

Skinning up from the lodge to the col heading into Koch Valley. This was our first full day at the lodge. It was a cold, but clear day. Lodge in the background. L-R is John, Lynn, Jim and Doug.
Snow monsters! This shows the wind affect and the moisture in the air. Don’t get this in the Rockies.
Lots of great skiing to be had on the upper slopes, but with the high avalanche conditions they would have to wait for another year. You can see the wind affect on the snow, so hunting around for good snow was necessary.
Excellent skiing along the entire slope, and our two groups farmed it all day. Mike wanted to head back to paraglide, but I knew there was one perfect line left to be had. Finally got it – its the furthest lookers right line.
Our second time in the Koch Valley, we wrapped around the south flank of Mount Lequereux. From the first flat section below the col, we skied up to the left (see tree break). This was probably the longest distance tour we did, and it’s well worth the trek. I unfortunately picked this day to forget my lunch!!! so we had had a good ski, and then had to haul back. Gah!
Heading up the ridge of the south flank of Mount Lequereux. I wonder what that flat-topped mountain is in the distance?
Transitioning on the way to the false summit. What you can’t really see is the near vertical drop directly behind me. Making those right hand turns was getting sketchy. I was imagining a backwards slip would send me right off the cliff. Not exactly a great visual. I will say – it was one amazing run down from up here!
Probably the longest and best run of the week. This just kept going and going. The snow quality was amazing, and the stability was enjoyable.

Tracks for the Koch Valley

Koch Valley – 1: Laps. Downloadable Tracks on Gaia.

Koch Valley – 2: Tour to Mount Lequereux. Downloadable Tracks on Gaia.

Mount Lequereux “Hot Flash Ridge” & “Hot Sex Trees”

Due to the strange combination of high avalanche danger, yet also a low snowpack, we spent a lot of time on the Mt. Lequereax ridge that leads down into treed runs. We could only descend a few hundred meters before the snow would crap out.

As the groups were spreading out along the ridge and the treed areas, we needed to create some Run names as the map just had big areas marked as “Broom” or “Windy”. We named our ridge “Hot Flash Ridge” because one of the women (cough, cough) was having hot flashes, and because some of the guys were having sympathetic hot flashes that had absolutely nothing to do with the elevation gain and pace. Nope!

The treed runs below the ridge were renamed “Hot Sex” trees, and I can’t for the life of me remember how we came up with that name. Probably because these tree runs were so good, they were almost orgasmic ๐Ÿ™‚ Fluffy powder and nicely spaced trees. What’s not to love? As a bonus – the prevailing winds deposit fresh snow here almost daily, even if there is no new snow.

Hot Flash Ridge & Hot Sex Trees – Downloadable Tracks on Gaia.

Getting ready to head out in the morning. Jim (not shown) is a real talker, and he would usually be late getting going. This meant the group would be freezing outside waiting for him. The day before I pointed out how late Jim was, and could he please hurry up? Today, I decided to hit the outhouse one last time before leaving. When I got back, everyone was ready and waiting … for me! Doug Slather was sure to capture the moment of my comeuppance!
Heading up Hot Flash Ridge. We had cloudy days, and high winds. This ridge was not a lot of fun, but it did get us the extra elevation we needed for a longer run, especially because we couldn’t descend below a certain elevation.
Looking up at the treed run below Hot Flash Ridge. There’s a wide bench that splits this area in two.
Hot Sex Trees are the runs below the wide bench. The snow decreased in quality the lower we descended to the valley, so we stayed in this band of awesomeness.
Adrian, Mike and Alisen transitioning at the base for another trip up the mountain. It was cold, but no wind once we got below the ridge. Photo credit: Doug Slather.
We skied most days with Bogdan and Kelly. They were amazing skiers, and excellent company in the lodge.

Fail Days

Not everyday was sublime though. On day 3, we wanted to take the ridge down to Windy Lake. Unfortunately, the ridge only had snow along the top, and the descent off the ridge was steep and cliffy in spots. In a better snow year, this would not be a problem, but with our low snow year, the slopes down to the lake were icy and sketch.

Our group got split, with Mike, Bodgan and Kelly making their way all the way down to the lake. The rest of the group – Alisen, Lynn, John, Jim, Adrian and Doug – retreated back up the ridge for some some laps off Hot Flash Ridge. I’m including this because there is good skiing over here, just not for us.

Hot Mess – Downloadable Tracks on Gaia.

John getting some beautiful turns off Hot Flash Ridge. Photo credit: Doug Slather

The other unfortunate day was when we skied the Broom area. You know it’s a bad day when Gail decides to do a puzzle instead of skiing. The Broom is a great ski area, we just hit it on a bad day. After several days of really cold (-15 to -25 Celsius), the temperature decided to dramatically heat up this day, which caused a few concerns. The lower elevation slopes were heating up, turning the lovely powder into heavy mush. I will admit to being spoiled by the light and fluffy cold pow we’d had the previous several days. We also had tree bombs going off as early as 11:30 am, which is not ideal in an already fragile snowpack. Broom is a great area, but just not the right day.

The Broom – Downloadable Tracks on Gaia.

Our leader Gail showing us where she’d skied on the previous days. We are on the ridge above the Broom area. We skied off the other side to the left. This is steeper terrain, and with better snow conditions, it would be one fun run down.
Sample of the Broom terrain. The ridge slopes are above on the left, with lots of tree skiing on the lower slopes to the right. Straight ahead is the lodge (but have to regain the ridge to access).
Looking across to the start of the Koch Valley. You can see the wind ridges all along this area. In better snow years, this ridge, plus the whole area on the other side, is open for skiing. I’ll just have to come back and try again.
Adrian, Doug, John, Alisen and Patrick climbing out of the Broom area, and heading back up to Hot Flash Ridge. I gave up after one run and joined Gail in the lodge for puzzle time. It was Day 5, and we’d been skiing every day with no break, so I was definitely okay with having an early day.

Another fail was Mike’s skins! The front clip of Mike’s skin came off mid-week. Luckily it happened at the end of the day on our way back to the lodge. This gave the guys something to do, as they hunted around for possible replacement parts. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked until we got back to Ski Uphill in Canmore.

Sometimes you have to make do with what you have. We now have some extra skin parts, but honestly? We’ve never had a tip come off the front of a skin before. First time for everything.

Outpost Lodge

All in, we had an absolutely fantastic time at the Outpost Lodge. Gail kept us on track and safe all week. We ate amazing meals that showcased people’s heritage and backgrounds. We had absolutely insanely good powder skiing, with a perfectly timed mid-week half-day rest.

I’d highly recommend the Outpost Lodge for anyone who wants to ski, without having to tour for an hour to access excellent terrain. Most days we were within sight of the lodge, and despite being out for hours, rarely travelled more than eight km.

A big thank you to Gail for organizing this trip, and for including Mike and me!

Thanks for reading! Please do me a huge favour and click the Star button to “Like” it. You can also follow my blog, join my FaceBook page Al’s Adventurers, or follow me on Instagram

Alisen

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22 comments on “Valkyr Outpost Lodge Backcountry Skiing
  1. Washe Koda says:

    ๐Ÿ˜Ž cool โ„๏ธ ‘image shots’ ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Beautiful countryside!

  3. Diana says:

    Wow, what an adventure! I didnโ€™t even know you could do something like this, with the helicopter and the lodge and such. Sounds like a rugged (maybe more than intended) but fun experience!

    • alisendopf says:

      Hi Diana,
      We have an abundance (50 plus) of these lodges in the province of British Columbia. Most of the land here is public, so operators can get a land lease, and reserve a parcel of land for the exclusive use of the skiers at their lodge. This company – Valkyr – has three lodges in this area.

      There are a LOT of Americans who come up north for our lodges. This is a backcountry skiing lodge, but there are lodges that cater to cat skiing (free ride up the mountain in an enclosed cat). The really big deal are the heliskiing lodges like Canadian Mountain Holidays. These are really expensive with fully catered fine dining, massages, and of course, a helicopter ride to the top of every run.

      Staying at a lodge is pure luxury! Even if we had to haul water, it was still amazing. The Alpine Club of Canada has an extension hut system, and these are by far the most rustic. No helicopters are allowed, so we have to haul in our food in our backpacks. Once at these huts, we have to either find an open creek and haul water in big yellow buckets, or melt snow for drinking water.

      If you ever want to come up, I can let you know the best huts and when to book.
      Thanks for stopping by Diana!
      Alisen

      • Diana says:

        Wow, thatโ€™s amazing that there are so many of them! I donโ€™t really backcountry ski, but if I did this is definitely something I would look into.

  4. tuttlejjim says:

    That must have been a great adventure! Runs close to the lodge and good people make a good combo for a week. Thanks for sharing another story.

    • alisendopf says:

      Jim! Good to hear from you!
      You would have loved this crowd. Good food and great conversation.
      I hope you have an amazing summer, and even more stories to share.
      Alisen

  5. Simply breath-taking and a true Winter Wonderland! I don’t think I have ever seen so much snow. Thanks for sharing, Mel

  6. Widdershins says:

    I was hoping your adventures would continue ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. This looks AMAZING! what a wonderful life you lead!!!

    • alisendopf says:

      Oh Ann! You are SO sweet. I’m digging all your amazing adventures too. I see you’re making everyone back in Scotland pretty jealous ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Abirbhav says:

    I remember our conversations on ICE and Russia.. And being a Chionophile, I can’t help but be awed by this post of yours and the insanely beautiful pictures โ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธ Would like to have a rendezvous with those “Ice Monsters” you showed..
    Your posts show the hidden aspects of Canada, especially the Rocky Mountains and Banff area.. Love your posts and your hikes in such extreme conditions โ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธ

    • alisendopf says:

      Thank you for your kind words. This was just one of three ‘big’ ski trips last winter. The conditions were difficult, more so than most years, so I didn’t get to go everywhere. I imagine I’ll be back to this area someday…

      Yes, this is indeed a ‘hidden’ area in Canada. Unless you are into backcountry skiing, there’s no way to find this place. Plus, the helicopter ride and the need to spend a week there is enough to scare off most people.
      I’m glad you enjoy the snow and ice! Not many people do.
      Alisen

      • Abirbhav says:

        Oh.. The helicopter is something to scare me off as well.. Freezing Cold I can handle easily, alongwith treks and staying isolated for a week in the Cold.. โ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธโ„๏ธ
        Your posts are so inspiring always and you won’t believe that this trip I undertook now contains an “extreme” place inspired by your treks.. coming up this weekend..

      • alisendopf says:

        Wow. I’m so thankful to hear I have inspired you! I do appreciate you telling me, as I do try to encourage others to take on their own adventures. Can’t wait!

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