The Slackcountry is the untracked, lift-accessed “backcountry” that snow seekers enjoy just outside ski resort boundaries, without the hours of sweat and toil normally required to ‘earn your turns’ in the Backcountry. Experienced Slackcountry enthusiasts use ski lifts to help them enjoy everything from a quick lap before work or after school to a full day of easily earned untracked Slackcountry snow within sight of most of the resorts on the Powder Highway.
Dreamy tracks in Whitewater’s out-of-bounds Ymir Bowl tell the tale of local hard-cores who have the gear and the know-how to push the limits and drop into any of a dozen or more runs like First Choice and Dog Leg.
Photo by David Gluns; Ymir Peak at Whitewater Ski Resort
Montana Creek shouts an untracked call to riders from the top of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, and offer fresh tracks long after the resort’s in-bounds moguls take over. Greely Bowl, while not technically Slackcountry as it is inside resort boundaries and avalanche controlled, still requires a short boot-pack to drop in, an effort guaranteed to thin out the ski tracks.
Photo by Dave Best; Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (slackcountry to the right of the runs)
Fernie’s legendary bowls see regular Slackcountry traffic. With Fish, Orca, and Cabin Bowls accessed from the Great Bear Quad, and Siberia and Mongolia Bowls are a short skin track away from the Timber Bowl Quad. Nearby Lost Boys Pass is aptly named, so be warned.
*** It’s steep, it’s deep, and don’t let the name Slackcountry deceive you, it is every bit of the definition of backcountry, meaning that the consequences are serious for poor decisions. Bring your avalanche safety training, rescue gear, skins and deep snow travel gear, extra food, water, and clothing, a map, and a way to communicate in case of emergency. Never venture out alone, and be sure to leave a plan with someone you trust if you head out into the Slackcountry. BC Adventure Smart is a great resource to help you get informed before heading into the Slackcountry. ***
~ Take extra time to research and plan your trip in advance. Many of our tourism businesses and services have adopted new COVID-19 protocols and changes to their schedules or policies to ensure your safety. You’ll want to become familiar with them ahead of time.
~ If you normally travel with extended family or with several friends, consider travelling in a smaller group. Travelling with fewer people makes it easier for you to practise physical distancing in public, and may have less of an impact on the destination.
~ Consider a slower travel pace to help curb the spread. Instead of checking in and out of multiple destinations during one trip, choose one or two destinations and one/two accommodation properties for your entire trip (and explore all the things to do & see nearby).
~ Backcountry Ski Touring: Step 1 Avalanche Safety Training
~ Guiding Services: Powder Highway’s Backcountry
~ How BIG is the Powder Highway?
~ Kootenay Winters: Why We Love Them
~ Our Kootenay Mountain Culture
~ Powder Highway 101
~ Quintessential Powder Highway Winters
~ Stay Local, Support Local in the Kootenay Rockies
~ Support Local: Meet Our Partners – Winter Adventurers
~ Tips: How to be a Safe & Responsible Traveller
~ Up the Ante: Powder Highway Cat & Heli Day Packages
~ What’s NEW on the Powder Highway?
Top/cover photo by David Gluns, of Ymir Peak at Whitewater Ski Resort.
Words by Dave Quinn. Born in Cranbrook, BC; Dave is a wildlife biologist, educator, wilderness guide, writer and photographer whose work is driven by his passion for wilderness and wild spaces. His work with endangered mountain caribou and badgers, threatened fisher and grizzly, as well as lynx and other species has helped shape his understanding of the Kootenay backcountry and its wildlife.
(Originally published on February 4, 2019.)