Hello! My name is Steph, and I am a Program Facilitator for PTB in the Vancouver office. While I’ve been working as a staff member with Power To Be since the spring of 2019 (after having volunteered for a year), this past winter I took a step away from the PTB community and made a giant leap into the interior of B.C., to a small mountain town called “Revelstoke”.
On October 29th, 2020, I packed all my belongings into my 2001 Honda CRV and drove the almost 600km to settle into my new home for the next 6 months, affectionately called “Cozy Crescent”. What I thought would be 6 months of living the “ski bum” life turned into a period of falling down (literally), picking myself back up, and learning and finding growth in the process – over and over again. While Revelstoke Mountain Resort is known world-wide for its terrain and powder days, the ski touring accessible from town is just as famous. Rogers Pass, located in Glacier National Park provides a multitude of mountains to explore, at varying degrees of difficulty. I was fortunate enough to grow up downhill skiing the North Shore mountains, and within the last few years I began to dabble in ski touring, the skiing style in which one propels themselves up AND down the mountain without the use of a chairlift or gondola. With Rogers Pass less than an hour’s drive away, making the move to Revelstoke seemed like a good time to commit to learning more about ski touring, mountain safety, route and terrain choices, and all of the pieces required to make an inherently dangerous sport as safe as possible in an ever-changing (we’re talking day to day changing) environment. I’d like to share three days in particular this winter in which I found myself pushing my comfort zone, through the groan zone, and experiencing growth while putting learnings into practice in an outdoor activity like I haven’t before.
AST 2 – Four Days of Putting Learnings into Practice
Snow and weather is a constantly changing factor in winter exploration of the back country. For folks who head into the backcountry for any sort of winter activity (ski touring, snow shoeing, etc.) it is highly recommended that one takes Avalanche Safety Training (also known as “AST”) – a course which teaches one how to make sound judgements to stay as safe as possible in an unpredictable environment, and to understand the environment to avoid avalanches as best as possible. I had taken my AST 1 course a few years back, but with our ski touring schedule averaging 3-5 days a week at its peak, it felt like a responsibility to up my knowledge to keep myself and my ski partners safe while out in the back country.
In January, five students (including myself) and our incredible instructor set out for a socially distanced AST 2 course. Day 1 consisted of Zoom classroom learning, in which we refreshed topics from AST 1 and learned some new information. Days 2-4 were where the big learnings happened though – field days, taking the theoretical and putting them into practice. We took turns leading the group, picking terrain and routes, and assessing risk management, all the while offering support and input to others’ decisions when it was our turn to follow. I made mistakes – lots of them. And sometimes I felt embarrassed! But my instructor and my classmates offered solutions in a supportive fashion. I spoke up when there were choices made by the group that didn’t quite feel right. I learned that my voice is just as important in the conversation while in a ski touring group, just like it is important for others to be heard as well. The four days of course re-enforced the importance of collaboration, as everyone can bring something to the safety and enjoyment of the group overall.
Bonney Moraines – A Day of Empowerment
One Friday morning, my Revelstoke roommate Mia and I decided to head out into the backcountry for a day of touring. We settled on the Bonney Moraines – nestled at the base of the beautiful Bonney Glacier, these small hills of snow-covered debris provide great powder and stellar views on a bluebird day. We headed up Highway 1 while blasting Dua Lipa, and quickly packed our bags with safety gear and ample snacks once we arrived in the parking lot. We started our day with a conversation about risk tolerance – what fell into our comfort zones, what fell into our growth zones, and what fell into our danger zones. The entire way up to our goal for the day was spent assessing and re-assessing everything we knew about safety in the mountains, through conversation, visual clues, and quick tests. We found endless powder, great turns, and had many laughs – all the while having open lines of communication to create as safe of a day as we could.
Mount Green – A Long, Hard, Great Day in the Mountains
The final day of groan and growth I’d like to share was my last ski tour of the season, and my first real taste of ski mountaineering – Mount Green. On the Revelstoke “must-do” list since early in the season, our friend and aspiring guide Oli reached out and asked if we would be interested in conquering one more mountain before the end of our time in Revelstoke. The answer was of course, “Yes!” So on April 4th, we headed out early in the morning, and began our trek to the mountain top. It was hard. We headed uphill on our skis until the pitch became too steep, and so we strapped our skis to our backpacks and boot-packed (punched our ski boots into the snow to create steps) instead. I was deep in the groan zone. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. But with some support from my ski partners, some personal perseverance, and deep breathing to calm down, I continued on until we reached the peak. We took a quick break at the top before we skied down some awful snow, and then walked the three icy kilometres back to the parking lot on our sore, tired feet. While I sat in the groan zone for a period of this day, I also experienced a lot of growth which I am proud of myself for and am excited to take into my next season of ski touring.