Mount Washington
Alpine Resort

Still Snow Seeking: Heading backcountry on Vancouver Island

By Sterling Todd Keys

Vancouver Island Backcountry - Mount Washington
Forbidden Plateau is the spot on Vancouver island for some stellar snow seeking post resort season
Photo by Sterling Todd Keys

As the chairlifts around the Northern Hemisphere stop turning over the next little while, it’s hard to think about putting away the skis for storage. The winter season over on Vancouver Island was pretty spectacular and with reports of record-breaking seasons for snowfall coming in across Canada, it’s easy to realize that spring is well under way and summer is just around the corner.

Thankfully, over on the island, as well as in many other locations across Canada, there is still plenty of snow around and that will be around for a while.  And so, for us snow seekers, we turn from the skis with alpine bindings to those with the ability to do a little touring. Around Vancouver Island, there is a multitude of areas that have easily accessible terrain that has a low backcountry risk, many of which can be started from Mount Washington Alpine Resort. On the backside of the mountain, in the Outback, there are a few backcountry access gates that allow touring skiers and snowboarders access to the North Bowl, a large ridge spanning off Mount Washington that contains some pretty amazing off-skiing piste. After jumping through an access gate, it’s a quick traverse and hike up before you’re ready to drop into some great open glade and powder skiing. With an easily accessible exit across McKay Lake and back to the Boomerang load, it makes it a popular site with both patrons of Mount Washington and people hiking in from the backcountry.

Just across the way of Mount Washington, lies the relic of a once popular ski resort. Forbidden Plateau, just above the Comox Valley, still retains the shapes and all aspects of a ski resort despite having fallen into bankruptcy years ago. The chair and handle towlines, still adorned with their chairs and tows, reach towards the summit of the mountain. The lodge, although obviously seen better days, is still standing. Even the outlines of the runs, over a decade since chairlifts accessed them, are easily picked out from the floor of the Comox Valley.

Forbidden Ridge - Vancouver Island Skiier
Remnants of Forbidden Plateau still stand and help to provide a truly unique backcountry experience
Photo by Sterling Todd Keys

Thankfully, for those looking for an introduction into “earning your turns” Forbidden Plateau is a gold mine. Following the old double red char, you quickly find yourself to the top of the old resort within an hour, making it easy to get more descents during the day. All the staples of a resort are accessible from this quick hike including large open rollers and great glade skiing. With no chairs turning and a large amount of annual snowfall, it’s easy to see why don’t wait for the end of the season to hit up Forbidden with a pair of skins.

So snow seekers, fret not, the end of the season may be near for resorts all over Canada, but there will always be snow for the taking for those who are willing to go searching for it.

A small note: regardless of weather conditions and familiarity of a particular area, anyone heading into the backcountry should take notice of any avalanche warnings and alerts posted by the CAA and be prepared for self-rescue. While we skiers and snowboarders cannot completely erase the risk of backcountry skiing, we can reduce it dramatically by having the proper gear, information, and training.  Stay safe!  For more on avalanche safety check out http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/

Do you have a favorite Backcountry destination – what is it?

Planning on heading to Mount Washington? Check out the Tourism Mount Washington website for more info on the options available to you

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