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Alpine touring – the purist’s way to ski

Canada’s backcountry ski areas await those willing to earn their turns

05 December 2012
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Rewards are sweeter if you’ve worked for them, and few know this better than Canada’s alpine ski touring crowd. Using nothing but muscle power and specialized equipment that bridges the gap between cross-country and downhill skiing, alpine touring adventurers revel in the satisfaction of both glorious descents and thigh-burning climbs. Here are four Canadian hotspots where you can join the au natural world of self-propelled skiing, telemarking and snowboarding.

Garibaldi Provincial Park, BC
Located only 70 km (44 miles) north of Vancouver, Garibaldi Provincial Park serves up nearly 200,000 hectares of backcountry bliss. Intermediate-to-advanced ski tour enthusiasts can self-guide into reams of untracked powder at both the Diamond Head and Black Tusk/Garibaldi Lake backcountry ski areas. Black Tusk/Garibaldi Lake even offers first-come-first-serve alpine huts for overnight adventures; winter camping is available in both areas. (While those backcountry routes require experience, newbies can get their feet wet via nearby Whistler’s hike-in, hike-out “backcountry light” Flute Bowl – accessed on-resort and bordering Garibaldi Park.)

Purcell Mountain Lodge, BC
The alpine touring concern is sensitive to Mother Earth. That’s why Purcell Mountain Lodge, accessed via helicopter from Golden, BC, operates an on-site wastewater treatment plant, receives electricity via unobtrusive micro-hydro and adheres to a strict policy of waste reduction and composting. As a guest though, you may be too engrossed in daily guided ski tours through 1,200 hectares of powdery glades, long stays in the wood-fired sauna, gourmet organic meals and starry Rocky Mountain nights to notice their commitment to eco-friendly operation (but it’s good to know).

Jasper National Park, AB
Jasper National Park is the Alberta Rockies’ quieter side – a perfect setting for self-sufficient, intermediate-to-advanced ski tour adventures. Whistler Creek, accessed from Marmot Basin ski resort and The Bald Hills, near scenic Maligne Lake, are just two of many popular routes. Should you require some local advice, Jasper’s toque-wearing alpine-tourists are friendly folk always willing chat with a fellow ski-purist – provided you’ve got a granola bar to share.

Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge, QC
Located in Québec’s Gaspesie Region, Chic-Chocs Mountain Lodge is an eco-sensitive alpine ski touring operation for discerning powder hounds. Accessed via snow-cat (615 metres of elevation in the province’s Reserve Faunique de Matane), wintertime guests experience fully-guided, self-propelled ski and snowboard tours (all equipment provided), finished off with spa visits, fine dining, top-shelf wine, four-star accommodation and even a yoga space. Nights are purposefully relaxing, as daytime is filled with 300-metre descents (and climbs) within 6,000 hectares of glades and snowfields.

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