This season has been challenging to say the least. Photographers, writers, riders and resorts have all struggled to keep a stiff upper lip as traditionally snow-laden zones have struggled to retain a snowpack or heartbeat. Sub-par conditions have been the norm while sub-zero temperatures appeared to be a thing of the past.
In turn, these hard facts spurred some of us to look to the past, whether for inspiration, guidance, or both.
The Valhalla Ranges in southeastern British Columbia take their name from Norse mythology, a great deal of that mythos recently popularized by History Channel’s Vikings series; in the interest of brevity, Valhalla is regarded by old Norse, Viking, and Asatru as a warrior’s heaven, where fallen warriors feast with the gods and do battle daily, resurrected nightly to repeat the cycle again until they are needed to do battle at end-time…
Personally, I make a point of having my ball-point and sheaves close at hand because I never know when some potentially interesting tidbit is going to pop up… That and I don’t like Captain Kirk styled Dictaphone chatter on the skin-track. Call me old-fashioned, I prefer ink to digital, verbal diarrhea.
While a good chunk of this season has suggested Ragnarok may well be at hand, a few foolhardy souls have continued to take up arms and venture into the higher peaks accessible here in the Kootenays. While there has been plenty of sweat and toil to reach the goods, the hard work has generally not gone unrewarded.
It seemed fitting, then, that a mid-Spring invitation to Valhalla Mountain Lodge be not only acknowledged but wholeheartedly embraced; I put the pen and paper away, took up the ice-ax and crampons for what promised to be a grueling battle.
Imagine our surprise this April, then, when we arrived via ‘copter to 25cm of fresh pow and clear skies in every direction.
A group of seven, we wasted no time in stashing our gear in the lodge and making for the slopes perpendicular to imposing Mount Woden; weather windows proved numerous, though, as our first sign of low-hanging clouds came some three days later, thousands of vertical feet, miles of skinning, first tracks and pow slashes etched in sunburnt faces long before a period of platinum-flat light.
And the sun would return with the morning, cloudbanks relegated to distant memory like so much unwanted “real-life” chaff.
Six days of exploring the tenure with incredibly good stability, keen riding partners, and consistently reliable pow stashes was exactly what our small troop needed. We looted and pillaged lines that had previously gone unridden all season, the mid-Spring raid worth all the previous challenges the season had brought.
A stalwart, well-positioned lodge just outside of the Valhalla Provincial Park boundary, Valhalla Mountain Lodge is a grand-daddy of a backcountry destination, 25 years young and completely deserving of its legendary status. Availability is rare, one group of guests celebrating their 24th consecutive outing this past December; Those that have feasted at Valhalla tend to make a point of returning, word to the wise being set your plans early.
Set your plans early, leave the typewriter at home, and etch your own runes on the slopes of Valhalla.