Summit Elevation (m): 2440
Trip Date: Monday, December 23, 2019
Round Trip Time (hr): 5.5
Elevation Gain (m): 806
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you skied some rocks.
Difficulty Notes: A good option for high avalanche danger when you still want a good workout on your AT gear.
Technical Rating: OT2; YDS (Skiing)
Map: Google Maps
With avalanche ratings through the roof (high at all zones) but a strong desire to go Alpine Touring, Wietse and I were at a bit of a loss as we drove away from the city on Monday morning, December 23rd 2019. A Pineapple Express had just dumped feet of snow over our Rockies playground which was awesome but also jacked up the possibility of dangerous avalanches. Where could we ski that would ensure we returned home safely to our families? We don’t have a desire to vanish in an avalanche at any time of the year, much less 2 days before Christmas! Our original plans were made with a “considerable” rating in the forecast but that morning I’d noticed the ratings bump up to that dreaded “high” level, with red warnings flashing all over the Avalanche Canada app on my phone. We hummed and hawed as we drove down hwy 1 on a pretty crappy surface of snow, ice and the occasional car in the ditch in case we needed more evidence of a treacherous drive.
Suddenly I remembered a trip that Sonny Bou had posted a few years previous up what he dubbed “Sunshine Landing” along the Sunshine Meadows near the Sunshine ski resort. I remembered that Steven and Ben had skied the same bump a few years before that. Alison Sekera skied it solo in 2018, so I knew it would have little-to-no avalanche danger. When I Googled Sonny’s report and saw that it was over 20km and 800m height gain we decided this was the perfect objective for a safe day out. Parking at the Sunshine lot was interesting with tons of eager skiers ready to tackle the previous few days of snow. We were the sole trail breakers up the small access road along Sunshine Creek, eventually breaking free of the deep unconsolidated snow to the packed Sunshine ski-out road.
Once on the road we skinned quickly up past the resort area and within about 2 hours of leaving the parking lot we were breaking trail under the boundary rope and into the meadows. The clouds were much lower than we were anticipating and the trail breaking was TOUGH! Ankle to knee deep and even deeper under our skis with up to ski pole depth unconsolidated snow off our packed tracks. We switched turns often in order to maintain some energy levels. The nature of the meadows made the trail breaking tough – lots of rolls and dips intervened between us and the landing.
After what seemed a long time but was under an hour, we were finally skinning up Sunshine Landing. We avoided deep snow in the middle of the face and stuck to the left, avoiding obvious cornices. I’m sure on a nice sunny day the views from this minor bump would be awesome, but all we got for our efforts was a very cold wind and clouds at the top. We quickly transitioned and skied down to the meadows below. The snow was so deep that we couldn’t really do any turns on the gentle incline without losing all our speed.
The ski back out was much more enjoyable than the approach. The resort was busy but fast skiing as expected. This is a highly recommended option for a safe training day when other objectives are too dangerous or you find yourself alone with a skiing itch.