Wolverine Ridge (+ Purple Mound)

Summit Elevation (m): 2412
Trip Date: Thursday, December 30 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 1400 (with laps)
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something – slopes are steep enough slide
Difficulty Notes: Some avalanche and wind affected terrain on the NE slopes, steeper the further north you ski
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Skiing)

In 2017 I skied Wolverine Ridge with a group of friends. Much earlier, back in 2014 I skied up Lipalian and Purple Mound with the same group. I remember as we skied out of the valley past the ridge Bill Kerr remarked that there was good steep skiing to be had off the NE end of the ridge in stable avalanche conditions. After getting our new DPS skis already a few months ago we’ve been a bit antsy to get out. We had a nice tour up Burstall Pass on Tuesday and quickly made plans for some more powder turns on the drive back. We decided that a ski tour up the Wolverine Valley with some laps off Purple Mound and the ridge would be perfect for the conditions we had (“moderate-low-low”).

Wolverine Ridge Ski Route Map

We got to the Fish Creek parking lot just at sunrise and followed a solo skier quickly up the ski-out. It took a few kms in the cold morning air (-20 with the wind) before we started catching up to someone who I thought looked remarkably like Robb Schnell. Wietse passed the skier with a muted “good morning” and as I slowly skied past I turned to him and recognized Robb immediately and greeted him with a hearty “how’s it going?!”. It turns out that Robb was doing a quick morning workout before work with a ski up the Lake Louise ski-out. It was nice to chat with him for the last few kms up the road before he turned back and we continued onward.

After skinning through a quiet resort we ascended to the summer trail which we followed for ~1km to the approach leading up to Wolverine Valley. There was an obvious skin track leading up the steep approach before it mellowed out a bit, flattening towards the back of the valley. We continued skiing past Wolverine Ridge towards the rock garden just under the Purple Mound. We followed the skin track up the left side of the garden on a safe line towards a windblown Purple Mound. We skinned up the slope before running out of snow under the summit and deciding to simply descend from there. The skiing wasn’t that great higher up but as we got lower we had some great ankle deep powder which skied nice and quick.

Looking back down our approach valley with Wolverine Ridge at left and Whitehorn in the distance. We skied the open line at left down to center a few times and the steeper treed slopes at center left for our last lap.
Wietse breaks trail up Purple Mound (L) with Lipalian looking pretty wind blown at upper right. We only skied part way up these slopes before skiing back down on wind blown slab.
Wietse prepares to ski down from just under Purple Mound. Wolverine Ridge at center left with Redoubt rising at center right and Unity Peak at right.

We descended our ascent track to the rock garden where Wietse broke trail back up to Wolverine Ridge. We did three laps off this section – the upper half of the route was untracked and ankle to calf deep powder that was hard to resist. It was only ~180 vertical meters per run so it was a quick little round trip. We enjoyed some coffee in between despite the cold temps in the valley.

Views up the ridge from the bottom showing some different routes. We skied up at left and down the rock garden and further right through the trees. The top of the ridge is just barely visible at upper right.

On the way back out along the valley I couldn’t resist the steeper looking terrain and pleaded with Wietse for a final lap. He wasn’t entirely convinced but agreed to give it a shot. Immediately we questioned the old skin track we were blindly following – it was not the safest line or the best angle being way to steep. We managed to get up it but steep isn’t always the most efficient… The ski down the steep terrain was awesome, by far the best of the day. We’ll be back to ride that line in the future. Safe conditions are necessary especially on the upper part of the route where wind loading is a concern.

Views along the ridge crest with our tracks from a previous run visible descending at right. This run was so fun we did it 3x.

Wolverine Ridge is a nice ski objective when the weather isn’t perfect or when you aren’t sure about snow conditions. There are enough sheltered and reasonably angled runs to be safe in all but the worst conditions and steeper options when conditions allow for it.

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