Squamish Backcountry Skiing & Boarding
Squamish Backcountry skiing or split-boarding is an incredible experience. Not much beats earning your turns in the beautiful Coastal BC mountains. Squamish has epic backcountry skiing so close to the Vancouver and is hit with more snow than Whistler. The Coast Mountains lie on the western edge of British Columbia, rising 4000 meters from the Pacific Ocean. The Coast mountains are hit with some of the biggest snowfalls in North America, as they are the first in line to storms hitting from the pacific ocean.
Squamish is the perfect place to stay and play for your next backcountry skiing experience.
Before you participate in Squamish backcountry skiing make sure that you are prepared. Take an avalanche safety course and check out our tips for trip planning in the Squamish back country.
The Coast Mountains:
The Coast Mountains extend over 1500 km along the entire west coast of British Columbia and into Alaska. The terrain is characterized by extensive glacier alpine surrounded by rugged valleys, and is described by three zones across the 200km width of the coast mountains. The Inlet zone, the glacier zone and the interior zone.
The Mountains surrounding Squamish are characterized by glacier zone. This zone offers some of the best backcountry skiing in the coast mountains, the summits rise to 2500m and 3200m with some peaks reaching over 4000m. The mountains are covered in snow year round, with massive glaciation in the area. Backcountry skiing in this area is mostly alpine terrain with most trips starting at 800m and offering long powder filled descents.
Coast Mountain Weather and Climate
The Coast Mountains surrounding Squamish BC receive some of the highest precipitation in north america, due to the moist air and storms off of the pacific ocean. Precipitation falls heavier in the winter months from November to April, The best part of this is powder at higher elevations!
The temperature between the lowland coastal areas and the high alpine is usually in opposite, with warmer and mild winters experienced in Squamish, while elevations above the treeline remain below freezing in the winter months. It is important to keep an eye on the freezing level, as this fluctuates frequently across different elevations. Extremely cold temperatures do occur but are rare in the coastal mountains.
Snow Conditions :
The typical snow climate in higher elevations is characterized by frequent snowfalls, and soft deep snow is the norm. All conditions are possible, but we are lucky generally have good to excellent snow conditions in the coast mountains surrounding Squamish BC.
Ski season begins in late october and can last well into June
Sea to Sky Gondola & Sky Pilot
The Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish will open up access to some epic back country terrain for the experienced skier. The elevation of the summit lodge will create access to areas like the Upper Shannon Creek watershed, Goat Ridge, Mount Habrich and Sky Pilot. This area is backcounty and not patrolled with all the usual hazards associated with Squamish backcountry skiing. For the experienced skier the gondola will open up access to some big skiing terrain that is complex in nature with steeps, bowls, new growth forests, pillows and couloirs.
Please consider hiring an experienced guide for the safest and best experience backcountry skiing and splitboarding around Squamish BC
Garibaldi Provincial Park
Mount Garibaldi rises over 2600m above Squamish BC and has been a popular backcountry skiing destination since the 1940`s. This area gets an impressive amount of snow, and is characterized by massive alpine areas with good ascents and long runs.
Please respect the following rules when skiing in Garibaldi Provincial park:
Paul Ridge Diamond Head Area
Just above Squamish is the Diamondhead area of Garibaldi park which has access to backcountry skiing with rolling alpine meadows and gentle peaks. The traverse up has amazing views on a clear day over the town and the Howe Sound. This area is good for day trips and overnight stays
Red Heather and Elfin Lakes Shelter
From the parking lot it is about 5 km or an hour traverse up to red heather day hut equipped with a wood stove, cooking stove picnic tables and pit toilets. Overnight camping is not permitted at the red heather day hut but this is a great place to stop for some lunch or a break before continuing on your back country skiing and splitboard mission to the Elfin lake shelter.
The Elfin lake hut is another 6 km along Paul Ridge, this makes a great day trip location enjoying the numerous slopes near Round Mountain. If you want to make more of your trip, stay longer in the large elfin lake hut and summit the Gargoyles and Columnar peaks for runs as long as 350m.
Elfin lake hut is equipped with sleeping for up to 34 people on a first come first serve basis, it has propane cooking stoves, picnic tables, wash sinks and pit toilets. There is an overnight fee of 10 dollars payable at the parking lot.
Dangers & Risk:
Avalanches are the biggest danger and risk of back country skiing and snowboarding. Please stay up to date on the current danger levels and stay home if it is high. Anytime you go in the backcountry you are putting yourself in risk of an avalanche, please prepare yourself and take an avalanche safety course, make sure your transceiver is on, you know how to use it and has a fresh battery. Carry a shovel and probe at ALL times. Always remember that an avalanche doesn’t care how prepared or knowledgeable you are, they have taken out the best and most experienced people. If you are in the backcountry avalanches are a real risk so Play Smart and Play Safe. Hire a local knowledgeable guide to help lower the risk
Crevaesess are also a serious risk to backcountry skiing in the coastal mountains around Squamish BC. Our coast mountains are characterized by glacier formations and travel on glaciers is common to get to the higher alpine. Crevasses formed by stresses in the ice as Glaciers flow down the mountain sides, they can generally be found in areas where the slope direction changes. In early season the hazard is higher, and generally decreases as the snowpack thickens. Please carry appropriate rescue equipment when traveling on a glacier zone and ensure that everyone is familiar with crevasse rescue.
The Human Factor:
YOU and ONLY you are responsible for yourself and your companions in the back country terrain. Proper equipment, knowledge and experience is necessary if you want explore the back country around Squamish. If you are using the gondola for access You are responsible to read the Exclusion of Liability and Assumption of Risk, Jurisdiction waiver on the reverse of each ticket and posted throughout their operation.
Amazing video by Squamish local Justin Lamoureaux exploring the mountains in his backyard