Dates: January 22 -24, 2018
Location: Cerise Creek
Partners: Jan, Dave, Christian
Distance: ~30 km, ~3000 meters
Time: Three moderate days
Photos: Greg and Jan
GPS Tracks: see below
A three-day trip gives the city dweller the unique opportunity to blow out zones a bit further afield. For this mid-week trip, a small group of us decided to track out the ultra-exclusive Cerise Creek area before the locals could dig their 4Runners out from under the storm snow.
On the Sunday morning before our trip, Whistler reported overnight snowfall of 68 cm and more was on the way. Freezing levels were also low enough to skip the common rainy start to Coast tours. The avalanche forecast was Considerable to High for all elevations for the foreseeable future but with an abundance of mature forest skiing right outside the hut door, there was little chance we would get totally skunked.
We left Vancouver around 7:30 and were in the lot on the side of Duffey Lake Road around 10:30 with a little stop in Pemberton for the last porcelain we’d see for a couple of days. After digging out our spot and gearing up, we followed another group’s skin track all the way to the hut. With the amount of traffic this hut sees, I doubt trail-breaking is ever more than the overnight accumulation.
The trail climbs very gradually for a few kilometers on summer trail and logging road. At the end, you can follow the creek and then the edge of the moraine in a smooth arc all the way to the hut with barely a switchback thrown in. Our trailblazers had picked the shorter and steeper option up the old forest. There was small confusion here since the hut is marked in the wrong place on Google Maps and we were navigating with Dave’s phone. You can see the offset in the GPS below. The start and end point of “Skiing Day 1” is the hut but the marker is clearly halfway down the bump. This same track also shows the drainage you can follow along the right side and bottom for the easier winter entrance.
We arrived at the hut around 1:00 and dropped the majority of our baggage (sleeping stuff, extra clothes, and food) before setting out for a few laps. Due to the recent storming, we always intended to make conservative terrain choices until we felt comfortable turning it up. We skied off the shoulder north of the hut, leapfrogging each other after only a couple of turns each for the first lap. Our second lap we were already emboldened to do it in two halves. There were none of the classic signs of instability so we looked forward to crossing to Vantage Ridge on day 2.
On day 2 we started skiing around 10:00 after a lazy start. We repeated the mature forest run down to the creek but this time headed south until we could cross the creek. We fought our way up Vantage Ridge through some very steep terrain for the first 250 meters but the second half turned into more mature forest with little underbrush. From nearly the small summit of the ridge we turned back down and skied the heavy trees back to about 1650 m before rejoining our own uptrack for a second long lap on the avalanche path known as “Cheque’s in the Mail”. This path is clearly visible for much of the trip into the hut.
The run starts with a gentle grade and a few sparse trees but soon rolls over to 30+ degrees and larger Christmas trees. The spacing is still large enough to provide rhythmic turns and, with only a short section of alder bashing at the very end, still makes for 550 meters or so of quality fall-line skiing from.
The snow was deep and soft with the best turns I’ve ever had on the Coast. It didn’t hurt that conditions allowed for picking a longer and more natural line than playing it ultra-conservative in the old growth.
Day 3 started earlier than day 2 (despite 17 people in the hut! On a Tuesday night!) in order to grab a second lap on Cheque’s before heading out to the car. It was much faster the second time and this time we put in a bit higher of a track so we could ski the full run from ridgetop on the skier’s right side. Thankfully, no one else had ventured up to the run lately so we still had our pick of the lines. The temperature had warmed up at this point to around freezing and the snow was a bit heavier but the turns were still smooth and our resident ornithologist even picked out a ptarmigan against the white snow.
With no need for skins on the way out, we enjoyed one last lap down the north side of the shoulder while leaving the hut. We dug out the car, had a brief towing misadventure to extract another car, and were in Pemberton for dinner at 5:00 before hitting the road for the last time. Pounding snow in Pemberton gave way to near-rain in Whistler and clearer roads back to Vancouver. I returned to Whistler on Saturday to attempt Sproatt (got very lost – do your research next time) and the snow had just continued all week. A great storm cycle for the Coast!