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Backcountry Skiing in the Wapta Traverse

Wapta Traverse | Alberta
5.00
4 REVIEWS
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to backcountry ski in the Wapta Traverse

  • Trip Highlight

    Tour and mountaineer in the majestic Wapta and Waputik Icefields

  • Trip Highlight

    Spend your nights in high-quality huts

  • Trip Highlight

    Take in the breathtaking alpine views of the Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are home to some of the greatest hut-to-hut ski touring routes in the world, and the Wapta Traverse is the perfect example. Running north-south across the boundless Wapta and Waputik Icefields, the classic Wapta Traverse has built up a reputation as heaven-on-earth for ski touring and ski mountaineering. The hut system is well-developed and the huts are cozy and high-class. The powder is dry and the snowpack is settled, especially in the spring. The ski mountaineering objectives are plentiful and easily accessible from the huts. The experience is enhanced even further by the sublime nature of the sky-blue Peyto Lake, the imposing Waputik Icefield, and the colorful and wild Sherbrooke Creek. The Wapta Traverse didn’t get its legendary reputation for no reason—it earned it through excellent huts, stunning views and, most of all, great ski touring.

Season

March

Nearest city

Calgary, AB, is 2,5h away from Field, the starting point of the tour

Duration

6 days

Skill level

Intermediate to advanced

Itineraries

Book this adventure

Ski Touring in the Wapta Traverse

6 days

Make your way to Canada’s magnificent icefields for 6 days of unforgettable ski touring! Test your skills on the classic Wapta Traverse, with high-quality huts, phenomenal dry powder and breathtaking vistas. Your experienced local guide will make sure that your touring goes by safely and without a hitch.

Trip Highlights

Itinerary

Day 1: Peyto Hut

Meet your guides at Field, BC, early morning. You’ll receive some introductions, followed by a quick equipment check and distribution of group gear and food. Make sure you’ve already eaten breakfast—lunch and the rest of the meals for the trip will be provided. Drive to the trailhead at Peyto Lake. Shuttle drivers will accompany you to bring your vehicles back to the trail’s end. Spend the next 5-8 hours, depending on conditions and group speed, skiing to Peyto Hut, where a freshly prepared meal will be waiting for you.

Ski Touring in the Wapta Traverse

Day 2: Extra night at Peyto Hut

Stay an extra night at the Peyto Hut to enjoy the outstanding ski mountaineering in the area. Mt Gordon, Mt Rhondda, Mt Haebel, and Mt Thompson are in easy striking distance.

A group of tourers near a slope on the Wapta Traverse

Day 3: Bow Hut

This large and popular hut is a relatively short ski trip away from Peyto Hut. Spend the rest of the day tagging a summit or doing a loop tour.

Tourers walking in a line on the Wapta Traverse

Day 4: Balfour Hut

Enjoy the spectacular ski over to Balfour Hut, which usually brings you up and over the Olive-St. Nicholas Col. After a relaxing lunch stop at Balfour Hut, spend the afternoon chasing a ski objective such as laps on the Diableret Glacier.

A tourer pointing to a cliff on the Wapta Traverse

Day 5: Scott Duncan Hut

The traverse over the Balfour High Col is usually the highlight and crux of the trip. Ascend over heavily crevassed terrain next to the stunning serac-fringed east face of Mt. Balfour. After attaining the col, if conditions permit, ascend one of the nearby peaks like Lilliput or even Balfour’s South Face.

A tourer below a hill on the Wapta Traverse

Day 6: Return

All good things must come to an end. After a short run down from the Scott Duncan Hut, it takes about 30 minutes of gentle climbing to reach the Shark’s Fin. From there it’s mostly downhill to get to the intersection of Niles and Sherbrooke Creeks, where the gurgling of spring snowmelt, birdsong, and the smell of spruce trees presents a sharp contrast with the alpine world you settled into during the trip. After about five hours of travel, you will reach your cars. Expect to be back in Canmore by dinner time.

Sherbrooke Creek in British Columbia
Reviews

Reviews (4)

George M.J. about Sawback Alpine Adventures on Sawback Google Reviews

I was out on trips with Tom Wolfe of Sawback Alpine Adventures twice during the ski season of winter 2018. Both trips were great. The Bow / Yoho Wapta Traverse was particularly spectacular traveling between Alpine Club of Canada huts. Tom really knows this area well.

Marilyn F. about Sawback Alpine Adventures on Sawback Google Reviews

An awesome trip with a great, conscientious and professional guide. Definitely felt that Tom listened to the whole crew and took our collective objectives, safety, weather, snow conditions and skill sets to get the maximum we could have out of our Bow-Yoho traverse over new years 2018. Super fun trip and lots of hilarious and educational stories and experiences Tom shared with us. And Eric was great to in lending a hand where needed and carrying a ton of weight too. Would definitely recommend both Tom and Eric for any high adventure trips and for any furthering of backcountry education. Not only do they really know their craft, they present their knowledge in a smooth and easy way for all to understand and learn from. Great guides, great guys. All five stars for sure!

Daniel B. about Sawback Alpine Adventures on Sawback Google Reviews

Tom is a top notch guide! In addition to delivering a great ski touring trip, he is a fun person to hang out with back at the lodge. I feel safe touring with Tom.

Nathan J. about Sawback Alpine Adventures on Sawback Google Reviews

Excellent guiding, planning, hospitality and safe skiing. we are repeat customers now!

Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in the Wapta Traverse, British Columbia

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity.

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, their guides, and the communities they’re traveling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in the Wapta Traverse, British Columbia, please refer to British Columbia’s Travel and COVID-19 website.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get in this adventure:

    • An experienced, certified ski guide with extensive knowledge of the area
    • Six days of backcountry ski touring
    • Food for the duration of the tour
    • Hut accommodation fees
    • Parks Canada backcountry permits
    • Drivers to bring guest vehicles back to Field at the end of the trip
    • Porter service
    • Group equipment

What’s not included:

    • Technical backcountry ski touring equipment
    • Transportation to Field, BC
    • Vehicles for the shuttle (bring your own or carpool)

How fit do I need to be?

To enjoy this backcountry adventure, you need to be in excellent physical shape. You will be on your feet for 5-7 hours a day for 6 full days, covering 6-10 miles (10-15km) of terrain every day. Hut elevations are approximately 7,200ft (2,200m), with 2,300ft (700m) vertical, and you will be doing your hut-to-hut traverse carrying up to 45lbs (20kg) of equipment. You will need to manage controlled descents in variable conditions. All participants should feel comfortable on challenging blue or black-level resort runs and be able to carry a loaded daypack while skinning up variable degrees of terrain.

What if I’ve never backcountry skied before?

To participate in this tour, you need to have previous powder skiing and ski mountaineering experience. You will be skiing, touring, and summiting on glaciated terrain for 5-7 hours every day. Your guide will take care of the planning, oversee your technique, and teach you how to better manage the terrain. They also have the experience and avalanche training necessary to keep you safe.
If you’ve never backcountry skied before, we suggest joining a guide for a day of Intro to Backcountry Skiing.

What equipment do I need to bring?

For technical backcountry ski touring gear, you will need to bring:

    • Alpine touring skis, preferably with tech-style AT bindings, 150-185cm in length, wide (can be rented)
    • Ski crampons (mandatory, can be provided by guide)
    • Touring boots and poles with powder baskets (can be rented)
    • Climbing skins
    • Climbing harness
    • Prusik cord and 120 cm sewn sling
    • Avalanche safety equipment (can be rented):
      • Digital, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver – a modern digital unit
      • Lightweight snow shovel
      • Collapsible avalanche probe

For personal items, we recommend bringing:

    • Backpack (at least 65 L) — can be rented
    • Helmet
    • Sunglasses and ski goggles
    • Long wool or synthetic underwear
    • Extra warm shirt (not cotton)
    • Medium weight fleece sweater
    • Softshell or fleece jacket
    • Softshell pants
    • Insulated jacket (down preferred)
    • Insulated pants (fleece or other synthetic) — optional
    • Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or equivalent)
    • Waterproof pants with side zippers (Gore-Tex or equivalent)
    • Socks (wool or synthetic)
    • Wool or fleece hat
    • Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
    • Lightweight ski gloves
    • Neck tube or balaclava
    • Sun hat
    • Two conventional locking carabiners and two non-locking biners
    • Repair kit and Leatherman for your equipment (can be shared between several people)
    • Water bottle and 1L of water
    • Thermos with a warm beverage — optional
    • First aid kit and small blister kit
    • Personal toiletry kit and toilet paper
    • Large stuff sack for carrying food
    • Sunscreen and lip balm
    • Pocket knife
    • Sleeping bag — three-season bag rated between -7 and -9°C
    • Stuff sack — optional, but recommended
    • Insulated booties or sandals
    • Camera — optional

Can I rent equipment?

All mandatory gear can be rented if you don’t have your own. You can rent:

    • Avalanche safety pack, including backpack, beacon, shovel, and probe from the guide
    • Alpine touring or telemark skis, touring boots, and poles can be rented in Lake Louise, Field, and Banff
    • Splitboards can be rented in Lake Louise, Field, and Banff

If you plan on using alternate touring systems such as telemark skis, frame-style AT bindings, or splitboards, please contact us in advance.
Ski rental locations are in Field, Lake Louise, and Banff and should be picked up the night prior to your outing. If you need to rent gear, let us know and we can help make arrangements.

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes:

    • This tour is not private. For the group tour, the max guest-to-guide ratio is 6:1.
    • Cost is per person and it doesn’t decrease as the group grows.

Ski touring in the Wapta Traverse can be arranged for larger groups. Contact us to make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

    • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
    • Minors may be permitted to join private tours on a case-by-case basis. If you plan to ski with anyone under the age of 18, please contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

If your group has ski tourers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Deposits

A deposit of 50% of the total price is due with your booking unless otherwise indicated. Once your guide confirms your booking, your trip departure is guaranteed. Final payments are due 120 days before your trip starts.

Cancellation policy

If you need to cancel a reservation, please do so in writing (best by e-mail). Once your booking is confirmed, you and Sawback Alpine Adventures enter into financial obligations and they cannot refund payments or release you from your contractual obligations. Therefore, it is highly recommended buying cancellation insurance to cover your losses for the case that you can’t participate or have to interrupt your trip “for any reason”. 

Sawback Alpine Adventures do reserve the right to change guides, particular lodging or the itinerary or venue should unforeseen circumstances (guide sickness, hut or route closing etc.) force them to do so or should the physical condition of the participants, weather or mountain conditions make a continuation as planned too risky.

Sawback Alpine Adventures will not be deemed to be in default for any delay or failure to perform their obligations under this agreement resulting from acts of God, the elements, war, acts of government, civil or military authorities, natural calamities, catastrophe, fire, flood, accidents, epidemics, shortage of transportation, or any other like events beyond our reasonable control.

Getting there and meeting location

To get to Field, BC, the starting point of your tour, most people fly into Calgary International Airport 2,5 hours away. From there, you can take a bus straight to Field, take a bus to Lake Louise and a shuttle to Field, or rent a car and drive there.

Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best place to meet, usually at the Truffle Pigs Bistro & Lodge in Field, BC. From there, you’ll head to your tour. The guide will choose the appropriate terrain dependent on conditions and the ski ability of the group.

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Wired for a better world

Outdoor adventuring makes us fall in love with our planet and people, it gets our brains rewired differently and forces us to rethink our life priorities.

For years, we’ve dreamt of building a company that can make an impact on things that we deeply care about. Here are some initiatives we are grateful to be contributing to.

1% of our sales goes to environmental non-profits
We provide work to thousands of local guides worldwide
We operate on carbon neutral and renewable energy
1% for the education and diversity in guiding

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