The Mt Assiniboine area holds a special place in my heart. After all, this is where I proposed to my wife 6 years ago – in a lovely snow paradise. Like most of our mates at the Naiset Huts, we took the hardy route in, skiing the 25km in from the Mt Shark area. No helicopter ride for us, not even for our luggage even if we were carrying a sack of potatoes (part of our Saturday supper and yes – our meals made all the other campers drool!). The Assiniboine Lodge, the oldest backcountry lodge in the Rockies, had finally re-opened this weekend after being closed two years for renovations with their guests usually opting for the helicopter ride in and out.
So here we were, only 40 people or so in powder paradise looking for some nice turns. No lift tickets needed, only a pair of skins to climb the pristine snow of the backcountry. On Sunday, we enjoyed our best powder day ever. We decided to head to the Nublet Peak area and followed some tracks part way up the mountain. We arrived in a clearing to find our choice peak when to the right of us arrived a small group from the Lodge, being led by Andre Renner. If the name rings a bell, it should. His sister Sara is an Olympic medal winner in cross-country skiing. His father Sepp and mom Barb are also legendary having run the Assiniboine Lodge for nearly three decades. We are a little shy at first since we are not paying clients of the Lodge but Andre is more than welcoming and we tag along with the group. We proceed to “yo-yo” ski (go up and down) all afternoon enjoying the fresh powder – there was plenty for everyone. Andre ensures we are all safe bypassing any avalanche slopes and cornices. By the end of the afternoon, we are all pretty tired but with permanent smiles plastered on our faces. Time to head back after a perfect powder afternoon!
We leave our new-found friends at the Lodge and head to the Naiset Hut cookhouse to share our story with our hardy mountain mates. Our hut mates are varied and include:
- A lovely German-Canadian family whose 12 and 17-year-old daughters have skied up and carried their own gear and share of family belongings. Everyone is so impressed with the strength of the girls and how well-behaved they are;
- Part of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, including a violin concertmaster, a cellist (we teased him about not skiing up his cello so he could perform for us), timbalists and other accomplished musicians;
- A birthday boy with his small entourage that shared “cake” with all;
- “Experienced” mountain men that flew all their gear and food in but managed to only bring dehydrated food! I will forgive them partially as they flew in wine!; and
- Our hut mates that built a quincy and actually slept in it one night!
It was always fun congregating in the cookhouse at the end of the day to swap stories! Alas, our time was up and we skied out after the long weekend, another 25km but with much lighter packs (the sack of potatoes was thankfully eaten!). However with all this fun, I believe my heels paid the price with Toonie sized blisters.