Category Archives: Cross Country Skiing

Journeyman Lodge review

In March we defied another round of skyrocketing freezing levels and headed out to Journeyman with our friends C and S to finally experience a night in a backcountry lodge. I was very hopeful that this would be my first trip in some time that didn’t begin with my skis on my back, but I was wrong.

Callaghan Country

Fortunately I was able to get my skins on well ahead of C, S and J, who were all on cross country skis. It was about 2km before we reached snow consistent enough for everyone to finally be able to gear up and begin sliding. Even in a low snow year, the trek out to the lodge was strenuous but very beautiful. The terrain was wide open until we reached Callaghan Lake, where we transitioned into rolling hills through a fairytale forest.

En route to Journeyman

We were all pretty tired by the time we’d covered the 15km to the lodge, and were grateful to trade our ski boots for cozy slippers (I was especially grateful, having done the full distance in hard shell AT boots) and sink into cozy couches. Outside, it unexpectedly began to snow lightly – the first snow I’d seen in weeks that hadn’t fallen as rain.

Journeyman

The food began arriving almost immediately, with trays of delicious appies filling the gap before dinner. Our luggage arrived by snowmobile shuttle very shortly after we did, with bottles of wine tucked away in our clothing. As well as the very comfortable communal lounge, which features a pool table, dart board, selection of games and a guitar, the lodge has a beautiful sauna situated a few minutes away on Madely Creek.

Journeyman sauna

We had a couple of hours to get cleaned up and chat to our fellow guests as they drifted in, and then it was time to head downstairs for a four course candlelit dinner. The food was proper apres-ski fuel, hearty and very good. Later we retired to the lounge for a few rounds of pool and Pictionary until the generator shut down and the lights went out at 10pm.

Journeyman at dawn

J and I woke early the next morning, and went for a walk in the frozen dawn. All around the lodge peaks soared into a sky so blue it dazzled the eyes: Hidden, Journeyman, Callaghan, Solitude. The volatile freezing level had left the snowpack bulletproof ice so I knew that none of it would be good skiing in current conditions, but the terrain was the kind that dreams are made from.

Solitude

We ate breakfast in an alcove looking out toward Solitude, and I couldn’t take my eyes from the mountains. S and I had an interesting conversation where I tried to explain this endless pull toward these empty landscapes that to him present as nothing but wilderness; for me, they are all possibility and potential. Under a cover of snow the mountain changes into a place where movement becomes fluid and flowing, where you’re no longer forced to take a single step at a time but free to fly across the surface of the world.

Leaving Journeyman

We set out early for the hike home; C took a snowmobile, S and J hiked, and I skinned and then skied down once we’d crested the ridge above Callaghan Lake. It was a beautiful trip spent in amazing surroundings and luxurious backcountry comfort, with the promise of so much incredible skiing on future visits. It was also a fine way to see out our time with C and S, who are off on a whole new adventure of their own for the next year. They’ve been great company on these mini-adventures, and we’ll miss them.

Skinny planks

Until last weekend, I’d never cross country skied. Impossible, I know, but true. So J and I headed out to the Tantalus View Retreat with friends for the weekend, and from there to the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley. We lucked out completely on the weather; it was a perfect bluebird day, without a cloud in the sky.

Putting on the skis was extremely strange. Totally familiar, and yet not. Firstly, the boots were squishy and comfortable. Secondly, the skis themselves were these insane skinny things that didn’t behave at all the way I expected them to. The two skis put together were still narrower than one of my regular skis and the lack of edges initially seemed quite disturbing, since it wasn’t possible to use them to turn.

Skinny Rossis

After some basic instruction from our friend C that was enough to get us moving, we set off. Apart from the tendency of the skis to want to slide sideways whenever I was out of the tracks, this felt like far more familiar territory since it’s the exact same motion as skinning, with some slight adjustments for the length of the poles.

The downhills were hilarious. With no edges, the only way to turn was to try and force the skis into an aggressively weighted snowplough which occasionally seemed to move me very slightly in the general direction of the corner. A variety of crashes, slides, and close encounters with snowbanks ensued each time the four of us came to a hill.

By the time we’d worked our way around the loop I was feeling pretty comfortable, having come to the realization that cross country skiing is basically just touring with really long poles and crazy skinny skittish skis. Sliding along in the sunshine, Brandywine towering ahead of us, it felt strangely liberating to be on such incredibly light gear and unburdened by an enormous heavy backpack.

This is something I’ll be doing again for sure. I’d like to keep working on my technique on the skis since there’s clearly a lot to be learned there, and I’d also like to try the skate skiing which looks like an absolutely killer workout. Mostly, though, I’m happy that I found a new way to do one of the things I love the most: move through the mountains.

Callaghan Valley trails