Metal Dome redux

Metal Dome. Scene of the hundred buck heli drop, the most amazing place I’ve ever been. Perfect spring snow beneath skies that barely looked real. Empty alpine bowls ringed by jagged black rocks, incomprehensibly huge, so far above the noise and chaos of the world that it took days to get over the shock of reentry. Could it ever be as good again?

Car on Brandywine FSR

The terrible snowpack this year gave us a rare opportunity to rally drive my truck 5km up the Brandywine FSR, chains on all four wheels, before abandoning it when it finally got too steep to continue. Dawn threw strange colours through a thin scatter of cloud high above us as we readied our gear, and everything promised a beautiful day.

Whistler from Brandywine FSR

The final 2km up the FSR were easy but steep, with sledders buzzing by en route to Brandywine. At the snowmobile hut we detoured over a bank and continued up on a steep, narrow trail that eventually took us through a winter wonderland of trees and then into the wide open alpine on the south side of the peak. The snow around us was deep and soft, lighter than air when we ran our poles through it.

Toward Brandywine Meadows

Higher in the alpine the wind had the arctic on its breath, a promise of a massive overnight temperature drop to come. We gained the col right below the summit and stopped to dig a pit; with a slide burying a sledder in this area earlier in the week we didn’t want to take any chances. We found the layer that the slide had gone on about a metre down, but even an aggressive rutschblock test didn’t release it and we felt confident that a skier’s weight wasn’t going to be a problem.

Brandywine Meadows

It was strange to see how bare the bowls are this year. So many more rocks, open crevasses either side of the glacier, so much more black against the white. Yet still stunning beyond words, with the Callaghan valley sprawling far below. As we transitioned a helicopter dropped a group off directly across from us on Brandywine, and we watched them arc turns they’d paid a thousand dollars for on a slope more or less identical to the one we’d just walked onto.

Metal Dome

And then we dropped into the col, and I forgot everything. The heliskiers, the climb, the pit, the viciously cold wind that by then had me shaking from head to toe.

This rotten winter aside, we’re generally blessed for snow on the coast. We get a lot of it, but at a high density: wet and heavy. This was the lightest snow I’ve ever skied. It felt like there was nothing beneath our skis, no resistance, as though we were floating through clouds. We flew down, hollering with sheer joy on every turn, barely able to believe it. So different, and yet Metal Dome had delivered once again.

Tim skiing Metal Dome

We debated a second run, but weren’t sure on our time so opted instead to climb back to the col and then go for a joyous, whooping run down through Brandywine Meadows, leaping from little ledges into the powder below, leaving trails of coldsmoke with every turn and grinning like maniacs when we regrouped to admire the vistas ahead and make sure we were still reasonably close to our descent route.

Descent through Brandywine Meadows

Getting the car off the FSR was interesting, since the road had been entirely shredded by sledders and we still had a fair number of steep downhills to negotiate. But some very careful driving in low gears got us down safely, with massive high fives all around when we stopped to take the chains off.

Once again, Metal Dome provided one of the best days out that I’ve ever had. Stunning views, incredible skiing, and a fantastic group that gelled really well even though only two of us had skied together before. I can’t wait to go back.

Metal Dome col

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