Beyond Whistler and Blackcomb, huts are being built where the hardiest skiers can stay

Click to play video 'Volunteers build Whistler Blackcomb wilderness ‘huts’' Volunteers build Whistler Blackcomb wilderness ‘huts’
Volunteers are building a series of large “huts” for people who like to ski and hike off the beaten path. Aaron McArthur has the story – Apr 19, 2018

Most who hear the call of the mountains head to Whistler and Blackcomb, skiing and snowboarding in terrain like Harmony Ridge, Symphony Bowl and Spanky’s Ladder.

But certain athletes crave a mightier challenge, one off the beaten path, past the lifts and the groomers.

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For them, volunteers are working to build three backcountry huts in an area known as the Spearhead Traverse, a three-day trek from the top of Blackcomb Mountain.

It’s a path shaped like a horseshoe that takes you along an alpine range and back to the summit of Whistler Mountain. And it attracts as many as 5,000 people every year.

Alpine enthusiasts have endeavoured to build huts for decades. And their dream is finally approaching reality, with the first of three of them expected to ready for guests by the start of the next ski season.

“It means you don’t have to carry your camping gear and your cook gear and tent and so on,” said Tony Knight of the Spearhead Hut Society, which is working to build the first “hut to hut experience on the West Coast.”

The society wants to locate the huts on the glacier of Mount Macbeth, on the summit ridge of Mount Pattison and in the alpine meadows above Russet Lake.

The latter was prepped last summer and it could be ready by the winter.

It’s a hut that’s over 3,000 sq. ft., two stories high with a partial basement, said Liz Scremin, also with the Spearhead Hut Society.

“It will sleep 38 publicly, it will also have a custodian’s room to sleep an additional four,” she said.

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Fundraising has brought in enough cash to build two of the huts, and money is starting to come in for the third.

Whistler Blackcomb is contributing too. The company is donating the value of backcountry lift tickets for the rest of the year.

“It’s kind of like if somebody were to donate to an art gallery or something like that,” said Rob McSkimming, vice-president of business development at Whistler Blackcomb.

“This is a way they can donate by going up and doing something they’re really passionate about.”

Access to the traverse is becoming easier — and with it comes concerns about safety.

Volunteers are working with search and rescue experts to come up with a plan that will help people enjoy a world class experience atop the mountains.