Item: Monashee 2013
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“On our left there’s some great fall-line tree skiing,” says Ken Bibby, our lead guide at Monashee Powder Snowcats. He then points towards an equally-untracked zone off to our right. “Anyone who wants to get sporty, follow Simon.”
It’s our first day in the alpine bowls, skeletal burns and thick forests of Monashee’s tenure, a 17,000-acre expanse south of Revelstoke, BC, and, despite having heard it several times today, we still haven’t decided what Ken’s definition of “sporty” actually is. So far it’s included sunny spines, rumpled pillow-stacks, steep tree chutes, boosty cliffs—it appears anything trending towards rowdy falls under its umbrella. “Sporty,” we decide, is our type of word.
The previous evening, our crew— Smith Optics’s Tag Kleiner; K2 Ski’s artist-extraordinaire Ryan Schmies; GoPro’s Ruben Ducheyne; Colorado-ites and friends of Kastle and Mt. Bachelor Laura Merino and David DeMartini; Bellingham old-guard Brian and Jen Tofte Jones; Bellevue-based TSKJ subscriber and “Big Winner” Andy Winstanely; and TSKJ family members Jessie Lu Galbraith, Jessie Carlson, Matt Wibby, Colin Wiseman, Flip McCririck and my travel-weary self—had assembled at the River Ridge Golf Course in Cherryville, BC, a tiny collection of buildings an hour east of Vernon, to be picked up by the lodge’s battered school bus. We had glimpsed some of the terrain on the snowcat ride in, inspiration for us to get up extra early for that morning’s beacon training and cat safety talk.
It turned out “sporty” had been worth missing a little sleep for, and our excitement burned as hot as the Canadian Rocky’s sunset as our cat clanked back to the lodge after the extremely successful day. Hot tubs turned to hot totties, and soon heavy flakes started falling outside. It was going to be worth getting up early again.
“So we have a pretty big cliff below us—I’d say about 20 meters to flat,” Ken says. It’s day two, and we’re already on a quest for sporty. “It’s kind of hard to see with all the snow, but just follow my shit-hook right and we should find some pretty good skiing.”
We “shit-hook,” and find some pretty good skiing indeed—damn good, actually, steep trees, pillows and cliffs all coated in a deep layer of Monashee powder. It hasn’t stopped snowing since our hot tub session the night before, and each run seems deeper than the last. The tempo Ken set the day before continues, and as he and tail guides Chris Bouchard and Simon Thomson get more confident in our abilities, “sporty” becomes obsolete—it’s all sporty, and soon “gnar-gnar” and “monkey-love” (whatever that means) enter the descriptions. Staff photographer Colleen Gentemann, protected from the storm by her pink umbrella, catches smiles and face shots as we ride and air by, and later that night—after another amazing dinner by the very tall and very talented cook, David Simenoff—we relive each turn and grin from the couches of the lodge’s bar.
One incredible powder day is followed by another, a little warmer than the previous but still cold by our PNW standards. The smiles and sending continues, ramping up to big airs and even some backflips in the snow, and wigs, fake beards and shot-skis at the bar. It’s après-ski done perfectly.
Alas, the warming trend continues and hot pow has turned to cold rain when we wake (with some difficulty) the final morning. But down days are part of the business—although not often at Monashee, as ours was the first they’d had in five years—and the staff gets creative. Half-an-hour later, Ken announces snowcat-driving lessons for anyone who’s interested, and another half-hour later we’re rallying a $100k machine around at top speed, blade mere inches from the snowbanks, while Chris Bouchard entertains us with guiding stories and the occasional piece of cat driving instruction—“Yeah, there’s a tree right there. You might not want to hit that.”
The rain has stopped when the bus finally pulls in at the River Ridge Golf Course. Some of us will stay on, headed for the airport in Kelowna, while others hop out to warm up our Subarus and Tacomas to continue the journey in different directions. But wherever we are headed, we all know that—while our too-short time at Monash has ended—winter is far from over, and there’s still plenty of monkey love and sporty shit-hooking to be done.
A huge thanks to Monashee owners Tom and Carolyn Morgan, Colleen G Photography for many of the above photos, Joe, Johs, Kate, Nicole and the rest of the staff, as well as the other two cats, who all made our Monashee experience all-time.