Monday, January 28, 2013

Fairy Meadows Hut

The 2013 Skier Boyz International Conference was held this past January at the Bill Putnam (Fairy Meadow) Hut just outside of Golden, BC. Ten representatives from 5 regions rendezvoused at the elegant Rondo Motel. Efficient sleeping arrangements kept the daily rate in the $10/person range.  The next day we drove higher into the mountains to the heli-port for a week of skiing in the Selkirk Mountains.

We got super lucky on the weather: 3' of high quality, low density snow came in on days 1-5, a greybird transition day on 6, and finished with bluebird for days 7 and 8. Kid Bufo's earlier post documents the significance of the trip and the pillow line / glacier madness.

The Fairy Meadow Hut (capacity: 20) is owned and operated by the Alpine Club of Canada.  The trip leader needs to purchase ACC membership to be eligible to book the hut. Demand grows as the days get longer so is necessary to use the lottery system if you are interested in spring dates. December and January have much lower demand, but you can still enter the lottery to be on the safe side. 

Winter access is by helicopter out of Chatter Creek. Chatter Creek is a private company whose main business is providing cat skiing at a remote fully staffed lodge.  They have no real relationship with ACC; other than being the hired contractor that provides access to several ACC huts.

At Chatter Creek there were no ACC representatives, no list of who had paid for the trip, and a general "who gives a shit" attitude by everyone there including the dogs. Who can blame them? They are basically providing a service to their direct competition. We were told to arrive at 11:00 AM; but we sat for hours waiting for our ride. 

When the ride did show up, there was confusion as to what heli we would be using. But once they figured it out, there was more than enough capacity for all of our gear and food.  Basically pack like you are going car camping for the weekend. 

Chief Hucks-with-Whippet in Helo-1
The first ship was mostly a gear run, but Hucks-with-Whippet got shotgun. Helo-2 was much bigger and the 9 of us climbed aboard. Our pilot hadn't been to Fairy Meadows in "a-boot 20 years" and promptly got lost.  After about 25 minutes of flying up and down drainages, we finally spotted ski tracks that led up to the hut.

The group from the previous week was waiting to load their gear and they were very helpful with the loading / unloading.  From the LZ it is a shortish uphill walk to the hut.  After several shuttle laps, we were ready to settle in.

The Wood Stove
The stove provides plenty of heat and hot water. Good gear drying spots went quickly after each day of practicing our schussing techniques. It was super nice to come back to plenty of hot water for cocoa, coffee, and other hot booze-sugar combinations.

The Water Jug and Kitchen
The hut has propane lights throughout the 1st floor which, along with the wood stove, makes for a super-cozy post-schussing debrief session / stoke-fest.

The Hut from Below
The tree skiing in the FM area is A+ and it mostly finishes below the hut along a large lateral moraine. This view was always a welcome site after a long day of skiing.

GMFR Representative: Gremmie

The Brefan
There are plenty of guidebooks provided as well as magazines. But the gem is the Box of Local Knowledge: chock full of pre-trip research and maps from previous visitors. Names of runs, passes, summits, glaciers, and spires are all there for you to pour over and plan your assault for the next day.

Sleeping Arrangements
There is room for 20 upstairs, but no propane lighting so bring a headlamp.  Most nights it was too hot for a sleeping bag. Next time I'll bring a sheet and light blanket (in addition to the bag) for the nights when we get over ambitious with the wood stove.

Filling up at the Spring
A small pot fills the 3 gallon bucket which fills the 15 gallon barrels. Despite getting 60 gallons per trip, water runs were a daily chore. On Day 5 we realized that the sled next to the water barrels was there for a reason. The sled makes water runs less daunting. We didn't feel the need to boil the water and no one has gotten sick as of 16 days post-trip.

Welcome: Have a Fresca

Front Door with Storm Boards

Gremmie, Bret, GB6K, & The Hammer Slayer

Everyone took turns making breakfast or dinner. There is a 4-burner propane stove with oven and 2 additional 2-burner units. Other chores included: splitting wood, water runs, getting the sauna fired up, dishes, and clean up. Some groups opt to hire a private cook for the week, but we were content to fend for ourselves. 

Another Brefan and Steve

Hello, Friend
In addition to eating wood, it is recommended to feed all the food waste to the hungry bastard.

I'm a Dishwasher in Golden
Doing the dishes uses up a large amount of hot water. Keep those pots on the wood stove full. The sink has a drainage system, so clean up is a breeze.

Wood Shed - Cut but not Split
Who want's to carve up a good hunk of wood?

The Fairy on the Sauna
The sauna building is fantastic. The wood stove in the sauna has a built-in 20-gallon water tank with a spigot on the bottom. Mixing the hot water with the cold spring water gave the option of low volume showers. Others choose snow belly flops as their preferred hygiene technique. 

Jay, Gramps, GB6K, Brefan
The Whole Gang
The hut capacity is 20, but our group of 10 had the run of the joint. There was more than enough room for 10 people, but 20 would feel cramped. Every nook and crammy would be jammed packed with gear. Adding a second group of strangers (no matter how cool) would definitely impact the hut dynamics.

January has short days, cold weather, and the potential for more wind compared to the spring, but you are much more likely to find the hut well below capacity. 

This is an awesome place to visit for a week (or two or three). There are plenty of ski options for storm days and incredible alpine routes for good weather.  There is no cell reception, wi-fi, or other techno distractions. It super to reconnect with these amazing people free from distractions. I can't wait to go back.

Thanks to everyone for a great trip!

Next year - Ovando or burst!

 - U.K.


  1. Dude. I go to Trixies all the time now that I live in Whitefish. I will have to buy that Hero a brew sometime. I thought his smirk looked familiar. You gotta keep it on the down low though, Ovando has been blowing up. Powder magazine did an article for next months issue, best ski town bars!

  2. I go to Ovando all the time now that I live in WHitefish. I will have to buy that Hero a brew next time I'm at Trixies. I thought his smirk looked familiar.