The New Year was only a few days old when I loaded my ski gear into a helicopter to fly into Whitecap Alpine. Located in British Columbia’s Coast Range Mountains, the backcountry ski operation promises ridiculously good skiing and a near-luxurious backcountry stay at the McGillivray Pass Lodge.
I was naturally pumped to kick start 2016 with an exciting adventure; however, I couldn’t help but notice how the line between personal trip and a photography project had blurred even further. My visit to Whitecap Alpine came because a friend invited me on something of a boys’ weekend. I was on vacation. But I was also acutely aware that the trip fit perfectly with my ambassador role with Eddie Bauer and I’d brought along a notebook and camera to capture the experience.
My instagram feed shows off an adventure-focused lifestyle, but it doesn’t always tell the true story; many of my best images have been made within sight of a vehicle. But most of my favourite photographs – and the memories that go along with them – have happened on true adventures, deep within the mountains. Sometimes I don’t even have the time, let alone the energy, to capture an image on long backcountry days.
Along with our group of four that flew into Whitecap Alpine, there were eight other guests, two ACMG ski guides and a tail guide, a camp manager and a backcountry cooking genius. After we landed, the group jumped into action. Rather than waste time on small talk, we got to know one another as we worked through a few avalanche companion rescue scenarios. Soon after that, we were skinning towards the top of Home Run to spoon a handful of warm-up powder turns before dinner.
They were my first turns of 2016 and I didn’t even think of stopping to take a photograph.
I like to think Eddie Bauer himself would understand. He had quite the reputation as an avid fisherman and I’d hope he let himself get so caught up in his passion that he occasionally missed a deadline or canceled a meeting. After all, I was merely taking the company’s advice by taking its Live Your Adventure motto to heart.
Early the next morning, we shared a hearty breakfast as the group divided into two teams. Most elected for close-to-home powder runs, but I opted to tag along with the smaller group set on an ambitious 15 km traverse that would offer four long descents.
We set out at a solid pace that held for much of the day. Rather than a lunch break, we simply chowed down as we transitioned between skinning and skiing. The pattern kept us moving. I nibbled on some trail mix, tore my skins off my skis and tossed them in my backpack, bit off a piece of cliff bar, buckled my boots, and dropped into a 400 m alpine bowl. We continued like that all day, ripping turns through several alpine bowls and beneath stands of pine trees. As we transitioned back onto our skins for the final climb towards the cabin, I realized I’d been having so much fun that I’d barely snapped any photographs.
Camp life proved all-too-comfortable, too, as a hearty meal, wood-powered sauna and hot shower made this unlike any backcountry trip I’d previously enjoyed.
When day two and three played out in much the same way, I gave in to the idea of being on vacation instead of turning the trip into yet another working vacation. I chose to stick with the faster group and log back-to-back powder runs from breakfast to dinner. We earned our turns while we boot packed up a couloir, ripped big turns through wide open bowls, and bagged a few peaks. Our guides kept us moving efficiently. Days are short enough in January, so we didn’t burn daylight with drawn out lunch breaks or intricate photography setups.
A few days after the trip, I finally downloaded the images I captured of the experience. Sorting through them in Lightroom, I confirmed my suspicions. They’re closer to snapshots than great shots. For the first time in years, I’m completely comfortable with that outcome. I was on vacation.
When we arrived at the top of Loafer, which was both the steepest and the final run we made at Whitecap Alpine, I didn’t even bother to pull out my camera. Instead of focusing on #Outerwhere, I’d focused on being out there. And because of that attitude, I came home prepared to tackle new adventures – both personal and professional – in 2016.
Here’s hoping you all found a way to get ready for 2016, too!
This trip wasn’t originally sponsored by @EddieBauer, but the company does support my photography, website, and adventure-focused lifestyle.
Remember: Get Inspired. Get Outside. Explore. But once you are home, make sure to share your own adventures using both #LiveYourAdventure and #outerWhere.
See you in the mountains!