This last season was a bit of a departure from the interior for the Backcountry Skiing Canada crew—we headed west to the Coast Mountains and the Journeyman Lodge, and we headed east to the Southern Purcells and Boulder Hut Adventures. Staging for the Boulder Hut is at Kimberly Resort—something new for the operation. Hopping in the heli in a resort parking lot is pretty cool, and it’ll likely provide some good exposure for Mark and Sarah Yancey, Boulder’s owner/operators.
Here’s a video overview we shot of the trip:
Boulder Hut Adventures has a few attributes that make it unlike other hut operations in BC, and perhaps anywhere. First thing you notice: it’s a family operation. Mark and Sarah have decided to pull their kids, Grace and Alden, out of school for 4 months every year so the kids can experience a wilderness lifestyle and interact with weirdos like us. I mean, why not. What an excellent education. We were on a guided and catered program so the Yancey family was more a part of the picture than if you are on a self guided/catered trip.
Mark, Grace, Sarah and Alden Yancey. A great family who give you plenty of space and are there to provide a helping hand if needed. (FYI, Sarah can whip up an excellent cold medication pack if you fall ill).
The Boulder Hut, built in 1984, is one of the oldest operating huts in BC. Ptarmigan Lodge, also on Boulder Hut Adventure’s tenure, was constructed in 1969. Though Mark and Sarah have owned the place for 11 years, its original owners were Art Twomey and Margie Jamieson. Art and Margie enjoy a bit of well-deserved celebrity status in the conservation world—they were instrumental in establishing the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, which makes up the 500,000 or so acres of protected land neighbouring Boulder’s 15,000-acre ski tenure. The Yancey family is very much aware and appreciative of the legacy they have taken on and this comes out in their attitude—they are “stewards” more than owners and that somehow makes being there all the better.
Boulder Hut could actually be called Boulder “huts” because it is comprised of two main buildings and several outbuildings. The gives it a bit of different feeling than many huts which are often just one main structure, an outhouse and a sauna. In the case of Boulder, the main building is separated into two: one building (the closest in the photo above) is home to the kitchen, dinning room and living room area.
Just before diving into dinner in the main building. If you have your druthers, go catered. The meals were exceptionally good.
The immediately adjacent building, called the Casa del sueno, is where guests sleep and enjoy some personal space. There are four basic and super-comfy beds on the ground floor, along with a drying room, wood stove and sink. There are more beds (and a little more privacy/couples space) on the second floor. There’s even some handy LED lighting, rigged up by Mike, who we skied with during our visit.
The other buildings are: the staff lodging, the Yancey family’s simple house—which is set off from the others a ways, the sauna, and a choice of two well-appointed outhouses. When I first read up on the Boulder Hut, I thought we’d have to hike through the snow to get to the sleeping quarters; fear not, it’s a protected four or five steps between the dining/kitchen/living room and the Casa.
In general, the terrain was different than what one would experience closer to home here in Nelson; at, say, Powder Creek Lodge, Ice Creek Lodge or Mount Carlyle Lodge. Being closer to the Rockies in the Southern Purcells, Boulder Hut terrain seems to be a little “rockier,” and features the kind of big dramatic peaks one sees east, beyond the Purcells.
We enjoyed a high pressure system for the first few days there so we got into the alpine while the viz was good. Stability was also good and guides Bryce Cox and Mark, along with tail guide Drew Nylen, lead us on some excellent tours.
Here is one of our alpine days. An amazing scramble along the ridge of Mt Moki, followed by a ski down Kia’s Col.
Mark Yancey on top of the world. Mt. Moki.
Another alpine day… here climbing up Rosy’s Nuts couloir between Grace Peak and Mt. Levesque. Rosy is the family dog, who, when younger, would accompany skiers all day—regardless of how extreme the terrain. Here below, Marie Claude on the approach and the author in the guts of it.
Ever notice how guides always point? Here Drew and Mark discuss the potential downroute from the col into Birdie Basin.
About halfway through the trip, the snow came and we changed our approach, pulling out of the alpine to sample some of the ample and awesome tree skiing at Boulder. Above the hut, runs like Blue and Yellow were way more exciting than their names might indicate. A personal favourite, Cardiac, brought us through perfectly spaced trees to valley bottom.
Sarah and Mike enjoying some of the trip’s best snow in Cardiac.
The Boulder Hut Adventures site is just a click away, so check it out. There you’ll find all the nitty gritty details about the investment required and what makes the place so special. Unlike most lodges we’ve been through, you can go for a half or full week. Here’s a snapshot of some of their pricing.
Add Boulder Hut Adventures to your To Do list. At 15K acres, their tenure offers up more skiing than you can tackle in a month. The snow was best toward the second half of the trip which allowed us to ski powder and experience some of the treed terrain. The high pressure system sent us up high where we tested our mountaineering skills and enjoyed mind-blowing views. A very well rounded week.
I really liked the family feel. It’s not like you have little ones crawling all over you at any time—the kids are all respectful and give guests plenty of space (and I am speaking from the guided/catered program participant standpoint). For me, it was a treat to have the kids come out for a tour one day (on our invitation).
The history of the place also contributes to the experience. It’s like, as a guest, you are participating in something with a strong, well-established (yet wild) foundation. Some of our fellow guests had been to Boulder Hut well over ten times. This feeling of being part of a legacy (as well as a bunch of other stuff) may have been part of what brings them back.
If you are looking for a place to spend the night before flight-out to Boulder, that’s within spitting distance of the heli pad, try the Mountain Spirit Resort in Kimberely. It’s somewhat swanky and super practical. Great hottubs! For a bite to eat, try the Pedal and Tap on Kimberly’s main drag—the Platzyl. Go for the fish tacos and a pint of FatTug.
Here are a couple shots, in case, to help you find them and so you can see what they have to offer:
Full week: $2,450 CDN + 5% GST
Half week: $1,695 CDN + 5% GST
Lodge Rental: $1,250 CDN + 5% GST per-person based on full lodge booking of 12
Location: Purcell Mountains with the staging at Kimberly Alpine Resort.
Airport: Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook, BC (YXC). Take the shuttle (30 minutes) to the resort. Boulder Hut guests receive discounts on lift tickets and lodging at the resort. Calgary International Airport (YYC), Calgary Alberta, 4.5 hour drive to Kimberley. Glacier Park International Airport (FCA), Kalispell, Montana, 3 hour drive to Kimberley. Integra Air now offers 2 flights per day between Cranbrook and Calgary (except Saturday)
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A few more photos of the terrain and hut...