Trevor Hunt spent last weekend with three friends in Pemberton. Actually they spent it above Pemberton, waaay above Pemberton, skiing the most ridiculous slopes they could find.
Hunt is a steep skier, and this means spending hours climbing to the summit of some of the more treacherous peaks in the Coast Mountains that surround the Sea to Sky region, and skiing down routes or "lines" with angles considerably more hair-raising than 45 degrees.
First known as ski extreme, steep skiing came out of Alps hotspots like Chamonix, and remains more popular in Europe. Hunt says that to steep ski is to not attack the mountains in a free-for-all manner; it can take a few years for conditions to be right. It's all about mitigating risk.
The Squamish-based 34-year-old outdoor goods product developer and designer started calling his sport steep skiing because, of course, extreme skiing is something completely different in these parts. "Others call it ski-mountaineering. I used to call it 'big mountain' but then free skiers took the term."
He, Chris Christie, Tobin Seagel, Jon Johnston knocked back a few first descents around Pemberton while there; Hunt described the two-day adventure on his blog Coast Steep Skier, but exactly where they were he couldn't tell you. What he will say is that the words "ski sickness" kept popping into his head.
"It's hard to describe. There are no names. On a map there might be, I just don't know them," he said, laughing. "It was more that the ski lines were interesting. Even if I knew what valley we were in I probably wouldn't say... not to keep it a secret, but I tend to think people are too obsessed with guidebooks. They don't want to be on the adventure themselves and find things out."
Hunt said there is a small community of "super active," steep skiers with the same degree of skill and intensity, with the core being based in Pemberton.
"There are some great steep skiers up there, snowboarders, too," he said.
As for Pemberton's iconic Mount Currie, Hunt says there is already too much activity there.
"Some people consider Mount Currie one of the classics, but people are skiing that all the time. For me, I don't even consider it steep, but I guess there are some things on there that are steep. It's all relative," he said.
What he will say is that the Coast Mountains, despite the popularity of Whistler and backcountry extreme skiing opportunities, still provide the chance for new routes for his sport.
"In a day or so you can go to a place where nobody's skied ever, possibly, with amazing snow, and we have it right here," he said, explaining the appeal.
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