Between each run a helicopter would pick us up and whip our group of four to the top of a ridgeline, providing just a few minutes to relax. I’ve never skied that much in my life, let alone that much near-perfect powder.
By the end of the ski day – an 8 to 5 affair – my legs were beat and my mind was a blur. I probably had fewer than ten turns that didn’t feel like cutting through butter. Even in late March on a relatively low snow year our guides were able to find the goods, again and again. Exhausted, I kept thinking how just one of those laps would have made my day.
Eagle Pass is the newcomer on the heli-ski block, starting just nine years ago. Founded by Scott Newsome and two business partners, the outfit has grown steadily on a trio of guiding principals: small groups, unrivaled terrain, and an emphasis on safety.
Despite being a new operation, most of the guides have had long careers before work there, and have developed extensive systems to mitigate client risk.
Our trip north of the border was more than just play. I was tagging along with a team from Eddie Bauer to test a new suite of prototypes, set to launch next fall. Skiing for a few days provided a chance to test the new products for ourselves, but more importantly, we were there to learn from Scott and the team at Eagle Pass.
Our decision to go to British Columbia was far from random. The guides at Eagle Pass have been key partners in the R&D process for backcountry gear for the last decade, helping brands test and develop their collections. During our trip, everything from pocket placement to sewing styles to material choice was discussed. Using these guides that ski more than 100 days each season, the brand is able to design top-in-class product – And we certainly put this gear through the wringer.
The Monashee range sits just east of the Coast mountains and gets upward of 60 feet of snow each year. Because the temperatures here are colder than their neighbors to the west, the snow is noticeably lighter, making it great for skiing.
And the terrain is endless: Eagle Pass has a tenure roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island. When storms come in, guides keep groups safe in the trees, with stable snow. And when the opportunity provides, they’ll take you into the majestic open bowls of the alpine. The mileage that most of the prototypes have on them is hard to fathom.
We caught the tail-end of the storm on our first day, with 25 new centimeters of snow. This was great for gear testing, with high humid and low-visibility conditions. While an average waterproof layer will keep you dry on a mostly sunny day, only some of the best shells are able to simultaneously shed moisture while allowing your body to breath while working hard. While skiing lap after lap I was impressed with the new products, but more so with the critical eye of the guides.
On our second morning we woke up to bluebird skies and the stoke started to blossom. Despite a great time tree skiing through ancient spruce, fir and cedars on our first day, the end of the storm meant we would likely be able to access the alpine and ski bigger objectives. The group barely talked during breakfast, as we rushed to get ready.
Scott was our lead guide for the trip; he’s a father of two and was the first AMCG splitboard guide, ever. This was his 23rd winter leading clients and his extensive knowledge of the area showed.
Unlike most guides, Scott strikes a fine balance between being patient with questions and allowing you to figure it out yourself. Each lap he’d offer a few troublesome areas to avoid and then point his board downhill. We would follow, often giving space as he ski cut a slope to test for stability.
Throughout the day the only tracks we saw were our own. Often we’d ski a full lap crossing them in smooth figure eights. By the end of our trip this solitude felt almost normal but looking back, it’s extraordinary to have that much terrain to yourself. The reason for this is that it’s quite difficult to access without a helicopter.
As we got to know Scott during our time skiing with Eagle Pass, one thing stood out the most: He’s more than a guide and different than most businessmen … he genuinely cares about your experience. Because of this they booked out often a year in advance, filling up with customers who love the small-group experience that’s unique to Eagle Pass. I definitely walked away hoping for the chance to come back soon.
All Photos by Andy Cochrane.
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