The Fairy of the Meadows

Fairy Meadows Ski Trip

March 13-20, 1999


"The skiing around Fairy Meadows is truly world famous. You get to choose between short slopes just outside the door or peaks, long tours, and expert level chutes. Of course the powder is unbelievable and you would have to be the unluckiest people in the world not to get some when you go!" (ACC Info)

We had lots of snow all right, but the weather could have been better. However, we were able to ski the area between the hut and friendship col and were not forced below treeline by the weather. We were unable to do any longer tours across any of the major glaciers.

Much of the accessible terrain is glaciated. Any of the longer tours fall into this category. The hut is bounded on the north and the west by the Granite glacier which is very large and very broken up with crevasses. Beyond friendship col is the Gothics glacier which is also reported to be heavily crevassed in sections.

The terrain between the hut and friendship col is largely unglaciated. Two smaller glaciers do sit in this area. The shoestring glacier can be avoided (but offers some good skiing for those who choose it, if it is stable) and the upper part of the Echo glacier just below the col has no open crevasses. There is a large bergschrund so hidden crevasses may exist. The slopes in this 2 km long corridor offer a wide variety of slope angles.

There is some tree skiing to the east below the hut. No glaciers, little (but not zero) avalanche hazard, and easy access. The "practice slopes" right outside the hut offer good short distance yo-yo skiing and were heavily used since we were unable to travel too far from the hut. While these slopes are easily accessible and referred to as "practice slopes" they are avalanche terrain and may be unsafe at times.

We had flat white light from being in the clouds and this (along with a lack of or limited glacier travel skills for much of the group) prevented any longer tours from being undertaken. However, we were able to go towards Friendship col and ski that area every day and were not forced into the tree skiing. While the trees were skied some I still don't have much of an idea of how long the area would take to get tracked by 20 people.

The snow was for the most part stable in 1999 and we had only new snow instability to watch out for, especially where a crust was underneath and/or windslabs had been deposited. There were no persistent weak layers of concern buried in the snowpack. If conditions are very unstable it is clear that safe terrain would be very limited. Even with good stability there was one avalanche incident in the other group sharing the hut with us. Good weather and good skiing with unstable snow would require a great deal of self-restraint.

The ACC ran a photography workshop which was guided by ACMG guides in 1999. Here is what their info for that trip said:

Difficulty: Touring, moderate to longer duration and distance with typical winter day packs plus group and individual gear for glacier travel. Fitness and ability strong intermediate to advanced. Terrain moderate to steeper mountainous, heavily glaciated. Ski ascents of moderate difficulty.

They ACC group got to Unicol among other places but the guides had everyone roped up and actively probed for crevasses on part of the route. Anyone else making this or similar tours should be prepared to do the same.

The best book for the area is supposed to be "Summits and Icefields" by Chic Scott. The maps are 82N/13 (Sullivan River) and 82N/12 (Mt Sir Sandford). The hut is at 394352 on 82N/13.

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