I had to pinch myself!! I still can't believe I got to join Jeremy Jones on a 4 day splitboard adventure to Whitecap Alpine. It was a dream come true! Elissa and I were stoked to stay at the McGillvray Pass Lodge and ride with some of the industry's top players. Below is a rundown of our trip from March 2023..
The McGillivray Pass Lodge, situated in the remote backcountry of Pemberton, BC and less than three hours north of Vancouver, is the flagship base of operations for Whitecap Alpine, a guided backcountry adventure company. Founded by a group of skiing enthusiasts in the early 70s, McGillivray is one of the oldest backcountry lodges in British Columbia. Accessible only by helicopter, the lodge sits perfectly in the sweet spot between the coast and interior, and receives heavy snowfall from storms moving inland from the Pacific Ocean. This mega playground offers endless terrain suitable for snowboarders of all skill levels, ranging from newer backcountry enthusiasts looking for gentler runs to pro snowboarders seeking steep spines, chutes, and cliff drops.
We flew out of D'arcy in the early afternoon. A short 15 minute helicopter ride quickly put us deep in the mountains where the lodge is located. From there we met our guides Lars, Veronica & Benny. Already dressed in our snowboard gear, we put on our skins and started our first ascent. They took us on two epic runs: Full Frontal and Home Run. Both north-facing aspects with deep, dry snow. Some very fun, feature-rich terrain. This was just a small taste of what to expect from the rest of the trip. That night we had dinner, a sauna, and enjoyed the cozy lodge life before heading to bed early.
The second day started at 7:30am with a cold breakfast of yogurt and fresh fruit, followed by a delicious quiche. The weather was perfect - bluebird, -9°C, and about 30cm of fresh snow. We learned the recent reset in conditions had opened up the south-facing terrain for us to safely ride. The guides led us on a big day of about 1200m vertical. Unfortunately, I bonked and hit a wall after becoming dehydrated in the afternoon. My quadriceps cramped near the top of the 4th run. Thankfully Steph, our tail guide, had some extra water and a pocketful of candy that got me through it. The remainder of the group did two more runs. Just as everyone started to run out of water, Lars knew of a stream where they topped up their supply before heading back to the lodge.
On day three, I woke up with one goal - don't let my diet or hydration hold me back. I drank 1 litre of water before going to bed and another litre when I woke up. After a stunning breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit, we filled our packs with sandwiches and snacks and I packed 1 litre more water than the previous day.
The sun had completely cooked the south-facing aspects, so we headed back to the north side for another big day. At the summit with White Cap in the background, Jeremy Jones recited an inspirational poem before we dropped into one of the most fun feature-rich runs I have ever experienced. I dubbed it "The Playground". We did two laps in this bowl, and then our guide Veronika told us she had something very special planned. We thought there was no topping what we had just rode down. We were very wrong. We embarked on a boot pack up "Lolita's Gash". An incredibly steep chute located between two stunning granite buttresses. A solid boot pack was laid down courtesy of our other guide, Benny and twenty or so minutes later, we were standing at the top of the couloir!
There was a small mandatory drop into the 40° or so pitch, and because of the narrow width of the granite sidewalls we had to pin it down the chute before opening up to another awesome pow field full of fun little drops and hits! The group's energy was at an all-time high after this run and Veronika was happy to tick this ascent off her seasonal checklist.
We followed that incredible run with a quick 7-minute skin to another wide open pow field where we did some more "romantic turns" in golden light before transitioning to our last run home. What an incredible day. It was the best day of splitboarding I have ever experienced hands down! Packing the proper amount of water, pre-hydrating, and having enough food to get through the day made it all possible.
On the fourth and final day, we tackled "Telephone Gullies". Epic halfpipe-like chutes between the trees. This terrain felt familiar and it felt good to be in the trees! Even the skin track up is similar to what we'd ride at home in the Okanagan but on a larger scale. After 3 epic runs in this playful area, and 1 small cornice probe & drop-in, we made our way back towards the lodge. We came to a fork in the road, and Benny asked if anyone had another one in them. After an already long day, some of the group were hesitant, but my hand shot up without hesitation! When will I ever get to Whitecap again I thought. I'm not sitting a single run out. Elissa's hand went up and then slowly a few more. Before we knew it, we were heading out on our final ascent. Side note* I was on my 4th different pair of socks, and at the start of the day they felt like sandpaper against my skin. At this point of the trip I knew my feet were going to need a few days of relief from snowboard boots when I got home!!
I learned so much on this trip, including the importance of staying hydrated and fuelled over a long day on the skin track. I am so grateful for the advice of other more experienced backcountry guides and riders who walked me through the proper way to hydrate and eat on big days of splitboarding. It was an unforgettable experience. Watching someone as good as Jeremy Jones ride and navigate complex terrain with grace, fluidity, and speed, and without hesitation was like watching an artist paint a masterpiece. Sometimes they say you should never meet your heroes because they will disappoint you. Well that statement couldn't be more wrong when it comes to Jeremy Jones. Jeremy Jones is one of the most authentic, humble, approachable, and friendly people I have met in my 20+ years in the snowboard industry. He never says no to photo ops, video messages, offering advice, or a real chat about family etc. Such an amazing person. Thanks to all of the crew from Jones Snowboards and Dollhouse Agency for having us join them on this majestic trip of a lifetime!!
For more information about Whitecap Alpine Lodge visit: https://whitecapalpine.ca/