Powder Hounds

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Having a cold one with the boys.

Photo Essay by Kellen Mohr

Just after the new year, I met my friends Chris and Michael in my hometown of Spokane, Washington.  They’d driven cross-country from Michigan and Minnesota; visions of dry powder, pillows, and a favorable exchange rate dancing through their heads.  

After rendezvousing in Spokane, we immediately zoomed north.  Crossing the border some hours later, we soon realized that smooth sailing was not in the cards.  We were questioned and extensively searched by the Canadian immigration services; after a lot of shivering, pointed lines of questioning, disposing of our Washington-grown apples, and an exhaustive search of our numerous camera and ski bags, we were northbound once more.

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What followed is what dreams are made of. We bunked at a hostel in Nelson, Dancing Bear Inn, run by a friend of friends, and the very next day found me introducing my friends to all of the bounty that Whitewater has to offer.  We spun endless laps inbounds, hooting and hollering, boosting side hits, slashing turns, and scarfing down poutine and pitchers galore.  Whitewater (wh2o to locals) is the quintessential ski area - the last of a dying breed in the era of chain resorts and seemingly endless $20 parking.  Fantastic inbounds skiing, phenomenal backcountry access, excellent food, cheap beer, no base village or condos, and a local scene full of low-key rippers and friendly locals - that’s what we’re looking for.   

The next week was heavenly.  We split our time between slackcountry missions and inbounds laps; treated to endless pow, empty lifts, welcoming locals, and a smorgasbord of late night hangs in Nelson.  After a day full of inbounds fun, we toured up the ridge for golden hour and dropped in on a run back to our car as the sun slipped behind the horizon.  Yips and hoots were in abundance as we rode the now-closed resort back to our car, cracked beers, drove back to town, and readied ourselves for another day in paradise. 

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The next day, we set out for a (seemingly mellow) backcountry lap. We skinned up through the forest at a leisurely pace, attained the ridge, snacked on pb&js, and were about to drop when we heard the tell-tale whoomp-whoomp-whoomp of a heli nearby. After fantasizing about heli-dropped cases of Rainier, we dug a pit and cautiously traversed to our zone of choice. We were treated to expansive views and a glorious descent to our car, only to find out that the heli we heard was a rescue chopper situation on the next ridge over, set out to rescue skiers trapped in an avalanche that dragged them through the forest below. So much for the Rainier. Counting our lucky stars, we hurried back to our car as darkness swept over the mountains and made a quick beeline to town.

Ramen and local brews awaited us, and we roamed the town streets before bedding down for the night. The following days were uneventful in the heli rescue department, full of slashes and faceshots, always culminating in us limping back to our car in the empty lot after darkness had descended, exhausted, cruising back to Nelson well after darkness had set over the mountains. Rowdy hockey games, DIY brewery tours, petting all the local dogs, and revisiting the go-to ramen joint occupied our evenings.

Our last day was one for the books. We linked up with a friend who showed us the goods. It was the first day all the local kids were back in school, and it snowed a foot overnight - heaven. It may have been socked in, but we made the most of it, screaming down inbounds laps until our legs couldn’t take it anymore.  We traversed to a secret zone and hiked pillows until our thighs well and truly gave out on us, limped back to the lifts, and called it quits - until next time.  

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Kellen Mohr is a photographer living in California. He instagrams @kellenmohr

This article appears in the 2018/19 Winter Issue. Buy yours here.

Caroline Royce