Welcome to our Sentry Lodge trip. I'm looking forward to skiing with my friends from our previous trips, and to meeting the new members of the group!
Please read the following information carefully. It should answer most of the questions you may have. There is a gear list at the end.
If you get nothing else from this information package, please do the following:
- Fill out the Guest Information Form. Click here now to fill out the form.
- Read the Guiding waiver carefully ahead of time. You don’t need to sign the waiver now, you will do that once you arrive for the trip. Click here to read the waiver.
- Have a look at the gear list at the end of this information package and make sure you are able to bring everything on the list.
- Pay for the trip!
You can pay the balance owing of $1525 by:
- Emailing me an Interac payment
- Mailing a check to Mark Klassen, Box 1958, Banff, AB T1L 1B7
To keep your future trip prices low I prefer you do not pay by credit card (because of the fees incurred), but if that is the easiest for then can make a credit card payment by clicking here. Password is "Pierre".
Please let me know when you have sent a payment.
Important dates and times
All times are Mountain Standard Time (same as Calgary)
February 10, 8 PM
The evening before the trip we should all be in Golden as we meet early the next morning. If you are planning to be elsewhere that evening please contact me and we can discuss options but it is best if you make plans to be in Golden that night.
We will have a group meeting that night around 8 PM, exact time and location to be announced.
February 11, 7 am
We will meet in the morning at 7 AM at the Golden Alpine Holidays office: #105, 806 - 9th Street North. Google Map location here.
We will sign waivers and make sure we are set for the week and then make the 40 minute drive to the helicopter staging area.
At the staging area we will do a helicopter safety briefing and then start flying into the lodge. This will all take at least a couple of hours.
Once arriving at the lodge we will move in, have lunch, and then participate in a ski safety briefing and rescue practice. We may be able to do one run before dinner.
February 12 - 17
The first incoming flight should be coming in mid-morning and if all goes well we should all be out by mid-afternoon.
There is always the possibility of delays getting into or out of the lodge. Be prepared for this, especially on the flight out. I don’t recommend you try to make a flight out of Calgary the same day!
Getting to Golden
You can easily get to Golden from Calgary by renting a car. You may park your vehicle at the staging area for the week.
For directions on how to get from Calgary airport to Golden click here.
You may also try a charter bus from Calgary but understand you need to get to and from the staging area at the beginning and end of the trip. The logistics at the end of the trip could be problematic and expensive if flights are delayed. Try Airport Shuttle Express. Click here for their website. 1-403-509-4799.
I can recommend the Kicking Horse River Lodge. A shared dorm room at the KHRL is about $35, a double is $125. Click here. 1-250-439-1112.
There are many other hotels in town and a Google search will get you the best deals.
Safety is our number one priority, from the time we start driving up to the helicopter staging area to the moment we all head our separate ways at the end of the trip. There are a variety of ways you can help me and the other staff make this a safe trip:
- Listen to the guides’ instructions and if you are uncertain of what is expected of you please ask!
- Take an avalanche course with me! Click here.
- Take the online avalanche course at the Avalanche Canada website. Click here.
- Practice with your avalanche beacon prior to the trip – at the very least understand all of its functions and how to use them.
- Bring hand sanitizer to the lodge and use it often – this will help keep any bugs we bring into the lodge at bay and we will be able to keep skiing!
Skiing together as a group is all about trust. The more we trust each other the more fun we will have because that means that we can ski the most interesting terrain available to us with the current conditions. The more prepared you are, the more I will trust you and the more comfortable I will be to get us into the most interesting terrain available to us with the conditions we encounter.
We have a lot of staff on this trip so there is plenty of back up in case of an incident.
It is important to understand that no matter how well prepared we are there is still an element of risk to backcountry skiing. To lower that risk, do the prep work I’ve outlined in the safety section.
You will all need to sign two waivers that will make you well aware of that risk. One is for the lodge and one is for the guides – you will sign them when you arrive. Please have a look at the waiver at the link above so you understand what the risks are and what you will be signing when you get here.
In nearly thirty years of guiding I have only had three evacuations from the field for minor injuries or illness. Read on to decide whether you wish to purchase rescue insurance.
Mountain rescue on British Columbia provincial lands is normally free if proper channels are followed for the call out. In these areas rescue teams are volunteers and response may not always be rapid. In certain emergency conditions your guide may initiate a rescue outside the accepted call out procedure to ensure a rapid extrication. In this case rescue costs in the thousands of dollars may not be covered by the government. Non-emergency evacuations (e.g. an evacuation from a backcountry hut due to a minor injury or illness) may also not be covered. You may wish to purchase mountain rescue insurance for this trip.
PURCHASE MOUNTAIN RESCUE INSURANCE
If you want to buy mountain rescue insurance I recommend joining the American Alpine Club for $80, for which you get US$7,500 mountain rescue insurance. This would probably cover most of the cost for a majority of incidents. You can also upgrade to get US$500,000 coverage. Click here to learn more.
Beware of regular travel insurance companies offering mountain rescue insurance. They may not cover the activities we will be partaking in, and may not include technical rescue services.
Food and medical issues
If any of you have food allergies, medical conditions or specific food requests please let me know as soon as possible. Theresa needs to know food issues well ahead of time so she can plan the menu.
The schedule over the week is simple: eat, ski, eat, sleep! There may be some drinking too but that’s up to you! Everything else is mandatory.
I’ve outlined the schedule for the flight days already. The ski days generally start with breakfast at 7.30 AM and we try to be on our skis and traveling by 8.30-9 AM. We plan to be back at the lodge by about 4 PM or so. Then there are après ski snacks, sauna time, dinner at 7 PM, a drink or two and then hit the sack.
Ski trips may be a series of shorter runs through the trees or in the alpine, or longer trips over the glaciers and to summits. With multiple guides there are options to split the group if some folks want shorter days and others want a longer one. Often we can do this by part of the group going home early or we can also have two separate objectives. It will be up to the conditions we encounter over the week combined with what you would like to do.
Built in 2012, Sentry is an elegantly simple and sustainable new era backcountry alpine lodge.
Renewable micro hydro power generates 120V AC electricity throughout the lodge. Two heat efficient fireplaces keep the structure nice and warm. Running hot and cold water, water free urinals and spacious interior are just some of the design elements.
Communications from and to the lodge
We will have radio communications during the day between the guides, the lodge and the local helicopter and guiding companies.
There is internet available at the lodge.
I will also be carrying a SPOT device, which links to satellites and sends a simple message showing that all is “OK”. This message and a link to Google Maps showing our location are posted to my Facebook page here. Your friends and family can keep track of us there; you can access that Facebook page without having an account or password.
In case of an emergency we will always be able to get word out by radio, sat phone, or SPOT. But all backcountry communications can be subject to disruptions so there is a chance your personal communications while at the lodge may be sporadic. It is best to tell your families “no news is good news”!
You can tell your families that in an emergency they can contact you by calling the Golden Alpine Holidays base and they can contact us on the radio.
This trip has two lead guides and a tail guide. This means we have lots of options as to how the group skis. We can ski in at two separate groups if we wish.
Here is the staff for this year’s trip:
- Theresa Calow – “Tree” is our cook and therefore the most important person on the crew! She can ski all day and still have a delicious breakfast, treats and dinner out on time. Treat her well!
- TJ Neault - TJ is a ski guide who splits his time between Calgary and Invermere. TJ and I have worked together several times before and he is a great addition to the team.
- David Storwick - Most of you know David well, he has skied with us many times before. He is a firefighter from Calgary who seems to spend more time skiing than fighting fires. David will help us out with the ski programme.
- Mark Klassen – That’s me. I’ve been working as a ski patroller, avalanche forecaster and guide since the mid 80’s. In the summer I guide mountaineering and rock climbing. I’ve been a fully certified ACMG/IFMGA mountain guide since 1996. Click here for my bio.
There will also be a lodge custodian.
You will need to organize beer, wine and other alcohol yourselves. Feel free to talk to each other to figure this out. Beer in cans works best. Don't bring too much! But don't bring too little!
For your incoming luggage please try to keep things to three packages:
- Your skis (strapped together) and poles.
- Your day pack with all your gear for the ski days.
- As small a duffle bag you can get away with to put the rest of the gear into (or two small duffles). Small bags are easier to load into the helicopter.
Some pointers on packing:
- Try to keep your ski pack and duffel to about 15 kg/35 lbs.
- We will not accept very large duffels (like hockey bags) or bags/luggage with hard sides or wheels. You need to bring smaller, soft duffel bags.
The bottom line
- Fill out the Guest Information Form. Click here now to fill out the form.
If you have any questions let me know! Email me.
Lodge-based ski touring gear list
You need to have everything on the list!
I can provide safety gear such as shovel, probe, transceiver and harness. Let me know as soon as possible if you need any of this.
I provide transceiver rentals for $80/week, all other equipment I provide free of charge.
Avalanche transceivers – IMPORTANT
Your transceiver has to have been manufactured since 2001 (so it meets EN 300718 standard). It is best if your transceiver is less than 10 years old.
We only allow modern digital transceivers on our trips.
Modern transceivers can have compatibility issues with transceivers manufactured before 2001 and any analog transceivers even if they work on the same frequency.
The manufacturer should have tested your transceiver within the last 3 years. If this hasn’t been done you must have tested your transceiver yourself for distance in both transmit and receive modes – it needs to have a signal at a minimum of 30 metres.
No "analog" transceivers are allowed. We also do not allow some older style digital transceivers.
The following transceivers are not allowed on this trip:
- Ortovox: F1, M1, M2, X1, D3, Patroller, Patroller Digital
- SOS: all types
- Pieps: Vector (recalled) and Freeride
- Others: any transceiver manufactured before 2001
I can recommend the following transceivers for those of you who do not have a lot of experience searching with transceivers:
- Mammut (Barryvox) Element
- Pieps DSP Sport
- Backcountry Access Tracker 2
I can recommend the following transceivers for those of you who are willing to do a lot of practice searching with transceivers:
- Mammut (Barryvox) Pulse
- Pieps DSP Pro
- Backcountry Access Tracker 3
There are many other transceivers available. If they are sold by MEC they are acceptable. However, I do not have extensive experience in some other types so will not be able to help you learn about them as well as the recommendations above.
Let me know if you would like more information on transceivers.
If your transceiver does not meet the specifications above you will not be going skiing!
Common Equipment Problems
Issues we see with ski equipment include the following. Some of these problems might end your ski week or at least make life very frustrating! Make sure you have these things sorted out before the trip.
- Slow skis/boards. Make sure your bases are smooth and waxed! A tune-up for your skis/board is well worth the investment.
- Inappropriate backcountry skis/boards: too heavy, too narrow or skis/boards that are not backcountry specific. Try to keep your set-up as light as possible. Ski width under your foot should be in the 95-105 mm range, give or take. Narrower than this and you may have issues in deep snow or crust conditions, wider than this is often too heavy.
- Old skins. Make sure your skin glue is in good shape and get them fixed if the glue is dirty, in clumps, or the glue has worn off at the edges or ends of the skins. If your skins don't work you can't go skiing. Some shops can replenish or re-glue skins for you or you can do it yourself. Here are a couple of tutorials: Replenishing Re-glueing
- Boot problems. Ill-fitting boots will give you blisters. And all boots have bolts and rivets that may come loose. If your boots are brand new or well-worn make sure fittings are tight and in good shape. Bring specific tools to tighten the bolts/screws on your boots and check them a couple of times over the week.
- Binding problems. Beware of the following bindings:
Make sure all ski gear is in good shape and you are familiar with its use.
- AT touring skis or telemark skis or splitboard
- Understand that telemark and snowboard bindings may not be releasable and greatly increase your risk if caught in an avalanche.
- No snowboard/snowshoe combinations, splitboards only.
- Boots: If they are new ensure you have the fit worked out! I recommend a professional boot fitting.
- Digital avalanche transceiver. See recommendations above.
- Avalanche shovel
- Avalanche probe (see a G3 probe recall here)
- Climbing harness (for the glaciers)
- Skin wax: I find a simple candle works fine.
- Water bottle and/or thermos
- Small headlamp
- Small personal first aid/repair kit: band aids, blister kit, headache pills, hand and toe warmers, extra batteries for transceiver and headlamp, duct tape, pocket knife, special binding and boot parts.
- Toilet kit: toilet paper, baggie for used paper, hand sanitizer
- 30-40 L capacity backpack. All your gear and clothing must fit in your pack. Nothing should be strapped to the outside.
- Optional safety gear: ski helmet, Avalung, balloon pack. Some airlines will not allow the canisters for balloon packs on the aircraft. Please check with your airline well before you arrive at the airport. Click here for info on how you can fill your own canisters when you get to Calgary.
- Several thin layers are better than fewer thicker layers. No cotton!
- Long underwear tops and bottoms - wool or synthetic
- Ski pants – softshell or light hardshell pants both are fine
- Thin windbreaker/softshell - for walking uphill in warm conditions
- Warmer softshell jacket – I prefer a hooded jacket but it’s absolutely necessary
- Shell jacket – to keep the wet out, Gore-tex or similar seems best
- Down or synthetic jacket – for breaks and emergency use
- Lightweight gloves – for walking uphill in warm conditions
- Warm gloves – 2 pairs (mittens are optional but recommended if you get cold hands)
- Hand warmers if you get cold hands
- Balaclava or neck tube – essential for cold conditions
- Sun hat
- Lodge slippers or shoes
- Casual street clothes for the lodge
- Towel and sauna gear
- Ear plugs
The Lodge will provide:
- Toilet paper
- U.S. and foreign participants need passports to travel to Canada. Ensure the expiry date is well after the trip ends.
- Airplane tickets.
Each guide will provide:
- Group first aid kit
- Group repair kit
- Emergency toboggan/shelter
- GPS, compass, map etc
- Good looks and bright personalities
Extra Ski Gear
- We will have one pair of extra AT skis with bindings and skins that should fit most people.
- If there are telemarkers or snowboarders on the trip it is worthwhile to consider bringing one extra pair of skis or board.
- We will have one extra pair of ski poles.