It was 8pm on Thursday evening, and we were still undecided on what we would be doing on the Easter Long weekend, Friday to Monday. I guess we are kind of last minute people. That’s actually one of the privileges of owning a car – we can decide where we want to go, when and with who. A long look at various weather forecasts concluded that sub-par weather was coming from all directions. Our friend Anne was also looking for something to do, for three days. Finally we decided that given the bad weather, a trip to a comfy hut was in order, enter Phelix.
We picked up Anne at the very civilized time of 7am and drove up the Birkenhead Lake road. I write “drove”, but in fact the two girls were deeply asleep in no time, and I was left to my own devices, which consisted of me busily chewing through a pile of carrots, a well proven system of staying awake. Previously we had only been to Phelix in the dead of winter, so driving up the usually snowy road I was surprised to discover that it is a gravel road, and in fact pretty bumpy gravel on that day. Another surprise was the lack of snow at the trailhead, so we drove a short way up the logging road and parked by an impassable rock slide.
Just as we were about to leave the car, two more cars came to a stop, and we met our (new) friends for the next few days: Luke and Erica, Phil and Eric, and most memorably, Wes the dog (more on him later). After carrying our skis for about an hour up the logging road we finally dropped them on the snow, always a sweet moment. The creek crossing provided a bit of excitement when the snow bridge collapsed just as Maya was crossing it and she ended up in the creek, and soon after Erica slipped off the log crossing.
We climbed the switchbacks through the forest, crossed the lake, and arrived to Phelix, a VOC hut which by now has become quite familiar to us. It never fails to amaze me that a student club managed to construct this incredible hut and continues to maintain it to a high standard. The two guys had already eaten dinner around 4pm and Eric disappeared soon after to “check out the second floor”, but the soft snoring soon after gave him away – he must have been really exhausted, since he ended up sleeping a good chunk of their time at the hut.
On the second day we headed to the upper lake and up a bench to meet up with the run known as “Return of the King”, a reference to Lord of the Rings – many of the nearby features are named after characters from Tolkien’s trilogy. The snow on Return of the King was quite crappy, and so was the visibility, or at least that’s what Maya and I thought. Some of the others said it was one of their best runs this season. I guess after two recent trips with sun and deep powder we had gotten used to somewhat higher standards… We later skied in some nearby trees which were more fun – there’s something about skiing in between trees and over bumps which can be more enjoyable than skiing large open slopes.
We spent many hours playing with Wes, who provided much entertainment due to his inexhaustible appetite for snowballs (many of which he swallowed whole). A discussion on whether dogs get brain freeze followed, but Wes at least seemed unfazed by the huge amounts of snow he consumed (perhaps more research is necessary). Speaking of eating cold things, a nice feature of spring is the many icicles that decorate the trees. Every now and then I’d pluck an icicle off a tree and munch it as I was skiing along. It’s a free, natural and delicious snack, with zero calories! That night, Maya and I were the last ones to head to bed, at 8:30pm, indeed a wild crowd…
In the morning we headed back across the lake to ski some laps on Cabin Hill. Despite its reputation as a slope for beginners or bad weather and avalanche risk, some of my most enjoyable skiing at Phelix has been on Cabin Hill. The snow covered boulders provide lots of opportunities to practice jumping and obstacle avoidance. Back at the hut we made toasted cheese sandwiches and bid our new friends adieu. Skiing through the forest was a bit of a chore at the top due to the heavy snow, but paradoxically got better as we got lower and the forest became icier (but easier to side slip). Our goal of avoiding traffic by arriving back to the car late was easily achieved. We stopped in Squamish at the new Mexican place (Mag’s 99) which is surprisingly good for the fast food looking venue (it used to be a Taco Bell).