Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Easter at The Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass

We like to spend Easter in the backcountry surrounded by friends, mountains of snow, and large amounts of chocolate. This year was no different and we decided to book the entire A.O. Wheeler Hut at Rogers Pass for our spring adventure.

Easter at the Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass, BC

The Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass
The A.O. Wheeler Hut is located in Glacier National Park, British Columbia, Canada (not in the American national park with the same name.) Rogers Pass is located roughly halfway between the Town of Golden and the City of Revelstoke, and from Calgary is a 3.5 to 4 hour drive.

The hut is maintained and operated by the Alpine Club of Canada, which operates the largest number of backcountry huts in Canada. In winter it can be reached via an easy 45 minute ski or hike from the parking lot off the TransCanada Highway. From the parking area, it's a steep climb when pulling sleds for the first 5-10 minutes but then the grade levels out and it's flat easy walking or skiing from that point on. Snowshoes or skis are usually needed in winter unless the trail has been well packed down.

Skiing into the Wheeler Hut 

We drove out to Rogers Pass on the morning of Good Friday and easily reached the cabin in 30 minutes or so from the parking lot. My son and I both cross country skied in while my husband used his backcountry skis. We also carried two sets of snowshoes for day touring along with my son's downhill skis and boots (which we hoped he would get to use further up the valley from the hut after snowshoeing up one of the backcountry ski trails.) Add food, overnight gear, sleeping bags, and chocolate of course - and it felt like we were moving in for a month!

Skiing into the Wheeler Hut on the easy access trail

Renting the Entire Cabin

The A.O.Wheeler Hut sleeps 24 people in the winter and we originally had 7 families coming but after a couple of last minute cancellations, we were down to 5 families sharing the hut over Easter (which was perfect actually.) We had paid for the entire hut and I had made the booking a year to the date for Good Friday (which, yes, is necessary if you want to book an entire hut over a long weekend!)

Visit the Alpine club of Canada website for information on renting an ACC hut.

Arriving at the hut with our overnight gear

Winter Cabin Camping 

Kudos to those who get out camping in their tents year round but I'm not a winter camping kind of gal. I like to sleep warm and cozy in a log cabin heated by either fireplace or propane heaters. (And the Wheeler Hut is actually big enough to have two fireplaces!)

The Wheeler Hut is larger than many of the other cabins maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC). It has three rooms on the main floor (main living room with fireplace and two tables for eating, kitchen, and then a third room at the entrance meant for drying gear which also has a fireplace.) Each room has at least one table so groups can spread out when the hut is full.

Winter Gear for three people!

The Wheeler Hut also has two floors to it (unlike many smaller huts.) The main floor is for cooking, eating, and socializing. The upper floor is where you'll find mattresses and platforms for sleeping (separated into three open rooms.) - note there are no doors separating the rooms.

Packing for a cabin camping trip at an ACC hut is pretty simple and we had first timers along who had never done a backcountry trip before. The hut has heat (thanks to the fireplaces,) has a stocked kitchen with all of the pots, pans, dishes, and cooking utensils that you would need, has propane stoves (and usually an oven, though it was broken on this trip,) and has sleeping mattresses. Bring your own sleeping bags, toilet paper, food, headlamps or flashlights, and hut booties or slippers - and that's it!

Indoor games and fun in the main living room at the Wheeler Hut

As with regular camping, bathrooms are located outside in the form of pit toilets - just to keep you from feeling too glampy!

To see more indoor photos of the hut, visit the ACC website and scroll through the slideshow for the Wheeler Hut.

Main living room at the Wheeler Hut (photo: Suzanne Burgman)

Our Weekend Entertainment 

Entertainment is pretty easy when you have mountains of snow outside a backcountry hut, trails leading out your door for exploring, and a good collection of  toys (sleds, skis, snowshoes...)

The kids couldn't resist the snowy roof of the hut!

The big goal for the weekend was to build an epic backcountry luge track - so we built two!

The other goal we had was to introduce the kids to some of the easier ski terrain at Rogers Pass (which is famous across North America for backcountry skiing in epic amounts of powder.) It being April, and us staying low down in the valley out of avalanche terrain, we didn't have any powder or fresh snow.

Out exploring with the kids

We snowshoed and skied as a group up the Illicilewaet Valley for a couple of kilometres until we would have started to enter avalanche terrain. This is where we turned around and where we switched our son from snowshoes to skis. The other kids either stayed in the skis they'd already been wearing or stuck with their snowshoes. We knew our son Noah though would do best with downhill skis in this terrain (rather than cross country skis) and we don't have a backcountry touring set up for him yet.

The very snowy bridge on the Illicilewaet Valley Trail
Snowshoeing up the Illicilewaet Valley

Skiing down the Illicilewaet Valley Trail on downhill skis was quite easy and Noah had a blast on the short descent back down to the ruins of the old Glacier House hotel.

Easy backcountry skiing at Rogers Pass
The Boys of Rogers Pass

Later in the afternoon a few of us moms headed up the Asulkan Valley Trail to the first bridge and this proved to be quite exciting on cross country skis on the descent. I'm happy to report no broken bones though and I only had to take my skis off for one short hill.

Skiing down the Asulkan Valley Trail

Easter Fun at the Wheeler Hut

One of the moms brought some muffins to bake (which was a bit tricky with a broken oven) and we had the kids decorate them for Easter. She had also brought some paper eggs for the kids to color and decorate.

Easter crafts at the hut

Easter morning the kids discovered that the Easter Bunny had shown up at the hut and hidden chocolate filled eggs all around the cabin. They all came away with a good haul and had fun running around in the snow finding their candy. This is always one of the highlights of our Easter backcountry trips and I don't think we'll ever be able to do a "normal" Easter egg hunt in the city again.

Finding Easter Eggs in the Snow Cave
Hunting for Easter Eggs in the snow
No shortage of candy in the hut Easter morning

Back to Civilization

We spent two nights at the hut and then left on Easter Sunday so that those who worked the Monday could get back to the city. We had thought about heading out to do some more skiing or snowshoeing Sunday morning but ended up heading back down to the highway late in the morning so that we could be in Golden for lunch. And despite the long drive, we were easily back in the city by late afternoon in time for dinner.

Spring at the Wheeler Hut
Skiing out from the hut (photo: Megan Dunn)

Next Year...

Very "unlike" me, I have actually not booked anything yet for next year. Getting a hut is out of the question at this point so if you have any cool ideas for Easter 2018 let me know! And, if you've booked a hut and need another family, let me know!! I'll bring the chocolate.

Easter snowy fun at Rogers Pass

Recommended Reading and Inspiration

Easter at the Best Wilderness Hostel in the Canadian Rockies (Hilda Creek)

Easter at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara   

Quite possibly the simplest snow toy ever!

Other Stories to Help you Plan Your Winter Adventures Next Year


Winter Camping with Kids ( No Tent!!) 

Snowy Adventures in Elk Lakes Provincial Park

Raising Tough Kids - Our Annual Winter Backpacking Trip

Winter Glamping - Not for the Faint of Heart

Launching a Winter of Adventure at Rogers Pass, Glacier National Park (Wheeler Hut)

Winter at the Cameron Lake Cabin, Waterton Lakes National Park  

Easter morning at the Wheeler Hut

1 comment:

  1. Asulkan Trail is fun on cross-country skis if you go to the first bridge. No avi danger up to that point and it's a fun twisty descent for strong skiers. Sometimes I take my skis off to walk a section or two, but it's doable on the light touring XC skis that I have. If you brought sleds, there are a couple of fun sections to enjoy as well if you hike to the bridge. And if you bring downhill skis, you can carry them up (hike up with snowshoes) and then ski down. It's a short ski but my son liked it.

    The Illicilewaet Trail is more narrow, steeper, and better suited for hiking up to the first big meadow and clearing. That being said, we hiked my son's downhill skis up and he had fun skiing down the trail. I would not try it on XC skis though as it's too narrow and not really well suited for them. And you could try to bring sleds too if you were hiking this trail.

    Both trails are short and you could try both in a weekend at the hut. You can't go very far before reaching avi danger.