The Vermillion peak ski tour is situated at the north end of Hwy 93 South in Kootenay National Park. The long avalanche path that faces North/West is a popular ski due to easy access through the burnt trees and a long, often excellent run to the road below.
Ski quality on this aspect has deteriorated through the years as new trees have sprouted up in the old burn, making what was once an incredible ski touring destination into a mediocre Christmas tree bash at times.
That said, assuming the path isn’t full of concrete-like debris, it is still an excellent run.
On this trip, Tyler and I decided to make a bid for the summit of Vermillion proper. While a relatively easy scramble in the summer detached summit cornices and rime-like snow lining the route make this a slightly more adventurous endeavor.
We had a cold day, that turned into a nice inversion as we got higher. The climbing through the burn was easy on an old skin track, and we barely got any ash stains on our jackets – the hallmark of classic burn skiing in the Rockies.
Below the ridge, things looked pretty good, so we decided to take a mellow slope on climbers right up to the ridge itself. Once on the ridge, we ditched our skis and ended up with a somewhat harrowing shimmy for the length of it, occasionally experiencing minor heart attacks when one of our boots would bust through the cornice into thin air. Not the best feeling in the world.
With some patience and careful footwork, we made it to the summit, which offers an incredible view in all directions. A Vermillion Peak ski ascent offers a tour on an extremely prominent peak. The highway on the west and north sides of the peak, along with Haffner valley to the south, and it’s towering pyramid-like shape make it a perfect viewpoint for scoping out other opportunities for lines in the area. One of the most identifiable peaks is the excellent Mt. Whymper Ski Tour to the North.
After eating some lunch and taking in the views, we made our way back along the ridge, clicked into our skis, and had a spectacular run on perfect powder back down the slide path to where it cliffs out. This is probably the trickiest part of the Vermillion Peak Ski descent is working your way around the cliff section without having to bash too many small trees.
We ducked back into the trees at this point for some survival skiing through millions of baby Christmas trees that threatened to tear our ACL’s, MCL’s, and all other tendons in our knees. We then dropped back into the avi debris filled slide path, which finished off what little cartilage was left in our knees to the car.
All in all, a perfect day with a great partner on a stellar peak. While there’s no real skiing near the summit of Vermillion, the views make the short bootpack up the ridge a worthwhile endeavor. An incredible position in the 93 South area.
Disclaimer / Safety Note
Vermillion Peak is subject to a range of dangers, including significant avalanche danger in the main west-facing path that most people ski. Always check https://avalanche.ca/ for the latest avalanche report, and use your own experience and judgment to make safe choices in the mountains.
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