Helen Shoulder makes up the south ridge of Dolomite Peak on the Icefields Parkway. The ridge offers access to the Cirque Peak drainage (Helen Lake) via east-facing slopes on mellow terrain. West slopes feature a number of long runs towards the Highway. There are lots of amazing burnt trees and wide-open slopes with a bit of avalanche terrain (use caution!).
The Shoulder also offers access to a run called Sitting Bull, which sits below a large formation of rock best known for summer climbing. Sitting bull is a very long run of mostly open, semi-steep terrain accessing the highway.
As this ridge sits high above multiple intersecting valleys, the snow can often be highly wind affected, and caution is a must when selecting a slope to ski.
Helen Shoulder Trip Report
On this fine weekend, Adam F, Shane H. and I were looking for new areas we hadn’t skied before. We had spent a day earlier in the season exploring the Cirque Peak Drainage around Helen LakeOn that trip, we ended up skiing the Sugar Cube. The Sugar Cube is a cool feature that resembles a small couloir between two huge sitting quartzite blocks.
Our ascent of Helen Shoulder followed a fairly direct approach path. We followed old skin tracks through trees and a few open pockets of steeper snow that required a bit of caution.
Once through the classic Rockies alder bashing and small tree dodging, the upper slopes of Helen shoulder offer some really nice open tree glades at a mellow angle. You will certainly need good snow as the angle is somewhat too shallow to really attain a lot of speed.
At the top, the wind affect was absolutely outrageous. The wind was still blowing hard depositing more snow as we were even in the area. We poked around a little bit at the top of the ridge to check conditions. The obvious leeward loading lead us to choose a conservative line. We chose a short, lower angle slope on the skiers’ left of the west-facing slopes below Helen Shoulder proper.
We were rewarded with our decision with some of the best snow any of us had skied yet this season. Deep fluffy pow and perfect turns between the burned trees had us whooping the whole time. We decided to do a few laps before regaining the ridge and heading back down to mellower slopes leading back to the car.
Helen Shoulder is another fairly easily accessible ski touring destination. Park along the Icefields parkway a few km’s back from the Helen Lake Summer trail. Head east, ascending the slopes below Sitting Bull until you hit open trees on the South side of the ridge.
Important note/disclaimer: There is a significant amount of avalanche hazard on all aspects of Helen Shoulder, with multiple slopes highly prone to sliding. This can be a highly reactive and dangerous zone when conditions are unstable, and fatal accidents have occurred here. The west-facing slopes are particularly at risk, and it is critical to make conservative choices in this zone. If there are signs of instability, it is highly advised to seek out more conservative terrain.
Always use your own experience & judgment when making decisions, and check https://avalanche.ca for the most up to date avalanche forecasting.
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