It’s a great experience to explore a new zone that has seen little, or possibly no traffic in the past. This is especially true. when the zone is as perfect and feature-rich as the Apollo Bowl on the west rib of the imposing Mt. Hector on the Icefields Parkway. Apollo bowl ski touring should be on your must-do list for backcountry skiing if you are looking for excellent, varied terrain relatively close to the highway.
Apollo is a climbing route to the top of Mt. Hector put up by Mark Klassen over the past several years. The route is a serious 5.9+ alpine route with a few bolts in a very unique setting. Unfortunately, a number of unprepared people took on the route in 2019 and required rescue. Mark pulled the topo/beta after these accidents and the route might fall into obscurity. The approach is flagged and makes for a relatively leisurely approach to both the climbing route, and the bowl that sits below the ridge.
Apollo Bowl Geography
Apollo bowl is a large ridge feature that rims an amazing, near-perfect bowl of powder. The west side of the ridge features a number of amazing options for laps with easy access via the ridge. Exiting to the highway is relatively simple via two separate avalanche paths (use extreme caution). The east side is wide open terrain that is subject to relatively minimal overhead hazards (with the exception of the imposing west face of Hector).
This zone offers heaps of terrain, lots of laps, and relatively short/easy access to the highway. There is a fairly nasty 150m (vertical) or so near the highway that is kinda sporty, however, beyond that, the skiing is quite good. Reaching apollo bowl ski touring is quite mellow overall.
Apollo Bowl Ski Access
Gain access Apollo bowl using the flagged trail for the climbing route on Mt. Hector. Reset your odometer at the Icefields parkway / TCH interchange and drive approximately ~13.5km and park on the east side of the road, approximately 100-200m before the obvious drainage.
Follow high ground south of the drainage until you reach a large avalanche slope running north from the summit of Hector S2.
Cross north through the drainage basin below Hector, and gain the main ridge.
Multiple options exist for the bowl proper (East) or Yoyo’s (West). Exit back to the highway following one of two avalanche paths running from the lowest point on the ridge, or the highest point (north of the bowl).
Approx Return: 6-7km
Elevation Gain: 750m to the highest point on the ridge.
For more information on this area, be sure to pick up Marcus Baranow’s Guidebook: “The Icefields Parkway: Lake Louise to Bow Summit”
Important note/disclaimer: There is a significant amount of avalanche hazard both in and around apollo bowl ski touring, particularly on the South/West side of the ridge with a number of very large and high consequence avalanche paths surrounding the bowl. These paths are present both on the approach, and in the bowl proper. Exiting west/south to the highway offers some good skiing, but MUST be approached with extreme caution. This can be a highly reactive and dangerous zone when conditions are unstable.
Apollo Bowl was the site of a tragic avalanche accident in 2020 resulting in the loss of one of the Bow Valley’s most loved and respected athletes. It is critical to always make conservative choices in the backcountry, and Apollo Bowl is no exception. Stay safe, and always use your own experience & judgment when making decisions. Don’t leave home without checking https://avalanche.ca for the most up to date avalanche forecasting.