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Higher Learning: Mustang Powder

Higher Learning: Mustang Powder

Everything you ever needed to know about life, you can learn snowcat skiing at Mustang Powder Lodge. Self-enlightenment should always be so much fun.
By Chris Solomon
posted: 11/13/2009

Helicopter skiing might be sexier. But with 150 miles of road accessing 30,000 skiable acres at  Mustang Powder Lodge, there are plenty of turns  to make from a snowcat cab.

Sometimes the Big Lessons come at us in surprising places. Like in the back of a snowcat. Skiing hard with a small group in the wilds of British Columbia can shine a surprising amount of light on life, which isn’t at all what I expected to take away from carving up powder for a week in the Monashees with a bunch of sweaty strangers. 

LIFE  LESSON No. 1: Don’t Trust First Impressions 

The directions to Mustang Powder Lodge say to meet at the Skyline Esso Truck Stop on the TransCanada Highway, 20 minutes east of something called Sicamous. Meet at a gas station. What is this, you think, a college road trip? But you show up anyway, because you’re hungry for British Columbia powder. You park beside the gigantic snowbanks, where somebody tosses your skis into the belly of an old Blue Bird school bus. For the second time, you’re concerned about the quality of your upcoming ski vacation. Then the Italians show up—six rowdy guys piling out of a rental car in matching fur toques like something Jack London wore while mushing huskies in the Yukon. They’re laughing too loud and yelling, “Macaroni! Pavarotti!” These men, you realize, will be among your shoulder-to-shoulder companions on a snowcat for the next five days.

The old bus, with you aboard, barrels up a snowy road until its end, where you toss your luggage into snowcats for a 90-minute ride up into darkness. Awkward conversation with seatmates fogs the windows. Your unsure feeling lingers. Either that or you’re a little carsick.

Finally the cat stops at 5,750 feet, at the door of a welcoming timber-frame lodge softly glowing in the wilderness. And you think, Oh. And your seatmates—now that they’ve finally arrived from Vermont and Colorado and Seattle, and each now with a Mt. Begbie Ale in hand—well, you can practically see their armor of formality and self-importance peeling away. The tables in the dining room are set with organic rack of lamb; jazz softly falls from the big timber rafters.

The next morning, you look out the windows and see that the Esso truck stop—or for that matter any other sign of man—is nowhere in sight. Instead there is only the startling Monashee range dressed in the blue morning light. The snowcat is already outside clearing its throat, ready to take you still higher, just a few feet from the steaming hot tub that’s ready to embrace you upon your return. And you think, Ah. Yes. OK. Maybe I have been a little judgmental. Maybe this place will do just fine.

reviews of Higher Learning: Mustang Powder

Great story. As the snow deepens I daydream about powder. At work I daydream about powder. At night I dream about powder.  This winter is off to a fine start and your article gives me focus while I prepare. I'm there (Mustang Powder) in February. With new K2 Sidestash skis and a helmet cam to bring it all home I am stoked. Today it's the gym with SKI mag to work on those legs that will need the massage you mentioned. My legs will be on the bike but my mind is doing faceshots.




Chris, great article.  It was every bit as memorable as you have described it, including the Italians.  What does "Viva la Figa" mean again?  I can only hope Andy and I can bring our significant others along next time (no coin tossing, and not pregnant) and get to ski with the likes of you and Dow again. 

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