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TAKE A WINTRY EXCURSION TO THIS BACKCOUNTRY HUT IN WHISTLER

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CAMILLA SAMPSON

NOV 13, 2019

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IMAGE VIA @SPEARHEADHUTS | INSTAGRAM

The fall leaves have taken over, and a drive up the Sea-to-Sky has our eyes on the horizon; the first snow of the season has painted the peaks white. While bombing down fresh pow at the resort will be a no brainer, this season brings an epic new adventure to add to the Whistler bucket list: the completion of the Kees and Claire Hut at Russet Lake, a stunning alpine refuge along the 40-kilometre Whistler-to-Blackcomb Spearhead Traverse.

MOUNTAIN SPIRIT

Get your snowshoes and skins at the ready as you tread, or ski, in the tracks of the adventurous spirit of this awe-inspiring region, first skied in 1964. You’ll choose your starting point from three options: Top of Peak Express, Whistler Village, or Roundhouse Lodge. Then, make your way up to popular Russet Lake, where the Kees and Claire Hut sits with breathtaking views of the surrounding ranges.

A highly anticipated labour of love and community, the first creation of the Spearhead Huts Project pays homage to multiple well-loved mountain dwellers and is one of three that has been in the pipeline for nearly 13 years. With two more huts set to open in the coming years—one at Mt. Macbeth and one at Mt. Pattison—Kees and Claire kicks off an initiative creating safer overnight access to the spectacular traverse.

KEEPING COZY

Now open, the sleek two-storey structure blends seamlessly into the landscape when covered in snow, while utilizing modern elements and the Passivhaus framework—meticulous building standards for maximum energy efficiency—to push the design into the 21st century, keeping environmental stewardship of this stunning traverse in mind.

There are 38 bunks split into six different sleeping areas, propane cooktops complete with equipment (so a heaving backpack can be the last of your worries), and a full dining area. The hut’s cozy communal area—called Brett’s Lounge in memorial of a popular Whistler skier—comes complete with propane stove and is the perfect spot to warm up and make new friends before taking to the top level for sunset, sunrise, a bit of stargazing, or all three — your pick. Though the amenities are beyond your typical hikers thoroughfare, as ever in the backcountry, you should come prepared — as of this writing, the only water is available from Russet Lake.

WINTER AND BEYOND

With the adventure-minded individuals of the Sea-to-Sky in mind, and Whistler being a world-class destination, this will be a focus of the season, so we have no doubt spots will book up quickly. Get your friends on board, check your calendar, and take a peek at the online booking system.

Once down from the clouds, make the most of your trip to Whistler by indulging in a post-trek soak at the Scandinave Spa, some garlic yam fries alfresco by the fire pits, and maybe even a stop at one of the many wintery events on offer to really cap off the most adventurous and hard-earned alpine hospitality you’ll get from Vancouver.

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