The Bonnington Traverse
Hut to Hut skiing in the Kootenay Powder Belt
alpine ridges linking steep tree skiing
The Rockies are known for the great glaciated hut-to-hut traverses: the Wapta Traverse and the Yoho Traverse (or the “Bow-Yoho” Traverse as it’s also known). Deep in the Kootenays is a completely different kind of trip, the Bonnington Traverse. This is a 3-day (with heli-drop) or 4-day traverse that links alpine and sub-alpine ridges from Ymir all the way to Porto Rico, just a few minutes drive south of Nelson.
Hut to hut ski touring in the Kootenays: The Bonnington Traverse!
Due to its lower elevation, this trip is a good choice in a wider range of mid-winter weather. The exception being when pineapples roll in (warm wet storms) or late in the season — early April is about as late as you ever want to try the Bonnington. It’s non-glaciated — meaning lighter packs! — but has a lot of great treeline and bowl style skiing.
The huts are small, quaint and cozy, fitting a half dozen ski tourers comfortably. I really enjoyed doing this trip in April 2016. The skiing is excellent, and it really is a Kootenay classic for the bucket list.
Looking for something else?
Looking for a high glaciated traverse? Our Bow-Yoho Traverse, for example, is an incredible 5-day ski tour in the high alpine of the Wapta and Yoho glaciers in Banff National Park. Or, check out our Current Trips for a complete listing.
Day 1 – From Castlegar we will enjoy a short helicopter flight to Grassy Ridge. From here there are a number of excellent ski descents to hit on way to Steed Hut, our first night’s stop – a nice, deluxe hut in a great location.
Day 2 – From Steed Hut we make our way along the east side of Siwash Mountain and upper reaches of Eerie Creek towards Copper Mountain Hut. Almost the opposite of our previous night’s abode, Copper is an old log relic built in the early 1980s with a lot of rustic class!
Day 3 – The highlight of the Bonnington is the traverse of the ridge between Copper and Empire. The views are stunning, and the skiing opportunities are absolutely fantastic. The day finishes with a long — but downhill — tour along Barret Creek the road and our shuttle back to Nelson.
The 4-day trip is exactly the same as the 3-day trip except that we start at the road near Bombi Summit and ski in to the Grassy Hut. The ski is very pleasant and takes us through rolling cutlines and cutblocks up to the ridge connecting with Grassy Mountain and then gently down to the obscure site of the hut.
5-DAY TRIP EXTENSION
It’s easy to turn this trip into a 5-day trip by adding an extra night at the Steed Hut or by adding the Huckleberry Hut on to the end of the trip. Contact us for details on pricing for this option
We will meet in Nelson, BC the night before the trip starts. On the morning of the first day we either proceed to the heli pad (for heli-accessed variations) or drive to the trailhead. A shuttle driver will bring your vehicles back to Nelson to a safe location for parking during our trip. They will then pick us up at the trailhead at the end of our trip.
Beginner to Intermediate Ski Tourer, “Relaxed Pace” overall; overnight packs (up to 30 lbs/14 kg)
A gear list for the week is attached below. Despite being a mid winter trip you should bring ski crampons. They can make a big difference even on a powder skiing week at times. If you have any difficulty obtaining these please let me know. I have some spares and can likely set you up with a pair. A lightweight ice axe may be useful for some of the lines in the area, especially late season (late March-April-May) but if you don’t have one or aren’t interested in that kind of skiing then don’t worry about bringing one.
Bonnington Traverse Equipment List
- Alpine Touring skis (lightweight tech bindings recommended)
- Alpine touring boots (With Vibram sole)
- Ski poles (with regular powder baskets)
- Climbing skins
- Avalanche transceiver (Digital, with extra batteries)
- Lightweight snow shovel
- Avalanche probe
- Backpack, 50 to 60 liters max, with rain cover (i.e. garbage bag) and outside straps to attach skis.
- Repair kit / spare parts for your bindings (optional)
- Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore Tex or similar)
- Wind and waterproof over pants (Gore Tex or similar with integrated gaiters)
- Down or synthetic insulated jacket (hood is optional)
- Fleece jacket
- Medium weight fleece shirt or vest
- Synthetic or wool underwear, top and bottoms
- 2 Pairs of gloves (lightweight and heavier weight)
- Scarf, neck gaiter or bandanna
- Socks: thicker outer (wool) and thinner liners
- Wool or fleece hat, covering the ears
- Sun hat, preferably with wide rim
- Sleeping bag (rated -10 Celsius)
- Spare long underwear, extra socks, etc.
- Toiletries (minimum supply)
- Light stuff sacs or zip lock bags to keep your backpack organized (optional)
- Light hut slippers or down booties
- Ear Plugs (optional but very useful for snoring folks!)
- A small book and/or writing material
- Sun Glasses (with very good UV protection, extra pair is a good idea)
- Sun screen and lip protection
- A 1 liter Water bottle, preferably insulated (bladders/bags not recommended due to freezing temperatures)
- Headlamp with spare batteries
- Small Blister kit
- Special snacks (contact us if you have questions about the provided food)
- Personal items (Prescription medicine, extra contact lenses and maintenance
- Equipment, prescription glasses etc.)
- Pocket knife or Leatherman tool
- Zip-lock bag for wallet and other documents to keep them dry (recommended)
- Camera, batteries (optional)
- Skin wax (a small amount)
Emergency Plan and Equipment (carried by the guide)
- There is no cell coverage on this traverse; you do not need to bring your personal cell or smartphone
- Emergency plan
- SPOT emergency locating device
- Satellite phone or VHF radio
- Complete first-aid kit
- Repair kit
- Evacuation gear for injured people
- Avalanche rescue gear
- All maps of the area
- GPS, compass and altimeter
- Snow saw & snow study kit
Early winter, late winter and spring conditions can all vary dramatically. Especially in early winter temperatures can get as low as -20C and in spring as high as +10C. Expect temperatures somwhere in the middle (-12C to +2C) but be prepared for the extremes.
DATES: December through the first week of April. This is a custom trip, contact us to set up a date for you!
COST: 3-day heli-drop: $1275 CAD/person includes heli-drop. 4-day self-propelled: $1175 CAD/person. 4-person minimum group size.
DEPOSIT: 50% deposit confirms your booking, balance payable 90 days in advance.
GROUP SIZE: Maximum 5 guests.
INCLUDES: All meals, pre-trip planning, certified guide (ACMG / IFMGA), hut fees, shuttle driver from / to Nelson, group equipment.
DOES NOT INCLUDE: Personal equipment rental, trip cancellation/etc insurance, GST, vehicles for transportation.