The Best Kept Secret

Burnie Glacier Chalet

Canada’s northernmost ski lodge is also our favourite

Just 3 spots left on our small-group guided trip March 19-26, 2021

Burnie Glacier Chalet is located near Smithers in northern British Columbia. It has spectacular, rugged alpine terrain with beautiful ski runs that range in nature from gentle glacier runs that can be done in most conditions to steep tree runs for high hazard days, to incredible ski mountaineering trips high into the alpine.

The Chalet is a simple but beautiful timber frame building, warmed by a beautiful wood burning kitchen stove with spectacular views of the towering Hut Peak, Burnie Glacier, Solitaire Ski Peaks and Lakehead Peak. It was built by Christoph Dietzfelbinger and a team of friends in the early 2000s. There are four bedrooms, each sleeping from 2 to 4 guests and including two double beds if there are any couples in the group. Pillows, sheets, and duvets are provided. You are encouraged to bring a couple of your own towels (one for using in the sauna, the other for drying off after your shower), although towels are available at the lodge in case you forget.

Burnie Glacier Chalet is perfectly situated for ski touring below the Burnie and Solitaire Glaciers and offers quick access to 700 m tree runs and 1400 m glacier runs that rise directly from the Chalet. In fact most of the runs ski right back to the Chalet with no uphill travel at the end of the day!

Here’s a great Trip Report by Lee Lau on our March 2019 Burnie trip!

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Videos of Burnie!

I have to point out that Burnie does have running water, despite the bucket carrying scene in the first video…

GETTING TO SMITHERS

Simplest and easiest way to get to Burnie is to fly in and out of Smithers, BC. I recommend getting there the day before to allow time for your baggage to catch up to you in case it gets bumped. It’s tempting to try to arrive on the 9:30 am Friday flight, stroll across the tarmac and get into the helicopter to Burnie at 10:30 am, but it’s very risky!

The airlines that service Smithers are Air Canada (Jazz) and Central Mountain Air. If you are flying out of Vancouver you might find that CMA offers the best rates and availability. You might also find you can get cheap points tickets to Vancouver, and then add a CMA flight for your last leg. For some reason flights to Smithers have just been getting more and more expensive over the years.

You can also consider flying in and out of Terrace, BC which is a 2.5 hour drive from Smithers. Tickets to Terrace are often hundreds of dollars cheaper than to Smithers. You would need to rent a car, either as a one-way drop off twice or for the whole week — the costs work out to be about the same either way.

If you choose to drive to Smithers from your home be aware that it’s a long, lonely 2-lane highway and while it’s well maintained for a northern BC road it’s quite a long haul and in a winter storm your pace could slow to a crawl. So check the weather and give yourself enough time.

FREE BURNIE AIRPORT SHUTTLE SERVICE

We provide a free shuttle service between the airport and hotel before the trip (Thursday evening and Friday morning) as well as after the trip (Friday afternoon). Please let us know if you would like to take advantage of this service well in advance.

PRE-POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION

I recommend you stay the night at the Stork Nest Inn Thursday night. The Stork Nest includes an excellent breakfast the next morning and also provides free storage area for any luggage, ski bags, etc. you want to leave in town.

HELICOPTER LOGISTICS

We are scheduled to meet at the Silver King hangar (next to the airport, tel: 250-877-1989) in Smithers, BC at 10:30 am on Friday to fly into the Burnie Glacier. If this changes I will let you know as soon as possible. If you plan to stay at the Stork Nest Inn in Smithers we will send a taxi to pick you up at about 10:00 am. If you have made arrangements to stay elsewhere please let me know so that we can arrange to have you picked up at the correct time. We plan to be back in Smithers by 17:00 on the following Friday at the very latest but usually as early as 14:00. If you choose to book a flight out of Smithers earlier than 18:00 (Central Mountain Air offers a flight out of Smithers at 14:30) check with me first, and be sure to get the appropriate insurance to cover you in case of weather delays out of Burnie.

Please do not transport your skis/poles in ski bags. Leave your ski bags at the Stork’s nest. The helicopters have limited space and ski bags take up too much room. Don’t worry, we’ll be gentle loading them!

We offer both Relaxed and Normal pace trips at Burnie. In your application we ask you to be as clear as possible about your technical ski skills and fitness so that we can plan accordingly.

  • Day trips, hut-based
  • Hut elevation 1030 m
  • Mixed groups (separated into Relaxed and Normal pace)
  • Glaciated terrain
  • Steep treed skiing
  • Powder skiing and ski mountaineering

Our Trip Ratings Page outlines more specifically how we rate our trips.

Packing Notes:

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. You will need a climbing harness with several locking carabiners. Please ensure that it fits comfortably over your ski clothes. A light weight 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. We have extras at the lodge in any case.

The lodge is equipped with 110 VAC power and does have limited Wi-Fi internet access. It has a great ski repair area and several sets of high quality skis if you would like to try something different during the week. It also has a wonderful sauna for the end of the day, and beer and wine are available to purchase at the lodge

Clothing

  • Wool or synthetic socks and liner socks
  • Long underwear top – synthetic or wool
  • Light fleece or wool sweater
  • Wind shell – nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type jacket
  • Waterproof breathable jacket
  • Warm insulated jacket – down or synthetic
  • Long underwear bottoms – synthetic or wool
  • Multipurpose stretch nylon or ‘Schoeller’ type pants
  • Waterproof breathable pants
  • Warm hat – wool or synthetic
  • Brimmed cap for sun protection
  • Face warmer – scarf, neck tube or balaclava (optional)
  • Light gloves – wool, synthetic or leather
  • Insulated gloves or mitts with waterproof outer shell
  • Spare gloves or mitts
  • Handkerchief for blocking the sun (optional)
  • Snow Safety Equipment
  • Avalanche beacon with good batteries (and spares)
  • Shovel
  • Probe (2.4m or longer preferred)

Travel Equipment

  • Skis or split board
  • Ski strap
  • Ski or snowboard boots
  • Poles
  • Climbing skins
  • Skin wax (or a candle)
  • Ski crampons (mandatory)
  • Binding repair kit to fix your personal travel setup
  • Ski helmet (optional)

Personal Equipment

  • Pack (30-40 litres)
  • Sunglasses (both orange and dark lenses help a lot for travel in all conditions)
  • Goggles (orange lenses)
  • Sunscreen and lip cream (SPF 30+)
  • Head lamp with good batteries
  • Insulated water bottle or thermos (1-2 L)
  • Lunch bag or container
  • Personal blister kit (i.e: Leukotape-P and Compeed/Second Skin blister pads)
  • Pocket knife (optional)
  • Camera (optional)

Glacier Gear

  • Harness – fitted for over your ski clothing
  • Locking carabiners (x2)
  • Non-locking carabiners (x2)
  • Prussik cord – 5m x 6mm (optional)
  • Sewn sling – 120cm (optional)
  • Lightweight ice axe (optional, don’t bring if you don’t have one or don’t like steep skiing)

Hut Gear

  • Duffle bag for flying into the lodge
  • Shoes or sandals
  • Winter boots for travel to the outhouse (boots at the hut for you to use as well
  • f you prefer)
  • Hut clothing
  • 1-2 Towels and swimsuit for sauna
  • Personal medications and toiletries
  • Ear plugs
  • Reading material
  • Chargers for electronic devices (normal AC power is available via micro-hydro)
  • Note the following are provided:
  • * Beer and wine are available to purchase at the lodge at a reasonable price
  • * Pillows and duvets supplied at the lodge

Group Gear (supplied by the guides)

  • Altimeter
  • Map and compass
  • GPS
  • Snow study kit
  • Snow and/or bush saw
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency tarp
  • Emergency toboggan
  • Group repair kit
  • Radio & satellite phone
  • Ropes for glacier travel
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Our standard booking conditions apply. Please see our Payment and Booking Conditions page for details.

Snowpack and Climate

This is NW Interior skiing, a bit colder and drier than the coast but it still dumps! On the ice Burnie has a 4+ m snowpack mid-winter. The lodge, at 1030 m ASL, is at by far the lowest elevation of any of the Canadian backcountry ski lodges. However, its northern latitude ensures a cool climate and great skiing into June. Temperatures in January average -20C to -10C, and in March -12C to -3C at the lodge.

Here’s a cool Blog from Arcteryx’ trip there a couple of winters ago: https://blog.arcteryx.com/tag/burnie-glacier-chalet/

And some great photos from past trips I’ve done there (click links to view):

South Telkwa Glacier

Upper Ptarmigan and Lakehead East Ridge

Mitre Col Circuit

Here’s a great little video put together by some stoked guests (click link to view):

Burnie Glacier Video

Although this information package is comprehensive and specific to this trip, Christoph provides some general information on his Bear Mountaineering websitethat might prove useful to you as well

Please read through our 2021 Sawback-Burnie Covid Response carefully.

Tom Wolfe (Mountain Guide ACMG/IFMGA) has been guiding since moving to Canmore in 1995, the place he calls home with wife, son and daughter. He guides year around, with winters being a mix of ski guiding at lodges, heli-ski operations, and remote backcountry destinations throughout western Canada. He has skied and guided many weeks at Burnie since 2004.

Christoph Dietzfelbinger (Mountain Guide, ACMG/IFMGA) is the owner of the Burnie Glacier Chalet. He is the one who has developed the area for both winter and summer use and it is first and foremost Christoph whom we can thank for being able to spend a week of skiing in such a wonderful facility.

Finally, life at Burnie includes superb meals. These are prepared by one of our two gracious in-house chefs, Molly and Monika, who consistently amaze guests with their beautiful, tasty, and abundant food. We are happy to accommodate special diets.

Our goal is to provide you with the best skiing possible in the comfort and ease of a fully catered backcountry chalet.

2021 DATES: Jan 15-22 (BG21-1), March 19-26 (BG21-2)

2022 DATES: March 4-11 (BG22-1), March 11-18 (BG22-2)

2021 PRICE: $2,895 CAD/person
(Currently $2,193 USD / €2,031 / £1,780) + 5% GST. Please enquire for 2022 pricing.

DEPOSIT: 50% payment secures your booking. Balance of payment is due 3 months in advance of trip start date.

DIFFICULTY: Relaxed and Classic options.

INCLUDED: Guiding, food, lodge fees, airport shuttle, group gear

NOT INCLUDED: Transportation to Smithers, personal equipment, gratuities.

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