Wapta Traverse March 22-26, 2020

Booking now for 2020
previous arrow
next arrow
Full screenExit full screen

Dates: March 22-26, 2020

Price: $1750 CAD/person (Currently $1,440 USD / €1,276 / £1,134).

Deposit: $500 payment secures your booking. Balance of payment is due January 21, 2020. See Payment and Booking Conditions tab for details

The classic Wapta Traverse runs roughly north-south across the expanse of the Wapta and Waputik Icefields passing by four ACC huts. This version begins at Bow Lake stopping at Bow Hut for two days, Balfour Hut, and Scott Duncan before dropping back to the highway through Sherbrooke Lake.

The Wapta Traverse - the Classic Rockies Hut Traverse!

For decades, the Wapta Traverse has had a legendary reputation as a destination for ski mountaineering. Really, it has it all: an excellent hut system, perfect terrain for traverses, and easy access to excellent ski mountaineering objectives. The best time of the year is late March to late April when the snowpack is settled and you can still count on dry powder runs; this trip is right in that perfect window.

Our trip begins in Canmore where we'll meet on Monday morning and drive out to Bow Lake with a brief detour en route to drop off our vehicle at the trail's end at Great Divide Lodge near Lake Louise.

This itinerary replaces the Peyto Hut with an extra day at Bow Hut, giving us more time to explore the incredible ski mountaineering available instead of putting our heads down and charging through the traverse.


We will meet for breakfast at the Canmore's Summit Cafe at 8:00 am on Sunday, March 22, 2020. After breakfast we'll have a look through your equipment to make sure everything is in order as well as distribute group equipment.

Please be on time: However, if for some unforeseen reason you cannot make it, please give me a call or text ASAP, Tom Wolfe at 403-707-9996.

I look forward to spending the week together with you and exploring the amazing ski terrain that the Wapta Traverse has to offer!



  • Hut to hut traverse, carrying heavy packs (up to 20 kg / 45 lb)
  • Hut elevations are approximately 2200 m with 700 m vertical and covering 10-15 km/day on average (5 to 7 hrs travel).
  • Glaciated terrain
  • Powder skiing and ski mountaineering

Equipment List

Packing Notes:

You need to bring all of the following personal equipment. Please don’t bring extra equipment. If you have any questions at all about gear please do not hesitate to contact us.

Ski crampons are mandatory for spring ski touring, and 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. We have some spares and can likely set you up with a pair. If you have telemark bindings, G3 crampons have an attachment system that works well for most tele bindings.

Wapta and Bow Yoho Equipment List

Ski mountaineering gear

  • Skis, preferably with tech-style Alpine Touring (AT) bindings, 150-185 cm in length, wide (100 mm+ at waist) for powder skiing. Telemark, frame-style AT bindings, or splitboards are acceptable as well, please contact us if you plan to bring one or these alternate touring systems.
  • Ski crampons
  • Climbing skins
  • Ski Poles with powder baskets
  • Ski Boots
  • Climbing harness (light weight if possible)
  • Locking carabiners (2), non-locking biners (2)
  • Prusik cord (1)
  • 120 cm sewn sling (1)
  • Avalanche Transceiver – a modern digital unit
  • Collapsible Avalanche Probe
  • Avalanche Shovel (lightweight snow shovel designed for companion rescue)
  • Backpack (at least 65 L, large enough for sleeping bag, spare clothes, and your share of group food & equipment) rentals available

Other gear

  • Sunglasses and ski goggles
  • Water bottle (at least 1 liter capacity)
  • Thermos for Hot Drinks (optional but recommended,~750 mL)
  • Sun block
  • Lip cream
  • Pocket knife and/or leatherman multi-tool
  • Sleeping Bag. We recommend a three season bag rated between -7 to -9°C. Bring a compression stuff sac so you have room in your pack for other things.
  • Headlamp with fresh batteries
  • Small Blister and personal First-Aid Kit
  • Camera
  • Personal Toilet Items (keep to a bare minimum)
  • Toilet paper
  • Large stuff sack for carrying food
  • Ear Plugs for dorm sleeping (optional but recommended)
  • Insulated Booties or Sandals


  • Long wool or synthetic (e.g. polyester or polypropylene) underwear (top & bottom)
  • Extra warm shirt (not cotton)
  • Medium weight fleece sweater
  • Soft shell or fleece jacket
  • Soft shell pants
  • Insulated jacket (down preferred)
  • Insulated pants (fleece or other synthetic) (optional)
  • Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or equivalent)
  • Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or equivalent, with side zippers)
  • Socks (wool or synthetic) – 2 to 3 pairs
  • Wool or fleece hat
  • Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
  • Light weight ski gloves
  • Neck tube or balaclava
  • Sun hat

Your guide will bring all of the necessary group gear. If you are in need of loaner/rental gear please arrange with us ahead of time to provide it for you. We have most of what you might possibly need available either at an inexpensive rental rate or free of charge depending on the item.

Print it

Booking & Payment

Book Now to hold your spot!
The Book Now form takes about 60 seconds to complete. We will hold your spot until we contact you to answer any questions you might have. This is your opportunity to figure out for sure if this trip is for you, without obligation. Then we’ll get you to complete our Online Waiver and Application Forms before paying your deposit. Before signing through these documents read through them carefully and make sure you are comfortable with what you’re signing up for, and have a look through the booking “fine print” below. If you have any questions at any time do not hesitate to contact us.

Payment and booking conditions fine print

A deposit (typically 50%; see the trip description for the exact amount) to secure your place is  due upon booking. Final payment of balance is due 3 months in advance of your trip start date unless specified otherwise on the trip information page and/or your invoice. You will be invoiced for your payments after you have confirmed your interest in the trip. Please note that deposits are absolutely non-refundable, and final payments (the remainder) are non-refundable after the final payment date.

Credit Card payments are encouraged, especially if you have a card with trip cancellation insurance! Charges are made in CAD (foreign payments are converted to your local currency at your card company’s rate). We charge an additional 3.5% fee for card transactions. If your credit card provides you with cancellation insurance for this trip indicate this on your registration form and we will lower the convenience fee to 2%.  Cancelled trips that have cancellation insurance are much less of a headache for everyone. Please consider this option. It could be a very affordable way to protect yourself. But look carefully into your credit card’s fine print to make sure this trip is covered.

Non Credit Card Payments from Canadian clients: If you do not wish to pay by credit card we ask that you pay by E-transfer, sent to twolfe@sawback.com. There is no additional fee for Canadian E-transfers.

Non Credit Card Payments from outside Canada (US, Europe, other countries):

  1. Third party electronic transfer: You will need to fill out an agreement with our currency broker, Ken Fukami from Payline in Canmore, that includes your banking information to coordinate an electronic transfer (SEPA, EFT, etc.) There is no charge for this service and it is $50-100 cheaper than all other methods of payment from foreign clients. Contact us, or visit Payline’s website for details.
  2. PayPal: send money via PayPal to twolfe@sawback.com. There is a 4% charge to receive PayPal payments unless you send funds using the “P2P” a.k.a. “Friends and Family” method, which may cost the sender a small fee but does not cost us anything on our end, so no fee.
  3. Wire draft (bank to bank): Your bank wires our bank the money in CAD. We charge a $20 CAD fee for receiving these payments.
  4. Cheque: in either CAD or in your local currency (e.g. EUR, GBP, USD) at the rate listed on the trip information page on our website on the date of your booking.

Mailing address: Please send cheques in CAD to Thomas Wolfe, 234 Grizzly Cr, Canmore, AB T1W1B5, Canada

All fees paid are 100% non-refundable. We cannot be held liable for cancellations of any kind. Therefore we strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation and evacuation insurance to protect you in the event that you need to cancel or there is an emergency during your trip. The Alpine Club of Canada and Lifetstyle Financial (BCLBC Plan) both offer plans for trips like this that might interest you although we can’t personally vouch for them. Note that many credit cards carry this insurance for trips paid with the credit card — contact your credit card company to be sure.

Many of our trips are in remote locations. If you are injured or develop an emergency medical condition that requires evacuation, significant costs may be involved. We cannot be liable for the costs of emergency evacuation and so you are therefore encouraged to sign up for third party rescue insurance. The most robust plan we know if is through Global Rescue Services which services all areas we run trips to including Svalbard. You may choose to go with another but be warned that there are often exclusions that will render your insurance worthless when you need it. Global Rescue membership is $119 USD for a one-week trip — and it will cover you.

You must sign our Waiver of Liability in order to register for participation in our trips. You can view a printable copy the waiver here: English Waiver and translated into several other languages (German, French and Japanese) here: Translated Waivers.  If you have any questions about the waiver please talk to your lawyer and/or let me know prior to registration so I can help you.

The application form collects personal information which I use to make sure that I provide you with the best possible trip experience. If you do not want to answer any of the questions or you are unsure about anything leave it blank and/or contact me for clarification.

READ CAREFULLY – BOOKING, RESERVATION, DEPOSIT: A deposit of 50% of the total price or private guiding fee is due with your booking unless otherwise indicated. Please provide us with your credit card details, do a bank transfer (account information on demand), send an E-transfer to twolfe@sawback.com or mail me a personal cheque payable to Thomas Wolfe. Final payments are due 90 days before your trip starts. If you wish to pay in a currency other than what our trips are quoted in, please inquire with us for a quote in your preferred denomination. Euro payments are only accepted by bank transfers in Euro denomination. We also accept bookings from minors; however we do require the signature of BOTH parents or ALL legal guardians on both, reservation form and liability waiver. CONFIRMATION / TRIP INFORMATION: Upon receipt of the booking form with your check or credit card details we confirm your booking. Each Backountry Ski Trip we offer has a detailed Information Package (available on our website) with the trip details, equipment list, proposed itinerary and logistics, etc. Read through this carefully before completing your registration. TRIP (CANCELLATION / MEDICAL / EVACUATION / THEFT) INSURANCE: Once we confirm your booking, we enter into financial obligations on our side and we cannot refund payments or release you from your contractual obligations. Therefore, we highly recommend buying cancellation insurance to cover your losses for the case that you can’t participate or have to interrupt your trip “for any reason”. Also, all participants need to have internationally accepted health insurance for all activities pertaining to the trip, including coverage for emergency rescue and evacuation. If you already have insurance, please make sure that you will be covered for “roped travel” booking a technical trip including “Via Ferrata” trips. We gladly refer you to a travel insurance provider who offers “adventure travel insurance packages” and with whom our clients have had positive claims experiences in the past. Generally, you will receive the best benefits if you buy your insurance within 10 days of our booking confirmation. CANCELLATIONS: If you need to cancel a reservation, please do so in writing (best by e-mail). Please see the trip information package for details on your trip’s Cancellation Policy. CANCELLED PROGRAMS: Once we confirm your booking, we guarantee your trip departure. However, we do reserve the right to change guides, particular lodging or the itinerary should unforeseen circumstances (guide sickness, hut or route closing etc.) force us to do so or should the physical condition of the participants (see below), weather or mountain conditions make a continuation as planned too risky. PERSONAL FITNESS and GROUP TRAVEL: Our programs rely heavily on the integrity of each individual to assess his or her skill level and physical condition accurately. It is the responsibility of each participant to be aware of the necessary skill and fitness level for a particular trip. When in doubt, please call and discuss this with us! For the protection of yourself and other group members, we reserve the right to deny participation to any unprepared participant at any time of the trip, in which case we cannot offer a refund! In order to accommodate diverse levels of ability and ambition as well as diverse personalities, the decision making of the guide has to be geared towards safety and finding a consensus within the whole group, which may not please each individual participant at all times.

Snow & Climate

Snowpack and Climate

Late March to Late April is the best window for the Rockies hut traverses. March is likely to be a bit cooler and have cold powder skiing even on the solar aspects but May and even June have good ski travel conditions here. The Rockies has a thinner snowpack than the Selkirks or Coast mountains, but by late March the snowpack tends to be robust and the crevasses well covered. Expect temperatures in the -10C to 0C range, but be prepared for lows as cold as -20C or highs up to +5C regardless of the month!



Day 1: Sunday, March 22 - Summit Cafe, Canmore, AB

8:00 am - Introductions over breakfast at the Summit Cafe.  After breakfast we'll do a quick equipment check and distribution of group gear and food.
9:00 am - drive to Field to drop off one vehicle
10:30 - drive to the trailhead at Bow Lake (Num-ti-jah Lodge parking lot)
12:15 - start skiing
1:00 - lunch at Bow Canyon entrance
15:00 - arrive at Bow Hut
The ski from Bow Lake to Bow Hut takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours depending on conditions and group speed. There should be time left at the end of a day for a quick lap on the awesome slopes above Bow Hut at the end of the day.

Day 2: Monday, March 23 - Bow Hut

We'll stay an extra night at the Bow Hut to enjoy the outstanding ski mountaineering in the area.

Day 3: Tuesday, March 24 - Balfour Hut

The ski over to Balfour Hut is spectacular and typically brings us up and over the Olive-St. Nicholas Col. A quick lunch stop at Balfour Hut is followed by an afternoon ski objective like laps on the Diablaret Glacier or the Balfour Glacier.

Day 4: Wednesday, March 25 - Scott Duncan Hut

The trip over the Balfour High Col is usually the highlight, and definitely the crux, of the trip. We'll ascend over heavily crevassed terrain adjacent the stunning serac-fringed east face of Mt. Balfour. After attaining the col, if conditions permit, an ascent of one of the nearby peaks is possible.

Day 5: Thursday, March 26 - Trip Conclusion

All good things must come to an end. From the Scott Duncan Hut it takes about an hour of gentle climbing to come to the Shark's Fin. From there it's mostly downhill to get to the bottom of Niles Creek where gurgling creeks in flood and the smell of spruce trees presents a sharp contrast with the alpine world we settled into during the trip. About five hours of travel in total brings us back to the car. The run up to Bow Lake to pick up our other car takes less than half an hour, so about an hour detour in total out of our way -- no big deal! Expect to be back in Canmore for dinner time, by 18:00.



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 been involved with the Alpine Club of Canada for over 20 years including running the summer Mountain Mentorship Program for the Toronto Section, and winter ski trips for the Vancouver Section. Email: twolfe@sawback.com, Cell: (403) 707-9996