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KOOTENAY PASS

To share any info your have on backcountry skiing at Kootenay Pass, or to get the lowdown from others, check out our backcountry skiing forums on the region. Kootenay Pass lies between Salmo and Creston at an elevation of 1775m (5823’) at the highest point of Highway 3. Part of the 1133 hectare Stagleap Provincial Park, the pass is famous for early and late season snow, as well as being the highest highway-served pass in BC that is open year round (even if it is closed every now and then due to avalanche danger). To get a snapshot of what the pass looks like every 15-30 minutes, click here. Looking at the featured webcam is an excellent way to see what you are in for prior to heading out for a day’s tour. Be happy when the sign usually appearing next to the highway is buried in snow.

We've included the four “greatest hits” routes for ski touring at Kootenay Pass as they are a good representation of the area and feature a range of tours for all skill levels. These routes are found in our West Kootenay Ski Touring Guide which you can pick up for a bargain over here. If you have a little more time and energy, there are plenty more routes just over the mountains you can see from the highway (scroll down for these). Some routes are longer (Lightening Strike) some short and sweet (Cornice Ridge)—select your route depending on conditions, your skill level and the free time you have. Scroll down and check out 14 additional routes that will offer up something for everyone and surely challenge your skills. Unlike the resort based routes we feature on the site like the Rossland and Whitewater sections, the tours of Kootenay Pass are all completely backcountry. There are no lifts, no lodges and fewer people nearby. Accordingly, be very well prepared and be sure to check out the Kootenay Boundary Avalanche Forecast page on the Canadian Avalanche association website. Enjoy this Kootenay classic and play safe!


 (This map is not meant to be used as a navigational aid but rather a visual indication of the route description.)


 NORTH SIDE:
1. Cornice Ridge





SOUTH SIDE:
2. Baldy Rocks
3. Crags to Monk Creek
4. Lightening Strike



For a full listing of backcountry huts, cabins and lodges check out the Interior Mountain cabins/huts/lodges page over here. If you are looking for maps and guides to the area then check out the following publications in our Backcountry Skiing Canada Store:

West Kootenay Touring Guide West Kootenay Touring Guide: $16.95

Kootenay Pass Backcountry Ski Touring Map Kootenay Pass Backcountry Ski Touring Map: $19.00

 

 


Backcountry skiing is an inherently dangerous activity that requires experience and knowledge to travel safely. Any of the routes on this site may be dangerous depending on conditions. You are responsible for your own safety in the backcounty—the team behind backcountryskiingcanada.com disclaim any responsibility for any injury resulting from people travelling on routes described on this site.  To read our Terms of Use and get all the details, read HERE. 


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Note that we have included condensed versions of the various route descriptions below. For a more detailed description of the routes—including details on access, ascents and descents—pick up a copy of the “offline” West Kootenay Touring Ski Touring Guide. Just click on this shortcut!. For additional routes free of charge have a look below for 14 more.

CORNICE RIDGE
This is a great tour to get familiar with the Pass terrain and enjoy a relaxed couple of hours in the mountains. It’s also an excellent way to do a little reconnaissance on other, more challenging routes nearby.

ROUTE: #1
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 2 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 365m/1200’
ATES RATING: Simple (1)

 

 

 

 

Full route description—including details on access, ascents and descents—in the Guide

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BALDY ROCKS NORTH

This tour has a quick turnaround time and the summit offers up a 360° view of Kootenay Pass. The bottom shot, called Lunch Box, is excellent after snow but may conceal buried ski tracks just below the surface. Approach with caution.

ROUTE: #2
ACCESS: South side of Highway 3
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 2 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 365m/1200’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)


 

 

 

 

Full route description—including details on access, ascents and descents—in the Guide

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CRAGS TO MONK CREEK

This is a classic Kootenay Pass tour with a moderate skin-up and some excellent south-facing, open lines. Yo-yo off the ridgeline into Monk Creek and take one of two routes out.


ROUTE: #3
ACCESS: South side of Highway 3
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 3 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 396m/1300’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)


 

 

 

 

Full route description—including details on access, ascents and descents—in the Guide

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LIGHTENING STRIKE

This is a big tour with a moderate uptrack and a long, fantastic shot through big trees into Twin Lakes Basin. It’s the furthest options from the highway so be prepared, and have fun.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing-Lightening-Strike-NorthwestROUTE: #4
ACCESS: South side of Highway 3
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 3.5 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 335m/1100’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)





Full route description—including details on access, ascents and descents—in the Guide

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View Kootenay Pass in a larger map
(This map is not meant to be used as a navigational aid but rather a visual indication of the route description.)

ROUTES:

5.The Muffin
6. The Muffin North
7. Twin Lakes
8. Camel's Hump West
9. Cornice Ridge Northwest
10. Buzz's Ridge Southeast
11. Buzz's Ridge Southwest
12. Buzz's Ridge North
13. Missile Ridge Southeast
14. Missile Ridge Northheast 1
15. Missile Ridge Northheast 2
16. Missile Ridge Northheast 3
17. Wolf's Ridge Southwest
18. Wolf's Ridge Southeast


THE MUFFIN
The "Muffin" as it is called provides a big descent into twin lakes but you have to negotiate complex terrain and also be aware of active slide paths, experience and knowledge is required for this route. If this is not up to your level of skiing and riding perhaps consider the Muffin North as it offers up some gentler treed descents. The Muffin is not a straight forward route to ski as it takes some route finding to get to the summit and there is not always a fresh skin track to follow. Start out on the Stagleap FSR on the South side of Highway 3 opposite the parking area. Follow this for approximately 650 meters and then descend about 100 meters in a westerly direction. Contour around the North ridge of Lightening Strike maintaining your elevation until you arrive at Twin Lakes. From here the skin track will gradually get steeper as you climb. Head up the east face of the Muffin staying in the trees of Muffin North and out of the slide paths. Once you gain the ridge follow it south to the summit but ensure it is safe as this ridge is typically corniced and wind scoured. This is complex terrain so take a conservative route down and be sure to avoid open avalanche paths and steeper lines. The way back to the trail head is more or less the way you came in.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing-_The_MuffinROUTE: #5
ACCESS: South side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 2.5 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 495m/1624’
ATES RATING: Complex (3)

 

 

 

 

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THE MUFFIN NORTH
If the Muffin is beyond your abilities or you are just looking for a more mellow line then The Muffin North may be just what you are after. The descent starts from a treeless summit and takes you through open trees down to thicker forest for a sustained 200 plus meter descent. Access to the Muffin North is the same as the skin track to The Muffin, go figure? Start out on the Stagleap FSR on the South side of Highway 3 opposite the parking area. Follow this for approximately 650 meters and then descend about 100 meters in a westerly direction. Contour around the North ridge of Lightening Strike maintaining your elevation until you arrive at Twin Lakes. From here the skin track will gradually get steeper as you climb. Head up the East face of The Muffin North staying in the trees and out of the slide paths. Once you gain the ridge follow it North to the rather large round summit and plan your route down. The way back to the trail head is more or less the way you came in.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing_The-Muffin-North-ShoulderROUTE: #6 
ACCESS: South side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 1.75 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 280m/918’
ATES RATING: TBD

 

 

 

 

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TWIN LAKES
A relatively short skin of approximately 4.5km will get you onto the Lightening Strike Ridge and to the summit of Lightening Strike at 2,182m. The skin track starts on the south side of Highway 3 opposite the parking area, where you will find a well work skin track up Stagleap FSR. Follow this road for as it switchbacks four times before you reach the Ripple Pass, from here head into the woods due West staying on the ridge. This ridge will take you all the way to the summit of Lightening strike but be sure to stay well back and to the south of the ridge and the hazards that it presents. 

The route directly off the summit consists of steep exposed cliffs so find a safer line that is less exposed and steep. Be aware of large open areas and thinly treed slopes  below the steep ridge that will provide little protection in the event of an avalanche. Once off the ridge and in the trees ski fall line to Twin Lakes where you can put your skins on and head East around Lightening Strikes North ridge to find the Stagleap FSR that you climbed up on. Lap it up again or try a new route.

ROUTE: #7 
ACCESS: South side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 2.5 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 460m/1509’
ATES RATING: Complex (3)

 

 

 

 

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CAMEL'S HUMP WEST
The South face of the Camel's Hump will look enticing but this is a permanently closed area by the Ministry of Transport as it is routinely controlled with explosives. The West aspect however provides good skiing with easy access. You will need to park 5km to the east of Kootenay Pass at a small pull-out parking are on the North side of Highway 3. From here it is a 5km walk under the power transmission lines. After approximately 3km (prior to reaching the Lost Creek Pass) you will see a clear cut to your left under the summit of Camel's Hump, head up the West flank of Camel's Hump and gain the ridge line and shortly after the summit. 

The descent is to the Northwest down relatively gentle slopes which are nicely gladed. The lower angle end to the route is through the clear cut where you should find your up track if you are keen for another lap.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing-Camel's-Hump-Southwest

ROUTE: #8 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 Parking area 5km east of Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 2.5 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 610m/2000’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)

 

 

 

 

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CORNICE RIDGE NORTHWEST
Cornice Ridge is likely the most popular destination at Kootenay Pass and is a short 2km skin track (which is typically always evident) to the summit. The up track starts beside the day use shelter at Bridal Lake directly at the West end of the parking area on the North side of Highway 3. Head Northwest up the wide ridge as it slowly narrows the higher you climb. Good views of Cornice Ridge and the summit are evident as you come out of the trees after the first of two kilometers of skinning. Be sure to stay off the Southwest slope as this is heavily avalanche controlled by the Minister of Transportation and is a permanently closed area.  The Northwest face is a sparsely treed slope that provides good skiing but can often be cross loaded and corniced so caution is required. After a 250m descent you can gain the ridge by climbing back up to the saddle between Cornice Ridge and Buzz's Ridge

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing-Cornice-Ridge-Northwest

ROUTE: #9 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 2 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 336m/1102’
ATES RATING: Challengin (2)

 

 

 

 

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BUZZ'S RIDGE SOUTHEAST
Once you are at the summit of Cornice Ridge (see the ascent directions  for Cornice Ridge North West) you can leave your skins on and traverse over to Buzz's Ridge directly to the North of Cornice Ridge. From Buzz's Ridge you can descend 300m back beneath the summit of Cornice Ridge but be cautious of cross loading and wind slabs on the sparsely treed slope.  It's possible to regain cornice ridge and meet you up track if you want another lap or traverse around the East portion of Cornice Ridge gently loosing elevation until you come back to Bridal Lake and the parking area.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing-Buzz's-Ridge-Southeast

ROUTE: #10 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 2 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 435m/1427’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)

 

 

 

 

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BUZZ'S RIDGE SOUTHWEST
Once you are at the summit of Cornice Ridge (see the ascent directions  for Cornice Ridge North West) you can leave your skins on and traverse over to Buzz's Ridge directly to the North of Cornice Ridge. Instead of heading to the summit of Buzz's Ridge look west and you'll see 250m of gentle skiing for the taking. This slope is tree-less and often wind scoured and sometimes cross loaded so caution is required. You can get back to Buzz's Ridge by climbing back up to the saddle between Cornice Ridge and Buzz's Ridge. Following the drainage to the highway is not recommended since you will be skiing between tow avalanche controlled slopes which are permanently closed.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing

ROUTE: #11 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 2 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 435m/1427’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)

 

 

 

 

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BUZZ'S RIDGE NORTH
Once you are at the summit of Cornice Ridge (see the ascent directions  for Cornice Ridge North West) you can leave your skins on and traverse over to Buzz's Ridge directly to the North of Cornice Ridge. Climb past the summit and ski down the east ridge until you find a more gentle drop in as the summit is very steep and cliffy. The ridge is often corniced and the slope wind loaded so pick your lines with current avalanche conditions in mind. After a 250m ski you will be within spitting distance of the hydro lines. and able to access Wolf's Ridge quite easily. To get back up to Cornice ridge you will have to head west and gain the Missile Ridge saddle within the relative safety of the trees. An alternate ski out is to follow the hydro lines east to Highway 3 and the parking pull out where you can hopefully find a ride back up to Kokanee Pass.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing

ROUTE: #12 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 3.5 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 675m/2214’
ATES RATING: TBD

 

 

 

 

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MISSILE RIDGE SOUTHEAST
Missile Ridge offers good skiing off the South and East faces and is easily accessed via Cornice Ridge as described in the Cornice Ridge route. It is possible to ski from Cornice Ridge to Missile Ridge however the terrain is complex with cornices and cross loaded features. Rather it's recommended to ski down Buzz's Ridge Southwest and skin back up to the saddle on Missile Ridge. This route provides some additional skiing and allows you to get a sense of the snow on Missile Ridge as you climb up it. Once at the summit of Missile Ridge ski fall line 350m to the valley below. To return for another lap skin up to the saddle on your previous skin track. To return to the parking lot at Kootenay Pass skin up to the saddle between Cornice Ridge and Buzz's Ridge and ski Southeast down Cornice Ridge to Bridal Lake and the parking area.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing

ROUTE: #13 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 3 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 630m/2066’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)

 

 

 

 

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MISSILE RIDGE NORTHEAST 1
Missile Ridge Northeast tends to hold it's snow well and gets less sun exposure so crusts are seldom found. Starting at Highway 3 and the parking area at Bridal Lake take the route to Cornice Ridge and then Buzz's Ridge, instead of climbing to the summit of Buzz's Ridge head NorthWest down the ridge towards Missile Ridge saddle. You will see wide open slopes below but farther along the ridge the safer line is through the gladed trees without any cliffs in your way. Be weary of cornices and cross loaded slopes before you drop in. After skiing down 200m you can return to the ridge by putting in an uptrack to the saddle of Missile Ridge on the lower angle slopes in the trees.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing

ROUTE: #14 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 4 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 625m/2050’
ATES RATING: TBD

 

 

 

 

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MISSILE RIDGE NORTHEAST 2
Missile Ridge Northeast 2 is on the same aspect as Missile Ridge Northeast (obviously) however it is just farther along the ridge to the Northwest. The safest access is to ski down #9 Cornice Ridge Northwest and skin back up to the saddle on Missile Ridge, this route provides some nice turns instead of negotiating the hazards of Missile Ridge and puts you in ideal placement to ski Northeast down Missile Ridge Northeast. There is easy access to slopes below and nicely gladed skiing until the slope angle lessens and the trees thicken.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing

ROUTE: #15 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 4.5 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 625m/2050’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)

 

 

 

 

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MISSILE RIDGE NORTHEAST 3
Missile Ridge Northeast 3 is again on the same aspect as Missile Ridge Northeast 2 however it is even farther along the ridge to the Northwest. The safest access is again to ski down #9 Cornice Ridge Northwest and skin back up to the saddle on Missile Ridge, this route provides some nice turns instead of negotiating the hazards of Missile Ridge. From here head west towards the summit of Missile Ridge but veer due north well in advance of reaching the summit down a north ridge. Skin to the highest point then switch over for the ski down. Moderate angled slopes below provide a multitude of options but be cautious after storms and wind events. After a 300m descent you will be at Lost Creek Basin and from here you can skin back up to Missile Ridge via the saddle and re-trace your route in revers to Kootenay Summit. Alternatively you can follow the power lines to the secondary parking location 5km east of Kootneay Pass.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing

ROUTE: #16 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 from parking area at Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 5 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 675m/2214’
ATES RATING: Challenging (2)

 

 

 

 

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WOLF'S RIDGE SOUTHWEST
Wolf's Ridge offers wide open descents on moderately steep and challenging terrain and is most easily accessed by parking 5km to the east of Kootenay Pass at a small pull-out parking are on the North side of Highway 3. From here it is a 4km walk under the power transmission lines to the south ridge of Wolf's Ridge where you start the climb to the summit a further 2km away. The Southwest face of Wolf's Ridge is steep with numerous large avalanche paths to negotiate with no easy way down so ensure conditions are acceptable before considering this route. After a 450m descent you are once again at the hydro lines and Lost Creek Basin. From here you can follow the power lines  back to the parking area or take a left once you are at Lost Creek Pass so you can climb to the summit of Wolf's Ridge and do it all over again.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing

ROUTE: #17 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 Parking area 5km east of Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 5 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 770m/2395’
ATES RATING: Complex (3)

 

 

 

 

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WOLF'S RIDGE SOUTHEAST
Wolf's Ridge Southeast offers similar terrain to Wolf's Ridge Southwest as it has wide open descents on moderately steep and challenging terrain. You again follow the power lines from the parking pull out 5km to the east of Kootenay Pass on the North side of Highway 3. From here it is a 4km walk under the power transmission lines to the south ridge of Wolf's Ridge where you start the climb to the summit a further 2km away. From the summit head Northeast along the ridge but caution is required as the ridge is steep with numerous large avalanche start zones to negotiate. After a 450m descent you are once again at the hydro lines and a short distance from the parking area by following the power lines, or retrace your steps to do another lap.

Kootenay-Pass-Backcountry-Skiing

ROUTE: #18 
ACCESS: North side of Highway 3 Parking area 5km east of Kootenay Pass
MAP: 82 F/3
TIME: 3 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 770m/2395’
ATES RATING: Complex (3)

 

 

 

 

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