Winter on Hollyburn Ridge

The Dark Season has been particularly gloomy lately. We have received lots of precipitation. There is no snow at sea level, and not much below 1,000 feet. Above 3,000 feet there is now lots, and all of the upper trails on Hollyburn Mountain, in West Vancouver are above that. For days we had been watching a bubble of high pressure moving in from the Pacific Ocean. It arrived Monday night, and we planned to ski on Tuesday. I’m glad we did. That one day of blue sky was spectacular on the hill. (The pictures are thumbnails).

Backcountry trail on Hollyburn Mt.

As we begin to ski up the backcountry trail on Hollyburn Mountain, the high altitude old-growth trees are heavy with snow and ice. The temperature is just above freezing, and the trees drip on us as we ski beneath.

Since it is the middle of the week there are not many people on the path. Everyone seems in a good mood, and no one passes without a friendly greeting.

weather damage to trees

It looks as if this is a rough winter for the forest.

The heavy burden on the branches and the recent winds have brought down many branches and whole trees.

Looking down from Hollyburn Mt. to Vancouver

The hikers’ backcountry route meanders up and to the west of the groomed  commercial nordic area on Hollyburn Ridge. The top of the  nordic is known locally as The Water Boards. I’ve never known what that means. It is at that loop below us. Here the backcountry trail climbs an open swath in the forest and we have our first views of Vancouver and Georgia Strait.

A view of the Hollyburn Summit route

Higher up, the air is colder, and the trees are no longer dripping. The summit of Hollyburn is the dome to the right.

When I look at these pictures I don’t have the sense that we are climbing.  It is not very steep, but it is uphill!

View to the east and northeast

Up here it is possible to see the mountains to the east and some of the distant wilderness to the northeast.

I think the peak is Crown Mountain.

Trees snow and shadows on Hollyburn Mt.

It seems that lots of snowshoers are heading up to the summit.

We decide to find some fresh snow, and solitude, in the forest to the left of the route.

Icy Forest

That wide open swath didn’t feel like the backcountry.

Here in the forest, with the brilliant sun, the encased trees, and the dark blue sky, it is magic.

Glimpse people on the summit route

At one point I could look through the trees and glimpse the route to the summit. It was not far away and I could just hear laughter and squeals of delight. It sounded like a playground. Folks were enjoying the mountain.

Although the trees look as if they are plastered with snow, that is really ice-hard.

Ready to ski We arrive at a high dome. There is a couple of inches of wind driven powder over a hard base. The snow is sparkling in the sun and we have a fine view of Vancouver and the Salish Sea. The trees in this forest are spaced so that skiing among them, and finding the easier glades will be fun. To check the depth of snow, I plunged my avalanche probe straight down, and at 240 cm, there was no bottom. We took the skins off and skied down.

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1 Response to “Winter on Hollyburn Ridge”


  1. 1 Kim May 16, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Thank you very much for this article. It very interesting.


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