Cold Smoke | Tales From The Pacific Northwest

No real plans, just chase the smoke...

Words: Khaiya Raven

Images: Greg Roebuck

As I sit listening to the pre-flight briefing in preparation for two days of cattle class living, I ponder what the Pacific Northwest of America could have install for us. The old man and I were finally on our way to Seattle to hook up with Kiwi photographer and legend Greg Roebuck to hopefully score it on! After what felt like an eternity, we cleared customs and drove to Roebucks. He filled us in on how cold and deep January had been. Unfortunately though the infamous “pineapple express” weather pattern greets us with a soggy snow pack to well above the highest peak in all of Washington State. What to do? We start to investigate the reports for British Columbia. With all of the maritime resorts being punished with rain the interior of BC is our only hope for fresh snow.

We’re in luck! The storm total in Revelstoke is 110cm and counting, so without a second thought we hire a rental car and set off on the 12 hour journey. That drive was unforgettable, with 10,000 ft plus peaks either side of the road and the gnarly Coquihalla highway to navigate, I was in a constant state of awe of the surrounding geography. You’re really a part of the mountains here, and the deeper we went into the interior the more I felt an isolation like never before. As we pull into the town of Revelstoke I could not believe how much snow had fallen. The whole town looked to be made of marshmallow with a meter of fresh rounding off all sharp edges. Revelstoke is a dreamland.  

The Interior definitely provided, scoring what would become the best tree scattered powder runs of my life on the first day. Yet my mind would not stop thinking about the terrain Roebuck had shown us on our soggy orientation day riding at Stevens Pass. The place is stacked with serious features, steep chutes, pillows, spines you name it and it’s there. All within chair access and short 30 minute hikes. This got me thinking, with Revelstoke being considered a world class resort, there must be some similar features to scare myself on buried in the vast wilderness of these old BC pines. It’s just a matter of finding them, so we put on our exploring hats. Keen to shake this lost feeling, dad and I ventured into the side country of the resort. Which took us first to some seriously steep chutes off the summit of Mt Mackenzie. From skiers left to right there is doors 1 through 4, all of which you will need to earn your cornice tunneling badge if you want to ride! Though dad and I had our sights set on the farthest east chute named brown shorts. Once standing at the chute’s entrance I soon understood the name. Revy was Epic!

By February 20th it was nuking consistently and the mountains of Washington State were back on! This faced me with a new challenge, Roebuck was now back at work and my old man had peaced out. So this one day I show up to Stevens Pass resort alone to find it is 30 inches deep, dry and perfect. With terrain accessed by chair being as expansive as it was I knew needed to recruit some friends. Even in bounds It was concerning to be alone. Knowing there are 3 people missing in bounds at Mt Baker Ski Area who were expected to have been caught out by tree wells or injured and take by the cold exposure. A consistent foot of fresh fell each day at the end of February, so you’d better be home by dark.

This day after my first run I decide to wait at the bottom of the chair and make a plan. It was to snag the third spot on a chair with two people who also had backpacks on and looked like they knew what they were doing, start up some conversation. It was all I had and possibly far-fetched but I was willing to do anything to keep shredding. 20 or 30 minutes go by and I almost give into the urge to continue making cold smoke signals alone at least 5 times. I wait, and sure enough spy two frozen bearded skiers appear from the woods. They are hooting at each other and sharing high fives. Little did I know, Nick Blackburn and Jake Lallemand would become some of my best friends. I pray that I can hit the singles line just right to make a three. It was my lucky day, I aced it.“So boys, what a day yeah?”

The next two months were epic. Roebuck and I would go hangout where ever the pow was best on his days off. We doubled his sled to shoot images at Shribbers Meadows and in the Whistler backcountry. He’s a bit of a nut too, besides consistently stomping cliffs with a ridiculously heavy camera pack… Roebuck would always be pointing out seemingly impossible hits and drops to send. I would do my best to pop something worth shooting, all the while learning a tone from him about the mountains and having a blast! Also the boys I meet on the chair took me under their wing to say the least. Introducing me to the rest of their crew, showing me the booming social scene of Stevens Pass’s camper parking lot, car shuttling secret pillow lines and building cheese wedges in the infamous Mt Baker back country. Life was good.

The funny thing about this whole story is that I bought a season pass to Mammoth Mountain and never even used it. My initial plan was to spend the month of February in Seattle with my Dad and Roebuck, then go hit Mammoths dope park I had been deprived of growing up in the North Island of New Zealand. Problem was, I fell in love with the act of making a quiet line through the trees, in love with hooting at people from the chair who are blinded by their own cold smoke, in love with losing your car to 18 inches of snow since you left it that morning, in love with the mountains and most of all I could not leave the people who had made my winter worth every cent.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Posts

Watch Now

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the low down on the latest news & reviews