Marriott Basin Winter Photography

Marriott Basin Coast Mountains Winter Photography

Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCoast Mountains Sunset British Columbia 50319  Purchase

Yesterday I finished editing and uploading all the new images from my recent Marriott Basin Coast Mountains Winter Photography trip in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. on this trip I was I was honored to be accompanied by Vancouver Photographer Adam Gibbs. I don’t know if Adam somehow brought along a good measure of luck, since we enjoyed several outstanding displays of light during our stay.

Marriott Basin has been on my must visit winter list for a number of years now. However, it has been routinely put off due to poor snow and weather conditions. This year, following a series of storms, forecasts showed an extended period of good weather. I knew it was time to make the trip.

Wendy Thompson Hut in winter Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaWendy Thompson Hut Marriott Basin British Columbia 50424  Purchase

Skiing to the Wendy Thompson Hut in Marriott Basin

The basecamp for this trip was to be the Wendy Thompson Hut, operated by the Whistler section of the Alpine Club of Canada. Wendy Thompson was a ski patroller and paramedic. She died tragically in 1995 at the age of 33 in a Medivac flight crash in the Queen Charlotte Islands. As a memorial and legacy to Wendy, her parents and the ACC worked with volunteers to build this hut.

I routinely use skis to access many winter backcountry locations, but I’m definitely not the most graceful or competent skier. Especially when carrying a multi-day pack loaded down with camera gear! Since we were staying at a hut I didn’t need to pack a tent or a few other items, however my pack was still heavy with camera gear and extra winter clothing. Fortunately due to  several parties exiting the hut the day before we arrived, we didn’t need to break trail through deep snow.

Wendy Thompson Hut in winter Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaWendy Thompson Hut Marriott Basin British Columbia 50328  Purchase

The first mile or so is easy, traveling along a summer access road. Soon after the road ends the real work begins. Almost immediately the route tackles a steep forested headwall. This section is hard enough in summer, but in deep snow with a heavy pack and skis it becomes a grueling task. Sooner than it seems the grade eases up and the forest begins to open up. From here to Lower Marriott Lake there are several areas of possible avalanche danger.

At the head of Lower Marriott Lake is the last steep section to climb before reaching the hut. After several hours of hard work the sight of the hut is a welcome relief!

Marriott Basin in winter, Coast Mountains British Columbia CanadaWinter Alpenglow over Marriott Basin British Columbia 50319  Purchase

Evening Photography at Marriott Basin

Upon arriving at the hut, settling in, and quenching our thirst with some hot drinks, it was time to scout out nearby photo locations. When we started out earlier in the day the sun was shining in a blue sky with a few wisps of high altitude clouds. However by the time we arrived at the hut clouds had moved in, turning the sky a solid grey. Fortunately within a few minutes of checking out possible locations, the sun broke briefly through the clouds. The surrounding peaks were tasking on a warm glow, and I knew that it was time to get to work. I quickly managed to find a knoll close by that afforded an unobstructed view of the basin and peaks with some good foreground material to work with.

After setting up the first few photos it became apparent that the clouds were beginning to dissipate to create all the elements for an epic sunset and alpenglow. I quickly got into the zone and worked hard at composing as many different images as possible. Considering all the cloudless smoke hazed locations I experienced last August and September this was payback time in a big way!

Backcountry ski touring in Upper Marriott Basin in winter, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin ski touring 50336 Purchase

Touring  Upper Marriott Basin

The next day Adam and I went on a short ski tour to explore the upper basins above the hut. Shortly above the hut the terrain enters a true alpine landscape with wide open views in all directions. Carrying only a day pack on mostly hard packed snow the skiing was very pleasant, and I took my time to enjoy it all! In summer this area is filled with endless boulder fields and small lakes. However, in winter this is all covered in snow, which the wind has blown into beautiful shapes and patterns.

Backcountry ski touring in Upper Marriott Basin in winter, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin ski touring 503353 Purchase

Mount Rohr, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaWinter sunset over Mount Rohr #50381  Purchase

Later in the day the light once again put on a grand display. The clouds on this evening appeared stacked in layers as the setting sun illuminated them. This time I worked mainly with short to medium telephoto compositions to close in on the clouds behind the ridges so as not to duplicate the wide angle photos from the first evening.

If You Go

The hut in Marriott Basin is a little less than 5 miles in with around 1600′ elevation to gain. The trailhead to the hut is at Cayoosh Pass about an hour northeast of Whistler. You must contact the ACC of Whistler to reserve a place for a nominal fee. They will also provide you with access details.

The hut is heated by a wood stove and is equipped with pots, pans, and eating utensils. However, you’ll need to provide your own stove and fuel to cook with. There is also electricity via solar panels, and even USB outlets. Make sure you bring a good winter sleeping bag, in case there is no wood left for the stove, or enough bodies to heat the hut.

In winter backcountry skis, snowshoes, or split-boards are your best options. Skinny cross country skis are definitely not ta good option. Also, make sure you carefully consult the most recent avalanche reports before you go.

It also should be noted that the entire area surrounding Marriott Basin offers excellent ski touring opportunities. While this trip was primarily for landscape photography, there are countless downhill runs for skiers to explore. Everything from safe and easy, to life threatening expert lines. An excellent map of the area is available through Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Upper Marriott Basin in winter, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin Coast Range British Columbia 50356  Purchase

Upper Marriott Basin in winter, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaUpper Marriott Basin Coast Range British Columbia 50352  Purchase

Upper Marriott Basin in winter, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaUpper Marriott Basin Coast Range British Columbia 50343  Purchase

Marriott Basin Winter Photography

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