The mind-boggling vastness of the Blackcomb backcountry must be seen to be believed. With virtually limitless options for skiing and riding, one could spend an entire lifetime exploring these mountains. And with the assistance of a gondola, chairlift, and a t-bar, it’s possible to park the car in the valley at 8:00 a.m. and skin up to 2,300 meters before 9:00. However, the secret is out; the easy access to huge terrain often attracts hordes of backcountry enthusiasts when conditions are good, so it’s a little more challenging in these mountains to find the type of solitude that you would typically enjoy on a day in the backcountry elsewhere.
That being said, there’s plenty of space for everyone to get out and find some nice powder turns and great lines. One good option for a single-day tour is to spend a bit of time on the Spearhead Glacier before climbing up the Stairmaster and descending one of the many lines down Phalanx Mountain to link up with the Blackcomb Glacier ski out back to Whistler Village. This glacier-hopping loop will give skiers a taste of what the Blackcomb Mountain backcountry has to offer with a few nice long descents, beautiful scenery, a couple of couloirs, and good exercise. This route includes glacier travel, exposure to wide-open avalanche-prone slopes, cornice hazard, and some very steep terrain. Be prepared and stay safe.
From the ski area boundary gate at the top of the Blackcomb Glacier, follow the skin track south and then northeast up to the south ridge of the Spearhead. Heading east over the ridge, traverse 200 meters across the south face of the Spearhead to a short bootpack climb up to an obvious notch in the rocky ridgeline, which accesses the top of the Spearhead Glacier. From here, traverse the ridge to the east for up to about 400 meters, or until you feel like skiing down into the basin to the north. Time permitting, climb back up for another lap or two before heading north to the bottom of the Stairmaster, a steep bootpack that climbs 160 vertical meters up a steep couloir to the summit of Phalanx Mountain. From here there are several options; either ski the north facing Phalanx Glacier down to the obvious bench at treeline and then hop on the skin track heading around the north end of the ridgeline back to the ski area, stay on top of the ridge for 800 meters to the entrance of Foon Alley and ride down to the same skin track, or head down the Poop Chutes on the south side of the northwest ridge of Phalanx, which leads directly back to the ski area.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.