I’ve always sought out the places on the map that have few roads or towns, and large expanses of wilderness for ski expeditions but I never believed that ethos would lead me to living in a hamlet of 300 at the end of a road to nowhere. With no ski hill and few amenities but beautiful mountainscapes as far as you can imagine, my skis have directed my life off the beaten path. On the Alaska highway there is a small turnoff that takes you into the Boundary Range on the east slope of the Juneau Icefield. That’s where I have made my home.
A snowy morning in Atlin, BC. Atlin mountain is a 2000m massif of four peaks rising 1400m above the Atlin lake, the largest natural lake in BC.
My skis have forever been a tool of exploration, leading from my first backcountry tours, to working as a ski patroller, to now working as a ski guide and avalanche forecaster. They’ve been my chance to engage in some of the wildest places I could have ever dreamed. I worked for a decade as a polar guide in the high arctic and had the opportunity to ski in exotic polar regions like Baffin Island, East Greenland and Somerset Island. In that time, I would scour maps looking for remote mountain ranges that weren’t already in every ski magazine or film. That’s when I came across Atlin B.C., a dying gold rush town on the BC - Yukon - Alaska border. The mountains here are frequented only by the locals: townspeople, sheep, goats, and lynx. Once I decided on the place, I set to finding work in the nearby alpine passes of the Yukon.
Drew enjoying the roadside skiing in White Pass, the shortest distance between the Pacific Ocean and the continental plateau.
The White Pass Highway leads directly to the alpine and straddles the BC/Alaska border. A small, core group of locals are a mix of sledders and skiers with Alaskan and Yukon rigs (converted utility trailers that have a wood stove inside and space for a snowmobile). Access isn’t easy but the rewards are to be relished. A windswept landscape of stone and snow with pocket glaciers, icefields and jagged sky lines. It’s a place that has captured the imagination of many wanderers. With very few high quality maps, and little beta about much of the skiing, it’s a place that suits me well. A place where imagination, contour lines, and mystical names, like Taku Towers and Fairweather keep the excitement about skiing high, even if there’s no ski lift, après, or micro-brewery!
Base camp at the foot of Mounts Sparling, south of the Hang Ten Glacier.
In reflection, it’s no surprise to me to find that the skin track you break yourself has a way of leading to those “untracked” possibilities.
Majesty athlete Drew Nylen is based in Atlin, British Columbia were he works as a ski guide and avalanche forecaster. If you're interested in learning more about skiing in the north, find Drew on Instagram @drewnylen