Life on the open road is liberating. There’s something freeing about the simplicity of a home on wheels. It dials back our wants to needs, travelling with the necessities. Society in the 21st century is fast-paced and over-stimulating at times. Taking the time to step off the wheel and be more present is something I cherish. Road-tripping is one of those facets for me.

I’d toyed with the idea of combining my passions for some time now. Mountains, cameras, skiing, road trips and good company. When I first pitched the idea to Matt about a ski photography road trip, it took him all over two seconds to respond, I’m in! Where are we going?”

Will Lambert

Matt is a Byron Bay, Australia-born and raised surfer-dude. The classic laid-back, long-haired, cool guy—you know the type! We met working in Banff’s hospitality industry and quickly realized we were kindred spirits. I knew Matt would be the ideal candidate to jump headfirst into this project with. Over copious cups of coffee, while scrutinizing maps of the Canadian Rockies, we figured out the bones of our route: Alberta’s Champagne Corridor.Will Lambert

We wanted to put Alberta skiing back on the map. Too long has British Columbia received all the international attention and acclaim for some of the world’s best powder skiing. We planned to showcase the best that Alberta has to offer through its “Champagne Corridor.” People, now more than ever, love road trips. There has been a huge boom in the popularity of self-guided road-trip vacations, along with the “van life” movement. All of this normally takes place in the short window of June to September when tourism hits the Rockies like a freight train. However, I know the Rockies have so much more to offer in winter, too. From epic backcountry skiing on the Icefield’s Parkway (HWY 93N) and resort skiing in Banff and Jasper National Parks to riding in the southern Rockies of Nakiska and Castle Mountain Resort, this is one of the best areas in the world to ski. Having both worked as professional ski photographers in North America, Europe and Japan, we wanted to showcase the breathtaking Rockies in the winter.

Will Lambert

The anticipation of the adventure grew as we sought sponsors and local athletes to join our cause. Years of pondering, months of pitches, planning and permits finally came to fruition in March 2023. We packed up our bags and hit the road.

Will Lambert

I hadn’t slept properly for weeks, restlessly bouncing ideas around in my head. That’s always been my way of dealing with a project—all in, 100 per cent, consuming every fragment of brain activity. I’m an over-planner for sure. I plan to make a plan. I work at my best when I know what to expect and how to deliver. Matt’s approach couldn’t be more different. Free-spirited, calm and collected, he is the perfect level-headed ‘yin’ to my sometimes frantic ‘yang.’ That’s what makes us such a good team.Will Lambert

The first week of shooting was a blur at Jasper’s Marmot Basin with athletes Justin Hachmann, Chase Laforce and Cache Leblanc. Capping the northern tip of Alberta’s Highway 93, Marmot Basin stands as one of Canada’s longest-standing ski resorts. Wake before sunrise, pack our photo bags and drive to the ski resort to meet our athletes. Grab a coffee and quickly build rapport with them. Ski and shoot all day. Après. Drive to our camp spot. Dry all our gear. Offload footage and charge everything. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. The reality of our undertaking began to set in. Had we bitten off more than we could chew? Luckily, Matt had insisted we plug in a few days to rest, reset and recuperate in the heart of the Icefield’s Parkway. 

Will Lambert

Highway 93 North runs from Lake Louise to the outskirts of Jasper. In the heart of winter, the Icefield's Parkway transforms into a mesmerizing wonderland, where snow-clad evergreens glisten under a pristine blanket of powder, creating a serene and enchanting landscape. The frozen, turquoise waters of the Bow and Athabasca Glacier's ice-blue expanse stand in stark contrast to the surrounding snow-covered peaks, forming an otherworldly display of nature's magnificence along the Icefield's Parkway. As you drive along this iconic route in winter, the crisp mountain air is filled with the soft hush of falling snowflakes and the towering mountains seem to reach out and touch the heavens, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle of natural beauty.

Will Lambert

Our campervans rumbled to a halt as chunky tires waded through melt pools in the parking lot at HI Canada’s backcountry hostel—Hilda. The first week of our trip had been a classic Rockies mix of fluctuating temperatures, some snow flurries and scattered clouds. Today we’d been blessed with piercing blue skies and a relentless sun baking down on the glistening white landscape. When planning a trip like this, we were heavily reliant on historical weather data to predict our optimal chance for great skiing conditions. The 2022-2023 season had other ideas. Noted by many locals as the worst snow season in years,” our hopes of powder-deep-enough-you-need-a-snorkel-to-breathe-in were long gone. The reality was a mix of low precipitation with a deep, persistent, weak-layered faceting snowpack. This was a tricky cocktail for backcountry users to navigate safely and resulted in much more conservative choices. Today was no different. Isothermal snow with heavy solar input would crush dreams of any steep couloirs and big lines. We had to check our expectations and deal with an entirely different reality. Our concept backs the community first and the conditions second. 

Will Lambert

A day out in the mountains with great friends and like-minded conversation can almost entirely make up for some of the most unfavourable ski environments I’ve experienced in the last seven years here in Canada. After discussing our options, we unanimously voted to explore the area of Hilda Ridge. Its dual aspects to the north and southeast would give us plenty of scope for some skiing options to inspect. As we began to don our skins and check avalanche equipment, comradery among our crew grew excitable and full of youthful optimism. Following the creek up into the alpine, we tore layers off to cool ourselves in the radiant midday sun. The sweaty skin track was giving us a taste of what lay below. Devilish sun and wind crusts crunched beneath our skis as we slid our way up the vast landscape like army ants in formation.Will Lambert

As the first of our group dropped into the southeast face, it became very apparent that riding conditions proved our snowpack’s secrets. Wind-blasted surface snow, hard as iron, sat atop a mix of sugary neige. The descent was spicy and short-lived, to say the least. We ascended for another lap on the ridge’s leeward face. Hoots and hollers echoed as we found cold spring corn waiting to be harvested by a snowboard's carving edge. Bright sparkling crystals gave way to long shadows as the last of the day's sun peered around the summit of Hilda Peak. Fist pumps and high-fives, wide grins and leathery sunbaked skin, talks of “when we come back next time…” capped off another fantastic (although below-average) day in the mountains.

Will Lambert

As night fell over the charming cabin in the woods, a faint, amber glow illuminated the diamond blanket that shrouded our settlement. March’s Worm Moon rose like a giant doubloon over Hilda’s knife-edge arete. Our breaths rose in plumes like dragons into the crisp winter atmosphere as we gathered to watch the evening’s celestial event. Little did we know what Mother Nature had in store. The cabin windows grew opaque as our stinky socks hung like steaming icicles. Merriment ensued with lavish charcuterie lining the communal table. A faint hiss came from the propane stoves in the corner as snow changed states to offer fresh hydration for our weary group of riders. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” I thought. A gathering of folk from different corners of the world, different backgrounds and cultures, all coming together with a common interest: adventure.

Will Lambert

Suddenly, the door to the cabin burst open. Matt yelled, “They’re dancing!” We all jumped up and scurried outside as floorboards creaked below our shuffling hut booties. My eyes strained to adjust to the darkness. Being the world’s second-largest dark sky preserve, Jasper National Park is renowned for having some of the best skies for astronomical viewing. Hilda sits right on the northern tip of neighbouring Banff National Park, with the closest civilization being Jasper over 100 kilometres away. Before I came to Canada in 2016, we’d often drive out into the countryside of England and stargaze at night, watching for shooting stars among the traffic of planes and satellites. The Rockies are on a whole different level. The skies teemed with twinkling stars like the floor to heaven had been torn open.

Will Lambert

We sat at 51 degrees north, right at the lower edge of the “Auroral Band”. The geomagnetic storm’s intensity dictates how visible the northern lights, or the aurora borealis, are. Being surrounded by large mountains can obstruct our views of the horizon, making it harder to see them on less active nights. So, naturally, it takes a big storm to truly experience them in the mountains versus the prairies.Matthew Littlewood

Tonight was one such storm, a G4 KP8, as strong as it gets in Layman’s terms! The entire sky was erupting in every direction. Flowing bands of green, purple and blue danced across the Earth’s atmosphere. Overhead, it felt as though the Earth was imploding into the stars as pulsating corona formed intricate shapes that throbbed towards the cabin. We lay in awe. Every direction we turned was met with new vibrant colours and ribbons rippling across the night sky. Even with the full moon, the intensity of the storm overshadowed the bright light as it rose higher and higher, intertwined in the boreal dance.

Matthew Littlewood

I ran out of adjectives to define exactly what we were experiencing at the moment and settled on “just, WOW!” Words can’t fully describe the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach as you crane your neck to the heavens and watch the aurora evolve before your eyes. Think butterflies but on steroids. As soft low clouds slowly rolled into the valley, the light diffused to a shimmering glow, like sunlight through drawn curtains in a gentle breeze. Windows of clarity would reveal the party above through the cirrostratus wisps. They danced long into the early hours and remain to this day, one of the most incredible spectacles of nature I’ve ever seen. 

Tired eyes and yawning jaws sipped coffee as the morning sun warmed our frozen faces. We laughed and joked that yesterday had been a dream. How lucky we were to be in the right place at the right time with the right people. Backcountry skiing and those boreal skies.

       

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