Via Gorby mountain bike trail, 2000 ridge, Swede’s Gully, Thunder Meadows, and exiting Orca Bowl. Expect to take 6-8 hours for this fantastic tour.
Today’s route is highlighted above in Purple. I chose to park at the Bridge Parking area along Island Lake road, but you could start from the resort if you wanted. The easiest variation of this circuit would be to take Idiot’s Traverse across Fish Bowl from the resort and have a car waiting for you at the Island Lake parking lot (this could shave ~1.5 hours off the length of the tour). Either way, gain 2000 Ridge, walk 150m south to the top of Swede’s Gully, descend to, and climb up, Easy Street to Thunder Meadows, then exit via Orca or Cabin bowl.
Follow the route up 2000 Ridge to the peak. The peak is shown above with my bootpack shown going up the middle (did it twice, once roped without my pack to suss-out the stability). Be really careful with this section as it’s often a big, faceted pile of shit. That being said, today it was good to go!
Once you’ve topped out on the peak, walk ~150m south along the ridge to the top of Swede’s Gully at approximately 49°28.120′, -115°08.459′. Watch out for the massive cornice on the left! I bootpacked up a short section of rock just to make sure I wasn’t venturing too far out onto the cornice.
The view of Swede’s Gully, above (the entrance is to the left of the photo). It was pretty wind-blasted on this day, with about 3cm dust-on-bulletproof-crust. Aim for Easy Street, which is the valley heading towards the right of the photo towards Thunder Meadows.
Looking up Swede’s Gully from halfway down. Ski quality was marginal, but safe!
The sun came out to show the route down Swede’s Gully and up Easy Street. I traversed through the thick timber at the bottom of the gully to save myself some skinning, but follow your heart.
After about an hour skinning up Easy Street, followed by a nice long lunch break at Thunder Meadows Cabin, I skinned up to the top of Orca Bowl and enjoyed a nice descent down with boot-top powder. It was surprisingly skied out, but there was more than enough snow to go around. That being said, I still managed to run into an old track under the powder and flip myself over, doh! Aim for the skier’s right side of the main drainage to reach Hilda’s Run, or stick high to the skier’s left to take a stab at Blair’s Run.
I chose to ski Hilda’s Run, shown above. It was pretty skied out, but soft enough to have fun.
Exiting Orca Road, above (starts at 49°29.525′, -115°09.263′), which is an old, sketchy, steep logging road that is sure to keep you on your toes. This road meets up with the Island Lake Lodge XC ski trail, which you can use to quickly skate back to the parking lot. If you have a splitboard, RIP.