After his reading, Silverstein said with a chuckle, "It isn't every ski trip you come home [as] an expert on a 19th century author."
Silverstein first visited the Battle Range in 1959, and it was his party that named these peaks the Melville Group. From the top of Typee (Melville's first novel), you can see Mt. Pequod, Mt. Ahab and, occasionally, Moby Dick, whose 10,290-foot granite pinnacle appears and disappears like a dorsal fin in the misting clouds.
When Silverstein first climbed Moby Dick, there were no roads, not even a trail into these high cirques. Today, there are still no roads; the isolation is palpable, the silence so complete you can hear small avalanches on Mt. Ishmael 3 miles away.
Each day, Raudaschl took us a little farther into this isolation. We trusted him implicitly. His pace and line always seemed to create the perfect slow train. He worked us hard but not too hard; his trail-breaking mesmerized — left foot, right foot — until we suddenly found ourselves on a ridge at the top of the world.
Unsettled weather deposited fresh snow almost every night. The skiing was always beautiful but not always easy. On some exposures, shade and the right terrain features cradled snow as soft as Simon's meringue. On others, wind and sun cooked up surfaces resembling butter or chalk or mashed potatoes.
One day, we skied one of the Abbey's longest and steepest runs, called, appropriately, Steepness. The top section was exquisite, with shady, blue-white snow billowing like smoke around our turns. Then, in the middle, we ran into old avalanche debris, ice-hard chunks under the powder. Finally, at the bottom, 3,000 feet down, we had to hop our turns, and hop again to survive a collapsing sun crust that would swallow our skis and not give them back.
"Keine Rosen ohne Dornen," Raudaschl said with a smile. "No roses without thorns."
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7 days of solitude
From LAX, Air Canada and West Jet fly nonstop to Calgary, Canada. Air Canada, Delta, American, Northwest and United offer connecting flights (change of plane). Restricted round-trip fares begin at $219.
Laughing Bear Adventures Ltd., http://www.battleabbey.ca , handles bookings for Battle Abbey, which can be booked only by the week (Saturday-Saturday) and for a private, guided group. To join a group, check the list of guides and weeks at the website. Cost is about $1,725 and includes transportation from Calgary to Golden, Canada, helicopter flights to and from the Abbey, lodging, guide services and all meals.
Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Assn., , http://www.backcountrylodgesofbc.com . Battle Abbey is one of 27 wilderness lodges across British Columbia. This association lists many in the province.
A hut keeper-custodian and a cook take care of domestic chores at Battle Abbey, but skiers provide beverages. Beer and wine are always appreciated. Many guests stock up in Calgary or Canmore.
Besides ski gear, pack hut slippers and casual clothes for mornings and evenings. The abbey has an extensive library and a wall of mostly classical music. Your guide will send a list of essential ski and safety gear to bring.
TO LEARN MORE:
Canadian Tourism Commission, (604) 638-8300, http://www.travelcanada.ca .
Tourism British Columbia, (800) 435-5622, http://www.hellobc.com .
— Peter Shelton
Peter Shelton is the author of "Climb to Conquer: The Untold Story of WWII's 10th Mountain Division Ski Troops."