The past few years have seen a huge increase in the popularity of hiking and backcountry skiing. In an age when people are more plugged-in than ever before, there is an increasing desire to be disconnected from devices and more connected with nature, said Jayson Faulkner, media liason for a project that aims to help more people make an authentic connection with Whistler’s backcountry. The Spearhead Traverse, a popular hiking and backcountry skiing route in Garibaldi Provincial Park, is undergoing a construction boom of sorts. Last summer, snow clearing and building for the first of three planned backcountry huts — the first at Russet Lake — got underway, and it’s expected to be substantially complete in time for the 2018-’19 ski season. Once completed, the Kees and Claire Hut — named for Cornelius (Kees) Brenninkmeyer and Claire Dixon, who perished when their snow shelter collapsed during a backcountry ski outing in 2007 — will have space for 40 backcountry enthusiasts. A project of the non-profit Spearhead Huts Society, it’s being built through donations from a variety of sources including the U.S.-based Kees Brenninkmeyer Foundation, which donated $900,000 Cdn. The Kees and Claire Hut is being built with Passive House techniques, which is more expensive to build but, because of its high insulation ratings, much less expensive to operate. Planning is underway for the second of the three Spearhead huts: Mount Macbeth. Construction on the hut, which is to be built entirely through a $1.5 million donation from Brian and Andrea Hill of the women’s clothing retailer Aritzia, is expected to begin in summer 2019. Fundraising is ongoing for the third Spearhead hut at Mount Pattison. B.C. Parks has been extremely supportive, committing money to improved camping facilities and more rangers in Garibaldi Park and elsewhere. “They recognize it’s a huge addition to Garibaldi Park and they realize they need to step up from their side of it on trails and infrastructure,” said Faulkner. The society is always looking for volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, to help with construction. For information, visit spearheadhuts.org.
KEES AND CLAIRE HUT / IMAGE COURTESY SPEARHEAD HUT PROJECT