BC big mountain skier gets Rogers Pass first descent eight years in the making
Christina Lustenberger is a Revelstoke-based professional skier and ski guide, who used to race World Cup GS for six seasons with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team before she turned big mountain shredder. Recently, she and her ski partner Andrew McNab bagged an epic first descent of the south face of Mount MacDonald in Rogers Pass that she has been eyeing for eight years.
The moment came about as a result of a number of factors, not the least of which was her increased comfort level as a result of her now well-honed skills in big mountain skiing and mountaineering.
“I value the fact that when I first arrived and started touring in Rogers pass this line wouldn’t have even caught my eye,” she says. “Ski mountaineering was new to me, and it was for sure not on my radar. I think as my skills evolved so did my curiosity for different lines. You can acquire the skills pretty quickly, but it takes much longer to build up your confidence and intuition.”
What also helped has been the massive snowfall in Revelstoke this season, which worked out well for Lustenberger and McNab as the mountains and alpine were filled in. And Lustenberger, or “Lusti,” as she’s called knows mountains better than most.
She’s been skiing the peaks of British Columbia for as long as she could walk. She grew up skiing near the town of Invermere where she began her racing career, which would eventually lead her to the Canadian team and the 2006 Winter Olympics. Following her retirement from competition, she landed in Revelstoke, where she’s lived for 11 years.
Her ski-forward lifestyle is supported by numerous sponsors including Black Crows, Smartwool, Pomoca, Dynafit, Oakley and Petzl. Currently, she’s in Pemberton filming with TGA and is heading to Pakistan in May for a ski-climb expedition.
With her busy lifestyle, she knew she had to take the opportunity at hand.
“The snowfall was great for us and allowed us to ski right off the summit into the line,” Lustenberger says. “We had a four-day weather window, the first three of which I was guiding. I was motivated to go and ski something for myself. I new Andrew Mcnab was keen to ski! He’s super motivated and always up for something wild and fun.
She checked the avalanche and weather forecasts and it looked good, and they went for it. The area in question is Rogers Pass in the Selkirk mountain range about 45 minutes east of Revelstoke in the national park. A popular area for ski touring. The line itself is actually visible from the highway.
That being said, there were plenty of challenges, including a large cliff midway into the line that required multiple rappels as well as building anchors as they descended.
“In the bigger scheme of things I’ve been spending the last 10 years training to become an ACMG ski guide, learning the mountain craft, and building my experience in the mountains,” Lustenberger says. “All these things add up to thinking this is a good idea.”
So, after a conversation with McNab the evening before about what gear was needed, checking permits and checking weather they set out.
“The day was super enjoyable. I hadn’t skied with Andrew in a while so we were fired up and having a time catching up on the up track,” she says. “We spent the start of the day ski touring, then a short ski descent, more ski touring, boot packing and a short section of rock scrambling until we reached the summit.”
Yes, all that was to get in position to actually ski the line.
“At this point, we geared up and started to descend the upper part of the line. We reached the rappel and started working through the cliff. Once we hit the snow and skiable terrain below the cliff we could really enjoy the turns below. You almost ski right back to the highway where we skinned and hitched a ride back to my truck.”
No big deal. Ahem.
“It’s really fun to put something together with a good friend,” she says. “It was a beautiful day and a super fun adventure with a good friend. What more can you ask?”