The Coolest Backcountry Ski Gig

The Alpine Club of Canada is looking for a few good skiers. Volunteers are needed to help baby-sit the one of North America’s best backcountry skiing destinations, the Bill Putnam (Fairy Meadows) Hut in Northern British Columbia.

What? You’ve never heard of the Bill Putnam Hut? It’s about 400 miles directly north of Spokane and sits on a peak in the Selkirks that would easily qualify as the middle of nowhere. This skiing locale has a formidable reputation among backcountry skiers. A 2004 profile of the Bill Putnam Hut in Outside Magazine called it “probably the most sought after backcountry ski cabin in all of Canada.”

Outside’s Sam Moulton went on to describe the Hut’s terrain as follows; “Right out the front door sit hundreds of square miles of crevassed glaciers, wide-open bowls, and cheek-puckering couloirs; there is virtually no intermediate skiing.”

Now the hut needs some help.

From November through May the Bill Putnam Hut hosts a group of 20 skiers each week. Groups are chosen by lottery and each member of a winning group pays an $800 dollar a week fee, notwithstanding food and guide costs. For the money they not only get great skiing, but also rustic-but not too rustic-hut accommodations that includes propane lights, wood-stoves for cooking and a wood-fired sauna. Who can blame visitors for being too distracted by the winter wonderland to bother with routine hut maintenance?

That’s where the new custodian program comes in. This year for the first time The Alpine Club of Canada is recruiting custodians to stay in the hut for one to two weeks at a time and assist with routine maintenance and snow shoveling. Custodians won’t be paid, and are responsible for bringing their own food and transporting themselves to the staging area near Golden, B.C. But in return they’ll get some powder paradise. “You are not working all the time so you have plenty of time to get out and ski,” says the Alpine Club’s Channin Liedtke.

“This is one of the most exciting volunteer positions we have, just because of the helicopter and the absolutely spectacular backcountry skiing opportunities available right out the front door,” says Liedtke.

Oh yeah. Did we forget to mention the helicopter ride? Another free perk of custodianship. Fairy Meadows and the Bill Putnam Hut can only be reached via helicopter.

According to Liedtke, helping care for the hut wasn’t the only reason the Alpine Club established the new custodian position this year. They wanted be able to reward loyal Club members and wanted to establish a situation where volunteers could gain experience towards becoming backcountry guides themselves. Some of the best backcountry ski guides around lead trips to Fairy Meadows giving custodians a great opportunity to learn from the best in the business.

Not just any backcountry skier will fit the bill. Here’s a short list of attributes the Alpine Club of Canada is looking for:

  • Experience working around and loading
  • A true commitment to guest service and enjoyment of helping people
  • Ample backcountry skiing experience
  • Avalanche training
  • Wilderness first aid training
  • The ability to perform light maintenance
  • Experience skiing the area surrounding the hut
  • Experience as an advanced winter trip leader for an Alpine Club of Canada regional section with special consideration given to successful winter North Face leadership course participants working towards becoming a ski guide or mountain guide
  • Flexible availability for volunteering

That list will probably leave some folks shaking their heads and others dusting off their resume.

“We rely very heavily on volunteer custodians for all of our backcountry ski destinations,” says Liedtke. The Bill Putnam Hut is one of 23 ski destinations the club administers. Many require no previous experience. There are several in B.C. and Alberta. American citizens are welcome to apply. If you aren’t a member of the Alpine Club of Canada they can help you become one. Leidtke expects they will still be accepting applications in early November and the plan is to have custodians from now on. Applicants who don’t make it this year are welcome to try again next year.

And if being a custodian isn’t for you, you can always get together 20 of your closest friends and apply for a lottery spot. Leidtke says that they get over 350 individual applications each year for the 20-22 week long slots available.

Either way Liedtke says the Fairy meadows snowfall is spectacular. “You can ski a different peak for every week that you are there.”

So how will the snow be this year? Leidtke spoke to OTM in early October and had this to say; “I have a report coming out of the Selkirks that the snow is good right now if you can believe that.”
Time to tune up your gear.


For more information on The Bill Putnam (Fairy Meadows) Hut, or any of the Alpine Club of Canada’s facilities or program please visit:
To apply for Bill Putnam Hut custodianship please send a cover letter and resume listing qualifications to: or fax to (403) 678-3224. Please state in the subject field of the e-mail or on the fax: “Fairy Meadow Hut Custodian Application.” Only those short-listed for interviews will be contacted. No telephone calls please.

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