Thanks for the tracks

April 1, 2020

Where would we be without the guys and gals who spend hours on their snowmobiles and snowcats, grooming the trails for us, at ungodly hours, sometimes exposed to extreme cold? We’d be plowing through some pretty deep snow.

Canmore Nordic Centre. Photo by Chris McKenna

It never fails to get me excited when I arrive at a trailhead and see new tracks. We’re very fortunate to have dedicated tracksetters who take a lot of pride in their work and make the trails so enjoyable for us.  All skiers are thankful for the excellent work and all the up-to-the-minute reports which you’ve given us.

Tracksetter Jody with chainsaw

Back on Nov 25 at the Pocaterra hut, I encountered PLPP tracksetter Jody heading out on a snowmobile to do some early-season tree-clearing and roller-packing with chain saw and shovel in tow. I suggested that we should call him “Chainsaw Jody.” Little did I know that one month later, the chainsaw would be in daily use on all the trails to clear trees after the Dec 20-22 snow and ice storm. 

I’ve posted photos below, but I’d like to mention the names of those I know about, but don’t have pictures…

Linda – Shaganappi golf course

Jamie Grant – Confederation golf course

Adam Aldridge – Canmore Nordic Centre

Stephane Wiseman – Canmore Nordic Centre

I hope the people who are missing from the gallery of photos will send me a picture. bobtruman@shaw.ca

2019-2020 the best ever

West Bragg Creek Jan 2, 2020. Photo by Steve Riggs

I am confident in saying it was the best ski season in the 12 years that I’ve been doing this blog. Even with the sudden ending. I thought it was fitting to highlight this post with a photo from West Bragg Creek, where conditions were excellent for most of the winter. 

Castle Lookout to Baker Creek. Jan 11, 2020. Photo by Chuck

Two years ago(2017-2018), we had an excellent winter but I think 2019-2020 tops them all. 

We had early snow, and very little bad weather such as rain, excessive wind, or extended cold periods. I don’t recall any “defensive” skiing, luge tracks, or snow fleas. Probably the biggest inconvenience was occasional tree debris. In December, the ice storm brought down a lot of trees, but the trail crews were quick to clean it up. 

Bill Milne. Dec 24, 2019

Worst to first

Conditions one year ago, 2018-2019, were pretty sketchy and I considered it to be one of the poorer seasons. Things turned around this year, however, and I recorded more “Best Days” in my log book as a percentage of trips than ever before. A “Best Day” is when I consider conditions to be perfect. 

We’ve lost two or three weeks of skiing due to the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the world. I truly hope all my readers are safe and taking precautions. 

The photos below are the third set I’ve posted with the help of the professionals from Best Website Hosting from this remarkable winter. If you missed the first set of photos which I posted a few days ago: The Year of Winter Wonderland

…and the second set: People and Animals Along the Ski Trail

A picture postcard winter

Painting by Anne Brown

The above painting was made from the photo below. I originally attributed the photo to Groomer Dave at West Bragg Creek, but I was subsequently informed it was actually taken by artist Anne Brown, Groomer Dave’s wife. 

East Crystal Line at WBC. Nov 10, 2019. Photo by Anne Brown

Don’t ski here!

Briony and Lyen at Tyrwhitt/Pocaterra/Lookout junction

Mar 28, 2020

Thanks for all the “pandemic” comments. We have a lot of thoughtful people following this blog. 

My final ski trip of the season last evening was wonderful, but sad at the same time knowing it would be the last one of the season, and possibly forever. 

Tyrwhitt

My understanding is that Highway #40 is now closed at Mt Kidd RV Park, so the only folks who will benefit from this report are the people who live in PLPP. That includes all the workers who live in staff housing and the dozens of people who have cabins along the lower lake. Some of you are probably not aware of the “grandfathered” cabin owners since they are well-hidden. 

The trails were groomed on the 26th(it says the 27th on the Live Grooming Report, but it was actually the 26th) and were in excellent condition. I was slowed down a bit when it started snowing at the top of Whiskey Jack and for part of Tyrwhitt. 

Someone who skied Whiskey Jack previous to me wrote “100” in the snow. I’m not sure what the significance was, but it compelled me to go back through my records and count how many times I’ve skied Whiskey Jack, thinking I had probably done it 100 times. It’s the trail I’ve skied more than any other in the SkierBob universe. It turns out I’ve skied Whiskey Jack 194 times! (But it’s still not enough. No amount will ever be enough).

Starting out on my all-time favourite loop

I well remember the first time I skied WJ. It was Dec 11, 1998 with George Smith and it was the first time I skied any of the south trails in PLPP and was overwhelmed with the beautiful surroundings, the variety, and conditions.

At 6 pm, there was one other vehicle in the Boulton Creek parking lot and I was happy to meet Briony and Lyen at the Tyrwhitt/Lookout/Pocaterra junction. 

Guess the trail…

I will post the photos from yesterday without any captions to see how many of you can name the trail or specific location. I’ve numbered the photos, so leave a comment with your guesses. Anyone who has skied the “Loop” will find this very easy. Update: GMJ identified all of them correctly. See his comment. 

Chuck deserves our support

This pandemic is bringing out the worst in a few people who are willing to throw around insults when they don’t have a clue. Decisions are made with the information that’s available at the time. It’s disengenuous to criticize anyone for breaking rules which are actually not in effect. I received the following email from Chuck:

“It is unfortunate that there is mixed information out there.

I was comfortable to do my trip to Boom Lake based on this article in the Crag & Canyon dated March 25:

https://www.thecragandcanyon.ca/news/local-news/covid-19-empties-national-parks-of-tourists

Note the paragraph that reads:

Visitor facilities in all Parks Canada places across the country are now temporarily closed until further notice, visitors may access front country, backcountry and accessible green spaces, but are responsible for their own safety.

As I said, the washroom was being cleaned when we arrived (we even used it when the cleaner left) the parking lot was plowed and there was no sign indicating any closure or restricted activities at the trailhead.

My reporting has always been based on updating our ski community on what current opportunities are available.”

It would be appropriate for the folks who criticized and insulted Chuck to apologize to him for their impulsive outbursts( and not the weasel-worded non-apologies “I’m sorry if I offended anyone…”). 

Alberta Parks update

March 27 @ 10 pm

I know this is already old news, but below is what was posted on the Live Grooming Reports and goes into effect at midnight tonight.

“Vehicle access is temporarily suspended at access points to Alberta’s provincial parks and recreation areas for recreation purposes until further notice. The restrictions are in place to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

If a car is required to access a park or recreation area, these areas will not be available so make other plans. Although, walking, hiking, biking, horseback riding and off-highway vehicle use are still permitted on designated trails, access points will be limited.”

If I understand it correctly, the ski trails are still open, it’s just that you will require a helicopter to access them. 

Grooming in PLPP, Ribbon Creek, and Mt Shark has ended for the season, and maybe forever. 

Sorry for the late update, but I was skiing in PLPP until 8 pm. Last person on the trail. 

I’m disappointed to see the nastiness that this pandemic has brought out in people. Please don’t post personal insults in the comments. You can disagree without being disagreeable.

The final grooming was wonderful

Wedge Connector

We took advantage of yesterday’s tracksetting on Wedge and Evan Thomas and had a great day of skiing. You may have read on the Ribbon Creek trail report that grooming has finished for the season on the Kananaskis Village, Ribbon Creek, Bill Milne, Wedge, Skogan Pass trails. 

Christine on Wedge Connector

Back on Dec 27, I took a beginner skier, Ricky, for his first ever ski trip. He got hooked and skied a number of times this winter. We went back(in separate vehicles) to Wedge pond today along with Christine and enjoyed a beautiful day of skiing on cold snow and excellent tracks. 

The end of the Wedge Connector at Evan-Thomas creek

The wind was howling and snow was drifting along highway #40 all the way to the Wedge pond trailhead. Wedge and Evan-Thomas are well protected for the most part by heavy forest, so the wind was not a problem. The trees also help protect the snow from the sun, although that’s becoming an issue with the sun so high in the sky now. 

The temperature at 1 pm was +1°C with four well-spaced vehicles in the parking lot. I waxed with VR50(0/-4) and had good grip. The tracks were fast but not icy. 

I’ll be overcome with sadness if these trails aren’t groomed next winter. 

People and animals along the ski trails

Moraine Lake road by Chuck. Nov 20, 2019.

Remember when social distancing wasn’t a thing? This set of photos from the past ski season brings back memories of happier times when we didn’t have to fear getting close to others. 

Moose in PLPP by Ian and Darlene. Mar 25, 2020

Ian and Darlene posted some remarkable photos yesterday on their trip report from PLPPP and two of them have made the cut to be included in this set of pictures from the winter of 2019-2020. 

Courtney with her dog Pippa, and dad, on Mountain road at West Bragg Creek. Feb 24, 2020

The photo at the top is interesting in many ways, not only because it shows people gathered in a large group at the end of Moraine Lake road. The snow conditions were so amazing close to Calgary in the early season that I never even skied to the end of Moraine Lake road once this winter. I usually make half-a-dozen trips to Lake Louise in November to enjoy the early snow. This year we were making the short trip to West Bragg Creek. 

One of the benefits of West Bragg Creek, besides the short drive, are all the families and dogs which I get to see. The photo of little Courtney being pulled along the trail by her dog Pippa, along with a smiling dad, brings a smile to my face whenever I look at it. 

The year of Winter Wonderland

Bill Milne Dec 24

With ski season drawing to a close, it’s time to start posting my favourite photos from this past winter. This year presents a challenge because I have so many great pictures. It’s been the best winter for conditions in the 12 years that I’ve been running this blog.  Continue reading

“Albertans can go outside”

“Going outside and being active should be encouraged.” – Dr Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. “As long as they take proper precautions while around others, Albertans can go outside for some fresh air, even while self-isolating.”

If you go skiing, remember the social distancing protocol of staying 2 metres away from others. It’s easy to do in the great outdoors. I wish people at the grocery stores were as responsible as the skiers I’ve encountered lately. Continue reading