I also want to thank you for a wonderful site and your facilitation in connecting so many with at least one thing in common – love for winter and SNOW! Although I’ve always loved winter and cross country skiing, I didn’t realize how much until I missed most of last winter while on a trip in New Zealand. Every time it snowed this winter I was celebrating although my co-workers thought I was crazy!
Just thought I’d provide some ski conditions on the Skoki Trail…
I skied into Skoki Lodge this past weekend with a friend (April 11/12) and we had the most wonderful time! While I’m not an expert backcountry skier, here’s my snow conditions report (on or just off of the trail into Skoki). For reference / context we skied on waxable light touring equipment (Fischer E99 Europa, NNN BC bindings).
The Ski In – In general, the snow surface was quite hard with temperatures hovering around zero. I only broke through the crust in a couple of places and for the most part when I was off of the snowmobile trail, the crust held my weight. Apparently the day before, people had a tough go constantly breaking through.
We ended up skinning up well before Boulder Pass. Normally, I try to wax up as long as I can but I refuse to carry klister with me! We waxed across Ptarmigan Lake then skinned up Deception Pass.
Downhill skiing from Deception Pass just off of the trail near the Wolverine Slopes was quite difficult because of how previous ski tracks had “set up” in the hard snow and more so because of my lack of downhill ability. I ended up doing one cartwheel at high speed but my friend unfortunately missed the entertainment. What’s the point of bailing if no one is watching? Ha ha ha ha! Best technique seemed to be to snowplow with one ski acting as a light “outrigger” (as described by Paul who was heading up to do a killer downhill survival schuss just for the fun of it). In a couple of spots, my friend walked down. I was obviously seeking a Jane Fonda “burn” and with a few rest stops, snowplowed the way down. The lodge with its gourmet snacks, soup and tea was a royal treat!
Another couple managed to get up to Merlin Ridge the same day from the Lodge and said their klister worked well until they encountered some fresh snowfall near the end of the day. Another lady had skied the Fossil Mountain Loop and had said it was beautiful.
The Ski Out – The fresh snow from the evening before transformed the trails. I was planning on waxing up to Deception Pass but Leo mentioned that everyone pretty much skins up so I followed suit. I think I could have waxed it but there is something to be said for just being able to put one foot in front of the other and not worry about weight transfer, technique, etc. I was using G3 skins (grey). I previously had disappointing experiences with them (they climb extremely well but the glide was nil) but they seemed to work nicely in the fresh snow (both up and some glide) so I’m not planning on selling them yet!
I ended up skiing halfway down below Deception Pass with my skins on (I’ll have to work on my downhill technique next year!). I found the old tracks and pockets of hard smooth crust mixed between patches of fresh snow clinging to the surface quite tiring and so I walked the remainder of the way down. Others managed to find some “softer snow” on skier’s right and the chute down from Packers Pass???. Near the bottom, I waxed up for the trip across the lake and had no problems waxing up Boulder Pass. I then walked down the first steep part (you had a choice between a solid ice traverse or a very steep downhill section). I’ve skied it in the past so no need to prove myself!
Finally, at the bottom of the steep bit, we put our skis back on and had lots of fun on the less steep, but quite windy parts down to the meadow. The three families that had stayed at the lodge were pulling up to the Halfway Hut for lunch so we decided to continue along the trail – again, lots of fun with the extra bit of fresh snow (3 – 5 cm?)
On the Lake Louise ski-out, the coverage was good except for a section in the middle where a path was cut in the trees (just up from the Fish Creek Parking Lot), causing the base to melt out and dirt/rocks to appear on the snow.
Overall, it seemed that the snow coverage in the area was less then what I remember seeing the other times I skied up the trail in the spring. With some more snowfalls, I’m sure the trip will still be great. Nothing beats the scenery up there and worst case scenario – just skin up and walk up.
Oh – I should mention that there was a group of “runners” who arrived at the lodge at around ten in the morning just prior to us heading out and then beat us all out on the way out. Crazy people those runners!!! But obviously the trail was hard enough for them - although closer to the trailhead I noticed that they were punching through the crust (ouch! those poor shins) as conditions warmed up a bit.
Finally, I should note that Skoki is now closed for the winter but Katie, Leo and family are fabulous hosts. I know for many the prices seem out of reach (we managed to get in for one night on a last minute booking) but all I can recommend is that you hold off on the latte’s and save up…because every Canadian should experience the magic of Skoki Lodge.