40 cm on Elk Pass

Update: Video has been posted It was like skiing in a picture postcard

The snow depth varied between 30- 40 cm, but when I fell, it seemed even deeper! I’ll let my friend Chip tell the story of today’s ski trip:

There are few things more enjoyable than a sun-drenched day spent playing in the snow when most of the world is forced to show up for jobs that many would just as soon dump. Bob and I encountered a dump of different sort on Thursday, when we ventured down to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park for an exploratory ski in the Elk Pass area.

We began with a very civilized noon meeting time. Driving south along the Kananaskis Highway, simultaneous smiles broke out as we looked skyward to see the sun come through low cloud and glanced down to the new snow that had collected in the trees. Surely this would be a fine day for skiing.

Arriving at the Elk Pass parking lot, we were a bit surprised to find that there had been no track-setting. Fortunately, because of our relaxed start time, we were able to take advantage of the efforts of a few early risers.  This turned out to be critical, because there was about 30 cm of fresh snow on the ground, covering the packing that had been done a few days earlier. If not for the laborious trail-breaking of Allen, Helen, and Brendan, we’d have made slow progress indeed. As it was, our average speed was a tortoise-like 4.8 km/h.

Despite the sweat, it was a stupendous day. The Fox Creek trail was in ideal condition, a rarity in my experience. We did have a bit of unexpected bush-bashing, as a rather troublesome pine had fallen across the trail. At the junction with Elk Pass, we headed uphill again, taking advantage of Helen’s earlier work and marveling at the peaceful quiet and the heavy snow weighing down the pines.

With the temperature hovering around -3 C and the winds noticeably absent, it was a perfect day to be in the woods. Unfortunately, our skinny skis were no match for the snow depth. Near the Patterson junction, where Helen had turned back, we toyed with the idea of continuing on, but Bob’s greater wisdom won out over my bull-headedness and we turned ‘round, following the same route back to the car for tea and a snack.

Not wanting the day to end, we headed up again, this time taking the more thinly covered Moraine trail for about 3 km until darkness and hunger compelled a return to the car. The ski ended with wild speculations of how much track-setting might take place over the next few days, and how many wonderful hours of skiing this would enable.

A pleasant and cheap culinary surprise marked the end of the day. We stopped in at the Stoney-Nakoda Casino, which was advertising a pasta buffet for the irresistible price of only $9.99. Pasta wasn’t the only food on offer. We were treated to a variety of salads, Lino’s mouth-watering pork roast and a dessert bar that helped us regain the calories expended earlier. My personal favorite was the apple crisp with pumpkin custard sauce. I would have gone back for “seconds”, but my belly argued otherwise. I can recommend the buffet for anyone who has worked off a little fat in the tracks.

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