The year of the pine needle

Early season skiing on Moraine Lake road

Early season skiing on Moraine Lake road

I’ve written 196 posts this winter. We’ve had 710 trip reports. The blog was viewed 363,059 times.

Skiing started out well. We were on snow earlier than ever.

Oct 26: Good skiing on Moraine Lake road.

Dec 27: Can you ski anywhere in the mountains right now where conditions aren’t great? Every day I go to a different trail and they’re all terrific.

Jan 6: I don’t remember a winter where I’ve been able to ski 23 consecutive times in such good conditions. Since Dec 1, we’ve had a stretch of perfect skiing
weather with excellent snow and trail conditions.

Redearth creek with tracksetting on Nov 25, 2012

Redearth creek with tracksetting on Nov 25, 2012

Then things changed.

Jan 16: I’ve never seen so much tree debris in the tracks.

Jan 23: If you ski on the most recent tracksetting, the conditions in PLPP are good. If you ski on any trail that was trackset before Jan 19th, you’ll be on a carpet of needles and debris.

At the low point, I was reduced to making a post entitled PLPP Needle and cone report. Fortunately, conditions improved and I was back to more positive reports such as Utopia for xc skiers and Skiing at its best.

As we’re winding down, I’d be interested in your thoughts on the ski season. What stood out for you about this winter? Did you do as much skiing as you wanted? Did you miss out on any trails that were on your agenda at the start of the season?

For me, a few things are noteworthy. I’ll remember 2012-2013 as the year of the pine needle. We’ve had them in the past but never to the extent that we saw this winter. We also went six weeks with very little snow, which compounded the pine needle problem.

Photo submitted to the Emerald Lake Lodge contest by Dianne

Photo submitted to the Emerald Lake Lodge contest by Dianne

Although there were some challenges, I could list hundreds of wonderful things about this winter, so here are a few hilites for me:

  • I spent many a wonderful day skiing the Skogan pass trails, and made it to Skogan pass summit for the first time in my life.
  • It was nice to ski on Lake O’Hara fire road for the first time in at least eight years.
  • I skied the Goat creek/Spray river trail to Banff 7 times, probably the most ever. Goat creek in good conditions is a phenomenal trail.
  • The success of Kicking Horse Ski Club’s efforts to maintain tracksetting in Yoho and Emerald Lake, with some help from readers of this blog.
  • All the terrific photos which were submitted by readers for the Emerald lake Lodge contest.
  • The outstanding readership of this blog. It was up over last year by at least 40%.
  • The willingness of my readers to leave trip reports in order to enlighten others about the trail conditions. As I’ve said before, it’s the life-blood of this blog.
  • Meeting so many of my readers and trip reporters on the trails.
  • A trip report from Chip with the descriptive phrase, “soul-mending rhythm of cross-country skiing.” I’ll be repeating that to myself all summer in anticipation.
  • …and this one from Mary Perrott: “The creek area just north of the Patterson junction was particularly lovely today: mounds of untracked, sculpted white snow, etched with long blue shadows cast by the half-bright sun.”


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  1. I didn’t get out as much as I would have liked to this year, but I certainly have enjoyed reading your blog! I’d really like to ski some of the other areas that you talk about, but not alone. Perhaps part of your site could include a section for people with similar skill levels to meet up with each other, so we are able to ski with a group/partner? It certainly was a pleasure chatting with you at the Nordic Centre, and I thank you for your encouraging words.

  2. I wanted to say thanks to Bob and all other contributors for a great, yet too brief, season. That being said, it looks like there’s about 8 cm of fresh snow outside my window here in Calgary this morning. How is it in K country/Canmore?

    My highlights were trips to Nipika and Ribbon Creek this year.

  3. Just went out for perhaps what might be the “last” skate ski of the season at CNC. We just moved out to this area this past year so I am a newbie to the trails and to this site. Really enjoyed the site and checked it as often as the mountain weather changes! Also just got into skate sking this year so the combo of skate and classic has been fantastic! Anyways we are hooked and we appreciate the site and all the people that feed their adventures and reports into! Way to go Bob and we are stoked for next year!

  4. I too enjoy checking out this blog on a daily ( sometimes many times a day) basis and really enjoy reading about fellow snowshoer/skiers adventures. Myself, I had a very good season. Logged a lot of miles on the shoes including some 14 hour treks that people think I am crazy for :). One highlight was Taylor Lake/ Panorama Pass where I introduced a friend of mine to snowshoeing and got her hooked on it. Plus it was a quiet day in terms of having the trail to ourselves and the views of the surrounding area were incredible. The best trip of the year though was getting my wife into snowshoes for the first time and seeing the look of pure enjoyment on her face as we went along the trail is something I will never forget. We live in the most beautiful place on earth and for a guy who has spent his entire life in the bush and mountains, there is no place I would rather be, no matter what the season. Thanks Bob for a truly amazing website!

  5. I really enjoyed the increase of pictures, not only a nice reprieve grinding away in my windowless office (my choice, too many squirrels, both figuratively and literally) but a chance to see other places still unknown. Now if we could get the webcam at PLPP to read a more accurate temp! Utopia.

  6. For me it was getting back on skis (in early December) after an October back injury that I was afraid would put me out for six months – like last time. Thanks to Kim and Jennifer (physiotherapy) for getting me all fixed up. I’m certain the skiing helped strengthen and loosen it up, I think it’s a great all-round exercise. I’m already looking forward to next year’s season.

  7. Season highlights were the mom grizzly and 3 cubs walking down the middle of Hwy. 40 just north of Castle Junction gas station at around noon in late November (as I headed to Sawmill). I parked and watched from a safe distance as they walked north right on the centre line until drivers “in a hurry” forced them into the forest. Another highlight was on Dec. 29 after skiing Sawmill when I sat in my car as a moose licked the front and sides. She was so big and so gentle. I have been out 29 times this season. Thanks to Mt. Shark groomers, and thanks to Jeff the groomer of the Kovach/Skogan trail system. Excellent work, young man!

  8. Many thanks for SkiHere Bob!! I check it pretty much every day. All the trip reports from everyone were extremely helpful, often funny, and always informative.
    Why oh why did I take 25-30 years off from this wonderful winter activity?? Last time (before this year) that I went up Skogan Pass, I don’t think Nakiska was even there!! Anyone want an OLD pair of wooden Gresshoppa Finse skis complete with some big ol’ cable bindings?? Free to a good home. Some really nice bamboo poles too!! This winter I skied 398 kms . . . which rounds up to 1705kms. Not too bad for first year back?? Next year, if you see a lonely (I’m a (sniff) solo skier) looking fellow (in a bright orange touque), who’s the spittin’ image of Brad Pitt please stop and say hi. I used to absolutely hate winter . . . now I hate for it to end. My thanks too all. Here’s too a short summer!!

    • Hi Graeme, welcome back to x-country skiing. I would be more than happy to provide a very good home to those old skis. Let me know how I can get in touch or you can contact me at thorsten dot eiben at And winter’s not over yet …

    • Graeme, why are you skiing alone! There is no need to be so lonely with so many of us out there! How can we help you?

  9. I totally mimic Ray’s comments thinking I’m the one accountable for the 300,000 hits! Skier Bob, you put in an incredible season and what I especially appreciate about you is your absolute LOVE of the sport to pass on to people at every level: from the youngest of toddlers on Ribbon Creek to the top International racers competing at CNC. While formal track-setting will soon be over and all those great guys behind the machines know how much we have appreciated their skillfulness at it, there will still be snow ‘a coming and we can skier track our way through it. On April 3rd, 2001 in Lac Des Arcs we experienced 28″ in one day! Spring may be here but winter is not yet over. I hope to have my 75th ski of the season making it all the way into Shadow Lake. It seems we are already suffering from “skierbob website withdrawal”! Thank you Bob (and Cheryl) for the massive hours you put into keeping us all informed and for making us all feel we know one another.

  10. I was looking at some old posts from 2008 – 2009, the first year of this blog’s existence: I said on April 8, 2009: “I am pleasantly surprised at the interest which this blog received: it has been viewed 16,463 times since I started it in November!”

    This past winter, we surpassed that number before the end of October.

  11. Bob, a great ski season, too bad it has to end so soon. If your blog has been viewed 363,059 times, sometimes I feel like 300,000 of those were by me checking things. A great source of information, and its so nice to hear of the experiences of others. You’ve done yeoman work, checking out the conditions on various trails yourself, and spreading the word on some lesser used trails too. Next winter can’t come soon enough – hiking is good but doesn’t have that “soul mending rhythm” to it. Thanks!

  12. I’ll remember this as the year I discovered this website. After suffering way too many stupid little injuries and spending way too much money on that other kind of skiing, I decided to return to the sport that I loved years ago when I lived way up north. From skiing on Moraine Lake Rd. in October, to telling my colleague Robert (the guy who won the skis!) about your blog, to learning that PLPP is even more awe-inspiring in the winter than it is in the summer, to finding the courage to attempt Skogan Pass just last week, you’ve made my return to real skiing a much richer experience. I didn’t actually make it to the top of the pass, but there’s always next year!
    Thanks Bob.

    • Darrell, I have to agree.

      There is something a bit dark and ‘brooding’ about the lakes area of PLPP in the fall, especially early and late in the day when the sun is gone.
      I imagine that the great divide weather has much to say about this as well.

      It certainly is a transformation in winter, when it becomes the bright, white playground which we now follow through the wonderful photos and stories by Bob and followers of SkiHere.

      Gotta’ love it! Wish I was there !

  13. Hey Bob, thanks for your excellent website, I visted many times a week this season to check on conditions for my weekend sking, it’s invaluable and I got to hear about places to ski I don’t even know existed. Already looking forward to next year 🙂

  14. My thoughts? Best things in life are free. I purchased a season pass for COP in hopes to get an early start to the season and some mid-week skiing in this winter only to find out that they “don’t use artificial snow for the cross-country tracks”. I went once in December and conditions were poor. Most I ever paid per km of skiing. Also made the annual donation for Bragg Creek. Ended up going three times this winter – second most expansive skiing/km (having said that they obviously cannot do anything against the weather and I absolutely appreciate their efforts and will continue to support them).
    Contrast this with the ‘free’ skiing I enjoyed this winter in KC and the NPs: Boom Lake, Sundance Lodge, Marmot Basin, Skogan Pass, Mt. Shark, Skoki Lodge, Chickadee Valley. Again, it was a winter where too much time was spent in the car but then again I’m thankful that I live in a place where I have that choice.

  15. I enjoy reading your blog everyday. Keep up the good work.

  16. This was my first winter back after four years in central BC and I was excited to discover your new-to-me website. I really appreciate the effort you put in to keep it up-to-date and to engage others, and I’m also impressed by the number of discounts you’ve negotiated with related businesses. I hope you’re able to keep this website going for years to come!

  17. What a fabulous ski season! I am so sad to see it disappearing. Thanks to you Bob for all your dedicated work to make this website happen. Now onto the hiking season…
    Happy Trails to all!

  18. We all wait to get to every day to see what Bob has done today. Continues to be the best website around. As the season winds down, I think it was fantastic. The early start and fantastic conditions for the first half were amazing, and I really enjoyed all my outings. Skied MLR today in variable spring conditions on my waxless skis. It was so beautiful up top, as always. It definitely felt like the end (at least for me) is near. Keep up the good work – we are all so grateful.

  19. If you are having a bad day due to icy conditions… check this out:
    This is just an interlude!

    That’s even better than last year’s 🙂 -Bob

  20. Winter is just too damned short. Bob, you have driven me to distraction with your exploits this year – at times I turned notification off when my job or personal life was too demanding.

    May we get a few more days this season, and may the snow fly early next fall.

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