How could I pass up a trip to the Kananaskis fire lookout when it is freshly groomed? To repeat a well-used phrase this winter, conditions are as good as I’ve ever seen them. With a trip to the Lookout on a sunny day, I thought I might have the best photos on the blog today but Chuck has upstaged me again with his Chester Lake report and pictures.
On the drive out to K-Country, the temperature was all over the map again today. Upon arrival at Boulton creek, the air temperature was -11°C, and the snow was -14. It seemed a little warmer at the Whiskey jack – Pocaterra junction, but I’m never sure if that’s because I just finished climbing 200 vertical metres, along with bright sun shining down.
Soon after starting the climb up Whiskey jack, a descending skier saw my toque and yelled my name and screeched to a stop. It was Warren from Edmonton who has been staying in Canmore for the past five days, trying to squeeze in as much skiing as possible in the area. He said he selected his ski trips based on the trip reports on this blog, and was thrilled with the conditions he encountered.
At the top of Whiskey jack, I recruited Trish to make the draw for the winner of the Emerald Lake Lodge contest. I’m just waiting for a reply to my notification email.
Not much to say about the snow and trail conditions except they’re near-perfect. After climbing WJ, and skiing 500 metres on Pocaterra, it’s an additional 210 metres of net elevation to the Lookout. Climbing this steep 1.7K trail has never seemed so pleasant.
Two skiers were descending Lookout, and they went by so fast that I was only able to catch one of them on camera. The woman had a very cheerful look on her face and she waved her arms in the air when she saw me. Usually, you see looks of fear and trepidation. I’m pretty sure this would be the kind of snow that TSJ refers to as Steppenwolf snow.
The thermometer on the fire lookout indicated -11, which surprised me because I thought it should be warmer than that. It was pleasant at the top, standing around and talking with Alison and Ben who were there for the first time ever.
The descent on the south side is delightful for the first kilometre, but then you come to the switchbacks. One of them is so steep, it’s like skiing over a cliff. I can’t snowplow hard enough to make the turn on my skinny skis, so I walk down which doesn’t take more than a minute. The tracks over the steep embankment made it appear that someone missed the turn and went down the embankment, and had to walk back up through deep snow.
The south side trail descends about 270 metres to Boulton creek, which is the low point. You then have to climb a bit, but the final kilometre after the creek was incredibly beautiful today and I’m surprised the trees can hold so much snow on their branches.
At Hydroline, I could have taken the quick and easy route to Elk pass, but no, I did more climbing to the Patterson junction. In the open now, I had a brisk, cold wind in my face and I regretted shaving off ten days growth of facial hair.
Patterson is another fast downhill for 1K, at which time I arrived at Elk pass. I don’t know why, but Elk pass has been brutally cold the last two times I’ve skied it. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m going quickly downhill, and always late in the day, but I’m sure it was five degrees colder than anywhere else.
Fox creek and Moraine are in good shape with the odd bit of tree debris, but nothing to worry about. The fallen tree is still on Fox creek, but skiers are managing to circumvent it.
I stopped at the PLPP Discovery Centre to eat my soup and learned that the temperature had not gone higher than -8 today.
The weather forecast is calling for warmer temperatures in the mountains(but still cold enough to preserve the snow), but colder in Calgary. There’s snow in the forecast for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.