I saw on the Live Grooming Report that Fox Creek and Moraine had been trackset recently, so that was like an invitation to ski the Tyrwhitt loop in the south end of PLPP.
I stopped at Pocaterra hut on the way to Boulton Creek and took a photo of Pocaterra trail. The snow and tracks at the hut looked very good. The hut thermometer indicated 0°C.
As I was preparing to ski, Ray and Mary showed up at Boulton Creek as they were finishing their day of skiing. You can read Mary’s assessment of the middle trails on the Trip Reports. Ray told me about the flea-fest on Whiskey jack, and Mary warned me about the icy hardpack on the steep section of WJ.
Armed with the new info, I decided to change my usual route of starting up WJ and decided to take Moraine and Fox Creek to Elk Pass. I was even considering avoiding WJ altogether, and going to the high point on Tyrwhitt, and turning around and retracing my steps back.
Moraine was in very nice shape with a couple cm of new snow on good tracks. The only sketchy area was the exposed section and the hill which were down to hardpack. There was just enough new snow, however, that I had no trouble getting grip with my VR50(0/-4). The snow was also cold enough that I had no issues with grip.
Fox Creek had brand new tracksetting and it was easy to see there had been a lot of debris and Margerita snow prior to the grooming. Reports from skiers had mentioned debris and icy conditions, but the tracksetters did a great job and it skied really nice. I wish I had been going the other direction as it’s more downhill, so there’s another reason to come back this way.
Elk Pass has about 6-8 cm of new snow over the tracksetting. At the North Hydroline junction, it looked like all the snowshoers avoided the snowshoe trail(there’s even a trail marker for it), and headed up the Elk Pass ski trail instead. More on this later.
John was the first skier I met. He was finishing up the loop in the opposite direction and reported good snow conditions on Tyrwhitt. I was also happy to see Yvon and Joelle coming down Elk Pass. They’ve moved away from Canmore, but were back for a few days’ visit. Joelle was on my loppet team the year we broke the 5-hour barrier. She’s fast.
At the top of Elk pass I took note of the snowshoe trail. It was completely untracked by any snowshoes. I broke trail from the picnic table to the snowshoe trail marker, hoping it might show them how to find it. That is, if you aren’t able to see the big red sign with an image of a snowshoer on it.
Tyrwhitt also had 6-8 cm of fresh snow at the Elk Pass end, but less as you headed north. When I reached the high point on Tyrhwitt I deliberated for a moment wheteher to continue on or to turn around. I decided to finish the loop. How bad could the snow fleas be on Whiskey Jack, anyway?
In retrospect, I wish I had turned around. The fleas were thick in the tracks, turning them black in places. The icy section which Mary warned me about was really icy. In fact, I hit it going way too fast and couldn’t make the turn and ended up in the deep, deep snow in the run-out zone. Deep snow full of snow fleas. Between the fresh snow and the fleas, the downhill on WJ was really slow, too.
I don’t know what’s so unique about Whiskey Jack that it attracts all the fleas because the other trails had very few. Ray noted that the dark fleas absorb the sun’s rays and help to melt the snow, too.