Dec 28, 2020: My ski trip to Hummingbird Plume checked all the boxes. Recently, I’ve been hitting the trails when they are in prime condition, and the lucky streak continued today.
For me, prime condition is recent tracksetting with no fresh snow in the tracks, fast but not icy. The wax is grippy and I don’t have to herringbone, yet the skis fly on the downhills. Blue skies, calm air, and pleasant temperatures just add to the enjoyment.
The highlight of today’s trip was the descent on High Level. The sunlight on the snow and trees was magical and dreamlike. The second highlight, of course, was the descent on the Screamer in these excellent conditions.
A few short months ago, I was riding my bike on these trails and it’s amazing to see the contrast between summer and winter. What a wonderful country we live in, to be able to experience the remarkable differences in seasons.
The only blemish on a fantastic day were the four hikers who postholed Skogan Pass and Sunburst. Thankfully they stayed out of the tracks, but I encountered all of them and politely explained the consequences of their actions. I didn’t have to look at their mess when I was on High Level, and that probably made it more enjoyable.
I was lucky to find a parking spot at the Stoney trailhead around 12 noon. The vehicles were lined up down the road. Most people were hiking to Troll Falls. Stoney Trail looked like a superhighway.
I enjoy the scenery on Hay Meadow and that’s where I started out, but I’m going to save the Hay Meadow report for another day. The trail report this morning remarked “Expect lots of foot traffic on Hay Meadow trail.” LOL I’ll start my report with the slog up Ruthie’s, when I was able to leave the hordes behind.
The air temperature was -5ºC and blue wax did the trick. Ruthie’s and Sunburst are both incredibly steep but I don’t think I had to herringbone more than once.
I met lots of skiers on the way up who knew me but I didn’t know them. At the Skogan/Ruthie’s junction, I met Jessie, Carla and their friendly dog Raimei who were on these trails for the first time and I was able to give them some helpful advice.
No one has ever seen a hummingbird at Hummingbird Plume in the summer, let alone winter. I wonder how it got that name. The old gazebo is slowly falling apart. I have photos from 20 years ago when it was still remarkably intact.
Jeff, when he wasn’t gazing at the moon, trackset the village trails tonight. In PLPP, I’m hoping that Tyrwhitt and Lookout will finally get the grooming which has been coming to them since the big snowfall.
I skied the lookout loop as a side trip on the way back from Skogan Pass today, and encountered 3 more avid subscribers to “Postholer Quarterly” magazine. In all honesty- the divots were annoying to see, but didn’t really affect the skiing for me. I did have to remind the one young woman to “please stay out of the set tracks”- I think it was just a momentary lapse on her part, as the track setting remained in good shape on descending Sunburst. High Level is still pristine.
My understanding was that the fire lookout (gazebo) was built by the POWs who were “incarcerated” at the Barrier Lake POW camp, which was where the UofC Field Station is located.
I thought the Barrier lake camp was mainly for “suspicious” civilians , hence more a prison camp rather than a POW camp.
It was originally used for civilian internees, but for most of its lifetime it was indeed a POW camp used for detaining soldiers (source: the Alberta Register of Historic Places).
hope this area gets re-trackset tonight .what a mess ! ! be nice if parks puts up some newer educational signs for the walkers and starts an enforcement campaign in this area ,now that we have to personally pay to have tracks set.
One problem trail information is different users plan their trip based on a variety of trail sites. While XC skiers often refer to SkierBob for information, mountain bikers will refer to TrailForks (which describes Skogan Pass as a mountain bike trail). And hikers will often use All-Trails, which is notoriously filled with mis-information. All-Trails describes Hummingbird Plume Lookout as being “primarily used for hiking, trail running and backpacking”. But, if that is what someone uses as their information source, then you can expect to see hikers on that trail.
Hay Meadow is an interesting example of conflicting information. The Kananaskis Trail Report lists it as only having a “Skier symbol” in the winter… but the text says “Expect heavy foot traffic”. Not exactly consistent information.
According to Gillean Daffern, the name was given in the 70s by Don Gardner, who designed the original Ribbon Creek trails (as well as the original PLPP and West Bragg trails). The building on top isn’t a gazebo, it’s a fire lookout that was staffed by POWs during World War II when the summit was open following the huge fires of 1936.
We can call it the gazebo fire lookout shack. How’s that for rivet counting…