Alf Skrastins has provided a list of trails that are suitable for xc touring skis.
Click to see the
Scroll down to see the trip reports. To leave a report, click on add one.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and site URL in my browser for next time I post a comment.
Notify me of new posts by email.
Sat sep 16: highwood pass area snow.
Mist mountain and lipsett were plastered with snow Saturday, along with peaks in tombstone pass and the upper sheep river (made me hopeful of a ski day in October). drier further west and north. Larches not quite in prime colour yet. Another week maybe. Hopefully needles will survive the next storm system. Crazy busy on the pocaterra side, including babies at 8800 ft!?!?
Jul 28: galatea lakes. Kananaskis web site indicates trail open, lillian lake campground closed due to avalanche damaging bear proof food bins, but not recommended for hiking due to avalanche debri. There is only one debri path to cross and mostly just snow, for now. A bit of a compact icy crossing in the AM that benefits from poles and good boots, might need cleats as it melts and consolidates later, but doesn’t really warrant a “not recommended” rating (hence this report) unless wearing running shoes. Still 16 operable food bins so not sure why camp is closed other than safety during construction. Supposed to happen jul 31 and be open aug 4. No damage to tent pads and trail completely fine other than the one short snow crossing. No smoke that way today. And no bob sightings (not a bike trail). Maybe he is skiing in chile.
Grizzly Col, June 23
It must be about time for another ski report!
After a short hike of less than 2 km, we were able to ski into Pocaterra Cirque and Grizzly Col. It was a cool +4C when we started and it only warmed to about 14C by afternoon. Skiing was actually pretty good, for June, with only a few soft spots here and there.
Only 3 months of marginal skiing left, before Frozen Thunder in October!
May Long Weekend
What better way to spend the May Long Weekend than skiing? The Monashee Mountains still have a lot of snow, which is quite concerning for people who live in the Shuswap/Okanagan. I spent 4 days going to Monashee Chalet, near Blue River, BC. We started skiing at about 1100m elevation (like Calgary). The chalet is at 1850m (like Chester parking lot). The snow was still just over 3.5 metres deep at the chalet. Sunshine, 20 C temps and snow covered mountains is a great recipe for fun!
What a glorious way to spend the long weekend! It looks wonderful, but did you have to hike out at the end?
We only needed to hike a few hundred metres this time. Some years, there may be as much as 8 km of hiking interspersed with short snow patches.
What is the total distance in to the chalet?
It is 14 km from Highway #5 to the Chalet. We were able to drive almost 4 km up the forestry road until we reached the snow. It was about 10 km from there to the chalet.
Fantastic! BBQ’d corn! Amazing difference in snow amounts geographically. Thanks for the east slope comparative. Still looking forward to some pics from the sol mountain trip. Was in Nihahi creek Monday of the long weekend up by the canyon. Could see folks on top of nihahi ridge. Looked like some snow obstacles of course, but way less than anticipated given all the fresh stuff seen on the Thursday before.
No snow on the ridge now, few patches here and there. The final push to the summit seems like something out of an Everest climb, ppl waiting to get up and down “the step”. Hugely popular yesterday.
We just got back after a month away, and I was really missing skiing, a lot!! So decided to try my luck up the Smith-Dorrien yesterday. Very tame compared with other reports here, I know……
After the snowfall Tuesday-Wednesday, I had hoped for more, but it was mostly melted by the time I got there. A big melt-freeze cycle made for rather icy early morning ascent, and somewhat slushy return by 10 am. Still a good base there, right from the parking lot, a fair bit of open water but no ladders required, yet!
The most fun I had was skiing around the dryas meadows in between the icy and slushy conditions. I saw tracks from Wednesday, probably going up to Burstall Pass. Perhaps they found some good turns up there 😉
PARKER RIDGE – May 15
For all those still trying to give up the habit… 7 months after starting our ski season… we headed up to Parker Ridge. Amazing conditions (solid snowpack with a couple of new centimetres last night) and easy turns on the descent with a high temperature of 5 degrees.
The views are what we were after, and they were magnificent (Jeannette had the camera):
Wonderful. Jeannette has a great photographic eye!
Great Goats Chuck!
I counted three old goats in the photos, and one of them can really ski!
MOUNT ST. PIRAN – May 3
Given the last night of below freezing temperatures, it was time for something completely different…
Skinning our way past all the bewildered walkers on the Lake Agnes trail, we turned off above the Little Beehive and into the alpine. With a good 10 cm solid crust, and a knowledgeable guide, we climbed to within 100 metres of the summit before deciding it was getting too warm. If we had only started earlier, we would have had a longer run, but as it was, the descent was all the exhilaration I, or my thighs, could handle:
Well done Chuck. It’s interesting the Google Maps appears to only show the horse trail, and doesn’t show the hiking trail to Mirror Lake.
Question. What was more the ‘thigh burner’, the turns up top, or the descent down what must have been a slick trail?
Hard to say which was more the ‘thigh burner’, but the cumulative effect on those unused muscles was a pain!
Chuck you can’t fool me! You are a twenty year old in disguise!
MOSQUITO CREEK – April 29
The weather started off nicely, and more snow again last night made for lovely conditions on a solid base.
But by the time we got to the campground, the wind picked up and it was snowing heavily.
We’ll be back!
Pig’s Back Loop- April 28
Two of us got off to an early’ish start to this loop in the Smith-Dorrien on Friday. It was not early enough though, as the cloudy day in the forecast turned out to be a brilliant and warm one, especially in the morning. Starting out with expectations raised due to 20 cm of dry powder, and no-one ahead of us after a previous group turned off towards Tryst Lake, we made quick time to Commonwealth Lake. The heat came on for the ascent to the col between Commonwealth peak and the Pig’s Back, where the snow on the usual east facing ski lines at 2400m was unfortunately already wet, grabby and unpleasant to ski. To add insult to injury- we found the north aspect terrain near the col had suffered from loose snow slides from the cliffs above. These sluffs and wet snow rollers in the new snow, were evident on all aspects and in some instances were travelling quite far, although none had any impact on the deeper layers, which remained frozen and supportive throughout our ski day. Moving on over the col, we found dryer snow that skied nicely, but with a monstrous cornice still looming over the upper valley- it was not a place to linger and make a second run. At treeline we exited to the Commonwealth Creek valley via one of the “finger” chutes where, somewhat ironically despite the lower elevation- we found deep dry powder and the best skiing of the day, by tucking in close to the still shaded forest margin. The final leg down valley was uneventful and a bit of a slog in the heavy wet snow, making me long for a pair of waxless wide powder skis. All told it was a good scenic short tour as always despite the snow not being as wonderful throughout as we had anticipated- it is after all late April, with still great coverage and a snowpack that has yet to go isothermal.
Pix as usual, here-
Little Crowfoot-Sunday April 16.
Two of us enjoyed a fabulous day of skiing to the sub-peak of Crowfoot Mountain, with great weather, and good snow conditions that remained supportive and easily skiable, even as we exited under a blazing sun later in the afternoon. The canyon beyond Bow Lake is as well filled in as I have ever seen it, with no worries about narrow icy traverses above the open stream sections.
A very fresh cornice fall along our route, and a report of a skier initiated slide nearby, on the approach to Mount Jimmy Simpson, were a reminder that conditions are still touchy. Pictures, and more, here:
Looked like one of those fabulous soul recharging days, and some good bonus turns.
Pic 8 is just stunning! To quote the internet.
I can’t agree more with MaSid’s ‘Soul-recharging’ description. I’m glad that you got your camera working! Images like these make it hard to believe that anything bad exists in the world.
Question: is your destination a little east of Vulture col?
Yes- Educated guess would be several km NE of Vulture Col, not connected to the Wapta, with a ridge in between.
Did a ski trip with a friend today to the moraines below Mount Balfour by skiing along the shore of Hector lake. We took our chances with warm blue wax and had crusty conditions with a skiff of fresh snow from hwy 93 down to the crossing of the Bow river which was still ice covered so easily crossed. We skied through mostly open forest with a bit of bushwhacking and made our way to the north side of Hector lake. We had good skiing on the hard snow along the shore to a snack break half way along and then onto the flats at the head of the valley. Along the way we entertained by spindrift avalanches pouring down cliffs on the south side of the lake. It snowed on and off along the way with a strong headwind. We avoided the large avalanche slopes on the north side of the valley although most have them had slid already. We had another break behind a huge boulder in the upper valley below the Waputik ice field and Mount Balfour. No view of Mount Balfour unfortunately. It started snowing heavily on our way back to the lakeshore. Got some short lived but fun turns in along the way. When we arrived at the lake my friend pulled out his siltarp and we rigged it into a sail between us (we joked about trying this earlier as it was so windy on the lake) and it actually pulled us along all the way to the east end of the lake! Unfortunately it only got going fast just before we had to exit the lake near the campground. More bushwhacking ensued to the Bow river crossing where we put on the skins (first time all day) for the climb back up to the highway. An awesome day out! Especially with a bit of sailing thrown in!
With Pete’s wonderful description of his trip, we were surprised today to find no new tracks.
This is a great spring trip, and the report deserves a few pictures:
Views of the glacier off Mount Balfour are a true reward.
Hey Chuck glad you and Jeannette got a chance to check out Hector lake and beyond! My friend was trying out the route for an ascent of Mount Balfour this month so it was nice to tag along and see a new area I hadn’t been to before.
That’s a wonderful corner of the country. Chuck, I enjoyed your photos, even though I had to press the ‘i’ icon -).
Would it be fair to say that the far end of Hector Lake must be quite impossible to get to in the summer, unless by boat? Or is there a way along the lake shore?
There’s a partial trail along the south shore but it involves wading the bow river as does the trail to the campground. I’m assuming the north shore would be a bushwhack from the campground on. Canoes are allowed on the lake so in the summer that would be the only logical way to get to the far end.
Tx Pete. re. Chuck’s trip – it should almost be kept a secret as to how many areas can be accessible during your wonderful spring touring season -)
The bow is relatively easy to cross in mid summer to get to the campground, knee deep. The outflow at the south end of hector lake is another storey. Deep and fast. No real trail along the shoreline heading south and lots of wet boggy meadows and shoreline to contend with. Did it in sandals years ago, mostly walking through shin to knee deep water in the lake. Nice and refreshing on a hot sunny windless day. Most of the shallows have flat dark rocks which helps to heat the water. Any western breeze blowing waves over the shallows nullifies the heating. A good rest day (bath day) outing when it’s too hot to grunt up hill. Haven’t investigated the north shoreline. Canoeing across the lake can be sketchy, especially if a west wind picks up part way across. Waves get big pretty fast with the long fetch coming down off the glaciers.
Dolomite Circuit, Sunday April 9.
A mixed bag of spring conditions and weather for Sunday on the popular and scenic loop around Dolomite Peak. With the brief morning sun quickly becoming obscured, we skinned up from the winter parking area near Helen Creek, on a very hardpacked and often icy trail. A few of the steeper more awkward spots were a bit of a struggle at times even with wall to wall skins, and while I have never felt the need for ski crampons, one of our party happened to have his along and they proved to be useful although not necessary. The icy crust persisted on this southerly aspect up to our highpoint of 2550m on the ridge above Katherine Lake, by which time the clouds had darkened, making for flat light for the descent to the lake. Fortunately the snow was soft and consistent on this mellow east aspect ski line, and some fun powder turns were had. Continuing on towards Dolomite Pass, wouldn’t you know it- the gloomy skies broke and the sun came out! The strong April rays called for a good tea break at the skin-up point below the pass, and made for a hot climb up the the col on the backside of Dolomite Peak. Upon gaining the col, we were greeted with an oncoming wall of murk advancing from the south, and by the time we were ready to descend- the good light had faded and it had begun to snow. The descent towards Mosquito Creek was easy and fast though, as snow conditions were good down to treeline. Where the usual route lower down from the first trees, to the forest above Mosquito Creek, is often via a broad u-shaped gully feature we, and everyone else before us, in light of the current avalanche hazard, opted for the safer lightly treed rolling bench to skiers left. This was a bit slower for sure, with a few short uphill grovels without skins along the rolling bench. With the lack of visibility, it was hard to tell for sure if all the slopes above the gully had released, but certainly some had slid, as evidenced by an expanse of smashed timber and debris in the flat area where skiers usually exit the gully and head into the forest. Our preferred finish to the loop, and the most common these days- is to stay high on a gradual descent through the woods, rather than dropping down into the valley and the ups and downs of the Mosquito Creek trail- hopefully hitting a dropped vehicle on the highway, about a km north of the creek. The ski out went well, with the by now intense wet snow which was falling at over 5 cm an hour providing a bit of softness on the crust, which remained supportive with no wallowing in the underlying weak facets. Hitting the road 50 m up from my parked truck was a nice finish to the skiing, and while not an ideal day to do the Dolomite- it was more than worthwhile!
Given the weather, and a camera issue- not that many good pix were had. Here are a handful.
Not having skied for 3 weeks, recovering from one week of PMT (pina colada-margarita-tequila) diet in Mexico, and not knowing the conditions along Red Earth Creek, my expectations were low as to how far I could go beyond Shadow Lake lodge. But I was planning for a 10-11 hour day, irrelevant of the conditions. Leaving the parking lot at 8 am, it took me 3.5 hrs. to reach the lodge; essentially the same time for a return trip on good x-c ski conditions. Managed to get to the lodge turn off at 10.5 km using klister on a very crusty and hard pack trail, slippery at times; switched to mini skins. I figure it would be a fast(er) ski out, if it would not snow by late afternoon (wrong!). Going around/over the 2 avalanches before the Lost Creek campground (RE-6)was quite a scene; photos taken don’t do full justice to the impressiveness and destruction power of those, especially the largest one with a good 40 meters height in debris over the trail. I informally called them the Gate (1st one heading up) and the Wall (2nd one heading up). By the time I got to the lodge, I had already heard 3 loud bangs, with one possibly coming from the Mt Brett/Pilot Mtn area; some of those may have been blasting in the Sunshine area for avalanche control. Weather and visibility was getting worse with fog over the trees and snow starting, in spite of the lodge thermometer at +4°C. Aiming for any of the passes around was pointless given the thick fog; so, I decided to do a tour to the upper reach of Haiduk Creek. Travel conditions there were quite good with little/no ski penetration at first; I even did a bit of skating! Initially intended to turn around 3 pm, but settled for 1 pm, as snow was coming down heavily and heard a 4th loud bang (unsure what it was). Blizzard conditions when I got back to Shadow Lake. It was the 2nd time I was disturbing two Canada geese, peacefully swimming by the bridge at the outlet of the lake. Leaving the lodge at 2 pm, I figure 2 hours to get back to car. Nope. Wet snow made the trail very soft with sticky conditions. On the steepest sections, I don’t think my peak speed ever went over 6 km/hr.! Three hours to get out from the lodge, almost as much as going in the morning. In spite of poor visibility in the Haiduk Creek meadows, it was a very peaceful setting to be out there (until the ski out). After I went around the Gate, I discovered that the pin in the toe part of one boot broke in halves, preventing it to clip into the ski binding. Managed a temporary fix for the last 3 km; glad it did not happen 20 km away from road.
FYI, given the avalanches a month ago from Pilot Mtn onto the REC fire road, I noticed a couple good slides from Copper Mtn, before reaching RE-6. About 1 km after RE-6, there is a large avalanche path (no debris this year) that comes down all the way to the ski trail, where it runs very close to the creek. The Copper Mtn massif is quite a bit closer to the trail that Pilot Mtn is. Keep that in mind for high avi conditions in the future when heading that way. Photos attached; not the most scenic ones, but a flavor of the conditions.
Thanks for the report! Sounds like my kind of adventure! For some reason the link to your photos isn’t working though.
Thanks Pete. The link after should (hopefully) work.
Works perfect now!
Not ready to hang up the skis for this season yet so we are planning to take the touring skis out. Any intel on Chester Lake?
No real time data to share, but supposed To be a minimal freeze tonight so lots of moist snow tomorrow with rain also from today. Icy later maybe. Skin wax, plus more skin wax. Should be fine on the wide logging roads. The narrow treed bits might be a bit dicey on descent, but lots of compact snow up that way that should hold up for a bit. It often gets closed early (late April/early may) for bears or to prevent snow compation and erosion. Venturing past the lake or off trail might be more punchy.
Burstall Pass- March 26
The crocus are starting to appear in Bowmont Park, and the trails are beginning to dry enough for some afterwork mtb riding. This also usually means that on a spring day like Sunday- we look to do one of the classic daylong backcountry ski traverses. Well, maybe not this year, or at least until we have seen a really good cycle of melt-freeze conditions that might bring more of the threatening slopes down, and hopefully somewhat stabilize our weak snowpack. Driving the Smith Dorrien on Sunday morning- notable were not only the large slides visible from the road, but also the number of similar slopes that had not released, solidifying our plan to ski to Burstall Pass, which would be relatively manageable even though it does present some hazard. Starting out along the old road, we found a good ski track, and cold dry snow making for fast travel. At treeline the storm snow was in the 25 cm range, above a firm midpack giving easy trail breaking, and fabulous skiing! On solar slopes near the pass- some relatively small slides were observed, initiated by the afternoon warmth, which will also leave a crust at least up to the lower alpine on most anything with full sun exposure.
We did a couple of runs from the top, then a session in the treeline glades where some truly awesome powder was found. There, probing in a couple of spots showed a fat snowpack of 270 cm, but also the shockingly weak lower half.
With the deep snowpack, the exit gully is very well filled in and simple to negotiate. While the slope that looms above this exit has slid to some extent- it did not go fullpath, and there is still a lot of snow hanging above- no dawdling!
On the way out across the flats- VR 45 gave decent kick and glide on what can be a slog in spring conditions on AT gear. The good smooth morning ski trail along the road had been obliterated and pockmarked by walkers, but still was fast, if bumpy. Why oh why do they insist on going hiking at the snowiest possible spot in K-Country, when there must be plenty of drier options further east?
After ski coffees in Canmore lured us north on the Spray road, which was a mistake in the late afternoon as there were long stretches of soft ruts and countless potholes- we should have taken the shorter route to pavement towards Hwy 40.
Some photos of a great day of skiing, below-
What a beautiful place on a sunlit early spring day!
Started the day at the Lake O’Hara parking lot (about 9:30) where the snow thermometer indicated the snow was at about -10. I put some Blue wax (-3 to -7) on my metal edged skis hoping to make it to Lake McArthur. The snow was good, dry and fast in the early morning. The wax and temp were holding up pretty well, as it was mainly cloudy and the sun was still not high enough to start
transforming the snow. I got to the area of last week’s avalanche, it was just before the 7 km trail marker. It’s impressive when you realize how far the snow travelled to get there. They did a good job clearing it. Took me about 2.5 hours to get to the Relais shelter and I grabbed a Clif bar while I waited for a group of 10 skiers from Hinton to descend from the Elizabeth Parker Hut to the fire road. Sun was starting to make itself more present and I was glad I put on some sunblock and sunglasses at the trailhead. Stopped outside the Elizabeth Parker, had some lunch, looked over the topo map, reapplied some more Blue wax and decided to head toward Lake McArthur. I quickly reached a steeper climbing section, did what I could up to a certain point and decided to boot pack it up. After getting over the hump, I quickly got to a higher meadow and close to the Schaffer Lake. I stayed to the right as much as possible and quickly crossed the avalanche slope. After about 300M past the avalanche slope, and about 1.5 kms from Lake McArthur, my spidey sense started tingling and I decided to turn back. I spent another couple of hours exploring the meadow by the ACC hut and the Lake O’Hara area. The sun really started to transform the snow, slowing things down considerably. Got back to the trailhead at about 4:00 with a smile on my face, it had been another sweet day. The long days are fantastic!! You can spend so much more time exploring the Lake O’Hara area. It really is a special place.
Elk Lakes / Elk Cabin March 24-25-26.
Warm conditions for ski in to Elk Cabin on Friday, sticky snow with some glop issues on our skins. We crossed the open meadows past the Blueberry Hill intersection and kept a lateral line until we joined the Hydroline trail a kilometre or so above Elk Cabin.
It began to snow lightly on Friday afternoon and continued all day Saturday with periods of moderate to heavy snow. 15-20 cm of new snow accumulated by Saturday evening.
We toured over to Upper Elk Lake and carried on a few kms beyond. Many large slides had already run on the south aspect of Mt Fox and when we were returning in the mid afternoon, a number of very loud avalanches were coming off the rock on Mt Fox. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the deposition zones as it was snowing too heavily.
It was interesting to see debris from trees out in the middle of the lake, but no snow debris out that far. We figured the branches and limbs must have been blown out onto the lake by the wind blasts associated with the slides, very curious.
On our exit we once again set a climb track through the forest to the climbers right of Elkan Creek and emerged into the meadows on top of Elk Pass. Sunday was a warm beautiful sunny day with fresh snow. We felt lucky to have experienced such great conditions this late in March.
Here are a few photos:
Did a long ski up Johnston creek today with a friend starting from Moose meadows on the 1A. A very thin skiff of snow covered the packed trail up to where it joined with the trail from Johnston canyon. From there it was very hard packed and icy. We used skins and stayed on the sides of the icy trail where possible. Once at the ink pots we had good conditions and only sunk about a centimetre into the hard snowpack.We continued on the summer trail past Larry’s camp (lunch stop) eventually ending up at the wardens cabin. After enjoying the sun on the porch and putting on skin wax (very wet snow by this point), we continued for approximately 2.5km further up the valley until our 4pm turnaround time. Our return to the ink pots wasn’t fast as the snow was still very sticky but still supportive. After finishing the climb out from the ink pots we removed our skins for a very fast (and scary!) descent back to moose meadows on an extremely icy and bumpy trail (not recommended unless you wear crampons!) It took us around 11 hours total to do approximately 30km.
Hey Pete… you beat me to it!
Any ski tracks beyond Larry’s Camp?
Hi Chuck. There were some really old tracks we followed to Larry’s camp from the ink pots but none after that. Pretty sure no one had been beyond there until we went through yesterday. The trail from Moose meadows to the ink pots was horribly icy especially on our way back. There’s also a number of trees across the trail at the bottom of some of the downhills which was inconvenient. I’m surprised none of my teeth rattled out on that one!
Today was an enjoyable combination of on-trail touring, off-trail wandering with some powder turns along the way. I took the Chester Lake trail and was happy to see that the new signage is now effectively directing snowshoers to the actual snowshoe trail. Before getting to Chester Lake, we followed a series of glades to the creek that flows out of 3-Lakes Valley and followed the creek all the way down to the bridge on the Rummel-Chester portion of the High Rockies Trail. It was interesting to note that nobody appears to be using this part of the High Rockies Trail, which connects back onto the Chester Lake trail. Of course, there is no signage to indicate that it even exists.
It snowed most of the day.
With the $30M the Liberals gave for the completion of the Trans Canada Trail, maybe a sign or two will appear in the future -)
Evan Thomas Valley Loop
Late March is when the groomed XC ski trail season winds down. However, it also marks the start of the spring touring season. The snow-pack depth reaches it’s peak about the end of March to mid-April. Melt-freeze cycles produce a firm base that allows you to ski over many buried obstacles. It is the time to go beyond the groomed tracks and explore around. Todays tour is an example.
I started by touring up the Evan Thomas creek bed. Lots of snow coverage and all creek crossings were nicely bridged. This is a popular route for ice climbers, heading to Chantilly Falls, Moonlight Falls and other frozen waterfalls along an impressive area of canyon walls. From there, I headed up along the east edge of the Evan Thomas prescribed burn.
As you drive north, along Highway #40, right around Wedge Pond, you can see a burned area on Mt. McDougall to the east. It looks as if someone has pulled a rake down the slope. This is because strips of forest were logged out of the area, before it was set ablaze for a prescribed burn. Wider clearings were cut along the east and west sides of the burn, to act as fire-breaks, preventing the blaze from spreading farther than intended. These fire-breaks make it easy to access the burned forest.
The east fire-break follows the edge of an impressive little canyon. You could wander around in the lower half of the prescribed burn, but I chose to cross the Evan Thomas valley trail and continue touring into the upper half of the burn.
The logged strips and open, burned forest allow you to travel virtually anywhere you please. Just connect together any open areas that appeal to you. My route took me up and down several times, before reaching the wide fire break on the west edge of the burn. This gentle fire break offers the best views of the Kananaskis Valley peaks. At the bottom of the fire-break, just find a break in the strip of trees to get onto the Evan Thomas valley trail. After a short distance, you end up on the not-so-recently groomed Evan Thomas XC ski trail.
Hi Alf! Looks like a really nice tour. Did you start from Evan Thomas parking lot or did you just go from the side of the highway?
I don’t know anyone with the same wonderful sense of youthful exploratory joy as Alf. Keep those legs moving!
re. …”sense of youthful exploratory joy” – with a nod to Chuck and Jeannette, of course!
Either option works right now. I started on the ski trail from the Evan Thomas parking lot and cut over to the creek bed as soon as I could. There was ice on the groomed trail at that point, but nice snow in the creek bed.
That looks like a nice little loop! I take it that you were on your waxless Voile fat skis. Any idea of how the old road/trail to Evan Thomas Pass fared in the 2013 flood? I haven’t skied up that way since about the mid 90’s, but it seemed like it, or the side road to below the McKay hills, were fairly well travelled once upon a time, despite being a long slog to ski all the way to the pass.
There were ski tracks on the old Evan-Thomas road that continued on towards the pass. They were covered by about 3-4cm of new snow, so it’s certainly worth a try. There were a couple of chunks of the Evan Thomas XC trail that disappeared in the 2013 flood. The too-narrow, twisty re-routes that served as temporary fixes were replaced by a beautiful new snow-cat friendly alignment… which explains why that part of the trail was properly groomed again this winter. The new portion of trail is so well done, that you don’t even notice where it merges on and off of the old roadbed.
Yes… sometimes wax-less skis are just the right tool!
Thanks for info Alf, I took a short tour up Evan Thomas today starting from Wedge pond, didn’t go to far just a bit beyond the first ice climb, followed some of your tracks and made a few of my own. There were several ice and rock falls right next to where the tracks hugged the rock as I passed, best to stay away from the cliffs during these warmer temperatures. Really nice in there, snow was getting soft by 2pm and skis starting to stick particularly on the old grooming back towards the pond.
Hello, has anyone done the ski out from Assiniboine via Bryant Creek to Mt Shark recently? Any beta would be appreciated!
Try contacting Assiniboine lodge. They can probably tell you if any of the naiseters or lodge guests have skied out that way and when.
PARADISE VALLEY – March 20
Today was a magnificent day to explore Paradise Valley. We went further than expected because snow conditions were excellent. Minus 5 to start, and blue skies all day. Check it out at:
This is considered a backcountry trip due to current avalanche conditions, but if you stay to the left side of the creek, you will avoid the avalanche risk.
Paradise, indeed! Beautiful 🙂
So that’s what Paradise looks like in the sun, it seems every time I go it’s snowing. Great pics. Beautiful spot.
The long tree shadows curving over the pillows of snow near the creek would be a painters delight!
Looks like a great way to start Spring. Locations of any other backcountry gems you would care to share?
The objective of the day was to see if I could reach Assiniboine lodge in a day. I’d like to either stay at the lodge or camp in the vicinity one day. Ideally, I would fly in and save my strength for touring in the Assiniboine area. So I was basically wanting to scope things out! I started at the Mt. Shark trailhead at about 9:30. It was mostly cloudy but good visibility. There was about 10 cms of new snow on the tracks, with the temp about -5. At about the 8km mark I started meeting people who were skiing out from Assiniboine lodge, so I benefited from having skier track set trails. The temperature warmed up at about 11 and the snow started to transform, becoming sticky, I had to scrap off some wax from my metal edged light touring skis. Met about 10 more people who were skiing out, some on tele skis but most of them on AT gear. They all flew in to Assiniboine lodge and were saving costs by skiing out instead of flying out. I made it to about 1 km to the top of Assiniboine pass, when I decided that I had to turn back, it was 2:45!! I got back to the car at 7:15. After about 40 kms of single track touring, I was able to see some beautiful expansive country, wide open meadows, beautiful creeks and some really deep snow. I was grateful that I had skier track trails to follow, I would not have gone nearly as far without them. I’m going to attempt it again someday, hopefully I’ll have a reservation at the lodge so I don’t need to ski back the same day! By the way, one of the trail reporters, Chuck said last week that this was the time to explore this part of Banff, he was right. If the snow would have been colder, it would have been great. I loved the long tour, the eye candy and the challenge. Keep gliding!
Well done Pat! I’ve been skiing into Assiniboine annually for twenty years now unfortunately things didn’t work out this season so I didn’t make it in. It’s a great area for skiing and exploring but it’s a long haul to get there!
Thanks Pete, a little disappointed I didn’t make it to the lodge but that’s ok, now I know what I’m dealing with. Do you drag AT gear all the way up to Assiniboine? If you do, hat’s off to you!
Friends of mine have used AT gear to head in and usually regret it (especially the next day) as we always do the ski in in a long day. Others use NNNBC and light metal edge skis that seem to work well. I prefer to use tele skis and leather boots (yes some of us still use leather boots!). I’ve skied in various times and had to break trail from shark all the way in which makes for a very long day and we ended up skiing in the dark. Trips like that require a team of strong trailbreakers. A few years ago it was raining as we skied in and we had to start a fire at Bryant shelter to try to dry out. Breaking trail through the knee deep soggy snow up the pass was very difficult. By the time we got to the pass it was dark and snowing so we ended up going the wrong way for a bit. We still made it but it probably took us 12 hours+to ski in. Once I found a regular x-country ski broken in half at the pass. Not sure how that person made out but it must have been a nightmare trying to get out of there!
Thanks for the info Pete. I had a NNNBC binding and light touring skis, I just need to get skins or kick skins so I don’t have to boot pack as much. Take care.
Good work, Pat!
I had hoped to ski in (or maybe fly in-ski out) for a few nights at Naiset this year, but work has got in the way. It’s been 12 years now since my last trip there. It’s a tradeoff as far as what ski setup to use, but I agree with Pete- my choice in the past has been a lighter tele setup using narrower (waist 70’ish) skis than currently in vogue, low Scarpa T3 plastic boots for warmth and control, and a more modern tele binding with a free pivot. While not the best for the large amount of gentle trail going in and out, I’m willing to give up some of the fast travel, in return for stability and turnability, especially when lugging a pack with 4 days supplies. This also increases the range of options once at Assiniboine, especially if you like to make turns. I do own an NNN-BC setup with metal edged light touring skis, but personally would not consider NNN-BC adequate for the skiing that I would to do at Assiniboine- mainly due to the somewhat flimsy boot-binding combo that lacks torsional rigidity.
In the AT world there has been movement towards much lighter skis and more pared down boots and bindings, for “Ski-Mo racing”, which hopefully will trickle down into the touring realm as well.
Thanks Steve. I agree with you that the NNN BC wouldn’t work too well once at Assiniboine but I was toying with the idea of getting AT gear choppered in and out and skiing in and out with the NNN-BC. Then I say to myself “How realistic is that?” I guess it’s like you said, the trade off between the gentle terrain in which I personally have a reluctance to not want to give up my faster travel there for the stability and turnability in the steeper sections. I always say to myself “What good is the fatter ski if I can’t get to the steeper section in the first place?” So then I end up having to struggle a little more on the downhills. I’m thinking of maybe using skins not only as a climbing tool but also as a way to slow me down in steeper areas, when descending. Which doesn’t make much sense because you work hard for the downhill, why do you want to slow yourself down on the down? To that I say simply, for safety reasons. I guess I really like to tour, and I like to climb because of the views it grants me or because it gets me to a lodge or through a pass but I like to tour for distance more than for the downhill experience. I have AT skis with a 80 MM waist and I want to go on something thinner rather than fatter!! Thank you Steve for your reply. I appreciate the insightful information. Take care
Thank you for sharing your simple put, eloquentl tale of your little adventure Pat. Many of us (over) think such ‘through-ski’ excursions as light touring as I’m often perplexed seeing so many traverse in AT gear rather than efficient touring skis -but guess it does reflect the end game / objective for so many these days (in free riding) rather than the journey itself. Cheers.
I agree Jeremy. AT seems to get a lot of the attention and marketing these days but the efficiency of the light touring ski is fantastic. I own both types and I’ve made the mistake of using AT when I should have been using light touring, and vice versa but that’s life, you live and learn. Thanks for your reply. Take care.
The majority of my friends I used to tour with just ski on AT nowadays. (therefore harder to find ski partners for long tours!) It seems that people with a background in resort skiing on downhill equipment prefer AT as it’s closer to what they’re used to. I was never a resort skier (or a fan of them for that matter) and grew up on x-country and telemark skis so that’s what I prefer. I own AT equipment but rarely use it.
Great job Pat getting that far in such a beautiful remote area, any season of the year. For having skied to the Assiniboine lodge and back on a day from Mt Shark, here are a few tips. Definitely a bonus to have a broken trail by the outgoers; NNN-BC binding on light touring skis (57 mm waist); double camber skis are a must to minimize the use of skins and take advantage of the grip wax pocket; mini-skins can work ok going up the pass if a trail broken, otherwise long skins will be needed, making it a bit slower. My light touring skis are 205 cm, but that is only for touring; if spending a few days for turns, I really want AT-Dynafit setting. With light gears, a good wax job and a broken trail, done it car-2-car in 10 hrs solo. As soon as you have to break trail, you loose momentum and won’t make it to the lodge and back in a day; been there, done that twice before to the Pass. Good luck and be safe.
Thanks for the interesting post. Regarding touring equipment, I have a spectrum of ski set-ups for a variety of trips; NNN-BC bindings and boots on Rossignol metal-edged skis, G3 Targa-Ascent tele bindings on some light downhill skis and Scarpa T4 plastic boots, and then Dynafit tech bindings on big skis with light AT boots for steep terrain.
I have a very narrow pair of skins for my NNN-BC skis and I also use them on my tele set-up for flat touring. It works really well to use a thin strip of climbing skin on a much wider ski on rolling terrain. You get kick and glide. Narrow skins are more difficult to find these days but you could cut a wider skin in half to make a narrow strip.
Another hack I find useful is power straps for the Scarpa T4 tele boots. I made 2 velcro straps, 2 inch wide to wrap around the ankle of the T4’s. This allows much greater support if you have to do some powder skiing with you light tele set-up.
Thanks for sharing Gord. The info I’ve gotten over the last day or so has been great. Much appreciated. Take care.
Pat — after you have skied in and out a couple of times, I recommend you fly in and out. There is so much skiing – both touring and downhill – in the Assiniboine area that I prefer to spend my time there! Also, I recommend that you stay at the wonderful Naiset Cabins, which are MUCH cheaper than the the very expensive Lodge!
Thanks for your comment Pat. Much appreciated. Take care.
Campbell Icefield Chalet- February 18-25.
As in most winters, Jo and I spent two weeks as “hut keepers” at the Campbell Icefield backcountry ski lodge, situated northeast of Golden, just west of the Freshfields and the border of Banff National Park. Pictured below is the second of our two weeks, consisting of a group of friends, organized by us.
For the first 3 days, snow and temperatures around zero predominated- making for really fine powder skiing in the glades and trees, but not so great conditions for cameras or photography. By Tuesday afternoon though, the clouds began to lift, and the remainder of the week was a skier’s dream- with plenty of blue sky to go along with the perfect snow.
Looks like a touring dream back there. Very nice.
That’s fantastic. Great pictures. I’m jealous!
Awesome photos. Thanks for sharing.
Sweet!, good call on the B&W one, perfect for that shot. Very “Harmon” esk? esq?
I spent two weeks in February at Amiskwi Lodge, just north of Yoho Park. You helicopter in to Amiskwi Lodge from Golden, B.C.. The lodge is located near tree-line, so most of the touring and turning happens in that magical zone at the upper edge of the forest and in the alpine. A variety of glades, bowls, a lake and a burned forest provide great destinations.
We got about 40cm of new snow over the 2 weeks on about a 180cm snow-pack. Temperatures ranged from 0C to -20C.
Spectacular! Pardon my drooling………..
“Posthumous Bowl” – does that mean you died and went to heaven??
Ha. Perhaps its the easier run that is beside ‘Posthumerus Bowl’, where you come out with one limb less than you started with -)
wow. exquisitely sublime. the secret is out!
It is good to know you are still such a dedicated skier!
My kids are asking me to go to Amiskwi next winter with them, but I was wondering whether there is much touring terrain, as opposed to downhill skiing (the old knees aren’t what they used to be). Also, is it possible to ski up to Kiwetinok Pass? Thanks in advance for any advice!
(PS. I heard a rumour about the possibility of helicoptering in to the Kiwetinok Pass area and then skiing to Mitchell Hut, which sounds like a very cool idea. Do you think it is feasible?)
That is highly unlikely, as Kiwetinok Pass is well within the park. There is nowhere that you could fly to on the park boundary that would not require significant cross country travel with an uphill component to get to the SM Hut.
I have updated the album with more photos that show more of the touring terrain. Amiskwi is one of my favourite places for family lodge trips. The terrain is very well suited for longer tours, or tours interspersed with ski runs. One Norwegian family described the area as being “just like Norway… except with spectacular mountains all around”. If you know how patriotic Norwegians are, that’s high praise! The touring is varied, with destinations that include ridge-tops, tree-line bowls, Amiskwi Lake and an extensive burn area. Most people never get to all the terrain, because they get distracted by the powder skiing.
At Amiskwi Pass, you are much too far from Kiwetinok Pass to get there and back in a day. Besides, the terrain is far more interesting near Amiskwi Lodge anyhow.
No chance of flying to Kiwetinok Pass, since it is inside Yoho Park.
Did a late afternoon ski up to Chester lake and the elephant rocks with my wife today. Excellent conditions and quiet as most people were gone by the time we started. Managed to crack a tele binding near the elephant rocks but it held together long enough to get me back to the car. Would have been a slightly longer trip otherwise!
McArthur Lake – Feb 24
With the excellent grooming up to Lake O’Hara, and the longer days, it is now opportune to explore further up:
BTW, don’t tell me that there are captions on this set of images, because I’m on my 24″ monitor at work and I don’t see any. -)
Yes Henry… the Captions are there… did you:
Click on the info icon (“I” in a circle).
Don’t worry… Bob was the first (but he deleted my instructions), and I hope you will be the last!
In any case, I hope the photos speak for themselves… I am often at a loss for words in these spectacular places.
Clicking on the ‘i’ did the trick. Tx.
Hi Chuck, I tried to go up to McArthur Lake about 3 weeks ago but I found the steep terrain after the Elizabeth Parker Hut too tough to climb. Did you have climbing skins on? I’m wondering if I’m using the right route. I’d love to see McArthur in the winter. Thanks Chuck. Pat Auriemma
No, we did not use Climbing Skins.
It is a short steep climb just past the Elizabeth Parker Hut, but it had been skied, so a mix of Herringbone and Side Stepping worked fine for us.
Sorry for the delay in responding… your reply must have got by during a flurry!
Thanks Chuck. That’s good to know. I just need to persevere a little more when I hit the steep section! I’m looking forward to seeing Lake McArthur in the winter. Take care.
Mt Owen…..not Goodsir.
Thanks 4540… But what took you so long?!
TAKAKKAW FALLS – Feb 22
Seeing that Parks Canada rated the Yoho Valley Road as one of the few places in GOOD condition, and that it seemed to be snowing everywhere else, today was the day to extend our January 20 trip into the backcountry.
Assuming that many would have travelled here over the long weekend, I just took my waxable track skis, and that allowed me to complete the return trip in just 4 hours. But remember this route is exposed to significant avalanche slopes… be aware.
An awesome day:
Thanks for sharing your trip into one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. It’s great to see the Yoho glacier guarding the end of the valley. The climbers don’t appear to have been on the main falls. Is that right?
The climbers ARE on the main falls!
They got an early start from the shelter, and told me how exciting the ice was at the top of Takakkaw Falls. They could see the water rushing past through only about 4 inches of clear ice!
They were just at the bottom of their down climb when I saw them.
Thanks Henry for making sure I clarified this.
Ah. So are the two people who are standing at the bottom of the main falls in one of your photos the same climbers then?
Yes… in fact, if you look closely, they are visible in 6 of the photos!
Might need a magnifying glass to see them for the first photo. I could hear them calling to each other before I saw them… the only sounds in a most beautiful valley, as you call it.
Thanks for clarifying. I can now see them in photos 15 and 17!
So they park their snowmobiles, ski over, and then climb. My goodness.
Many ski in on AT gear, climb the falls (in the same boots) and ski out all in a day. No private snow mobiles allowed. Mount field can also be as ascended in a day from the road.
My Gosh Henry… Perhaps you are reading the photo captions! (Click on the info icon (“I” in a circle))
Photo #16 clearly indicates the 2 Parks Staff who are doing their snow profile on one side of the valley, and photo #17 identifies the 2 who are climbing Takakkaw Falls on the other side of the valley. The climbers had skied up to the shelter the night before (making a nice track for me), and got an early start on their ice climb.
I chatted to both parties.
The good news is that you (and maybe others) have some entertaining reading to do from previous posts!
Okay, Chuck, I see. It’s my darned laptop. The screen doesn’t show your captions without scrolling. You must be wondering -)
Parks Canada reports they induced a large avalanche on the vermillion peak slide path via dropped explosives. Full upper bowl went from top to bottom ripping out old burnt timber along the side of the slide path en route, stopping at the road due to a berm.
Chickadee Valley, Feb 5, 2017
I went up into Chickadee Valley today, with a couple of friends, who had never been there. There was 20cm of fresh snow and only a few other skiers on the tour up the valley. The trail is nicely packed and the touring was easy on the fresh snow. We did some turns at the end of the valley, but the snow is still not reliably supportive off of the packed trails. It snowed lightly all day and the temperature remained steady at about -18C.
Mon Jan 30: Quartz ridge.
Blustery up in the meadows and fierce on the ridge. Aiming for Quartz summit, but not very inviting, plus the wind blasted upper ascent slope with rock peppers, so called it a day after getting on to the north ridge proper. Fresh snow and wind obliterated any old track and mostly burried mine. Meadows Ski well, no wallowing. A bit here and there in the trees when missing the track, around trees and rocks. Ankle ski pens otherwise, unless on an exposed wind crust. Lots of snow getting blown around, big plumes coming off the upper ridge and summit, wind deposition on east side, some minor cracking hinting of slab development.
We were skiing the Dive today in that wild wind. I didn’t dare let go of my skis when putting them on. Much of the snow from Quartz and beyond has collected in the lee areas, (including the Dive) so we we’re happy about that. Everything else, pretty much boiler plate.
My plan was to ski to Egypt Lake and back yesterday, from Red Earth Creek and Pharaoh Creek, with light touring skis. After about 700 m on the re-routed trail of Pharaoh Creek, following the 2013 floods, it became evident that I would not be making it. The old trail was much easier and feasible even on x-c skis. So, I turned back and headed to Shadow Lake, hoping to get at least to Haiduk Lake. “Only” got to Re-21, before the climb to that lake. Decided to turnaround at 2 pm, given the time I lost on Pharaoh Creek and the shorter daylight. Snow above Shadow Lake consisted of a thin sun and wind crust over a 20 cm layer, itself laying on a sugary soft layer almost reaching the ground. No sign of the lynx. On the return from the Re-6 campground, what was a nice trackset trail in the morning had been chewed up by hikers. As if the trail was not wide enough for those brainless. Lots of ski-doo traffic all day along RECk, hauling supplies to the lodge for the start of their winter season.
Taylor Lk-Panorama Ridge, Jan 29, 2017
I like to get up to Taylor Lake and the basin below Panorama Ridge every season, and today was the day. The trail was well packed by snowshoers, snowploughers and even walkers, but it was still soft enough that I could tour all the way up to the ridge on my no-wax backcountry skis, without needing to use skins. In the larch meadows of the upper basin, the snow was just supportive enough to allow for off-trail touring and turns. We just skied in the lovely larch glades and stayed away from any avalanche terrain. The ski down the creek and Taylor Lake trail was fast and smooth.
Chickadee Valley, Jan 27, 2017
I did a tour up Chickadee Valley today. One positive aspect of the cold periods that we’ve had this winter, is that it has frozen most of the creek forms the basis for the ski route up the valley. There are still a number of open spots, but far fewer than normal for this time of year. The snowpack is thinner than usual, but there is a well packed trail all the way in. The snowpack is not quite strong enough for reliable off-track travel for the first kilometre, but after that, it is supportive enough to go anywhere… as long as you have wide skis.
A number of groups were skiing on avalanche slopes along the north side of the valley. The more open basin at the far end of the valley was quite windy and a sizeable avalanche had come down right to the trees from the slope on the south side of the basin.
Alf, thanks for this report. Did you do this trip on xc skis or wider downhill/touring setup?
I did it on wider, wax-less backcountry skis, without using skins. You could do it with XC touring skis, but you’d have to stick to the packed trail.
BAKER CREEK – Jan 25
Today we broke trail following a single wolf track 6 kms up Baker Creek. After that, the moose tracks took over:
The conditions for light touring in the backcountry are excellent at the moment, partly because the snow is not very deep but also because there is no sun crust yet.
Skied with a friend into Elk lakes provincial park today. Cold start from Elk pass parking of -17c. Took the trail past the couch to join up with the power line further on. Passed a large group coming out of elk cabin along the way. Beautiful sunny day. Stayed on the packed trail to avoid wallowing in the sugar. Continued past the cabin to the lower lake then to the shore of upper Elk lake for a quick bite. The post 2013 flood reroute to the upper lake is a nice bit of trail building including new bridges. Then back the way we came. Stopped at the couch briefly to sign the book and reapply duct tape then back to the car by 3.
Taylor Lake-Panorama Ridge. -12º
We went looking for some backcountry turns around Taylor Lake on Monday. It’s a long slog in there on the well-packed luge track up to the lake. Above the lake the climb track was well established and it looked like there was plenty of untouched lines to be had. The snowpack is about 1 metre with 30 cm loose powder on a very weak, and very thin crust layer. Under that was unconsolidated facets. We hoped to ski some of the open slopes but with the snowpack this weak, we elected to ski in the trees. The ski pen is 40+cm with every turn collapsing into the facet layer. We managed to link a few turns in the tight trees then headed out. The luge track down is a quad burner for sure.
With sunny skies and warmer temperatures in the forecast, I thought I would check out some backcountry skiing. We drove all the way out to Chickadee Valley, but the car thermometer kept dropping, as we headed west of Banff. At the BC border, the temperature was -23C, so we just turned around and headed for the Spray Valley. It was -16 at Rummel Creek, but quickly warmed to -7C, as we headed up the Mt. Engadine burn. Snow conditions were pretty horrible. It’s a weak, shallow snowpack. Not great for trail breaking and not good for turns.
Looks like I’ll continue enjoying great conditions on the XC trails for a while longer.
Powderface Creek-Jan 11
I finally made it out skiing! A great tour up Powderface Creek to Three Trail Pass today. The last major snowfall has been packed down by snowshoers with an extra 5 cm of untouched powder on top, which made for mostly excellent skiing. There are a few rocks lurking under the snow on the steeper portions toward the head of the valley. We opted to remove our skis for a few portions on the way up and more on the way down. From the pass we went up right onto North Powderface for a short distance. The snowpack isn’t very supportive in the open terrain treeline, but there’s at least 30 cms of it, with deeper slab in wind pockets. Below treeline, the snowpack is variable, but overall it’s not bad and certainly enough for a good ski.
A gorgeous day of bright sun, blue skies, calm wind, and cold but not bitter temperatures. Get out there while the snow is still good.
A friend was at black prince a few days ago and reported very touchy conditions, as per the forecasts. He refered to his column test results as a single finger tap. Upper slab released and the rest just collapsed. Digging a pit may even be problematic. Good thing the cross country is decent.
Burstall Pass, Friday Dec 30. Plenty of fresh snow up at Burstall Pass. The trail in is well packed by skiers, snowshoers and even a few walkers who were having a bit of a rough time. The headwall is in good condition for climbing and relatively easy to ski down. The snowpack above the headwall is getting really deep, well over a metre total with 30-40cm fresh light powder on top to plough through. We only skied low-angled slopes but found the base generally supportive.
After a wonderful ski on the 26th at PLPP, I headed out with 8 other Ramblers for what was advertised as a day of yo-yo runs at Gypsum Mines glades in K Country. Unfortunately, a very thin and weak snowpack turned our day into a “tour” up and down the fire road. There was no base to the snow and hazards galore so the group decision was to minimize the risk of injury and frustration and just head back down after a 3.5 hr climb. Not quite what we expected, but an enjoyable outing nonetheless and a good chance for Cathy and Leslie to test out their new AT boots, which in both cases need some “work” if blisters are to be avoided in future. The backcountry can be enjoyable, but you gotta get the gear right!
If the base is that poor at Gypsum mines I wonder what it’s like at Black Prince? Anyone skied there lately?
10 adults and 7 kids headed in to Elizabeth Parker hut at Lake O’Hara on the 20th, coming out on the 22nd. There’s no shortage of snow at any point on the trail, just a few ice flows across the road for a few hundred metres after crossing the big creek bed (~6km?). Although there is no grooming yet, the trail is well packed down for the full width of the road. The adults in the group were on thin backcountry (NNN-BC) type gear but, without packs, regular cross-country skis would have worked nicely for a day trip into the lake.
My sister and I went to Chester Lake. Late start didn’t get there till 12:30. Cloudy with some light snow. Perfect temperature, around -3C. Used skins but on the way down I put on some VR40 for the flats and slight uphill and it worked fine. Trail was in good shape with nice soft packed snow. Off trail it was bottomless with faceted snow. Lots of snowshoers and some hikers. We were on Tele and AT gear. No moose in the parking lot.
Black Prince/Warspite Glades
Nice skiing just west of Black Prince Tarns today. Despite very blustery conditions on the HWY 1 leading to the HWY 40 turn-off, there was hardly a breeze in the area. We had about 10 cm of fresh stuff on top of wind-affected snow. No signs of slides in the area. Light snow falling as we left. Temperature was -2 at the parking lot and about -5 at mid-day. Nice runs, though a bit trashed up under the new accumulation.
We did four runs before deciding to call it a day. Nice!
Dec. 17, 2016
A beautiful, but VERY chilly day up to Rummel Lake today. We started up the trail at 10 a.m. after rescuing a couple of tourists who had landed their rental vehicle in a snowy ditch. (Winter Tip: Put some old blankets in your car. If your wheels are spinning, get the blankets under the tires. That will give enough traction to get out…sometimes. Leslie Johnson deserves credit for this inspired rescue). Despite the exertion this required, we were still cold, cold, cold. The sun was shining brightly, but always touched ground well off the trail. As we got deeper into the trees, the chill deepened and Mel, all 100 lbs of her, could not get warm feet the entire day. Thank goodness there was no wind. We had a quick lunch at the Lake and skied out on a narrow, thinly covered trail. Still, no wipeouts. There had been some slides on the slopes east of the Lake but nothing major.
Chester Lake- Sunday afternoon.
We set out a bit before noon with about 15 cm new in the parking lot, which had increased the snowpack at that elevation to near 40 cm. Coverage is generally excellent on the trail, other than 2 minor rocks or roots at one corner of the twisty forested portion. Above Chester Lake, we wandered around the larch glades in the vicinity of the Elephant Rocks, finding well over 20 cm of storm snow, and a supportive 80-90 cm snowpack that made for easy travel and nice low angled turns. Moderate northerly wind gusts at the edge of treeline made me think that soft slabs will be forming in the alpine, and we heard but did not see, what sounded like a fairly large sluff off Mt Chester as we sipped tea at the rocks. The ski back down to the trailhead was smooth and easy in all that fresh snow, and refreshingly free of snowshoers to dodge, thanks possibly to what looked to me like a better positioned sign at the snowshoe trail junction, just up from the parking lot. A new addition?
It snowed pretty much all afternoon, leaving an extra 5 cm on the truck roof snow plot at 3pm.
Sat dec 3: sunshine meadows
Skinned up the ski out again for a tour beyond the resort. Had some staff attempt to accuse me of pilfering. It’s was a short conversation. Still not worth skiing below goats eye, as of this afternoon. Maybe after tomorrow’s snow? About 6 inches of fresh up high and only about an inch or less down in the lot on return. Sun in the morning, snowing fairly heavily in the afternoon. Windy and cold but snow skied well, not pressed yet where I skied (south facing stuff near rock isle). Some new wind crust just below the surface in some areas of meadow, but otherwise ankle to mid boot ski pens. Felt like a new sun or wind crust down about 15-20 cm on the south slope I skied. Decent enough turns for a couple of runs. Trees sure look Christmas like in that area. Busy day at the resort, cars quite a way down the road. Roads were good today.
Sunday at Arethusa Cirque.
Leaving the roadside, we found a 30 cm snowpack, making for reasonable, but not complete coverage on the trail up to the meadows. At treeline, the depth averaged 40-50 cm and was very supportive below the 15-20 of light recent storm snow. As usual there were some thinner spots, and moderate wind affect in the alpine.
Our favourite ski line had been scooped by Saturday’s skiers, but we found some very enjoyable turns in easy angled larch glades, that were well worth repeating.
Exiting down the unofficial hiking trail was not all that bad- the scattered barely covered roots and rocks were easily avoided by taking it slow. I’ve seen it worse, including the lower headwall at Burstall last weekend. Light snow was falling at 3 as we packed up, but I don’t think it will amount to much.
Robertson Glacier – Nov. 26
Great ski up to below the toe of the Robertson Glacier. 10cm new snow along the Smith Dorrien Hwy made for a quick, pleasant ski; used Blue (-3C to -8C) on skinny metal-edged skis which made for fast travel. Good coverage on the trail. A bit thin/hardpacked on the one short narrow section of trail dropping down to the flats below the Burstall Pass headwall, but it is over quickly. No sign of any tracks bypassing this section along the lakes; a few sections of open water may be deterring potential tracksetters?
60cm settled snow below the toe of the glacier. Relatively calm in the valley but the wind was howling higher up with much snow being moved around; no signs of recent avalanche activity but things could be twitchy on lee slopes.
Thanks to all the snowshoeists who did a great job of keeping off the ski track; all we need to do now is train the resident moose to do the same.
We followed your tracks up to the toe of the glacier today (Sunday) on xc skis. Very pleasant day, great conditions. On our return we decided to try to ski in the open meadow to avoid the narrow, thin, rocky bit and managed to find a good route through. There was one spot that was a bit sporty where we had to cross a small stream on collapsing snow, but we managed it.
Burstall Friday Nov 25. Back up to Burstall Pass a week later. Stormy, steady snowfall all day. Dug pit on small slope just below treeline at 2370m. East aspect 25º, lee, wind loaded. HS110 SS50 CTH24 SP. Higher up at treeline we observed cornice failures, (skier triggered) on small features below rock ridges. One had a 35cm crown and ran about 20m. Anything above 30º will be very touchy right now as last weeks storm snow has slabbed up.
Last week the snow in the meadow above the headwall was 62 cm, today 91 cm.
And BSP was low to moderate-high?
(Bob Sighting Probability) -)
No Bob sightings just 3 young guys on their splitboards. I was surprised there were so few people out. On our return we hoped for a fast exit on a packed trail but instead had to double pole through 10cm that fell during the day.
Oh! Well, 10cm of fresh sounds pretty sweet to me, unless it was wet and heavy?
Nov 22 – Highwood Pass
6″ of settled snow at the parking lot. Thin, marginal conditions in the trees heading for the upper bowls below Grizzly Col and Pocaterra Ridge; many roots, rocks, icy patches; not a lot of fun. Numerous craters from hikers postholing along the uptrack. Upper slopes windblasted, shallow snowpack. A few folks were getting a few turns in on open slopes that had collected some snow, but conditions are well below average compared to previous years. With no significant snow in the forecast before the highway closes Dec. 1st, probably better off heading up the Smith-Dorrien or BJ Highway in the search for better early season conditions.
Tue nov 22: sunshine meadows
Ski out is skinable from the start, barely. But not worth descending below goats eye. About 70 cm in meadow. 10 cm ski pen off track. Not wind affected in open areas yet. Didn’t go into alpine. Cloudy and light winds most of the day.
Chester Lake, Nov 19
Todays destination was Chester Lake, a once popular ski destination in the former Chester/Sawmill XC ski trail system. The start of the ski trail and separate snowshoe trails were re-routed in 2015, but the signage for the trails is really poor. About 50m up the ski trail is a sign pointing to an unnamed snowshoe trail, somewhere off the edge of the ski trail. I know it’s supposed to be the Chester Lake snowshoe trail, but not a single snowshoer has been able to figure that out. The only use that anyone has found for the sign, was as a convenient place to hang a bag full of dog poop. So, every snowshoer, hiker and their dog just trudges up the XC ski trail. Perhaps, that’s understandable, since the next several signs show that this is an XC ski and hiking trail. The next confusing sign is the one-way only sign that points to the right… reinforced by the “Do Not Enter” sign pointing left. The only problem is that the left branch is part of the High Rockies Trail, heading to Rummel Lake. So, the only way that hikers, fat-bikers and snowshoers can get to that portion of the High Rockies Trail, is to up the “Do Not Enter” downhill half of the XC ski trail. Not at all well thought out!
I eventually took the original Chester Lake trail route over to the Chester Snowshoe Trail and skied up it. This was lovely, since not a single snowshoer has been up that way. I figured that since snowshoers like to walk on ski trails, I could lure them over to the snowshoe trail by putting in a set of ski tracks for them to follow.
The touring conditions are quite good at Chester, for mid-November. The snowpack at the lake is 58cm… 17cm of fluffy powder, sitting on a very firm 41cm base.
Burstall Pass Friday Nov 18.
I was pleasantly surprised to find 10 cm of new snow on top of a good base at the Burstall parking lot. Trail is in good condition all the way to the headwall. I skinned up the headwall and dug a pit in the meadow above. HS 62cm, 19cm on top of a 43 cm base, (the base is amazingly supportive). I set a track up to the top where the fresh champagne powder was 25 cm. Travelling solo, I didn’t ski anything steep but the gentler slopes were skiing very well. No rocks encountered. Had to remove skis for ½ of the headwall descent, but that’s normal for November. Sunny, cold, beautiful day. Wow.
Hope this photo link works.
Burstall Pass, Nov 18
Well, it looks like everyone at Burstall Pass today was a SkierBob regular! I was up at Burstall Pass too. Very good conditions between the parking lot and Upper Burstall Lake and excellent conditions above the headwall. The Burstall Headwall trail has got to be the most poorly routed and badly constructed trail in Kananaskis Country! It’s not nice for hiking, but it is awful for skiing, especially early in the season. However, the reward for getting up and down it is worth the effort!
I did a short shake-down tour today with my new back country? light-touring? XC gear and the conditions at Burstall Pass trail are great. Not a lot of snow but no bare spots and nice skiing. Oakley the border collie passed me and had been to the pass and said his humans encountered great snow conditions all the way up but nothing too deep. Avy risk is low currently.
Saw you guys on my way down. So you didn’t boot up above the headwall?
SUNSHINE – Nov 18
Had planned to check out Healy Pass, but decided that the snow was too thin, so headed up to Sunshine under the lift.
Was passed quickly by the Spanish Randonee Team who had the same idea!
Nice to have another choice for those looking to try something else with this nice cold snow:
While checking out my own stash in the Wawa out-of-bounds, I must have interrupted the proceedings at the local Stoke Central!
Lake Annette – Paradise Valley
With the recent snowfall we set out this morning to check out Paradise Valley. And paradise it was! We followed the summer trail from the PV parking lot after skinning up MLR. Snow was a little thin for the first km from here with several large rocks but easily avoidable. The snow soon turned powdery and soft. There were old ski tracks from before the last snowfall so travelling was easy going. We were amazed to follow a single elk track the entire was up to Lake Annette, and even more amazed to follow them past the lake and far into the alpine, crossing moraines and avalanche paths. Got in some very nice turns above the lake. There was about 6 cm of powder overtop the crust from last weeks warm spell. It was -8 when we left the van and most likely colder in the shadowed valley. Feels like winter is back! 🙂
I skied the portion of the High Rockies Trail between the Chester Lake and Rummel Lake trails today. This segment was clearly designed as a mountain bike trail, with endless unnecessary ups and downs and lefts and rights. The tread is too narrow for snowplowing or herringboning, but the ups and downs are all short. It’s a bit like the narrow Fox Creek trail on a side-hill. Snow depth at Chester Trailhead was 22cm. In open areas at about 2100m the snow was up to 40cm deep, but under the boughs of big spruce and fir, there was only about 10-15cm. Fortunately, I had rock skis. It’s good for snowshoeing now and will better for ski touring with a bit more snow.
Yes, there is no problem walking/skiing up the Sunshine Ski-Out, and then touring through the ski area to the Sunshine Meadows, Citadel Pass, Rock Isle Lake, Twin Cairns, Wawa Ridge, Simpson Pass. Just ski off to the side of the ski-out and ski runs, since other skiers will be going downhill.
Thanks for the tip Alf and Steve. I had planned a Burstall Pass tour for my first ski trip this year but opted for climbing up to Sunshine instead. Good change of plan I’m thinking. I hiked up the Sunshine Creek trail for just 20 minutes then donned my skins. Had to remove my skis a couple of times to cross the creek here and there but generally it was pretty good. I skied up the trail behind Goat’s Eye Station then set a climb track up Trapper and skied it numerous times. Great base with 15 cm of light fresh on top. Not bad for a short day out.
Sunshine Village Ski Resort will open for the season on November 3. That’s their earliest opening in 30 years. Only the Wolverine, Jackrabbit, Strawberry and Wawa lifts will be operating on opening day.
Oh boy. Just in time for the puddle jumping contest on Saturday when it gets to 18 degrees in Canmore -)
I would add to Alf’s comments. Many areas had already been extensively machine packed (not groomed, yet) and the Sunshine employee that we talked to was coy about a possible earlier than planned opening date. Get it while you can!
And bring your rock skis- I hit no rocks at all while making turns, but you will want them in order to maximize the ski/walk ratio, on the exit beside the road below Goats Eye station.
It was hard to ignore the snow images on the Sunshine Village webcam, so I went up there to ski for myself. There was no snow at the parking lot, so we started off by hiking up the ski-out/road. After the first corner, there was just enough snow along the edge of the road for skiing, so I started skiing. Marginal skiing is still better than boring hiking. By the time we reached the Goats Eye Gondola station, there was plenty of snow coverage everywhere, with a settled base of about 40cm. We did a run on the Wolverine hill, then toured right to the top of Lookout Mountain. At the higher elevations, the snowpack was in the 60-70cm range, with a firm base and 15-20cm of powder on top. No wind, bands of clouds and a view that stretched from Mt. Assiniboine to Mt. Bourgeau and the Healy Pass area. By the end of the day we’d had 1240m elevation of excellent skiing. I think that’s a pretty good way to start the season!
Suspected you’d be first in the backcountry, but then again, you never really quit!
So for a first timer- I can take my touring skis up the ski-out at Sunshine and then tour around where I want as long as I don’t use the lifts?
Live Traffic Feedseo checker