Backcountry 2017 – 2018

Alf Skrastins has provided a list of trails that are suitable for xc touring skis.

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Scroll down to see the trip reports. To leave a report, click on add one.

{ 81 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chuck February 22, 2018 at 9:58 pm

HEALY PASS – Feb 22, 2018

Minus 20 to start, but with a good trail already broken, it did not take long to get to the top. The photos will tell you why:!ApWd3WZ3ra9NhBGC1fYUqp8hfChZ
Swix Green worked great until the terrain steepens past the campground, when I was glad to put on my Climbing Skins.
ps See earlier entry dated Oct 21 for conditions 4 months ago!


2 Alf Skrastins February 19, 2018 at 11:28 pm

Rummel Lake
The clear, calm skies and abundant recent snow provided great conditions for a tour to Rummel Lake. Yes, it was cold and the snow was a bit slow… but what a nice day to be out touring!


3 Henry L February 20, 2018 at 6:53 am

If that is Tony in the maroon tuque, I have his Samuel Goldwyn quotes etched forever in my brain!
I’m amazed at how many skiers were out to brave the frigid start, but I can see that it turned out to be the most beautiful of days.


4 Chuck February 6, 2018 at 5:58 pm


The tracksetter had not arrived yet, so we followed tracks of a huge toboggan and snowshoers.
Check out what we found:!ApWd3WZ3ra9Ng1343QocmBS6sRQo


5 Helen Read February 6, 2018 at 6:11 pm

AMAZING!!! I often tell people, if there is a single x-c trail to share with them, it would be Alluvial Fan. Today it looked absolutely incredible thanks to Joe and other volunteers out there. And as for Amiskwi Bound Adventurers, it looks like they did not have time to set up their MSR Cappuchino Maker yet to offer you a java? Am heading to Field to ski Emerald Connector this Friday.


6 Nathaniel Siddall February 21, 2018 at 9:54 am

I love your pictures–really nice saturation and exposure for snowy scenes. Are these HDR, or have you tweaked the color balance or something? I’d like to learn the secret, if it is possible with my little Canon SX710.


7 Chuck February 21, 2018 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the compliment, Nathaniel!
No secrets:
I think my camera (Nikon Coolpix P600) is very similar to yours.
I never make any adjustments. I only use the automatic P setting (which I think stands for Program).
Maybe it is just picking sunny days!


8 Nathaniel Siddall February 21, 2018 at 7:07 pm

Good job picking the scenery, too! Keep up the great work.


9 Chuck February 1, 2018 at 8:00 pm

Mystic Cabin – Feb 1

Lovely soft snow today on a day trip to Mystic. Now there is a good skier set track:!ApWd3WZ3ra9Ng0Pp236ZKYW4Z0wC
Anybody ready to connect the dots to Flints Park?


10 Henry L February 2, 2018 at 11:09 am

Being completely out of touch with modern equipment, I have to ask if your partner in pink ski boots has AT gear and is skiing with the climbing heel riser up? Or is that some sort of telemark gear? Even the front of her boots appear to be riding quite high off of the ski.


11 Chuck February 2, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Very observant Henry!
She has cable bindings, and for whatever reason both the toe and heel bindings sit very high on her skis.


12 Pete February 2, 2018 at 7:25 pm

The thick spacers on her telemark skis allow more leverage on wider backcountry skis which make it easier to do telemark turns. The fatter (wider) the skis the thicker the spacer required.


13 Chuck February 2, 2018 at 9:35 pm

Thanks Pete… good to know.


14 Henry L February 3, 2018 at 9:45 am

Thanks Chuck and Pete. That’s neat to know. I’d love to ask the skier how it feels to be up so high on the ski!

I saw from one photo from Chuck’s Chester Lake trip that even the bottom of her boot is pink/black. Classy!


15 Chuck February 3, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Hey Henry,
That’s a different lady at Chester Lake… our granddaughter!
Yes, classy, and tall without high heels.

16 Pete January 27, 2018 at 7:25 pm

Chester Lake (Jan 27)

Skied with a friend up to and beyond Chester lake today. There was a large group of split boarders and skiers in the parking lot when we arrived. We started out ahead of them and broke trail through about 15-20 cm of fresh snow up the right hand ascent trail. Arriving at the lake we noticed some settlement in the snowpack (whump!). We continued up to the elephant rocks and towards the three lakes valley and took a right turn to the top of a small ridge. Light snow was falling so not much for views. Had a quick bite then got some nice tele turns in down the ridge. Had more whumping in the meadow nearby, but the snowpack was mostly supportive. After returning to the lake the ski out was fun and fast!


17 Steve Riggs January 20, 2018 at 7:54 am

Smith Dorrien backcountry, Jan 19. A very pleasant day of ski touring with some good powder turns as a bonus. With the high hazard in mind- we kept to mellow non-threatening below treeline terrain which is where the best skiing was probably to be found anyway. Snowpack at 1700m was 50-60cm and only lightly supportive, topped with 8 cm new dry snow. At 2100m we found a snowpack of 100cm and 15cm storm snow, with 20 cm ski penetration offering decent support and fun downhill skiing. A few hasty pits clearly showed the complex layering in the snowpack, with the 2 cm thick Jan 6 surface hoar 25 cm down being particularly evident, and reactive. The mid December interface at 40 cm was also easily identified as an easy plane of failure. Below that- a lot of facets and a weak crust or two- typical for K-Country. With the dry new snow and temps of -6 to -2 on Friday , conditions should be great this weekend on the groomed PLPP trails.


18 Steve Riggs January 12, 2018 at 8:30 am

Chester Lake area, January 11:
We got off to a late morning start in brilliant sun and windless -18 weather, after driving south on Hwy. 40 in temperatures hovering around the -30 mark. We followed the well beaten ski, and then, snowshoe trails that were covered with about 20 cm of new snow. After a civilized lunch with bare hands in the meadows, we explored a nearby ridge to treeline, finding a heavily facetted snowpack that was mostly supportive enough to give moderate trail breaking.
Completing a loop back down through the forest and popping out onto one of the Sawmill trails not far from the Chester lot- occasional short glades offered a few turns. At treeline the skiing was OK but turns had to be made lightly to avoid breaking through the crust about 30 cm down. Lower down- things were pretty brushy but still navigable. Back at the trailhead, it had warmed up to -8. A couple of pix before the overcast skies moved in after lunch:


19 darcy January 6, 2018 at 8:36 pm

Boulder Pass

Slept in to 730 so we didn’t make it all the way to Deception Pass.

However, conditions were very good for travel. 0c at 1100 and just a bit of wind leaving the snow bombs in the boughs above. The ski out at the resort (our approach) was in in fair shape, clean snow and only a few twigs still poking above the snow. My partner had no problem climbing the grade in her fish scale madshus and I enjoyed very good grip with V45 swix. We passed more than a few parties on skins. We only boot packed the last bit right before Boulder pass.

Very windy at Boulder Pass but we could still see Deception Pass. We turned around at 1330. It took l hour back to the Skoki parking area. I was proud of my partner who skied all of it without metal edges.

The trail is posted every 50m and well packed, but steep, narrow and not for the timid.


20 Normand December 29, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Toe of Robertson Glacier – December 28

We intended to ski all the way to the Robertson Col and back, counterclockwise from the Burstall Pass parking lot. In a whiteout, cold and 3- inch breakable wind slab, ambitions and dreams are free. Leaving the parking at 9:15 am @ -18 C, progress was slow in the fresh falling snow on the trail. once out of the trees, we crossed several avalanche debris over a section of nearly 1 km long, some that had swept across the narrow valley and had slided from the right side. I suspect all those debris came down a few weeks ago when it rained and the weather was balmy; debris were covered by about 6 inches of snow at most. We had intended to turn around 1 pm, no matter where we were. We got just about the toe of the glacier. Not much of an accomplishment in term of elevation gain and vista (mostly whiteout all day), but a good 5.5 hours return trip and long enough to test backcountry skiing gears for the 1st time this season. The return on skis was very (too) slow, thanks to the “fine sandy” texture of the fresh snow on the trail. Stay warm.


21 JeremyN December 28, 2017 at 8:35 pm

I didn’t get any bites in gear or ask page last year so trying here: inquiring advise on off track touring (not AT) setup to replaced aged (90’s era 69mmKarhu3/4 edge/NNNBC/Asolo kit with either Asnes Nansen or Fischer E109 w BCX6 boot (both ~80mm) Both have a clipin skin & I’m leaning toward staying with NNNBC but may go with a 75mm depending…(?). Not using for carving but touring, so please don’t try to sway me toward afore AT setup. Strong fit classic skier & int. DH’er -some tele on skinny experience. Other ski recommendations are welcome IF you’ve used.


22 Gord F January 1, 2018 at 3:54 pm

I have a variety of ski set-ups for various purposes but my favourite xc skis are Rossignol BC 65mm metal-edged touring skis with NNNBC bindings. These are good for track-set, skier-set and off-trail breaking as long as it doesn’t get too deep. The thing about 65mm skis is they fit in a groomed track pretty well where anything wider does not. I have some skinny skins that I occasionally use when conditions require them. My wife has the same set-up as me but she also has a pair of Rossignol BC 90mm waxless skis with NNNBC bindings on them. These are great for destinations like Burstall Pass, Elk Cabin, etc. but not too good for groomed trails. She also has skins to fit in case things get too difficult. Hope this helps. Cheers, Gord.


23 MaSid January 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

I use a pair of madshus 52mm light touring skis with 3/4 metal edges and NNNBC auto step in bindings. Great in the track and some light off trail useage (not the deep stuff). The binding plate overhangs this narrow ski and grabs in a track occasionally. Something to keep in mind matching bindings to skis. I find the bindings to be a bit prone to icing up when stopped after some fresh snow excursions. Doesn’t happen often but a pain when it does. Needs a nail to clear out or prop them up facing the sun for a bit. Maybe the none step in version is better that way. Also don’t trust the binding and pin to withstand major abuse torquing about when in situations where failure is not an option. Had a few binding screws pop last year from a little spill. Didn’t come completely off. Helen has a pair of the asnes with the clip in skins. Maybe she can shed some light on their effectiveness and whether the slots get icy or fill with wax.


24 Willie January 2, 2018 at 4:09 pm

For my NNNBC setup I put a skate lacing hook in one pants pocket to clean the toe of my boot while still standing before I step into the bindings. Works really well and very light weight and under $3.00. In my other pocket, I have a little bottle of lock deicer in case I need to get out of my bindings in a hurry and can’ wait for them to thaw. If you know what I mean. Check it out at Canadian Tire.


25 MaSid January 2, 2018 at 5:44 pm

Correction: not 52mm, that’s my skinny skis. Not sure offhand what the exact dimension is but probably 60ish+.
Willie: it’s not my boot that’s the issue. Quick bang with a pole clears that out. It’s snow getting into the channel for the pin on the binding and freezing up when sitting around for a bit. No problems exiting. See you at the pass sometime soon.


26 JeremyN January 7, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Thanks for the reply Gord F, MaSid and Willie. All informative and welcome advise. I already have overflowing quiver of (mostly older) track skis incl. the pseudo-touring ones aforementioned, so definitely looking for a truer BC touring setup in the off track dimension range. Kinda leaning also now to a 75mm with detachable cable binding over NNNBC or (the very expensive) tech binding/boot setup for durability, cost and (or so I’ve heard) ski control. Have had ice jam issues too b4. Good tips. Thanks again all!


27 Helen Read January 7, 2018 at 9:56 pm

I love my ASNES Cecilie BC skis: 76-56-66 and use an NNN BC manual binding. I’ve had a knee replacement and am 70 years old so when I fall, I need the manual release. Big selection of Asnes at Norseman; I have had great help from both Gord and Dave. The half skins clip into the underside easily, but I usually just wax up, since I am a “powderpuff ” BC skier. eg. O’Hara Fire Rd I rarely have used the skin. Have also just waxed into Skoki. I don’t do much real touring and fear the downhills so might be tempted to put a skin for descending vs ascending. Very cool little tool from CAD Tire Martin! Never seen it before. Usually use my car key. I also have an older pr of Rossignol BC skis but favour my Asnes and the latter do fit into most track that has been skied in a bit. Off to Redearth tomorrow with the Asnes and goat Creek on Wednesday but praying for snow. One bit of advice-don’t let anyone sell you too long a ski. We shrink with age!


28 Steve Riggs January 8, 2018 at 8:04 am

It depends on what you have in mind for “BC touring”. I have used the NNN-BC system extensively as it can serve very well for more rugged ungroomed xc-ish trail touring, when paired with a metal edged “backcountry” ski in the 50-60 mm waist width range. However- the NNN-BC system is inadequate in my opinion for more demanding terrain, even when mated to wider skis, as the boot-binding interface simply isn’t rigid enough for proper control when the going gets steep, deep or really rough. My light tele setup with old two buckle low cut plastic boots offers FAR more control (and fun when the opportunity for turns arises!) than even the heaviest of the NNN-BC boots can deliver. Having said that, if I was getting into longer distance”backcountry touring” right now as opposed to going out and climbing up for turns- I would consider building up a lightweight AT setup. Pricey? Yes, but amazingly lightweight and efficient.
Again- it all depends on where you want to ski.


29 MaSid January 8, 2018 at 6:20 pm

A friend of mine used to use her nnn-bc ski setup with skins for touring the wapta with a multi day hut pack. Not sure how she did it really. Always following in our track for one. But surprised she never broke a binding. Definitely wasn’t cranking teli turns on the down hills, more survival than anything. I wouldn’t do it, other than maybe a spring rapid traverse (seen people do that too). So maybe 75/cable with the low plastic boots, or the tech set up. More expensive (tech). but can still go light and have plenty more control even with the lightest plastic boot. More like a racing randonee setup, with the option of locking the heel.

30 Gord F January 10, 2018 at 10:25 am

Now that I think about it, I have 4 sets of ski gear in a graduated spectrum from narrow to wide.
1- Rossignol BC 65’s with NNNBC (Rossi NNNBC Boots)
2- Atomic Rx’s 84mm waist, G3 Tele Bindings (Scarpa T4 Boots)
3- Elan Ripsticks, 96 Waist, Dynafit Bindings (Scarpa AT Boots)
4- Rossignol Super 7, 114 waist Dynafit Bindings (AT Boots)
Needless to say I mostly ski backcountry and sometimes at the ski hill. I do enjoy Cross Country skiing but haven’t yet had the desire to get faster/lighter skis for track skiing. Maybe that’s in my future.

31 Cindy H January 12, 2018 at 9:09 am

I don’t ski in the backcountry very often…but I ended up taking my Fischer Europa E99 skis with partial metal edges and NNNBC boots up to the Wapta hut and sumitted Mt. Gordon on them (thank you Henry!). I couldn’t do crazy turns but it was a lovely ski. I’ve also rented shorter, more shaped skis with fishscales (super light!) and 75 mm bindings…they were a hoot!


32 JeremyN January 12, 2018 at 4:30 pm

Many thanks again Helen, Steve, Cindy, MaSid, Gord & Willie …for taking the time to tell of your tried & tested BC gear experiences. I’ve certainly learned much & value your perspectives on this forum. Now as the Hg climbs again can I ask a question about …. socks? 😉


33 Diana Piggott December 10, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Paradise Valley Dec. 8th

I went up with the kids on Friday. Hiking trail well packed and fast! A few hazards still, so don’t go too fast.
We had hoped to get closer to the Giant Steps, but at the third bridge the only option seemed to be the steep trail up to Lake Annette, for which we were unprepared. Not the only ones – many skiers had removed skis and walked there. We turned around, a little disappointed. I have not been beyond the third bridge since the 1980s (like a gadzillion other places!).
So I have a question – Chuck, Pete, or……?? Is there an easy way to ski up there now? Or does one ski up the creek after it freezes a bit more? Lots of open water there now, and all the tracks went up the steep hill, except one set we followed which only went a few metres.


34 Chuck December 10, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Any route to the Giant Steps crosses significant avalanche terrain, Diana, so I would not recommend it.
The easiest route would be to continue along the creek past the third bridge (you will note that I was the one who went a few hundred metres to take my last picture of the upper Paradise Valley), and climb the left bank to avoid the avalanche run out zone.
Play Safe!


35 Diana Piggott December 10, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Thank you for the advice!
I guess we got similar last photos 🙂


36 Pete December 10, 2017 at 7:42 pm

Hi Diana. I skied along the creek beyond the third bridge until I got to the big avalanche runout. I turned back and tried to find the decommissioned trail where it crosses the creek shortly before the avalanche runout. I was unable to find it but continued through the bush (south side of the creek) above and beyond the runout. The trees were mostly open but there was a lot of deadfall so it was hard going. I decided after a while it wasn’t worth it so skied back and up to lake Annette. If you’re good at route finding and really determined that route might go. It’s probably doable from the Lake Annette trail but might be rocky and wind blown. Like Chuck says there’s plenty of avalanche terrain back there so anyone going to the giant steps nowadays should have proper avy equipment and training.


37 Chip Scialfa December 8, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Black Prince – Dec. 8

After Steve Riggs’ report on Burstall, I was curious to ski in the area but, on seeing weather predictions for an inversion, we decided to try the slopes west of the tarns at Black Prince Cirque. In a word, it was stunning. Starting at 9:30 in the parking lot it was -16. The hoar frost was astounding, with huge feathers coming off the facets. By the time we launched for the first run, it was -3 C and no one had skied the slopes in a few days it seemed. There was about 5 cm of fresh snow on top of a very stable crust; really quite forgiving. No wind to speak of and, because the slope is in shade all day, it wasn’t subject to the solar effect of south-facing slopes higher up. Yeah, we didn’t leave any good runs. Returning to the parking lot at 3:30, it was -12 C.

For pics see


38 Steve Riggs December 6, 2017 at 10:13 am

Burstall Pass, December 5.
An amazing day out with crisp clear weather and excellent ski conditions- pretty much as good as it gets! The logging road is a well packed double track with one lane being a rougher snowshoe path, the other a reasonably smooth skier track, but of course a few walkers and shoers felt the need to use the the ski track also! Not a biggie, but it would be nice to see a little more consideration of others become standard practice. On blue wax, travel was quick and easy to the headwall, with good coverage on the narrow singletrack section before the Robertson flats. Once up the firm headwall trail on skins- it was nice to feel the sun after a -13 start to the day. For the most part- we followed a well beaten track up to the pass, with numerous “corrections” to a bit of inefficient meandering. Winds were mostly light up high, with moderate gusts moving a little snow around, but not enough to really affect the snow quality which served up very good powder skiing right from the top- wind sifted in the alpine, dry and light below in the larch glades, which were totally untracked. Superb! The November raincrust is stout, and buried by about 30 cm of more recent snow, in the 100 cm treeline snowpack that is unusually good for this time of the season in K-Country. Hopefully the current spell of clear weather, which looks to be here for a while, will not transform the solid snowpack into the more usual early winter sea of facets. Speaking of facets- sparkly surface hoar was evident throughout- another potential problem to add to the mix. After 3 top to bottom runs the sun was sinking fast and we called it a day- exiting via the gully route which while not ideal yet, was fairly easy to navigate with some careful tiptoeing across a log or creek crossing or two, and a bit of willow bashing. Definitely more entertaining than sideslipping down the trail 🙂 On the homestretch- we opted to retrace our route rather than follow the willow flats, as the sun was setting fast and we did not feel like breaking trail or possibly detouring around open water as is sometimes the case in early season.
On what has been a great start to the ski year- this was the best day yet.


39 Henry L December 6, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Darned you Mr. SmugMug Steve.

Thanks for sharing your awesome pics and account of a world of which some of us can only dream.


40 Chip Scialfa December 7, 2017 at 7:26 am

Hey Steve,
Great report. Keep the backcountry reports comin’ and I’ll try to do the same (snow permitting). I couldn’t help snooping at your other pics. You’ve got a good eye.


41 Pat Davis December 7, 2017 at 7:56 am

Great photos, Steve. Thanks for posting them.


42 Diana Piggott December 7, 2017 at 9:16 am

A little embarrassed to admit that I did the mini-tour yesterday, but I can add a little information: the low, easy route from the end of the logging road is quite viable, if a bit windblown – easy travel, no open water 🙂


43 Chuck December 1, 2017 at 2:20 pm


If you are looking for snow, you will never go wrong here. No rain crust either, because it never rained! I just took light touring skis, but if you are going further than I, you will need full alpine touring gear.
Check out the photo captions for the full experience:!AhVZXBE7vMV7iGGLA12uvRBfCHrm


44 Chip Scialfa December 1, 2017 at 3:29 pm

I’m ready to go, Chuck! Great shot of the Three-toed woodpecker.


45 MaSid December 1, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Creek travel looks well filled in at the iffy spot. Don’t think Ive ever seen that yellow capped version of woodpecker before. Nice. No ice on the initial little hills?


46 Chuck December 1, 2017 at 8:43 pm

No chance of ice… nothing has melted up here.
The only “iffy spot” that you might be referring to is appropriatly avoided by a slight skier set climb to the left of where the trail gets close to Pipestone Creek. No problems either way.
And with Chip correctly identifing the three-toed woodpecker, it may be worth noting how his yellow cap seemed to match the yellow lichen on the tree.
Hope to see you guys up there!


47 Chip Scialfa November 30, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Highwood Pass Redux

Well, as threatened in yesterday’s post, there was enough enthusiasm about the trip to Highwood Pass that we decided to repeat the effort. Although the trip was announced very late Wednesday, by Thrs morning there were 10 eager beavers ready to search for more pow.

We found it. Starting again at the Highwood Pass parking lot, we headed in the same direction as yesterday but stop on some east-facing slopes after about 2 km. The crust from Sunday was as stable as yesterday, the temperature and wind were even more pleasant. We managed 4 runs of about 150 m each and were back in town, tired and aching, but very happy, by 4 p.m.

And tomorrow, the gates are locked and they throw away the key until summer. That’s good news for the animals but not for backcountry skiers.

Oh, BTW our final treat was a look at a White-tailed ptarmigan being photographed by a group of birders at the parking lot.


48 Chip Scialfa November 29, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Highwood Pass Paradise…

A group of Ramblers headed to Highwood Pass today to take advantage of new snow that fell since the Sunday rain. We started at the parking lot in fairly strong winds and -5. Things improved wind-wise as soon as we entered the trees following the trail toward Mt. Tyrwhitt. After 30 min we peeled off and headed toward Little Highwood Pass, where we found phenomenal powder of about 10-20 cm over a very stable crust from Sunday’s rain. We were all smiles for four fantastic runs (30-40 deg slopes) and felt especially safe because we chanced upon a group of Kananaskis Country staff doing snowpack analysis and avalanche training. We had so much fun, we’re headed back to the area tomorrow before the winter gates are closed.

Photos, without comment are at


49 Diana Piggott November 29, 2017 at 8:35 pm

Oooooooooooo, jealous!!
Sounds fab 🙂


50 Steve Riggs November 28, 2017 at 8:04 pm

South of Highwood Pass, November 28.
Very good coverage on a well traveled skier trail with easy trailbreaking beyond the track, ski penetration of 15 cm. In treeline larch glades, pole probing showed that the top 30 cm of the supportive 80 cm snowpack contains two ice crusts- one 2 cm thick down about 15 cm, and a stouter crust down about 25. At the edge of treeline and in the alpine- wind affected snow found pretty much everywhere, ranging from bulletproof through to breakable crust, with lots of dense windslab thrown in for good measure. Yummy!
Fortunately- very good skiing was found in sheltered terrain a bit lower down, in “creamy” dry powder that made for fast smooth turns 🙂
Heading for home at 3- the skies had become murky, with light snow beginning to fall, which persisted all the way north to Ribbon Creek.


51 Gord F November 29, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Your description sounds a lot like Arethusa Cirque. We were up there on Tuesday as well and found everything above treeline to be wind-hammered. We skied short lines in the glades to lookers left as you emerge from the trees on the way in. The snow quality was amazing but runs very brief. We got a lot of practice putting on and taking off skins. HS was 75 cm. and both crusts evident but not reactive.


52 Diana Piggott November 27, 2017 at 8:34 pm

Highwood – Elbow Lake — extremely windy day

I am astonished that so many people found good snow today! Bodes well for the future 🙂
Highwood Pass had lots of fresh snow, but only a tiny bit of the parking lot had been plowed, and it seemed fully occupied by snowshoers, so I went back down to the Elbow Lake trail. There, just a skiff of new snow over a very thick, bumpy layer of ice from yesterday’s rain event, made the initial steep hill “interesting”. Higher up, more snow enhanced enjoyment, but in some places the high winds scoured it right down.
I circled the lake, encountering interesting snowdrifts on the north side, and marginal coverage on the south side. I also ventured a km or so down the Big Elbow trail, finding lovely creamy snow over a supportive base once into the treed section. That was a bit of heaven!
Doing my extreme snowplow on the final descent, I encountered two hardy backpackers on their way up, probably the only other people on the trail before 3 pm today.


53 Steve Riggs November 26, 2017 at 7:58 am

Saturday afternoon at Chester Lake:
Good touring up past Chester and the Elephant Rocks into 3 Lakes Valley. Solid coverage right from the parking lot on the trail, and easy trailbreaking off-trail. Much better than usual for November! Conditions for turning in some favourite glades were only so-so, with the rain crust that underlay about 15 cm of more recent snow proving to be a bit grabby and variable. The 70 cm treeline snowpack was “interesting”: above that 5 cm rain crust that is now down 15- about 10 cm of denser new snow that is separated from the 5 cm of dry surface snow that had fallen since Friday- by yet another very thin crust. Underneath the supportive 5 cm rain crust- the deeper snowpack was largely moist and loose, with not a lot of strength. Below the alpine- the weather was very pleasant at just below zero with light breezes. However- up high, strong winds were raking the surrounding ridge lines.
The ski out on the trail which resembles a narrow bobsled track in spots, was fun on AT gear but somewhat bumpy in places- I would not wholeheartedly recommend it for light touring gear right now, other than for those with plenty of experience on such.


54 Chip Scialfa November 24, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Arethusa Cirque

A look at the winds expected Saturday and Sunday at Highwood Pass, combined with the weather station report of 20 cm of new snow Thursday (Thanks, Bob and Pat for that information) prompted me to go to Arethusa Cirque today. We arrived at 10 a.m. with howling winds at the Pass parking area. Driving down to the trailhead parking spot, we saw only 2 cars. Out of the first climbed two people on snowshoes. Within 2 minutes, they packed up and left. And so it was only 4 people the entire day which, in a word, was fantastic.

The air temperature was -2 at the start of the day, with 98% cloud cover. The uptrack was filled in but firm and my half mohair skins worked well climbing all day long. The wind was blowing between 40 and 50 km/hour I’d guess and snow nearing the bench was quite crusty so we stayed looker’s right of the bench and found beautiful snow on glade slopes.

We ended about 3:15 after 4 wonderful runs. Air temperature was -1.

I’d say that I feel sorry about trashing the slope for the weekenders, but I’d be lying.

Arethusa cirque
Arethusa cirque2


55 Alf Skrastins November 21, 2017 at 10:28 pm

Healy Pass, Nov 21
Exactly a month after Chuck’s Healy Pass report, it seemed like a good idea to see how the winter is progressing up there. The wind storms in the past month had knocked a few trees onto the Healy Pass trail, but those were the only hazards along the trail… (well, except for the stupid, skinny Parks Canada bridges, which are completely unsafe for winter use). There was good snow coverage right from the Sunshine parking lot, all the way up to the pass. Snow depth in the meadows below the pass was just over 100cm! Nice powder skiing conditions on the open glades near the pass.
There is HIGH avalanche hazard for the next couple of days, so play it safe and avoid any avalanche terrain for a while!


56 MaSid November 19, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Sun nov 19: Smith dorrien spray Rd

No skiing (nasty cold), just a trailhead driving tour. Snowing lightly at north end this morning. Road up the hill in good shape, mostly gravel with a few icy patches on upper hill. Temps below zero above the hill. Goat creek trailhead looked quite thin. Mostly frozen gravel and compact snow on the road south of there. Spray lake mostly open water, windy with white caps. Moderate to heavy snowfall from buller to sawmill. Starting to accumulate on road. About an inch of fresh at shark parking lot at 11, -4 degrees. Smutts creek meadows still mostly meadows. Cars parked at rummel and tent ridge trailheads. Lots of cars at Chester. Full winter driving from shark to Chester. Skiers parked at commonwealth. Sawmill has 12-14 inches on top of picnic tables. Meadow crossing to Murray creek area probably just doable weaving around the willows. Creek crossings probably not? Couldn’t see Murray morraines. Snowing lightly most of afternoon at k lakes and north to k village.


57 Skate rut November 23, 2017 at 8:45 am

The couch site (and wind-wall, bathroom, etc) got thoroughly ski-packed that sun evening, just before 20cm of warm snow. A lone snowchewer track made it fairly easy to get there on the left side fork. This meltdown, on the plus side, will make a strong supportive mid-pack and easier early season slack-country meadow travels. Yay?


58 MaSid November 23, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Fantastic. Thanks for the beta. Probably going in there this weekend to get the couch process rolling, so thanks for the jump start.


59 Pete November 18, 2017 at 7:13 pm

Had a wonderful quiet ski all to myself up Paradise valley today. Started at Moraine lake parking. The snow was a bit thin near the junction with Fairview Trail but after that snow depth improved greatly. No one had been up the trail since before the last big snowfall so I broke trail all day. Followed fresh wolverine tracks for a few km to the second bridge. At the third bridge I followed the creek instead of the trail towards the Giant steps but stopped when I hit the large avalanche runouts. I turned back and skied up to lake Annette. Tough trail breaking in the drifts before the lake (waist deep!). Continued on the trail towards Sentinel pass until I turned back on the boulder field under Mount Temple. Snowing and extremely windy at that spot (good views though). Had to walk a few narrow sections on the way out. At the start of the Paradise valley trail (instead of skiing back to Moraine lake road) I turned left and followed the hiking trail to the Lake Louise (difficult to ski as it’s very narrow). From there I skied tramline (hit a few rocks) in the dark back to Bow river trail and then over to the hostel. A long day but it was well worth it!

Amazing. It sounds like you’re taking over for Chuck while he’s recuperating. -Bob


60 Pete November 18, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Maybe temporarily until he’s back on his skis again! Knowing Chuck he’ll be back out skiing in no time.


61 Chuck November 18, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Wow… that is a huge trip for one day! If I was back to myself, I’d be stealing your tracks for one of the directions (towards the Giant Steps OR beyond Lake Annette) but not both.
Have a great weekend everyone.


62 Pete November 18, 2017 at 11:19 pm

It was a long day but nice to have the whole valley to myself. It’s unfortunate though that the old trail near the third bridge was closed. I used to ski that way to the giant steps which was more direct. Now you can only get there in the winter if you ski up the creek through the runouts. Any idea why they closed the trail on the north side of the valley?


63 Chuck November 19, 2017 at 9:47 am

I suspect that they closed the trail on the north side of Paradise Creek past the third bridge due to the avalanche danger and maintenance costs. As you know, even if the trail was open, you are faced with the same avalanche runouts. In winter, I think it would always be best to follow the creek where you can at least see things and have the choice of staying high on the south side. In summer, the trail via Lake Annette is spectacular.


64 Pete November 19, 2017 at 3:33 pm

I thought it had something to do with disturbing bears in the area but your explanation makes more sense. Constantly clearing the trail of avalanche debris every summer would be time consuming and costly. The Lake Annette route to the giant steps doesn’t look feasible in the winter. To wind blown and it probably crosses significant avalanche terrain.

65 Chip Scialfa November 18, 2017 at 6:16 pm

Arethusa Cirque – November 18th

Steve Riggs’ post yesterday must have been spread far and wide. When we got the trailhead for Arethusa Cirque, just south of Highwood Pass, we encountered 4 other cars. By the time we left, the number had doubled. Although some of the slopes were pretty trashed from yesterday’s skiers, we found some very forgiving snow southeast of the bench below Little Arethusa.

A word of caution. There was a skier-triggered avalanche in the area today. One burial that ended well. Still, with the wind-loading and snow expected, it’s time to be very careful.


66 Steve Riggs November 17, 2017 at 8:49 am

The Highwood area got a nice shot of new snow overnight on Wednesday, with at least 15 cm of new bringing the snowpack up to over 50 cm, in the treeline zone that we skied on Thursday afternoon. The open larch glades were skiing very nicely! Exiting via the trail was still a bit scratchy in a few spots lower down in the forest, where the trees are denser. In the alpine- coverage was much more variable as usual, with some barely covered rocks here and there. Winds in the alpine were quite gusty at times, coming from all over the map, with some soft slab formation noted.


67 Chuck November 14, 2017 at 5:59 pm


Cooler temperatures and fresh snow made it worthwhile to go down to the lake, making this a backcountry trip.
Check out this link for details:!AhVZXBE7vMV7iCfxt8zyiK8PrXG_


68 Diana Piggott November 6, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Sheep River — Indian Oils trailhead to Dyson meadows

We had never been beyond Sandy McNabb in winter before, and with the new bridge and fresh snow it seemed like a good time to do it. Virgin powder would have been lovely, but alas, several hikers/ snowshoers/ equestrians had beaten us to it, and “lumpified” the trail. It was still pretty nice, lots of cold snow, especially in the long dark tunnel at the start, which might have been a fun descent………..?
Probably 30 cm powder on this shady section, and also some rocks. Uh-oh. I was lucky not to hit any on the way down, but Bart was not, and did come to grief on a rock, wearing his best new skis too 🙁
It may be a while before he (a) forgives me, and (b) goes skiing with me again.


69 sheila November 14, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Wow, thanks for this, Diana! Have only hiked this area and never skied it. If my beloved recovers from his bronchitis before the gate closes we shall definitely give it a go!


70 Gord F November 5, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Back to Burstall Pass Sunday Nov 5. Not a lot of new snow up at Burstall, maybe 8-10 cm on top of the old base. The HS is still around 50-55cm. Pretty wind-scoured up top. Lots of snowshoers and even a few post-holing hikers making their way up. Looks like the recent snowfall was largely upslope and the divide didn’t see the accumulations that hit the eastern slopes. Cold day, -17º at 9:00am warming to -12º by 2:00pm, had to keep moving so I didn’t shoot any photos.


71 Gord F October 26, 2017 at 8:19 pm

Skied up to Burstall Pass today. Snowpack is pretty thin but hard and crusty so it’s very supportive. Only 2-4 inches on the trail out of the parking lot but all the rocks are buried so the going was good with skins, but would be terrible with wax. This will be a fantastic base for future snowfalls. I had to remove my skis and hike through the tight trees just before the meadow and again for the bottom 2/3 of the first headwall. A pit in the meadow at the top of the first headwall showed the depth was 57cm with a hard temperature crust on top, (sorry the photo is so blurry). There’s another hard crust at 20cm as well. I managed a few first-of-the-season turns off the top which was quite pleasant. I was surprised that Burstall isn’t getting the snowfall that’s hitting further north.


72 MaSid October 28, 2017 at 10:11 am

Thanks for the up to date conditions info Gord.


73 Chuck October 23, 2017 at 6:58 pm


The great thing about skiing at this time of year, is that the driving is easy and the snow is cold, but…You have to be early!
It was minus 2 when I started at 10 am, but the sunny whether soon took its toll.
By the time I met Skier Bob enthusiasts, I was concerned that they may have felt misled… but they seemed enthusiastic!
Nordic ski coaches, Tyson and Courtenay are looking forward to a groomed skating lane.
I hope Vladimir, from Kananaskis Photography posts his expected sunset photo from the Rock Pile this evening.
Simone & Todd were all smiles, maybe because they knew I would take the responsibility of reporting this time!
When I asked another recognizing face if he was blaming me for anything, he said “I blame you for everything, CHUCK”! Oops… I may no longer have my volunteer job at the upcoming Mountain Film Festival.
Great day!
And the photos please (with captions):!AhVZXBE7vMV7h2tziRMYo3HPX8WE


74 Henry L October 29, 2017 at 8:21 am

Does this mean that ‘truck setting’ can be added to the skiing maintenance manual?


75 Chuck October 29, 2017 at 9:53 am

Actually yes Henry… the ‘truck setting’ proved very useful!
It allows for options. Hikers are obviously happy to walk along a truck tire track, and do not feel the need to walk on any skier set track that may be put in. And even for the skiers, a packed track might be easier than breaking trail, especially when looking for that perfect glide.
All in all, if parks is not going to track set until mid November, I have no problem with a ‘truck tire setting’ so long as they go and come back on the same track.


76 Henry L October 22, 2017 at 8:30 am

OMG, what a sighting, and what wintery conditions.

If this amazing owl photo is a sign of things to come for this winter, I’m holding on to my seat.


77 Pete October 22, 2017 at 12:46 am

Missed you by a week Chuck! I was up there last weekend on my way into (and out of) Egypt lakes. Not on skis mind you. Amazing what a few days of snow does to the conditions up there!


78 Chuck October 21, 2017 at 8:27 pm

HEALY PASS – October 21

It’s winter at higher elevations… but the real treat today was the Northern Hawk Owl!!AhVZXBE7vMV7h1M169_siNm6XXPJ


79 Gordon Ferguson October 22, 2017 at 8:24 am

Chuck. Beautiful owl photo. Were you able to ski from the Sunshine parking lot or was there some hiking involved?


80 Chuck October 22, 2017 at 3:59 pm

I wouldn’t put on skis until above the campground!


81 Diana Piggott October 22, 2017 at 8:53 am

Breathtaking!!! <3


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