Backcountry 2019-2020

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

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  1. Black Prince Hourglass Dec. 5

    Pretty splendid skiing west of Black Prince tarns today. We started at -14 C, happy to see the fresh snow (5-10 cm) at the trailhead. The base is still fairly shallow even near the pinch-point of the hourglass, but there was a good 10-15 cm of powder on a supportive but faceted base. It’s only about 40-50 cm to the ground and so natural hazards are still an issue. Blue skies and only light winds made for a very pleasant day of yo-yo turns.

  2. Lots of great touring to be done in West Bragg and after the latest snow falls there were a few turns to be had as well. The north aspect of my secret stash had wonderful light powder but lacked any meaningful base. A little wind slab on the east aspect but mostly decent if not for all the trees down from the recent storm. No crowds tho and a very happy dog!

  3. Sat nov 30: moose packers (WBC)
    Thought I’d try to get up onto moose mountain ridge via mountain road and moose packers with all this upslope snow, instead of a drive to highwood pass. 1-2 feet of snow along the old mountain road past the grooming with a thin base, but made for fine travel up and down. Once at the gas pump house just before moose packer junction, things thinned out. Only about 6-8 inches on the narrow treed trail of moose packers, so back I went. Still a good short solo “tour” for some trail breaking and solitude when a dump of fresh snow.

    • I saw your tracks and wondered where they might lead one to – perhaps a two-day traverse to Dawson on the Tom Snow trail??? Who would do that???
      You must have had an early start – we didn’t see you coming back.

      • That’d be a hard trip in marginal conditions. Was on the skis at 9 in -22 and a cold breeze, wondering what the hell I was doing. About 2 hrs at a slow pace to the moose packers turn off, so back pretty quick.

  4. Arethusa Cirque Again.
    It was a very cold day around Highwood Pass today, (Nov 27) -18º when we left the road and -20º when we returned. About 10cm fresh snow in the valley and 25 – 30 cm higher up. Very good skiing in protected areas with some wind slab on exposed aspects. Only a few more days before this area is closed for the winter.

  5. Arethusa Cirque, November 23

    Diane, Damian and I skied just below the east side of Highwood Pass today under very good conditions. Starting temperature was zero and it really didn’t change through the day. The winds, blustery at times, were generally quite tolerable, in most locations well under the 20 km/h predicted by SpotWx for the area.

    Although on climbing to the “bench” the wind affect was more noticeable, we were able to find untracked,
    gladed runs on west and northwest aspects. As Steve Riggs reported a few days ago, there is a small amount of new snow of variable, thin crust, sitting on a supportive but shallow base.

    There were no signs of instability, no sloughs on any aspect.

    The ski out is thin, with a few natural hazards, including two “limbo” trees.

  6. Healy Pass
    Things looked pretty sketchy as we started todays tour to Healy Pass. There was only about 13 cm of snow at the start of the trail, near the Sunshine Parking Lot. But, once past that useless bridge over Sunshine Creek, the snow depth steadily increased. At the Healy Pass meadows, the snow depth was 65cm, with a nice boot-top layer of powder on top of a supportive base.

  7. It was a tough choice this morning- WBC or Highwood Pass? With the weather station showing 18 cm of new snow, a forecast of mild sun, and less than 2 weeks until the gate closes- Highwood was it. Trailbreaking was easy and the skiing very good, in light fluff over a (mostly) very supportive crust 20 cm down, in a 50 cm snowpack. The forested access trail could use more coverage and the removal of two “limbo logs”, but there were no issues negotiating our exit. There were probably 12 others skiing in the area, but other than at the trailhead, the only people we saw were at a distance. We crossed no tracks other than our own on 5 runs, as everyone seemed to be keeping to their own chosen zone. It was a glorious day to be in the alpine:

  8. Stanley Glacier, November 19

    Ray, Damian and I ventured up the trail toward Stanley Glacier today. Thank goodness for some fresh powder. It would have been nasty otherwise. In most places, there is only about 20 cm on the ground, with more exposed rock than I’ve ever seen this time of year. We managed to get in a few turns above “lunch rock”, but also ended up with a few gouges taken out of the skis. Still it was a great day out!

    Temp. -2 on arrival and -2 on leaving. Some 10 cm of variable snow on top of a rain crust that may be problematic through the winter.


    Stealing away from the crowds for some turns.
    Details available in the captions here:!Avuc6aIvjGUAimemP27Zv9x0J5dg?e=a0AKKR
    Good conditions for this early in the season… powder up top, some sun crust at treeline.

  10. Four pensioners skied Arethusa Cirque today, taking advantage of the almost 30 cm of fresh snow that had fallen since Saturday. The SW facing slopes were much improved, with variable amounts of new snow over a supportive base. At treeline, there were some wind-affected areas but after the first few turns, we were in pretty forgiving snow. The trail out is still thin and there are certainly natural hazards but it was much improved over last Saturday, when the rain and winds had demanded true Front Ranges survival skiing.

    Todays temperature was -5 at 10 a.m. and didn’t change much over the day. There was light snow falling until at least 1 p.m.

    • We skied up there today, Nov 13. We arrived to see 6 or 7 cars parked along the road so we expected line-ups, but other than seeing a few people at a great distance and a group of 3 skiing from Arethusa Ridge, we had Arethusa Bowl all to ourselves. The base is much improved from last week and the skiing was quite passable, not epic powder but still very good for November.

  11. We skied the Sheep trail to Dyson Falls and a little past that. Variable snow cover-excellent in some places, awful in others. Had to walk down a few hills but not all. Got a few gouges in my good light tourng skis (should have used rock skis) but still a nice day out and such nice weather.

  12. Little Elbow: too little snow, too much gravel!

    There was no sign of the 10 cm which fell at Bragg Creek, here it was maybe 2 cm, over a very sketchy base.
    We followed hikers, bikers and other skiers. Most hikers turned off at or before Nihahi Ridge. I think the fat bikers had the best equipment for today! We had to walk down most hills, which ruins the fun.
    The skiers ahead of us must have magic rock skis or something, as they apparently skied down all the hills right over the rocks! My skis don’t do that.
    We turned around at Nihahi Creek, as the crossing looked like deep slush.
    The chinook winds came down, blew all the snow off the trees, and really warmed things up.

  13. We skied Arethusa Cirque November 9th in…well, less than ideal conditions. The rain on Nov. 8 did not help and tempestuous winds had hammered the area, but particularly the exposed, west-facing aspects. There is only a 30 cm base and it is very sugary to ground.

    After two runs, afraid for life and limb, we decided to call it a day. Still, it was great to get out.

  14. We skied Arethusa Cirque today (November 7) and found a remarkably good base and were able to make some decent turns with minimal contact with rocks. Great bluesky cloudless day.

    • We were up there the previous day, Nov 6. We skied the northernmost bowl below Arethusa from the ridge. I figure 20cm fresh storm snow from the last cycle. I dug a pit high up and measured 116cm but still managed to nail a few rocks.

  15. Skied Little Elbow to Mount Romulus. I started just beyond Forgetmenot pond. There was already a ski trail through the campground and I followed it. Past the Nihahi Ridge turnoff I broke trail. It was pretty easy going. Past the bridge at the outcrop the trail starts to ascend steadily, and I hit rocks on some of the hills here – definitely rock-ski conditions. Lower down the skiing was okay. -7C in the parking lot in the morning, and +2 to +5C on return. By the afternoon the trees were dripping and some sections were sun-affected. Other bits stayed cold. A very scenic tour.

  16. We found some reasonable ski conditions at Ptarmigan Cirque on Thursday Oct 31. At treeline the snow was 46cm with a supportive base of 22cm. Lots of rock and wind-hammered snow but skiing was OK in protected areas.


    • The next storm cycle should improve things quite a bit in the Highwood Pass area. I’m anxious to go. Thanks for the report.

  17. Highwood Pass – Oct 1

    With a CBC radio report of amazing skiing up here on 40 cms of fresh snow, this was the place to enjoy the larches with a few turns!
    As Alf says, I’ll let the pictures say it all (no captions necessary):!Avuc6aIvjGUAiCkIuXoD57opJgOs?e=8pUshg

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