Alf Skrastins has provided a list of trails that are suitable for xc touring skis.
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We found great conditions at Chester Lake today. It snowed lightly all day. There was 20-25 cm of light new snow on top of a supportive base. Total snow depth was 65cm at the lake. Travel conditions were good on or off trail. https://photos.app.goo.gl/hYGxwWutcG6YLFBFA
Healy Pass, Nov 18
A beautiful day at the Pass today, but hard work to get there. The 10 cm of new snow was heavy and sticky and we were a bit “out of shape”. Temps varied from -5 at the start to near zero at the Pass with a fair amount of sunshine to make things even slower. My “skin glue”, newly applied, was sticking to the bases a bit but I wasn’t the only one with glide-stick issues. Time for a new wax job and some silicone spray on the tops to keep off the extra weight.
No sign of avalanches aside from a few dry sloughs. No cracking or whumping. 50 cm snow depth on top of suppportive crust.
Highwood Pass, Nov 12, 2020
With great hopes based on SpotWx predictions, we ventured to Pocaterra Ridge yesterday. As expected, on arrival at 10 a..m the parking lot was nearly full; early season enthusiasm and the holiday. The temperature was -14 C, but with virtually no wind, it was quite comfortable.
Conditions were the good side of marginal. Many slopes had 5-10 cm of fresh, but a rough crust underneath and many lines had been overused. We saw 25 skiers going up to the high point in one glance!
Even though vis was poor and snow needs replenishing, it was a wonderful first day out on the fat rig.
Just noticed Arethusa cirque basin has a bear closure in place. Unfortunate timing. Couldn’t post on the new autumn trip report page.
Nakiska looked like it would have provided good corn skiing today from across the valley. More snow on the ground than usual for this a time of year. Spikes came in handy descending. A view of Barrier damn parking from above showed it overflowing onto Hwy 40 mid day as the larger upper parking area was gated. Conservation officers doing the rounds of the parking lots.
Your observation was correct, MaSid. Conditions were very good for corn snow skiing at Nakiska on Saturday. The snow started right at the day lodge. I’m guessing that todays snowfall just added more snow, but it will take a few melt-freeze cycles to turn that into corn.
Is it allowed to ski nakiska slopes after the closing date? It looks tempting to go for some turns there. I don’t wanna brake any rules though.
The RCR website very explicitly states skiing when resort is closed is prohibited (safety reasons, no patrol, etc.). However, I wonder if this isn’t just a cya thing. I skinned up a while back (before checking the RCR website) and several staff on the hill saw my friend and me and said nothing. So I dunno… I’m guessing that the worse that could happen is one would be asked to leave.
Thanks for replay. The only resorts in the area I tour regularly is Sunshine, lake Louise only using temple ski out and I know people ski Norquay no problem.
Phase 1 Day 1 woohoo
GordF, pics will address your query from other thread.
Not wanting to stress the system, we didn’t get too adventurous.
Found lots of pretty great corn, and actually the big north facing slopes didn’t look to be in their prime anywho.
Wed apr 1: an exploratory attempt to ski Kananaskis.
Despite a parking area outside provincial parkland and formal trails accessible from that location and officially listed as open (with no note of “trailhead parking closed”, unlike most trails), no access available. Worth checking regardless. Would have been a fantastic workout for the lungs, legs and mind. So back to finishing work on the “ski bow” to entertain myself with some element of “skiing” while hoping for a dump in town.
Wed mar 25:
Excellent cold fresh snow at treeline (20cm?) and below on north east aspect at an undisclosed Kananaskis location. Complete isolation with an early start and an obscure spot on a weekday in safe touring terrain. If it was the last of the season, a good one, might just sustain me.
Oh you sneaky devil!
They’ll be on the look out for you.
Better shelter in place and learn how to post pics.
Hope you snuck one in today. Good slarving snow and no crust below treeline on north aspects near the divide. Polish up the bike and the light skis, if not a mustang handy.
Or the monster truck…
“Walking, hiking, biking, horseback riding and off-highway vehicle use are still permitted on designated trails…”
Saw a taxi on highway 40 today. Somebody must have wanted to get out there bad. In theory, take one to a gate, if appropriate sanitization/separation (aka: limo, with bike rack), and start biking with everything in tow until switching to skis. Or rappel from a heli.
TWIN CAIRNS at SUNSHINE – March 23
Free powder skiing in bounds or out of bounds!
Details available in the captions here:
Now, if only it would quit snowing!
The backcountry… now with disco balls!
Sun mar 22: nakiska
Road up to nakiska was not plowed beyond Stoney parking this morning so started from ribbon. First tracks all morning! Snow amounts didn’t increase much with elevation, with about 5 or 6 inches of fresh at the top. A handful or two people had the same idea, although some a bit late for the rapidly heating snow. 2nd run up from the base of the gold chair things were getting hot and sticky under foot by about 1130. Sunny slopes were fast dust on crust and a bit rough under foot. Good snow at the sides in the shade of the trees. Fun low risk “side country” day. Should be much improved after this next storm.
Thanks MaSid for that 8 am report from Ribbon! Changed plans and had a great afternoon of powder skiing on the more northerly facing upper runs. With 4wd, was able to start right from the gate at 10:30 along with several others on AT gear- it obviously got a lot busier on the lower slopes later on. Thanks to aspect, and downslope winds that picked up a bit later, the snow remained mostly dry from the top lift station down to the mid-mountain lodge. The hard base under the fresh was a reminder to keep those edges sharp, tighten up the boots, and angulate- something us non-resort skiers don’t always need to pay much attention to! Below mid-mountain on exiting at 4- the lower slopes were a mix of creamy smooth sun affected snow (beginning to crust in the shade), and still dry powder along the sheltered margins most of the way to the base.
Excellent! Sporting those T3’s I hope. Too bad we missed each other (back at ribbon by 1230).
Nope- AT on 102 waisted skis. T3’s and Kazamas are back on the shelf gathering dust, although I do occasionally drag them out for late spring tours once grooming is done, to places like Skogan and Fire Lookout.
More cut block fun in the back yard at Bragg Creek. Makes for a pretty good school day!
SUNSHINE’S GREAT DIVIDE – March 20
A quiet day at Sunshine, especially at the top!
Details available in the captions here:
Ski High at these temperatures.
Beauty Chuck and think your photo of social distancing should be sent it to the newspapers to win a prize or at least to weather network. And Assiniboine-WOW! I am indeed envious. I was just asking a couple of girlfriends about skiing up the ski out, so you answered that one, but I don’t have any TUA’s or full climbing skins. You must have had fun taking those photos but enjoyed Crowfoot as well, and Alaric’s video! No wonder Jeannette is such an amazing skier.
Drooled a bit looking at those. Don’t view chucks photos unless safely ensconced.
Awesome. I’m living vicariously through these posts right now. Keep em’ coming!
The Whyte Museum called, they want their Tua’s back.
Nice try Aqua Toque, but my Tua’s got me here and are here to stay!
Dusted off the 25 year old Kazamas and “root beer” T3’s last week for a tour of WBC meadows and cutblocks. Lots of good memories in those skis 🙂
As a performance enhancing drug user once said (before he got caught): “it’s not about the bike”. (-:
Memories need to be made…Catch me if you can!
Fri mar 20: moose ridge/WBC
A cool -18 when I started this morning but warmed up quickly, too quickly (spring starts would be easier if not for the overnight fretting). But good to get out of the box for some open air backcountry isolation on the first full day of spring. Time to put the sun hat in the pack. Instead of moose packers, this time I went up the shell gas line ROW. It’s like a green ski run at nakiska, but with a few small trees and the odd lurking stump. Good coverage with just over a meter of snow at 6000 ft. Above that, the ankle ski pens (AT) turned to knee deep wallowing in an unsupportive snow pack by 1130 (too late in the day or too early in the year) so descended before it got any warmer to come back another day. Good mid pack crust below 6000 made for nice mellow turns. Returned via middle tom snow and through the “big meadow”. Ran into the boys pruning away, doing a top notch job keeping tom snow in fine shape. Couldn’t resist building a small single seater at the east end of meadow near mountain road, which afforded a distant view of folks skiing the cut blocks. So much to explore at WBC (that isn’t on the map) with the right gear for the job, either LT or AT, waxless, kicker skins, or full, when the snow pack is good. Wouldn’t know anything about it if not for Alf’s work, his reports and just looking around, wondering what’s around the corner. Now is the time before things thin out.
I figured that single seat sofa was your work on West Meadow. (There is an even bigger meadow on the south side of Mountain Road).
Spied it lots, but yet to check the south meadow out. So much to do….
CROWFOOT PASS and CROWFOOT GLADES – March 19
A great way to welcome the first day of Spring Skiing!
Details available in the captions here:
… and FREE entry to the National Park during Covid-19… stay healthy.
A group of us stopped in at the ACC’s Louise and Richard Guy Hut recently.
I must say, the route to and from the place is not for the faint of heart.
Thu mar 12: Monarch rampart
Broken trail up heally but still lots of fresh to make the out good (and to be all refreshed again by tomorrow). Ankle ski pens (AT) off trail at treeline. Slabby feeling and lightly wind affected snow in open areas at treeline. No sastrugi except on top of ridge. Light cracking in a soft slab just below ridgeline, as forecasted. Skied the lower angled easterly avalanche slope on the way out after lunch. It was starting to gain some heat in the afternoon sun with some light pinwheeling just starting, but winds were keeping it cool enough. Clear skies most of the day with only occasional light snow flurries.
Wed mar 11: rockbound lake trail.
Only a light dusting over recent tracks but sides of trail were nice and soft for taking off a bit of speed on descent. Some thin sun crust on south aspect below the shoulder about 6000 ft in open areas. No crusty effect on south aspect trail. Not much midpack to the snow, especially lower down. Fine on north aspect exploring around between base of dragons back and trail to tower lk (ankle to mid boot ski pen). Crossing over onto the south aspect of the ridge was less supportive. A few large trees down on the main trail below the shoulder requiring some quick detours speeding down.
HILLSDALE TRAVERSE – March 9
Perfect conditions to re-visit an historic traverse.
Details available in the captions here:
The closure has been lifted!
An intriguing trip on such a beautiful day!
Smith Dorrien Powder- March 8.
Below treeline glades offered up excellent conditions on Sunday. The low density settled storm snow of around 35 cm lying on top of a crust was reasonably well bonded and showed little sign of slab formation in the sheltered glade runs that we skied. Nonetheless- with the elevated avalanche risk in mind- we stuck to moderate slopes with no overhead exposure and did not venture higher onto some inviting steeper terrain nearby at treeline. As expected on a good weather day after a dump, it was busy out there. We counted at least 14 others where we were, and all of the popular roadside parking spots had 6-10 vehicles by 10 AM- the easy access ski zones were getting hit hard.
With new snow falling west of Banff this morning, I opted to tour up to Rockbound Lake. When that long, steep trail up to the upper basin is hard-packed and icy, it can make for a terrifying descent. But with soft, new snow, it’s a lot of fun. Starting out, the snow was damp and prone to icing up, but the snow depth and quality increased with elevation. No photos today. It was snowing too hard to see anything.
What’s next? No K-Country avi bulletin?
Oops, they probably don’t know about that. Better lay low.
It’s wierd to think about. If no unbiased public safety bulletins and privatization….
Todays tour to Rummel Lake was very enjoyable. The route has been well packed (mostly by snowshoers), although it did not always follow the official “Rummel access” trail to the High Rockies Trail. There is a lack of trail markers and lots of snow, so it is easy for people to get off- track. The snow is very supportive, with ankle deep powder on top, so you have plenty of opportunities to explore.
Conditions were good in the Chickadee Valley on Sunday. A deeper than average snow pack has filled in the creek drainage, making the tour easier than usual. A bit of new powder made the skiing easy with V40 wax.
There were only a few others in the valley today and they all branched off to ski on steep avalanche slopes. We had the upper end of the valley all to ourselves. https://photos.app.goo.gl/yJp9MLJhGCB9zY3g7
COMMONWEALTH SMUTS LOOP – March 1
Great to get into the backcountry for some powder turns!
Details available in the captions here:
Quite windy but well worthwhile.
Sat feb 29: tent ridge (central bowl)
A lot different day on the spray today with about 4-6 inches of fresh on the drive south up the hill above the Nordic centre. -3 or 4 along the upper spray road and most of the day. Some drifts at the top of the hill. Nothing got plowed while we were out and about skiing/splitboarding. Snowing all day up there. And quite windy. Didn’t see or hear anything sliding but visibility was limited. Stayed away from any avalanche prone slopes given the howling wind, noodling about in the safety of semi open mellow trees. No cracking observed as we travelled into treeline, but wind loading and bare rock was evident not too far away. We didn’t test things out. Good fun descent at the end of the day down the gully, with some appropriate leaping.
“Out and about skiing/splitboarding”?!
You mean you associate with splitboarders?
Is it even allowed to mention them on this blog?
Nevertheless, thanks for the update.
Only on leap year days. The poster children never pose with their boards and are skiers at heart (they just don’t know it fully yet).
UPPER BRYANT CREEK – February 28
Arrived at 8:30 am, with only one car in the Mount Shark parking lot. Light wet snow falling made it a bit challenging to wax my track skis; settle for VR50 with a reasonable grip. Recent track setting was filled by windblown snow, making it a bit slow. Once I reached the Bryant Creek bridge, the grip got better on a well packed skier trail. Met a couple at BR9, skiing out after having spent time at the Naiset cabins. After a break at the Bryant Creek warden cabin (on the porch with +2 C), I carried onward up the Bryant Creek Valley. Pretty cloudy most of the way. Skied 2 km past BR17 campground, just as the trail was getting pretty bumpy and heading up toward Assiniboine Pass. Even with skins, I wouldn’t recommend heading up higher with skinny skis. So, it was going to be a 38 km return day, provided I manage to return! Well with the temperature increasing (upgraded to VR60), slipping back at any small rise was a frustrating feast at times. It wasn’t much faster heading out from the warden cabin, with snow sticking at times or wax icing up. Met a couple having lunch around BR13, by the old avalanche cleared path. The last 6 km from the Spray River bridge were slow in the tracks: better with skating on the groomed part of the trail. Happy to get to the parking lot, with a few cars. The drive back north on the Spray Lakes Road was like typical April spring conditions, with a mélange of ice, mud, potholes, gravel and more ice. Despite challenging ski grip and (too) warm conditions, a very peaceful place to be up there.
Tue feb 25: heally pass avalanche paths.
Skied first and second paths en route to heally pass. Mid boot dry powder, and fast. Large cornice in the bowl above path 2, so hit it first early and while cloudy. Entertaining debri bumps/piles. Path 1 more planar and lower angle. Farmed them until the tea ran out, and returned down heally. Much more pleasant descent than last week with the refresh. Some mild Walker traffic to the bridge, but not beyond. Met a couple of gents heading up to pass for tele turns with tua/NNNBC set ups. Probably takes more skill than I have, but a good day for it. Nobody else encountered. Winds picked up substantially after 1.
Closure: West side of sulphur (see BNP important closure bulletins). BNP has closed this trail again for fire protection measures. Sundance canyon trail through and beyond however remains open this time.
JONES PASS – February 23
My intended destination was Red Deer Lakes, from the Lake Louise ski-out trail head. Poor visibility with some blowing snow, by the time I got to Deception Pass, was good enough for me to turn around just pass Jones Pass (between Fossil and Skoki mountains) and 2 km before the lakes. By the time I reached Boulder Pass, the sun was still out with great views ahead toward Deception Pass. Met at least 15 people coming out of Skoki Lodge. The climb to Deception Pass wasn’t too bad on wax (VR40), with fresh snow on the skidoo packed trail. Met another group of 5 people before Jones Pass, on a day ski from the lodge, having gone to meadows east of Fossil Mountain. The ski back up Deception Pass was rather slow, with snow sticking to the skis, almost as if I was wearing skins. The light was pretty “fake” coming down the pass, making it difficult to see the terrain and negotiate the slope with long narrow touring skis. Was glad to finally get back to Boulder Pass, for the bumpy bobsled run to Temple Lodge! Last 4 km on the ski-out were a blast as usual after such a remote outing of ups and down over three mountain passes. A good day in the office, with 32 km return and 1100 m total elevation gain. The crux of the day was the drive to Calgary, with blowing snow and poor visibility. The photos are nothing to write home about, but they give a flavor of the sceneries under various sunny and near blizzard conditions at times.
Great trip report Normand and enjoyed seeing your pics and track. Sorry you did not make it to your destination. Pretty adventurous especially seeing the weather variability you had to contend with, which continued all your drive home. Strathmore Golf Course sounds like a well deserved easy day for you tomorrow?? Still want to get those vintage Montmorency Falls pics into your hands.
Thanks Helen for your comments.
It has been said that success is the journey, not the destination.
Yes for those pics one day.
Well done Normand!
I particularly like the map used for your track, with all the appropriate names.
Might I ask what you use?
Thanks Chuck. Absolutely.
I am using the Gamin Instinct watch (Christmas gift my wife bought me, but that was back-ordered from MEC until 2 weeks ago!), which is paired with my Iphone. I downloaded the Garmin Connect App, which gets the activity I record on the watch while skiing/climbing/walking etc., automatically entered into. You can then get the track of your day onto that App with all sort of data; I did not show that one because the lakes and mountains are not labeled (well at least I haven’t manage to get it so far). However on Garmin Connect, the track can”t be laid out on a pretty accurate satellite image.
The track in the photos I included comes from another app: Garmin Explor, which has the watch paired to. On Garmin Store, I downloaded maps of Canada (free), and those maps have all topo lines, lakes and mountains labeled. My track of the day was automatically traced on the map, as activity of the day.
There are ways the activity/track data can be emailed, with locations of all km in a given day and/or any GPS locations you choose to record during the day (say a great fishing spot!).
Still playing with the bells and whistles of the toy and apps, but I am getting there. Hope it helps.
Chuck, I mistyped something above. I meant:
“However on Garmin Connect, the track CAN be laid out on a pretty accurate satellite image.”
Thanks for the detailed response, Normand.
Fortunately, my birthday is well before Christmas!
Baker creek valley
Skied the old trail up the Baker creek valley today. The first three kilometres were well packed by snowshoe traffic (probably folks staying at the Baker Creek Chalets). Beyond that we followed ski tracks up to the large meadow at around 6km. It was interesting to see an old #1 ski trail sign near the meadow from way back when this was an official ski trail. The trail has definitely grown in since my last visit years ago, and had many fallen trees along the way. The trail isn’t maintained anymore unfortunately. We followed the creek for a couple more kilometres until the trailbreaking became too difficult then headed back. It makes for a nice quiet ski in a seldom visited valley.
Sat Feb 22: east elk pass
Snowing all day from the get go in the elk pass area, light to moderate. Last weeks track was barely visible from last snow before high pressure ridge. Still easy trail breaking with ankle ski pens (AT). Cheeky and Simona made it with waxless LT and cross country gear with skins and kicker stickers. Fresh single feline tracks again. A regular hunting/travel route. No sightings. Toodled about in the forest on easy west slopes of thyrwitt, then returned the way we came, adding in the hydroline-Patterson meadows. Fortress diesel and premium pumps only are working (water infiltration issues), until next week they say, when all gas will be available.
I suspect one could make it to the main meadow pass without stickers, now that there’s a track. Must extoll my delight with these new wider waxless and mostly metal edged Rossi OT65’s – Down like bull! Up like tractor!
I see someone has learned how to code!
Thu feb 20: Simpson pass/eohipous lake/heally pass.
An excellent sunny tour through the meadows and ponds below the rampart. Heally pass trail hard packed, enough to encourage a few walkers. Old trail turning off toward Simpson, then broke trail to eohipous. Ankle to boot top ski pen. Ankle in open areas at treeline. Good close up view of the monarch, not often seen in winter. Strong winds in the open at treeline discouraged a traverse of the rampart. Pluming snow off the monarch and along the rampart. Heally pass trail descent was a fast and bumpy ride without fresh snow. But a grand meadow tour mostly off the summer trail. Track along the lee of the rampart probably mostly blown in by now. Only dry snow encountered en route, but wasn’t on any steep south aspects. Photo
Gas pump condition reports. Another first! 😉
Lovely pano. How do you create a stand alone link to a photo here?
Second actually (-: Was there a while back and could have done with a top up, but no such luck. Limped home on fumes. Not sure you can link to a photo other that how you have been doing it. I sent it to the supreme webmaster and he graciously tacked it up at his discretion.
Chester Lake was very nice today under bluebird skies on NNNBC skis. Purple wax worked well for climbing up the trail. Trail is well packed out, mostly by skiers. Lots of AT folks making turns. What else can I say…perfect day…
Feb 16 — The kid and I went back to Powderface Ridge to look for horseys. Yeah, that’s right, it was Powderface Ridge (since those smartypantses moreorless figured it out from my last report).
No wild chevauxz this time, just high-fibre evidence of their presence — slope apples?
We managed to gain the ridgetop despite brutal trail breaking in deep bottomless snow up high (thank you cold snap). An old track made by a post-holing horse helped out in places (thank you Black Stallion).
Weather was windy yet clear. We enjoyed awesome views at the top including the summit of Prairie Mountain swarming with humans.
Powder turns were had on the down — but of the “sporty” variety. I blame the aforementioned cold snap.
Back at the highway trampling by the masses made for a quick exit, flying down the inclines and double poling on the flats.
Upon return a carnival atmosphere was encountered at the barricade.
Perhaps you would enjoy the horse skijoring event at millarville rack track next weekend. learn The art of roping and head back to powderface for a wild ride. If only they would run uphill and not toward bare ground.
Amiskwi Lodge Feb 9-16
A dozen “seasoned” Ramblers enjoyed a wonderful week of skiing at Amiskwi Lodge north of Golden, B.C. Temperatures ranged from -15 C to -2 C with a daytime average of approximately -8 wind light winds of variable direction. We got between 5-15 cm of fresh snow every night, enough to cover our tracks after 3-4 days. Although the avi risk increased to Considerable in the alpine, we found few signs of instability and a good mid-pack of 60 cm or so.
We skied between 1800 and 2500 m during the trip and, because of poor visibility, spent a lot of time in or near trees. Those times when the sun allowed higher ascents were blissful, with calf-deep powder most places and knee-deep fluff in some protected areas.
The Lodge is a great place to spend a week, with spacious sleeping quarters, well-equipped kitchen, sun room, two wood-burning stoves, composting inside toilets and a large sauna with showers. The crew cooked an amazing variety of food for the week and even though we burned off some fat during the day, we regained “substance” around the dinner table.
This was a Rocky Mountain Ramblers trip. For more info, go to https://www.ramblers.ab.ca/
Went to Boom Lake today to get out of the wind. Good choice which was clear from all the snow stuck to the trees. Nearly a dozen downed trees across the trail, most you can easily ski around. Skied on 3cm of new snow over firm packed trail ~ 1m wide. On Wednesday’s blue wax. Flushed a large owl out of the trees at one point. Met 3 pairs of walkers on descent – pretty firm for them too so not too much damage to trail.
Ski tour critter encounter first for me today…wild horses.
(Probably a first for them too…a weenie in orange plastic cowboy boots)
Sorry no photos, too elusive.
Where were they you ask? Ha! Not going to tell.
They’re MY ponies!
Sorry my dog destroyed your ski tracks on your return trip. 😉
Nice! They are quite amazing, not your average horses. Elusive and intense. Especially that Hwy 66 group. Never seen them in winter.
Dang. You guys are too worldly and wise.
Did you see the black stallion?
Monday Feb 10th – Baker Lake
-14 C at parking lot 10am. Resort ski out was hard packed but well groomed. Followed well packed summer trail to Halfway Hut. Boulder Pass was very wind swept with gravel showing at the last corner and 100+m of ice rind beyond. Ptarmigan Lake was very hard wind crust with thin spindrift, several parties coming down Deception Pass were well bundled against the wind. Noticed a small cornice collapse release on west face of Deception Pass. Couldn’t find any previous tracks to Baker; but tried to find summer tail… gave up and descended via the creek (probably more scenic approach anyway). Baker Lake was also wind crust but still had several inches of powder on top.
Wind was howling from the West all the way back to the Halfway Hut… should have brought goggles!! Took snowmobile track along creek back to resort – much more open, scenic & sunny. This is the lower trail that you can see from the storage shed. Probably -6C by mid-afternoon… but with serious wind chill across the lakes & passes.
Purpose of this trip was to field test Black Diamond Kicker Skins – VERY impressed!! Able to walk straight up everything encountered – no need for herringbone technique (but did some herringbone anyway to make sure skins stayed attached – no problems). Adequate grip even on the ice rind section & in deep powder snow on Baker Lake creek descent. Acceptable glide on rolling terrain and even on ski-out at end of the day. I may never wax my back-country skis again!!
Sat feb 8: east elk pass
2.5 inches of fresh on the blueberry junction picnic table this morning. Efficient travel on waxed AT skis both on and off trail, until the narrow hallway/drainage between the two big meadows (skins on). If in doubt finding the way through the hallway, just follow the resident feline tracks. She knows the most efficient way. Toe to ankle ski pen through the meadows and above. Found myself wandering up the boundary cutline east towards mount thyrwitt. Lots of flagging along the cutline and obvious easy travel until just below more open trees (deadfall that I didn’t feel like removing), so didn’t get the steeper goods. Easy cruise down the cutline back to the pass (although good eye protection came in handy). Still a crust below the surface just above 7000 ft. Breaking down a bit in the lower meadows. Got to meet fellow couch lovers Karl and rosey back at blueberry for a chat (and a pleasing donation of chocolate!). Fortress gas station pumps “out of order” but store still open. Not sure why, but don’t count on it. Got treated to a nice sky display on return, spotting a major fireball meteor and implosion entering calgary city limits (5:08pm), just as the full moon was popping above the horizon. It’s trajectory was eastwards and was right in my face/windshield about 20 degrees above horizon. Busy highway so probably seen by many coming back from a ski day. Icing on the cake (and chocolate)!!
Trip reports with meteors.
OK, that’s gonna be hard to top.
Always the option of a fresh steak and a rough riders hat, to make things interesting, as you know.
Nice to meet you Martin. Visited both coaches after we left you. Followed good skier tracks from Blueberry Hill trail over West Elk Pass to the power line.
Likewise. And have learned that my on trail ski meeting/name spelling is not up to bob standards.
Some general comments about conditions on Friday in the Smith-Dorrien. There is still untracked snow to be found- other than a couple of snowshoers who veered off elsewhere eventually- nobody had been in our locale since last weekend’s storm. The avalanche reports had been repeating a mantra all week of “good skiing in sheltered locations from 2000m to 2300m”, in other words- above the rain crust and below the heavily wind affected alpine. And that is what we found- easy travel from 1900m t0 2050m on a firm 4 cm crust, overlaid with 5-10 cm recent fluff. From 2050m to our highpoint of 2325m-excellent boot-top powder skiing! After 3 runs, we enjoyed good dust on crust skiing back down to about 1950m, making for an easy quick exit. Underlying the supportive mid-pack we found the other mantra that avy forecasters have been repeating most of this winter- the “deep persistent slab over crust/facets”. With that in mind, we kept to moderate well supported terrain, with no overhead exposure.
66 on teh sticks.
Skied up the highway to Rainy Pass and toodled around a bit in a high altitude cow pasture and on a couple old skid roads. Some potential for turns up there but as you’re all aware the rain crust in these parts is only under a few cms of new snow and it is not particularly supportive (in other words breakable). So turns not happening at this point.
Black Prince Fan Feb. 3
Fantastic skiing on the fan/hourglass feature west of Black Prince tarns today. Of course, on the trail leading to the tarns, the recent rain had left an iron-hard crust but by the time we were at the tarns there was 2-3 cm of fresh powder. As we rose above 1900 m the powder got even deeper, about 10 cm at our first launch site, laying over a 10 cm crust above a stable mid-pack of about 60 cm. There were several size 1 slides at the hourglass and surrounds but these appeared to be at least 24 hrs old. No other signs of instability.
We did 4 runs on unfarmed powder and loved every minute. The starting temperature was -12 but felt warmer. A few sunny moments were welcome but we had grey skies most of the day. No wind to speak of and that was a blessing. Mid-day temperature was -7 C.
You were lucky to harvest that slope before the locusts descend upon it!
That’s just why I decided to go. It was just a matter of luck. Could have been really ugly.
And he decried that the locusts would return, and they did, on feb 5.
Conditions were great today at Chester Lake. There was about 12cm of new snow at the parking lot and over 20cm of fresh powder at the lake. The supportive base and light new snow made for easy travel. Temperatures hovered around -10C, with minimal wind, although the higher elevation winds towards Robertson Glacier and Burstall Pass looked pretty fierce. What a great day and such an amazing contrast to yesterdays rain and winds! https://photos.app.goo.gl/hc3vgUnihEqtzVeR9
Chester Lake, January 30th
There was a trace of new snow in the parking lot at about 1 inch at treeline. This new snow covered a hard-packed and well-trodden trail. At treeline there is a deep and very supportive snowpack, becoming thin and slabby very quickly when I ventured into more open terrain. I spent the day yo-yoing some very short tree runs above elephant rocks. The snow is still dry with no crusts and it skied very well. Weather was mostly cloudy with some sunny breaks. -10C in the morning and -1C in the afternoon.
p.s. there was a wind drift blocking the parking lot entrance. It was hard to see in the flat light. Some cars were getting stuck in it.
Little Richardson January 30th
Great snow on the NE slopes above Hidden Bowl today. No signs of instability with 4 cm of fresh to make the runs a lot of fun. Blue skies until 1 p.m. with hardly any wind. Distance was 18 km and the elevation gain about 850 m. Ten Ramblers enjoyed the outing. For more information go to ramblers. ab.ca
GIBBON PASS – January 26, 2020
Was happy to see the Parks Canada truck and trailer when I arrived this morning, which meant that down trees should be cut and removed off the trail. Met the track setter and his ski doo when he was coming back down, somewhere between the 2 avalanche runout zones. As usual for 2019-2020, the trackset stops at RE6. Very good and relatively fast ski trail after until the lodge turnoff. Arrived at the lodge with -1 C and grey sky. Lots of trenching in front of all building, with snow dug down to almost the ground. Almost looks as if ACC if preparing for a siege! After a quick bite, strapped on the skins for the next 450 meters elevation gain over only 3 km to Gibbon Pass. I had no idea if someone had been up already and I expected to break trail all the way up. I quickly picked one of two downhill fat ski tracks (well wider than my 54 mm light touring skis), near side by side. Looks like a few days old. The tracks were in general close to the summer trail. Still hard work despite those previous descents, but I did not need to think too much about where to go. After 1.5 hour of steep grind, the terrain level off a bit and I entered a main drainage heading up to the meadows by the pass area. Pretty grey and cloudy skies once I got onto the flat area of the pass. Less than 10 cm ski penetration in the meadows; 20 cm as I was going up from the lodge, in the treed area. Decent views of Mount Storm and Little Copper Mountain. I had a strict turn around time of 2:30 pm. I figured I was about 300 m away from the Gibbon Pass cairn, but the 900 meters elevation gain was enough for me, with a return ahead in the schedule of my day. I ski trail toward Twin Lakes was pretty much cover by wind-blown snow. The decent back to the lodge from the pass was slow and tricky at times. Which I had wider and much shorter skis for the decent. But longer and narrower touring skis are a compromise on those long tours, especially when the last 13 km to the road are either skier- or machine-trackset. A long day with 31+ km return for 900 m elevation gain, but satisfied it was done in such fairly mild weather.
Took a photo of one of the avalanche gulley coming down from Copper Mountain, roughly at km 7.5 on the Red Earth Creek trail. Pretty big one and not a place to hang around too long when the AVI hazard is fairly high.
Normand, this looks like some very nice touring terrain with potential for laps, too. Do you have a GPS track?
Indeed, that area is great for touring, with great terrain up Little Copper Peak. I don’t have a GPS to get up the pass, where I was yesterday. Just tried to follow the summer trail from the lodge. Rather long distance to get there, compared to the Twin Lakes access. However with fat skis, the Twin Lakes approach is better, as you have the option to do turns. I was on narrow touring skis, which gave little flexibility to crank some turns.
The link after has a GPS track from a ski ascent they did of Little Copper from the Twin Lakes trail. Shorter in distance, but more difficult than coming from the Shadow Lake lodge side.
As a day trip from the road, I considered once to x-c ski to the lodge, carrying fat skis and large boots. Then switch gears to get up the pass and crank turns.
Great TR, thanks for sharing.
Yeah, those larches certainly look miserable. It’s probably somewhat better than being tormented. Many trees in the backcountry look tormented.
January 25, 2020
Whymper NE-Chickadee Valley
An even dozen Ramblers hit the ¨pow¨ today, skiing into Chickadee Valley and then setting the up-track to a bowl below a col on Mount Whymper’s NE face. It was a pleasant -5 C when we arrived, plus 2 in the parking lot at day’s end. Great snow with a few cm of fresh over a supportive mid-pack to at least 60 cm. No signs of instability all day. We did 3 laps before heading out, each one pretty special.
There will be a full report on the Ramblers’ site soon (ramblers.ab.ca)
Jan. 23, 2020 Bourgeau Meadows
Nine Rocky Mountain Ramblers enjoyed a wonderful day skinning up Healy Creek and then peeling off before we got to the Pass to ski Bourgeau Meadows. We arrrived at the Sunshine parking lot at 9 a.m. to -2 C and light flurries. The fresh snow that had fallen over the past 48 hours was a treat as the glades slopes we skied, nothing more than 25 deg, were beautifully forgiving, with about 60 cm of very stable mid-pack and fast, dry snow on top. We did, however, experience some “whumpfing” on a bench above a convex roll, so being careful about conditions is critical, even if the Avalanche.ca indicated only moderate risk at all elevations.
While the temperature stayed warm throughout the day, the 25-30 km/h wind made for some fast transitions at the top of our laps. After our last climb, we skied southward to a saddle and then down through thickish trees to rejoin the Healy Creek trail. Even this was enjoyable, far different than the luge run that it can be when skied off.
My GPS stopped working but the Ramblers’ database indicates that the trip is 20 km with 760 m net gain. With the laps that we did, I think it was close to 1000 m up.
Fri Jan 17: heally pass/monarch ramparts
Inversion was not really present at the sunshine lot, with -24 at 8am. Didn’t have to go too far or high to warm up, despite the lack of sun in the valley. About 3 inches of fresh on the trail to start. Moderate winds popping out at treeline into the open meadows, plus I had a snowshoer tailing me, so ditched The heally trail to lose the tail and headed over to the ramparts to enjoy my own track both up and down. Travel in open areas at treeline was mid boot (AT). Boot top in more protected trees. No whoompfing, cracking, or drummy snow on the ascent up to ridge top on lower angled terrain. No pit, hand or ski cutting tests. Sastrugi/bare rock skiing and blowing up to the high point on the ridge, so back I went. No cornice hucking today. The descent was great in the new snow. Would have been a 9 on the James Bond speed descent scale if not for the snowshoe divots slapping the skis about on the speedier sections, and the odd large tree bomb hunk. The travel along the meadow section in the lee of the ramparts was sunny warm paradise. Other than the snowshoer, only one other person seen and evidence of a party heading up towards Simpson pass.
“…I had a snowshoer tailing me…”
They are typically harmless — disconcerting, yet harmless.
On the other hand, ice climbers should be avoided at all times.
Was planning to ski another zone and anticipated he may have blindly followed me into terrain he wasn’t prepared for. Seemed lost without a track to follow.
Despite finding a lot of old tracks in spots, that were only partially erased by about 20 cm of recent snow, we managed to find some very good untracked skiing on a blustery day in the Smith-Dorrien. Although the snowpack in the zone was under 1m, and underlain by a facetted base, the mid-pack was very supportive, especially for Kananaskis in January. A week of arctic weather may unfortunately change that 🙁
Rossland Range-Kootenay Pass Dec. 28, 2019-Jan. 2, 2020
A smaller group than usual headed out of Cowtown on the 27th and were blessed with decent road conditions all the way to Rossland, where we immediately stopped in at Powderhound Sports for up-to-date information on backcountry conditions in the Rossland Range. The advice was “go to Kootenay Pass”. We ignored this and, despite some pretty heinous conditions in the lower-elevation sections of trail, had 3 days of very nice snow and beautiful weather with the Kootenay Sea below us and blue skies above.
Day 1 took us up Mount Kirkup via the Old Glory Trail. Day 2 below Cut Block Peak and Day 3 approaching near Mount Lepsoe via the Seven Summits Trail. Each day yielded some good turns, mostly in glade skiing and always under 30 deg. A pit dug on
Day 2 was bomber, but this would change over the next few days.
After 3 nights at Rossland, we moved over to the Sal-Crest Motel in order to ski Kootenay Pass. The first day was cold, humid and low vis. We skied the south side, climbing up to Lightning Strike Ridge for 2 runs before going the cabin and then skinning up one more time to ski the southwest aspects of Baldy Rocks before returning to Salmo for the New Year’s Eve celebration, a cheerful mix of food, stories and singing, with music from David (B), Ray and Chip. As per Ramblers’ custom, we called it a night around 9:30, a bit later than some years but certainly not a performance that would let us qualify for the Party Animal Squad.
New Year’s Day, Chip was laid up with a cold but the rest of the crew returned to the Baldy Rocks/Crags ridge and found warmer, wetter snow. As well, a test pit produced at “easy” failure on an isolated compression test, corroborating the increased avi risk that kept us cautiously skiing treed, lower elevation lines.
January 2nd was, in the view of many, the very best combination of weather, sun and snow. We returned to the ridge separating Baldy Rocks and the Crags and skied fast, forgiving powder for 4 runs, each more rewarding than the last. As predicted, the skies began to cloud over around 1:30, just about the time some of us were feeling the need to rest. It was a perfect day and a wonderful week. I think it’s the first time in all these years that we skied the backcountry every day. The crew has earned some sofa time.
NOTE: This report is virtually identical to that posted on the Ramblers’ site. If you’d like more information on the club, go to https://www.ramblers.ab.ca/
Steve, did you lose something last century at Black Prince? (see photo 1)
Extensive and widespread skier-compaction was encountered today on the Cone — Tree Triangle. However, about 10cms of new snow accumulated during the day and it was still coming done when we left.
On the subject of age/time, is that two generations of aqua toque family (aqua pants)? All those hours at COP with the young ones finally seem to be paying back country dividends. Well done (-:
Yes, O One Who Builds Couches, you are indeed correct!
Thanks for noticing.
Some good options out by couch HQ when things are all tracked out. Bester than above the old mine.
Not mine Tim, but you are correct- it does appear to be an artifact from a previous era, left behind by the almost extinct Tele tribe. Speaking of relics- maybe it belongs to my brother- I think that he is still rockin’ those bindings.
Hmmm…we found the artifact hanging in a tree but there were no signs of ACC old goats in the area.
ROCKBOUND LAKE – Jan 5
Magnificent snow conditions in the alpine!
Details available in the captions here:
Glad we waited for today’s perfect weather at around minus 5 and no wind.
Great pictures, Chuck! How was the ski down from Rockbound Lake on light touring skis? Possible to do nice turns? Not icy and out of control?
You’ve covered alot of distance already this winter! Amazing!
Ulrike… did I forget to include a picture of my own skis?
AT (Tuas to be exact) and I challenge anyone to get more turns than me!
Truly… the snow conditions are magnificent…Try it and report back.
Well worth the challenge,
Looks like Jeanette is on light gear!
I did it on light touring xc skis way back in the eons of time, but the few times since have all been on proper backcountry gear. Easier, and more fun for sure.
Yes Steve, I was on Light Touring skis. I enjoyed the tour. Chuck wanted turns, and he got them coming down from Rockbound Lake. I enjoyed the Tower Lake area, and the descent with my metal edges was all I needed. I am light!
ELK SUMMIT – Jan 2
A consistent supportive snowpack is providing excellent travel conditions in the Banff area at the moment.
Details are available in the captions here:
Great time to explore new horizons.
Any suggestions for a more technical xc or backcountry xc ski in Yoho or somewhere within an hour of Golden?
Boulder/deception pass in behind Louise ski hill, accessed using the ski out from fish creek parking lot. Metal edged light touring skis are best for the skilled descender, otherwise full back country gear. Trail often broken as many guests going in and out of skoki lodge. Options to stop at temple day lodge on return for a hot or cold beverage. Best done on a sunny day given the higher open terrain. Half way hut available to get out of the wind at lunch (an unheated heritage log structure). Going to deception and back is a long day, probably close to 30k? Avalanche risk if diverting from the main trail. The ski out ascent is quite boring for the first hour until you get through the ski resort.
Paradise Valley. Very scenic, generally well travelled trail at least until near the Giant Steps, which can add a bit more untracked “backcountry” challenge to what is generally an intermediate tour on xc skis. Further up, the trail crosses the bottom of some impressive avalanche slopes- use your own judgement. Don’t expect to bask in the sun much this time of year, thanks to the massive bulk of Mt. Temple. Delightful options exist to follow the creek rather than the trail in a few spots, when the snowpack is supportive enough.
Good-very good untracked powder skiing was found today, mining for turns in the southerly Smith-Dorrien. 20-25 cm ski penetration made for easy trailbreaking, with a (rain?) crust carrying skis very well in the 40 cm of recent dry settled powder, above 40-50 cm of facets forming a so-called “base” to the snowpack. Boot penetration was to ground! In the sheltered, northerly aspect zone from 2100 down to 1900m where we did our ski runs, no whumphing, cracking or slab formation was noted, nevertheless we kept to moderate well supported slopes.
“…mining for turns…”
I see what you did there.
Dec. 26, West Bragg Area
Another tour in West Bragg. This time on a cut block to the west of Mountain View West. Normally this cut block doesn’t have enough snow to cover the tree stumps, but this season has been a welcome exception to the rule. Similar conditions to yesterdays with a 5-10 cm of settled snow on a supportive crust layer that overlies facets to the ground. Skied east aspects that were super fast thanks to super slippery surface hoar. Fun getting some new vantage points of the area.
Thu dec 26: wolverine valley
-24 at the hostel this morning, so had to aim for some sunny easy skiing. Ski out from temple day lodge is in fine shape up and down. Got lucky with a track up into wolverine. Travel off trail was fine with a carrying crust down about a foot and a slightly more solid mid pack than 25 k east. Only mid boot trail breaking at treeeline. Lots of Avi debris and crown lines evident once in the valley coming off the south facing slopes, all of them stepping down to deep weeknesses and/or ground with debris almost getting to historical run outs. Some crown lines probably close to a meter deep. Steep slopes and gullies that had not slid looked spooky wind affected and primed to go so we stuck to some gentle sub-25 degree slopes in the sun.
Spring skiing on Christmas Day! Beautiful conditions on South aspect of Boundary cut block in West Bragg. About 8 cm of settled snow on a very supportive sun crust provided some nice skiing with superb alpine views to the west . Low temps over the last two nights provided some spectacular surface hoar that was a delight to ski on. Kona the mountain goat was enjoying the snow as much as i was.
Tue dec 24: tower lake tour
Luckily a track was laid in yesterday, so no knee and thigh deep trail breaking, unless you stepped off the track. Parking lot was nicely plowed. A thin base lower down with settled storm snow, but carried well enough on the down. Thicker base showed up around 6500 ft, but still bottomless pole plants. Deep drifts in open areas on the north aspect around the shoulder at 7000 ft toward the lake.
ELK LAKES CABIN…..in in the 18th and out on Dec 20th. Snowed about a foot night of 19th. Had to break trail coming out. Thanks to some fellows on AT skiis, we were able to do a nice day trip to end of Upper Elk Lake….should be lots of snow after the recent storm.
Commonwealth Dec 15
From the K-country bulletin: “At lower elevations the snowpack is mainly not supportive to skier traffic (weak facets). Poor coverage means there are lots of buried, or almost buried, hazards such as rocks and trees.”
I’m here to tell you that that is correct. We found all this in the valley and some open water here and there.
However, on this particular day we felt no harm would befall us venturing up the runout below a large mountain face. Decent turns ensued.
MONARCH RAMPARTS via HEALY PASS – Dec 13
Perfect conditions for some sweet turns in the high country, even on Friday the 13th!
Details available in the captions here:
Great to access an area closed in summer.
Stanley Glacier December 13
Who said Friday the 13th is a day for bad luck?! Although there is still a shallow base, the 15 cm of new powder helped our trip quite a bit today. It was -6 C when we arrived at 10 a.m., and the car registered -2 when we left at 3 p.m. There was no wind to speak of and a mix of blue and white above. We skied above “Lunch Rock” to the big icefall and also put in a track to the second large icefall looker’s left. Near the top, there might have been 20 cm of powder on top of weak, crusty, but unconsolidated crud all the way to ground. No signs of recent slides, no whumpfing or cracking at any point. Very little wind effect here, too. I would say that the skiing was pretty good for the lack of snow.
Boom Lake Trail – lots of snow on trail and the trees. Trail has been ski/ boot/ snowshoe packed to lake. Overall decent for skiing in and out. No deadfall or open water to deal with either. Excellent early season conditions. Plus no wind for most of the trail!
My family and three others went in there on Sunday. Eight kids ages 8-14 broke trail the whole way while lazy parents followed behind – I will pass on your compliments 😉
Black Prince Hourglass Take 2
After the nice day last Thursday, Ed R. decided to post this as a Ramblers’ trip. Six people braved the cold (-20 at the start) and were rewarded for our efforts. We found knee-deep powder below the pinch-point of the Hourglass, about 1/3 of which had not been skied. We did 4 laps in the best snow I’ve ever had in Alberta, rivalling the best B.C. champagne powder. We used up all the available real estate before leaving. Still a few rocks hiding below the surface. Size 1 dry releases coming off the rocks above but not propagating.
Sorry. I’m new.
Been a while since I’ve seen the toque on the wire, pulling off some nice inventive lines. (-:
Skiing on Prairie Mountain? Cool.
Toque! There goes the neighbourhood 😉
After years of trying, finally got the coveted “turns close to town”.
Just had to share the joy.
Chester Lake-Elephant Rocks.
We had a very enjoyable short backcountry tour to Chester Lake and beyond this afternoon. With maybe 5 having fallen overnight, the storm snow total looked to be around 15 cm, with light snow continuing as we headed up in calm air, and pleasant temperatures not far below zero. I’ve come to accept that Chester is a snowshoer and postholer hotspot, so it was a surprise to find an intact ski track all the way up- the snowshoers and hikers in front of us actually had used the designated snowshoe trail! Not so much for the return from Chester on down though- hikers had already trampled the ski track by mid-afternoon. Despite the often pitted trail surface, the descent was easy going and fun in the soft snow, with great coverage, although a couple of stumps were (barely) visible on the margin at one point. At treeline in the larches, the snowpack sits at roughly 70 cm-mostly pretty unconsolidated-with a light crust about 25 down giving only tentative support, and often wallowing, while travelling off the beaten track. With that, and the lack of vis up higher, we made no serious attempt to go looking for turns. Nonetheless- a fine afternoon with friends:
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.
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! https://photos.app.goo.gl/9mUu8rs8rb2sDRry6
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.
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.
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.
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.https://photos.app.goo.gl/k6oTVD3q3AjZ88yo7
I saw that bridge hiking this summer and thought “wtf?” Look forward to hitting it at speed coming down from the pass!
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:
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.
OBSERVATION PEAK – Nov 16
Stealing away from the crowds for some turns.
Details available in the captions here:
Good conditions for this early in the season… powder up top, some sun crust at treeline.
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.
Arethusa, Nov 13
As Gord noted, there were several groups skiing in various corners and pockets of Arethusa Cirque today. It’s always nice to have a sunny day and a bit of powder in early November.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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