Alf Skrastins has provided a list of trails that are suitable for xc touring skis.
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Bob and I spent what may be the last day of our ski seasons on the tour to Little Crowfoot in the Wapta Icefield area. Travel was easy with not much new snow over solid spring crusts, in winter conditions (and cold NW winds!) at the top, and full on spring weather low down as we returned in the mid-afternoon. Often really good powder skiing can be found off the peak, but it was not our day for that. Skiable but variable wind affected dry snow up high led to a mixed bag of grabby crusts with pockets of powder in the middle of the long descent, morphing to easy skiing granular corn snow below treeline. The supportive frozen crust remained intact all day despite the warm sun at lower elevations, with great coverage in the canyon, and no water, only snow, on Bow Lake. Despite the less than ideal powder skiing, it was a great spring tour!
Sun Apr 25: gypsum mine/ridge
Less new snow than expected. 1″ at the road, but 6″ of dust on crust up high on a nice steep north aspect. Last report of the ski season for me (tweaked the old back injury). Thanks everyone for all the informative reports over the winter! Happy trails and see you next year (-:
Hope you recover well MaSid; couch (winter) season is only 6 months away…
Heal up, and we will maybe finally see you on a couch somewhere, next season!
Thanks Steve and Normand. If not hurt, you probably would have seen me on crowfoot yesterday! Was looking forward to another week or two of corn and early starts. It’s been a wonderful season regardless.
Citadel Pass from Sunshine Village. Made good use of my Sunshine Spring Pass Wednesday April
21. Up the gondola at 8, leisurely latte at the base (how often can you backcountry ski with a fancy coffee shop at the trailhead, and have a beer garden waiting on your return?) Up Strawberry Chair, then headed south on NNN BC gear. Firm crust made for excellent skating across the meadows. Easily up and over the hump east of Quartz Ridge. Took the low route down to Howard Douglas Lake, on to Citadel Pass in under 1.5 hrs, such fast snow. Continued another 2 km south to top of the head wall. Return via high route, taking in numerous micro laps on low angle north east aspects with blown in powder for fast telemark turns. Back to the beer garden, then download the gondola.
Another great HIGH choice… Thanks JimP for sharing.
Photos would have made me too envious!
We were wandering around up there about a week proir to JimP.
No where near as fast and light as he but we were courteous enough to take some photos.
As Mike W mentions the window of cross border travel is about to slam shut.
AT, from your photos it looks more like a couple of seniors from Florida who got lost on the I75 collector lanes near Chattanooga.
Actually I’m green with envy!
Hey, thanks Hank.
Not far from the truth.
Planning to do likewise sometime with my Sunshine Spring Pass. We decided to ski the resort yesterday. Have already used the pass to descend to Simpson Pass and traverse the Monarch Ramparts. Was also thinking of touring to Citadel Pass, going over Fatigue Pass, and returning via Brewster Creek / Sundance Lodge to the Healy Creek trailhead at the base of the Sunshine access road. But I think the window on that trip has closed for this season.
South Burstall Pass. The weather was absolutely perfect today: -11C to start, +6C to finish, not a breath of wind, and not a cloud in the sky. However the snow was icy and crusty, and Sunday’s storms seems to to have dumped a lot more snow in my NW Calgary back yard than it did in the mountains. It was not enough to freshen up the skiing. Descending could best be described as “survival skiing”. I observed lots of pinwheels and loose snow avalanches on steep sun-affected slopes. All these were running in surface layers only and did not step down to deeper layers. SD Road is in abysmal shape between Blackprince and Burstall. Some sections with mud and deep ruts may be impassable for low-clearance cars.
MORAINE LAKE – April 19
Great use of yesterday’s snowfall and cold temperatures.
Details available in the photo descriptions here:
But iso-thermic conditions could come any day now!
Thanks for the debri shots Chuck. Good reminder. Might get lucky on isothermal snow conditions with snow and cooler temps on the way, extending the good conditions. Multiple sun crust layers provided plenty of support today. But underneath……many facets.
Yes MaSid, the cooler temps on the way may well extend our backcountry season, in the high country!
Brilliant photos! And what a remarkable collection of tracks 🙂
Fri apr 16: twins cairns
Still some dry powder over prior crusts on the north aspect. Warmed up quick though today, even that powder had a bit of moisture after lunch. Ski out was soggy and slow, but no ice currently. And back to bugs on the windshield.
Wow! Just Wow! The 3rd picture of the goats looked like there were some pretty significant cornices just above the goats. Was that not a worry…or maybe it was an optical illusion as to distance from you?
A truly amazing day in the backcountry yesterday, on the circuit connecting the Burstall and Commonwealth valleys via Birdwood and Smuts passes. The weather was stellar, travel conditions were generally very good, avalanche hazard was minimized by a solid overnight freeze, and despite some wind affect in the alpine, we found some pockets of decent powder turns. But that’s not all- we had a wildlife encounter that was the highlight of my day!
Nice photos Steve!!
Wow!! What an incredible tour, and such magnificent pictures!!
Diana, I’ll whisper a secret that I hope no one else hears.
This trip on a nice summer or early fall day is right out of the Sound of Music -)
Having lunch up at the rock wall, facing south, with that incredible view in front of you, is second to none.
That is an intriguing proposition 🙂
With one caveat: smutts pass and smuttwood peak have become “instagram busy” in summer given the view of birdwood from smuttwood.
Think the goats don’t know that?
Or maybe they got wind of the kind of money Subaru is throwing around.
You have to have a nice flowery dress for skipping and singing thru the wildflower meadows.
I love it!
Great wildlife sighting Steve , and magnificent photo.
Amazing photos and story Steve
Grand day into Skoki Lodge!
Morning snow temp at 9:30 am was -9 C making for an easy ascent up the Louise ski out. Views were stellar and with barely a breeze at Boulder and Deception passes there was ample time to enjoy them.
Noticed a well camouflaged ptarmigan at Boulder Pass summit. About 15 cm of fresh snow on a firm snowpack made for easy descents on narrow metal edged touring skis.
The lodge closed April 12th for the winter season. Had a nice chat with one of the workers, Georgia, who was part of the crew cleaning up.
It was a pleasant cool day but a stronger spring sun is starting to form a crust, especially at lower elevations and forthcoming higher temperatures later this week will certainly change conditions.
West Burstall Pass. I figured today would offer one of the last chances of winter conditions, and winter conditions I got. It was -18C in the parking lot at 7:45. I saw only one other person today and he headed towards South Burstall Pass. I skied up to the north pass, then down into the big sinkhole, and then up the rolls on the west side of Burstall where I skied a few runs. Nice powdery now on N and E aspects, while S and W have some crusting issues. It was a bluebird day with not a cloud to be seen. Burstall Pass saw very little traffic over the past weekend and there are plenty of nice lines left for skiing. This season just keeps getting better and better! Smith-Dorrien road is in brutal shape. Don’t bust a wheel bearing or strut.
A few photos
STANLEY GLACIER – April 13
Best powder turns of the year!
Details available in the photo descriptions here:
Perfect timing, as avi conditions turn to “Considerable” at all levels tomorrow.
Spectacular! How was the access trail?
Hard packed to the first crest, soft thereafter.
You won’t need a trailbreaker, Diana.
Congrats on your new photo posting skills!
I expected to see many people up Healy today after the recent snow and perfect conditions. I arrived to an almost full Sunshine parking lot but to my surprise after a late 10am start I was breaking trail all the way to the pass. The snow was about 25 cm deep and quite dense. From the top I had to double pole down and follow my skin track as the snow was so slow turns were impossible. On the way down I passed a few people coming up on the trail so the glide improved with more tracks. Apart from the slow snow the conditions are the best I’ve seen all year with very few people out enjoying them.
Winter is not over!
Like Arie- we found very good skiing today in the Smith-Dorrien, but also more skiers at our locale than expected for a weekday. This was at a well known spot with relatively easy access, but is indicative of how popular backcountry skiing has become. Nonetheless we had some great runs in the 25 cm of new snow, and found untracked lines as well. By mid-afternoon, winds out of the NW had increased and treeline snow on the NE aspect that we were skiing was slabbing up. Heading back, we noted that the underlying crust below about 1850m, while still being supportive- was grabby and not all that well frozen. Close to the road at around 1800m- the 20 cm of dry surface snow found in the morning had settled and was now moist and sticky. At 3 pm, the road was in OK shape from around Sawmill south, with occasional outbreaks of mud and scattered potholes.
Smith-Dorrien. -6C at 8:30 am, +2C at 2:30 pm. Down by the road there was about 7 cm of new snow on top of a suncrust. As I ascended things improved quickly. At treeline I skied a north-facing slope that had knee-deep dry powder on top of a solid midpack. The skiing was fantastic – best turns of the season. Did five laps.
BURSTALL PASS – APRIL 5
An amazing day for a solo tour taking in both the north and south Burstall passes. With 7-10 cm of cold dry snow over a firm base, and a trailhead temperature of minus 11 at 9:15- travel conditions were fast, with blue wax working great on any flatter terrain where skins weren’t required. In the alpine- a underlying smooth concrete hard crust made for easy trailbreaking, and enjoyable turns in dust on crust. At treeline heading out- new snow that was not shaded was getting moist in the warm sun, and the underlying crust was a bit grabby at times. Back on level ground after an uneventful exit via the well filled in gully route- the mornings wax job still gave enjoyable quick kick and glide homeward across the flats. Until the final couple of km on the logging road that is- where wet snow conditions had taken over in the sunniest spots, and double poling pulled me through. As always at Burstall on such a day, the views were spectacular!
PARADISE VALLEY – April 5
Perfect conditions for this classic spring tour.
Details available in the photo descriptions here:
We’ll be back!
Absolutely stunning! We missed out on a sunny day when we toured there on March 7th. Yes, need to come back there.
Chuck, do you need to skin up (half or full skins on metal edges?) when you go off MLR into the woods at Paradise Creek sign?
By the way, no need to go off the MLR into the woods at the Paradise Creek sign. Just take the #2 turnoff onto Fairview. No need for skins when you do turnoff to follow the creek. Wax (or fishscales) would be fine, with maybe a few herringbone steps. Skins just make the flow more consistent. Metal edges are valuable for the descent. The most important thing is to avoid wet snow, which leads to icing!
Enjoy the spectacular views, and bird song.
Hi Chuck. It was nice meeting you on the Paradise Valley trail on Monday! Can you email me the pic you took of me? It’s a great shot! Thanks. My email is email@example.com. Looking forward to seeing you on the trail again. Take care. Pat
APR 3 VISTA LAKE TO REDEARTH CREEK VIA ARNICA AND GIBBON PASSES
Yesterday, Carl VM and I toured from the Vista Lake trailhead on Hwy 93S to the Redearth Creek trailhead, via Arnica Lake, Arnica Pass, Twin Lakes, Gibbon Pass, and Shadow Lake Lodge. We were both on wide (89mm shovel width for me) light touring skis with metal edges. We used full-length skins. The starting temperature at 0915 was -6C, rising to about +6C during the day.
The 27km route follows the summer hiking trails, with 950m cumulative elevation gain and 1200m cumulative descent. The crux of the trip was at the start – the descent to Vista Lake. The trail was boot packed but was icy and has an exposed cliff section just above Vista Lake. We walked down carrying our skis, but had the trail been any icier we would have needed ice cleats. Once at the lake we put on our skis and skins and followed the boot-packed trench up toward Arnica Pass on the east shoulder of Storm Mt. The walkers had turned back about halfway up, but a faint ski track continued. For a few hundred metres there was a sugary snowpack that would collapse if you skied near a tree or over a bush. Higher up, the trailbreaking improved. We continued past Arnica Lake and up to Arnica Pass. Not sure what we would encounter on the Twin Lakes side, we kept our skins on for the start of the descent. We ended up keeping the skins on which slowed us down just enough to keep us on the hiking trail and around the curves.
On arrival at Upper Twin Lake we came across fresh ski tracks and a quinzhee shelter (see Wikipedia) consolidating itself before being excavated. The builders were nowhere to be seen, presumably off skiing for the day. It reminded me of Goldilocks with the 3 bears going for a walk waiting for their porridge to cool. Should we dig out the quinzhee and have lunch inside!? We decided to have lunch outside and skied off before the builders returned.
We continued down to Lower Twin Lake, and then the steady ascent up to Gibbon Pass. Despite applying skin wax to our skins at lunch time, we both had problems with major snow clumping on our skins, tripling the weight of our skis! As soon as the steepness of the trail tapered off, I took my skins off and continued on my fishscale base which immediately eliminated the clumping problem. Carl had a waxable base and decided to continue with his skins, but the clumping subsided as we got a bit higher. We both descended from Gibbon Pass without skins, and the steeper middle section was challenging negotiating the trail switchbacks in variable snow conditions. We sidestepped and kick-turned a few corners.
We took an extended break at Shadow Lake Lodge, having our third lunch and relaxing in the wooden chairs looking out toward Mount Ball. The place looked deserted, other than for fairly fresh snowmobile tracks. We set off on our final leg down Redearth Creek. Based on ski tracks, it looked like one or two people had skied up to the Lodge earlier in the day. Due sticky snow on the track, the descent to the trailhead was significantly slower than usual. It was a long but enjoyable day! Photos at https://photos.app.goo.gl/nmVTU3ZqNXXCz22E6.
Great trip report, Mike and Carl! Very inspiring.
MAR 31 SUNSHINE – SIMPSON PASS – MONARCH RAMPARTS – HEALY CREEK
Six Ramblers set out from the top of Wawa Chair on alpine touring, telemark, light touring fishscale, and light touring waxable skis. One of us had skinned up from the parking lot while the rest had passes or tickets to ride the gondola and chair. At 0930 it was about -8C with a 20-30 kph wind and light snow with sunny breaks. We broke trail in 20-30cm of powder snow down to Simpson Pass and headed south toward Eohippus Lake, where we climbed up the ramp onto the Monarch Ramparts. By this time the snow had stopped, it had warmed up to about -2C, but the wind was now 20-40 kph. Snowpack on the Ramparts varied from 20cm powder to wind-packed hard and icy crust. We followed the Ramparts north toward Healy Pass and descended from the Ramparts into the bowl and lake about 300m SE from Healy Pass. From there it was a quick descent down the packed Healy Creek trail back to the Sunshine parking lot. Another great day in the backcountry!
March 26 – Smith Dorrien. -6C to start at 8 am, +2C at 4:30 pm. At valley bottom there was an inch or so of new snow on top of suncrusted old snow. The snowpack was still mostly supportive except around treewells and bushes. Things improved rapidly as I gained elevation, and midway up to treeline it was only south-exposed aspects where the suncrust could still be felt beneath the new snow. At treeline there is excellent powder skiing, with a very solid midpack sporting 10-15 cm of dry powder on top. It was overcast all day with light now, and spindrift was coming off of the east-facing cliffs.
Lake O’Hara – Sherbrooke Lake March 22-23
We spent a couple of days touring on the Continental Divide, first to Lake O’Hara on Monday and up to Sherbrooke Lake on Tuesday. Lots of snow, mostly hardpack with a few cms of fresh. The ski into O’Hara was good, skier tracked, 2 cm fresh at the trailhead and about 10 at the lake. The luge-run up to Sherbrooke Lake was in typical shape for this time of year, super hard and fast. There was one steep section where we could barely gain traction with our skins, but otherwise no problem. Travelling was easy on the lake with ski pen about 15cm. Beautiful up there right now, no one else around, no tracks coming off the Wapta. Sunny, cloudy, clear, windy, calm, snowing, etc. at least no rain.
Chickadee Valley, March 23.
A beautiful spring day for a very scenic tour, and some good turns in 15 cm’s of soft snow on top of a firm noisy ice crust on our east facing ski lines. Of interest for anyone contemplating a tour to the valley head on light metal edge gear- the final twisting descent beside the creek might be best described as a bobsled run.
Wow, what a phenomenal looking day!
Dolomite Peak circuit. Conditions today presented challenging skiing. There was a suncrust on just about all aspects, and the trail was quite icy. I found myself slipping on steep sidehills and steep uphills, even with the skins on. The headwall below Katherine Lake was heinous, brutal, miserable. I took my skis off for sections of it and booted up, and I noticed other skiers doing the same. But beyond Katherine Lake the going was easier, and I managed a few turns on the descent into Mosquito Creek. Snow-snakes were plentiful, though. The snowpack was very stable. Yesterday the steep cliffs produced lot of point releases, and this didn’t trigger anything on lower slopes. I skied from Mosquito Ck back to Helen Ck parking lot using the old road.
Thanks Arie. I’ll be packing the ski crampons now, unless we get a good dump to cover the crust. Hopefully it bonds well.
Yes, ski crampons would have been a real asset yesterday.
Two of us skied the Fossil Mtn circuit today (near Skoki) Beautiful day with fast travel conditions. We used metal edged light touring skis which were appropriate for the conditions. Did the circuit counterclockwise. A skier set trail was present around the north side of the mountain but we could ski anywhere with minimal ski penetration. The descent on the return from Boulder Pass was hard fast and icy in places.
MAR 13 PIPESTONE RIVER
A friend and I did a tour up the Pipestone River as far as Point Camp Meadows, about 7km past the end of the groomed Pipestone trails. We were both on metal-edged light touring skis. I was on fish scales and my friend was on waxables with Swix V60. By the time we reached the end of grooming, the temperature was about 0C in bright sun with a light breeze from down river. We followed what looked like old alpine touring tracks along the river the entire way. The tracks had a couple of cm of fresh snow on top. The fresh snow was moist and both of us had marginal snow clumping from time to time. The track was supportive, but the snowpack was weak next to the track, requiring careful pole plants to prevent the poles from plunging into the snowpack right to the handle! Snow coverage on the river is generally at least a metre, although open water can be seen in places. The temperature was about 6C when we reached Point Camp Meadows. On our return trip in the afternoon, it started clouding over and the wind picked up, both helping to keep the snowpack cool. No clumping on the return, which made for a fast track.
A beautiful day with great scenery and no one else around, other than 4 people on the groomed trails!
Pig’s Back loop, March 12.
Three of us skied this popular little loop yesterday, finding a maze of meandering postholed uptracks low down in the forest, shallow wind pressed snow in the alpine that skied OK, and old tracks 😮 in our usual “members only” exit run. No new avalanche activity was observed despite the warm sun and looming cornices that threaten the route in a couple of spots. Things stayed cool above treeline due to wind that was throwing snow plumes off of the higher peaks at times, with only limited melting below treeline in the most sun exposed spots. Vestiges of VR45 from a previous tour worked fine in getting us across the flat areas on the way out. The winding forest trail was not icy, albeit undulating and sidesloped as always- skilled xc skiers on metal edge light touring gear may find the scenic out and back excursion to the open Commonwealth Creek valley flats rewarding, keeping in mind the huge avy slopes near the end. Trailhead air temp was plus 2 at 3pm, with a number of stretches of wet potholes growing along the SD road.
looks like somebody tossed a couple of pumpkins down the hill (-;
Thu Mar 11: baker ck out and back.
-18 in the early morning to start. 1 degree back at the car at 330. Only about 2 ft of snow through the meadows (twiggy). To quote a skier on the trail today : “Rainer likes bush”. A bit annoying with wax on the AT gear combined with bottomless pole plants through the meadows. No double poling efficiency (at least with short AT poles anyway). Fine back in the forest on the way home. The off trail wallowing in the meadows was difficult, so kudos to the long distance touring team who set all that track. Made it to about a km from wonder valley. A good way to celebrate the 60th ski day of the season (thank you Covid!).
Given that milestone, it looks like someone deserves a couple of bottles of Sangiovese, or a case!
A case of physiotherapy maybe, right after I finish this bottle of wine. The joints are complaining. Hopefully we will see you soon in a sunny meadow!
We were in both sunny meadows on Tuesday, had to pry ourselves off Couch H2.0, it was awesome in the extreme, our trip report got eaten by the Internet gremlins and wouldn’t post.
Fantastic!!!! So good when it’s like that. Hoping for same tomorrow. And glad you kept the track alive. Thanks in advance. Talk turkey soon.
Urainer & his bush beavers made good time; only shaved a couple hours off his time despite the track. Saw one Lounge Lizard in vicinity wildflower turnoff. Nice tour and great vista up towards Tilted Mtn.
March 11 – Helena Ridge East
Variable conditions today! Some hard, wind-hammered snow with a dusting of powder, some deep powder, some weak sun-crust that tried to kill me. The bottom 2km of the Rockbound Lake trail is icyyyyyyy, but the dusting of fresh snow from last night made a huge difference and I was able to stay in control the whole way down. Done on AT gear.
Trump snow: crusty AND mean.
Just when you think you might be able to relax for a couple seconds, SURPRISE! It’s back, as mean as ever!
… and unstable
…but with nice hair nevertheless.
Burstall Pass. -22C at 8 am at the trailhead. Brrr. The snow was cold with about 15 cm of powder snow. No signs of spring yet! Near the foot of the headwall I literally ran into a wall of warmer air, and the temp must have risen by at least 10 degrees over a very short distance. Up higher it was a nice and sunny day, and I skied six laps at Burstall Pass South. Someone had postholed all the way to Burstall Pass, damaging the trail in many places. -4C at 5:30 pm back at the parking lot. Didn’t see another soul all day.
Baker Creek to L Louise, March 8
A long valley tour into an area that sees few skiers. On Monday four of us (Anders, Dave V., and Scott G.) ventured up the headwaters of Baker Creek. The first 6 km to the meadow were well travelled. From the 6km to 10km mark we followed filled in old tracks because venturing off these barely visible tracks sent us wallowing in deep depth hoar. From there to the 16km mark at Wildflower Creek campsite it was difficult to follow any kind of summer trail. Summer trails are surprisingly hard to follow in winter! Came across fresh Wolverine tracks, probably from earlier that morning in the Wildflower Creek drainage. These tracks were impressive because you could see the claw marks as he dragged his foot forward. The steepest climbing was at the 19km mark where we climbed through thick trees that finally opened up to a spectacular meadow below Baker Lake. The snow base was firmer at this elevation and travel was easier. On Baker Lake we again came across fresh Wolverine tracks that were heading south, we knew they were fresh because it had snowed overnight. Had trouble seeing the same long claw marks in these tracks so maybe a different Wolverine. It was a thrill to be in a beautiful sunny open area where few skiers venture. Got back to skier set tracks on Ptarmigan Lake and a fast run down from Boulder Pass. The light was poor flying down the ski out, back to the car at 7:15. All told it was about 34 km and took us just under 11 hours.
Another EPIC completed… Thanks for sharing.
Great photos! I remember doing this trip in the 1980’s, in the opposite direction. Made use of a classic Banff National Park publication – https://photos.app.goo.gl/BmDkcz5gqJnD6Y4q6. Wish they still put out stuff like this!
Ya I did it once in the 80’s as well clockwise with my old Karhu XCD’s. It is a net elevation gain doing it counterclockwise but I think it is safer because the downhills aren’t through steep tree covered slopes.
I had a pair of Karhu XCD’s wow
Did it years ago early 90’s
Tried last year early feb trail breaking and day too short.
Thank’s for the trip report
This is great trip to do.
http://WWW.wolverinewatch.org would likely love to obtain where these wolverine sightings occurred. There is a young passionate researcher who is on Leanne Alison’s video on this site (that I watched x 2) and am sure she would love to hear about where you found these tracks more accurately. Sadly I was with newborns back in the 80’s and never did this kind of skiing but encourage all younger AT skiers to persevere at this amazing kind of skiing. Thanks you so much for sharing this post and fabulous pictures.
Is the baker creek parking lot still open these days?
Yes, it was open end of January.
Maybe someone has more current info but seems Parks have the lot on their winter work plan.
Thanks. For some reason I was thinking there was a separate lot than the one at the western end of the grooming. Been a long time since I skied up baker creek, back before the decommissioning of the summer trail.
Yes its open.
Tue Mar 9: Taylor lake.
Trail hard packed and very fast, almost ice lower down. Probably lost some steel today. Wouldn’t want to do it at night to see if that was true. Could do with some of that new stuff. But great sun and heat at the lake. Worthy of a quick throne. Several parties heading to panorama ridge. Encountered 6 walkers coming up on descent, who all responded rapidly and correctly. Must have been the loud scraping sounds. Not a significant dent to the main trail despite the number of boots! Did I say it was hard packed?
Mount Guppy Secret Stash (not)
(a couple days ago)
With the current proliferation of noob backcountry skier traffic I thought I might impress the kid and her bf by taking them into one of the old man’s favourite secret stashes.
I hadn’t been there in years and my plan was to point out the way and let them do the trail breaking (so I could keep up).
Well, I’m hear to tell you that it is no longer a secret stash!
Despite the fact that the route is cleverly concealed by a popular skinny-ski-weenie trail network when we got to where you deak off the grooming there was a stinking highway of a skintrack! (so much for my “keeping up” strategy) .
Upon arrival at the zone we could hear voices (I HATE hearing voices).
Turns out, above us was what appeared to be an instructor and a gaggle of 7 or 8 wide-eyed students on an avalanche safety course….what the %#&*, dude?!!
Nevertheless, we managed to eek out good lines amongst the chaos of new and old tracks.
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a changin’.
Mon Mar 8: Boulder pass/ptarmigan lake.
No ice on the ski out above fish creek parking, just fresh grooming and snowmobile ruts. Cold dry powder up there along the trail beyond resort, with at least 4″ of fresh in vicinity of pass depending where you were exactly. Clouded up at pass and north before lunch with light snow falling. Kite skiers in attendance at the lake, but missed out on the launch as it was cold in the wind without sun. -1 back at the car at 130.
Thanks for the report. I plan to go to Deception pass with my track skis later on this week. I just would like to know if the trail beyond Temple lodge is well packed with no ice.
Yes, trail beyond ski out grooming is nice reasonably compacted snow, no ice to Boulder pass, although some boiler plate stuff right at the pass. Trail across ptarmigan lake might be a bit blown in. Lots of travel coming in and out of Skoki lodge today, including a snowmobile in and out. Don’t know about deception, but probably wind affected. Some musical bumps on the way home from half way hut to resort boundary. Have fun and hopefully some sun!
Burstall Pass — March 4
I was out with friends skiing to Burstall Pass on the same day as Gord F. Lots of very good snow with little traffic in the upper Burstall valley beyond the ‘Robertson Flats’. Spring conditions in the upper valley but it’s still winter up at the pass! No sign of recent avalanches in the upper valley.
Robertson Glacier Valley March 4
We were thinking snow conditions in PLPP might be a bit challenging with the warm sunny weather so we decided to tour up the Burstall Trail to the toe of Robertson Glacier. The Burstall trail is well-hammered by numerous forms of travel but when we turned up the Robertson Valley we found pristine conditions and broke trail in beautiful supportive snow up to the last stand of trees where we had a long lunch in the warm sun. Wow, what a place. Good to have wider metal-edged xc skis of AT skis and skins, but generally this tour is very flat. Not much avalanche danger other than one seldom-running path off the north side of Burstall Peak. Most of the skier traffic is heading up toward Burstall Pass so the large area below Robertson Glacier is usually pretty peaceful.
Fair skiing conditions with a generally very thin snowpack. I had to take the skis off a couple of times and walk. The second river crossing a few kilometers up from the trail head was wide open. I forgot the waders. I tried to hike over the cliffs to avoid 2 quick river crossings but turned back after seeing fresh panther tracks- on a panther track highway. Hiking icy cliffs with cross country ski boots would have made it too easy for a panther to dump me into the river, particularly at night on the way back.
There has been too much warm weather and a lack of snow in the valley to make it worth skiing in the area this year. There is very little ice on the river and south facing slopes are mainly devoid of snow now.
Black Prince Fan and Waterfall Drainage
Feb. 28, 2021
Tempting fate, 5 of us decided to try the Black Prince Fan today, fully aware that the lines might be trashed. Arriving at 8:30 (-6C), we were not suprised to find the parking lot filling up. Yet, many of the people were on AST courses and the young bucks were heading for “The Tree Triangle”, so we had mellower slopes to ourselves. We skied 5-8 cm of fresh powder on a supportive surface, with no wind crust and no evidence of slides of any consequence and no surface signs. After two runs skier’s left of the pinch point, we tracked up valley toward Black Prince Lake. The drainage was in great shape. Two more runs.
Of course, it was a luge run out the last 2 km. The parking lot was full and there were cars lining the road. It’s good to see people out enjoying our Provincial Parks, surely a reason to be happy living in southern Alberta.
Feb. 24, 2021
A chilly start at -14 C, but the sun was quite warm. Nice glade skiing interspersed with “AST” review. Size 1 slides on east aspects dictated tree skiing and, to be honest, we needed steeper slopes in places, but it was still great with plenty of room for turns without bumping over old down-tracks. It will be used up Friday, unless the predicted storm keeps folks away. Oh! I should have written that the skiing was hellish and that no one should bother going!
Good haul chip. Stay at mosquito creek or louise hostel?
No, we B&B’d it nearby. Mosquito Creek appeared to be closed. Don’t know about the hostel at LL
Noseeum North Chutes
Feb. 23, 2021
First time in and what a treat. Yes, we broke trail on a pile of fresh, but were able to find the old up-track most of the way to the headwall. Most of the north-facing chutes showed slides that were not brand-new. After going to the headwall, we skinned up two south-facing slopes, found decent skiing interspersed with pow over slide debris. Open water down low gave great beauty to the setting, Andromache to the south and Noseeum to the north. Protected on 3 sides from prevailing winds (sort of), it’s a fantastic place for newbies as the scenery is jaw-dropping for minimal effort (2 km access to the chutes). NOTE: If there is no roadside parking, pull in to Mosquito Creek and ski south along the road for 1 km to the bridge at Noseeum Creek. The up-track is on the south side.
Feb 22, 2021
Poor vis and sobering avalanche risk levels motivated us to stay in the trees today, which turned out to be a wonderful choice. There was no wind and hardly anyone out. Of course, with the 20+ cm of fresh and no earlier track, it was slow going. We could “sense” an old track, occasionally, but meandered off that often enough that we didn’t make the Pass. I’m sure that those coming in the next day were thankful. A few signs of slides along the 93 and lots of wind affect.
WBC: logging road heading west and north of Telephone Loop (west side about 4 km north of the Moose Loop junction).
I had noticed this logging road a number of times and today I figured I would explore it. Trail breaking made progress very slow. I turned back about 2.5 km away from Telephone. My GPS app indicates that I made it about 1/2 way to the end of Homestead road (at the rifle range) coming south from highway 68 so I guess that the entire trip would be about 5 km up and then back.
Not far past your turn around point was an older nicely packed snowshoe trail which made for good travel. About an hour to the road with your track and the snowshoe trail. A worthwhile diversion. Some optional spur roads. Checked out one to the south that heads into a hill top cut block. Thinner there where it is steeper and exposed, so didn’t go to the top for the views, but would be a good option when more snow.
The logging road you were following is Homestead Road. The first logging road heading right (east) takes you nearly to the summit of Pinetop. If you follow the open crest of a gentle ridge to the south from the cut block, you’ll end up on another logging road that will loop you back to West Telephone. Check it out on a satellite image. It’s well worth the trip!
The east leg looked like it had good enough snow. Maybe a foot or so in that area, but a solid base. Smooth sailing on homestead, no veg. Some sun crust and thinner snow pack in more sun exposed areas. Didn’t check out the east leg though. Next time. Thanks for the tip!
Yes thanks for the tips. It is a nice quiet place to explore.
You can also tour up to Kestrel trail from Homestead Road, then go NW on Kestrel to Tom Snow and Moose Loop for a “Chuck-style” tour. Best done when there is a new snowfall, following a melt-freeze cycle.
Thanks Alf. One more question… Is there a way to get to the top of Pinetop (skiing or hiking) from the Sibbald road side? I have the Daffern hiking books but there is no mention of a route up that way in her book. You seem to have been everywhere in our mountains…
Sorry, I meant this to be in reply to Sara’s comments to one of my earlier posts
Did a quasi-epic trip at Sandy McNabb today. Starting from the visitors center, I went up Pine Ridge, then broke trail north along the very nice ungroomed Pine Ridge North trail. Descending the west slope of Pine Ridge into Death Valley on this trail didn’t really work as there wasn’t enough snow, but it’s very scenic. Then I headed west up the Windy Point trail to the pass between Foran Grade Ridge and Windy Point ridge and traversed across Foran Grade Ridge (which also had many unskiable sections) down to the road, and then took Sheep trail and outer Meadow Loop back to the visitors centre. Beautiful day. The conditions on the groomed trails are still excellent, with nice fast tracks.
That is epic GMJ. The descent down the west slope to Death Valley is steep for skis! That is one of our early winter hiking routes after the winter gate is closed and prior to grooming, we take the opposite direction though. You skiers in the empire complete the most amazing feats, tough bunch.
Yesterday Gary M and I decided to tackle the Skoki-Pipestone 43 km loop. We figured with no new snow for awhile we might get lucky and find broken trails for most of it. The upshot was that it took us 13 hours, the last 4 hours in the dark! We both meant to bring headlamps but both forgot them, luckily a half moon provided some illumination. We did the trip counter-clockwise and had hard packed trails to Merlin meadows then we were on our own. Trail breaking was slow with 8″-10″ ski penetration. The meadows when we connected with the Little Pipestone were particularly beautiful, they are named Governors Meadows?? At that point we connected with the summer trail from the Pipestone Valley following Wolverine tracks that also favoured the summer trail. At 8 PM we finally connected with a skier set trail at the 29 km mark (14 km from Pipestone parking, thanks to Sarah and/or Chuck who skied up the Pipestone that far), the going was much faster then. The most dangerous part was careening down the steep hills on the grooming near the end in the dark with tired and wobbly legs! Definitely underestimated the time of this trip. I had done the same trip 8 years ago, clockwise, in April but was able to crust ski up the Pipestone so much faster.
There is a broken trail until the next snowfall.
Wow… that is one HUGE accomplishment for February!
The bar keeps being raised on this blog… Thanks for reporting.
Wow, heckuva ski! I like the idea of doing it clockwise in crust season, I might give that a go!
Taylor / Panorama Ridge. This are has seen quite a bit of traffic in the past while, but the skiing is still good. One postholer hiked all the way up to Panorama ridge in the skin track. There were two trees down on the trail, both near the bottom. It was nice and sunny and warm in the meadows below the ridge. Ski pen about 20 cm with moderate trailbreaking. The midpack is still very supportive, and the cold snap didn’t rot it all out. I skied a few laps, managing to find some freshies each time. Ski-out was hardpacked and very fast.
Wed feb 17: Simpson pass/heally pass P-loop.
Started up heally pass trail and took the first junction left up to Simpson pass. Skier tracked to the junction. Downhill tracks from the pass but no up track direct to pass. Ankle to boot top ski pen (AT) away from the tracks and up towards the south end of the monarch rampart and across to heally, linking meadows and lakes. Eventually hit a prior ski track towards heally. Pretty good descending conditions on heally pass trail with moderately packed cold powder, easy to scrub speed. Two trees to dodge around below Simpson junction with slightly awkward detours but not in a fast descent spot, so easy enough. Evidence of a party of two? on the heally trail but never saw anybody all day.
Sat feb 13: skogan pass powerline
-27 at nakiska 830. -15 back just after lunch. Bomber grip going up skogan and hummingbird with the old green wax on the AT skis. Skins for the powerline track laid down today by a local park resident doing some laps before work (thanks!). Much nicer temps in the sun of the powerline than the XC trail. Descent down powerline a bit punchy off old tracks with a week of faceting and a breakable thin crust down about 20 cm. Elected not to ski the lower section (balam) given shallower pack and faceting. Skogan and high level grooming both still in good shape for easy travel up and down and it’s wasn’t seeing much traffic today.
Perhaps “balam” is a typo on the map Alf posted? Was it meant to be “balsam”?
It’s Balam according to the write-up in Gellean Daffern’s book.
Thanks Bob! Oddly enough I don’t own any of the Kananaskis guidebooks in order to look it up.
Feb 9 – Packers Pass Peak
Skied up towards the Skoki area today on AT gear. I left the trail on Ptarmigan Lake and skied up towards “Packers Pass Peak”, between Packers Pass and Deception Pass. The last ~150m of elevation gain was windblown and I hiked up. Not a breath of wind until I got to the top! It was -35 when I started and -20 when I got back to the car. The track in to Skoki is well-packed by snowshoers, skiers, and snowmobiles, and with this cold, slow snow, would probably be fine with waxed track skis.
Nice! Hopefully a good clear view from the summit
VERY clear! It was a gorgeous day out. Sometimes it feels like most of my days off are cloudy, so I wasn’t about to let this sunny day get away!
Fri feb 5: tower lake BNP
No trail breaking required. Well skied with just enough fresh at the sides. Didn’t encounter the wind until back around the shoulder and into the bow valley corridor again. Colder down there. Drive home was bad vis, ranging from a couple hundred feet to near zero on occasion. Hopefully the winds are calm during the cold of the next few days.
The trail from the Cascade River up to Elk Pass is broken with AT ski gear most of the way and in sporty condition in places. Bring waders for the Cascade River crossing or your in for a chilly surprise.
Gary Martin and I skied from Norquay to Elk Summit to Cascade and out on Thursday with our metal edged touring skis – about 36 km trip. A valley tour was in order since the alpine slopes were wind blasted. Someone else’s old ski tracks going from Cascade towards Elk Summit. Trip took about 9 hours because we were caught by the Cascade R crossing. Took us awhile to find a spot to cross, made it without getting feet wet. Overall the grades are gentle and we managed with just wax.
Incredibly impressive… total commitment!
Had you not read Vern’s report first… were hip waders not necessary?
Did you cross upstream of the confluence of Cascade and Stoney?
Obviously, I don’t want to waste my time,
ps Wish you guys took your own pics!
Chuck – a group of 4 of us did the same tour as Rainer January 17th on light touring skis. Very tough trail breaking in unconsolidated snow after Elk Summit. No hip waders required at Cascade, water was just below knee deep. We didn’t look long for an easier crossing than where the trail intersected the river as temperatures were mild that day.
Definitely a fun tour.
We did our trip on Jan 28, three days before Vern posted his. I have added a link to some photos, hopefully it works. Never tried adding photos on SkierBob, let me know if it works.
Sorry here is the link
Thanks for sharing the pics!
It’s such a pity that Parks Canada never replaced the bridge after the 2013 flood. Since then, we have only done the circuit when there has been enough ice… not interested in getting wet.
Nice to see how well prepared you were, including the warm Lake Louise to Banff Loppet toques.
Not sure if it would have helped to have replaced the bridge. Last year the bridge over Stoney Creek and the end of the Cascade Fire Road washed out again – thankfully it got fixed up again later in the summer but the newer bridges seem to get washed out pretty easily. Maybe they’re easier to fix too?
Hero’s Knob / Smith Dorrien. Jan 30
Not really in Skier Bob’s empire, but only 15 or 20 kms north. I was astounded to find over 50cm of new snow on Sweet 16, below Hero’s Knob today. BTW Hero’s Knob is just north of Black Prince, west of Sawmill parking lot. It seems that the snow fell Thursday and Thursday night and likely had some wind to help it along, but I was xc skiing at PLPP on that day and didn’t see more than a few isolated flakes. Interesting to think how localized some of these snow events are.
Here’s the video to prove it.
Sweet! Answers the question for sure. How are the creek crossings on the way out these days?
Access is good. A bit sporty on the way out, ducking branches.
Sat Jan 30: fox-tyr ridge/west elk.
Elk pass cloud was in place in the morning, so went up north boundary cut line direct, bypassing the east elk option. Kananaskis avalanche forecast had indicated 30-50 cm of snow from last round of convective storms thu/fri. Weather stations didn’t show it, and it wasn’t at mount shark ski trails yesterday. Not sure where it occurred but must be localized, somewhere? Only a couple inches of fresh in my old tracks. Once the cloud moved off at 1240 in west elk pass, the oven turned on, but snow stayed cool in the flats. No hat or gloves required. Glad I hopped on some open sun exposed slopes in the morning before the sun started packing its punch. Possibly a sun crust on steep solar aspects now. The meadow touring back to blueberry in the sun was fantastic.
Bryant Creek warden cabin – January 29, 2021
The drive along the Spray Lakes Road from Canmore was pretty rough, with the new snow. The road had not even been plowed when I drove back late pm. Started to ski past 10 am, too late to ski beyond the cabin and given the soft and sticky snow conditions. It snowed quite a bit until about 12:30 pm, with 5 to 15 cm of fresh snow over an old ski track, as well as on the recent track setting done at Mount Shark. I could see that one skier was ahead of me, refreshing the ski track. I met a couple skiing out with a sled, after having camped at BR9. Caught up with Aire on his lunch break around km 11, with my turn to pack on 10+ cm of snow on the old track. Quite sticky conditions for waxing. I just ended scrapping most of my wax for the last 4 km to reach the warden cabin. The blue sky was finally part of the day, with the solar panels at the cabin getting a good load of rays. With all wax removed, it was a smooth glide all the way back to the Bryant Creek bridge.
Hi Normand, nice chatting with you and good to see you made it to the cabin. I too had waxing issues and decided to turn around just before the Owl Lake junction.
Tue Jan 26: east elk pass to west elk pass traverse.
An excellent moderate tour through three passes and half a dozen of the best subalpine meadows in the area, and passing by three couches en route. The traverse requires going over the “bump” that sits between east elk pass and the hydro line. Not sure if the bump has an unofficial name for reference, but it’s a reasonably prominent ridge and the only real high point between mount fox and mount tyrwhitt. Call it Fox-Tyr Ridge maybe, as it’s tear drop shaped and somebody saw a fox in the area recently (a bit of a stretch?). AT gear used given the descent to the west down the old cut block. Reasonably low risk terrain angle, at least the line I chose, but multiple fall line options exist, including amount of elevation you wish to lose. YMMV. Navigation over the bump to the cut block with minimal bush wack may be challenging without a track (or too many tracks), but it is possible by utilizing the summit meadows. The newer cut block has less snow cover and some slash hazards, but minor if not gunning it with turns. It can also be avoided. A fine day out with temps ranging between -15 and -5 and mostly sunny, plus a nice visit with Erin and dad Jeff at east elk pass.
NOTE: The traverse between the passes is back country terrain with potential avalanche risk, route finding challenges and other associated risks. Back country skills, experience and equipment required. Use at your own risk.
Sun Jan 24: east elk pass
A late report. A dusting of fresh snow, if you can call it that, over Saturday night and during the day Sunday in the vicinity of the divide. Mostly just ice crystals falling out of the cold air. Enough to obscure the overnight predator tracks a bit. Wasn’t obvious whether it was a coyote, bobcat or wolverine. Had a sniff around at the couch and continued south on our track into the tobermory drainage.
Fri Jan 22: mt tyrwhitt west slopes.
Some more back country recon with cheeky and Simona, scoping out a different drainage/bowl for future opportunities. -23 at elk pass lot in the morning at 9, -11 on return at 5. Felt colder in and out on elk pass trail while in the shady drainage bottom. Debris issues much improved with the new grooming. Slightly worse on the start of tyrwhitt, but not so bad. Took the Bolton ck/meadow route into East elk pass to maximize sun. The trail in still travels fine (although one of our party may have made a divot on the way out at one of the drainage crossings). After mucking about over on tyrwhitt slopes and some couch work, we zipped up the cut line to the west up onto the ridge for a quick lap back down the cut. Might have given GH a surprise descending as he was coming up! On the way out on the grooming, also ran into Normand who was in the process of a big track day. Nice sunny day in the meadows, but cold in the shade in and out. Gotta love heated seats.
I was indeed surprised to see anyone up there. I ended up taking the hard way out going up that cut line. Next time I will do better…
It’s the nature of exploring around. The best way isn’t always achieved on day one, but new things are always learned.
Out of SkierBob range, but I know that at least a few people are curious. We arrived at Kootenay Pass 3 days after rain and hellish winds. The crust went to ridge top at 2100 m. The first day skiing was “survival” at it’s worst, even on treed mellow slopes because of all the tree bombs. Fortunately, we got about 5 cm overnight and the “dust over crust” lasted for the trip, as long as we were on open slopes. We skied the south aspect of Baldy Rocks over toward The Crags, Lightning Strike and then went on the north side for Cornice Ridge. Beautiful weather, with lots of sun, mild temps and little wind. It was our worst annual ski trip ever and still great!
Was starting to wonder where you had gotten to chip, so good to see you have been out skiing.
You can’t keep a good man down, as they say. Maybe that applies to me, too!
Chip, do you know what’s happening with the ramblers trip report web page? Doesn’t seem to be showing recent trips since December 19. Some new ones popped up but then disappeared. It’s another good source of conditions info throughout the region. Might be my end, being technically challenged and all.
You need to be a member and login to get the most recent reports. There are two from yesterday. If you are a member, make sure you’re still logged in.
No more public access? That’s too bad. Regardless, thanks Mike.
MaSid – I just tried logging out and then got the same result you did. I don’t know if this is a website glitch or a new Ramblers’ website policy.
In light of the current state of affairs they’ve changed their name to The Rocky Mountain Secret Stashers.
Paradise Valley. It was -23C when I started out on MLR. Brrr… Some pine needles here and in the lower part of Paradise Valley. I skied a loop going up the south fork and skiing down the Giant Steps. The meadows near the campsite were wind-hammered, but I did find some windsifted powder in the larch glades below Wastach Pass. Overall the snowpack was supportive and trailbreaking was relatively easy. Incidentally this tour has cell reception the whole way.
Skied Kicking Horse River Trail and the Connector Trail near Field/Emerald Lake the last couple of days. Snow/trails in good shape. A few snow bombs along the Connector trail.
Rummel Lake & beyond — Jan. 20
I just wanted to report that the skiing conditions are very good on the Rummel Lake trail and on up to the meadows beyond. We didn’t ski to the pass because of the strong winds (and wimpy friends), but it looked quite possible, altho very wind-blown (as usual).
Wed Jan 20: east elk pass
Went in via Alf’s alternate exit route, in reverse this time (sort of). In through the meadow closest to elk pass and up the cut line, but all the way to the summit of the bump and the apex point of the boundary. Then cruising a series of parallel meadows further south along the top for another K or so. Back to the apex and down the steeper NE boundary leg direct to east elk pass. I popped out into the pass just as John and Marsha were arriving via the meadow route. Thanks to them for cutting the blown in meadow track for the out! A good little tour. Boundary cut line provided excellent travel throughout (with a bit of pruning). Elk pass trail was quite a mess of needles, branches, snow bombs and old mans beard. Lots of grabby debri to ski around on the down hill. No trees down though all the way to thyrwitt @ Bolton ck. Dylan was just starting out when I got back to the lot, doing all the single track trails. -5 to start at 8 and on return at 4, so snow stayed cool enough in the south end.
We had such a fantastic day, thanks to you MaSid, for the conversation, for the couch and for the trail through the magnificent meadow. We also got to watch the master builder at work, cutting with precision, the snow blocks to keep us out of the wind, while we lounged like a couple of sloths, in comfort, and in full sun, on the couch!
A high value day indeed, the kind that etches into the memory banks and pays dividends. Or maybe it’s just a sunburn.
CHICKADEE VALLEY – Jan 19
Numerous open holes in the creek drainage, but the direct track up the valley is well defined.
Details available in the photo descriptions here:
Surprised by the shallow snowpack.
JAN 15 ELK LAKE SUMMIT AND TOWARD ELK LAKE
With a friend, headed up to Elk Lake Summit starting from the Mount Norquay ski resort. I was on my fishscale 89mm wide light touring skis. Temperature varied between -5C and 0C during the day. Chuck’s and previous tracks were covered in a few cm of snow near the ski resort, increasing to about 15-20cm of fresh snow at the Summit. I put on full-length skins for the relatively steep ascent from the Forty Mile Creek bridge to the Cascade Amphitheatre Trail junction, but full-width kicker skins would have been enough. Beyond the junction, the trail is much less steep and I went for a while without skins, but eventually put on my kicker skins. Winds were calm in the trees for most of the ascent, but picked up in the open areas of the Summit.
After lunch, we continued on the summer trail toward Elk Lake, following old buried ski tracks. We had to turn around about a km short of the lake because we were running out of time to get back to the car in daylight, and had concerns about the steep descent from the Cascade Amphitheatre Trail junction to Forty Mile Creek. The snowpack on that section was only a few cm deep, so we decided it would be safer to descend with skins to slow us down instead of snowplowing. My kicker skins and my friend’s full skins both worked well. As usual, the final stretch back up to the resort was longer and more elevation gain than expected!
Anyone have any ideas on what made the trench in linked photo, taken above Elk Summit on the way to Elk Lake? The trench is about 25cm wide and 40cm deep. It came out of (or went into) a tree well. My guess is a mountain pig. https://photos.app.goo.gl/pL797KHtpH7AVdjw7
Confused couch potato?
I’m now thinking porcupine. “If the snow is soft and deep, the porcupine trail becomes more of a trough through the snow.” https://www.hww.ca/en/wildlife/mammals/porcupine.html
There we go, a wolverine dragging a porcupine. (-;
So, then, was it the porcupine that lost its glove, or the wolverine?
Maybe check out the Lost and Found section.
UPPERMOST HAIDUK CREEK VALLEY
After reaching Shadow Lake lodge, I decided to take advantage of trail breaking done in the last week (Sara, Mike), along Haiduk Creek. Well, I ended up breaking trail pretty much from the bridge over the outlet of Shadow Lake, all the way to the upper reach of Haiduk Creek, just at the base of the steep ramp heading up to the Haiduk Lake basin. Apart for about 300 meters of a previous ski trail on Shadow Lake south shore, almost totally blown in with snow, and 2-3 short stretches of trail along Haiduk Creek, everything had to be broken again. Wind slab in the open meadow areas along the creek made for some awkward progress in places. At 2 pm, I finally reached my ultimate destination, well at least what my body could handle for such a long day and early in the season. Wind and more blowing snow picked up upon return to the lodge. A return trip from TCH1 clocking just over 37 km. A good day in the (outdoor) office. The fresh track setting from the lodge to the road, done late in the morning, was much welcome to cruise away from the high country. With clouds and blowing snow at times, Mount Ball was rather grumpy today.
Normand, you are amazing to have skied already almost half a dozen times way beyond Shadow Lake Lodge. EXCELLENT photos and descriptions as you offer those of us less familiar with naming peaks to appreciate this “yoyeur” opportunity. We were talking about Mt. Ball today while on Castle Junction trail. I keep postponing skiing Redearth but as SkierBob reminds us, half the season is over.
Thanks Helen. The good news this year will be that the lodge operator are track setting all winter until mid March or so. It is the first year in a while that a track is laid out past the lodge turn off at 10.5 km.
Thu Jan 14: east elk pass +
Nice bluebird day, light winds, and no pesky cloud at the pass. Good meadow dancing weather. Elk pass lot plowed. Skier set track on elk pass trail. Excellent fresh grooming on fox creek. Combination of single and double track after that. New snow was dense which made steeper descents a bit more challenging, in the wobbly slow track or out of it. Ankle ski pens on the prior off trail route to east elk pass; track was just noticeable. Busted trail about 1.5 to 2.0 k past the border until the drainage narrowed up. 3 of us out and back on the track, so good travel again until the next storm. Returned the way we came, other than descending the hydroline snow shoe trail to the Patterson meadows. Nice to get back on the fast clean track of fox after descending the skier set on elk pass. Always an excellent outing when clear and sunny.
JAN 10 READEARTH CREEK, GIBBON PASS, TOWARD BALL PASS
Not wanting Normand’s Jan 8 tracksetting to Gibbon Pass go to waste, I headed out from the Redearth Creek trailhead on 89mm light touring fishscale skis at 9am, temperature -15C. There were already 3 other vehicles in the parking lot and 2 more arrived as I got ready. The amount of traffic since the last tracksetting had widened the trackset to the point where my skis fit into it; normally I’d have to ski outside the trackset. Conditions were really fast, and I and another skier who caught up with me averaged 6km/hr from the trailhead to the Pharaoh Creek junction.
After first lunch at Shadow Lake Lodge, I started following Normand’s up (and down) track. I had both kicker and full skins with me, and decided that full skins would be best for the terrain ahead. In hindsight, kicker skins might have sufficed, but would have involved some sidestepping, more energy consumption, and slower progress. After about 750m Normand’s track continued straight ahead whereas the summer trail turned right. I decided to follow the summer trail. Ski penetration was about 15cm. I lost the trail a couple of times, but thanks to my GPS was able to find it again. When you see 2 or 3 open corridors in front of you, it’s difficult to decide which is the trail!
I expected to see Normand’s track again once I reached the meadow in the pass. But it was fairly windy and any sign of his track had disappeared, or his track was well to the left (SW) of mine. After a short rest I headed back down, staying in my track on the gentle slopes and getting a few turns in on the steeper slopes. Skiing became more challenging as the trail steepened and the trees became closer together. I wasn’t keen on leaving the summer trail because the snowpack was relatively shallow and I was concerned about hitting buried hazards such as deadfall. In a few places I had to sidestep down sharp turns in the trail, but I was mostly able to avoid trashing my uptrack. At about 250m from the Lodge, I left the trail and had a great ski down a clearing that took me back to the Lodge.
After second lunch, I headed toward Ball Pass, hoping to make the 5km or so to the RE21 Ball Pass Junction campground. There was an excellent skier-set track to the bridge just before Shadow Lake. After crossing the bridge, I followed a skier-set track along the SE shore of the lake, looking for a track heading off on the Ball Pass trail. No sign of a skier track where I expected the trail to be, but there was a moose (or elk?) track along what could be the trail. I followed it for a while but turned around once the track headed into denser woods. After backtracking almost all the way back to the lake I found another opening that indeed turned out to be the trail. After a few hundred metres the moose track joined it. Evidently the moose knew about a shortcut! The trail steepened a bit and I put on my kicker skins which worked well. Ski penetration was 10-15cm. Unfortunately it was now getting late and I had to turn back about 1.5km short of the campground. The return ski back to the car was uneventful except for the exciting survival skiing down the steep hill to the Pharaoh Creek junction. Good thing I had a warm-up on the Gibbon Pass descent!
Sounds like a good touring day you had Mike. My emergence to Gibbon Pass was about 150 m at most to the SW (mistyped SE in my trip account) of the main open drainage/gulley area below the pass. I skied just passed the last larches at the time pass and turned around.
Skied up several times to Haiduk Creek in the past, starting about where it flows into Shadow Lake. After some trail breaking in trees, the valley opens up and it is quite scenic. Had great snow conditions there well into April.
Good to know. I picked up the trail about 150m beyond the bridge. For 650m it runs parallel to the shore, in the trees about 50m from the shore. It then makes a sharp left turn (complete with left turn sign!), and meets up with Haiduk creek 600m later.
Great report Mike. Do you have the Salomon 89 skis? They seem to be hard to find. Thanks
Yes, I got the Salomon XADV 89 Grip skis 9 years ago. I don’t know if they still make them. They don’t have a sintered base, so they don’t hold glide wax well. Otherwise they are great.
I passed a couple on Rossignol BC 90 Positracks. I think they would be similar to the Salomon XADV 89s and hopefully have a sintered base. But they’re probably hard to find as well.
Mount Field Yoho Park
Went to ski some of the glades on Mt Field today in Yoho. Temperature was -9C at start at 9:00AM and headed up the Takkakaws Falls road to the avalanche Shute above the switchback. There was was about 20cm of fresh snow on a supportive base. We stayed below tree line. Slopes above bench and tree line were wind affected and likely slabby . Glades had been skied but we found some good turns and did a couple laps. Fun day out.
Thu Jan 7: elk pass area (a three pass day).
Oh man, phenomenal meadow touring conditions, maximized appropriately (11 out of 10!).
– east elk pass: this skier set route is in excellent shape having had a few more visitors last couple days (somebody even did some filling on the couple drainage crossings. Thanks!!!). Better shape than west elk pass right now. Probably doable by any width ski, if proficient. Ankle to boot top trail breaking off the main track. If you have enjoyed west elk, this one is worth a visit while the track is good. You will know when you get to the border with its fantastic reveal. No signs of any cats, dogs or ungulates. One can travel further south into BC through the long meadow, down the tobermory drainage. It eventually pinches into a tight drainage valley with some avalanche danger. Return the way you came.
– Patterson meadows (via hydroline snow shoe trail): broke a fresh track, so LT probably best there until more travel.
– west elk pass: only a few have been to couch HQ recently, and nobody went beyond since GH went through to hydroline. I only went to the fork ‘n meadow. A bit drippy on the log with the tree cover there.
– blueberry meadows: now extended for a long full loop from blueberry grooming to 100 m past fork ‘n meadow. the exit/entry at blueberry grooming is now lower down the trail, maybe 100 m from the junction with elk pass trail. LT probably best until more travel.
Mon Jan 4: elk pass area.
Broke trail through east elk pass to BC border. Boot top to gator top trail breaking (LT, waxless, no skins required). Took a bit of shovelling to fill in two drainage crossings, but otherwise excellent travel, especially on return (probably needs some more filling as it sags). Somebody followed my track part way in before I came out (that’s a first!) so well packed now for the first 1.25 k, and fast return, thanks to the nice couple who opted for a bit of exploration today. Unfortunate they didn’t get all the way to the massive open meadow at the border. Went back to west elk pass and re-established the skier set track to the fork ‘n meadow couch. Much will be blown in by now in the larger open areas, but followable.
Tom Snow north from Pine Woods west to Dawson Day use plus short cut to Powderface Trail. No real trail breaking occurred today. Snow shoe users have headed out from both ends to points about 2 km from the parking lots. In between there was actually a snow mobile track from just after the storm. That would have been nice to ski on but the local moose have been using the trail too so it was pretty slow skiing (faster on the way back though). I stopped about 1/2 km shy of the Dawson parking where the trail drops down to cross Jumping Pound Creek. That would be tough descent with a hard packed walker track. It is 6 km from Pine Woods parking to the Cox / Tom Snow junction. About 4 km from Pine Woods there is a cut line coming in from the north that had seen some snow shoe use. I followed that all the way out to the Powderface Trail at the point where the road leaves the flats and rises up towards Dawson. That section is only 1 km. It was a nice day but very windy. There were only a few downed trees, 2 of which required removing skis. That was the case yesterday on the other section of Tom Snow that I did. That number will likely be up a fair bit after the big wind today. There were 2 additional downed trees on my return and one tree nearly blocking the access from highway 68. This section of Tom Snow is much less hilly than the section heading towards West Bragg so I did not have to use my skins today.
Tom Snow north from Pine Woods trail head to Kestrel / Tom Snow junction (NW edge of West Bragg trail system). I thought that I might have to break trail but I only sort of did. There have been snow shoe users on the entire section of this back country route from both ends but not much activity in the middle. I was the first skier to go all the way up and back this section. Bragg Creek trails has now groomed (for fat bikes) the Tom Snow segment that I broke last week and gone around Kestrel as well. This section of trail is just under 8 km (one way) from the parking lot. The section that connects to Moose loop is just over 4 km. The trail near the parking lot has seen a fair bit of snow shoe and walker traffic so it is pretty hard packed making for skiing that is a little faster than I would have wished for. Most people turn around about 3 km from the parking lot at a point with nice views of the north side Moose Mountain. Next up… Perhaps I will complete the route to the Dawson parking area (Cox Hill).
We found good touring conditions today in Chickadee Valley. The creek drainage is quite well filled in, but there are still some open water holes to watch out for. There are a LOT of random tracks winding around in all kinds of strange directions, but a pretty direct line up the valley does exist.
Wed dec 30: WBC (beyond the mountain Rd grooming)
Snowshoers walked the off trail skier set beyond the grooming, continuing up towards the gas pump, who knows how far they broke trail. I turned left again before the initial hill into the narrow cut block on my track of 4 days ago, heading east to access the large south meadow. Beyond the first drainage crossing, its on and off barely burried logs with only 30 cm of snow cover, requiring weaving around all but the smallest of logs. Eventually the horseshoe shaped narrow cut block becomes a 40 degree north side slope, so bailed down to the west arm of the meadow (although moose thicket would be a more apt desriptor). Improved travel once into the less scrubby main meadow (40 cm) and north back to mountain Rd. Can’t recommend the route beyond that first drainage crossing currently until at least a foot more snow (but fine up to there with LT gear), unless you really like moose tracking on their turf. Didn’t see any, but lots of evidence. Best to just access the south meadow direct from mountain road. Parking lot overflowing on return at 130 with cars all along the access Rd to the Texas gate. A little further down the road a sea can rental delivery was taking up the west bound lane blocking traffic all the way back into town. Bad timing.
WBC: Tom Snow/Kestrel
I followed MaSid and GH’s tracks on north Tom Snow and filled in the blanks by going up Old Shell Road, Moose single track and taking all of the new re-routes on Tom Snow. We also went part way up the north end of Kestrel to see if there were any tracks to follow, but finding none, we opted to take advantage of our packed track all the way back. The parking lot was full in the morning and still quite busy at moonrise… but we only saw a few other people after leaving Mountain Road. https://photos.app.goo.gl/2PMXMHvqAg5wRoEr9
If anyone wants to avoid the busy WBC parking lot, you can always park at Spruce Woods and follow Tom Snow trail down to Moose Loop.
Piggy Plus Col
Seven Ramblers did the trip to this wonderfully scenic col, SE of Burstall Pass today (15 km, 650 m gain). Conditions were variable, with great snow lower down and wind-crust as we climbed. The thermometer read -17C at the start and I can’t say that it felt much warmer when we turned around, but the wind was blowing from every direction, freezing my fingers very quickly. It’s complex terrain and quite a bit of exposure to slide-paths along the way, so caution is needed. Bring avi gear and common sense. And, join the Ramblers for lots of great trips like this.
Who comes up with these names?
“Piggy” by itself was not sufficient.
WBC Tom Snow north from the NW corner of Moose Loop. Someone had been in that way a day or two ago and established a track 1.5 km in. I continued on to the Kestrel junction (just over 4 km from Moose). I was surprised to encounter a packed (snow shoe party) trail coming down from Kestrel and continuing on towards Pine Woods (on the Sibbald highway). I skied along there for about half a km but I was running out of time so I turned back. There are no fallen trees on the route until north of the Kestrel junction and that one was trivial to step over with skis.
Nice one GH! Glad I could help a bit with the first 1.5 k (-:
Ah. So that was you. Thanks for starting it out for me. It is a pleasant route and I never met a single person in a place with a really full parking lot. I am curious about how far those snow shoe people got. Perhaps one could start out from Pine Woods.
Alf has been in from both directions in the last few seasons. Less snow at pine woods end if I recall. Not sure it would be worth looping back on kestrel/Merlin view? Haven’t been on kestrel before. Not really ski trail use.
The parking lot at the north (Highway #68) end of the Tom Snow trail that you are referring to is called Spruce Woods. It is at the SW corner of the South Loop of the Jumpingpound Demonstration Forest. From this parking lot to it can be a bit of a navigation exercise to find your way onto Tom Snow, but it appears that you ought to be able to follow snowshoe tracks for now. It is 9 km on Tom Snow from the Kestrel junction to Spruce Woods. And it is also 9 km from Kestrel junction to the WBC parking lot via Tom Snow-Moose Loop-Old Shell Road and Mountain Road.
There tends to be more snow depth between WBC and Kestrel junction and less snow depth between Kestrel Junction and Spruce Woods.
I have skied Kestrel after a big snowfall, but it is mostly a ridge-top trail, so it is exposed to west winds and is prone to getting blown bare.
Good to see some user traffic on Tom Snow. It’s a very nice tour.
Here’s a link to a map that shows the access to Tom Snow (trail #71, #8) from Spruce Woods day use area.
Thanks for the information Alf. Do you know whether the the access to Spruce Woods is plowed out in the winter. I know that quite a few of the day use areas on that road are gated. I did hike from there (in both directions) in November after the big snow had melted. Access to the valley is via a set of stairs down to a new bridge over Jumping Pound Creek. Once down there skiing would be pretty straight forward.
Skied up to Rockbound lake today. We had to break trail up the final switchbacks. There is a well packed trail to Tower lake though. We skied a few turns on the fan above tower lake. Nice day with only a few people.
Dec 27 WBC (West Bragg Creek)
Classic skied most of the trails yesterday except Telephone, which looked too narrow to herringbone or snowplow on the steeper sections. I see it has since been roller packed. As noted on previous posts, South Elbow and South Iron Springs are skier-trackset with lots of shallow walker bootprints on South Elbow. That said, I skied both down to the Snagmore junction and back without a problem, and at almost the same speed as I would have on a trackset trail.. I skied the freshly trackset Mountain View West from Mountain Road to Moose Loop. The right-hand track (the more-or-less east track) was quite wavy, and if you rounded a downhill corner at speed, the track would periodically angle you toward the right snow bank and then abruptly turn back along the trail. It was more challenging than usual to keep the skis in the track. The left-hand track (west track) didn’t seem to have that problem. I assume the problem will be fixed with the next tracksetting.
Oops, reposting on non-backcountry trip reports. Bob, you can delete this one. Any way we can edit and/or delete our own reports?
Today, we broke the season’s first ski tracks up a seldom used valley in BNP as far as — Pass, choosing not to go a further 3kms to — Lake because we ran out of time and power. Cougar tracks close to the trailhead. Wolves trenched a trail the whole distance, turning around when the sounds and smells of human activity interrupted their hunt. Sorry for not posting any pictures, Instagram, Tweets, GPX or selfies.
What a great challenge!
You must have gone to ELK pass and considered continuing to Elk Lake?
My guess is you got to BOULDER Pass and decided not to continue to BAKER Lake.
Wish me luck!
SUVs in BNP?
What a concept!
Beautiful, shin-deep snow all the way to the Lake today, under blue skies and surprisingly warm conditions (-14C to start). A few signs of point releases, but nothing more. We played it safe and turned around after lunch at Elephant Rocks. Wonderful ski down!
Black Prince Monday Dec 21
We were hoping for a good dump of fresh snow this morning but found only about 1cm at the trailhead and maybe 3 or 4 higher up. However, conditions were quite good and we had numerous entertaining runs. We stuck to the trees as the avalanche hazard was quite high and will remain so for the next few days. The weatherman predicted snow beginning at 11:00 am and we saw the first flakes at 11:20. It snowed steadily all afternoon, lightly at first, then heavier as we prepared to depart. By 3pm it was absolutely dumping. Driving was slow, and visibility very poor until we got toward Nakiska when things lightened up a bit. Looks like the Rockies will see a big re-set over the next couple of days.
THE GREAT RESET COMES TO THE ROCKIES!
CHESTER LAKE had amazing powder today (Friday)
Was the trail into Chester Lake groomed as per “tradition”?
I never saw the trail to Chester lake groomed, but snow plowers packed it nicely.
SHADOW LAKE, for a north shore ski – December 17
With two recent reports that the trail to Shadow Lake Lodge was snowmobile packed from TCH1, I could not resist returning up there and avoid trail breaking for a first time this year. It snowed all day, lightly at first in the morning and quite hard by early afternoon. VR50 worked very well. The sun was hiding all day, with the sky down to the deck by the time I got to the lake. So, no views of majestic Mount Ball. Had plenty of extra time, so I decided to ski along the north shore, despite little to see up and around. I turned back about 1 km after the bridge, with some open water areas near the shore. I was not keen to ski further out onto the lake; one of my ski poles had poked through ice before, while I was not too far from the shore. The return was nice on the packed trail from the lodge, although snow was sticking at times; had to scrap my wax twice to prevent the ski base from clumping. With the snow in the forecast, the whole trail on REC should have enough for track setting.
I took 2 photos at the start of 400 meters stretch on REC (km 8.25 to 8.65), where there is a clearly visible avalanche path off Copper Mountain, coming essentially within meters from the ski trail. If you do not carry any units to measure distance while skiing, just remember it is where the trail gets close to the creek, AFTER leaving the Lost Horse Creek campground. After km 8.7, the forest is pretty dense on the north side of REC trail, but from satellite image there has been ancestral slides higher up on the slope.
Very good conditions on the Healy Pass Trail today (except for the useless Parks Canada bridges). Wonderful boot top powder in the meadows near tree line. Even the snow ghosts were smiling.
Healy Pass Dec 14
Back for my third tour this season up to Healy Pass. Always lots of fresh lines to be had as it takes some effort to get there. The trail is in good shape, although it’s getting a bit icy in the lower part of the trail. Even though there are numerous crusts in the snowpack, it is surprisingly unreactive. More snow due this week so that could change.
Chester lake was fun but the coverage is still thin.
-15c at 1300 hrs. Some slush just beneath the snow on the lake. Some wind at tree line but mostly calm.
Only one other party on skis and she was solo. Cold kept the hordes at bay.
Four dedicated (foolish) skiers went to the Shoulder on Saturday, braving finger-numbing conditions in hopes of good “pow”. It was a sobering -24C when we started up the Lake O’Hara fire road, but we warmed up quickly even in the shade of the forest. Not having been there in several years, I was surprised at the number of people heading up. I counted at least 12, in addition to our group.
It took 2 hours to reach the top (500 m gain) and was a balmy -9 with sunshine at our launch/lunch site. We did two runs and that was all our early-season legs could stand. The ski out on the road was superslow and track skiers told us that the trip to the Lodge took considerably longer than normal because there was no glide.
Conditions were marginal. There is still thin coverage, with a good selection of binding-grabbers poking out of the unconsolidated snow. Drainages still hold open water, as I found out in one fall. All in all, a great day out!
Rockbound lake trailhead: I received confirmation this morning from BNP staff that the parking lot is indeed open to the public now. Nice that they expanded the access of Hwy 1A to include this destination for winter travel.
DECEPTION PASS (not deceptive at all!) – December 10
A late morning start for a great day to Deception Pass from the Temple Lodge ski-out, with about 20 cm of fresh snow off the trail. The ski-out has been well packed and groomed, with a few bumps on the lower half. There are a few open water holes in the first 100 meters; beware of those if cruising out at the end of the day in the dark. After leaving the downhill ski area, the trees had a lot more snow higher up toward Boulder Pass, with powdery snow off the trail. It was so nice in the sun, that I took an extended lunch break while on skis, for the first time in years. Should have brought the lawn chair strapped to the skis. Good ski track all the way to Deception Pass, with fairly windblown snow above Ptarmigan Lake toward the pass. NO WIND AT ALL at either passes, a treat with the sun. No rocks at all seen today; meaning on the packed trail. The return from Boulder Pass to Temple Lodge is much better on the skidoo track, as opposed to the narrow ski trail heading up. Met 3 skiers who were returning from Packers Pass; not much of a solid base there for turns from their report. Also met a group of 4 skiers climbing up to Deception Pass, from Skoki Lodge (closed for now). Nothing was deceptive today while out there.
Thanks for the good intel normand. There’s always the option of a shovel and small folding saw, instead of a lawn chair, for such awesome days. Less wind drag descending. (-;
Thanks MaSid. So many places couches could be built for such great weather as yesterday.
Next time you hit the slopes, could you take a picture of your lawn chair strapped to your skis? This sound like luxury.
I usually try to ski to some place I can sit like a cabin or at least a log. I could use a more cushy option when the logs are buried under snow. Skis are not the most comfortable option to sit on, even with a pack as a cushion.
Classic pic of Ptarmigan Lake, one of my old fishing holes. Thanks for that.
Burstall Pass, December 10.
Great early winter conditions for travel and turns! The forested headwall trail has very good firm coverage, and we elected to also ski out that way rather than the usual entertaining gully route, which from above still looks to be in need of more snow cover. At treeline the snowpack averages about 110 cm, and under the 25-30 cm of new snow it is very supportive to off the beaten track travel. Add in very little wind effect even at the top of the often wind scoured pass, and only a few other skiers out- right there you have the recipe for some excellent powder skiing! The only recent avalanche activity observed was 3 small thin storm snow slabs along the steep rockband pitch that is ascended when doing the Birdwood Circuit- likely failing on a sun crust. Days are short right now though- we only got in two runs before deeming it prudent to head for home- it’s always a longer slog out from Burstall than you think it should be. Uphill both ways!
Burstall Lakes, Robertson Valley. Dec 10
We did a great off-track tour today up the Burstall Pass trail to Burstall Lakes then headed south up to the moraines below Robertson Glacier. About -5 at the trailhead and pleasant temperatures all day until the sun went below the ridge, then it dropped to -12 very quickly. The main trail is well hammered by skiers, snowshoers and probably a few hikers but our waxless bc skis worked very well. Lots of fresh snow, looks like about 20cm at the trailhead and easily 30cm up in the meadows. Some trail breaking was required after we left the main trail, but it was no problem, ski pen about 25cm. In past years most of the snowshoe action was at Chester and Rummel Lakes, and Burstall didn’t see that much. By the look of the trail, perhaps that’s changing now.
Thu dec 10: Simpson pass/euhippous/heally meadow tour
Started up heally from sunshIne parking. No problems parking at 730, other than competing with staff for spots in the back lot. Only 1 or 2 inches of fresh at the trail head. Some interesting tracks on the way up from the day before: split boarder who couldnt decide what mode to travel in, split, together or walking. Seems like they had a hard go of it and ….uh….”spilled” their food a few times near their turn around at the first Simpson junction. The stream crossing at the Simpson bridge is just filled in enough now to not teeter on the narrow bridge. Put a track in mostly up the summer trail to Simpson pass (there you go chip!). Very quickly diverted from the summer trail to euhippous (tough to follow with all the meadows), taking a more west line. Started heading north back to heally before the lake, travelling mostly on the summer route. Ankle ski pens in the meadows and 3 ft HS (7300 ft), bottom foot facets in some places. Ice below the snow on the lakes was wet, so avoided lake crossings. Light to zero wind and full sun made for a nice stroll back to heally. Good snow on the sides descending heally to take off speed. Below the bridge over heally creek, hard packed and fast.
December 9, 2020
Along with 4 other ambitious “powder hounds”, I visited Tryst Chutes for the first time today. The morning did not begin in a relaxing way, leaving before dawn in nasty snow and slushy, slippery roads. Arriving at 9 a.m., our “co-ordinator” gave the bad news that he had forgotten his skins. I had some red grip wax, which worked well enough for him to get us through the confusing part of the approach. He then turned back, after giving us a map image and directions on gentler chutes. An hour later, we were at Tryst Lake, looking up at sparsely treed runs set off by the impressive profile of “The Fist”. Boot-top powder over a supportive base that was slabby at places. I cut a small convex roll on one run and got a bit of snow down my back, but all in good fun. Evidence of recent point releases (< Size 1), but no cracking, "whumpfing" (spelling?) or other signs. Out by 3 and ready to head back for more.
“Whumpfing” is correct.
When describing a “whumpf” add more u’s and !’s as needed to indicate severity.
Thanks, Aqua Toque. I assume similarly for “craaaaaking”.
Dave, Cathy and I ventured up the Stanley Glacier Trail today and, while the snow pack is thin and the sharks wanting to feed, it was a glorious tour. We headed to “Lunch Rock”, determined that yo-yos weren’t in the picture and continued up-valley to the treed bench just below what little remains of the Glacier.
Every kind of snow could be found, from supportive, shallow powder to bullet-proof, wind-hammered, sun-crusted cra…crud. Stunning hoarfrost on the willows. With a skiff of new snow, the trip down was not terrifying, as it can be. Temps ranged between -10 and -3C with no winds and fabulous light.
Fri dec 4: Simpson pass
Went in via heally. Some slide activity in the avalanche paths, point releases off cliffs and trees. One made it down half way. 1 ft of snow at the first bridge (the useless one), 2 ft at the second bridge, 3 ft at the Simpson turnoff, 4 ft above the headwall. Surface hoar development in the valley bottom and open areas. No need for trail breaking, until above the Simpson headwall where the track didn’t follow the normal route. Some awkward moves on the steep track through the rocks. Ankle to boot top ski pens after that until out into the meadows, then toe to ankle. Didn’t encounter any sun crust until above the headwall at about 7000 ft. Easy cruising into sunshine between twin cairns and wawa. The NW route up twin cairns looked very boney, peppered with rocks and raked by wind. Wind pressed in the meadows, but not boiler plate. Back to the car via wawa and the ski out for a quick lap. Some gravel and ice on the ski out but not too bad until the last couple hundred meters.
I’ve never done Simpson Pass. Do you have a GPS track that gives best approach to the headwall?
No GPS. I usually use the summer trail to the pass proper. Multiple options from there (over to euhippus and south end of rampart for a loop back to heally, or up over the cliff band and into the sunshine resort leasehold). Some description in one of chick’s old ski guidebooks for the cliffband route. The current track diverts from the summer trail early on heading direct to cliff band (several recent rambler trips). The summer trail from the pass through the cliff band is not the recommended winter route. One can meander anywhere though really between Simpson and rampart, for days (legally, after oct 15). Feel free to explore, untethered, and see where it takes you. There is even a campground nearby to facilitate. Beautiful endless treeline touring terrain on a Sunny day, no trail or track needed.
Thanks, MaSid. I should have checked the Ramblers’ site.
The second party of ramblers up there descended to pass and pretty much exited mostly on the summer trail.
HEALY PASS and a Little Further – Dec 3
Glorious conditions today… with weather like this, I feel another sick day coming on!
Details available in the photo descriptions here:
Metal edges essential here.
Stunning photos from the Healy Pass area and beautiful sunshine! Hope to head up there soon. Thanks for sharing!
Chuck, your sweet pictures were so bright I had to wear shades!
Do you think it would be hellish skiing down to Red Earth Creek from the top of the Healy Pass ?
Usually I would only ski down in April, but after looking at your pics, I am stoked to do it now.
Hey, if there is anyone I have confidence in doing it, it is you (and or maybe Ulrike)! After all, you have already been up Redearth, so you know what conditions will be like as you get down to the highway in the dark.
Stay in control, and we look forward to your report.
worst issue may be an abundance of trees down in the less used section between Egypt shelter and shadow lake.
Trail conditions to Boom Lake were good for early season. VR40 wax worked great over packed trail used by hikers, snowshoers and a variety of skiers. Downed trees have been removed and the “water features” are easily crossed.
DSSHSS (Double Super Secret Highwood Secret Stash)
We parked in a massive empty roadside turnout 10km from the nearest other vehicle and went on this family-member-oriented backcountry ski outing.
Like all good secret stashes conditions in the early going were marginal at best.
Again, like all good secret stashes, conditions were awesome at ####### #### Lake!
Nice actions shots!
A lot of blurry photos. Either the photographer got a bit over-excited, or maybe it was from too much schnapps.
Good plan to post those ___ ___ lake photos on just about the last day that Highway #40 is open. By next year, most people will have forgotten about it.
That must’ve been hard “jogging snow” to the “lake” !?
Absolutely–but when we got there we found “Galloping Pow”!
Chester Lake, Saturday.
One of our foursome was looking for a short easy tour to test out new boots- Chester seemed like the logical choice, especially with about 10 cm of overnight snow. We knew it would be busy, and it certainly was- with travellers of all types out enjoying the winter wonderland- at least below treeline, as the alpine is totally wind hammered. In the environs of the lake, a decent snowpack of 80 cm exists, with the “Biden Crust” over basal facets now about 45 cm down providing both good off-trail support, and resistant but planar results as a potential sliding player. A good ski track on the way in was transformed into a wall to wall beaten down groomed ski run on the way out, by the hordes on snowshoes or foot. It wasn’t worth fretting about as skiers have obviously lost that battle, and it made for fast fun turning on the trail out, over a firm surface with no hazards at all. My guess at a ‘shoer-hiker-skier ratio would be 60-20-20. Around the lake- it was so busy that it was hard to get photos without a crowd in them!
Nov 27, 2020
Although there is a good deal of open water in Valley bottom and more snow is needed, it was a delightful day. We toured almost to the Valley head, headed up a shallow, NE slope (25 deg) and dug a pit before descending. HS = approx 1 m, 60 cm of consolidating snow on top of icy crud to ground. Compression test did not yield a failure. A fun run down. Temperature was near 0 C with intermittent flurries. Protected from wind most of the time.
If you’re planning to ski in the Highwood Pass area tomorrow, the winds at 2500m are forecast for 80-95kph. And not a good day for climbing Mt. Rae with 125kph winds at the summit!
Probably hit at least 60-80 at times up at treeline today along the divide. And warm enough for good slab building properties. Noticeable cracking below treeline in open areas.
Environment Canada Nakiska Ridgetop is reporting Wind SW 128 gust 159 km/h! https://weather.gc.ca/city/pages/ab-34_metric_e.html
That is pack strap slap in the face weather.
We decided to check out the Rummel Lake tour today. There were around 30 vehicles at the roadside trailhead and the majority of people were either snowshoeing or hiking to the lake. The trail was so well packed that anything from wide touring skis with skins to running shoes worked well. Off-trail travel conditions were excellent, with 20-25cm of light snow on a supportive base. So, we did a bunch of wandering around just to enjoy the powder skiing.
REC past SDL turnoff
With all those reports of fresh corduroy and knife edge trackset conditions in PLPP, I figured my day of trail breaking was a better fit for this backcountry section. Leaving at 10:45 am on metal edge light touring skis and VR45, I intended to ski to Shadow Lake Lodge. Wishful thinking with up to 20 cm of trail breaking all along Red Earth Creek. I was able to see the ski track made about a week ago, covered by 10-15 cm of new snow, up to about the Lost Horse Creek campground. Poles were hitting the ground through 15-25 cm of snow until then. Then it is was pretty much untracked soft snow afterwards, with hint of an old ski track at times and up to 40 cm of snow on the trail. Pretty slow going throughout the day, tiring, but certainly a good workout. By the time I got to the lodge turnoff, it would have been a return in the dark if I had continued to my initial destination. I decided to just walk up the steep section from REC and turn back. The return to the road was a bit faster in the soft snow with not much of a compacted base. Went from a turtle pace up to a galactic 5 km/hr pace down. Not the longest distance for me this season, but certainly the longest day so far on skis. A good day in the (outdoor) office! Scrapped a few rocks on the last 1.5 km down; still need more snow to cruise that section. The first kilometer from the road is a graveyard of fallen trees.
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
Black Prince Fan
November 20, 2020
Black Prince Fan, in spectacular conditions! 10 cm or more of fresh and no one been there in several days. Dave dug a pit on a 25 deg, NE slope. 60 cm of soft snow on top of 50 cm of rain crust that ran to ground. Collapse on M7, might have happened earlier on a steeper slope. Cathy supervised in fine fashion.
Evidence of a 1.5 slide perhaps a couple of days earlier but hard to tell. Several dry sloughs higher up.
After we put in the uptrack, 2 fellas came along, developers and owners of Paradise Ski. They are making Alberta skis, starting up a business (not giving up their day jobs).
Chip the Backcountry Pro decided to try a new technique; linking turns with one skin still on. Don’t try it at home…or anywhere!!!!
And yes, we trashed the lines!
Dang, what were you thinking? Both skins off is on the checklist. Right after testicles, spectacles, wallet and watch.
Must have gotten distracted on Number 1!
Went to Narao Glades on Tuesday Nov 17 to see if there was a chance for turns – not so much. About 30 cm in the lower glades at the Ross Lake Summer Trail sign with lots of brush to mash through, so just decided to tour out on the summer trail and back. Beautiful day in the woods!
Healy Pass: Nov 16
Good travelling on the Healy Creek Trail to Healy Pass today. A bit thin for the first 200 metres, then solid coverage. Snowpack in the meadow below the pass was 86cm complete with the super hard Nov 5 raincrust at 43cm. Ski pen was 35-40cm. Lots of deep light powder up there.
The luge run out was fast and fun with lots of deep powder on the sides to slow you down when necessary.
BOW SUMMIT – Nov 12
With news that the Bow Summit parking lot is now open, this is the place to get those powder turns!
Details available in the photo descriptions here:
Today was quiet, but yesterday was busy.
Skinned up to Healy Pass today on AT skis. Very thin coverage at the bottom from Sunshine Parking lot – better to hike the first km but good after that. 10cm of light powder on top of a supportive crust in the alpine with about a 65 cm base. Good early season conditions.
Good info Steve. Thanks. Should be improved hopefully with next week’s system.
Sat oct 31: fish creek (Louise).
Couldn’t resist a final October ski attempt. Only about 4-6″ at the parking lot. Ski out to temple day lodge marginal. Crusty snow, no fresh at that elevation, twiggy and open water within first 50 ft. Didn’t meet the covid safe descending standards. Terrible to have to wait until November (-:
“COVID safe descending standards”. That is a really good one SID ! Thank god I am not on skis reading that one as I would have fallen over onto my tips laughing and hurt myself.
Stay safe in the sacred mountains. Don’t ski near me or anyone else.
Highway #66 is closed to vehicles after December 1, so most years it’s a long slog on the highway to get there during the snow season. But with a nice blanket of snow on the ground already, I thought we’d give it a try.
Although Rainy summit is quite a bit higher in elevation than West Bragg Creek, there was only about 20-30cm of snow depth… maybe 1/3 less than at WBC. Nevertheless, we toured over the 4 little summits and across the year-old cut blocks to Cobble Flats and then back up to Rainy Summit. Lots of potential, if one could get there when there was a metre or more of snow depth! https://photos.app.goo.gl/hTg4F8txPK6izTGW8
Sun oct 25: WBC (tom snow north).
Went in via the great trail along the north side of the grooming on moose loop. Excellent travel on the previous skiers track, before the storm? Same on tom snow north with a solid base supplied by the maintenance equipment that was in there doing work, also before storm. Some of the south facing hills were tricky on wax with an ice base under the snow. 60 cm back there in places. And wild. All manner of tracks, including predators.
Sat oct 24: WBC (moose packers).
Went up mountain road past the grooming (30 cm just off trail), up to the pump station and on to moose packers. The pipeline ROW didn’t seem to have enough hazard coverage. Some wet base in places, only affecting pole tips. 40-50 cm near the moose packer junction and down to 15 under heavier canopy. As a summer trail, the occasional trenched bits made for a cautious ski descent where thinner. Managed to not encounter any rocks. Scooted over to middle tom snow, heading north towards moose loop. 20-25 cm on the narrower south end, back to 35- 50 in more open areas. The short steep descent down the north end of the ridge was reasonable, but the creek crossing was not. Reversed course and took the horse trail east to the meadow and back to mountain road. Good day of quality trail breaking. Saw a hunter returning on the way in. Looks like he had come from the big south meadow looking for deer. Glad I had a bright hat on wandering around off the grooming.
Nice tour. Now I know who’s tracks I was following on the “West Meadow” horse/multi-user trail.
FYI, Only went to just below the switchbacks on moose packers yesterday given the thin spots and lack of base. Maybe we will run into each other today, on another untracked multi-use route…..
The snow depth at Arethusa Cirque was 44 cm in the middle of the larch glades… a bit less in the open areas near tree line. That’s great for October, but its also about the same as at West Bragg Creek. The snow is quite supportive, but it is early season and rocks, deadfall and little creeks are not far below the surface.
ARETHUSA CIRQUE – Oct 22
More snow than we expected this early in the season.
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No bear seen… but someone else seen!
HEALY PASS – Oct 20
Poor staff at Sunshine seemed so envious of us heading up on skis!
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Nice cold crunchy snow… about minus 3 degrees.
Looks like plenty enough snow to cover the lower rocks on descent, maybe?
One has to know how and when to control your speed, especially in variable snow conditions!
Chuck, where are the pics from the top of Healy Pass?
I would have imagined it would have been Ski or Die conditions up there.
Normally I would be backpacking up there at this time of year.
Looks like the bear closure for arethusa basin has ceased.
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