Marginal conditions on Elk Pass

If you are like me, enjoying high-risk behavior and lacking good judgement, then you might enjoy Elk pass. Everyone else, stay away.

The Kananaskis trail report indicated that Elk Pass, Blueberry Hill and Patterson were packed on Oct 31 but were still rough and uneven. Usually the trail report makes things sound worse then they really are, so I went to see for myself.

This time the trail report was accurate, and if I dare say, conditions are probably worse than “rough and uneven.” The photos will tell most of the  story, but there’s one critical element you won’t see in the photos. The biggest problem is that the snow has gone through a freeze-thaw cycle and there’s a crust on top.

The crust makes it extremely difficult on the downhills because it’s not easy to get an edge in the snow for snowplowing down the fast hills. The snow was soft enough this afternoon and I could snowplow, but tomorrow morning it will be pure ice. If you go down the big hill at full speed, you’ll probably end up having a  helicopter ride. 

There’s no way to put a positive spin on these early-season conditions. I walked the first 300 metres. From there on, the snow cover became increasingly better as I climbed the big hill on my waxless skis. I had taken my old, wider, metal-edged touring skis, which would have been more maneuverable for the downhills, but they’re waxable and I wouldn’t have had any grip.

There are numerous hazards such as water, ice, rocks, dirt, ruts, rough and uneven patches, and a couple places where you must take your skis off. (The things I do for this job!) Did I mention that it was raining and sleeting periodically throughout my ski?

Somehow, through all this, I made it to the Blueberry junction at 4.4k without any mishaps. The return trip was a little scary on the downhills, but I managed okay, even coming down the big hill with with my skis on. I walked the final 500 metres from the Boulton creek junction to the trailhead.

I can’t recommend this trail, as it requires more snow. There’s a decent base and the next 10 cm of fresh snow should make it reasonably good. I’m looking forward to the day when it will be safe to go full blast down the fastest K in Kananaskis.

Lake Louise

Did anyone ski there today? With the warm weather, I’m wondering if any grooming occurred. The trail report indicates the Great Divide has been packed. The weather forecast shows a cooling trend starting on Thursday.

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  1. Thanks Bob for being dedicated and taking one for the team!
    Rain was reported in K-Country up to the 2400m elevation on Thursday.

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