Did you hear the one about the backcountry skier who stowed a case of 24 beer(in bottles, no less) in his backpack? I heard all about it this weekend while warming up in the sauna with a few other skiers at Shadow Lake Lodge.
Redearth creek was trackset before the weekend and was in nice shape for the 13K ski up to the lodge. As usual, there are a few pine needles on the first 2K, but thereafter the tracks were excellent.
Snow was in the forecast, but nothing much materialized, just a few squalls as we reached the lodge. The air temperature was -1°C, and VR50(0/-4) was the wax of choice. The snow seemed to get a lot colder as we gained elevation.
Wherever there’s gourmet food, I can usually be found nearby. Shadow Lake Lodge opened for the winter this past weekend and featured a mouth-watering five-course dinner on Saturday night.
If you go to Shadow lake, there’s lots of exploring to do from the lodge. If you are on real skinny skis, like me, you can still follow a 1K skier-set track to Shadow Lake itself which was resplendent in the sunshine today, backdropped by Mt Ball. It offers splendid scenery and is perfect for a little after-breakfast ski tour. I ventured a lttle further, across the bridge and a short distance around the lake.
You can snowshoe on gear provided by the lodge to Gibbon pass, or, if you’ve got the appropriate skis, head to other destinations such as Ball pass. There’s a good snowshoe trail down to Shadow Lake as well.
The original cabin at Shadow Lake was built by the CPR in 1928 and is still available as a lounge for guests. The present-day cabins were constructed in the early 1990’s. Nice and cozy, they are lit by solar-powered lights, and heated with propane. Best of all, each cabin has a convenient drying rack on which you can hang your ski clothes. There’s a few decadent luxuries such as the aforementioned sauna(and yes, I did roll in the snow), showers, and warm bathrooms.
Redearth creek in Banff national Park gains a net elevation of 430 metres to Shadow lake Lodge. It has lots of variety: a few segments where the climbing will get your heart rate up, with corresponding thrilling downhills on the return.
On the trail, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of Copper and Pilot mountains. There’s a campground at 7K where a lot of people stop for a break, but I’ve always found it to be very cold at that particular spot. There’s a few creek crossings on neat old bridges and a warden’s cabin. The trail is narrow and twisty-turny in places, and is only snowmobile packed for the final 2.9K as it meanders through the trees to the lodge.
As for the skier with the 24-pack, if Mark is reading, he might divulge what eventually happened on that trip.
I’d be interested in a report from any readers who participated in the ski races this weekend, namely the Birkie and the Huckleberry loppet. How were the conditions?
My first Birky and it was a world class event. The track, volunteers, organization – now these guys know how to run an event!
The snow? It was more of a science experiment that an endurance test – in the end I think most skiers were mentally exhausted from stressing over it.
Conditions were at the Birkie were grim, as stated. The snow just didn’t cooperate. As an example of how hard it was, Barret Dunbar (who posted the fastest time last year) was 70 minutes slower this year. 4:18 from a 3:08 last year. The crew did an amazing job taking care of the skiers, but there was no grip going up the hills and plenty of grip going down. Tough times.
Conditions at the Birkie were challenging indeed! I sent my 14 year old off at 9:30 on the 31 km. The snow storm on the way to the race start was just ending, and the thermometer was saying zero. So, they had warm, fresh snow to contend with. We did our best with the waxing, but he said he either had no grip, or was icing up a good part of the way. But, being a trooper, he said he just kept going. He did very well! By the time my 13 km started at 1:30 the thermometer said plus one, and the snow was sticky. However, there was quite a cold wind, so it felt much colder on the face! I had brought some zero skis along, and decided to give them a try. They worked well, but even they were icing up a bit after some of the uphills. Some of the trail was wiped out by the wind leaving mashed potato, messy snow. Other parts of the trail were quite icy, especially the downhills (which came in handy to scrape the ice off the grip zone after the soft, mushed up snow on the uphills!) Everyone was having a pretty tough time of it, but in the end, sharing all of our stories made for part of the fun!
The Birkie was a challenging race on Saturday, Bob – although we had high hopes for perfect snow conditions and great temperatures in the forecast to the event, the morning dawned quite warm with some fresh snow squalls mixed in for good measure right before the 9am start. As a result, the waxing was the biggest challenge of the day, and many skiers could be found on the side of the trail over the course of the day either scraping, de-icing, or adding/adjusting their wax. Most got through it with a smile on their face, but all that I spoke with admitted it was a harder challenge than usual. Overheard in the men’s change room, spoken by one very worn out 55km skier “That’s -got- to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done!” The organization of the event though was excellent, as usual.
As one of the groomers this year it’s such a shame to read how bad conditions got on the Birkie Trails this year. We were all glowing at the quality of tracks , the best snow and conditions I’ve ever seen in the 7 years I’ve been tracksetting at the Birkie. In the span of 2 hours just before the race, we had rain, wet snow, heavy winds and plus temperatures that essentially turned the trails in what you read above. Kudo’s to all the hardy skiers that toughed out the conditions.
That’s the biggest shame of all. The Birkie crew did everything right, but the sky messed it up!