Spring officially starts tomorrow(Tues Mar 20) at 10:15 a.m. but you wouldn’t know it if you were in PLPP today.
There was 5-10 cm of new snow on top of Friday and Saturday night’s grooming and it looked like the dead of winter with the snow laden trees and white-capped mountains. The scenery was spectacular. Trails with older grooming such as Meadow and the south end of Amos had much more new snow.
All the recently groomed trails still had well-defined tracks but the snow was borderline wet. It was 0°C at Elkwood at 1 pm with a bright sun and no wind.
I came prepared with three pairs of waxless skis. With fresh snow and soft tracks, the zero skis would have been a disaster. The twin skins probably would have been okay but with my Tofu-1 grind on my fish scale skis, I wanted to see how they performed in wet snow.
Elkwood is a good place to park if you don’t know where you’re going because you can branch out in many different directions. I headed south on Wheeler where the trail had about 5-6 cm of new snow but was well skied-in and reasonably fast.
At the Whiskey Jack/Moraine junction I was going to start up WJ, but I ran into Clint and Jan who had just finished Moraine and Fox Creek. They said the conditions were wonderful and the scenery was beautiful, so I headed down Moraine. Conditions were indeed excellent. Another bonus of going on Moraine was running into Paul who I hadn’t seen for 10 years.
As I started up Whiskey Jack, I encountered two skiers who were turning around and coming back down. More specifically, they were trying to come back down. Their waxed skis had iced up and they were unable to move with 6″ high-heels.
I had the company of two whiskey jacks at the picnic table at the WJ/Pocaterra junction while I had a snack and checked the temperature which was +1.6°C. Karen came by from the direction of Tyrwhitt and said there was a lot of fresh snow in that direction.
WJ and Upper Pocaterra had closer to 10 cm of fresh snow but the tracks were still fine if a bit slow. I came down Packers and didn’t encounter any ice flow at the usual spot. A few of the tree canopies had dripped onto the trail and made for a few icy spots. Skiing over them feels like someone gives you a big push because of the sudden increase in speed.
I didn’t experience any of the quicksand effect on the downhills, but the snow wasn’t slushy at all.
As I returned to the Elkwood trailhead, conditions on Wheeler had deteriorated somewhat. Wheeler has a lot of sun exposure and some spots were getting soft. I also saw a few black specks in the tracks – the dreaded snow fleas. The temperature at Elkwood was +3°C at 4 pm.
To my surprise, tracksetting in Banff has resumed. The trail report indicates that Cascade Valley was trackset today.