Downtown Rossland was unrecognizable this afternoon, with young skiers and boarders spinning and sliding down the slope-style course on Queen street, DJs cranking out tunes, a beer garden, a mountain biking stunt show, and crowds of people enjoying the sunny spectacle. Kudos to the organizers, Winter Carnival is going off.
I absent mindedly left my camera in the car for this past trip, and while I usually find photography adds to my experience, it was a pleasant change to be entirely focused on the here and now. I took this pic of our descent route (the green line) on Mt Seaman, in very similar conditions, sometime last year.
Andrew, Jordy and I spent Friday hauling in a 20lb propane bottle (there is no easy technique), 10lt of kerosene, 3lt of bleach, a 40ft tarp, and other assorted supplies into the Yurtopia yurts at Wildhorse. After shovelling off the yurts, exhausted, we feasted, drank, and slept like the dead.
Saturday was the pay-off, sunny and mild, stable conditions, and three spectacular untracked peaks on which to make our mark. We summited and skied off Ketuttle, then Seaman, then two off Qua’s ridge. Easy travelling, smooth turns, endless views …. happy to be alive and skiing in the Kootenays.
We timed our pick-up with the cat-skiing group perfectly, squeezing in for a few runs, a wild sled-tow down the access road, and beers in the always friendly and funky Ymir Hotel.
There’s something I love about a jungle style manouver, when the terrain, trees, and snow conditions limit the skinning options to the point that swinging from tree to tree is the best option. There are those who laugh, and those who curse when the going gets tough, and I like to ski with the former. That’s Andrew admiring my track.
Despite the tanning weather, Andrew, Andrew and I skied a nice steep north facing line with variable but fun snow, followed by perfectly preserved powder in the trees back to the truck.
From a recent article on Wildsnow (link on my blogroll for the full-article) about the life and recent death of skiing pioneer Dolores LaChapelle, I was touched by her personal philosophy regarding powder skiing.
Powder snow skiing is not fun. It’s life, fully lived, life lived in a blaze of reality. What we experience in powder is the original human self, which lies deeply inside each of us, still undamaged in spite of what our present culture tries to do to us. Once experienced, this kind of living is recognized as the only way to live–fully aware of the earth and the sky and the gods and you, the mortal, playing among them.
This section of the main line off the second peak of Mt Gray is known by local backcountry skiers as James Bay. It’s a lovely open moderate angled run down to Long Squaw (aka Rino’s) that this morning was smooth and blown-in with easy boot-deep turns. That’s Nicole turning it up in the pic, with the North Side of Granite (Cambodia – High Spirits) in the background. It was only recently that I was educated as to the significance of the name James bay. When viewed from Granite, the shape of the open terrain has a striking resemblance to the geography of Hudson and James bays.
With high winds and mild tempertaures creating variations of wind-pack on higher elevation and open slopes, and minimal visibility, lower elevation trees seemed an obvious choice for today. With the plentiful snow conditions we’re enjoying, the drainages of the Rossland Range are blessed with an endless selection of short, steep, tree lined chutes and reasonably spaced (by Kootenay standards) trees. I showed an old (that’s Sarah shredding in the pic) and a new friend visiting from Salt Lake a rarely skied line. The snow was dense, but smooth and consistent, perfect for bouncing tight turns. An easy loop up and back from the highway and smiles all around.
The 1500ft North face of Mt Roberts is my regular favoured place to ski-tour, with a consistently steep pitch, a great variety of challenging lines and features, and so close and convenient. Brigitte, Cindy and I were making hour long laps today, the snow – a little bit of powder, a little bit of wind-pack, but mostly untracked and all fun.
Red Resort are begining to take commercial advantage of Roberts, with the recently completed Freeskiing competition and talk of some Red Bull sponsored extravaganza in the works. Given it’s close proximity to Red, it’s probably unrealistic to expect that it could be kept pristine, but I have issues with the way they’re (as usual) ignorantly comprimising the experience for the rest of us.
- Explosives should not be used for cornice removal, as it removes all the acumulated skiable snow. The entrances to Centre Chute (the most popular line), the Knife’s-edge (also decimated by the large number of competitors – which should be limited) and most of the lines between the Hour-glass and the Dog’s Leg are currently unskiable. Manually controlling the venue during the lead-up to the contest has been shown to be effective in preserving the snow we all want to ski.
- The cat-road pushed to within a couple of hundred feet of the summit, and now being used for towing people up on sleds (we observed this today) is completely insensitive to backcountry users (I also wonder what the private land-owner thinks?). It also encourages unprepared people to wander up the road, without adequate gear or knowledge, and to get into serious and uncontrolled terrain.
- The cat-road zig-zagging up the bottom section of Centre Chute, destroys the whole bottom section of the run, and creates an unmarked drop-off onto a road in the middle of the run-out from the lower cliff-band. I nearly creamed myself on it today.
I’m sure I’ll keep finding great turns no matter what, but Red’s capacity to fuck things up seems boundless, so I’ll be doing whatever I can to contain the damage.
I just received this pic in my e-mail (thanks Troy and Anna). Hurtling down a banked course (courtesy of Mat and Ed) on a GT Snowracer, a fire, BBQ, and beers close by, and a few amped-up kids to remind us how uncomplicated having fun can be on a chilly Rossland evening ……. was as good a way as any to usher in the New Year. That’s Riana and I in the groove.
Unseasonably strong winds and arctic temps have made skiing conditions a little more challenging of late. But deep in the backcountry, on the slopes above an infrequently visited mountain lake,amongst the old growth Hemlock and Spruce, in the vicinity of a well disguised cabin where the red wine flows, the wood fire crackles, and the issues of the world are examined, in a little back eddy off the side of the vortex, there’s powder skiing to be had.
The free-skiing circus is back in town. The latest crop of young chargers spent the day pounding Lynx Line into submission, providing a bit of entertainment for the few of us riding the Motherlode chair. I saw a couple of tumbles and a wild kamikaze style straight-run, but otherwise it seems they’re saving their big moves for the competition tomorrow. I do find it vaugely amusing that what appears to be the coolest free-skiing fashion of the moment, variations on matching puffy neon and white, has young men replicating some of the worst ski fashion disasters of the 80’s. The return of stretch pants can’t be far off.
Meanwhile, I had moments of singing out loud in joy as I cruised the wind-buffed untracked snow on Powderfields in the sunshine, but I’m looking forward to a few days away, touring from a little known cabin with a friend. I’ll post when I’m back with pics.