I almost forgot how much fun Spring skiing at Red can be. With cool nights and warm sunny days, the whole mountain has become a consistent velvety canvas of corn, making for effortless ripping. Without the urgency of chasing diminishing powder, we wait for friends, ski in packs, drink beers in the chair, and even stop to appreciate the view. Apres ski sessions on the deck are bathed in afternoon sun for an extra hour,courtesy of this year’s early transition to daylight savings; it all feels like a festival.
With the aphorism looping in my conciousness like a mantra, I’ve negotiated snow with every variation of soft, sticky, rotten, and re-frozen over the past week. I enjoyed a couple of afternoon sessions in Spring corn on the face of Red, some soft and consistent lines on Jumbo and the Ledges, and a few shallow powder turns at the top of Short Squaw, but mostly it’s been about conquering the crap. Yesterday Jordy convinced me to join him for a couple of quick laps on Granite before getting on with our respective day’s. It was raining, the visibility down to one chairlift, and the wind gusting. Not a busy day at Red.
The 3cm of wet new snow on the upper mountain was so sticky we had the sensation of skiing in slow-motion through the gaping glide cracks on Short Squaw, but the rain softened snow on Steep Roots was a vast improvement on the frozen ice bulges of the days before. The forecast is for sunny spring conditions by Wednesday, and I’m looking forward to working on my tan.
Despite the less than ideal (warm and wet) snow conditions I’m still keen to be out touring, trying to maintain my momentum for the big traverse. Yesterday I caught last chair on Granite, and toured into the Shambala cabin to meet up and spend the night with Brigitte, Jordy, Sally (11) and Cody (14), out training the next generation of ski tourers. I was on a different program, so this morning I did a quick lap of Old Glory (the pic is from another trip in similar conditions), skiing the double-hourglass with 5cms of fresh goop on top of a firm base, in a white-out (a little challenging), then back over Mt Kirkup to the south face of Mt Grey for some very sticky turns back into the resort.
An extended backcountry ski traverse is the culmination and highlight of my ski season. This year we (Andrew, Trevor, Dan and I) are planning to take 12 days to ski from Roger’s Pass to Mica Creek through the Northern Selkirks. Along the way we’re hoping to make a ski descent from the summit of Mt Sir Sandford, at 3520m the highest peak in the Selkirks. Trevor just sent me this pic of our proposed route on Sir Sandford. Truly awesome. With less than 3 weeks till our departure, making sure I’m ready (in all ways) is my main focus.
Red: Dirtbag No More. So reads the headline of an article (if you can call the regurgitated press release an article) in the latest (Vol.21#4) Ski Press Magazine. It claims that Red is on the verge of being transformed from a retro, experts especially ski area (Ski Press are creative manglers of prose), to a beginner friendly boutique experience. I know it’s not happening (it’s still rundown and empty), but Red’s strategy seems to be to be to just lie (by asserting their fantasies as reality), blatantly and repeatedly. It’s going to a huge challenge to convince rich gapers to come to Red and buy overpriced condos, because the skiing’s too difficult (surely they have more appropriate options), the facilities too Spartan (though we dirtbags love it), and it’s just not exclusive enough (these people seem only to want to associate with more of their kind). The new fixed grip quad replacing the Silverlode chair will actually devalue the skiing experience for most of us (slowing access to Granite and interupting skier traffic), and is designed only to add value to Red’s private land holdings, but it’s being hyped as a major new terrain expansion (though effectively closing access to almost as much terrain as the small amount it opens). Back to reality: today I was basking in the afternoon sun on the deck, drinking a cold Kootenay after an afternoon of fall-line Spring skiing on Red. Appreciating a lodge that was built in 1947, and a lift built in 1972, the small crowd unified by the smiles on their faces after a great day. I doubt any of us are going to buy a condo, nor set foot in some boutique hotel, and though to Red’s owners and management that makes us dirtbags who don’t matter at all, we’re the ones who are actually skiing and loving the mountain. Long live the dirtbags.
“The modern city is just a shopping mall with live-in customers”
I’ve just spent 10 days in Vancouver, that damp and dreary City, assessing the mountain biking trails on Fromme Mountain for the District of North Vancouver. I was choked that I missed a few huge powder days, but that’s what happens when you allow your priorities to become distorted by the imperitives of financial gain and career advancement. I’ve learned another lesson. Spending my days wandering through the rainforest was pleasant enough, and hints of the area’s original pristine coastal beauty occassionally shone through, but as an anonymous pilgrim amongst the cancerous sprawl of development, gridlocked traffic, and mindless consumerism … I couldn’t wait to get back to the mountains.