I was back at Whitewater again yesterday. The inbounds lines off the Summit chair looked well tracked, but Jordy and I found fresh lines in Ymir bowl. The snowpack is still very thin on ridgelines and around outcrops, but it’s mid-winter powder skiing in the gullies. At upper elevations there’s a supportive crust between 10 and 30 cms down, with unconsolidated snow down to ground at lower more protected elevations. Here’s Jordy making turns down from where the the Dog Leg Chute runs into the main bowl.
Cam, Caro and I put in a skinning track up Jumbo this morning, a beautiful climb in the sun and an opportunity to check if it was ski-able (not yet). The run down Long Squaw (Rino’s) was significantly better than when I did it 2 weeks ago. It’s a little bit crusty and grabby but very rippable. Overall the mountain still a very thin cover, with at least another couple of feet of dense snow required before opening.
With a significant storm dumping snow throughout the region last night, I figured skiing the open lines at Whitewater ski resort would provide the best conditions around. We left 15cm of new snow on the ground in Rossland, but found twice that on the road up to Whitewater. Andrew and Meghan had to be back for Red Mountian’s staff training/orientation, but three powder runs before lunch was a good start to the day. With knee deep ski penetration we couldn’t get enough speed on our first run on Bonanza, so we dropped into Blast (under the Summit chair), and though a bit bushy in places, had some great fall-line skiing with even a few face-shots. The batteries on my camera were playing up, but this short video gives an indication of conditions.
We had the place to ourselves in the morning, but by the time we were leaving at noon, there were 20 cars in the lot. There’s lots of early season keeners out there.
Through two seasons of use I’m convinced that Dynafit bindings are a reliable high performance binding, but they’re not indestructible. It took a long time and a few reminders but Salewa USA (Dynafit’s North American distributors) were very helpful and friendly on the phone and sent me all the replacement parts and spares I needed in time to ski. As I’ve documented previously the metal post on which the heel piece mounts will fracture and break with extended use, so I’ll be periodically checking for cracks, and will carry a replacement heel post and base plate on longer and more remote trips. The plastic heel riser post can also break, though almost always the casualty of a clumsy or aggressive move (an ill-advised 3ft drop to flat while in the high climbing position broke mine). I’ll be carrying a spare with screws. Finding a lightweight Torx T10 driver for the screws was initially a challenge, but apparently Avid mountain bike disc brakes ship with a suitable driver, and my local shop (Revolution Cycles) had lots of extras lying around.
Roger’s Pass is going off. There’s a couple of meters of snow in the alpine, and Andrew and I made the most of 3 days of perfect sunshine and bomber stability by skiing some mid-winter lines.
It was the first time I’ve stayed at Wheeler hut, and it’s a great spot to base from, a real mountain cabin, warm and comfortable with loads of character, close to the skiing yet only 20 minutes off the highway. You won’t catch me at the hotel again.
We only had time for a quick lap to Lookout Col on day 1, but on day 2 we climbed 5000′ to the ridge-line between Uto and Eagle peaks, where we’d spotted a nice looking line the day before. The skin track we set up a knife edged ridge kept us concentrating.
It was a day for big views in every direction. That’s Mt Sir Donald in the background. The skiing was absolutely perfect, but rather than me crapping on endlessly, check out this short video I posted to You-tube (it’s the first time I’ve attempted this, so let me know if it works):
With the stability and snow conditions so good, we figured the Grizzly chute would be in prime condition for day 3, so made an early start.
Ski lines don’t get much more classic, and I was pretty stoked to ski this one again.
Our legs were burning by the bottom, feeling tired but buzzing from such a great start to the season. With next to no snow on the mountains of the Southern Kootenays a return trip seems inevitable.
Dallas – taking his turn in the front.
Winter hasn’t really kicked in here in the Southern Kootenays, but we were hoping to find some early season turns at higher elevations at Kootenay Pass. It wasn’t looking too promising at the Pass itself, with barely enough snow to cover the undergrowth in the forest, and lots of fresh windfall. Lunch-box was a boulder field, and even the grassiest slopes up on Buzz’s Ridge, were grassy. But fortunately the wind had filled in the lee aspects, and we lapped a couple of lines on the front side of Buzz’s with only a few rock gouges, then found a filled-in line off the back of Cornice Ridge, and by the time we’d dropped a couple more powder filled chutes off the back of Buzz’s it was finally feeling like winter.
Pete – Not afraid to drop the knee.
Another line off the front off Cornice Ridge and a bushwhacking descent to the Pass made for a pretty full day. Rock skis are mandatory, but if you pick your aspects there’s some fine powder skiing to be had. We measured 65cm accumulation at 6200′ on the flats and 100cm at 6600′ on a wind-loaded face. There’s multiple crusts layered with facets in the lower snow-pack, which made for significant whoomping but no releases.
I finally received my warrantied Dynafit touring bindings, mounted them on my rock skis and so figured it was time to check out the conditions on the ski hill. Michelle and I skinned up compacted snow on South-side Road, then broke a trail up Southern Belle in the sunshine. There’s about 10 – 15 cm of wet snow under the Silverlode Chair and at least 30 cm of drier snow with a crusty surface on the top half of the mountain. We had some fun powder turns on the top pitch of Long Squaw (Rino’s) leading into some funky crusty bushy skiing and a few leaps over open water, then the wet snow surface on Easy Street and through the new beginner area made for easy turns all the way back to my truck. Certainly not perfect conditions, but it was skiing, and it felt great.
I did a marathon Friday evening at the Rossland Mountain Film Festival, enjoying some of the more eclectic offerings at the early session, particularly the brother sister relationship, dog mushing, and amateur stunt-men flicks, but found the extended ski-porn of the later session put me to sleep.
Now that I’ve got the Cure looping in my consciousness ……. The snow seems to be hanging around this time, enough to pack the bike away, but not enough to start skiing. So I’m keeping occupied running the trails with ski poles, preparing my gear for the season ahead, and watching the weather. I’m going to plod around up on Red with my rock skis this afternoon, but with 183cm in the alpine at Roger’s Pass, I’ll be road-tripping to some real skiing very soon. I got to see Bill Heath’s new flick Nine Winters Old at the Film Festival last night. It was beautiful and engaging, and really conveyed a love of skiing that I can relate to, although in the end it was just another forgettable G rated fairy-tale. Some darkness and weirdness would have made it a whole lot more real and satisfying to me. I know Dave Heath is a much more complicated and interesting character than he’s portrayed in the film.
Still no snow, so today I figured some more recreational chainsawing on the Rabbit Hole would be a productive way to work out. This particular line has been a project of mine for 3 years now, and I’ve finally connected it all the way through. With so much standing dead in the forest I didn’t have to fell too many living trees to create this narrow and challenging line. I made a particular effort to buck up and lay all the fallen wood close to the ground, so it should be skiable early in the season. I won’t give directions, but if you’re a regular on Granite you’ll find it eventually.
Yesterday I made a solo hike into my favorite ‘secret’ back-country hut, carrying my chainsaw. I felled a couple of dead snags, cut them into rounds and stacked them ready for a few toasty warm ski trips this winter. Much easier than doing the same after a long day of skiing, wading around in deep snow, with the light of a headlamp and only a dull axe. I hiked around the frozen lake and only encountered a few thin patches of snow, though there was more on the peaks. I can’t wait to make it back for some powder skiing.