Owen – On top of the World.
Taking advantage of the sunshine yesterday, I got up Old Glory for the first time this winter, touring with a group of new friends, none of whom had summited before.
Looking down our line of descent.
A conspicuous slab release (from a few days ago) on the east face kept us to a conservative line on the nose, and although variable and firm wind affected snow conditions didn’t make for the easiest of turns, weaving through the sunlit snow ghosts was pretty magical.
Slab release on the east face (our line was to the skiers left).
Easy travelling, and softer snow at lower elevations, combined to make for a perfect day in the Rossland Range.
Denis – Ripping up the windcrust.
Cam and I sledded (I bought a 2008 Yamaha Phazer this summer) into the Russell Creek drainage in the Southern Valhallas yesterday for a bit a ski touring. The alpine bowls and perfectly spaced trees have long been valued by ski-tourers, but the area was appropriated by Valhalla Powdercats in 1999, where they operated until pressure from disgruntled locals forced a move to a more remote and less contentious location in 2006. Things are much quieter now.
It was pissing rain on the drive from Rossland, and storming for most of the climb, but our perseverance was rewarded, as the sun came out for a couple of great runs. Conditions were smooth and shallow in the alpine, and soft and boot deep in the trees.
Given the warm temps and lingering issues in the snow-pack we skied conservatively, but the steep lines off the peaks were looking sweet, and well worth a return trip when stability improves.
Elise – Orchards.
Another powder day (12cm) at Red, playing with friends. The snow got sticky fast in the warm sunshine, but remains well preserved on shady aspects, and down low in the clouds.
Sparky – Microwave.
It’s turning out to be a good early year for skiing steeps, as periodic warming has enabled snow to stick to lines that regularly don’t come into condition till much later, if at all.
I just got sent a link (thanks Mike) to this video of an avalanche at Retallack on Tuesday. Not such a good time to get rad in the backcountry.
Cam – Slides.
When conditions turn to crap, I’m subject to a constant low level anxiety that it might stay that way. So after a few rock-solid days I was relieved to wake up this morning to snow. It dumped heavily and constantly from about 4am to 1pm, depositing 20cm ( as measured in my driveway, and half-way down Powder fields) of dry but substantial snow. You can still feel the underlying firmness in places (especially under trees), but it sure felt like powder skiing to me.
Styling a headband at Bridger Bowl – 1990.
Some variation of the “how the hell did you end up here” conversation seems to be a staple in this community of so many people from elsewhere. It’s never been an easy place to find, especially so before the internet made everything just a Google search away. I first heard of Red Mountain in the summer of 87, from the fellow Beetle driving dude who lent us his spare for the borrowed Volkswagon Beetle we’d flatted on a desolate logging road, driving back from climbing Fischer Peak (near Cranbrook). To one who’s experience of Canadian skiing started and finished at Whistler, he made Red sound like the wild frontier.
In the winter of 1990 I was ski bumming at Bridger Bowl Montana, drawn to this comparably obscure mountain because 1) it had the most snow of the half dozen or so ski resorts I called from the bus station in Seattle, and 2) it was where my then skiing idol Scott Schmidt had developed his moves on the notorious “Ridge”. Joining the Ridge Hippies required checking your beacon, negotiating a steep 20 minute boot pack above the top chairlift (adjacent to the rope-tow that only the patrol could use), and as much as another 20 minutes of side-stepping, before dropping in to your chosen 500′ to 1000′ line. All options were steep and challenging. One day on the Ridge I got chatting with a Red Mountain patroller visiting on exchange, and casually asked what the skiing was like at Red. He told me that it was “sort of like Bridger, but that the lift went to the top”. I made my way to Red the very next winter, and it’s been everything he suggested and more.
It’s sometimes worth going just for the views
After several days of unseasonably warm temperatures, the freezing level has dropped, and the snowpack turned solid. Cam and I tried to be optimistic this morning, finding barely skiable untracked heavy powder for the top 100 meters or so into Links Line and Papoose Bowl (we did three laps), at which point conditions got really scary and we retreated to (the groomed) Main Run, which was firm, smooth and consistent. Until there’s enough new snow or sunshine to change things, it’s a good time to bust out the carving skis.
Red had 20cm of fresh light snow overnight. I spent the morning spraying it around, crusting up my beard, and pulling off big chunks of ice. There was a time pre-beard when I would have had to wear a neck tube. Now I just grow one (or one could rent) A little Dermatone on my nose and cheeks, and I’m ready to face the elements. Though deep, the snow was actually so light and coarse (and so paradoxically providing little resistance but poor glide) that I was feeling a bit of a klutz on my first run, until I was able to adjust. Lots of heavier snow in the forecast.
According to the webcam it was -19 degrees at Kootenay Pass this morning. Frigid conditions that aggravated my persistent Cold all day, but the skiing was sensational in the sun. Consistent boot deep penetration made for easy travelling, and effortless turns. They were still cleaning up a couple of spectacular controlled slab releases above the highway, but it seemed very manageable where we were.
Saturday – First Run of the Day on Buffalo Ridge.
It was one of those storms that seemed to dump all around us ( a meter in Nakusp), but like the proverbial hole in the doughnut we just got dribs and drabs. However we did get enough to cover up any hardness, and with a bit of wind to smooth it all out, Saturday was actually a sunshine powder day at Red.
Elise – Field of Dreams.
Power flurries early this morning made for light and dry surface conditions (though a claimed 12cm seems a stretch), and with the sun shining brightly, back-country conditions were just about perfect.