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First Turns 

After three weeks road tripping through the mountain biking trails of the US Southwest, I’m stoked to arrive home to skiable snow conditions. It’s still conspicuously green and snowless at lower elevations, but snow has been piling above 1700m, which is perfect for Kootenay Pass. Cars in the parking lot at the Pass were overflowing into the brake-check lane on both days this weekend, which had the RCMP from Creston concerned, but we didn’t have any issue getting fresh tracks on some of our favourite early season lines. The well consolidated snowpack is 140cm at 1800m, and is skiing well on more open lines. 

Elise on Baldy Rocks.

Jordy on the Crags.

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Winter Forecast

Cliff Mass is calling for a normal winter. 

http://cliffmass.blogspot.ca/2016/10/the-snow-outlook-for-this-winter-in.html

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Winter 2016

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With my season of work on the trails is winding up and snow accumulating on the peaks, skiing and the winter ahead is increasingly on my mind.

It’s been quiet summer at Red Mountain Resort. Construction activity on the partially built Josie hotel was conspicuously dormant through the entire 2016 summer construction season, though periodic press releases assure us that everything is proceeding to plan.  In marked contrast to the impressive amount achieved the previous summer, there seemed only a minimal amount of clean-up of and improvements to the ski runs, and only a token amount of belated brushing of the ski terrain. The only significant  investments seem to have been unavoidable repairs and upgrades to the aging lift infrastructure, and rumors rife in the community speculate that Red’s major investors have turned off the money supply. Despite their challenges, Red have spun their precarious financial situation into the basis for a brazenly hypocritical but remarkably successful crowd funding campaign, “Fight the Man, Own the Mountain”. Offering such a transparently poor deal that I have trouble conceiving why anyone could think otherwise, it’s nevertheless generated an incredible amount of free publicity and over $4.6 million in reservations at last count. In a time where Trump could be President, I guess anything is possible.

After abandoning my own plans to develop a commercial backcountry skiing lodge as un-viable, but still highly motivated to somehow provide accessible and affordable backcountry lodging, I’ve been mulling over what to do next. Now, along with a couple of co-conspirators, I’m in the process of setting up a new non-profit society to plan, fund-raise, construct and operate basic backcountry skiing huts in the region. We’ll be releasing details soon.

I just read that the long dispute over the status of the Glacier Park Lodge has been resolved, and that Canada Parks will now be demolishing the building and redeveloping the site. It was a creepy dive of a motel, but I do have fond memories from back before Roger’s Pass became the busy ski-touring Mecca that it is. My dirt-bag ski-bum friends and I would have the Pass to ourselves, pestering the highway maintenance staff for forecasts, bivying in the heated bathrooms of the Visitor’s Centre, drinking beers with soldiers at the artillery base, poaching the hot-tub at the hotel, and with the highway closed for blasting – trenching the deepest of powder lines through the trees.

It’s snowing wet flakes outside my window right now, with a 40cm base building on top of Granite it won’t be long before we’re sliding on snow.

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Leaving the Vortex

  
Since early December life has assumed the quality of ritual, almost entirely focused on powder skiing in my local mountains. Now I’m headed into Fairy Meadows for a week, with huge terrain and snowpack to explore, and multiple storms headed our way.

  

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Snow Returns

  
Just when the Christmas crowds seem to have tracked everything in sight, and El Niño snow pessimism was scratching at the door, the forecast has turned. Now calling for sustained cold temps and continuing  episodes of snow over the next week. Bring it on. 

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Opening Weekend

 

Fields of white on Grey (A.M. photo).

 
I don’t actually recall each and every opening day from the past 25 years. There were almost certainly some days of deep trenching, but many more and most in recent years were spent ducking ropes and poking around in marginal conditions. So to have the entire mountain open on day one, with a confidence inspiring solid base covering every rock, is an incredible start to the season. Kudos to Red Mountain and their summer grooming program, as apart from some recent windfall much of the terrain is as brush free as it’s ever been, and Grey feels like an entirely new mountain with fields of easy angled powder to explore rather than a mine-field of slash piles. Waking to 27cm of new snow on Sunday morning capped it off. Apologies if I’m gushing, but charging my favourite lines on Granite in backcountry like conditions really is as good as it gets. 

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First turns.

  
Back from vacation in time for 22 cm of new snow, and a lap on Main Run. Coverage is still pretty thin, but the old snow is supportive, and we were able to piece together a clean line. It felt great to be playing on snow again.

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Patience

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Freeze-up on the Center Star Gulch Reservoir

With fall surfing and biking trips complete, now comes the patient wait for skiing. We’ve winter temperatures here in Rossland, but just a dusting of snow on the ground. Red’s making snow, with enough stockpiled to put a few turns together if one were desperate.  I’m still getting out my bike, but not having embraced the fat-bike craze, every ride could be my last. Skis are tuned. Pass is in hand. Storms are coming.

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Snow-making on the T-bar at Red.

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A Long time Coming

In 1992 I spent six months hanging out and surfing in Mexico and El Salvador. With lots of time to ponder what I might do with the rest of my life, I dreamt up a plan for creating and operating a commercial backcountry skiing cabin. I thought about it often, until eventually acquiring the life experience and resources to consider succeeding in such a venture, I put together a serious plan for building a ski cabin in the Southern Selkirks. I got some initial support from Provincial land managers, but the unfortunate timing of the (Oct 2007) Mountain Caribou moratorium eventually put an end to that. Undeterred, I followed that up with a proposal for a linked network of cabins within Goat Range Provincial Park, but the park managers weren’t the slightest bit receptive, and strong opposition from local conversation groups sunk that one too. Still determined, I got methodical. I researched, mapped and ruled out all the existing commercial tenures, recreation areas, parks, and areas of environmental concern in the mountains of the West Kootenays. I reviewed what remained for skiing potential utilizing Google Earth, and then skied and assessed the most promising opportunities. When I found what seemed to be the best prospect, I scrutinized it for any reason that a tenure application might be denied. When it seemed that it actually could succeed, I thoroughly prepared for and submitted an application for commercial tenure. I’ve spent the past 12 months consulting with and addressing the concerns of the provincial government, the tree farm operator, the mining licensee, the six overlapping native land claimants, downstream water rights holders, biologists, and local skiers.  But somehow I’ve made it through, and 22 years since beginning this odyssey I’ve finally been granted commercial tenure to 1000 acres of steep snowy north facing mountains in the southern Valhallas. Many challenges remain, but my plan is to complete construction next summer, and for Skadi Lodge to begin operations for winter 2015/16.

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Skiing at last.

After a month visiting friends and family in Australia, I’m finally back in Rossland. I was surfing pretty regularly, but still as I watched (via the net) the snow accumulating it was difficult to think of the powder turns I was missing in this exceptionally early start to the season. I did a lap on 3rd Slide this morning. There was a little bit of crust and wind effect, but the turns felt smooth, the sun was shining, and the cover was perfect. A great late start to my season. My internet connection is down for the moment (so I’m using the wi-fi in Clancey’s), but when I sort it out I’ll start blogging in earnest. It’s shaping up to be an awesome winter.

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