Tag Archives: skiing

Heartbreaking injury

18 May

This is the story of a young Brazilian Olympic athlete who suffered a devastating injury upon transitioning to a new sport.

April Fool on Hawk Ridge

13 Apr

Well I must be some kind of fool to be going back-county skiing only 3 days after an invasive surgery procedure, but with winter coming to an end, time was of the essence.  Plus, I had an invitation to check out a new line in the Kootenary Park burn.   So on Friday April 1st, I met up with ACC Calgary Section member Julie Muller and we drove out to the park, stopping just north of the Vermilion Lodge.

The snow on the lower slopes of the mountain was fairly baked and crispy in the early morning, but the higher we climbed (slowly), the better it got.  Near the top of the range we found caribou tracks and knee-deep powder – too deep, in fact, for the shallow slopes there, and we had to pole our way over to the steeper slope of the main face.  That was so nice we had to do two laps of the upper mountain!

Then we located a clear “ski run” down the mountain which was untouched. From mountain-top to road-side was about 1000m, so, lots of turns were to be had.  And thankfully, the weak sun had softened up the snow at the bottom for our cruise back out to the car.

Here’s a video excerpt of the day’s skiing:

Mining for White Gold in Toby Creek

9 Mar

There’s a precious mineral to be found along Toby Creek, and I’m not talking about that yellow rock… I mean white gold, the kind that, in its powder form, drives skiers mad (and I’m no exception).    On Sunday, a kindly local named Gina took me to an out of the way slope far up Toby Creek. The further we drove, the narrower the road got and the higher the snow banks, until they were as tall as our car.   Good place to stop and explore! So we did, climbing 500m up a nice, safe slope.  With sunshine, warm temperatures around -4C, and plenty of daylight, we just had to do two laps on the pristine powder snow.  Here’s an amalgam of what we found:

Skiing on Vermilion Peak – Hat Trick

8 Mar

I was on my way out through Kootenay Park to Invermere anyway, so I invited my friend Gina to come up from Invermere and meet me half-way… and ski my favourite site this winter.   The sun was shining and the temperature a warm -4C as we left the parking lot and climbed up through the enchanted forest.  Unfortunately, as we reached tree-line, the sun disappeared, and it started to snow – as if to emphasize the quantity of fresh snow that had already obliterated any sign of our passage a week earlier.  With just two of us in the party this time, we didn’t have to stop too often, simply enjoying the flow and rhythm of a 1000 m drop to the valley floor in fresh powder:

Skiing on Vermilion Peak redux

1 Mar

I liked it so much I had to go back!  A week after the first visit to this location, it had warmed up somewhat, only -14C at the parking lot vs. -22C the week before.  But offsetting the warmer temperature, the sky had a moderate overcast that the sun struggled to burn through from time to time.  Thankfully, there was only a slightly southerly breeze this time.

Three of us from the ACC Calgary Section (Richard Burke, Julie Muller and I), started up the up-track around 11:00, making a leisurely ascent which put us at treeline around 13:15. The alpine ridge up to the peak faded off into the clouds, easily persuading us it wasn’t worth climbing the final 300m, even though forecast avalanche danger was only moderate.  We put away our skins, zipped up our jackets, and pointed the skis down.  Here is our visual record of the day (an abbreviated v.3):

Skiing on Vermilion Peak

26 Feb

Friday February 18th, I took a day off work and went skiing with a couple members of the ACC Rocky Mountain Section.  We parked at Numa Falls in Kootenay Park, and then hemmed and hawed – it was -22C with a brisky and icy northerly outflow wind pushing down from Alberta.  Eventually, Al convinced us to get out of the car by saying “it’ll be better in the trees”.  And it was!

We crossed the road, clipped on our skis, then skinned up Vermilion Peak, gaining 900m elevation.  It was a nice sunny day, and the higher we went, the warmer it got thanks to a temperature inversion.  By the time we stopped for a bite of lunch, we were down to single layers (though we quickly covered back up to avoiding cooling off too much while eating).

With avalanche risk in the alpine forecast to be considerable, we decided to stay below tree-line where the hazard was only moderate.  Naturally we all carried beacons, shovels and probes, but no one wants to have to use them.

The snowpack was great: 15-25cm of fresh snow on top of a hard layer below provide just enough float for nice turns, while preventing us from sinking deeper into the snow where we suspect there might be deadfall.  We had a great run down: the slope had a nice consistent pitch, neither too steep nor too flat, and the trees were spaced widely enough to serve as slalom gates rather than barricades.   Here’s a visual record of the day:

Powder Day at Panorama

14 Jan


Waiting for Ski Patrol to open The Zone, at the summit of Panorama. We were amongst the first down into the glades. With 25-30 cm of fresh powder, locals were saying it was the best day in 6-7 years!

Skiing at Grizzly Shoulder

10 Jan

Yesterday was my first time up Grizzly Shoulder in the Rogers Pass.  With close to 75 cm of fresh snow fallen in the previous few days, and the avalanche hazard finally dropping out of the red zone, it was time to venture out bright and early from our lodgings at the Wheeler Hut and test the terrain.   The parking lot at the hotel was full of cars. Fortunately, a good number of them were students taking an avalanche hazards course, so that meant virtually no one was headed to our destination: Grizzly Shoulder, in the trees 800m above the right side of Connaught Creek.  [An aside, one of the course leaders was long-time guide Albi Sole, while the other was Eric Vezeau, the ice-climber from Revelstoke who survived falling through the ice on Johnston Creek in Banff Park a month ago!]

Lynn Martel (leading this ACC Rocky Mountain Section trip), Alex Watt (from Edinburgh, Scotland, on his first trip to the Rogers Pass) and I started up the “efficient” up-track and Alex got a good education in the delicate art of kick turns. As we neared tree-line, we were passed first by a young couple from Golden, and then by Gerard Meszaros from Canmore and his two companions Heather and Randa (who were headed to the Hermit area via a high traverse).  We three stopped just below treeline at the top of the shoulder, where we were suddenly exposed to a nasty, cold katabatic northerly wind. We were happy to go no higher. (Gerard and his group encountered very cold air, poor visibility, and tricky route-finding, but good snow, on their route).
Here’s a Google Maps image showing the ski run so you know where you it is.


In the panorama taken at our lunch spot (click to enlarge), you can see the Trans-Canada highway way down below at the bottom left. The Ilecillawaet Glacier is in the first drainage visible in the far left, while Asulkan Brook (and the Asulkan Hut) is hidden behind a pair of trees to its right.  Next to the right, still in the far distance, is Mt. Abbott.  The massive peak in the centre of the image is Mt. Cheops, whence descended the massive avavalanche that killed 7 high-schoolers about five years ago.  To its right is Balu Pass, and to the right of that, above my skiing companions, is a flank of Mt. Ursus Minor.
After a very short stop for a bite to eat at the top of the shoulder just below treeline, we traversed skier’s left a few hundred metres past some cliff bands and then dropped down a steep, narrow gully to gain more moderate, open slopes where we found half a metre of of untracked powder (and more in places). Here’s young Alex negotiating the upper gully. It was very steep here, and we were a bit unsure as to what we were getting ourselves into. But that never stopped a skier, right?

Three happy faces at the bottom of our run all the way to the valley floor! (Alex, Lynn, myself). Alex was gobsmacked: so this is back-country skiing in Canada! Lynn and I were pretty happy, too.  Yep, that’s a helmet cam on my head.



Here’s a little video of our run. We spent over 40 minutes on the slope, so this is just a small sampling to show you what the terrain was like.  I shot the video in HD (1080p) but reduced the size for this blog. Please let me know if you’d like a copy of the original. But be warned, it’s about 100 MB. 
 Until next time – keep your tips up!




Great Divide Trail

10 Jan

Today I skied the Great Divide Trail, from near Lake Louise to the BC-Alberta boundary with friend Michael Gray.  It’s about 7 km each way. It was cool, about -8C, at the parking lot when we left.  But as we dropped down the hill to the divide marker and our turn-around point, the headwind picked up to about 30 km/h and temperature dropped what seemed like 10C.  We ate our lunch quickly while stomping feet to try to keep warm.

The sled dogs making the run up and down the trail carrying paying tourists got all excited when they smelled the Eskimo sled dog that Michael had brought along to do some skijoring. One of the less-skilled operators was unable to keep control of his dogs.


My Lawren Harris moment


Guess the prevailing wind direction


Here come the sleds


Heading home


Feeding the dogs


Wave-influenced cap cloud over Mts. Inglismaldie, Peechee, and Girourd