Monday, February 14, 2011

Roger's Pass, Feeling like a Peanut

Rossland from KC
It all started last Sunday with an unfriendly wake up of 2 am, a frantic pack, all in order to be ready for the 3 am pick up. This is what skiing is all about. Waiting around out on the street for a ride at 3 am. Skiis and backpack on the yellow snow bank. The world around Rossland is quiet and still.

Sure enough, the truck with Jason, the fearless driver, Meaghan and Amber rolls around after a few missed turns and finds me. Throw my skiis and bag in the back and hop into the cramped cab of the trusty toyota pick up truck. No sleep for me back there, too cramped, but also too excited for I know what awaits. It is the area ski tour dreams are made off.

A peaceful stop at Galena Bay to stretch the legs, then the mandatory stop at Timmy Ho's for breaky and coffee. 1 hour later and we enter Glacier National Park. Already we can see the monstrous, rocky peaks. 10 minutes later and we see the first cars parked on the side of the road, people putting their skins on their skis. The first thing noticed is that there are sooo many people. I guess it is a Sunday, and I guess it did just snow.

A quick stop at the Information Centre to meet up with Judith and Michelle and in order to sign up for the much needed permit to stay in the National Park and we thought we were off. After stopping for a few minutes in the Asulkan area parking lot, an uneasy feeling is among us. Too many people! A quick drive back to the information centre for another permit necessary to ski another area in the park and then another 15 minute drive and we were at another parking lot, the Bostock Parking lot, also busy but not as busy.

Bostock Parking Lot. The trailhead for McGill Shoulder
Everyone gears up and 4 hours later we were near treeline near the top of McGill Shoulder. Sure enough, the snow looks awesome, low wind, great terrain all be it in avalanche paths. But here we are, I woke up in a nice warm bed at an ungodly hour but it is all worth it to experience what we are about to experience. Untouched steep and deep powder! Sure enough the run down is epic. It starts to get dark as we get back to the parking lot. But it is not finished yet as we have booked a night at the Wheeler hut, about 20 minutes up the Asulkan trail from the parking lot.
The starting point for the ski down McGill Shoulder

So another short drive and another gear up and we set off to find the cabin. Pretty easy, the trail follows the old cpr rail line. A very forgiving, flat grade. The hut is an oasis and our home for the next 3 nights. Can sleep 24 people, luckily it was only the 6 of us plus maybe 10 others. That was enough people for me.

 A very deserving sleep was had and we were all refreshed for another epic day on the Monday. Our goal, the Asulkan Hut and further if possible which is above the treeline and in some untouched alpine. 5 hours and we found another oasis, the Asulkan Hut. One of the best lunches was had with meat and cheese and trail mix in the comfort of a hut surrounded my the most gnarly peaks I have seen in a long time.
The skin up to the Asulkan Hut

Well, the lunch was all well and good but it is the skiing we are after. The ski down was another epic one, steeper and deeper. A little dangerous but not serious slides were caused.

Looking back at the ski down from the Asulkan Hut
A very long, flat ski out was the reward for slashing the powder earlier. But we knew a warm hut and glory bowls awaits us.
The snow started to fall on the ski out and that got us even more excited. Sure enough the next day brought us fresh powder and blue skies. The best day for pictures for sure. This time we head to the right a bit towards Saphirre Col. Our  goal is even higher and longer than the day before but at this point we are all in the groove of ski touring and were much faster than days previous. Of course it is much colder this day because the sun is shining. It is a blue bird powder day, the stuff dreams are made of but alas, the cold weather is not good for batteries and my camera fails first thing in the morning.

The skin up to Saphirre Col
Just below Saphirre Col
Tbe ski down from Saphirre Col
The views from the skin out
Most of these photos are from other peoples cameras unfortunately. Thank you to everyone else for documenting such beauty. Surrounded 360 degrees by the biggest, most unforgiving peaks and to be able to ski down safely but with enough fun was definitely something special.

Thank you to all who made it happen. Especially Jason and Meaghan for inviting me! And Judith for organizing most of it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cerise Creek, still trying skiing

So, another couple of months in between posts... What is going on? I am not too sure but I think it has something to do with work, something that is necessary sometimes as I am finding out right now. Last summer was awesome! I didn't work from May until December and it was great but I am paying for it a bit right now while still enjoying life, just in other capacities.

But lets get to the main point of this post. Namely the idea of skiing after the ski lifts have closed at the mountain. See, Red Mountain closed on Easter Monday. It was still snowing and conditions were great but the mountain always closes early because no tourists are coming to buy lift tickets anymore so the locals and myself are out of luck.

So I found myself in Pemberton after a few days of road trips around the ghost towns of the Kootenays and seeing lots of old buildings and sites of former towns in the Slocan Valley. A pretty awesome site and very humbling that within a few years of no use, something that was once established can be taken over by the wild leaving nothing but memories and haunting ruins that I enjoyed walking around.

But I made it to Pemberton where Naomi, the famous female from last summer, was residing and invited me to come out. She has discovered this ski touring thing and got me all excited to go out there and "earn my turns". That is to hike up mountains and ski down them all without taking off my skis! At least that was the idea.

So it was late April when we decided a day or two before to ski up the Keith's Cabin along Cerise Creek and use it as a base to get some awesome turns in the alpine in the area. Luckily, or unluckily as it is a tribute to someone who has passed away named Keith, a very nice and accomodating cabin was built in the shadows of Joffre peak and other big mountains and glaciers that can be accessed after a short hike from the Duffy Lake Road. So, I rented some skis, an avalanche receiver, probe, and shovel. I was being cheap so didn't pitch in for better ski boots or ski poles as I thought my 10 year old second hand ski boots and poles that have been doing me so well so far, why not use them on this adventure. The picture to the right is at the unmarked trail head on the side of the road. Just look for a bit of a pull out in between two avalanche areas. Oh yea, easy to find... actually it was as there were other cars there already.

So off we went on the adventure carrying our skis across a small bridge and then an awkward first hour in amongst the trees and icy snow that late spring contains.And of course a few awkward falls and embarrassing attempts at standing up, my poles did not hold up for too long, well more specifically the baskets, which were already half broken off anyways, came completely off and lost in the snow. Also, in an attempt to be as light as possible, spare parts were left behind, duct tape and rope were also left in the van. So, any ideas were welcome at this point as it is useless to ski tour without poles to help climb up with. In comes the medical tape and a pair of spare gloves to try to create a bit of a basket for the poles. The picture shows the result. They actually worked pretty decent, until the tape started to disintegrate when it got wet... Also, the clip on the back of my skins came off and was lost in the snow, so the bungy from my backpack was used to actually very good effect.

But despite the failure in gear, it was quite enjoyable getting up. Well, aside from the terrible pain my boots were giving my feet and the big blisters that were the result... Every step was a shot of pain but it was all worth it as you ski by animal tracks and untouched powder and along creeks in the shadow of awesome mountain peaks. I am actually not too sure which animal is in those tracks in the picture but they are quite common, I just haven't looked it up yet.

It did not take very long to get to the cabin and once there we ditched the backpack and went up to try to find a good ride down. With it only being the second season for Naomi on skis, and my lack of proper fitting boots and ineffective poles, we did not get to the very peak of any of of the mountains but we made it to a pretty spectacular little plateau from which we launched down into some awesome late season snow!

And that is how it went for those two days, hike up and ski down. Pretty simple and very rewarding after riding chair lifts and snow cats all season. A humble and satisfying experience to end the season. Although it could have been muuuch more fun and easier if I had proper equipment but the poles held up... somewhat... And my feet... well they survived, somewhat but I will definitely try to find some new boots before the start of next season as I do not want to go through that again.

The ski out was pretty short but we wanted to avoid the icy hard snow in the trees that we hit on the way up so we tried exploring and sort of following other tracks that we saw in the snow. The other tracks petered out after awhile and we were left in this clear cut area near the highway but with verrry unstable snow that you just went straight through if you tried to stand on it. So it was a very adventurous end of the ski out with the highway so close and a raging creek in between we had to cross on a log with a bit of snow on it and throw out skis and pack over to the other side then with all of our tired might, jump onto the other bank to be safely across. Then a short ski up to the highway and then an embarrassing walk back on the highway with skis on our back, to the welcoming car.

Overall, a very rewarding experience I don't think myself, or my feet, or my poles or ski boots or anything that I used will ever forget. And I also learned the importance of proper fitting ski boots and why they are so expensive but worth it! haha,

But maybe I will have some money for that when next winter roles around. So what am I doing for the summer? Well nothing quite as exciting as last summer but it will be a new experience, hopefully working on North Arm Farm over the summer out on the fields, harvesting, picking weeds and all that good stuff. But I am sure there will be more adventures every day on the field an on the days off in the mountains. Life is always good!

Monday, April 19, 2010

End of Season Shenanigans

So you thought this blog was dead.... So did I.... I don't know what it is about a comfortable roof above my head that makes me not so keen to write in here or my journal but there it is. Two journal entries in the last 3 months, probably about the same for this blog. But that time is nearly done. The roof is about to collapse and Ol' Betsy will provide shelter once again very soon.

So on the eve of the comfortable roof collapsing, I will try to summarize the last few weeks at Red Mountain and the goings on afterwards, which there wasn't much of.

So lets start with the slush cup. I am lead to believe that most ski resorts do this. Create a pool of water with a bit of snow in it and a jump at the top of the pool and let people try to ski across the pool for the amusement of others. This happened at Cypress Mountain last season, well the nordic area anyways, maybe the downhill area didn't do it. Whistler must have done this, or at least used to do this.

Red held the slush cup sometime at the end of March. I am not too sure what day, but it started out like any other day of work. I showed up, now I did bring a towel just in case someone needed an extra towel, but I was not prepared for what was about to occur.

So myself, Jaimie and Stibby were working this one fateful Friday? Saturday? Maybe it was a Sunday afternoon when Jamie mentioned he was going to go in the slush cup. Good on him. I kind of wanted to but not really, Stibby wanted to as well. The full time ski tech, the one that repairs the skis and all that, Rory, had built a "Ski Bus" the year before. The ski bus consists of two long, probably around 210, skis mounted with three bindings each. This means that three people could ride these skis at the same time. Myself, Rory, and Iain had tried this ski bus out earlier in the year in a mogul competition with disastrous results. I was on the back and just fell off the ski bus at the first mogul and jump and they took off down the side of the course. But this day was all about the slush cup, just a straight run into the jump and into the water, no moguls to ski around, no jumps, well maybe one big jump into the water, but a soft landing.... hopefully.

So around 10 am, maybe noon, maybe it was the coffee that made me agree to be the third stooge in this mishap of an adventure. We all suited up, myself in a purple/blue one piece, Stibby and Jamie at this point in their regular clothes and we go for one run down the bunny hill outside of the rental shop. No worries at all, we were under control, had the pizza, french fries going, turning left, turning right, straight, no worries. So someone suggested, lets go up the lift and try it out on a real run. Okay, so up Silver lode we go, they had to stop the chair for us to get on and off because we couldn't be on the skis to get on the lift. We got off and strapped up and went down a blue run. A few carves in the snow and some straight stretches improved our confidence in our ability to hit the slush cup with the ski bus.

So 3 pm hits, the start of the slush cup, and Stibby has suited up in a "Stay Puff" marshmallow man, Jamie wearing a dress, and myself in the purple onny standing at the top of the slush cup run looking at this pool of cold water and huge jump that calls for us. But there were a few competitors to go over first before us, skier after skier after boarder went down, trying to get across, a couple did, many did not with much fanfare. After each participant to go down only increased mine and Jamie's look of "are we really going to do this?". Stibby was fine, no nerves no nothing, he wanted to go higher on the hill to get more speed into the jump and actually try to make it across.

We settled on a position in the middle of a steep hill before the official start of the slush up run. Well, finally our number was called, the ski bus, from the rental shop. Three people on one pair of skis. I suspected we were going to hit the jump, each one of us fall out of the binding and be embarrassed and encouraged to jump into the pool on our own. Stibby was confident, Jamie was quiet but I think confident. So.... the crowd cheers from the bar above the pool. We strap on the skis and with me at the front, Stibby in the middle and Jamie at the back, we slowly direct our skis downhill and onto the jump and ultimately the cold pool that lied just beyond this daunting jump.

We start going, everything going good, just straightline it for the jump, no worries at all. But due to our high position on the hill, we get some real good speed. Too much speed for some. As we approach the jump with tons of speed, Jamie yells "speed check!!! SPEED CHECK!!!", which means pizza or snow plow to slow down but straight. Stibby yells "NO WAY! STRAIGHT, LETS GO!". Me being in the front has no control and could only say "HOLLLY SH@!^!!!!"

We hit the jump, get some serious air but the skis stay on miraculously. We glide on the water a bit and I just remember falling forward, face getting tons of water and the skis coming off. What happened!? I am soaked, the cold water a shock on my chest but I manage to get above water and breath and look back. Stibby right behind me high fives me. I threw my goggles in the air and Jamie is somewhat subdued in the back but pretty happy. No one died, we hit the jump, glided a bit on the water but never made it close to the end of the pool and ultimately all ended up in the water as was predicted. But the crowd went wild. So all in all pretty successful right? Pretty much, Jamie with a bruised knee, Stibby with a charlie horse, must have happened when the boots came out of the bindings when we hit the jump, but we all survived, soaked, boots soaked everything wet and cold. We went back to the rental shop, changed, laughed, and breathed again. Next thing we know we are being announced as a winner! We won something! Awesome, a kokanee beer t-shirt..... wicked.... The real winners of this competition were the ones that made it onto the pool and skied across to the other side of the pool. So we didn't do that so we couldn't win.... ah well next year?? Thanks to the photographers, Todd and someone else who I am not too sure took the wicked action shots!

So that was the slush cup. What else happened the final weeks of the hill? Well the final day was pretty sweet. Tons of powder still and still snowing hard. The hill was closed for customers on easter monday and the staff had red mountain to themselves on the Tuesday. Pretty awesome, lots of good lines and Rory, the one that built the ski bus mentioned earlier, had friends that built a cabin on the backside of Red out of bounds. So we stopped in there with lots of "stuff" bought with tip money from the generous customers over the season. There was a jump over a fire pit that was attempted by many. I told myself not to do it but after some persuasion tried and ended up in the trees with a sore shoulder. All in all a good end of season!

What have I been up to since? Built a bed in the back of Ol' Betsy and am ready get 'er out there on the road and stop paying rent! So I am off tomorrow, going to explore some ghost towns of the Slocan valley and then eventually make it to Pemberton again and do a bit of farm work and hopefully make a bit of money.... We shall season how the summer plays out!

Thank you to anyone who still reads this!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Luge Event

Last weekend was the 113th annual winter carnival in Rossland. This is the weekend in the winter for Rossland, perhaps the event in Rossland for the year. Everything happens this weekend, from freeski compitions, the blizzard music festival, the king of the mountain (the best skier, snowboarder and teleier), and various other events including a luge course set up for an official race on the Sunday of the weekend.

Thanks to the photographers (including my mom) standing at the end of the course for the awesome action shots! 

On the Saturday though, anyone could show up and borrow a sled and try their hand at the luge. This is an interesting proposition, not much new snow on the mountain so why not give luge a try! And try I did. Now, in the olympics, the luge is on a very ice narrow course with banked corners, out here it is on a groomed track with not much to bank on in the corners.

The only way to the top of the course is a 20 minute hike up with the sled on your shoulders. But it is well worth it for about a minute of fast, bumpy, wild action.

Rick Mercer even showed up to give it a try, reports were that a small injury on the luge course delayed him from other events he wanted to film over the weekend for his show. Not tough enough I guess...

But I can see why, I ended with a giant bruise on my hip, luckily I wore a helmet as one crash had the sled landing on my head, and various other little bruises and sores from the day, it is a tough sport for sure!

It ended up being like riding a bronco, just hold on, try to steer 'er a bit and see what happens. Well there is a lot of technical aspects of it, but sometimes you just got to let it ride!

But smiles all around for another awesome day!

p.s. in case your wondering, two posts in one day? After a month of inactivity... I am nursing a cold on the day off.... A wierd feeling after doing something every day for the last little while so thought I'd catch up on here.

Cat Skiing

A little under a month ago (January 6th to be exact) I woke up at 5 am to eat a hearty breakfast, gear up and drive for an hour out to the launching point for a cat ski adventure. The company was Valhalla Powdercats and, as everyone I have talked to suggested, offers the best terrain out there. Everyone was jealous. What did I do to deserve a free day of cat skiing? I showed up to the staff christmas party after only 1 or 2 days of training and my name was called... There are people who have worked their whole lives at Red and have never won anything close to this. My friend, Christine, won a pair of sweat pants, and another friend won a child's puzzle... So how did I luck out?

On January 6th it didn't matter though. All that mattered was how was I going to cope with the most powder I've ever skied in. I have only really skied in bounds at resorts, sticking to groomers and the odd mogul run for most of my life and the past couple of years venturing into the black diamond territory and more challenging steeper terrain. How were the legs, mind, and body going to cope with true backcountry snow?

I was pretty nervous leading up to this day as I heard stories of contempt within the group for the slow one, there's always one slow one in a group of 12. Was it going to be me? Could I keep up? It is pretty easy to lose a ski if it comes off in the deep powder. I have seen it happen a couple of times in the rental shop, people losing one or two skis and having to rent a pair for the day.

But, after talking to Norm the day before and borrowing a pair of K2 Apache Outlaws, I was confident that morning. Lots of coffee, muffins, cereal, and with day break just around the horizon the 12 of us were off on a school bus out to meet the snow cat to take us off for the day into the Valhalla Range.

That day, we got in about 7 runs. Everyone was magical, started out with a nice gentle run called Kut Korners. And on it went, 30 min ride up to different points to launch down into the deep powder and perfectly placed trees. The extra width that the Outlaw skis provided helped very much to stay on top of the snow and make the perfect turns and launch off the softest cliffs. The cliffs and other various jumps attempted usually only occur for me after a couple of beers, but this day it was all about adrenaline. And somehow they were all landed, no face plants, well maybe one, I accidentally cut too close to a tree and ended up in a tree well but it was easy to get out of. With the dins on the bindings set super high, there was no way the skis could get lost in the snow. In the group of 12, all Red mountain staff who either won it at the christmas party or through their exceptional work, were of similar ability, no slow ones, no one super fast, everyone was there to have a great time and we did!

Smiles were had by all including my knees and legs. A unique and awesome experience. How can I cope with resort skiing and other peoples tracks now.... haha well I am going to have to because there is no way I will be able to do this again for free and at a minimum of $300 per day for cat skiing... it ain't going to happen soon.... Ah well, if it only happens once, then I'm happy it happened at all!

And at the end of the day, all anyone could do was lie down like a tired dog.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Big Red

The snow has finally started falling and the mountain operations have finally opened. Missed the opening weekend due to a quick but important visit to Winterpeg (it was good to finally feel a real cold though) and a quick week of working have left me without a full day to actually explore the mountain. Hopefully that will change tomorrow and I will be able to shred it up!

But when there is a month between being hired and the mountain opening, one gets antsy to actually ski regardless of the effort that it takes. Time to get the hiking boots and shoulder geared up for some boot packing trips to the top!

The first picture is verrry early hike up. The mountain there is Red Mountain, we (Christine and Todd from the Hostel in Rossland) hiked inbetween two mountains, that was enough hiking...

But ended up with a good pair of rock skis as the snow was all powder and no base....

But that did not detere us from another gallop up the mountain, this time to the very top of Granite Mountain beside Red which offers much more terrain. Erik is the other fellow in the picture, the freestyle pro roomate here in Trail.

 So a 3.5 hour hike up the hill along the ski out brought us to the top of Granite Mountain.

Oh right and of course Naomi stopped by for a visit and was the official photographer of this trip.

But after 3.5 hours, spirits were still great, perhaps it was from walking past all the untracked pow on the runs on the way up, or the fact that it was actually snowing, or maybe it was the fact that we actually had hot coffee when it was -15 around us, but most likely spirits were high because no matter what, it was going to be a great ride down after the effort it took to get to the top.

And it was a great 30 min ride to the bottom, well the last half was quite icy and chunky, but nothing beats untouched pow! no matter how bad we skied. So Erik and I actually did a couple of trips like that, you know it kills a whole day, which counts for something. But now that the lifts are open, it only takes 20-30 minutes to get to the top and much less walking, but there is a greater appreciation shared among all of us of innovation in the ski industry from 100 years ago when the Rossland ski club first started skiing on Red Mountain. Before all those lifts and parking lots and money for lift tickets.

Anyways... so that is how I spent a few days lately, work has taken over but yea will hopefully make it up tomorrow! Would love to hear from anyone reading this! if anyone is reading this.... Thanks!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Its Been Awhile (Continued)

So, hopefully I haven't lost too many readers with my lack of updates. It is surprising how the day goes by when there isn't a to do. I have been meaning to write something here for a week now but just never got around to it. What have I been doing? I am not too sure....

Well first things first. With snow and rain falling fast on the coast mountains, skiing is in the front of my mind, and has been for awhile. My last update was waiting to hear from a interview I had at Red Mountain. Well after waiting most of the day, pacing around whereever I was and contemplating what to do, I got the good news phone call! So officially I will be working at Red Mountain ( in the rental shop/retail!! Rossland is near by, but it is a little expensive... so I will be spending my evenings eating smoke ( in Trail (about 10 km away down the valley). So that solves that.... But the mountain has not seen the snow or rain that whistler, mt washington etc has seen. So I think it won't open until Dec 18th. So what to do until then? I did go for a hike up and ski down a little while ago with some people from the hostel in Rossland. That was awesome and I do have pictures but I forgot the cable to connect my camera... But the snow was up to my knees and got a few good turns in and hit some serious rocks but it was all fun.

So, I have about a month. Well... I haven't been this close to Calgary in a loooong time (I can't remember the last time... maybe I was 12?) so why not head out to Calgary and see my cousin Lucas and Chris and uncle Harold. So that has eaten up a week and that is where I am currently. Unfortunately, both the BC Lions and Stampeders lost yesterday so the Grey Cup being held here at the university next Sunday doesn't hold my attention as much, although I know the rider fans love to party so I am sure it will be fun... I did make it to a flames game as well.... haha it was wierd as a canucks fan but alright as the Blackhawks destroyed the flames 7-1. So a big thank you to Chris for showing me around and taking me to the game, Uncle Harold, and Lucas for having an awesome place to stay on the campus of the University of Calgary! I will have to repay the favour at some point....

And yea... that is life right now.... Ol' Betsy is still running great, but we'll see how she handles the cold and snow and such. Spirits are high and life is good! So hopefully I can post a few pictures eventually and hopefully a few people are still reading... if you do let me know how your doing!