Go find something silk, anything. Touch the silk very lightly to your cheek, stroke your cheek. Soft and smooth. The snow today is that smooth. Boot top deep and silky. The skiing is tremendous. J, T and I uptrack on Mohawk today with the knowledge the sun has not been on the slope, there has been no wind and it has snowed 20cm since yesterday. No one has skied there in two days. We win. 5 trips up and 5 outstanding runs.
On the way up we talk. It is funny but both J and I remember driving through mountains, staring out the window and wondering if this snow patch or that would be skiable. At that time there was little back country activity. We both knew there were people out there that did such but it was a very small group who ventured off the piste. Occasionally I would hike up Parker’s Ridge in my alpine boots with my skis over my shoulder, but skiing was mostly done at the resort.
The backcountry gear is much more accessible these days. There are many more folks participating in this fringe activity. I’ve done it for about 15 years and there has been a significant increase in the numbers on what was once an almost private paradise. Most still have no idea why I would walk up a mountain to ski down when I pass several chairlifts on my way to the uptrack.
Today is the reason why. 5 runs on wonderful terrain in boot top powder so soft you could blow it away with a good puff of breath. Ya it is a lot of work to climb a mountain 5 times in a day but the downtrack is worth every step.
There are a lot of late risers today. Breakfast was after 8am, D, T, J, and I head up Heather Ridge to the best skiing of the week. It snowed 10+cm yesterday and another 10+ last night and it is snowing this morning. The temperature has dropped and the snow is dry. This is like the Rockies. Our first ascent is 800M and the run down is amazing.
D has some work to do, so he and T head back to pick up B so they skin up only once more and ski to the lodge. J and I track up 4 more times and whoop every time we reach the bottom. Our last run we find a place through the cliff visible from the lodge and have 15 turns in thigh deep winter snow. Great ending to an epic day.
Last night I was beat. I hit the sack and did not stir until 4am. I decide while dozing from 4 to 6 I am extremely fatigued. This morning will be my rest time. If things look better I will skin up Heather’s after lunch and do one run for the day. It’s snowing hard and has done for some time, pretty much sealing my future.
J & T come back from their morning’s ventures to see what B & I are up to. We head east from the lodge and up. We are quickly split into four separate groups of one. It is quiet, real quiet. Anytime the group in the back country splits like that you are in your own world but with the new snow it is deathly silent. I walk and there is the swish, pause, swish, pause, swish, the repetitive sound and the repeat of the movement cause the world to disappear. I call this the Zen of the uptrack. Listen carefully and the air moving through the trees whispers sweet nothings. The wind picks up and it screams. The snow flakes landing are again soundless. I pause on the track to wait for the folks behind to catch up and as each one approaches I listen to the click, click, click of their bindings which quits as they pull into line.
The sound of silence is deafening.
The weather is warm. Too warm for skiing but not ugly. We had a big day yesterday and I feel the remnants of it this morning. Didn’t want to get in over my head so J and I keep our destination close to the lodge and shortish hikes.
The skiing is good. The bit of new snow fills some of the tracks and we have a couple of good runs. As the day progresses my pack gets heavier and heavier. I make the decision to remove a few of the items I carry in case I get stuck in the boonies. Unless someone gets hurt and can’t make it back I don’t think there is much chance of getting stranded so I’m pretty sure I won’t be needing it so why carry it.
Back at the lodge I break out my daily ration of Coca Cola sit long enough to drink it and then start to empty out the pack. I got to the bottom of the bag and there is a sweater, thick socks, cold weather gloves and a bivy sack I think I can do without. The pack is still lbs. too heavy. I am going to think about a few other non critical items I can remove and make tomorrow just a little bit lighter.
Without the extra weight I may not notice my fatigue and make it an hour or two longer.
Long day. The sun shines today and we have our eyes on a south facing slope. The trick is to get up and ski it before the sun starts to make the snow wet and sticky. We don’t really hustle to get out of the lodge early and the group is diverse and travels at varying speeds. It takes us quite a while to gather up at the top and turn the skis down. The snow has started to turn but as yesterday we all have smiles when we hit the bottom.
After another trip up to the top of Mohawk the group splits again. Some head in the direction of the lodge and another group heads in the opposite direction. I go north, away from the lodge. The slope is steeper and the snow is deep. The run is awesome. J, G, R, and I ski a ton of turns with shin to knee deep snow. The tour back has its moments. We traverse Sarah’s Soiree a very steep slope covered in rock rubble from some long ago collapse of the rock face above. I am not really comfortable walking across that but there isn’t much choice as we have to get back to the lodge somehow. Once past the slop we find a real nice slope so we ski to the creek below and find an uptrack and our ride home.
One last uptrack to the top of Redcliff and some sweet turns to the meadow we had passed through much earlier in the day.
All in all another banner day but boy am I tired.
Today is the first full day of skiing. There is an uptrack adjacent to the lodge leading to Heather Ridge. It is a mostly treed run and it ends at the lake you see from the lodge. The slope is not aggressive, it is sheltered from the wind and has not been skied since the last snow.
The folks at the lodge before us were not resident and so their uptracks are to be followed with a bit of skepticism. You never know how they get to the top. We start out following what we think is an uptrack, it ends up being a well traveled downtrack, which means we have to uptrack to the top for ourselves. Bad luck at the start but we make it. At the top, the snow starts to get a little wind packed so we stop and gear up to ski. The run is amazing. 60cm of snow, so skiable. There are smiles ear to ear. One more time with the same result.
The group split up in three or four at this point and J and I went west to Redcliff. Three trips up and three trips down. Deeper snow but shorter runs.
Today we experience what we come up here for. Skiing.
Back again. 10 skiers a long way from civilization. I love this place. I’ve skied here enough I am familiar with the area so a quick study of the maps gives some of the folks that have never been here before a quick vision of the place.
The weather is almost perfect. The wind is a bit up but the temp is just below zero. The sun peaks out only once in a while but the vision is quite good. There are only a four of us that are Mistaya vets so I got to pick the spot and it is off the Whaleback.
The up track is reasonably easy, the snow is new, it’s deep but the skis only sink about 10 or 15 cm. The snow changes a few times on the way up. It is soft in the valley bottom, half way up it is dense, by the top the wind has made a crust, not scary break thru crust but definitely solid. Skiing down is not bad, the turns are tough but surely doable. 2 runs and we call it a day.
For our first afternoon it is a good start. For some of us it is the first runs of the year. Others have lots of days on skis but mostly touring and very few turns. But everybody has a good time and is really impressed with the variety and vastness of the terrain. It’s suppose to snow a bit in next few days and the temp is suppose to hold.
The future looks promising.
-34C breakfast time. This doesn’t look good. It is colder than yesterday and when I head to the pee tree it is obvious. Dan, our guide, says it is suppose to get warmer and everyone starts to get ready. Slowly, very slowly. No one is overly enthusiastic. I make an executive decision. I have skied at -30C before many times and I cannot recall even once when it was a good time. I don’t go. Pretty sad I know but yesterday was no fun and today it is even colder. It is a day by the fire with a book.
Skiing is still sketchy. The wind has stopped but the temperature is still real cold. We have chosen to start early in case we can stay out all day we want to maximize our time out on the snow.
The uptrack is long we are headed over a distant ridge and see if it is sheltered from the wind. We find a pitch that looks promising and point them down. 3 good turns, then under our feet it is crusted. Oops, at least I stay on my feet. Skin up to another somewhat promising slope and try again. This time we get about 10 good turns and into the crust.
By this time we are getting cold. Back to a high point and we should be able to slide back to the lodge. It is the most cautious trip I have ever made down an up track. If I stay in the track I gain huge speed and if I step out the snow is bad and I take a chance on bailing, and I do. Head first, tons snow on bare skin on a very cold day with wind on my face. I’m not happy.
It’s cold, the skiing’s bad, I haven’t eaten lunch and I back at the lodge. The lodge is warm and I made the right choice.
Up and at-em. Off to breakfast 6.30 just like the front desk said. We are summarily told ‘we don’t open till 7.00’. The hotel is not winning alot of points this trip.
The heli prelim is as most places but the ride is really long. We arrive late morning and it takes a long time to get it together with unpacking, lunch and all the safety stuff. Man it is cold. The wind is blowing and the snow is affected. We head off for our first ski. The up track was set yesterday so travel is relatively easy and there are spots of reasonable snow but as we walk my poles feel some pretty hard snow.
We start down and the snow is slow because of the cold and you have to be very light. There is a crust a few inches under the new snow but it is not very supportive and if you break through you are doing a header.
One run, freezing cold, tomorrow will bring another day.