Snowing. And snowing more. The heli should fly but we are waiting to see. There are only 7 of us and it will take 2 flights to get us in.
It’s a go and as we fly up the creek the snow abates. The flight is smooth.
Brian is at the lodge to meet us. Very laid back lodge intro. Most of us have been here before and know the routine.
We unpack, make and eat lunch, skin up and head to the uptrack. Powder Pig Bowl is our destination. All 7 of us are headed for the same place. The uptrack is a bit odd. The fellows at the lodge prior to us had set it before it snowed. It is easier to follow set tracks than to set new ones even if they are not very good ones. One of the backcountry rules is don’t follow set tracks blindly and we find ourselves stomping out our own path on a few occasions. On the way up we are all talking about how supportive the snow pack is. The avalanche danger is ‘considerable’ top to bottom so we are paying close attention to what we are walking on and how the snow is reacting.
Staring us in the face as we approach the top of the climb is an untouched slope with a perfect pitch for us to make the first turns of the week. Debbie, our least experienced skier, should have no trouble negotiating what we chose as our first stop.
The snow is almost boot top deep, silky smooth and easy to ski. Debbie skis the entire slope without stopping and her turns are great. Not a long run but worth every step of the uptrack.
Different crew we are bunking with. J & I are early risers, 6am seems to our time. No alarm necessary. At most of our other lodge experiences he and I sit quietly and read or look at the iPad for an hour and a half without being interrupted by anything. Breakfast is at 8am and the lodge comes alive at 7.55.
With this group, J and I are up at 6 and have at least 15 minutes or peace before G is up hunting down a cup of coffee. B wanders through on his way to the pee hole and J arises because he needs dark to sleep and there are no curtains on the windows of the sleep loft. The quiet mornings we are used to are no longer that way. Debbie and S refuse to compromise their sleep time and get up at 7 or a little after.
The ski day works out quite well. Everyone involved is capable of skiing a variety of slopes. The entire group of 7 participates in the first couple of runs, then a group of 3 peals off knowing their gas reserves are depleted and they head to the cabin. The remaining 4 of us spend the afternoon yo-yoing the same slope and the ones adjacent.
Another change we made this trip is to make supper early and skip the 4pm snack. None of us need the extra calories and eating earlier makes for better sleeping. This lodge lacks a ‘living room’ so in the evenings we sit at the kitchen table and chaw. The stories run rampant. The group is quite knowledgeable so most of the stories are based on some sort of fact. The ones responsible for dinner also do dessert and it shows up after a bit of a repose from dinner. By 9pm the lower floor is clear, everyone is tucked into their sleeping bags and it is quiet. I guess I will have to adjust my quiet time activities to the evening.
THE LAST SKI
We have a big day planned and Debbie leaves with the first group. We are on an adventure. None of us have ever been to Miner’s Bowl and it is high time we ski it. We have a general idea how to reach our destination but as always in the backcountry there is now a sidewalk. We are again following an up track set by folks we have now come to realize as not very talented route finders, so we are leery every step of the way. At one point we abandon the set track completely and branch out on our own. This requires exploration and a few back tracks on our own route. Eventually we make it around the end of the ridge and the vision of the bowl with a abundance of ski-able slopes appears before us.
We find a spot to ski a few turns and skin back up and do it again. We get 4 runs in and it is time to head home. Another big part of any backcountry adventure is finding a route back. Bushwhacking is often part of it. Two of the five adventurers skin back up to do a couple more runs and three head back. J, Debbie and I find a nice slope to start our return journey. From a good start, our descent deteriorates quickly. Any instance of a ski-able glade disappears and the terrain gets steep. OK for J and I but Debbie is not very experienced and we had to do a lot of hill traversing (and wiping out!) to find suitable corridors. Eventually the slope pans out and the skiing gets easier, and after some nice turns in open glades, we reach the lake and the flat terrain that will get us to the cabin.
Skiing is my ultimate reason for heading into the backcountry but in order to find good skiing the occasional ‘adventure’ into uncharted territory is required. Usually a lot of energy is expended in pursuit of new skiing areas. Today was not overly difficult and we did find areas to ski we had not been to before. After getting there once we think we would use a different route to get there next time, it would be safer and require a lot less output. All in all we had a good day and Debbie notched up a big step in the backcountry skiing experience.