Most people addicted to the sport of skiing long for the days when it has snowed all night and they can be one of the few folks that are able to leave their signature in the new snow’s smooth pristine surface. I have skied in the mountains about 40 days the last two winters and have skied in no less that 20 cm of untracked snow each time. I don’t think there is much skill involved in my choice of days, I will have to concede to a lot of luck.
About 6 of the days were at resorts. Three of the days were at Sunshine Village. It is not too unusual to ski new snow there, it is quite high and in a snow belt. The other days were 2 at Mount Norquay and one at Nakiska. Both of those resorts are known for their hard, fast, super smooth groomed runs, yet each time I have been in the last two years I have been treated to boot top powder. Two days I was cat skiing at Castle Mountain. One of the draws to riding up the mountain in a cat is that you have the opportunity to ski virgin snow. Both days I was in the cat it snowed and every run was untracked. The other 32 days were in the backcountry. One of the big appeals of walking uphill for 3 hours is the 1/2 hour run to the bottom in boot top snow untouched by no other human.
Today, again, I venture forth with J and B and skinned our way up to an area known as Crowfoot Glades. We did all the background work and chose it because most of the slope is north facing and will not be affected by the sun that has been so prominent this last week. We stay at treeline and below because the snow in the trees will not have been affected by the wind that has been blowing. And, all our assumptions prove true. This time science and art had as much to play in us being able to ski fresh untracked snow as luck did, but it happened again and we are rewarded for our efforts.
As we walk up we note that the snow is light and fluffy. A good chance we will be able to ski this kind 0f snow on the way down. The walk up is always somewhat introspective. When we stop to rest we chat ideally and/or talk about the condition of the snow pack we have been crossing over. The time in between rests, when we are making our way up the slope, I turn inward and experience the feeling I call Zen. There is only the surroundings and my thoughts. I am at peace with the world and all is good.
As we trudge up my meditation is interrupted by a huge boom and roar. We all stop and look up. Along the ridge of the mountain we are ascending, a very large avalanche has started and is pouring over the rock face. We stand for several seconds and watch tons of snow careen down the mountain. We have been looking up as we climb and each of us noted that the cornices above where we intend to ski have already let loose. With the warming temperature of spring the cornices that have built up all winter lose their bond and become a likely start for what can be very big avalanches. We are walking far away outside the run out zone of any avalanche that might start directly above us and do not intend to venture close to the bottom of the wall above, so we are OK with what we have just witnessed. It is a reminder to remain vigilant and focus on the task at hand.
The snow is as good as we thought, soft, light fluffy, unskied, boot-top powder. We find a slope with about 30 turns and decide to take a run before we settle down for lunch. The lighting is only OK but the snow is great and we all sign the slope with our own unique scrawl.
Lunch is amongst the trees out of the wind. The surroundings are serene and lunch is deserved and tasty. Using the existing uptrack we skin to the same place we started our first run, move over a few meters and use up another line of fresh snow.
We have chosen to ski out along a different ridge which means a bit more uphill walking but the run down proves worth the work and all in all we have a wonderful day of skiing. As you may have guessed I like to ski and skiing powder snow is high on my list of reasons for being.