This is the story of a young Brazilian Olympic athlete who suffered a devastating injury upon transitioning to a new sport.
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:
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:
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 1000m drop to the valley floor in fresh powder:
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):
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:
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!