After spending the last few months going tired, hungry, thirsty and freezing in bush, it only took a few days before throwing myself back into the woods. At least now it’s a recreational context. And while I do appreciate the beauty of a frozen northern muskeg, frankly, I’d rather be freezing in the mountains! Suz and I became members of the Alpine Club and have signed up for their back country training program. Over the winter, we’ll do a series of guided trips focusing on advancing our skills in avalanche rescue and awareness, terrain and route identification, back country skiing techniques and skills.
We had our first dry land meeting tonight up the hill in the luxurious ACC clubhouse. We met the guides and the other participants, a couple whom I know from search and rescue. In anticipation of this weekends first trip, I took Suz out to Lake Louise for a two hour private lesson with a ski instructor at the resort. While Suz was getting instruction, I took the time to hunt down some decent snow which proved difficult as most of my favorite bowls were closed due to either lack of snow (only 160cm mid mountain) or avalanche hazard.
For now we are renting the specialized ski equipement which is a design hybrid of downhill and cross country bindings. These bindings allow for a free heel to climb steep terrain with special climbing skins and then lock the heel to ski down steep terrain. It’s the human powered alternative to heli-skiing as it’s the only way to get through the valleys and up into the high places. Typically, bindings cost around $500-$700, boots are $600 – $1000 and skis are $500-$1000 with avalanche rescue gear costing up to $500 for a beacon, probe, and folding shovel. Expensive, but at least these things can be bought, the fitness required is not so easily aquired!
The Alpine Club’s motto is sic itur ad astra: such is the pathway to the stars
If their motto rings true, this will be money well spent!