This week the avalanche danger was off the charts so my touring group was unable to go anywhere. The reason for the danger was an unstable layer buried by 123cm of storm snow! Apparently it was the biggest storm snow in 40 years! That makes the year total for this area an incredible 25 feet!
And so, we skied at the ski hill. We left early to get first tracks and with great fortune made it up the road before the highways were closed due to avalanche danger (including a rare TransCanada closure). That also meant we had the place to ourselves. Well, us and the other earlybird locals.
With snow this deep we had to find very steep terrain. Best runs of the day was off the Wild West freeride area. This series of rock gullies is not often in shape to ski and is restricted to those carrying the appropriate safety gear (which we brought just in case.)
It was pretty much a snowy elevator shaft. I will likely not be able to ski this route for quite some time until similar conditions exist. I heard a rumour that no one had skied this face all last year. All our backcountry skiing has done us well as we tore the place up. Everyone was laughing all day, the other skiers were positively hysterical over the snow. I don’t recall ever being around so many people who were so ecstatic. Going up the lift you could see clouds of snow with laughing and shouting coming from within. At the end of the day, everyone told their war stories in the parking lot and after crawling down the re-opened highway, many of us soaked our exhausted muscles in the hot springs. So all in all, we weren’t disappointed we couldn’t go touring!
Above: The red zone is the face we skied. It was safe from avalanche because the dangerous layer had been bombed off before the storm hit so the 5 feet of snow that fell on it was so powdery, it can’t really avalanche. Sluffs of avalanche size 1.5 were tearing down with us but these are not dangerous as they are so loose and localized. You still need a partner who can dig you out if need be though.
After two days of this, I’m recovering at home practising my rope skills for an upcoming glacier travel and rescue course.