Early Season Conditions Report

Words By: Alison McPherson

Hi all,

As some of you may know, it was my goal to ski 12 months in a row.  I started in October 2016 so after skiing in September 2017, I could have given myself a break from less than ideal conditions and waited until it was officially winter to head out again.  However, even though rumors had it that after the recent storm it was still not worth the mission out, I thought “it must be better than skiing in August!”, so I wanted to check out the post-storm conditions for myself.

It turns out the rumors were true for the most part, but it’s all about perspective.  In comparison to January, yes, the conditions were sub-par and probably not worth the effort.  However, in comparison to August and September skiing, the conditions (in my opinion), were blower.

On Monday, October 16th, I headed out to Highwood Pass area to scout it out.  After looking at weather stations closely, I honestly thought there would be a bit more snow than we saw at the trailhead.  Still having high hopes for gaining elevation and reaching Rae Glacier despite the summery weather of 8 degrees, we set out from the Elbow Lake car park.

We hiked with our skis from the car park up to about 2400m, where we decided to transition and put skis and skins on.  It had been very windy so there were lots of areas with deep snow and lots of rocky areas with barely any snow.  This made the skinning up decision a bit of a toss-up because it was so variable for the rest of the way up.

PHOTO: Not exactly hiking conditions, not exactly skiing conditions…


At about 2700m we transitioned and started skiing.  With the heavy amounts of wind, the skiing was less than ideal but having about 30cm of fresh snow on the glacier seemed blower to me regardless.   We managed to ski down to about 2200m, but that involved a lot of boulder garden skiing.

PHOTO: Matt skiing on the glacier


PHOTO: A view coverage for the area.  We managed to ski to here without hitting rocks!

Near the top of the glacier there were signs of previous sluffing, likely due to super high temperatures shortly after the big storm.  It was a good reminder that despite the early season and shallow snow pack, avalanche danger is now present.

Throughout the day I told myself that I would now wait until more snow has fallen before heading out again, but realistically speaking it is forecasted for more storms in the mountains and I am way too addicted so will probably head out again next week.

Here’s to hoping for a safe and fun pow-filled winter!