Words By: Simon Coward
PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Weir and Simon Coward
After last weeks micro ski mountaineering trip, we were pretty stoked to get out and see how this new snow had improved the ski quality. With an awareness that low elevation travel is still pretty desperate, we wanted to get up high with minimal bush whacking at lower levels.
PHOTO: Looking up at our riding zone
After reverse engineering some Instagram pics from the weekend it looked like Surprise Pass had enough snow to be in shape so we decided to utilize the summer trail network around Lake Louise to help us gain elevation on established and well-worn trails. This was a fantastic win as we managed to climb over 1000 metres of elevation with no low elevation slogging. Just fast going on packed snow, courtesy of the high density of tourist traffic in the area.
As a side note, the groups who rode Surprise Pass over the weekend looked like they had a load of fun! There were a good number of tracks in there, so if you are heading out there before the next snowfall you will be dodging a bunch of tracks on that guy.
PHOTO: Surprise Pass in the shadows. Lots of tracks in there from over the weekend. Still some room for shredding once it opens up though
Our day saw us top out on our second summit in 2 weeks, a pretty satisfying start to the season. What we found on our descents was (as seems to be the case everywhere) a largely supportive crust about 10 – 20cms down, overlying a mainly consolidated mid-pack. The turns were fantastic, fast, supportive, plenty of snow to throw around and overall really consistent.
PHOTO: Kevin on the uptrack, with Lake Louise Ski Area in the background
PHOTO: Kevin enjoying his first turns for the season. Not too shabby at all. Definitely connecting with the crust here and there, but smooth overall
PHOTO: In the shadows riding off the summit. Pretty hardpack up high but softened very quickly once away from ridgetop
We were able to ride down to about 2200m without any real concern of bottoming out on anything other than small trees. I think that if in the Alpine you still need to be riding on wind loaded features, any high ground was largely scoured and made for pretty good bootpacking/scrambling. On our second run we rode from just below the summit to around the 2200m elevation mark with mid winter snow depth confidence. The supportive crust made us feel totally comfortable getting a little speed.
PHOTO: Nice light and great snow.
Alpine snow depth varied from 10cms (on high wind blasted features) to 100cms in the zone(s) we rode. A little less than at this time last year but still shaping up well.
PHOTO: Goofy ass photo, but shows the snow depth at around 2500m on an east facing, wind loaded slope.
It looks like K-Country and Banff, Yoho, Kootenay avalanche bulletins have started so check out up to date hazard ratings here.
The Splitboard HQ Team