Wallowing and Pow on Hwy 93S

Words By: Simon Coward

Report by Simon Coward 
Images by Nathan Jones
(jonesphoto.ca)

With how this season has kicked off it is hard to believe it is only November 24th!

I think we can all agree that the start we have had to the Rockies ski season has been pretty damn exceptional!  Above average snowfall, good stability and a base that is setting up well, I hope this El Nino winter carries on how it started.

With the great start we had and some beta from other splitters we decided on checking out 93 south for this Tuesday’s tour of choice.  I am pretty sure this is a good month earlier than I have really tried to ride 93 south, the lower elevation of the trail heads often makes for some pretty ‘challenging’ climbing until you get to treeline elevation.

Nonetheless with enthusiasm fueled from a rad start to the season we gave it a go….  and we got what we expected!

Photos: Some great up track and boot pack pics from the day

We headed up into the Whymper area and the lower half of our climb was pretty miserable, a fully facetted snowpack sinking up to your waist in the Christmas trees, boards stuck under fallen logs, the usual early season Rockies suffering.  A group had been up on Saturday so in parts we could link in with their up track but with the little refresh and the loads of wind it was pretty hard to find.

Once we got up to treeline elevation the skinning became more supportive.  In line with the Avy forecast we found most open area above treeline was very wind affected, some areas (NE facing) were pretty bullet proof, from our groups look around SE facing slopes had the best quality snow in this area.

Photo: Boot packing (scrambling) towards the top of our run for the day

We chose an alpine gully feature to ride, speculating that the snow pack would be deeper and it would be less wind affected.  We were partially correct.  The snow in the gully we rode was deeper (consistently over 1 meter), though some parts of it (particularly higher up) had been wind hammered so made for some variable riding right off the bat, after that though it shaped up into really nice soft, boot deep pow which made for some really fun, fast turns.

Photo: Our line and riding zone

After a few laps we made our way down, until treeline elevation the riding was really fun, floaty and supportive, after that it was just plain miserable!  Lots of Christmas tree dodging, board scraping, wallowing and general survival riding for a good 45 minutes back to the car.

Photo: Riding images from the day, thanks again Nathan @ jonesphoto.ca for the sweet pics

Still a little early to get the most out of this area (Vermillion looks super thin still, likely not worth the climb if you are looking for turns), we had an amazing day, sun came out and the riding was superb, lower elevation needs to fill in a bunch before I’ll head back there.

Check avalanche.ca for up to date hazard report and current Banff, Kootenay and Yoho details on Facebook here.

Happy Sliding!

Simon