Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sensational Snowfalls

Trudging up towards pristine powder at the back
of Lake Louise

I wish I was skiing in Canada right now! They've had so much snow since I left, I feel jealous of all those January skiers reveling in the great conditions and lack of lift-lines. I know exactly what it must be like - after all I lived there for 10 years, skiing every weekend of the five-month season, while writing the Snow Scene columns for the Calgary Sun before I moved on to working for the Calgary Herald, Ski Canada Magazine, Dallas Morning News etc.

Euan (right) with his Mum in Lodge of the Ten Peaks
Lake Louise
I suppose I shouldn't really be so envious. I did have some amazing powder days over the holidays when I managed to clock up 21 ski days out of 30. Overkill for knackered knees like mine, perhaps, but how could I resist when the hills were so well-covered and the weather was unseasonably warm (by which I mean minus 15 C instead of minus 30 C!)

Euan jumping for joy at Lake Louise (by Cameron Sadler)
I got an epic powder day at Lake Louise in late Dec with 25 cm of fresh, nabbing first tracks on the 'backside' as soon as the Summit Poma opened and clambering up the Paradise Ridge to help track out the whole of Mine Shaft. I was with two girlfriends and one of their sons - Euan Sadler - who was so desperate for a ride to the pow, that he accompanied us oldies. We weren't quite sure if we could fit him in the crowded car at first, what with all our skis, boots and gear, and he lamented to his mum: "Looks like there are no sons on a powder day!"

Having squeezed him in, he actually lapped us on Mine Shaft, doing 3 descents to our 2, but you have to bear in mind it is a considerable uphill hike and skate to get across the ridge to the drop-in point and we ladies all have 30 years on him.

First Tracks off the backside of Lake Louise
Later, when skiing the incredible swathe of white when the Brownshirt area opened up, Euan said "This is incredible, it's like cat-skiing but in bounds!" Having skied the Alberta hills all through his youth, Euan now goes to school at Quest University near Whistler where one of his school mates is Olympic half-pipe competitor Roz Groenewoud. Although he loves the skiing there, especially on powder days, he says you can't beat his home hill of Lake Louise for vertical. Fortunately, I'm going back in March for more!

Now I think of it, I was also lucky enough to get two back-to-back powder days at Fernie. The first, it snowed all day, massive flakes filling in our tracks quicker than we could make them and we skied and skied until last lift in hedonistic heaven. The second was a clear, bluebird day and I was fortunate to have great guides to introduce me to untouched hidden stashes in the Surprise, Puff and Cougar Glades, easily reached by a bit of canny traversing.

Although I didn't get any fresh falls while at Castle Mountain earlier in Dec, I was totally impressed with the wind-sifted powder still hanging on in the glades. Visibility and wind stopped me from skiing some of the higher runs but it led me to research the lower areas. And I loved the light, fluffy pow, lingering in the Ghost Rider Glades off the Huckleberry Chair, where savvy summer pruning has created really fluent tree skiing.

Having a couple of trips planned to US resorts this season, I've been looking at their snowfall, too, and I noticed that Colorado has been getting good snow lately - for example a mighty 91cm/36in at Breckenridge, 71cm/28in at Copper Mountain, 66cm/26in at Vail and 35cm/14in at Beaver Creek in the past week. You can see the latest 24 and 48 hour details for all the Colorado ski hills at: . And there's fresh forecast for next weekend for Utah, where I'm headed for a week's ski safari in Feb, touring Snowbasin, Alta, Sundance and Canyons. Can't wait!

This week's enviable snowfall stats include:

Lake Louise Inn: cute, comfortable, cosy
and closest to the slopes

Lake Louise - 75 cm
Sunshine Village - 81 cm
Mt Norquay - 27 cm
Nakiska - 35 cm
Castle Mountain - 35 cm
Marmot Basin (9 days) - 55 cm
Kicking Horse - 60 cm
Fernie - 43 cm
Big White - 41 cm
Revelstoke - 44 cm
Whistler Blackcomb - 70 cm
Whitewater - 51 cm
Red Mountain - 16 cm
Silver Star - 16 cm
Sun Peaks - 10 cm

More Stills of Euan, taken by Cameron Sadler:

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