Sunday, February 25, 2007


We were up at Apex today with Fred. We never seem to get the timing right at Apex -- people speak of the good skiing off the backside but we've always found it to be windswept and often accompanied with bad visibility. Still, it's close by, so we often seem to gravitate towards the place when we're looking for shorter day out.

We made a short run down into the first bowl. Diabolical. Back up again into the clag. We skirted back around to the edge of the bowl and had a good long look at a rather steep chute that would drop us back into the Apex resort. A really long look.

I think we're all a little gun shy with the unstable snowpack we've been hearing about and experiencing first hand lately, so we had good reason to be suspicious I think.

But we skied it and everything held together nicely! But by then we'd had enough and we headed to the pub in Summerland for pints. Good enough.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

McGill Shoulder

Meet Pat "The Abominable Snow Man" Wheatley.

Pat is a good friend of ours from back east who Brenda and I have dearly missed skiing with since leaving Montreal. He was in the pass with some friends of his from Calgary -- a hard charging yet good natured group of guys. It was a pleasure to ski with them and to hang out in the hot tub at the hotel.

The original weekend plan was to spend Friday through Saturday at the Asulkan hut with an ACC group and then to meet Pat and spend an additional two days skiing in Rogers Pass.

Unfortunately the avalanche forecast was diabolical.

Most people on the ACC trip figured that they had better things to do than spend the weekend dodging avalanches. Eventually Brenda and I withdrew from the trip as well since there was no one else left. It actually worked out well because it gave me an extra day to prepare for a hellish business trip this week. We could also meet Pat a day earlier than had been originally planned.

With it's lower angled terrain and tight trees McGill shoulder seemed a good choice given the avalanche conditions. However our original assessment of the snow pack wasn't terribly promising -- we got several easy shears on the new snow as well as on the crappy hoar frost layer which is causing so much trouble throughout the region. Fortunately everything stayed together and we had a couple of days of wonderful skiing.

And there were some absolutely priceless crashes. Truly spectacular. Picture an out-of-control, one legged pirouette that concludes with the skier traveling backwards and then catching the tail of his ski causing the ski tip to snap backwards and knock the skier right on the noggin! It just doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Strange Days at Malakwa

Possessive locals? Logging company trying to reduce the number of vehicles on the road? Aliens? Whatever the explanation Malakwa is indeed still open and the conspiracy theorists are having a field day.

And as if not quite willing to allow us back without a fight we had a very odd day at Malakwa on Saturday.

The first strangeness was that there no other cars when we arrived at the 12K parking area. Where the heck was everyone?

The next and increasingly more urgent concern was that the other vehicle in our party, ahead and uphill of us, was now slowly sliding down the road towards us with all four wheels locked up. Feeling that collision was imminent we gently reversed the heck out of the way while they performed several lazy pirouettes back down the road, periodically crunching into snowbanks as they went.

Eventually they came to a rest and we put the tire chains on as they gingerly picked their way further down the road to find a safer parking spot.

What else? Well the uptrack lead us away from the usual path that we follow at Malakwa. Being a large group there was plenty of moaning from the back that "no one seems to care where we're going" but none from the peanut gallery were actually willing to do anything about it so we continued on upwards into the murk.

Ah yes, the murk. It was pretty clagged in. When the track finally ended we found ourselves atop a little knoll with few options. We simply couldn't see any of the familiar landmarks to get a reference. GPS and map weren't much help either.

We pointed the skis down hill and within a few turns had released several not-so-insignificant slabs on the February 4th frost layer. Well that did it. Some of the group justifiably wanted to call it a day a day and some others wanted to explore a bit further.

Much discussion later we had decided to head back -- but which way? We could of course retrace our tracks back up the slope that we had just skied but that route had already been shown to be pretty dodgey. Alternatively we had crossed another uptrack during the short ski down. Perhaps this was the better option? More discussion as the snow swirled about us.

You can see where this is leading right?

After much agonizing we decided to follow the new track and it of course proved to be the track which we had followed up in the first place. Yes, our own track.

To end the day we decided to visit "The Burner". The Burner is a roadside pub and restaurant in the middle of nowhere but handily near where we ski. It's built inside one of those huge metal beehive burners that lumber mills use to burn off waste wood. We had of course driven past the place a hundred times but had never been inside. If you could see it you'd understand why because from the outside it's just a giant metal rusting hulk with a neon "Open" sign hanging from it. So we were expecting a real cultural experience.

To our shock it's a great place! The inside is framed with enormous square cut pillars. Chain saws of various vintages hang from the beamed ceiling. There's a great atmosphere, and the proprietor sports a gigantic flowing mustache of Edwardian proportions. Best of all they have about a dozen interesting micro-brews on tap. I tried a dark chocolate-coffee beer called "The Backhand of God".

Strange days indeed.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ymir Peak

Spent the weekend in Nelson.

With Jen.

And Brenda.

And Trent.

Where, among other things, we skied the forbidding north face of Ymir peak!

Actually it wasn't that forbidding. I'm not even sure it was north facing. But hey these pictures make it look pretty cool!

Nelson seems a funky little town; it's full of interesting restaurants, groovy coffee shops, and interesting people. Nelson has qualities that Kelowna seems to lack -- a soul? a heart? character? It's hard to say exactly but it's something along those lines.

Ymir Peak forms the backdrop to Whitewater Ski Resort. "Resort" is a bit of a euphemism since the place has the look and feel of an old Laurentian ski hill with 2 small lifts, a small base lodge, and not much else. It's great. You can purchase a single ride lift ticket, ride the lift once, and then have access to a tremendous amount of backcountry skiing.

There hasn't been any significant snowfall in southern BC for about 10 days. Needless to say we didn't expect a lot in terms of the skiing this weekend, but in the end we were pleasantly surprised. There was loads of dense, untracked snow and the skiing was really good. In sheltered areas a thick layer of hoar frost had developed on the surface -- it must have been 2-3cm thick in places. It's weird stuff to ski on because it doesn't actually feel very slippery. We likened it to skiing on sand. Not that we've ever skied on sand, at least since leaving eastern Canada...

So we skied up and down and all over the place and by the end of the day had logged over 1500m (almost 5000') of skiing. Watch out Greg Hill.