Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some Kootenay love from Red Mountain

With Amélie in need for a day of rest, I headed back from Nelson to Kootenay Pass to meet up with our fellow German friends. The plan we set up a few days earlier consisted in meeting them either in their RV at the top of the Pass or at the Ripple ridge cabin.

I left Nelson somewhat early and arrived at the top of the Pass around 8h00 to realize they were up at the cabin.
I slapped my skin and started hiking.
It takes about 45min to an hour to climb the 200m or so up to the cabin.
New for this winter, there is a registration required and cabin fees as been put up in effect for the Ripple ridge cabin. You can reserve your night here.

As I got to the cabin, they were almost all packed up and readay to go. We climb the nearby Mt Baldy to get a nice short lap down back to the car where they drop their overnight equipment.
We were quite stoke about the weather that looked like it was going to cleared up, but all our hope quickly disappeared with new snow coming in!
We did some short laps on the east side of Cornice ridge. With the variable avy level, we played it safe and enjoyed this new snow!
Piet, Nils and Sara drove down to Nelson and for a second year in a row, they cooked my birthday dinner!
We split the following day as they were driving up back towards Roger's Pass and we were driving south to Red Moutain
It has been a few years since my last visit to Rossland's Red Mountain. The lodge as been upgraded, a new cat-ski area added, but the nice cool vibe of the mountain hasn't been altered. I don't know what is it about the south interior (especially the Kootenays!) but everyone seem to be friendly.
The new cat-operation give a ride up to the day user of the resort to Grey Mountain on which regular customer can easy access to some great terrain and conditions!
As I remembered, the terrain is quite awesome! It is steep and it is really weird to be able to ski a mountain 360 degrees! I personnally don't know any other resort on which you can do that! The weather was great and the cold temps was keeeping the snow just nice and soft!

I didn't remember how much slackcountry accessible from the top of the lift but it was quite big! For once, we stayed inbound and lap happily using the lifts and not really feeling like we needed to venture out of bound to find some great conditions!
I wish we wouldn't have to leave this place anytime soon, so that we would have been able to enjoy the unique ambiance of the Rafter bar, but road was calling us!

We drove from Rossland to Golden were we crashed overnight before driving the following morning to Banff were we hit Norquay.

I have heard great things about this resort which is the closest to Calgary.
Even if Banff doesn't quite get the precipitation that BC usually gets, the resort around Banff haven't been around for that long without a reason!

I do have to agree that even if the terrain is quite nice, it is the view that is really stunning.
Located about 5 minutes from Banff, you have quite an impressive view of the town and the massive Mt Rundle in the background.

Even if the resort is not renown for its powder, we were both surprise to find some deep snow even if the last snowfall dated a few days back!
Unfortunately, some of what looked like the best terrain wasn't open due to high avalanche conditions. All in all, it was a terrific day and a really nice discovery!
The reason why we were driving back towards Calgary is that we were both flying back to Québec. I was working (yep, sometimes, this is something I do) the following day.

As we landed in Montreal, it was pissing rain! Quite a contrast with the -15Celcius of the past days! Damn I was depressed!
I am now trying to survive my first period of work in January of 8 years... Now I know your pain! I've always thought that Mondays suck. I don't know what is it about the one in January, but they seem to be even worst! From full time skier, I have now downgraded to a weekend warrior! Quite a drop!!!
Stay tuned for some East Coast action!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Back to the stormy weather of Kootenay Pass and Whitewater

As we got back to Kootenay Pass, we found it pretty much in the same state we left it: cloudy.
Since we saw some fellow leaving for the backcountry on our way up from Creston about 3-4km from the summit, we figured it might be a good idea to start our day lower than the top of the Pass.

We hit an old logging road that was wrapping around what are called the Camel's hump. 
After about an hour of relatively easy hiking without much gain of elevation, we eventually started climbing.
We found an old skintrack that made the climb up the about 700m vertical run quite easy. From the top of the Camel's hump, you can clearly see the road.

We dropped towards the backside into some great openings through the perfectly spaced trees.
That was really quite a great run. The slight uphill on the old logging run slide real easy back to the car. Quite an extraordinary well preserved run after all this time without much new snow!

We drove down to Nelson, probably my favorite town in BC to spend the night. 

With a bit of new snow overnight all the way down into town, we drove back up towards Kootenay pass the following morning. 

The weather seemed like it wanted to clear up we head towards Cornice ridge. 

Unfortunately for us, the visibility got quite bad real quick. We did a few laps nevertheless through the openings.
Even if the snow was great, Amelie's old back injury got her to pain that wasn't compatible with more skiing. We then cut the day short and drove back to Nelson to spend the rest of the day to the institution which is the Oso Negro.

This great cafe located downtown Nelson certainly deserves a visit if you ever make it to Nelson. The nice vibe and great ambiance certainly makes it a must stop.

With Amelie's back rejuvenate, we drove back to the pass just to find pretty much the same conditions as the day before. With about 30-40cm of new snow in the past days, the conditions were just great!

Since the avy danger was fairly high, we didn't venture too far into the backcountry and stick to some more mellow treed runs.


After another great day delivered by Kootenay Pass, we head back to our car. We found our German friends from last year: Piet. He was again back to BC in a rented RV traveling this time with his girlfriend Sarah and his friend Nils.

Since we were planning to visit Whitewater resort the following day and the Germans were planning to go up to Ripple Ridge cabin, we made a plan to meet up again at the top of the pass in 2 days.

With some new snow overnight, we figured it would be great to visit this real gem of the Kootenays. It has been probably about 5 years since I last visited this resort. Located about 20 minutes from Nelson, with an average of 12m (that's 40feet ) of snow, it is a bit under the radar from the main destination. 
Since this visit, they added a new chairlift and by doing so, they extended the skiable terrain to 1184 acres. There was about 15cm of new snow overnight so the conditions were just nice and soft!

Even if the resort enlarge his terrain, it still have the felling of a small local resort. People were cheering  as we were skiing down under the chairlift and it seems that everyone knew each other.

Just to add to the small resort feeling, we bumped into one of Amelie's friend from Quebec. Jeff was doing his first (and I'm sure it won't be the last) pilgrimage to also out for skiing around the beautiful Kootenays.  We did a few laps with him rediscovering this great little resort.
I don't know why I've waited that long to ski this resort or why I haven't hit it more often in the past years. This resort simply have it all with steep lines, open trees, great bowls, short liftlines, smiling staff, great food, indescribable unique vibe and an awesome bar. It certainly should be high on your hit list if you have never skied it. If you have skied it before, I'm sure you know how great this place is.
As we left the ski hill, the snow was still falling hard. Once again, Whitewater has delivered a great day of skiing. 

As always, as we left I had a little pinch since I was leaving what I considered one of the best ski lift area of Canada.

Just a few more days to come before I have to leave BC.