Last weekend, I made the long haul from Calgary to Kootenay Pass for a couple of nights at the Lightning Strike Cabin. After a season of being in the wrong place at the wrong time I think I'd forgotten that snow could be that amazing.
Kootenay Pass is famous for its amazing snow, but both previous times I've been there conditions have been iffy at best. Straight up awful might be a better description. I decided to give it one last shot when a few friends booked the Alberta Family Day long weekend at the new Lightning Strike Cabin; but in a season where I seem to chronically be in the wrong mountain range for whatever epic snow system is currently going off, I wasn't really holding my breath.
The Ripple Ridge and Lightning Strike cabins are side by side, just outside of Stagleap Provincial Park. To get to the huts, you park at the top of Kootenay Pass and then skin just about due South for 3.2km of logging road gaining about 200m on your way to the hut. It's short enough that we almost all brought drag bags or sleds so we could haul in as much fresh food and booze as we could want.
Even towing the better part of 35kg behind me, the approach only took about an hour. It's about as easy as it gets for a 'backcountry' hut.
The next morning I left the cabin with Jenny and Kyle in a bit of a funk. I straight up assumed that the snow would be 'okay' at best and the terrain around the hut wasn't exactly getting my heart racing. Everything looked like low to medium angle trees so I stewed on the skin track about the idiocy of spending 8 hours driving to ski flat trees.
I'm sure my grumpiness made me a real joy to be around.
We decided to head up Baldy Rocks and the heavy wind affect on the ridge had me further convinced this was all going to suck. To mitigate danger due to the fresh snowfall and strong overnight winds, we decided to ski a windward face and I was fully braced for wind hammered crap.
That lasted for about 5 feet after dropping in. Almost immediately after dropping off the ridge, the trees had clearly protected the snow. We instantly went from wind hammered styrofoam to bottomless pow. Every turn was a face shot to the extent that we were gasping for breath when we got to the bottom of the line.
It did not suck.
If you dove deep enough into the snowpack you could find a firm layer down there, but it was deep enough that you only found it if you went looking - and everything above it was blower. Despite the angle not being that steep, we had no trouble maintaining speed - there was none of that 'straight-line until you have enough speed for a single turn' crap. We were legitimately skiing, it was legitimately awesome.
Our up track had followed up the windward side of mellow ridge that had been wind affected. The fresh snow had simply not accumulated there. Everywhere else though? Absolutely epic.
All season I've been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Last weekend, I finally got it right and was rewarded with absolute perfection. This was some of the best snow I've ever skied and we made the most of it lapping until the llight started failing and our legs were toasted.
This season has been a return to normal snowpacks after a couple of dryer winters - and while it's been fantastic and I've had countless fantastic days, I just haven't been in the right place at the right time to get that perfect snow system.
Finally got it right. Finally found perfection.
Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.