Friday, January 9, 2015

Day 35 Saddle up and head for Calgary

Today' s heading is a pun which works on so many levels. As you may recall I was only going to be able to ski a short day today because I was going down to Calgary Airport to pick up some buddies who are coming to stay for about 10 days. So in that sense I had to saddle up and get going and with Calgary being the number 1 cowboy town this seemed an appropriate expression. Add to that the fact that  I was able to ski the Saddles for the first time in ages three times before I had to go and you can see the full hilarious value of the pun - no ? ok. suit yourselves.

No new snow overnight so I guessed that conditions would remain hard and bumpy at best and hard and crusty at worst. For the most part I was right but there was a very nice twist to come. It was -4 on the way to the hill and -5 on the way back with overcast conditions but no sign of precip. With only very limited skiing time (we had to be getting off the hill around 11:30) we headed to the New Side on the basis that we could cram in more good skiing there in the time available.
Lift Line was hard and bumpy in the top becoming broken crust lower down and was the fastest route from Timber Top to White Pass load. We did a loop of White Pass through the Gun Bowl and Highline which had enough skier traffic to make them just hard and bumpy. I had intended an easy mornings skiing but next time up I bumped into my buddy Brad who had just heard that the Saddles had opened and as an old school report of mine once said "he is easily led"
We did 3 loops of the  Saddles, one through Corner Pocket and two through High Saddle. The results were just the same in that the Saddles were skiing about as good as I can remember them with the crusty ice/snow having been broken up into a great smooth skiing surface. High Saddle was firm in the chute but holding and edge for about 10 good edge to edge jumps to get you through. Corner Pocket had that pesky rope in there for not very good skiers to use and it was anchored at the bottom and couldn't be moved. This meant we only had about half the width of the chute to ski in and made for some very tight jumps with the final one rather icy before emerging from the chute.
Below we skied the avi trails cause by control work which were smooth and firm. Lower down we encountered the debris which was still ok and in fact the only difficult stuff was the untracked crust which we tried to avoid - a complete reversal of the usual situation where we try and avoid the avi debris and ski in the untracked snow. Great skiing which was over all to soon and I had to head to Calgary.
Some people have asked me to explain why I don't regard skiing on groomers as skiing so here goes. Skiing is much more to me than just sliding around on snow, it is a very special relationship I have with the mountain. At first you think the mountain is trying to hurt you with all the difficult conditions and obstructions but soon you realise that  she (a mountain will always be female to me) is throwing down these challenges but at the same time providing potential solutions with terrain, jumps, rolls etc if you can just take advantage of them. This means when I free ride it is a symbiotic, almost spiritual experience which can most be likened to making love with the mountain. When you take a 3 ton snow cat and smash the snow flat you kill any life that the snow may have had and so it removes any of that spiritual element of that experience.

I am typing this await arrivals at Calgary Airport and driving on the Deerfoot trail was enough to remind me why I can't wait to get back to Fernie.

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