22 April, 2014

Albert Icefields Trip: A Week In The Deep Freeze

Earlier this year my friends, Justin, Gavin and I had planned a week of ski touring up on the Albert Icefields, below Selkirk Lodge for February.  We had set the dates aside in September but little did we know the dates we had chosen was going to be one of the coldest weeks of the winter, with temperatures dipping below -30 degrees C each night.  But stubborn as we were, the skiing and terrain was going to be fun, so we committed to cold nights and cold days.

(Video:  Justin Ormiston)
We were flown in, with the gracious permission of Grania who runs the lodge, with Selkirk Tangiers helicopters.  After quick flight in and we were in the expansive area of the Albert Icefields for the week.  Big glaciers, amazing consistent fall-line ski runs, and steep terrain.
(Photo Above:  Home for the duration of the deep freeze.  Credit:  Justin Ormiston)
We had brought one tent for sleeping, and a small floor-less cook tent, which we excavated a nice seat and trench out of for the week.  Tons of great food for dinners, fuel, and of course a few bottles of high end Scotch.
(Photo Above:  Alex Wigley and Gavin Enns on the skin track up on the way to "Unholy."  Credit: Justin Ormiston)
Our goals for the week were only to ski tour great loops, not yo-yo terrain, and ski some fantastic dry snow.  We were able to get up on to some of the glaciers, which were impressively large, and ski some of the most classic descents the area had to offer.
(Photo:  Still obscenely cold, Alex Wigley about to drop into Campion Bowl. Credit:  Justin Ormiston)
The cold though was a touch tricky.  Of the three sleeping mats I had brought, two had holes I discovered the first night (and were the large luxurious and warm Exped Mats, that a friend had punctured while performing a rescue with), and it seemed that every morning getting out of the sleeping bag was a big effort.  The cook tent, was truly amazing though, as the two XGK stoves warmed it up significantly and made the process of making food bare able until the sun hit us.
(Photo Above:  Justin Ormiston on the Unholy Col.)
(Photo Above:  Gavin shredding another line below the Unholy Col.  Credit:  Justin Ormiston)
It was a great week, but we ended up running away as it so cold, and all of us were becoming very concerned with frost bite.  I would recommend Selkirk Lodge to anyone who wants to head out for a week of ski touring in big country.  The lodge looked great from our cold tents, and the sauna was a tease, knowing it was just up the hill.  We had a great week, and was a great break from guiding to go skiing with some friends.

06 April, 2014

TLH Guiding Season

I will open this post with one image, found below.  When it snows 5cm an hour, starting as fast as a you can flip a switch, you know the skiing is going to be good.... providing you can scrape the ice of the rotor blades before you can go skiing.
(Photo Above:  The whole group pitching in to clean ice of the rotor blades so we can fly!  Credit:  Andrew Doran)
This winter season started on an interesting note.  We had a few challenging days trying to find high quality snow, but were still finding good quality, so began exploring more.  Not just exploring, but adding more fun to the package, and making sure people got the full experience of the mountains.  We decided that if it wasn't going to be the best snow in the world, each descent had to be special.  So, we went ski-mountaineering via helicopter.
(Photo Above:  Guest rapping in, Scott Flavelle ferrying gear for the descent.  Heli-Skiing at it's best!)
So after a day of ski-mountaineering from the helicopter, it started snowing, and lots.  My friend Vince Shuley, who I've skied with lots and who also happens to be a talented photographer and writer in Whistler, showed up for a week with us to shoot photos so we focused on mining only the deepest snow possible.  The snow ended up being so deep, many shots were thrown out due to the skier being completely invisible from the immense amount of blower pow around them.  Can't really complain about those problems.
(Photo Above:  Jeff our ski model mining white gold in the Slim.  Credit:  Vince Shuley)
(Photo Above:  When's it starts to clear, go to the alpine, Chad harvesting.  Credit:  Vince Shuley)
Fast forward to later in the season, and we're dropping into 50 degree lines with hero snow, and skiing perfect 38 degree slopes and dry snow.  Skiing was so good, we parked our photographer's Randy and Andrew across the valley to shoot some great photos from across the valley, while skiing in the Leckie zone.
(Photo Above:  Guiding an amazing line with perfect hero snow in the Leckie.  Photo:  Andrew Doran)
(Photo Above:  Rolling the steep couloirs with the group finally!  Photo:  Andrew Doran)
Finished my last shift Heli-Ski Guiding, but so stoked on a great season, ready for more next year!