The lure of the skintrack

After our amazing day on the Red Heather trail the lure of the skintrack was overwhelming. In lieu of a visit to the gym on Friday I threw my gear in the truck and instead headed over to the North Shore, where the mountains have been pounded with the greatest amount of December storm snow in living memory. The road to Seymour was almost unrecognizable, with backhoes trying to clear an additional lane between walls of snow that were taller than I was.

Seymour winter wonderland

Snow swirled down from the sky as I started uphill into a winter wonderland. As I was on my own I stuck to the marked backcountry access trail, and planned to turn around at Brockton Point rather than moving out into the more challenging terrain beyond the access gate. With so much snow falling over the past couple of weeks I’ve been keeping a close eye on the avalanche bulletins, and a quick compression test supported recent reports: failures at about four and eight inches down on the first palm strike.

Compression test

As I neared Brockton Point the cloud closed in and strong winds whipped the falling snow across the ridges. For the first downhill run I dropped down from the point and rode a small powder slope back into the ski area, then took the groomed runs back down to the trailhead. Even inbounds, the snow was soft and in perfect condition.

I quickly transitioned back to touring mode and started up the trail for a second time. A small whiskeyjack dropped out of the trees and cruised along from tree to tree beside me for a while. The snow finally began to ease off, although the cloud remained wrapped tight around the upper part of the trail.

WhiskeyjackThe scouring wind near the peak had already started to form some obvious slabs, and even on the uphill I was seeing a lot of fracturing of the top layer of snow under my skis. After transitioning back to downhill mode I skied cautiously back down the first couple of slopes and then cut away from the trail to the soft, deep snow to the sides. An enormously fun run followed, with a few glorious powder turns on a steeper slope through the trees just above the creek drainage. Getting back to the trail was a bit of a slog uphill through the deep snow, but it was well worth it.

I’m still out of touring condition and I could feel my legs tiring on the second lap, but it was so much better to be out there in the snow and the cold air than to be stuck inside on a Stairmaster in a gym. You can’t beat a workout that includes powder turns.

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