After our two day powder skiing adventure we headed to Mexico for a week, missing another large storm that unsettled conditions so severely that the CAC issued a special advisory suggesting that it would be a good weekend to stay home and play Xbox games. As we spent the subsequent two weeks recovering from Mexican food poisoning, a crazy weather pattern melted the snow all the way to the tops of the Sea to Sky peaks and then froze it solid, locking the mountains inside a layer of glassy ice.
By this past weekend it had been nearly a month since I’d had skis on my feet, and the need for turns and mountain time had become intense. There was snow forecast for Thursday night, but the 30cm that fell south and inland of us petered out to a miserable 3cm beyond Squamish. And so on Sunday morning C, S and I found ourselves eastbound on Highway One, prepared to drive as far as we needed in order to find new snow.
As we climbed into the mountains beyond Hope, things started to look more promising. In spite of generally thin coverage on lower slopes, there was a good coating of new snow. We initially thought we’d ski Lakes Ridge, but once we crossed onto the lee side of the Coquihalla Summit the snow didn’t look as good. We drove back to Zoa, and braved a biting cold (forecast temperatures were as low as -17) to gear up.
It was my third day in the Coquihalla, and the first with good visibility. As we skinned upwards the shadow of Thar loomed over us, awe-inspiring and full of promise for future tours. The higher we climbed the more the views all around us opened up, stunning peaks and ridgelines in every direction. So much potential.
I could tell I’d lost a substantial amount of strength and fitness during the three weeks I’d been ill, and there was more than a hint of underlying frustration given how well I’d been doing before we went away, but in spite of that it just felt so, so good to be back out in the mountains. I loved the golden beaches and warm ocean in Mexico, but it wasn’t really me. These cold white spaces are where I belong. Even just skinning up, I couldn’t stop smiling.
After an icy scramble through the trees we emerged to soft powder on the ridge. There was about 25cm overlaying a pretty solid crust, so the trick (which I figured out after the first run, where I got bounced around pretty good on a couple of harder carves) was to carry enough speed and keep turns low-pressure enough to surf the new snow and not bottom out.
We had four fantastic runs on the new snow. I wasn’t skiing all that well – my lack of strength and the month out translated to a much less confident and aggressive approach than our days out on Paul Ridge, and at least one unnecessary somersault – but I was so happy to be back in the mountains, and back on skis, that I didn’t care at all.
(Photo credit: Sierra Laflamme)
The temperature began to drop rapidly in the early afternoon, so we called it a day and skied one final blast of a run down the logging road back to the car. On the way home, our thoughts were on the peaks we’d seen that held so much promise for future trips: Thar, Nak, Yak, Markhor, Bombtram. And on the fact that once again, in probably the worst weather spell of this entire ridiculous non-winter, we’d managed to spend the day skiing fresh powder. Long may our luck hold.