First a few facts:
- The operation is in the Selkirk Mountains (the "middle" range in B.C.’s Columbia Mountains, and within the "Powder Triangle"). Base of operations (i.e., lodging and breakfast/dinner) is in the town of Ymir just south of Nelson B.C., with a drive of only about 130mi. from the Spokane A.P. (so access from the US is very easy).
- The area gets snow quantities that are in the upper range of that for B.C. skiing (i.e., they claim 500” per year). They don’t seem to publish the acreage of their skiable terrain, but it must be in the many 1,000’s.
- The typical skiable terrain lies within about 5,000’ and 7,000’ of altitude, though with some hiking or as a last descent you can get runs with over 2,000’ feet of vert. The more typical runs have 1,000’ or so of vert and can have 45deg or so pitches mixed in with the overall 20 to 30deg max slopes.
- The skiing is typically gladed (nicely spaced) though there are some open faces/bowls and opportunities to find tighter trees too…oh and there’s lots of terrain “features” – cliff bands and buried trees/logs adding to the fun.
- It is one of the more rustic operations in B.C. (i.e., the lodging, food and cat accommodations are not luxurious but are plenty good-enough for those that are mainly interested in skiing).
- Because of the previous item the price is very reasonable for cat-skiing.
After gingerly bypassing a moose in the middle of the road just south of Ymir.... It’s snowing and definitely winter here (with plenty of real snow even at 2,000’ in Ymir - yippee, given what's been passing for winter in the US). The skiable terrain supposedly has a base of about 80” (which is a bit low for for this time of year – they typically have over 100” of base by now, though I can't say I noticed this deficit while skiing the next day).
Day 1: Today was merely very good since they only got an inch or so overnight and have only been getting a few inches every day or so over the last week (Whitewater – the local ski area reported about 16” over the last week). The base is deep and consistent without any manky layers, so with a few inches on top of a moderately supportive surface it was crazy fast with the group swapping super fun high speed GS'ers the whole day. Very different than the endless deep (but sloggier) powder days I had last year, and since the avy danger is nearly nil we were immediately on more steeps and open terrain than would be otherwise possible.
Day 2: Last night they got nearly a foot of some the lightest snow they probably get here (Whitewater reported only 3” of new…maybe the actual was somewhere in between). So today was pretty amazing - nearly as fast as yesterday, but even steeper and with chest shots making it a constant adrenaline rush day.
Day 3: No new snow today, but with temps close to 0deg (the normal low here is typically in the 20s) the snow was just as light as day 2 and the skiing just as good…with the addition of mostly blue skies. To help keep us warm we did some hiking which allowed even longer steep runs – one included about 500’ vert of an open 45deg face under Wildhorse Peak – killer. The last run “Long Baldy” had over 2,000’ vert in heavily “featured” terrain with tight Steamboat-like trees - it freaked just about everyone out to some degree though it felt just like home to me.
Day 4: Took the day off and went to Nelson (a beautiful PNW-looking town about 20mi. north) and then to Ainsworth Hot Springs (it’s right on Kootenay Lake which is HUGE with a view of the Purcell Mts. rising straight out of the lake on the other side).
Day 5: Still no new snow (either today or on day 4). However, it was another great day with the same light snow from the previous days along with it being a rare, completely clear/blue sunny day. The secret sauce for the light snow has been the cold weather - it was 0deg again this morning though it did go into the teens briefly by early afternoon. More importantly, the day off seemed like an even better idea today - I felt fresher than even the morning of the first day and it was the first time this season that my boots felt like slippers.
Day 6: Another fantastic day with about 6" new (only 1.5” reported at Whitewater). We continued to ski more new and steep terrain some of which hadn't yet been skied this year (with cool names like Rocking Horse and Maverick bowls). Man, what I skied here last year was only scratching the surface vs. this year – it’s the tradeoff for not having daily 1’ dumps.
Day 7: The last day turned out to be the best of the trip. There was 8" or so of fresh (4” reported at Whitewater). Amazingly the snow was even lighter than what I thought was already as light as it could be for this climate (i.e., the 2nd day's snow). In fact I can't believe I'm saying this but it was essentially as light as at the ‘boat! Hard to believe given that it was in the mid-20's with some sun (even though it was also snowing throughout the day – pretty freaky). Unfortunately, still no face shots (it was still only hitting the top of my chest) – will need to return next year since they got 20”+ in the two days after I left!
A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT MY WARDROBE “ISSUES”:
Maybe it’s the more humid weather and/or maybe it’s the temp variation between the outside vs. the cat, but I was real cold on the 0deg days (forget my toes and fingers, which I expect to start tingling at these temps - I could never get my core warm even though I was wearing as much insulation as I’d have on for colder temps in CO). For the 0deg's on day 5 I added an additional thin, body-hugging inner layer which seemed to do the trick, though this was more clothing than I’d ever worn skiing! Further, even on the 20deg days I found that a thin base layer was needed to ward off the chill. The good news is that I had previously learned to bring what the locals use: an oversize wind-proof and insulating coat to go over my ski jacket – it’s a must for me during the ~20 minute snowmobile rides between the town and where the cat is parked (next time I’ll bring it in the cat with me on the 0deg days).
Will post some pictures shortly....
Edited by ski-ra - 1/20/12 at 8:46am