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Banff/LL - what to expect the first week of Feb?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

We're headed to Banff-Lake Louise the first week of February and I'm curious about what to expect conditions to be like when we get there.

 

Snowfall totals seem to vary pretty widely among the three resorts with Sunshine reporting the most (42" base and 126" cumulative), followed by LL with a 33" base and 104" overall (at mid-mountain) and Mt Norquay bringing up the rear at 19" and 52" respectively. I know that at Banff's latitude, snow tends to stick around but except for Sunshine, the totals seem somewhat modest. Are these amounts typical? Is this rather large variation normal?  What is the skiing generally like that first week of Feb?

 

Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 21

Skiing is generally very good in early Feb. Low crowds, cold, dry, and chalky snow. Looks like the weather might be conducive to a few storms hitting in late January that freshen things up.

post #3 of 21

Alberta is a pretty dry place. We have more snow than usual for this time of year, but this is mostly from an outstanding start. It has been very dry and sunny in the last few weeks.

 

As you mentioned, snow preservation is excellent in the Canadian Rockies. Most of Sunshine and the back side of Lake Louise will hold chalky snow all winter. You will likely need to dodge a few rocks, especially at Lake Louise, but the skiing should be good. 

 

If you're lucky you'll catch a storm, but you chances of getting a powder day are higher elsewhere. Fortunately, your chance of rain or getting skunked out is slim. So, its a pretty safe bet.

 

In most years, the skiing in the Banff region starts to get good in February and continues to improve in March (Lake Louise and Sunshine) and April (Sunshine). May is a mixed bag. The base is typically pretty good, but you'll get some full on spring days mixed with good storms.

 

So I think you have picked a good time to visit. On average this isn't the best time, but skiing is very good in early February. Prime conditions, on average, are found between Mid February and Mid April. But no year is "average".

 

The Banff resorts have most of their terrain open already, and it won't likely close until the spring.

 

The large variation in snow totals is normal. Norquay is a front range resort that isn't that snowy (neither is the town of Banff). Sunshine gets the most because it is on the highest resort and it is on the Divide. Lake Louise is in the rain/snow shadow of some pretty big Mountains, so it gets a bit less, but the good terrain is significantly higher than Norquay, so it gets a bit more snow and it keeps it better.

 

If you find the conditions aren't to your liking, Kicking Horse gets a bit more snow than Lake Louise and is less than a 2 hour drive from Banff. There are shuttle buses available from most hotels.

post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies. Banff has always been on my bucket list and I'm really looking forward to this trip. Next up: Whistler.

 

Already downloaded The Byrds version of "Blue Canadian Rockies" to my iPod . . .

post #5 of 21


i'm heading to Banff last week of feb. and also wonder about conditions and skiis to bring. Fat boys vs all mountain skiis. im from Vermont so our season is terrible right now so anything will seem good. Also wondering about south side chutes and when they will open if at all? i read Delirium dive you need avalanche gear. is this true? Most inbound trails in the US you don't need avalanche gear. So it is questionable about the dive. Does this apply to the wild west also? Can't wait but would like a tour guide.....What about back country skiing?

post #6 of 21

All mountain skis were all we needed in late Feb 2015. It could be cold. It was single digits at Sunshine and slightly warmer at Lake Louise when I was there last year. You need to have a partner and a beacon to ski Delirium Dive. Maybe it's so they can find your body if you can't handle it. Conditions for us on the Dive were good, once past the skis on hike between the bottom of metal stairs and where you started skiing. As others have said, these resorts typically don't get a lot of snow, but preserve it well so the later in the season, usually the deeper the snowpack. Visibility was difficult on a lot of the N-facing. Trip reports with pictures here: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11731&p=73634 - Sunshine with a tip on Delirium and http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11730&p=73627 - Lake Louise

post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whitvt View Post
 


i'm heading to Banff last week of feb. and also wonder about conditions and skiis to bring. Fat boys vs all mountain skiis.

 . . .

The advice I got seems to indicate that narrower all-mtn skis are more useful than fat skis. I have only a two-ski quiver, and both are really all-mountain (or in Blizzard's terminology "free-ride"), though one is a little wider than the other. The airlines charge the same for two pair as for one, so I'm bringing both. I'd rent if there was a monster dump, but expect that I'll have most conditions except that covered with both Latigos and Bonafides available.

post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by whitvt View Post
 


i'm heading to Banff last week of feb. and also wonder about conditions and skiis to bring. Fat boys vs all mountain skiis. im from Vermont so our season is terrible right now so anything will seem good. Also wondering about south side chutes and when they will open if at all? i read Delirium dive you need avalanche gear. is this true? Most inbound trails in the US you don't need avalanche gear. So it is questionable about the dive. Does this apply to the wild west also? Can't wait but would like a tour guide.....What about back country skiing?

 

The terrain you like to ski will determine your ski choice as much as the conditions. If we exclude highly rockered, soft, or funshaped powder specfic skis, you might find a wider ski will excel in the ungroomed Alpine. My daily driver is approximately 100mm at the waist, and it works well in most conditions. I don't lap groomers though. If you want to fly down Men's Downhill, a narrower ski will be better. If groomed runs are just used to get back to the lift after a lap on the ungroomed, a wider ski might be more fun.

 

I haven't been paying much attention to Sunshine lately, but the South Side Chutes open most seasons. Should be good soon if they aren't open yet.

You will need avy gear for the Dive and Wild West. These areas are controlled, but they much more challenging than anything else at Sunshine. Nothing is really marked either. There can be some risk of sluffing, but you won't likely get buried. I think the beacon requirement is to ensure that skiers plan to ski the dive ahead of time. You don't want an intermediate to attempt the slope after a couple glasses of courage at lunch.

 

Lots of fun back-country and side country skiing around. I have been exclusively in the back country since Christmas, taking advantage of a period of good stability. Good stability is rare in the Canadian Rockies, so you'll need to take precautions and be careful with your line selection.

 

Good references here: 

http://backcountryskiingcanada.com/

 

Guide books here:

http://backcountryskiingcanada.com/index.php?p=product&id=20&parent=1

and here

http://www.amazon.ca/Summits-Icefields-Alpine-Canadian-Rockies/dp/1926855787

 

If you are going to try BC, look at 

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/1927330343/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_2?pf_rd_p=1977604502&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=1926855787&pf_rd_m=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB&pf_rd_r=07CAG0JHHQK2W7MK211W

 

and

http://www.geobackcountry.com/book

post #9 of 21

After an outstanding early start, the Banff areas had no more than a foot of snow between Dec. 15 and Jan. 16.  There have been 9-10 inches in the past week to improve surfaces a bit.

 

El Nino historically is not good for these areas.  They were lucky to have the great November/early December.   The ensuing dry month can't be good for snow stability if/when it snows again.   I would be quite leery of the backcountry, and the odds of areas like Delirium Dive/Wild West opening aren't great. 

 

Hopefully there will be enough refreshers that the base holds up, fairly likely with the excellent snow preservation track record.  But I would expect fairly firm surfaces over most of the rest of this season.

post #10 of 21

Thanks for all of the replies. So, my atomic automatics 117 underfoot should stay home. My all mountain skis are rossi's avenger 82. 82 being underfoot. i guess we will just plan on skiing inbounds and if we get snow ill rent some fat boyz for the day/week.The wife s a groomer while  hate them. Put me off of the beaten path.

post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by whitvt View Post
 

Thanks for all of the replies. So, my atomic automatics 117 underfoot should stay home. 

Probably a good call. I would prefer a narrower ski most days in Banff area resorts. 

post #12 of 21

It's probably your best bet, the BC coast and interior had an amazing nov-jan, but are now moving into a warm, wet trend which is bring freezing levels up with a lot of precipitation...  if the precip makes it all the way to Banff it'll be snow; chance of rain and most other western resorts next week.

post #13 of 21

Going to Banff for the first time mid-February.  Looks like the outlook is fairly good thus far with some modest snowfall this week, but the following week the temperatures are concerning.  Several days with highs in the single digits and some negative single digits!  :(  Hopefully is warms up a bit by the 15!

post #14 of 21

I'll be at Banff for the first time at the end of this week.  While I'm not thrilled that we won't likely get lots of fresh each day I am excited to see full coverage.  When you live in Cincinnati, any day in the mountains is a good day.

post #15 of 21

Skied Lake Louise on Saturday. I hadn't been there since before Christmas, but I was pleasantly surprised with the Conditions. January has been a dry month, but coverage has held up and the snow is still good and wintery in the back bowls and larch. The front side was hard, but I didn't ski it apart from my last run back to the car. 

 

Weather in the valley seems warm to me? Were you looking at the Celsius values?

 

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/14-day-weather-trend/alberta/lake-louise

post #16 of 21

Southside Chutes at SSV are now open. Still waiting on the Dive, but we seem to be close.

 

Updates here:

 

https://twitter.com/ssvsnowsafety?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

post #17 of 21

Skied Sunshine Thursday and Saturday and Lake Louise on Friday.  It was our first time at both places.  We had a decent amount of fresh snow on Saturday and there was flurries on Thursday.  Coverage was pretty good at Sunshine and it seemed everywhere we went at Lake Louise needed more snow.  Lots of runs seemed scraped down to hard pack.  Also is the top of Goat's Eye always so windy?  It felt like ice skating with gale force winds.  We loved the terrain at Louise and just wished there was more snow.  You really can't beat the scenery either.

post #18 of 21

Disappointing you didn't get find better snow at Louise. The terrain is really interesting, but snowfall totals can be modest. When I was there a week ago, things were pretty nice on the back-side of the summit platter and Paradise, with a mix of chop and chalk. Didn't do any front side laps. I usually find better snow at Louise than SSV, but it takes a bit of time to get the lay of the hill and read the winds. Rocks are usually more of an issue than snow quality.

 

The top of goats's eye is often pretty windy. Fortunately you can drop into more sheltered locations without a ton of effort. 

 

This last weekend was particularly windy. The resorts were getting hammered at the end of the week, and the backcountry was looking very sketchy. I took off to the West Kooteneys and skied Red Resort and Kootenay Pass.

 

How did you enjoy the non-skiing part of your vacation?

post #19 of 21

Yeah it was a particularly windy day after lunch on Saturday.  The Teepee Town, Divide and Angel chairs were on wind holds for a good portion of the afternoon (if not the whole afternoon).  We spent the afternoon on Goat which we loved the lower half but it going to tiring being sandblasted on every run as well as playing off the Wolverine and Jack Rabbit chairs (it was the end of our skiing for the trip so our legs were shot anyways so we could stand to hit some of the more mellow lines).  Over all we liked the terrain better at Lake Louise but we had better snow at Sunshine.  We had one snowboarder with us and found some of the undulating terrain and the meadows to be tricky forhim to know precisely how much speed to keep up when we weren't sure of exactly where we were going.

 

As for non-skiing things, we found an absolutely lovely bed and breakfast a few blocks off of Banff avenue that was fantastic, convenient and really reasonably priced.  We under estimated the challenge of getting in to a good restaurant so I should have done a little bit more advanced planning.  Hit up a nice craft beer store in Calgary at the start of the trip and had excellent help in selecting a lot of Alberta & BC beers to try.  Lastly, our last night we stayed at an airport hotel and it seemed like it was a quality food desert around the airport.

post #20 of 21

with the recent snowfall over the past week , how are the conditions?  I am stoked for Sunday....

post #21 of 21

How was the skiing yesterday?

 

I was at Kicking Horse on Saturday and Sunday, and the snow was good until you got to the quad chair. The lowest part of the mountain was a bit hard, but it is just easy groomers at that point.

 

The snow was really nice off the hike - to runs on Terminator Peak.

 

Things will obviously be more tracked after the weekend, but the high shaded areas will hold chalky snow. Worth the side trip from Banff if you have time.

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