Day 1: April 1 - Lake Louise
It has been a really warm winter in Alberta. This has meant for comfortable city living, and good skiing in the mountains with moderate temperatures. While our winter hasn't been particularly snowy (at least after new years), coverage has been consistently good. Winds were high, but at least we weren't freezing our asses off!
Unfortunately the warm trend has continued in the spring. While our average temperatures in winter months are well below zero, giving us a significant buffer against warming, spring temperatures are not. It has been warm out there since the beginning of March, and now things are feeling hot. Our spring conditions are 3 or 4 weeks ahead of schedule. Instead of our usual wintery April, it's hot out there! Daytime highs are in the mid teens (Celsius) at the base and low single digits up top. We are still getting overnight freezes, so everything that doesn't face North is hard in morning. Follow the sun as it softens the crud and move onto the next aspect before it turns to mush. Or stay on high north facing aspects all day.
Although I try to get out at least once a weekend, the GF and I had some celebrating to do, so we made it a 3 day getaway (on a budget).
We have spring passes to Sunshine this year, so we have been skiing there almost exclusively for the last couple of weeks. We decided it was time for a change, and headed for Lake Louise. I learned to ski at Lake Louise, from 92-97, before relocating to flatter lands. I know the Lake, and although I haven't skied it as much since returning to Alberta in 2006, I really like the terrain.
Feeling that things might be a bit crunchy in the early AM, we took our time getting to the resort. Slept in a bit, and had breakfast at the Rocky Mountain Bagel Company in Canmore. Great Coffee and fresh bagel sandwiches, and it's right off the highway. Recommended for a quick bite!
My GF really likes Summit Cafe in Canmore for breakfast stops. I haven't been there in a while, but it's another good option for anybody on the go.
We arrived at Lake Louise a little after 10, got our tickets (discounted to $70 with the Louise Plus Card) and made our way to the backside. Glacier Chiar to Top of the World and over the top to the goods. We warmed up by taking saddle back to the catch the bottom of the Whitehorn 1 run. The snow was quite good, and a big contrast to what we saw on the front side. Next up was Paradise Bowl from the cornice. The snow here (sometime after 11) had just started to get softer and skied really well. At this point, we needed to de-coffee so we headed to Temple Lodge for a washroom and drink break.
Next up were the Glades between the Ptarmigan Chair and Old Ptarmigan run. These fall line runs were in good shape, despite the occasional exposed stump, but things were getting a bit mushy. We made our way back to the Paradise Chair and Skied ER 6 (Fallen Angel). This steep, rocky slope was still holding winter chock. The sluff under the choke was nice and soft. Best run of the day!
Afterwards we decided that we would focus on the the backside of the summit platter. Whitehorn 1 and 2 had similar snow conditions. Fast, but your edge held nicely. Boomerang/Shoulder Roll had seen too much sun and were pretty mushy. Brownshirt and beyond was closed by the time we got there.
Once the backside closed for the day, we took a final run from the Summit. The snow was super sticky at this point, and it was difficult to keep momentum going even on steeper terrain. The views were nice though! The Lower mountain was very slow going, not helped by the closure of Men's Downhill for club racing. We mostly tried to ski in the shadows.
Some photos for the day:
Looking across the backbowls. Whitehorn 2 area are the chutes in the foreground. ER 6 is the shaded area in the back.
GF posing along the boundary on the boomerang traverse. Mount Hector is the big peak (11,000er) in the background.
I'm playing around the bottom of one of the Whitehorm 2 chutes.
And just a bit further down
GF on the frontside. Several 11,000ers here, including Mount Temple on the far left. Lake Louise (the Lake) is just right of center.
I'm trying to negotiate the sticky snow on the frontside.
We drove back to Banff at the end of the day and stayed at the Banff HI-Alpine Center hostel. We got a private room with a washroom en-suite. Like the Lake Louise Hostel, the HI in Banff is clean, comfortable, and less of a party scene than the other hostel options. You get a good night's rest here, for a low cost. It is located in the Tunnel Mountian Region of Banff, so it is a bit of a walk to get to downtown, but the area is more scenic. Dinner was unremarkable.