Despite having all this snow in town this December Jeff and I were gong-ho to ski Alberta on our 5th annual BC ski trip. Peter Lougheed, Kananaskis, is one of our favourite places to ski and there have been lots of moose sightings in the park recently. Reports of moose licking the salt of the side of cars. A big male moose! I was stoked!! But then Jeff happened to check the grooming reports on Christmas Eve and it turned out that the eastern Rockies had very little snow and conditions for cross-country skiing at Canmore and Kananaskis were poor. Didn’t quite make sense to drive an extra couple hundred kilometers to do some rock skiing while we have one of the better snow years in BC. Even if there was a chance to see THE moose. Hence we changed our plans last minute and added Manning and China Ridge back in on the drive out east instead of doing a first long day of driving to get into the Kootenays. Actually, we started skiing on Christmas Day already going up to Cypress before heading out to Jeff’s parents for dinner. I kinda call that day 1 of skiing. It has been a while since we ski Cypress in the day time.
Below is the trip map (Ski/Sleep).
We left town quite late on Boxing Day and the ski in Manning wasn’t that long, about 1hr45min. It was lightly snowing the whole time but conditions were MUCH better than during the last ski at Manning (first ski of the season) and I got one loop around South and North Gibsons and Campground Loop in starting from Strawberry Flats. We spent the first night in Princeton eating at the Irish Pub, staying in the usual place.
It was sunny in Princeton on day 3 and we headed up to ski China Ridge. I was disappointed since we did not see any deer on the drive up but was quickly appeased when Jeff spotted a small herd of 4 elk when we arrived at the China Ridge cabin. We were the 2nd car in the lot. The elk weren’t close but ran across the open ridge in plain view. Sure beat seeing deer :-). And the ski also was awesome. They had plenty of snow, the grooming was fresh, there were more animal tracks than ski pole tracks along the trails. The -7C didn’t feel too bad under the blue sky and bright sun. Great start to the trip so far. We skied for almost 3hrs. Jeff rescued me from going down the big hill only to have to come it back up near the end which would have added at least another 30min. Mind you it was nice enough but we also had the long drive to Grand Forks ahead of us. The drive is pretty enough although it started to cloud over as we got past Keremeos. And in Midway I finally got to see my deer. They were crossing the highway right in front of our car. I think they did the same thing last year! We got to stay in the same place we stayed at the very first BC ski trip although the cost has gone up since. Still worth it. Cozy and quiet and in walking distance of “downtown” Grand Forks. We had dinner at Clydes Pub – which was good – and then spotted the movie theater featuring “The Arrival”. Jeff had heard that this would be a good movie. So instead of going for a walk in the cold to digest the food we sat in an old fashion small movie theater. Movie was good but also left more questions than answers. As I was watching the movie I started sneezing. By the time we got back to the motel a couple hrs later my head was stuffed up and I felt like crap. Didn’t sleep at all that night, tossing back and forth with tissues stuck up my nose to prevent the constant leaking.
And that’s how day 4 started for me – heavy head, sore body, no sleep, running nose. Yep, I got the cold that had been hovering around the office for month. Jeff had it, his parent had it and I guess now was my turn. Not the best of timing but what the hell. Today was Paulson day – another one of our favourite places to classic ski. It was cloudy in Grant Forks but by the time we got up to Paulson Pass we were above the clouds. They just had gotten a whole bunch of fresh snow and only a few trails had been re-groomed. So we weren’t able to do our usual big loop. Probably a blessing for me because despite the nice sunshine and great conditions I felt like crap. I could breathe BUT had absolute no energy. Jeff, the trooper, stuck with me the whole time. Took an hour and a half to do the small loop that was groomed – barely 10km in distance – and I was done. Actually I was done after half the distance. I figured Jeff would go for a 2nd loop to work out the kinks going so slow on lap 1 but he didn’t. Said he would do a hard workout the next day at Kimberley and that we should just hit the road to make our way to Cranbrook in the daylight and maybe spot some more wildlife. We did get to see more elk but I had my eyes closed for most of the drive :-). Despite leaving early it was long dark by the time we got to Cranbrook. The roads were quite icy along the way and there was an accident just before Moyie Lake. As per “DriveBC” only one lane was closed and they were letting alternating traffic through but we sat there for 2hrs hardly ever moving while opposite traffic seemed to be able to get through in batches. When we finally started moving around 8PM it still took a long time till we got to the lace of the accident and when we passed it, there was ONE car waiting in line to go the other way. I guess, alternating could mean one way only as well. They never said alternating both ways. We stayed in the usual place but the restaurant we planned to go to was no longer in operation. So we drove downtown to find some pub food, sliding along the icy roads in town. I had no appetite at all. We ended up at dewey’s and I ordered Quesadilla and a salad but hardly took a bite of either. Rats!!! I never lose my appetite no matter how sick I am. Another restless night curled up in my fleece blanket underneath the regular covers.
Day 5 and it was overcast and snowing lightly. We, meaning I, was slow to get up. Barely managed to eat some oatmeal that morning. When leaving town we hit the same spot of black icy as the previous night and almost slid into the pickup ahead of us. Good thing there was nobody in the lane beside him as Jeff was able to redirect our slide into that lane somehow. It was a close call but the only one on the trip despite pretty tricky road conditions everywhere. It was still lightly snowing in Kimberley and temperature was around -6C. I was starting to feel a bit better than the day before and decided to put on my skates. Skating to me always feels much harder but the 6km loop at Kimberley is an easy one with only a few gentle, short climbs. The first lap felt hard, the 2nd one not too bad but by the third lap I felt like I was ready to collapse. The last “hill” took a lot of stopping to get over it. But overall I felt satisfied with the first skate ski in a while and being still weak from little food and lack of sleep. And I felt ready for tonight’s food – pizza at Peppe’s Italian Fuel in Invermere. Something I could not miss out on and didn’t. Well, we skipped the salad this time to leave more room for the pizza – who needs greens in the winter? I managed to almost eat all of my share. Just left 1 slice for the next day. But we were stuffed and went for a short night walk down to the lake. For the first time we saw the skate and ski tracks on Windermere Lake. We had read about the tracking they do around the lake when conditions are right – Windermere Lake Whiteway put in by the Toby Creek Nordics – but never really seen it. Some day we have to try it.
Day 6, was spent skiing Nipika. Located just outside of Yoho National Park along the Kootenay River, it is for sure one of the more scenic places to ski. Their trail system is extensive and a good mix of flat and hills, some of them quite steep. They got a big dump of snow at Christmas and the trails were in excellent conditions. An almost perfect day at -5C and with a mix of sun and clouds. I was out there for over 2.5hrs, my cold almost forgotten, stopping lots to take pictures or wipe my runny nose dry. The latter was a lost cause, really. Originally we had planned to stay the night in Canmore but there were no cheap places to stay to be found and so we backtracked a bit and drove up the Columbia Valley to stay in Golden for 2 nights. Always a nice scenic drive with more deer and elk sightings along the way. It was dark when we reached Golden but we had pre-booked Mary’s motel right in downtown Golden, not the cheapest but great for location. We walked to the Island Restaurant for dinner, less than 10mins away. I almost finished another meal! Instead of our usual evening walk we headed straight across the road to the movie theater. They were showing “Star Wars – Rogue One”, in 3D and the show was just about to start as we left the restaurant. Great timing,eh!? The movie was really good entertainment, although the screen could have been bigger :-).
We kicked off New Years Eve, Day 7 , with a great breakfast at the “Big Bend Cafe” in Golden, a 3min walk from the motel. It was cold in town (-10C) and overcast. For today’s ski we drove back into the Rockies, our only ski in Alberta at Lake Louise. It’s only an hour drive through scenic mountains – mind you, it was pretty cloudy on the drive this year. Cross-Country skiing at Lake Louise is free. Grooming is excellent but no shelters anywhere I know off to warm up or to meet at. Moraine Lake Rd is our favourite, not that we have done many of the others yet. It is only tacked till km 9, pretty much the high point, and from there a single track, skier made, usually leads down to the lake. I like taking the single track while Jeff likes going up and down the groomed road a couple of time. I have never made it to the actual lake since I never knew how long it is. This year I met someone at the top who just came back up and he said it is about 45min one way. Darn, like every year, I did not have enough time left to make it before Jeff would be looking for me. Next time. I still went down for about 20min and back up as this is the part where the greatest views are. The sun tried to poke through the clouds but never fully succeeded but it was still nice. Another great time out in the snow. Back in Golden we had dinner reservations at the Island restaurant again. They had a nice “New Year’s Eve” 3 course special which Jeff had. I didn’t trust myself yet with too much food. Afterwards we went for a “short” walk along the Kicking Horse River which turned into a 2hr walk in the cold and dark since the trail we started on didn’t go where we expected it to and then just dead ended. Oh well, Jeff wasn’t very pleased with me since his legs had been tired from racing up and down Moraine Lake Rd twice earlier. Needless to say, we never made it to midnight that night but fell asleep around 10:30PM :-).
New Year’s Day, started out overcast in Golden and still cold. We headed up the local mountains to ski at Dawn Mountain at -11C. It felt cold. The trails system was in great conditions and skiing was good but I also felt getting tired early. Every hill felt like a mountain. It was our 8th day of skiing in a row. I managed to get another 2+hrs in but it felt more like a chore than enjoyable skiing. So when we left Dawn Mountain we had to make a decision to stop in Sicamous or Kamloops for one more night and ski Overlander the last day or just head straight home – at least an 8hr drive from Golden as long as there are no issues along the way. The weather had cleared up quite a bit when we left the mountain and “DriveBC” said all is clear (well that could mean anything now could it). We decided to listen to our tired bodies and just go home. It was a beautiful drive and roads were pretty good till Kamloops where we made a quick stop at Subway for our New Year dinner around 5:45PM. They were just about closing and selection was limited, oh well. After Kamloops there roads were more snow-covered and it was lightly snowing on and off. Jeff the trooper drove the whole way and we made it home in almost exactly 8hrs. Not bad. There was fresh snow everywhere when we arrived back home and the side streets were a mess – worst than anywhere along the trip!
It was nice to be home a day early before we had to go back to work on Jan 3. We did NOTHING that day other than went for an hour long slippery walk along the river in the cold bright sunshine (also see post from Jan 2).