A glance at the mountains is enough to tell you that the winter has come and snowsports in the backcountry have already begun.
On Remembrance Day Monday I had the chance to break out the skis and head into the mountains for my first day of skiing in almost two years. Some people might suggest that it would not be wise to rehabilitate a recently reconstructed torn ACL with a day of power skiing, however I just couldn’t resist. We decided that Cheam looked as though it had enough snow to be worth trying so we spent the Sunday night tuning our equipment, waxing, edging, new batteries in our avalanche transceivers and all the other pre trip necessities. The Monday was slightly overcast and perfect for skiing and our day in the alpine was bound to be great.
The elevation of the snowline forced us to park the vehicles a couple of kilometers from the parking lot and begin ski touring up the road. Within a few hours our party was standing on the summit of Cheam looking down at 600 vertical meters of untouched backcountry snow awaiting us! With nearly 2 meters of snowpack in many places the rocks were well covered and the skiing was excellent!
A day like Monday excites me greatly because the season is just dawning on us and we have conceivably 5 or 6 months of skiing left until the snowpack becomes too thin on non-glaciated slopes in the spring.
We saw a few other people out enjoying the day with us, both hikers and snowshoers, and it seems relevant this time of year to touch again on avalanche safety. For many people avalanches and their associated risks are a thing of mystery and I would like to dispel a few of the common misunderstandings. Not every steep slop covered I snow is at risk of sliding at all times. A slope, like the south facing bowl of Cheam, can be stable at times, like it was on Monday, or it can be extremely susceptible to sliding, thus causing avalanches. The conditions on any slope are prey to the weather; sun, wind, rain, temperature differences, and storm cycles bringing snow can all change the stability of a snow slope. Snow science is a complicated field however if you are planning on traveling extensively in the backcountry in the winter it is advisable to take an avalanche course that will teach you the basics of making safe choices and understanding what is taking place in the snow pack. Another great tool is the forecasting and travel advisories posted by the Canadian Avalanche Center at avalanche.ca. This resource will give you a broad overview of the general level of safety, and it is updated multiple times a week for every region of the province to give you the best information possible.
Mt Waddington’s Outdoors is hosting multiple Avalanche Skills Training courses this winter, for more information and registration visit mtwaddingtons.com. As well Sardis Secondary School Eco Tourism Program, in conjunction with MWO, is hosting round two of the fall/winter speaker series on November 20th at 7:00PM. The guest speaker is local mountaineering and Ski touring legend John Baldwin, presenting photos, and video of Ski Wild: exploring the Coast Mountains of British Columbia on skis. John is also the author of the definitive guidebook on local backcountry skiing.
– Sam Waddington – Owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors: Equipping you for Rock, Water, Snow, Sand, Wind and anything else the Outdoors can throw at you!