Monday, November 3, 2003 - Perspective Update: Adventures to Find Snow

- By: Erik Carleton

I hope by now most cross country enthusiasts have had a chance to get on snow. It is hard to believe the first World Cup races have passed, and there are NorAm races next weekend. I get the feeling I had better get skiing soon, although my first races will not be until the end of November. The good news is I have been skiing, and lots. Last week I drove almost 4 hours to ski, and this week the snow fell right in my lap. I hope I’m not rubbing it in when I say Canmore received a healthy blanket of snow the night of October 28th. It poured rain for several hours, and then it suddenly changed to snow. It was the best you could hope for: roller skiing one day, and snow skiing the next.

Snow at this time of the year is not too out of the ordinary, but the cold temperatures we have been getting are unseasonal. The lows have been hovering around minus 15C, with pleasant winter temperatures during the day. After an above average summer and fall, it is a shock, but I have no complaints. The lower Nordic Centre trails are packed by snowmobile, but the upper trails are closed due to logging. In fact, some of ski trails have been ploughed to facilitate the movement of the logging trucks. Normally the higher trails have the best early season conditions, but the snow is persisting at lower elevations. We are still using rock skis; in the Rocky Mountains you have little choice until there is ample snow coverage. Within the next week, there will also likely be a portion of trail supplemented with artificial snow, so that you could use good skis. That is, if you can handle the feeling of being a gerbil in a cage on an exercise wheel. Whatever it takes, right?

Last weekend’s trip to Amiskwi Lodge was not typical, in fact it was a great adventure, We drove over 100km on unmaintained logging roads to a place shown on very few maps. It is no surprise that the usual winter approach is by helicopter. The lodge is located northeast of Golden, B.C., near the border of Yoho National Park. The drive is spectacular, past glaciers and towering peaks. My car, a 1998 Dodge Omni, known simply (and affectionately) as “the Omni” had quite a journey getting to the end of the road. The path was steep and icy in places, but the most outstanding feature was the abundance of uneven terrain. There were plenty of potholes and ditches spanning the width of the road. It suffices to say that my car bottomed out more than once. My philosophy was, if nothing falls off, and the car still works, what can you do except keep driving? Needless to say it was nerve racking, nevertheless, the Omni pulled though ok. After nearly a four hour drive, it was time to hike 20 minutes up a steep slope to reach the lodge. As soon as the hike began, the snow coverage was evident. Until then, there was not much evidence of being able to ski. The hike finished with trudging through knee-deep snow.

Once unpacked, we quickly suited up, and slapped on some klister. Conditions were spring-like, with it freezing at night, followed by slushy and sugary snow in the afternoons. We skied at an altitude of 2100m, quite a bit higher than Canmore, but not too noticeable skiing at low intensity. After a little while the on-snow technique seemed to be returning. I skied classic for about two and a half hours. It felt good to be on snow again. The next morning, I woke up wondering why the lodge was so quiet, when I remembered we had switched off Daylight Saving Time. The extra hour of rest was nice, but my body was ready to go as soon as it was daylight. The second day I skied twice, with a short lunch break in between. Normally, I would take at least four hours between workouts, but I wanted to be down off the logging roads before dark. At any rate, my energy was great the whole time skiing. The first workout consisted of a lot of double poling, since my skis lacked sufficient grip on the ice. The snow was still fast during the second session, this time skate. What a great activity in a beautiful environment!

I would like to thank Lorne and Gary of Amiskwi Lodge for their hospitality and effort in grooming and preparing the trails. Conditions were great despite the mini-meltdown that was taking place. The terrain was varied, and the scenery was breathtaking.

Winter in October is fabulous; now we cross our fingers, hoping for it to last. I have skied in every month this year except September, when our glacier camp was cancelled. If you are not skiing yet, I hope you get some snow soon!



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