It had been warm and wet all week, with snowfall on Friday evening. I was expecting dust on crust ski conditions and poor visibility, so I picked an area with trees for visibility, and low-angle slopes to stay on top of the crust instead of sliding and scraping against it. Alex, Maddy, and Scott were onboard with the idea of skiing deep in the Cascades. I'm kidding, we didn't go very far this time.
I've spent a lot of time in Manning Park this winter, and it's probably going to continue through the year as I "train" for the Fat Dog race in August. I'm registered for the 70miler while Alex is registered for the 120 miler. I don't really run in the winter since skiing is more fun, but you could consider this weekend of ski touring up Fat Dog Creek, the start of my training program!
We parked at the Cambie Creek parking lot, a large plowed area just east of Allison Pass. It never snows hard in Manning Park, and this morning was no different, with sunny breaks poking out of the high scattered clouds. There was only 15cm of very light snow over top of a semi-breakable crust. The ski area reported slightly higher snow depths from the storm, at 20cm. We skied quickly up the Fat Dog trail, an old road that crosses the Similkameen River, and then climbs gently northeast above Fat Dog Creek into a large burnt area. This whole area was destroyed in a forest fire in 1945, with areas of open meadows, beautifully charred trees, and some very dense second-growth.
The plan for the weekend was just to explore some ski potential. Most people tend to just come up to Fat Dog, up onto the gentle ridge leading north towards the Three Brothers and ski some very gentle terrain on the ridgetop. It's not really a place to go for the steep and deep, unlesss you know where to look for that (hint. North side of the Three Brothers). There are many open or sheltered places to camp, and we picked a spot at 1750m, just to the east of the Burnt Knob. We headed up to the Burnt Knob, a gentle summit at 1850m. From here, you can either ski a short pitch back down the east and northeast side, a nice 150m run. Alternatively, you can ski down the northwest side, through some burnt areas. We did a couple of short but sweet 200m laps here. We went a bit further down on the first lap, trying to see how low we got ski before the trees closed in. That happens here at Manning Park. The skiing was interesting. Sliding on the new snow was fast, but trying to control speed was difficult as my tails would catch in the semi-breakable crust below, mixed with the tight trees in areas.
After a few laps, it was time for beers. With low expectations for the skiing, Alex and I carried in some delicious beer from Stranges Fellows, an amber saison and a dark IPA. We're happy to report that while the ski conditions were below average that weekend, the South Coast backcountry brewery conditions were in excellent shape. We enjoyed a solid backcountry apres ski session inside the Hilleberg vestibule while it snowed lightly outside. It was warm out, a good thing as I had forgotten my warm jacket at home. A few days later, I went to a brewery next to my office. They had a beer named "Tropic Thunder." When I asked what it was, it was described as "umm.... well it was a saison, but then something happened and it turned into this... uhh... beer!" Tasting notes were tropical, hints of mango, papaya, and pineapples. In hindsight, that might have been the perfect beer pairing for the weekend.
Overnight night accumulations were minimal, with only 2cm of new snow. The freezing levels were forecasted to increased to 2000m by noon. Our plan was to ski in the morning, and then make it back to the car with the least amount of skiing in the rain. We skied two laps of a west facing aspect north of camp, with deteriorating snow quality on each lap as the forecasted warmth came through. As we skied back to camp, the moist snow was baked by the sun, leading to mashed potato conditions down the gentle ridge.
The light precipitation at noon was barely snow. Alex and Maddy had already skied out the Fat Dog Creek trail. Scott and I wanted to explore a bit more. We went back up to the Burnt Knob, and skied a 300m line down the summit, along the south ridge towards Fat Dog Creek. I got really wet here, skiing with my softshell pants. We picked a line that took us down steep glades, skiing the slush. Compared to the crust, this was awesome. The skiing in the tight trees in the second growth from 1650m down to Fat Dog Creek was less enjoyable, mostly survival skiing. We found an easy crossing on a snowy log, and side stepped back up to the main trail. We were back at the car by 2 pm, with just a light drizzle on the 5km ski out. Skiing crust wasn't enough. We were hungry and went to Via Tevere for the delicious type of crust to satisfying the cravings of a couple of Coast Mountain Cement Mixer Crust Fanatics.
Heading up to the Burnt Knob
Harrison leads the way
Crusty conditions as always. 100% chance of crust.
Blower snow on top. It's hard to photograph the crust.
Alex making it look good as always.
Fun times in the burn.
Scott also makes it look good, no matter what the snow conditions are like.
Chasing Scott down through the burn.
Skiing off the northeast side of the Burnt Knob.
Our backcountry refrigerator
The extended vestibule in the Hilleberg Nallo GT is awesome for hanging out in. I slept in this vestibule on a trip to Lizzie Creek with Scott and Sandra, when I didn't have time on the first night to dig out a snow cave to sleep in.
Not raining yet.
Steep terrain to the right, mellow to the left.
Harrison slarving through the snow.
Gravy train time
The skis are too long