Today was one of those days when it all comes together to make a perfect day. In the morning I wasn’t overly stoked because a) I couldn’t find a ski buddy so I was flying solo. b) snow-forecast was predicting 17cms so I was disappointed when I checked the report at 5:30 and it was only 6cms. But there are some advantages to flying solo and that’s getting a really early start out of Calgary. I hit the road at 6:30 and only stopped briefly to grab a coffee at Starbucks. The coffee tasted really good (Starbucks can be hit and miss) so that was a minor win for the journey. Win number two, despite hitting several snow squalls the trans Canada was dry most of the way. Win number three, I was one of the first 20-30 cars in the parking lot and scored this sweet spot!
After walking straight up to the window and grabbing a lift ticket, I strolled onto my private gondola – there was zero line up, and I disembarked in the village at roughly 8:15. I’ve never been on the mountain this early and I’m now wondering why… I had time for a muffin in the day lodge before noticing that they were loading Standish at 8:40. Damn! I rushed over and skied straight onto the lift. From the Standish chair I skied straight down to the Divide chair where maybe a dozen people had beat me to the punch and were on their way to the top. But to my surprise they all headed straight down and I had Bye Bye Bowl to myself. I could have gone home after that run and my day would have been a success! It wasn’t deep powder but it was all fresh and when I hit the bottom I looked back up and there was only one person coming down behind me. On my second run down Bye Bye I still found fresh tracks along the rope and one the third run it was mostly fresh but I had to navigate a bit to cut from untouched patch to untouched patch. Finally, by the fourth run it was mostly tracked out. But for me that was a fabulous opening hour. Unfortunately, I have no photographic evidence as I was under the spell of powder fever. But I did snap this shot skiing down from Standish to the Divide chair.
So by 10 o’clock (the time I normally arrive) I’d already skied 4 runs on really nice snow. I’m starting to understand what Derek was getting at when he told me I should know better than to show up late for a day of skiing. Now the fact that this wasn’t a major powder day definitely worked in my favour. If there was 30cms of snow I’d have a lot more competition for those fresh tracks. But the 5 to 10cms of light hero snow on the Divide was enough to turn a hard and crusty surface into something extremely enjoyable. I could feel the snow pack under the fresh stuff and it was certainly sun affected from the warm week we had.
The other nice thing about the day was that the lifts lines weren’t very busy until about 10:30. As you can see there was never more than one or two people in the singles line so I was getting laps in pretty quickly. Unfortunately, it was cold enough that I had to defrost my toes but by then the lift line was starting to build and all the freshies were gone. Mental note: there was no line up in the cafe because most people were just getting on the hill by 10:30. I decided to have an early lunch and then ski until my legs gave out.
After my snack I did one more run on the Divide then headed over to Goat’s Eye to ski the remainder of the day. It was now after 11 and the sun was starting to provide some warmth. But the snow was still in mid winter condition, nice and light. For my run on the Goat I chose to ski all the way over to Renegade (one of the chutes down to Eagle Basin. This was not as amazing as I’d envisioned because there were no fresh lines left, the light turned a bit flat on me, and the base under the new snow had been significantly sun affected and was a little crusty and a little chunky. The crust might have been no problem if I’d been on my DH skis but it messed up my tele-turns compared to the hero snow I’d been enjoying on the Divide. As you can see in the picture below, the snow looks great but there was definitely some chop underneath.At the bottom of this run I ventured into Eagle Creek and found some sweet snow in the trees! Next up… I skied down the rope line above Cleavage then cut into Ewe First and dropped down to the glades below. This is often my favourite run on Goat’s Eye but today it was also a little too crunchy for my liking. I resorted to parallel turns on my tellies and that was pretty fun but not as awesome as it could have been. After those two runs my legs were starting to tire out so I did 4 or 5 easy laps on the front side of Goat’s Eye. There was sweet powder on Old Chute so I hit that on every lap but on the bottom half I tried Gladerunner, Rolling Thunder, and Wildfire. I found that Rolling Thunder had the right combination of great snow and terrain easy enough for my tired legs. I finished the day off with a couple runs down Rolling Thunder and pulled the pin at 2pm just as the Goat’s Eye lift line was starting to build.
Driving home before the highway got busy was yet another bonus for getting up early. Yes, I’ve always know of the many advantages to being the early bird but it isn’t very often that I actually do it. After today I’m thinking that I should be a bit more strict about leaving before 7am. Even if I have to get up at 5am to walk the dog, it’s totally worth it because it makes for a much more enjoyable day at the resort.