Monday, December 17, 2007

Avalanche Training

Avalanche Skills Level 1

We first did an uneventful day of classroom training at the University of Calgary. Later in the day we picked up some gear we rented from the outdoor club and headed out passing by the Olympic ice oval. I hadn't seen it before so we poked our head in and who was the first person we saw but Catriona Le May Doan, the fastest skater in the world!
The field class was at Bow Summit, north of Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway. The hike on snowshoes from the highway up through the trees onto the summit pitch was really gorgeous. Along the way we learned some terrain recognition, how to make snow pits to assess the snow pack and of course avalanche rescue. Its a delicate art using the beacons quickly in waist deep snow.
As you can see from the pictures, there was lots of snow making me wish I was skiing rather than schoolin! In the first picture of the two of us, you can just make out the frozen Peyto Lake. In winter it sleeps off a summer of millions of tourists gawking at its milky green colour. On the way home we stopped in Banff for coffee with friends while we let the ski hill crowd cluster the highway back to Calgary. All in all, a fun weekend in spite of the serious and sometimes scary subject mater.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Snow Bunnies

Winter is officially here, at least in our minds. Calendars be damned. Sure, we've been out at Lake Louise and Suzanne has worn her winter boots on more than one occasion around town, but it always felt like it wasn't quite winter; it was still shoulder season. No, this isn't a reference to Dave or his physiotherapy. Shoulder season is when those who like to roam around are suddenly stuck in the city, paralyzed by indecision. Do we muck about in our hiking boots and gaiters? Do we pull out the skis? How warm is it? How cold? Isn't it better just to stay in the city limits and drink coffee and read the paper?
That time has passed. Dave has been to the Lake a few times already (most of them while Suzanne toils away in the coal mines). But today was her turn. Together, we travelled out to Lake Louise for an afternoon of skiing. Alone, we skiied. Dave braved the masses for a few hours on Louise, while Suzanne travelled towards the Chateau to find some cross country trails. Despite being the end of the weekend, Dave found some great snow off Larch that hadn't yet been sullied by tourists. For her first solo ski of the year, Suzanne found the Great Divide, a rolling logging road trail that offered clear direction and nice tracks. And dogsleds shared the trail. After deciding to let the thousands of Calgarians jet down the highway home, we stopped in Banff for a Mex-inspired meal at the Magpie & Stump. We highly recommend it for its cheese soup, large portions and lovely margaritas.
Next week, we take our avalanche safety course. The backcountry awaits.