April 27, 2013

Touring Summit Lake, Alaska

The Summit Lake country on Alaska's Route 1, Seward Highway, from Mile Post 47 to 50 has terrific terrain for alpine touring. We found challenging snow conditions on April 26, but it was a nice tour under mostly sunny skies, until we reached the ridge line above Colorado Mine.
The wind had totally stripped all of the snow from the ridge top.  It blustered, pounded, and convinced us to make a quick turnaround.
We typically ski the eastern wing of the Colorado Mine Bowl, but after viewing the prospects from the bottom of the bowl, we decided to try the opposite side of the bowl and ski the western wing.  All aspects up to the 4400-ft summit seemed to be affected by the wind and spring temperatures, but we found some enjoyable snow just below the ridge top. Though the snow up high wasn't worthy of multiple laps, touring with Doc is always fun.
Colorado Mine Trail through the Hemlock Forest
Semi-Supportable Crust

April 10, 2013

Bobbie Burns, British Columbia

Conrad Icefield
We found ourselves at the Bobbie Burns Lodge nestled in the Purcell subrange of the Columbia Mountains.  Ten minutes in a helicopter skips over the 52 km trail from route 95 south of Golden, BC to the Canadian Mountain Holidays lodge.  In the CMH way, the Bobbie Burns Lodge staff are friendly and thoughtful, helicopter operations and guides are excellent, and the skiing terrain and conditions are extraordinary.

The twelve of us, including our trip guide, Jorg Wilz, and a CMH Bobbie Burns ski guide, helicoptered each morning from the Bobbie Burns Lodge at 4400 ft up to as much as 9000 ft elevation, skied down, skinned up, skied down, and so on for 7 to 8 hours until our group would be helicoptered back the lodge at around 5 p.m. CMH calls it "heli-assisted touring". Depending on weather, fuel, and the heli-skier position, we occasionally would get a 'bump', and the helicopter would whisk us from the bottom to top of a run.

Heli-assisted touring proved to be the phenom yours truly dreamed of.  In mere minutes, we were magically transported from the very comfortable lodge to an incredible place that would be extremely difficult to reach by human power.
Jorg Wilz
Our group was comprised of guide Jorg, a local Bobbie Burns heli-ski guide, two Kelownians, two New Mexicans, two Calgrarians, two Coloradans (one presently by way of Australia), one D.C. resident, and one Alaskan. Jorg's conservatively confident and affable manner rubbed off on us - we were a happy group with similar mindset, compatible temperment, and consistent pace. Jorg has guided CMH Revelstoke heliskiing for many years, and on this trip he was accompanied by local CMH Bobbie Burns guides who know the area very well.  We very much enjoyed the Bobbie Burns guides, Matt, Lindsay and Carl.  Carl is also the area manager and an adventurer with an infectious smile who told us that our group was the very first heli-assisted touring trip at Bobbie Burns.

The Bobbie Burns guides and Jorg are sweet souls who kept everyone safe, broke a lot of trail in awe-inspiring terrain, and put us on excellent ski lines.  The guides teamed with the pilot, Matt - an exemplary guy, and the other CMH staff past and present, to create a most fondly memorable experience for our lucky group.
Grey aka AT Machine
Dancin Dave
Genuine Geno
Yours Truly
At Bobbie Burns, we found the perfect combination of people, mountains and conditions to render a rich experience of uphill exertion, teamwork, and downhill exhilaration.  We skied areas in the areas around Hatteras Glacier, Sugarplum Spire, Syncline Mountain, Puff Glacier, Conrad Icefield, Tetragon Peak.  The CMH team smoothly managed the heli-touring and heliskiing logistics with weather, terrain, and snowpack complexity to deliver great skiing and touring.  We felt every imaginable weather from sunny and warm to blowing snow.  We had fresh snow and untracked lines every day.  We skied some sunny lines with fresh snow early in the day before the sun warmed it too much, and later in the day we stayed on shadier aspects that were mostly unaffected by the sun.

When the sun was out, we went high above timberline, and when it was snowing we skied the trees or near tree line.  Most of the photos were taken in the sun, but we spent about half our time in the trees.
Circumnavigating Sugarplum Spire
Pilot Matt and Machine
LindZ Lou, LindZ Lou, we love you!
Guide Matt


The Bobbie Burns
Photocredits:  Jorg, Geno, Yours Truly