Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Each year there are a few skis I like to knock off and if my list gets long enough I’ll declare it a good ski season. One of those skis is right behind my house....the Canmore Couloir. Also known as Miner’s Gulley, the Canmore Ditch and other affectionate monikers.

This year I really wanted to do this one because the snow is so good if figured I could ski all the way down to the powerline behind my house and right to my back door. Which is precisely what I did! Usually the snow ends quite high...right up to the large open area necessitating a somewhat precarious down boot pack, then hike down the Highline trail and long walk finally to home. But even in low snow years it’s kinda cool to ski and then hike right to your house.

This year there were 5 of us on the expedition. Nathan Smith (nat’l team biathlon), Dave Hibbard (local extrordinare outdoor guy), Ian Murray (top nat’l xc racer) and Eric Carelton, who’d just returned from Russia where he was guiding Brian McKeever to several medals in the IPC World Cup.

With the incredible snow we were able to start skinning right from the parking lot, instead of the long icy hike up with crampons. After a quick snow pit stability check one by one dropped in.

“Couloir” is French for a narrow, steep gully in mountainous terrain, and this perfectly describes the start of the descent. Even though stopping within this steep section isn’t advisable, both Ian and myself (the first two in) took a quick break to clear some screaming lactic acid. After the brief pause we made our way down to a safe zone. On the way we skied over some avi debris that probably came down the day before in response to solar heating. It was a sobering reminder that we truly were “extreme skiing”.

From here the powder was exquisite....knee high. Then we came down to the less steep open bowl. The skiing would have been fantastic except for avi debris under the powder that occaisionally we’d slam into. We tried to read the snow, predicting where the underground bombs were, but they still would emerge and briefly interrupt our dreamy pow run.

We came to the choke where we’d usually have to take our skis off, but now we were able to ski high and go around some of the usual waterfalls. From here we hit the Highline trail where the fast, banked turns really made our day. Amidst the whoops and hollers it was a great way to end our adventure. Oh, and yes, I skied all the way to my back door. What a hoot! I love living in Canmore.

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