Monday, February 15, 2010

No es Malo; es Diferente

Paul and I spent last week ski touring in Wells-Grey Park. We made a leisurely Saturday morning drive to the sprawling metropolis of Clearwater, which it turned out really was quite sprawling when we walked off of buy a towel... but that's another story. We were to spend the week in the Trophy Mountain Hut with a group from the Alpine Club of Canada. Paul and I have developed a history of jumping on spare places on trips where most of the group already know each other. If anyone out there wants a couple of friendly Brits to spend a week in the mountains with... we're your guys. We even do a fairly decent job of cooking.

Anyway, back to that towel. We checked into the Clearwater Inn... which it turned out was the focal point of the Clearwater dining and motel scene. Perhaps because it was the only place open. Paul had fogotten his towel, and anxious not to fail the first test of "reading the trip sheet" for an ACC trip and being too honest to steal a towel from the motel we walked off to find something. We found the best shop in the world. If you ever want a plastic eagle for your mantelpiece or 3 towels for $9, you know where to go.

Enough about towels.

After meeting our gang for the week and explaining who the heck we were... we got some sleep ready for the usual logistical fun that come with loading skiiers and boxes of food into helicopters. Ian who runs (and built) the hut has another way of getting there, which I have to get a ride in one day.


On this occasion we had to miss out on the 1960's technology and use a more contemporary machine. Luckily the sun shone for us and we were whisked from spring temperatures in the valley up to 2050m in the mountains.

It's not been the greatest season for snow and the Trophy Mountain area was suffering from a thin snowpack and no recent snow. Mostly thanks to the local knowledge of our guides Steve, JF and Ian I think we did pretty well. Good stability meant we could ski lots of steep stuff, that you might even be able to justifiably call a "coulior". I don't think I've ever successfully skied one of those before. There was certainly a steep (can you see what I did there) learning curve at times.

Paul about to explore some steepness

By the end of the week we had a bit of new snow, but the stability was suffering and things were starting to move under our feet. Ian still managed to find us some great skiing, and we even got another glimpse of sun from time to time.

Look, shadows!

I fell into the happy rhythm of skiing, eating, skiing, eating, sleeping, eating... etc. I enjoy the simplicity of living in the mountains and remembering how comfortable you can be with relatively few conveniences compared to home. To be fair the cabin did have a sauna and propane... so we were hardy roughing it. Something else Trophy has is a fine collection of vintage ski magazines. I read an article in an old copy of Couloir magazine, which reminded me of our trip to Patagonia a year ago and how I would like to ski in the mountains there. I will put it on my list of "places to go when it seems like the right time".

Our journey home was a little different... a ski out! I liked this idea. We got an entertaining run through the forest carrying all our stuff. This was where my frugal packing paid off. Once down, we ditched the packs in Ian's sled and got to skate-ski 13km of snowy road back to the cars. Now I have learned to skate ski I thought I would seize the opportunity to use my new skills. Skating with hefty touring skis it a little different, but I made good progress and was only defeated into shuffling up one small hill. Then it was skiing tucked down alpine racer-style for the last few km.

Here are a few photos that I got, and here are a whole lot more: Dan's photosMartin's photosReza's photos and... finally,  Paul's photos.

Our return to Vancouver matched the start of the 2010 winter Olympics, which have seized control of Vancouver. There is quite a range of feelings about the whole affair. We saw Alexandre Bilodeau, the mogul skier who got Canada's first gold medal on home soil in action and it felt good to appreciate his achievement. Then, hearing that someone I know was arrested while protesting against the Olympics made me think about it a little more. The brightest things still cast a shadow.