Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Freedom to Ski

Skiing on Remembrance Day from one of the world’s most beautiful, remote alpine huts really was a privilege that I do not take for granted. One quick look around and I know that those Canadian soldiers couldn’t have had a hard time finding inspiration fighting for this incredible freedom I now have.

Each year this week marks not only Remembrance Day, but another special day as well: the beginning of my ski season. We left our warm beds in Canmore early Saturday morning and began the adventure with a treacherous winter storm as we drove along the Kootenay Highway. With chains and 4X4’s, we drove through more than a foot of snow to the trailhead for Jumbo Pass. Five kilometers and a few beers later (our bags were a little heavy), we were at the hut watching the snow dump down, discussing plans for tomorrow’s ski day.

A quick plot reveals we have over a meter of powder on our doorstep, and 20 cm’s of fresh overnight storm snow. Too excited to enjoy my coffee, I put my skis on and shuffle the 15 m to the right of the hut and take my first turns of the season in delicious, untouched virgin snow.

Looking West from Jumbo Pass Hut at Eagle Spire.

The beauty of Jumbo Pass hut is that it is surrounded by great ski runs in every direction, and offers everything from gentle 25o treed slopes, to a cascading series of 35o bowls, to thrilling couloirs. As the snow kept falling and widening our options, we managed to cover pretty much all the terrain around the hut throughout our five-day stay. Ridiculously good early season skiing.

The last day rolls around and I feel like my ski legs are just starting to come back to life. The clouds open briefly, and I look across the valley wondering if this place will be the same next year. There is a strong push for the development of a ski resort on the Jumbo Glacier, which will significantly impact the quality of backcountry skiing and hiking in this area. I like looking around and seeing endless evergreen filled valleys and untouched white peaks, but if you come here next year, you might see a resort town and gondolas ferrying people to the top of Jumbo Mountain. On the bright side, this 11, 000er will be easy to check off on your list!

So as I leave Jumbo Pass Hut, I recognize the spirit of the soldier in me, and vow to stand up for the freedom of access and preservation of these wild, remote places we have here in Canada to enjoy.

Jumbo Pass Hut, November 11th, 2009. Long live ski season!


  1. Looks awesome there. Can't wait to see your next post Lisa!

  2. Speaking of Canadian soldiers, have you ever skied the "Ex Coelis" Mountains.

    Meaning "Out of the Clouds", it was the motto of the 1st Canadian Paratroop Battalion which my grandfather was a part of during WWII.

    Google "Ex Coelis Mountains" for more info.