Oh, Canada – Nelson/Whitewater Ski Trip

February 2, 2012

The Alpine Motel was our base for the weekend. A short 10 blocks to Nelson's city core, it was a great spot.

One of my favorite reasons to live in NW Montana is the proximity to Canada. Before I moved to Whitefish, I had never been to our northern neighbor, but now I’m addicted. Having Fernie under 2 hours away fills the need for when I’m craving steep slopes and Indian/Thai food.

We ventured to Nelson, BC this past weekend for our first trip away from home with Lucy. Five hours to the Northwest, Nelson is a little creative hamlet in the Kootenays. Surrounded by lakes and mountains, it has a similar vibe to Whitefish. We came here a few years ago for a backcountry yurt trip, and I was excited to return and spend a bit more time in town.

Our ski destination was Whitewater, just a short drive from town. Dave and I split the weekend up so we each got to ski a day and babysit a day. I took my day to hang out in Nelson. I relaxed in the hotel watching TV (that alone is like a vacation!) and knit while Lucy napped and then we took a walk downtown and explored the shops and tastes of Nelson. The community is very ‘hippie’ and many of the restaurants have an organic or vegetarian leaning. I had lunch at the Kootenay Bakery & Cafe with a bowl of curry soup, a panini grilled cheese and a steaming cup of Matcha (a great alternative when I don’t want more coffee…paired with almond milk, it was delicious).

I couldn't decide what flavors to take back to the crew, so I got one of each!

A trip to NYC back in 2008 got us hooked on cupcakes (thanks Magnolia), and so I was delighted to find a local cupcake shop! Flavors like Dark Chocolate Raspberry and Espresso were tempting, but I had to go with the Chocolate with Salty Carmel frosting. And oh it didn’t disappoint. I bought a 6-pack of mini cupcakes to take back to the crew for a post skiing snack.

The finale of my culinary adventure on Saturday was dinner at Baba’s Indian Cuisine. Like I said, I have to go to Canada to get Indian food! The rest of the crew was exhausted from a full day of powder skiing, so we hit the sack early for day two and my turn to ski!

After a quick stop at Nelson favorite Oso Negro coffee in the morning, we headed to the hill. It snowed 7″ the night before, and there was a freestyle comp happening at the mountain, so the parking lot was full. Dave set up camp in the lodge with Lucy and the rest of us headed up the lift. The snow was great, and most of the ‘runs’ are tree skiing – not a lot of cut trails. The trees were nicely spaced and so it was fun to just rip through them! Unfortunately, since it had snowed so much, patrol was doing avy control on some of the more extreme terrain. But we got plenty of steep lines and long fall lines to satisfy. Whitewater still has the mom and pop resort feel, but it was bought a few years ago by a development company, and the plans in the lodge show a large development plan including high-speed lifts and lodging. So it was great to be able to experience the mountain as it is currently.

Coffee Break at Oso Negro

Looking forward to a return trip in the future with a longer stay to explore the side country and a visit to the hot springs north of town!

Lucy was at home hanging with Dad in the ski lodge

Addy (at 37 weeks pregnant) and I on the lift.

Hut Trip Avalanche Course Recap

March 20, 2009

In January I attended an avalanche course/hut trip in Leadville so I could get my avalanche Level 1 certification. Although I haven’t really been able to use my training yet since all our backcountry skiing has been low angle, it did give me more confidence when we skied Quandary. I wrote about my trip on WildSnow.com which was posted yesterday: http://www.wildsnow.com/1730/sangree-hut-aiare-avalanche-class/

Trip Report: Quandary Peak

March 8, 2009

This past weekend took us to Summit County to visit some family and family friends. Dave’s parents got a condo in Breckenridge so we decided it’d be a nice mini-vacation to go stay with them for a night. But since the snow conditions haven’t been that great, we decided not to spend the money on lift tickets at Breck and do something a little more adventurous – like ski a 14er. Quandary Peak is one of the easiest 14ers – both in the summer and winter – and considered a ‘starter’ winter 14er. With Dawson’s Guide to Colorado’s Fourteeners and the current avy report in hand, we set out our plan the night before. Forecast overnight called for a few inches of snow, so we kept our fingers crossed the avalanche forecast would stay at LOW.  Friends had skied the Cristo Couloir last spring with a great report, and we set that as our goal, condition and weather-permitting.


View of the peak from the trailhead. The Cristo is the furthest left, and looks like it should have been an easy find from the top!

Saturday morning we awoke with overcast skies, no new snow, and threatening clouds to the South. After taking our time with bacon and donuts seeing what the weather would do, the sun started peaking out and the low clouds burned off – time to go! We quickly loaded the car, said by to the family (never quick) and hit the road for the 20 minute drive to the trailhead. The Monte Cristo Trailhead starts at nice high 10,900 ft elevation and Quandary peaks out at 14,265. We used the East Ridge route, which is about 6 miles and a 3,365 elevation gain. The sun stayed with us for the first few miles and we stopped and chatted with people we met along the way. At about 13,500 ft, the clouds started rolling in and the wind picked up. After a short boot pack through a rock field, we added some layers, took a quick snack and leg break, put our skis back on and continued our final push to the top realizing unless the couloir was easily visible, we would probably have to descend our accent route. Yup, exactly what happened. When we peaked at about 1 pm, the wind was ripping up all sides of the peak and visibility was low – and no sign of a couloir in sight. Fearing frostbite, we descended down the ridge for a little more protection before taking off our skins and clicking in for a bit of skiing.


My summit shot. I could barely get a smile out it was so cold.

On the upside, the amount of wind had loaded the slope with a few inches of ‘new’ snow for some surprisingly soft turns. Not wanting to ski the skin track out, we poked through some trees and made our way back down to the car. “Happy 30th” says Dave… Skiing a 14er wasn’t a “before 30” goal, but getting one done when I had six days left until 30 felt pretty good!

Skiing has never been this fun

February 7, 2009

I thought I had skied some of the most extreme terrain yesterday at Moonlight Basin, until today when we skied The Ridge at Bridger Bowl. A new lift at Bridger make accessing this terrain a cinch- Dave felt like he was cheating. The hike is mangable, but the skiing is unreal. I honestly don’t think I’ve even been in that steep and technical ever. And considering this was a bad snow day and I came down grinning from ear to ear just further makes me want to ditch the high cost of Aspen and make Montana my home.

Skiing the Z Chute in Bridger Bowl

Skiing the Z Chute in Bridger Bowl

My Love and Hate Relationship with Backcountry Skiing

May 14, 2008

I love to ski. Its my favorite activity and why I live in this overpriced community. Recently, I’ve gotten into backcountry skiing. It started with getting the gear so I could start doing hut trips. Then I started skinning up Buttermilk for evening exercise. Then Dave hurt his back in the resort, so he started doing a lot of backcountry because the snow was softer and the movement was good for him. Somehow, I got dragged into the mix – I think mostly for the chance to make an appearance on WildSnow.com, can’t let my husband get all the glory. But backcountry skiing causes me mixed emotions, and as I discovered this morning heading up Marble Peak.

1. waking up before the sun is up.
2. driving on windy roads in the back seat – i get car sick easy.
3. super icy skin track- especially when I left my ski crampons in the car

1. The views
2. Being outside in clean air
3. Feeling of accomplishment when I get to the summit
4. Going back to work refreshed and exhausted (is that possible?)

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