Find your secret stash of powder
Untracked snow not hard to locate this spring season
At approximately high noon — after a full morning of gorging on soft-packed powder on a glorious spring ski day at Sunshine — we squirmed through a scraggly clutch of pine trees somewhere between the Angel and Tee Pee Town Chairs. After a handful of tight turns in the trees we skidded to a halt as the trail emptied into a breathtaking cliff and boulder-strewn slope walloped in waist-deep, untracked pow. Eureka!
“I think we found it,” said my buddy Drew.
“Found what?” I asked, still panting, my goggles and helmet sopping with snow from a classic cartwheel just moments earlier.
“Our stash, dude. This is our secret stash. No one has been here.”
I wiped my goggles and surveyed the scene once more. “You’re right, man. What are we waiting for? Let’s feast!” He shrugged, smirked, and hopped off the five-foot ledge, pouncing his way through our heavenly find. I wasn’t far behind.
Finding your secret stash is, for many seasoned skiers, the quintessential quest; an ongoing endeavour that feeds the never-ending fire. While some seek to slide and glide down the easy groomers, the easy-peasy corduroy, others need more. A maiden voyage down a faraway slope christened with virgin snow is, simply put, the ultimate occasion.
Not surprisingly, at all of the local ski resorts, there are — if you know where to look or bribe the right local — opportunities to find your own little slice of lala-land.
And in spring when a moist pacific air mass clashes with an arctic low and the sky starts puking pow and it doesn’t stop for a week and every non-skier in the Western Hemisphere has officially gone insane, then, for the powder skiing kind, well, it’s game on. Like, say, this past March.
“This spring has been incredible for spring dumps,” says Tanya Otis, Manager of Communications at Sunshine Village. “They’ve been coming non-stop and there have been numerous days when finding your secret stash has been as easy as getting up early, riding the chairlift, and pointing your tips down the fall line.”
Of course, on any given day, at any given resort, on any given powder day, things do tend to get a little tracked out come mid-day. High traffic areas and the most popular runs on the mountain don’t stay “pure” very long. If you want the “freshies,” you’ve got to dig a little deeper.
With Sunshine Resort being a massive 3,358 skiable acres on three different mountains, finding untracked snow is certainly easier than at some of the smaller resorts.
“Sunshine has many secrets,” says Otis. “The glades between Tee Pee Town and Angel can be awesome. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Goat’s Eye has many tucked-away runs and gladed areas that can stay fresh for a long time. And, of course, I’ve got my own secret stash that I can’t reveal.”
Naturally, if someone is telling you about their “secret” stash, either you’re one heckuva friend or it probably isn’t much of a secret. Typically, real secret stashes are heavily guarded; magical morsels of insider information that aren’t easily revealed.
That said, finding a secret stash is best pursued by seeking and searching for oneself. It’s kinda like cooking, you’ve got to put your time in if you want a savoury spread.
In my case, my real stash at Sunshine was, ahem, discovered later in the day off the ski out, of all places. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Interestingly, Nakiska — a resort that’s heavily favoured by families and the blue-run cruising kind — also boasts some secrets that powder poachers should not dismiss.
“If you’re the type of skier that loves to get off the beaten track and explore, there is plenty of fun stuff to devour at Nakiska,” says (Powder) Matt Mosteller,” the Media Relations Manager for the Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns the family-friendly resort. For example, as I found out on a recent visit, the Monster Glades off the Gold Chair can be a treasure trove.
The glades have a narrow entry on top, and that portion tends to track out quickly on snow days, but then they fan out everywhere and tons of fresh tracks can be found on powder days. It’s full of little-known channels and snowchoked troughs.
Naturally, Lake Louise, one of the largest resorts in North America, also has huge potential when it comes to stumbling on a secret swath of untracked indulgence.
“The backside at Lake Louise can be a smorgasbord of flawless fall lines,” says Dan Markham, Director of Communications for the resort. “And this spring, with all the snow, we’ve been able to open new areas such as the spectacular Gully C.”
For powder hounds looking for fresh turns, the Ptarmigan trees are another good option at Louise. They typically hold snow well and not a lot of people go in there. Another option is Hiker’s Paradise, which is accessed off the Boomerang trail on the backside. “That area is a natural cauldron for collecting snow and it doesn’t get much traffic,” says Markham.
With March snowfalls in the books at record levels and the major resorts open for a few more weeks — and some extending their seasons due to the quantity of snow — it’s not too late to have yourself a little snow feast. Of course, like all the powder pigs out there, I’d just prefer if you dined at your own table.
Lake Louise, one of the largest ski resorts in North America, has plenty to offer powder hounds and has extended its season to May 11.