Find your se­cret stash of pow­der

Un­tracked snow not hard to lo­cate this spring sea­son

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - ANDREW PEN­NER

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.

Henry Georgi

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.

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