Thursday, January 1, 2015

TR: Early Season Asulkan Snowgasm

Trip Date: December 5-6, 2014
Trip Location: Asulkan Valley, Rogers Pass
Trip Participants: Sly, Christine, Kyle, Keith, Adam, myself

I have amazing early season luck in Rogers Pass. I have terrible luck in the pass the rest of the time.

Rogers pass is the only place where I've had a party member buried in a slide (he was rescued by his two ski buddies in under five minutes with no injuries). I've gotten basically pinned in the Asulkan Hut by storms and avi conditions. I've had to cancel a couple of mid-season trips due to excessively dangerous conditions.

But early season? I keep going early season searching for pow and every time the staff at the Glacier Park Visitors Centre call me an idiot. This year was no different.

I ran a trip for the ACC Calgary Section - the Early Season Asulkan Snowgasm and it was snowgasmic.

Christine, Kyle and I met up in Calgary and then met Sly in Canmore on Friday night. We then hauled ass out to Golden where we spent the night at the Brookside Motel in one of their cabins. The next morning we were up early to get up to the hut in time to get plenty of skiing done. We stopped for a coffee on the way and ran into Adam and Keith who were also headed up to stay at the Asulkan Hut and decided to team up.

The first part of the route up to the hut a little thin, not terrible, but a little thin. I like it, scares people off.

Sly crosses a bridge that should be under a lot more snow.
There was minimal trail breaking to do thanks to an established skin track (surprise, surprise for such a busy area) and the skin track was just the level of steep  that I like - very.

Once at the hut we dumped our stuff and headed out. Vis wasn't terribly good so we decided to drop into the tree triangle. Some day I'm going to ski the Steps of Paradise above the hut, sure as hell wasn't going to be that day though.

Limited vis above the hut - this is the best it got all weekend.
The tree triangle hides a lot of really killer skiing though. Most people follow the fall line out of the hut which takes you down skier's left, but if you break right there's a ton of more open, steeper options. While the snow in the alpine was pretty wind effected, there was a ton of fresh wind deposit in the trees and it was absolutely killer - a quick pit showed good stability.

We dug a quick pit to assess the stability in the trees - good to go.
Happy with the stability, we dropped in and started shredding. We skied until sunset before heading back to the hut.

Christine, confirming that there was no pow to be had.
The next morning, with vis slightly better than the day before, we went for a quick recce above the hut. We dug another pit to assess conditions and then did a quick lap. 

Considering our options above the hut.
There was a fair bit of wind effect so after I nearly skied right into the pit we'd just dug, we decided to go where the good snow was and dropped back into the trees. It was epic.

Kyle sending it off an old crown line.
There are an absolute ton of options for lines in the Tree Triangle - I will never understand why most people ski the same (sort of crappy) line every time, it's super low angle, short pitches and off camber.

Keith rolls in off the top knob of the Tree Triangle during a few short minutes of bluebird.
We headed up to the hut for a hot lunch then dropped back in to ride for the afternoon. By the time we finally headed back up to the hut for the last time to grab our stuff, we were running out of light fast.

Sly, shredding into failing light.
We gathered up our kit, explained to the people in the hut that no, we were not staying and yes, we did realize how dark it was outside and that we were still 8km from the car and headed out. The view down the Asulkan Valley, with a blanket of clouds a few hundred meters below us was gorgeous.

Losing light fast on our ski out
It's funny, whenever I go to Rogers Pass early or late season I hear people bitch and moan about how terrible the snow is and I always seem to find awesome pow. I think people sometimes pick a destination and don't really adapt their plans to the conditions. I would have loved to get to ski the slopes above the hut, but that wasn't where the good snow was. You've got two options, ski the line you want in 'marginal conditions' or adapt - ski another line that has better snow and save the other line for another time. I say go where the snow is.

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