Frequent communication and conjecture were the order of proceedings in the lead up to our departure for the Elk Lakes ski tour. After communication via about 4000 text messages re: transport logistics we (Lisa Marr-Laing, Nancy Bain, Linda Dicken, Amanda Brosius and yours truly, Jane McCallum) were on our way to Kananaskis, with Kelly and Richard to follow later. I was excited as this was my first back-country ski trip in Canada; but disappointed that Peter was unable to come as he was ill.
Conjecture about snow conditions continued during the trip – should we bother with skis, skins, what wax, what type of skis? Indeed, would there be any snow – should we take hiking boots, and if so, would we need ice crampons? We consulted Skier Bob and made the call that skiing was the go (but take your hiking boots just in case).
The “take your hiking boots in case” approach is something we are very familiar with in Australia where the snow can be marginal to non-existent. All the discussion about skins, wax, type of skis was a bit beyond me, as down under, an old pair of fish-scaled skis serves me and Peter well.
Capably chauffeured by Linda, we arrived at Ribbon Creek Hostel on Friday night after a detour to the University of Calgary to collect all, (well almost all), our rental gear.
Everyone was on skis, (well almost everyone), by 9:45am at the Elk Lake car park Saturday morning and we were off.
As snow, unfortunately, had not eventuated overnight, the discussion about snow conditions continued. I was in heaven, on skis, with snow all around and thinking the conditions were pretty darn good. Given that my ‘terms of reference’ re: snow quality are from a place where, in the snow ice, rocks, bare ground, and tree roots are the norm, I kept my mouth shut and listened. The consensus was that the snow was ‘surprisingly good for the time of year’. Light snow on Saturday night and until mid-morning on Sunday night made it even better for the return trip.
Saturday’s ski to Elk Lakes Hut was 12km with a few rest stops, one at the Blueberry Hill Trail picnic table to refuel, check the pulks and put on/pull off skins.
We took a leisurely 3 hours 53 minutes to get to Elk Hut, ascending 343 metres. Richard led the way, often leaving his pack at the top of an ascent and skiing back down to check on us.
Everyone was incredibly impressed with Nancy and Linda’s ability to ski with great control both up and on some tricky descents with their pulks behaving well behind them. More impressive was Lisa’s ability to keep up with us without skis.
Our speedy and incident-free descent, (even though we encountered what Kelly called a ‘dipsy doodle), from Elk Pass to the hut followed the road as the snow conditions on the trail were a bit dodgy.
Our dinner at Elk Hut was sumptuous as well as copious – we all seriously over catered. Appetizers, fabulous turkey with stuffing, gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce, a great salad and yummo desert ensured we had sufficient fuel for perhaps the next year’s skiing.
Elk Lakes Hut is super comfortable with a wood burning stove, a large loft sleeping platform that doubled as a sauna (the fire sure warms up the place), two comfortable eating areas and a reasonably well-equipped kitchen with propane stoves, an oven plus propane lanterns.
Light snow made Sunday’s ski even more enjoyable. We had ample energy, fuelled by unbelievable breakfast pancakes courtesy of Kelly and Richard. Cookies from Kelly plus Tim Tam biscuits, (famous Australian cookies, guaranteed to help you cope with Aussie accents and humour), at Elk Pass ensured that everyone’s energy levels were appropriate for the descent. Four Tim Tams could be deemed excessive, but we all agreed tour leaders burn up lots of energy, especially when they are in hiking boots trying to keep up with skiers…
Back at the car park with huge smiles on our faces after 3 hours and 48 minutes of skiing we set off for a very snowy trip back to Red Deer – thanks Linda for the great driving .
Bouquets to all for a terrific introduction to back-country skiing in Canada. Looking forward to the next gig.