Thursday, March 8, 2007

Powder Cowboys

I had my best week of skiing ever during the last week of January while doing a practicum at Power Cowboy Catskiing. I know this post is a little late but I recently received some photos from the week that got me reminiscing. Pow Cow, as it is affectionately known, operates in the Lizard Range on the southwest edge of the Rockies just across the ridge from Fernie ski resort. This area gets much more precipitation than most of the Rockies thus has a deep snowpack and quality powder. Most of the terrain is treeline or below but the trees provides shelter from the wind thus keeping the snow deep, light and fluffy. The photo of me left is by professional photographer Todd Weselake of Fernie.

Long time friend, Darcy Chilton, is the mountain manager and he was my in. I spent the entire week tagging along and learning the art of downhill ski guiding and snow safety forecasting. My first 3 days were helping as a tailguide. Darcy was the lead guide. Simon Robbins the tailguide. Me the practicum guy aka the assistant tail guide. The week began with a huge dump of cold smoke. It was my first experience with over-the-head blower. I will never forget my first face shot and cliff drop.

As the week progressed, the snow stop falling and stability got good. Darcy, Olivia Stoffer and I were on snow safety which entails whipping around on snow machines with our skis strapped to the sides in the search for relevant information on what the snowpack is doing with regards to stability. After the first day we decided the stability was good and improving so the definition of "snow safety" morphed from collecting information to finding the coolest chutes and ripping them. Darcy had his eye on the north face of April Fools Peak. Over the course of 2 days of "work", we skied 3 gullies on this face, 2 of which may have been first descents. Each time we dropped into a virgin untracked couloir, I was nervous with excitement but after the first couple jump turns, I relaxed and let the skis do there stuff. The photo left is by professional photogrpaher David Silver of Fernie. It shows the right side of April Fools Peak and if you look closely you can see our tracks. Check out more of Dave's images at

Needless to say, after 8 days straight of skiing (remember I am a skinny legged climber), my poor chicken legs were toast. I am already looking forward to heading back next winter as an official tail guide.

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