Saturday, February 25, 2017

Coldsmoke Powderfest - Skins Skins Skins Part 2

Was unsure to head out to this skimo race at Whitewater Resort (Nelson) after the ice-fest at Whitefish two weekends prior... Thanks to Ema for getting me out on an AT trip up Apex midweek, I had fun and shook out a few DH cobwebs.

Found an inexpensive lift ticket for sale on Kijiji to scope the hill pre-race day. Bonus, was the ticket came with a free 2-hour lesson. Ended up with ski instructor John guiding me on wicked snowy steep runs on the backside, who gave a few helpful ski tips for the race.

Small & hearty group - photo Phil Best

Race morning was a nice cool temp -11C at the base, -16C at the top. Decided to go with lighter skinny skins with the fresh cold snow.
Dashed off at a comfortable pace up the open track - photo Phil Best
Heading into the trees, passed a few guys who pulled to the side to adjust their climbing skins which started to flail. Mine were doing ok until I started sliding back with the steeper incline. With one ski tail wedged into the deep snow, I was stuck at a steep spot where no-one could pass.
Thanks to Jeff Perron who waded thru deep snow, grabbed a tree and gave me a push out. I scraped my way up further then stepped aside to let a handful of guys pass by.

I weighted my skins down with each footstep and stabbed my poles at bottomless snowpack. The full-body extra effort needed was energy draining. I was happy to hear a "whoop" from above as one of the guys crested out of the tree section.

Next ridge section was hairy with a skins-on descent. I purposely skied down at ground level on my butt with my hands in the snow to slow the speed. It worked, not so gracefully, though intact.

First descent Goat Slide was snowy and steep. Started out ok, then I stopped sporadically with lactic acid burning quads. Almost out of the worst steep section, Martha Burley was beautiful to watch ski down making it look effortless. I followed Martha out thru the bumpy track to transition. It was interesting to hear ex-telemark pro Martha say "wow, that was a leg-burner"!
Leaders climbing into Catch Basin - photo Phil Best
Even though I had an extra speedy set of skins nearby in my outer pack pocket, I took the time to remove my pack to grab my wall-to-wall skins inside. With horrible memories of the flailing skins episode (skins skins skins Part 1!) the last time I raced Coldsmoke, I decided to pack the wall-to-walls just in case. Also, changed gloves and ate a date.

It now felt like I had 4x4 skin traction, and swooped by Martha, quickly catching up to Simon Granda and Bryon Howard who both had flailing climbing skins. Soon, I was out of the trees and climbing into the open Catch Basin.
Leaders heading up White Lightning bootpack - photo Phil Best
Marg starting the bootpack - photo Phil Best
Marg heading up and up and up - photo Phil Best
I had done this bootpack years back, though forgot it went on forever. My fingers started to get cold midway in the shaded bowl. A few footsteps fell thru the unstable snow. The darn skis strapped on my pack held my head in an awkward position making it an effort to look up. The climb was dauntingly steep. I was increasingly fatiguing slowly crawling to the top. Another energy zapping section.
Jeff Perron scraping out of the 1st bootpack - photo Phil Best
I was so happy to crest the bootpack into the glorious sunshine. The next ridgetop section was skinning up slight inclining terrain, so helped to warm me up. The views were outstanding!

2nd descent was down West Ymir which ended in the same bowl. I managed to hold my position, yay!

Next ascent hooked into a regular backcountry skinning route so it was more trodden. The sun was out and it was warm though welcome.

The bowl where we had 3 descents, left-side Goat Slide, right-side West Ymir, and middle from Half Dome - pretty epic for this nordic skier!!
This summer-time view of the same area almost scares me with seeing what rock climbing grade we were actually skiing down!
Passed another racer at the start of the 2nd bootpack, which went on forever as well. Skinning up, I could see a peak ahead. We were heading up there!

3rd descent was smack down the centre of the big bowl from Half Dome. I made the most fluid turns I could, and stopped for lactic-acid relieving breaks less than before.

Then, had one complete head over heels fall on my head. Fortunately for the soft snow, I just toppled right over back to skiing. My compressed left ribcage attempted to hurt, though I immediately said to myself "you're ok, keep going!"

Merged into the same rolling terrain towards the base. This time with speed getting air off the little bumps!
Martha on a stroll with Iliana
I was happy to see these huge blue arrows painted into the snow to guide us to the finish. More race courses need to do that!

Garmin Connect Stats: 1550m, 13.6 km, 2:43 official time.

Super happy how I managed to ski a little more fluidly on the descents, and amazing for a nordic skier to get to ski wicked terrain! The wall-to-wall skins earned their keep!

Cool Youtube video of the event from fellow competitor Bryon Howard.

Another event at the Coldsmoke festival! - photo Phil Best

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Backcountry Adventure - Apex Mtn Peak Bowl

Took opportunity for a backcountry adventure with local Emanuela along with her visiting friend Yosh. Mid-week, we parked at the top parking lot at Apex. Started skinning up low grade into the trees to the top of the highest chairlift. 
venture to the Apex bowl
From the chairlift, we traversed down, then skinned up close to Apex Mtn Peak for a few first runs. No-one else out there. Perfect weather day... maybe -5C average, mostly sunny, fresh powder on top of a solid crust. About 1000m elevation gain day with alot of laughs!
Marg & Yosh - 1st descent
our tracks!
Ema & Yosh - 2nd descent
Me, setting the skin track - photo by Ema
my ski tip, going up