Battle Abbey - "Supreme Skiing"


Below are a collection of alpine ski touring photos from our February 2019 venture into Battle Abbey, located about 20 minutes as the crow flies (or in this case, a helicopter) west of Golden, BC, in the Selkirk Mountain Range. If you want to know more, check out their website ( ) . It’s a spectacular location, with a comfortable backcountry lodge perched at tree line, and abundant alpine and tree skiing all around. All it takes is some conditioning to be able to “earn those turns”, and the guides will take you on some pretty cool adventures! And, plenty of excellent food is served up to energize those long climbs.

This year, we had the “polar vortex” high pressure system, and it wasn’t going anywhere. The sub -20C days were sometimes challenging to endure, but we spent most of the time on the “sunny side” of the ranges to make it feel a lot nicer. The guides always know where to go and play!

December Alpine Ski Touring KCountry

Sometimes, December can be darn cold and windy in the shaded north-facing slopes of the Alberta Front Ranges, but Sunday's tour off the Smith-Dorrien Highway south of Canmore proved to be quite excellent. This week's snowfall laid down a very pleasant 10-50cm of light fluff, depending on the aspect. The light snowfall during this day came with no wind, balmy -3C, and little of the way of visibility. First, we spent 30 minutes fixing up the ice bridge over the first stream crossing, in hopes coming cold weather would set this up for the winter.

We were wary of a class 2.5 avalanche that was documented on the Kananaskis facebook page, so as we ventured into the hanging valley, we were eying the various avalanche paths, trying to determine exactly where that had occurred. Much to our surprise, we finally saw that the slide had taken out a gully that was skied fairly regularly. The visibility was very difficult, but we finally realized that it had likely been caused by a cornice collapse that fell off the 200m headwall, onto steep, unsupported fresh snow below. This precipitated the 40m wide slide that eventually found it's way down into that gully. At that moment, a few skiers and riders came down off the steep col, and eventually encountered the rubble (again, visibility was tough). A couple of them actually cut the steeper slopes of the gully beside the rubble, and did not precipitate any sliding. This suggested the storm layer was bonded better that one would think.

We ventured in the other direction, up an alternate fairly steep aspect. At one point, we stopped to dig a snow pit to see what was up. There was definitely a layer (the "Dec 4 layer") caused by a period of no snowfall, clear starry nights, and high winds. However, compression tests suggested the storm layer was bonded reasonably well - not so much that I would venture into extreme terrain.

With that in mind, we climbed high onto a moraine, had a bite, took the skins off our skis, and one at a time, made a hundred turns back to the bottom. Big grins and thumbs up had us climbing back up for another run. Excellent fun!!

On the way out, the other ice bridge had collapsed - likely due to somebody walking across, instead of using skis (or their split board). Again, we took our shovels, and spend time fixing it up for next time. Sort of a community service!

By the way - we saw a total of 5 moose(s?) between us on our travels. This area is alive and well with those gangly ungulates!

Mt Field ski tour

It was -25C when we grabbed another coffee in Lake Louise, and continued into Yoho National Park, just beyond the Divide into BC. We parked just off the highway at the gate, put the skins on our alpine touring gear, and headed on up the road that had been packed down by Park's Canada skidoos before the last storm. Numerous frozen waterfalls are displayed on the cliffs around you as you make your way along. After a 6km trek on the road (almost 2 hours with the AT gear), we had some tea, and then headed up a creek drainage heading west off the road. At times, it was a little tough going through tight trees towards Mt Field, but before too long, we were into the alpine, cutting our own track way north, below Mt Wapta.

We weren't in the sun much, being November - stopping on a cold day like this isn't in the cards. We ripped the skinsoff, and headed down on a semi-predetermined route that we had eye-balled from the road.. We had to adjust the route a bit when we ended up standing on a reasonably substantial cliff, but it wasn't a big deal. The snow was fantastic for the third week of November - really only wind-affected at our high point. Soft and fluffy to the valley bottom on a nice firm snowpack with 10-15 cm of new stuff on top! Apart from the cold, and a still-open creek by the road, it was a stellar day! -15C back at the car, after an hour of doing the xc shuffle - and I could feel both my feet...

Given the 12 km of road travel - not a venture I would do every week. But for some awesome scenery, and one great run, I wouldn't have missed it!