Now that we’re a bit into spring, it seems fitting that Lake Louise should get some typical spring weather, this week coming in the form of some short but powerful squalls.
On Wednesday, we had received 1cm overnight, but skiers venturing onto the mountain experienced up to 10cm in some places, thanks to a strong squall that blew through in less than two hours during the morning. With temperatures remaining cool in the alpine, the result was not typical spring snowfall – it was light and soft, and made for some great conditions.
Last night, another couple of squalls blew through and left another 5cm of soft snow on top of an already soft base, and with lots of fresh lines still left yesterday, conditions today (Friday) will be even better. With more snow forecasted for this weekend, that trend should continue.
Even though we had a week or so of spring back in January, it really felt like it on Saturday at Lake Louise, as sunny skies and warm temperatures combined with over 10cm of new snow to make for fantastic conditions and a great day on the slopes. Despite the weekend crowd suggesting otherwise, there were fresh tracks to be found well into the day. As much fun as it is to be out skiing in the middle of a snowstorm, having great visibility with the soft new snow makes it hard to have a bad day.
Along with the new snow came a period of natural avalanche activity just outside the ski area boundary. A dramatic example was in an area called the National Geographics (or “Geos” for short) – the collective name for the south-facing gullies on an outlying ridge of Mt. Richardson, visible from the ski area boundary at the top of Boomerang. Each one of those gullies avalanched on their own during the night.
And yet, despite all of this activity, people are still venturing into closed avalanche areas or going outside the boundary into places that probably aren’t all that safe. One closed area that got traffic was the Ptarmigan Chutes. I stopped a few people as they were about to duck the closure right next to a “Closed” sign. They explained that they had ridden the Summit platter and asked the patroller at the top what West Bowl was like, and were told that they’d be crazy to go there given the touchy conditions. They heeded the patroller’s advice, which is encouraging, especially since they did not have any rescue gear with them.
However, they decided that they’d head over to the Ptarmigan Chutes and ride the closed area there. They barely broke stride when ducking the fence, and when I called them back and got their story, I was amazed that they had gone so far as to ask a patroller about conditions, then completely ignored the implications and went into another area – this time an avalanche closure and arguably more dangerous, since the entire slope had been exposed to the warm sun all day. In the end, I don’t think they understood why places are closed, but they seemed to respect the fact that they could not enter avalanche closures, and went on their way.
There is plenty of good skiing to be found inside the area boundary for those with no interest in leaving it, and with more snow forecast to fall this week, things continue to look up.