Grizzly Bears & Sibling Rivalry

Bears are making daily appearances at Lake Louise these days, so today I went for a ride up and down the summer lift at Lake Louise to see if I could get any photographs. It was raining lightly, and I prefer to take photos on cloudy days since the light tends to be more even and generally results in better shots. On the lift, I was able to once again spot the three grizzly bears I had seen and photographed on June 28 (see previous post). On that day, the mother with two large cubs were quietly grazing on Juniper, close to one another and the chairlift. Today, however, was quite different.

 

On the way up, I first saw the mother, who was eating grass on Juniper lower down near tower #9 of the lift, with no sign of the cubs. I did see them eventually, near tower #13, which is almost the same place they were when I saw them on the 28th. As the bears came into view, one of them darted up a bank on the uphill side of the run. Wondering what had startled it, I watched as the other bear followed, and I then heard what I first thought was the sound of an ATV or motorcycle. I soon realised that it was a growl – loud and sustained. I had never heard a bear growl, and it was a chilling sound.

Of course, I had my camera, and was lucky to witness a brief but fierce fight (about 20 seconds) between the two cubs. As tensions appeared to ease, they were blocked from view by the passing trees. All three bears had disappeared by the time I made my way down the lift a few minutes later. The bears were a little farther away than last time, so they appear smaller in the frame, and I could only crop the shots so much before the images deteriorated too much. Click on the photos for larger versions.

Grizzly sow eating on Juniper.

Grizzly sow eating on Juniper.

The fight begins.

The fight begins.

Gnashing of teeth.

Gnashing of teeth.

A little wrestling.

A little wrestling.

 

 

 

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Skoki Lodge

It was a nice Easter weekend at Lake Louise, and on Sunday I made a quick trip out to Skoki Lodge for the day to get some photographs before the lodge closed for the spring. I arrived in time for breakfast, and wandered around the lodge as the last guests of the season packed and prepared for their trip back to Lake Louise. Skoki is now closed until late June, when the first guests of the summer will make the 11km hike in, hopeful not to encounter too much snow.
 
The pioneers of skiing in the Lake Louise area first envisioned a European-style system of backcountry lodges that skiers could string together in multi-day trips, and Skoki was the first. World War I and troubled financial times put a stop to these grand plans before any other lodges could be built, though construction materials for another can still be found in the woods above Douglas Lake, to the east of Skoki.
 
The trip to Skoki is about 11km and starts at a cut-off on Marmot just uphill of Temple Lodge. The trail is well-maintained, and travels along the gentle rise of the Ptarmigan Valley, over Boulder Pass, across Ptarmigan Lake, then over Deception Pass and down into the Skoki Valley to the lodge. This trip can be done in two or three hours, depending on equipment and ability. Most supplies for the lodge, including food and laundry, are taken in by snowmobile on a trail that is mostly separate from the ski trail, and larger items, like the huge propane tanks that fuel the kitchen and generator, are flown in by helicopter at the start of the season. In summer, a helicopter is used until the trail is clear of snow, and then horses are used to pack all supplies in.
On Ptarmigan Lake, looking back at the ski area.

On Ptarmigan Lake, looking back at the ski area.

 

Ptarmigan Peak, with Richardson's Ridge barely visible in the background at far left.

Ptarmigan Peak, with Richardson's Ridge barely visible in the background at far left.

 

From the top of Deception Pass, looking towards Ptarmigan Lake and Eagle Ridge.

From the top of Deception Pass, looking towards Ptarmigan Lake and Eagle Ridge.

 

Starting the ski down from the top of Deception Pass, with the north face of Mt. Redoubt upper left.

Starting the ski down from the top of Deception Pass, with the northeast face of Mt. Redoubt at upper left.

 

Eagle Ridge and Paradise Chair in the back left, and Hidden Bowl on the right (tempting, but suspect).

Eagle Ridge and Paradise Chair in the back left, and Hidden Bowl on the right (tempting, but suspect).

Once the ski season is over, I’ll be posting a more detailed history of Skoki Lodge and how it relates to the beginning of the Lake Louise Ski Area.