Confessions Of A Ski Bum

Phantom Couloir

I woke up wanting to stay in bed today but had already made plans to ski Phantom Couloir with Chris Moneypenny. Had no real excuses to bail so it was another cold day for the books.

Got to the parking lot around 9am, truck said -24C so I kept the full down suit on for the first bit of the trail. Once at Sherbrooke Lake it started warming a little and as we gained Ogden Shoulder we could have been in our base layers. But of course Phantom Couloir isn’t in the sun and then it got cold, very cold.

The impressive Ogden Wall

We started skinning up the fan where we found a mix of surface facets and thin hard breakable and non-breakable wind slab. After a bunch of short switchbacks we started boot packing. The first 100-150m was fairly fast but as we moved up the air got much colder.

Chris arriving at Phantom Couloir

With about 40m to go we found a double layer of thicker wind slab over some old surface facets. I started cutting blocks out with my axe to make skiing down easier as Chris moved upward above me. The boot packing became deeper, the wind slab thicker and our bodies colder – we called it with little vertical left to go, mostly due to the cold.

Nearing the top of the couloir


I skied the top half and into a moat to setup to take pictures. The skiing was tough, jump turns without knowing how the snow was going to react and each landing felt different. Chris came down and skied past me, once he was around the corner I skied the rest of the line. The lower half skied better but it was hard to trust it at this point. As I got on the fan I opened up on the rock hard wind slab that luckily didn’t break apart on me.

Some tough turns today in the top half


We skied down to the lake over the moraines and down the far northern runout. Again the snow could not be trusted. Magical deep surface facet turns would change randomly into hard breakable wind slab and then back to perfect snow. There seemed to be no pattern to the madness.

The “why am I skiing in the shade today” look

Once back in the sun we skinned up and headed out on the summer trail. Another day with no frostbite but just barely; how do I not have frostbite by now?!

Almost back in the sun!

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