Today as I looked at my website I realized that I forgot to post anything in December, maybe it was all the fresh pow clogging my brain that made me forget to post?
In early December the Rockies got hit by two massive storms and the backcountry skiing was unreal, that is if you could find somewhere that was safe enough to go. The avalanche danger spiked and most skiers stayed in bounds at the resorts.
The first storm came in waves and for the most part it snowed at night followed by blue bird or mostly clear days. The first day we headed up to the Hector South Peak area and ended up skiing two laps of deep pow in the low alpine/high treeline. The next day out we headed to Crowfoot Glades to see how the chutes were skiing but we found more tracks than to our liking. By now the snow was starting to really drop and we decided to dial it back a little and head to Hector South Ridge, less overhead, more trees. We found excellent deep pow conditions and got away with skiing the steeper glades in the area. The trail breaking was now getting difficult (over waist deep in areas) so over the following two days we stuck to Hector South Ridge and South Peak because we could utilize the skin tracks.
On the 9th we finally started to move into more open avalanche terrain but we had to do it slowly and be picky about slope shape and the layers we were finding in isolated features. Our work paid off as we found amazing powder conditions in the various road side gully features in the Hector South Peak zone.
For the next week we set our sights on the similar but larger features found in Apollo Bowl. This area, although skied in the past by locals, was mostly unknown to the larger backcountry skiing community. We set a track up and found perfect powder conditions on most aspects and even in the alpine. There were signs up old avalanches but many of the other isolated featured looked good to go. I ended up skiing there for the next 5 days and this little mostly unknown zone became popular quickly, soon almost every run in the area had tracks in it.
By now the storm had already long ended but the snow was still skiing great. A few days later another big storm was tracking for the Rockies, the “atmospheric river” was on its way.
We first went to check out Bow Summit when the storm first broke. I never like to completely rely on skier compaction but I knew the areas in that zone which had seen steady traffic from even before there was enough snow to really ski on. So off we went, 20-30cm of fresh over compacted tracks, still better than most resort “powder days” and we felt safe too.
After shoveling over a meter of snow out of my driveway we set our sights back to the glade areas of Hector South Ridge. We were not disappointed and found excellent turns in the trees. On the second day half of our party decided to push into the alpine, finding good snow but also spicy conditions. They ended up remote triggering large size 2 avalanches at treeline. Luckily no one was caught and everyone made it home safe.
After it’s all said and done the storms provided us with 15 days of deep unreal powder skiing conditions. We had to work up to larger terrain and figure out the isolated pockets that made sense to get into. The trail breaking was tough but 100% worth it. I even got called out for “promoting” backcountry skiing during a high danger rating on IG! All in all one of the best Decembers for Rockies backcountry that I can remember.