Winter has Officially Begun!

It’s only early November, but I’m officially declaring that Winter has Arrived in Alberta! I’ve already had two of my three sets of skis out, so we are off to a very fine start.

Downhill Resort Skiing

Thursday, November 7th was my first day of downhill skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Louise opened the previous Friday, a full week earlier than expected. The conditions were fantastic, with an awesome base and lots of fresh snow on top. I even got some freshies off to the side of the runs with no damage to my bases.

I spoke to lots of people on the hill (I’m a Ski Friend, so this isn’t creepy), and everyone was impressed with the early conditions. The most common feedback was “where else in the world can you ski in early November?” No where! Which is why Lake Louise hosts the Men’s and Women’s World Cup races at the end of November and beginning of December every year.

Backcountry Skiing

Sunday November 10th was my first day of backcountry skiing. We just had another dump of snow, and so far the avalanche conditions have been favourable. Quite often we get an early snowfall in October, which promptly melts and causes a sheer layer right at the base. There have been some slides, but not as many as usual.

Sept Snow

The Calgary area always gets an intense fall snowstorm. This is my patio on September 30th. It causes chaos in our mountains because this snow will eventually melt, leaving an icy layer right at the base. Nothing adheres to this layer, and avalanches are numerous all year.

My game plan for backcountry skiing is to stay alive and play conservative. My husband Mike and one daughter (other one was working) skied up to Arethusa Cirque near the Highwood Pass. It is a real treat to ski here, because the road is closed starting December 1st through to June 30th. As the Highwood Pass is over 7,000′ the snow is great early on. If I don’t get out here in November, that’s it for the year.

Arethusa Cirque 1

This is NOT a black and white photo. It was a near blizzard as we drove up. This was a little break in the storm.

The day started out overcast and downright blizzardy. The snow plows had yet to make an appearance, but some hunters were out trolling so we at least had some tire tracks to follow up to the pass.

Arethusa Cirque 2

While some people were pushing the limits on Storm Mountain (the furthest mountain face straight back), the majority of the people out today (including us!) played it safe yo-yo skiing in the trees.

We were not the first ones here, so didn’t have to break trail. I don’t feel bad about this because I’ve broken my fair share of trail here over the years. I have to say, it was super fun having skiers come swooshing down the glades as we climbed the up track.

Arethusa Cirque 3

My daughter (R) and I skinning up for another lap. That’s Storm Mountain poking out behind us.

The conditions were outstanding. Not only was the base very stable, but the latest snow was just enough for fresh turns all day without any indication of slides. In our favour was the freezing cold temperatures. It was a solid -18 all day, so the snow was light and fluffy. As the peaks above us are extremely steep, any accumulated snow would continuously spin drift off.


The video above is my hubby Mike making the most of the snow.

After lapping the trees several times, the sun finally decided to come out. Behind Mike is the col between Little Arethusa Peak and Mount Arethusa. Little Arethusa Peak is a hike, but Mt Arethusa is a committed scramble.

Several people were caught in a slide in this area two years ago. With such a thin snow pack, the danger is not being buried, but being dragged over huge boulders. One guy was pretty beaten up and was airlifted out.

Arethusa Cirque 4

Not shown, but on the left are several avalanches that were covered by the recent storm snow. Now that the sun is out, we can finally see the mountains and view the debris.

We were almost the last group to leave today. The snow plows had thankfully cleared our lane so it was a much quicker drive home than the ordeal getting here.

If you’re getting in some early season turns, please let me know where.



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Posted in Adventures, Skiing
One comment on “Winter has Officially Begun!
  1. Nice post. You sure are enjoying putting up this content, and I love reading it! Keep it coming. Hopefully it is getting out to a wider audience

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