A friend from New Zealand staying in Lake Louise? Well, let’s drive most of Xmas day and have dinner with them on the 26th. It’s only a 10 hour drive over two very snowy mountain passes. But we hadn’t skied Louise for a while. And it had reportedly got good early snow, so there were many incentives.
The reports were, in fact, true. A cold grey day dawned on the 27th and we quickly discovered the frontside groomers were ripping good. We then plopped over the back and skied excellent bumps off the Larch chair before a mid-morning coffee and warmup stop. It was chilly.
The fun really started when we took a few laps of the Ptarmigan chair. The trees on both sides held great lines and only low down got somewhat boney and rocky. The straight shot under the chair was similarly fun, with the usual rock and stump hopping required. This is Lake Louise in December after all.
Next was multiple laps of the Top of the World chair. The wind was loading the open and treed areas that offer so much variety on the way back to the chair. This was great skiing, with free refills every ride. Both sides of the gully held soft bumps, again with a little obstacle avoidance required.
Lake Louise – Ptarmigan Chair
We finished with a ride down Paradise Bowl. It was -15C up top with a strong cold wind that chilled to the bone. The skiing was good – the bowl was well covered – but with time running short, we skipped a second cold ride, explored Ptarmigan trees once more, and headed to the Jeep by 3pm. A fabo day on a truly excellent ski mountain.
We bookended the Lake Louise day with a couple at Kicking Horse – it is on the way from Seattle after all :). On the 26th when all Canadians are boxing, Kicking Horse was a deserted big mountain delight. The snow cover up high off the ridges and in the bowls was excellent packed powder, creating lots of options to contemplate on the gondola ride up. Below the alpine was much thinner, with little grooming off the winding cat track and tree tops abundant on the runs. We found 2 or 3 that skied well, but a good foot or so was needed to open more terrain.
Kicking Horse sunrise
Kicking Horse – CPR Ridge
Two days later Canadians were not boxing, and by 10am it felt like most of the country was in line for the Kicking Horse gondola. We had two rides before the holiday hordes arrived, in conditions very like two days before. With no desire to stand in line for 30 minutes, we retired to the good old crawling Pioneer chair, where with about 30 others, we skipped and hopped bumps and tree tops. These runs are hardly used, so despite low-ish snow, the conditions were fun. Fun until 2pm anyway, when the lift closed!!! Really Kicking Horse. At Xmas. 2pm!!
The gondola line was no shorter, so we bailed at 3pm and jumped in the car early the next day to ski Kimberley. No crowds here, similar snow to Kicking Horse (ie tree tops to skip on steeps), and lots of bumps and groomers to shred. It snowed steadily from late morning, and we revelled in the ever improving conditions on mostly deserted runs. Kimberley doesn’t get the most abundant and reliable snow, but it’s a kicker little ski hill when fully open. A low key treasure to visit. Highly recommended.
Kicking Horse 8400m, 6800m vert
Lake Louise 8200m vert
Kimberley 7500m vert
Season totals 15 days, 115,o00m vert, 6 powder days