The sleep I was looking forward to when I finally arrived in Banff wasn’t refreshing. I had temporarily forgotten that sleeping at altitude (albeit only 1400 metres) messes with my sleeping pattern. The lapse of memory was only short lived. I remembered as soon as I woke up after just 2 hours. I dozed fitfully for the rest of the night.
Nevertheless, the conditions for the first day skiing were very good with a recent dump of snow and blue sky.
However, because the snow fell on an icy and thin base the avalanche risk is high and patrols were dynamiting in the more extreme terrain which remains closed for skiing. The local newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Outlook’ comments on the front page of the issue published today (Thursday 16 January), that “This winter is shaping up to be a potentially deadly avalanche season” and reports that the Trans-Canada Highway was closed for a time between Lake Louise and Field on Monday (13 January). On Sunday a skier triggered an avalanche in the out-of-bounds area at Sunshine ski resort and on Tuesday a snowboarder was buried at Lake Louise ski resort though neither was killed or seriously injured.
The avalanche risk on the groomed terrain of ‘in-bounds’ skiing to which someone of my limited ability is confined, is thankfully low.
I headed for the ‘Sunshine’ ski area under gloriously sunny skies. To get the feel of being on skis again I started with a rabbit run on, I kid you not, ‘Jack Rabbit’. I couldn’t believe how bad I was. I had little control over my feet with the result that my skis kept crossing over. My brain seemed to have lost all connection with my legs. To those few others around I must have looked a pitiable sight, a complete incompetent.
I persevered with Jack Rabbit for another two rabbit runs and began to regain my ski legs so I ventured onto Banff Avenue a really enjoyable Green run. Two runs down that and I was fighting to not get blasé, picking up speed, coasting in close to the trees before turning, zooming around novices. I decided to end the morning on Christmas Tree, a Blue run recently downgraded from Black. Narrow and heavily mogulled it brought me back to my senses. I coped but it wasn’t pretty. So I did Banff Avenue again to regain my composure before going to the ski lodge for dinner.
Then I took the Goat’s Eye Express up to near the top of 2,800 metre (9,200 ft) Goat’s Eye Mountain so I could run run Sunshine Coast, a long and very enjoyable Blue. I ski because I love being in the high mountains in deep winter and at this altitude in the Rockies I find it difficult not to be taken up completely with the surroundings. It’s a real privilege to be here.