42. Fallopian Tube
Mar 7, 2018 1:45pm
1.5 hr skin from Lost Boys to summit. Slopes were super loaded all the way. The Fear had me gripped.
Got over The Fear with help from Mel. Thigh deep. So sick!
I say this at the end of every winter season, but I do believe that this year was, in fact, my favourite ski season to date. As the snow melts, awakening the grass and the smell of spring, and the rocks on the headwalls become black and more prominent, I can’t help but look back on the incredible moments I’ve had on my skis over the past 8 months.
After an incident that has the potential to scare off the average person from venturing into avalanche terrain I didn’t know how my season was going to turn out. Not only did I have an internal, mental battle going on but I was also recovering from a knee injury. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to ski off piste, let alone ski some of the best and biggest lines of my life. Yes, on some occasions I may have skied more cautiously than in the past, but what happened to me last March did not hinder my season whatsoever. Only once did I back out of a line, and that was because I was alone. A few days later I went back with a partner and competed the mission.
I admit there were times where I was very much afraid. Where I couldn’t help but see the entire slope break away but with the help of friends and the knowledge from my past experience, I was able to overcome The Fear. That feeling of winning that inner battle is unexplainable, and getting to the bottom of a big line has never felt better.
52. Super Pooper
Mar 28, 2018 2:00pm
Boot packed straight up. Soft snow to begin but firmed up from the sluff constantly pouring down the slope. Hiking got easier after a while. I set the boot pack past where we wanted to stop and brought us all the way to the top. From below the rocks as far as we could climb we made a spot to put on our skis. It was so steep one person held the other so they didn’t fall while clicking in. I dropped in, skiing fast, just avoiding my sluff at the bottom. One of my favourite missions to date.
A few years ago I started a log book of all the big lines I ski. I was able to look back at winter 2015/16 where I had sixteen entries. Winter 2016/17 I jotted down eighteen lines I thought were worthy. This year, I have added twenty-six entries and there is still a month of skiing in the higher elevations. Needless to say, I’m not finished yet.
After December there were a few bad layers in the snowpack and the backcountry was extremely dangerous. I didn’t add any entries to my book in January, but during that period the conditions at Fernie Alpine Resort were some of the best in years. We were blessed with nearly 1200 centimetres of total snowfall this season, and were just shy of a 4 meter base. I believe we had some of the most snow in North America.
I had a few trips planned for the winter. Like I usually do; the odd big mountain competition and photo shoot but the snow kept falling in Fernie and the avalanche conditions were tightening up. I chose to stay around here, for the first time in my life I didn’t feel like competing. I just wanted to ski for myself, which was incredibly rewarding.
The tight-knit big mountain community in Fernie is something special. The days I shared with them this winter were better than any freeski competition. Being alone in the mountains with no one else around other than your small crew is a unique type of intensity, and not only are the lines untracked but your friends are the judges, who are nothing but stoked when you meet them at the bottom.
57. Curve Ball
Apr 23, 2018 11:00am
After skiing Richards I knew the only other line with good snow would be Curve Ball so I sought a partner and Luke was keen. So glad he came, I was nervous, he was confident. I dropped in first, jump turning all the way. Playing it safe. Snow was soft and carpet like, moved lots of sluff. I forgot how steep it gets before the cliff. I was able to get positioned to double out the bottom. It was technical but super fun. I’ve never seen that exit so filled in.
Not only was I able to ski more big lines than I ever have but also had some of the best inbounds ski days of my life. It is now May and I just waxed my skis, knowing there is more to come. I really can’t think of anything negative about this winter, so I am confident when I say this, that was the best season ever.
An article for powdercanada.com
Pat Belisle Photo
Attempt number 4 was the most successful cave attempt so far. We found my initials scratched into the wall from the last time I was in The Rektum many years ago.
Luke and I pushed through the first section and even made it out the skylight which allows snow to trickle into the cave, therefore making it skiable.
I am excited to have documented this mission. It’s been many years and multiple attempts trying to get in and out like this.
Thanks Luke for tagging along and for the support of Fernie Alpine Resort ski patrol.
The chutes skiers right of the cave are known as Poop Chute and Super Pooper. I kept the theme of the zone, naming this “The Rektum.”
Did you know that your winter seasons pass from last year comes with two free single ride tickets in the summer? Neither did I until just recently so I can up with a plan to maximize the two rides and had a wicked day on my bike, riding about 20km of singletrack from town to the resort and back.
I stepped out of my car in the Provincial Park and looked to the sky. I was thankful for the cloud coverage and the recent rain, the trails were going to be in great condition and the temperature was cool for once. I set up my speaker on my bike, stashed my keys and hit the trail starting out on the Bridge View Connector which led onto Sherwoody. I turned left onto Gorby then left again and climbed Old Goat to Megahertz seeing only one small group of people who commented on my music as I went past. Soon after Megahertz I entered Fernie Alpine Resorts terrain and was able to have a fun descent down Holo Bike to the Base Area where I collected my tickets.
The ride up the Elk Chair was a nice break, I ate a piece of apple pie that had gotten completely squished in my pack on the journey over which gave me energy for the next stint. From the top of the Elk I made my way up the Megasauras trail which takes you through Lizard Bowl across the ski runs we call The Fingers over into Curry Bowl.
The double track trail was obviously an animal highway because it was covered in bear scat. Using a stick I poked and prodded one of the fresh looking ones and yes, it was fresh. I started getting a bit nervous as I was by myself and did not have any bear spray. Shortly after I found another fresh pile and thought about turning around but this saying came to mind ‘a life lived in fear is a life half lived’ so I continued on. I also I moved my wood saw from my pack to my pocket thinking that if it came down to it at least I had something.
Once I made my way into the openness of Curry Bowl I felt safer and headed over to the top of Bike Thief. I switched my suspension to descend mode and rode down Bike Thief to Bin-Logdin which brought me back to the Base Area where I jumped back on the Elk Chair for my second free ride.
At the top I chatted with the lifties for a bit then headed back towards the Provincial Park, where I had just been warned about a recent cougar sighting. I made it back to my car in just under 3.5 hours with no animal sightings other than the odd squirrel that ruffled the bushes, scaring me at first then making me laugh as I rode away. It was an awesome ride, I love spending time in the woods alone, I find it adds a bit of extra excitement as well as the feeling of accomplishment once it’s over. Maybe next time though, I won’t leave my bear spray at home.
It was a regular Wednesday afternoon, Fiona and I were trying to decide what to do with our day off. We thought about going to the lake, we thought about biking but we had done that already a lot this summer and wanted to switch it up. I am not much of a hiker, unless I have my skis or my bike to carry me back down with but Fiona had just got new hiking boots and needed to break them in so we decided to go hike the Spineback Trail at Island Lake.
We started out late afternoon and made our way down to the lake then onto the trail that meandered through the old growth forest. The smells of the plants and of the earth brought me back to the days of the Gathering and we shared stories of our childhood and many other reaches of life as we climbed.
Soon we broke through the foliage of the forest and into the rock gardens below the Three Bears and watched the rodents scurry from the cover of boulder to boulder. Fiona led the way as we passed a few groups of people coming down and before we knew it we were at the first bench below the Bears.
We climbed along the narrow ridge which I assume is the ‘Spine’ then sat and had some snacks on the rocks. From there I pointed out some of the lines that you can ski using the ski hill as access, crossing four bowls and ending up below Island Lake’s cat skiing terrain.
After enjoying the alpine views we made our way back towards the lodge. We took a wrong turn and ended up on the Fir Trail which extended our hike by a short time and was a nice addition to our walk. The Fir trees there were beautiful and impressive and we even thought we could hear an owl off in the distance as we came into the meadow beside the lake.
After the hike we enjoyed a beer and dinner in the sun on the deck of the Bear Lodge then made our way back into town just in time for the Wednesday Social at the Art Station where we bumped into many friends including my parents.
I remember expressing how lucky I felt to see this as a normal day in Fernie. From spending time in the beautiful woods to having dinner at one of the best restaurants in town then meeting up with good people for free live music across the street from where I live. What a wonder place this is!
The Lizard Range is a special place. Not only does it create a micro-climate for the valley through a phenomenon called Orographic Lift but it gives life to the town, has what I like to believe as the best ski touring in the area and some of the best views, whether you are looking at it or from it.
The Lizard Range supports many types of life, from grizzly bears, to cougars, to hundreds of plants and insects. It’s run off feeds the Elk River from many small creeks, helping the fish and making the Elk such a world renowned fishing destination. Sometimes the only patch of snow we can see in August is on the Lizard Range, usually Cedar or Fish Bowl. It is no wonder Heiko placed the Ski Hill there. This brings us back to Orographic Lift.
Orographic Lift occurs when an air mass is forced from the plains of Kookanusa and rises as it hits the back of the Lizard Range. As the air mass gains altitude it quickly cools down. Clouds build up behind the mountains and finally when they spills over they unload precipitation, and at the right temperature, it falls in the form of snow.
The endless bowls with ridges and headwalls is why I think the Lizard Range is the has best ski touring. I have merely scratched the surface of what can be skied around here, and each year I try and go a little further. I poke my head around a corner, over the next ridge, which opens up another world of exploration. From mellow tree skiing, to big exposed spine lines, and even caves the Lizard Range really has it all.
Up Cedar Valley, the trees are some of the biggest trees in the area. Cedar and Larch trees prosper here and many that survived the Great Fernie Fire are so big it takes multiple arms lengths to reach around. These woods are where I encounter most animals and if I was an animal, I would hang out there too. Cedar Valley is also host to my favourite bike trails and being in those woods with the giants has a different feel than the rest of the woods that surround the town.
In a way, the Lizard Range has raised me, and is a large reason why I still live in Fernie. With skiing being my main passion, it is hard to find a place like it. My dad, Andrew Brown worked at the Ski Hill for 26 years, and since then has moved up the valley and still works on the range, now at Island Lake Lodge. It is no wonder the force of the Lizard Range is etched in me, as it was likely etched in him before he even met my mother.
It is a powerful place and we are blessed to have it as our backyard.
I have been lucky enough to stand on the top of the 3 Sisters three times. I say lucky because two of the three times was with the help of a helicopter. The heli would land us just below the summit then we would climb the last 500 metres of vertical on our own, which was a still a decent climb. Over the years Ascent has been pressured enough times not to bring people up there with a helicopter for many reasons, so this time my friend Alex Hanson and I took a stab at it without the help of flight, and the feeling of cresting the peak by our own means was incredible.
Alex and I have been filming together for the past few years, mostly in the winter and it seems every time we go out something stops us from achieving our goal – snow conditions, bad light or weather has turned us around many times. Being summer there are far less variables so we hoped to pull off a successful mission.
Our mission was to summit the middle Sister via Hiko’s Trail. Me with my bike and Alex with his camera gear. We were to spend the night on the peak capturing sunset, the stars and sunrise, then of course the incredible descend from the peak.
We left the truck at 3pm, and with the amount of gear we were packing we guessed it would take us seven hours to reach the top. We both had heavy packs loaded with food, water, camping gear, Alex’s two camera’s including a drone and my bike.
Fifteen minutes in to our hike, it began to rain. It came down hard and I watched the leaves surrounding us dance under the rain drops, something we have not seen in a while. I welcomed the rain, but Alex was worried about his gear getting wet so we hid under a tree until the small storm passed and once the rain stopped we continued on.
We took our time climbing the ladders through the steeps beside The Jumping Waters and continued passed the Bisaro Cave. We were making good time considering our load, then thunder clapped above us and we looked at each other and laughed. Because of the nature of our mission we had to pack accordingly. We didn’t have room for a tent, or an excessive amount of warm clothes. Rain on the peak would mean disaster but the single thunder clap wasn’t going to scare us off. We discussed it and neither of us were that bothered by the idea of having to turn around and walk back in the dark if we had to. Luckily, the higher we got the better the weather became. We pressed on through the tree line and up to The Pass.
It had only been four hours, we were ahead of schedule and figured it would take us about an hour to reach the peak. It is the hardest part though, the last stint. It is nothing but shale and I had to carry my bike on my shoulder almost the entire way. Our tired legs shook beneath us as we made the final steps up the last section of the hike. Placing my tires on the ground at the summit was one of the most rewarding ascents I’ve ever done. We made it in time for the sunset, and what a sunset it was.
We got the drone in the air and took some shots then set up our sleeping quarters. The only cover from the elements we had were the rock walls protecting us from the wind. After the sun set behind Mt. Fischer we waited for darkness. Equally as Fernie began to glow, so did the the stars and I have never seen stars like that. We could see the entire ring of the galaxy stretching from one side of the Earth to the other. Alex took some photos and set up a star-lapse that would run all night, then we went to bed.
I was more prepared for the cold then Alex, but even I was cold. Neither of us slept very well that night and as soon as the sun came up, we rose with it, seeking it’s warmth and admiring it’s beauty as it stretched it’s rays across the peaks all around us. I geared up for more shots and Alex flew the drone and did some more time-lapses capturing the amazing sunrise.
Now, it was time. I felt nervous. The ride down the from the peak is extreme to say the least and we were already on top. There was no warm up, just coast in and drop which I did twice to get two different angles with the drone. After the second shot I waited for Alex to climb down to me and even though now I was below the summit I felt even more on top of the world then I did on the peak. The rush I got from descending that section of trail and hearing how stoked Alex was on the shot had me firing on all cylinders. I was amped and still had 3000ft of vertical to ride.
Unfortunately the gimbal on the drone stopped working after the two shots we got off the top so we were not able to film the other shots we had planned, which fit in with the rest of our ‘failed’ missions, but this mission was not all a complete failure – it was a feat. We battled through harsh alpine conditions, got some wicked photos and some breathtaking footage.
Once back in town both Alex and I felt the strain of the mission, I dealt with an intense fever and Alex had huge blisters on each foot, but we both agreed it was worth it and something we would do again, something we had to do again. For we have unfinished business in those hills.
A few weeks ago my good friend Levi and I planned a short canoe trip down the elk river. I couldn’t find my waterproof speaker so therein lied a difficult decision. Do we bring his speaker? It was a lot more expensive than mine and not waterproof. He asked if we would flip and I said that it’s one of those things, like crashing your bike, you never plan on it but it can happen at anytime. So I left the decision up to him. We are both DJ’s and music is engrained in us, so he decided it was worth the risk to have music on the float.
We put the boat in the water at the Hosmer bridge and the first bit of rapids were the biggest of the whole trip. We narrowly avoided the biggest part, took on water and almost flipped right then and there, but we held on and made it through.
It’s amazing how much the river changes after every winter. Often at each corner there are two options you can take, and we only chose wrong once, and almost got wrecked. The way we went the river took a 90 degree corner and there was a log sticking out over the river. We couldn’t cut the corner short and got sent into the bank. Luckily there was a stump that I was able to grab onto and stop our momentum, otherwise we would have gotten squashed under the log between the canoe. While holding onto the stump we turned the front end of the canoe then I let go and we laughed as we went by the log.
“That was a close one!” We said at the same time.
On another corner we hit the bottom with the front of the canoe and ended up backwards, we did a full 360 and came out of the corner facing forwards but after that and a few more rapid sections we got the East Fernie bridge and the rest of the way was was fairly calm. A lot of the time we wouldn’t paddle, we would just sit and enjoy the views and of course, the music.
The best move of the day was our exit. We nailed it! Came in perfectly, spun around and hit the shore, almost like we meant to. Levi then looked at me and said,
“Should we go on a bike ride now?” Levi just got a mountain bike and is keener than anyone to ride it, so we dumped the canoe and traded to our bikes.
Most trails are new to Levi, and riding a trail with someone that has never ridden it is like watching a movie you have seen already with someone that hasn’t seen it. It makes it almost as exciting as your first time. I was excited to show Levi a trail I had secretly built on the ski hill after I stopped working there.
Myself and a few friends that also worked on trail crew would go up to the resort after they had closed for the night and work until it got dark. We had a decent amount of the trail started then we neglected to finish it. About a year later, someone from the ski hill contacted me, asking if I new anything about a trail in the tree island beside Siberia Ridge. We had abandoned it so the trail and who built it was not a secret anymore. I was excited though, to hear that the trail crew wanted to connect it to an existing trail and add it to the map. All I asked was that they call it what we were calling it, and we called it ‘Neverland.’
When Levi and I got to the top we were exhausted. It had been a long day in the sun but riding Neverland was going to be the perfect way to end it. And when we got the bottom, we sat and observed one of the best sunsets I have seen in a while.
Note: Building trails without permission is prohibited.