Touring up the Stanley Peak Fire Break

A fellow Bishop's University grad, Brett Gilmour, and I had been chatting the past few months and wanted to do some backcountry ski touring. Saturday, January 17 was the first time I had skied with Brett, and he and his buddy, Patrick thought the Fire Break next to Stanley Peak in Kootenay National Park would be a good choice, having done it last May.

The forecast called for a blue bird sky day and we thought it would was going to be a sunny clear day. Traveling from Calgary, it appeared that was going to be the case as there wasn't a cloud in the sky as we passed through Canmore and Banff. However, after we headed South on Highway 93/95 at Castle Junction and crossed the border at the Continental Divide, the sky changed quickly and one thick clouds after another started to come up the highway.

The weather was around -8C and we weren't that deterred with the visibility knowing the avalanche was low below the tree line. The snow was also really dry and soft, so we thought we were in for a great day.

Stanley Peak Fallen Trees (Credit: Andrew D. Forbes)We toured from the parking lot and up through the clouds and past the shrubs looking for a good line to go down. We even passed a couple of flying squirrels, which was pretty neat. However, as we got higher we soon realized that all the fallen down trees that had cleared the forest were basically propping up the snow and there was 18" of fluffy snow on top of the trees. We would take a big step and a whole pile of snow just fell through the logs below us. As you can imagine, this created a big safety issue as we feared if the tips of our skis were to get caught under a tree below, we would risk serious injury.

As a result, we had 1 cautious run down and returned to the parking lot.

The snow had great texture, light and fluffy, but without a solid base, it wasn't worth the risk of injury to continue.

For a quick reference on what it looks like in the summer, Hiking with Barry has a good write-up on hiking in this area.

Stanley Peak Tough Skiing (Credit: Andrew D. Forbes)