Golden, BC (January 2, 2010) – Temperature inversions are an interesting phenomenon. In some cases, it can mean the peaks are hammered with spring-like conditions while the lower mountain provides nothing but freezing groomers in shadowy cold. But in other cases it can mean the skiing only gets better as you work your way to the valley floor. Such was the case on a recent holiday trip to Golden, BC, and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (KHMR).
Private gondola on the holidays? Not bad…
Arriving in Golden on Christmas eve, conditions looked iffy to say the least—no snow in a week. But a warm-up lap in an inbounds stash—requiring a sketchy downclimb through rotted-out trees and exposed rock—served up fresh turns in a skinny, dog-legged chute. So, turkey sandwiches stashed in our bags for Boxing Day, we made for the aptly-named Christmas chute, and weren’t disappointed.
Halsey Wyndham dropping into the Christmas Chute.
The Christmas Chute is hidden amongst the crags a 15-minute hike out the North boundary of KHMR, an easy walk under the warming sun the morning of the 26th. If it weren’t for my local accomplices, Dave Tokaruk and Halsey Wyndham, I never would have found it. Sitting below a navigable hanging cornice, a hanging pocket funnels into a twisting, high-walled notch no more than 15 feet wide, and winds around a thousand vertical feet and past a few sizeable rocks, before emptying into a wide fan and a traverse line back to the lower reaches of the resort below. And the temperature inversion came through for us in this case—a mellow hike in the sun led to increasingly good snow through the gut of the line, ending in blower turns down low.
Halsey Wyndham finds some fresh above the Christmas Chute.
With the Christmas Chute under our belts, we headed out the other side of the resort to the peak of T2. A sketchy traverse through melting slop lead to an equally sketchy climb up through tight, rocky crags, making sure to stay close to the ridge with overhanging cornices to the left and finally depositing us on a broad ridge above an immense slide path for 3,500 feet. A few cautious turns to safety and the snow cooled once again. Knee deep sugar, untouched through long, sustained gullies edge just got better and better as we worked towards the lower mountain, slashing high banks and popping scraggly alders into the deep freeze of the valley.
Halsey Wyndham, looking back on a big line.
Indeed, the inversion was almost a blessing on Boxing Day—light lift lines, little backcountry traffic, and turns that just got better to the bottom. There’s a reason I keep coming back to the area, and it has something to do with sustained, big lines that provide a true alpine experience and epic lines for days after a storm.
The hike out to T2. Balmy? Exposed?
Thanks to Jordan Petrovics and KHMR—the holiday gift of the Christmas Chute and T2 was far more than anyone could have ever fit in my stocking.