Our ski club held it’s annual Marmot in March trip last week and Bob, Al and I made the 3.5 hour drive to Jasper. The forecast for Sunday was iffy, so I was anticipating snow-covered roads and a slow trip, but the snow didn’t materialize and the trip out was pleasant and uneventful. I like the drive to Jasper but not when the roads are crappy. If only the snow would just fall on the hill and not the roads! Unlike our trip to Marmot in January, where we spent a lot of time avoiding rocks, bare patches and gravel floating up through the barely sufficient snowpack, this time the hill had piles of new snow. The base, 135 cm, was close to double what they had in January and it is certainly the amount they need to make skiing enjoyable. This time there was nary a rock or bare patch to be found, on the runs that I ski anyway.
Tuesday was the highlight of the trip – just a spectacular bluebird day, the kind of day where you just don’t want it to end. We didn’t even go in for an afternoon coffee, as we usually do when it is colder. The ski patrollers were busy that day too, setting off numerous charges for avalanche control, wiping out part of the Knob Traverse run at one point. They had to bring up a groomer to re-open the trail after that slide. Of course, that was the day that I forgot my GPS watch back in my room, so I have no idea how many kilometres I skied or the vertical, but my legs were telling me that it was significant. The hot tub sure felt good afterwards!
There was another ominous weather forecast for Thursday, our departure day. A system was moving in and supposed to pound Edmonton especially, but we skied until 3 p.m. anyway. It was snowing heavily in Jasper when we left for Marmot, about a 20-minute drive up the mountain. But the higher up we drove, the lighter the snow got, until we broke through the clouds at the base of the lifts. We skied in the sunshine most of the day, watching the clouds move farther down the valley and giving us a false sense of security for the upcoming drive home.
After a quick change out of our ski clothes at the Wapiti campground washroom (LOVE those heated floors!), we were on the road by 3:30 p.m. The first half hour was sunny and the road was dry, then, within a kilometre, the snow gods decided to pummel us with huge snowflakes and whipping winds. Just like that, the visibility dropped to a hundred feet and the road quickly disappeared. I was just following the ruts in front of me for a while, hoping for a glimpse of the centre line every now and then. Thankfully, the squall only lasted for 30 km or so, then it cleared up as quickly as it hit. We were listening to my “Drive” playlist on my iPod and didn’t have the radio on, so were unawares of the conditions coming up. All was well until around 50 km west of Edmonton, when Highway 16 turned into a 1 lane icy track. The snowfall had stopped but the havoc was left behind. Back following ruts again! At least the traffic was light and most drivers were acting sensibly, averting anything like the 100-car pile up on Highway 2, just south of Edmonton, that occurred earlier in the day. I only saw a dozen or so vehicles in the ditch, which was surprising considering the conditions.
All things considered, it was a great 4 days of skiing, although I was dog tired after getting home. The coupe-de-grace was then having to shovel the 25-cm of snow off the driveway! I slept soundly that night.