Cosmic Ray Road (Sulphur Mountain Road)

On 4 February 2017, Zosia Zgolak and I skied up Cosmic Ray Road (Sulphur Mountain Road) in Alberta's Banff National Park as described in Chic Scott's Ski Trails In The Canadian Rockies.  Years ago, I had tried to go up this road with light touring gear, but issues with wax, conditioning and motivation derailed that attempt.  This time, I returned with Zosia on AT gear because we anticipated a challenging downhill run at the end of the day.  Starting from the Cave and Basin near Banff town site, we toiled along the flats of the groomed trail to Sundance Canyon for a couple of kilometres before turning up the Cosmic Ray Road at a signed junction.  Other than the odd log or bushy section, we encountered few difficulties skinning up the road, and admittedly, the ascent felt mundane at times especially since views were limited by cloudy skies.  We had the road all to ourselves on this day and had to break trail through a few centimetres of fresh powder, but that also meant that we would enjoy a much easier downhill ski later on our return.  When we reached the tourist boardwalk on the ridge top, we removed our skins and ditched our skis before walking up to the cosmic ray station at the top of Sanson Peak.  We then visited the newly renovated upper gondola terminal where we explored the interpretive centre and took an extended break at the cafeteria.  Once we were sufficiently warmed up and rested, we ventured back outside to where we left our skis and began our descent.  As expected with the fresh powder, the ski down was generally easy, and in retrospect, I would not have felt uncomfortable descending with light touring gear.  Back on the flats of Sundance Canyon trail, we left our skins off and managed to shuffle back to the Cave and Basin without too much trouble.
Maybe we should have brought light touring skis... Zosia skis along the trail to Sundance Canyon.
That Mount Edith looks pretty sexy from this angle! Mount Cory (left) and Mount Edith are barely visible to the west at a break in the trees along the road.
Given the "Considerable" avalanche rating for the weekend, there was surprisingly no one else skiing here today. The road rises quite gently for much of its length.
Count trees to pass the time?

Zosia grinds her way up the road.

C'mon sunshine! Zosia approaches the first of two switchbacks near the top.
This should be fun to ski down! Zosia makes short work of one of the steeper sections of road.
I'm coming! Sonny slowly follows in Zosia's tracks not far from the top of the road.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Where are all the tourists??

Sonny boot-packs up the boardwalk with the upper gondola terminal visible behind him.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Watch for falling protons! Zosia approaches the historic cosmic ray station atop Sanson Peak.
Not a great day for views. Zosia and Sonny lean against the railing atop Sanson Peak (2313 metres).

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

I should maybe visit the true summit of Sulphur Mountain one of these days... Southeast of Sanson Peak, the main mass of Sulphur Mountain is visible beyond the upper gondola terminal.
Nice and shiny! Zosia visits the newly renovated upper gondola terminal (2266 metres).
How about a sheet bend, Zosia?

Zosia practices tying knots in the interpretive centre.

I remember a time when the boardwalks didn't exist... Here is a look back at Sanson Peak from the upper gondola terminal's cafeteria.
For more of a challenge, go left here! Zosia begins her descent.
I think Zosia is ready for the next winter Olympics! Some of the road is sufficiently overgrown to provide some opportunity for slaloming.

Zosia skis under a fallen tree.

Speed demon! Zosia whips around one of the switchbacks near the bottom.
It took us about 48 minutes to ski down here.

Zosia arrives back at the junction with the trail to Sundance Canyon.

It's a shame we can't go for a soak in the pools here. Zosia arrives back at Cave and Basin historic site.
A good workout but not as nice a ski as I would have hoped. Total Distance:  19.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  6 hours 40 minutes
Total Elevation Gain:  1030 metres

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