On 22 December 2018, Mike Lisenko, Zosia Zgolak and I headed up the
Icefields Parkway in Alberta's Banff National Park to kick off a weekend
of easy backcountry skiing. With avalanche danger rated as
"Considerable" in the park for the weekend, we took up a suggestion from
our friend, Wendy Kadar, to ski in more conservative terrain at Bow
Summit, a popular backcountry skier's playground near Peyto Lake.
From the plowed parking lot (located along Highway 93, 44 kilometres
north of the junction with Trans-Canada Highway), we followed a broken
path through the snow-covered road leading to Peyto Lake viewpoint.
Near the turnoff to the viewpoint, we headed south and climbed gradually
until we reached the bottom of a steep slope near tree line. A
couple of skiers were already here evaluating the slope, and after some
discussions, we all agreed that the slope appeared safe enough to ski.
Zigzagging up the slope, Mike and one of the other skiers did a
commendable job of breaking trail for the rest of us, and when we all
reached a small plateau, we removed our skins and enjoyed a short but
exhilarating run back down.
||Zosia and Mike ski up the snow-covered
road which leads to Peyto Lake viewpoint.
|| Mount Patterson gleams in the
||The trees begin to thin out as Mike
and Zosia turn southward.
||Mike and Zosia catch up to a couple
other skiers at the base of an enticing slope.
||Zosia follows Mike and the other two
skiers up the slope.
||Zosia cuts up a switchback in the
||Mike (right) is ready to ski down the
slope. Note the skiers at the bottom of the slope.
Notable peaks visible to the southeast include
Mount Hector and Bow
While the other two skiers re-ascended the
same slope for a second run, Mike, Zosia and I opted to follow the tracks
of another party of skiers that had arrived shortly after us. They
had decided to forego our slope and climb another ridge further to the
south. We followed their tracks for a short distance but found that
they had turned around soon after to ski down some slopes to the east.
We climbed a little higher up the ridge until we could get a view of Bow
Lake to the southeast. The terrain further south of here is complex
and more prone to avalanches, and we decided to remove our skins here and
ski back the way we came.
||Zosia carves a turn near the bottom of
||Mike and Zosia continue climbing
further south and would eventually reach the bottom of the ridge the
sun is peeking over.
||Mike and Zosia pause for a breather on
a sunny ridge with
Peak in the background.
Mike and Zosia climb further up the ridge below some impressive cliffs.
When Mike, Zosia and I returned to the base of the first slope
we skied, we ran into our friends, Andrea Battistel and Peter Alvarado
Henostroza. They decided to ski a few laps of the same slope, and
Mike and I joined them for one or two runs while Zosia tried to stay warm
by exploring some nearby terrain. After sharing a few turns and a
few laughs with Andrea and Peter, we parted ways, and Mike, Zosia and I
resumed our descent back to the parking lot.
||Bow Lake finally comes into view from
the highest point reached by the group.
On the way back to the parking lot, Mike, Zosia and I made a
brief detour to the Peyto Lake viewpoint which is popular with tourists
even in winter. From there, we took the narrower hikers' trail back
to the parking lot for some variety and even a few spills.
Andrea gets a few turns in on the slope that Mike, Sonny and Zosia
Peter ends up in a rather awkward position after one of his runs.
Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak
packing up our gear, we drove north along the Icefields Parkway into
Jasper National Park to spend the night at Beauty Creek Hostel.
When we arrived at the deserted rustic hostel, we had a lot of trouble
getting the propane-powered heaters to fire up. Admittedly, there
was a bit of a gong show with respect to figuring out which of the
plethora of gas valves to open, but when we eventually did get the
heaters going, the place warmed up nicely. Although we were under
the impression that the hostel was fully booked for the night,
surprisingly no one else showed up, and we had the entire place all to
||Mike and Zosia enjoy some sunshine
again at Peyto Lake viewpoint.
dominates the view across Peyto Lake.
||Mike warms up a dinner placemat to sit on at Beauty Creek Hostel.