Twin Cairns
Through my work, I was privileged to be granted a day of skiing (including free lift ticket and bus transportation) with a large group at Sunshine Village in Alberta's Banff National Park on 26 March 2015.  Rather than cruising the mundane groomed runs of the ski resort, I decided to attempt a ski ascent of Twin Cairns, a modest ridge just beyond the ski area boundary at the top of Wawa chairlift.  This was the perfect opportunity to try out a new pair of AT ski boots that I had recently purchased.  Taking advantage of my free lift ticket, I saved myself over 650 metres of uphill skinning by riding the gondola and Wawa chairlift.  If only all ski ascents were this easy!

Venturing beyond the ski area boundary, I skied over a low rise before gradually ascending the broad northeast slope of Twin Cairns.  This slope is steep enough to be potentially dangerous, but given that the avalanche rating for the alpine zone was "moderate" on this day, I took a calculated risk and opted to ascend here.  The fact that the snow pack appeared to be settled (ie. no "whumping" whatsoever) helped to alleviate some of my concerns about the slope.  I eventually reached a point where the slope was too steep for me to skin efficiently, and I simply ditched my skis and continued up on foot.  I figured that it was not worth the effort to drag my skis up the short distance I had left to the summit ridge where the skiing was likely to be marginal anyway.  I post-holed through shin-deep powder for much of the remainder of the ascent although the summit ridge was rocky enough in places to make me not regret my decision to leave my skis behind.  Visibility was unfortunately limited at the summit, and I found little reason to linger despite fairly mild weather conditions.  I retraced my steps back along the summit ridge and down the northeast slope back to where I had left my skis.  My ski back to the top of Wawa chair was not the most graceful, but it was quick.

Had the weather been clearer, I might have been motivated to continue up some other nearby ridges.  Instead, I simply skied back to the village for a nice lunch with some of my skiing cohorts.  My new AT ski boots performed admirably (ie. no blisters) although one of them felt a bit tight.  A return trip to the boot-fitter (Lou's Performance Centre)  where I bought the boots should hopefully remedy this minor issue. it really worth it today? Twin Cairns is visible across open meadows beyond the ski area boundary.  The summit is actually shrouded in clouds to the far left.
Not sure why someone built such a large cairn here! This is presumably one of the Twin Cairns.  This, however, is not the summit.
Even the tamest ridges look a bit daunting when covered with snow! The summit of Twin Cairns is barely visible in the distance.
This is as good as it gets for summit views on this day. Hope you like orange! Sonny stands on the 2544-metre summit of Twin Cairns.
I wanna come back and ski Wawa Ridge! Sonny's tracks are barely discernible in the flat light.  In the distance is Wawa Ridge.
Not really skiable terrain! Sonny climbs back up a rocky section along the ridge.
I hear a chicken burger and onion rings calling my name... Sonny heads back to the ski area.
Short enough that I may consider going back on a clearer day. Total Distance:  3.5 kilometres*
Round-Trip Time:  2 hours 51 minutes*
Net Elevation Gain:  213 metres*

GPX Data

* All statistics start and end at the ski area boundary near the top of the Wawa chairlift.

I would return for a repeat ski ascent in 2018.