Syncline Bowl
Wrapping up the long weekend, Zosia Zgolak and I paid a visit to a popular backcountry ski area near Syncline Mountain in Alberta's Castle Provincial Park on 15 February 2021.  Starting from a pullout on the west side of Highway 774 (15.6 kilometres west of the park boundary), we followed some established tracks and skied up Syncline Brook valley for about 1.7 kilometres before turning right up an obvious drainage.  The tracks we were following continued up the drainage and into a canyon--an obvious avalanche terrain trap.  With the avalanche hazard rated as moderate on this day, we did not notice any instabilities in the snow pack and were confident enough to continue up the canyon.  Beyond the canyon, the drainage widens again and rises steeply below the second peak of Syncline Mountain.  At this point, we followed skin tracks which climbed out of the drainage and up a very steep embankment.  The initial part was a pretty tough grind, but once we got higher, the angle of the ascent became more reasonable.  We subsequently ascended a bowl which is prime avalanche terrain, but as already mentioned, we did not notice any instabilities and felt pretty safe here.  With no intentions of climbing a summit or ridge top, we decided to turn around after reaching an elevation of 1838 metres.  After stripping off our climbing skins and having a quick snack, we reaped the fruits of our labour by skiing back down the bowl.  The snow was excellent on this day, and although I was enjoying the powder skiing, I felt really out of shape and needed to stop often to catch my breath.  The hardest skiing of the day was getting down the steep embankment just above the drainage.  Zosia was maybe a little more cautious than me, but we both managed to ski down this difficult section without a spill.  From there, we had no serious problems skiing through the canyon and the lower part of the drainage, and the remaining ski out Syncline Brook valley was quick and uneventful.
It's nice that it isn't -25 C for a change!

Zosia enters Syncline Brook valley with Syncline Mountain in the background.

Get ready to climb!

Zosia follows ski tracks up this drainage.

Not recommended if avalanche hazard is high. Sonny follows the ski tracks into a canyon which is a terrain trap, but snow conditions are stable on this day.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Very steep! Zosia leaves the drainage here and begins climbing a steep embankment.
Who the hell thought it was a good idea to skin up this way?? Zosia has to make numerous kick-turns to grind up this slope.
Actually, the snow felt great for skiing here. Zosia continues to follow the skin track up this bowl which has the potential to slide.  Fortunately, the avalanche hazard is rated moderate on this day, and the snow is not reactive.
Okay, enough hard work. Let's ski! Zosia is content to have climbed this high and is ready to descend.
Best skiing of the year so far for me! Sonny enjoys some nice powder skiing back down the bowl.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Rip it, Zosia! Zosia looks for a good line to ski.
Good slalom practice! Zosia tries to avoid some trees and bushes on the way down.
I don't think Zosia is even looking at the surrounding scenery at the moment!

Gravenstafel Ridge is visible at upper right as Zosia continues descending the slope.

Not quite the Aemmer Couloir, but it sure feels like it for us!

This is the steepest part of the descent.

Just go for it! Zosia carefully descends the steep embankment.
Oh yeah!

Sonny cruises out of the canyon.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Easy street. Zosia skis stress-free on the lower part of the drainage.
No summit today, but the skiing was fantastic. Total Distance:  7.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  3 hours 37 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  440 metres

GPX Data