Powderface Northeast Ridge
On 12 March 2023, Zosia Zgolak and I skied
up an unnamed knob northeast of the main spine of Powderface Ridge in
Alberta's Kananaskis Country Public Land Use Zone. Bob Spirko had
hiked over this same knob in
2016 and refers to it as "the east ridge", but because "Powderface
East Ridge" has already been attributed by
OpenStreetMap to another
feature further to the south, I have, for the sake of clarity, named the
knob "Powderface Northeast Ridge". While Spirko ascended this ridge
using an approach along Powderface Creek, we would opt for a more
skier-friendly approach via a cut block to the southeast.
Starting from the winter gate near Elbow Falls, Zosia and I skied along
the continuation of Highway 66 for 3.5 kilometres to the start of a
logging corridor which we had hiked the previous
By some stroke of luck, there was already an old ski track running up the
corridor, and we easily followed this for about 1.5 kilometres to the
east end of a vast cut block. We continued to follow the old ski
track through the cut block until we reached the edge of the forest at
the west end. Here, the old ski track turned uphill toward the top
of the cut block to the south, but our objective was to the northwest
across a forested drainage. Abandoning the old ski track, we
entered the forest and muddled our way down into the drainage which is
actually split at this point making the crossing a bit more complicated.
Zosia did a great job of breaking trail and route-finding through the
various deadfall choking the split drainages, and we eventually found
ourselves at the bottom of a gully which is the funnel point for a big
open slope on the south side of Powderface Northeast Ridge. From
here, we zigzagged our way up to the ridge crest and the top of the knob.
This was the steepest and most strenuous climb of the day, and with the
warm sun baking the south face of the ridge, we had a lot of problems
with wet snow clumping to the bottoms of our skis. Snow coverage on
the high point was rather thin on this day, but we still managed to ski
right to the very top where we stopped for a well-deserved break.
For our descent, Zosia and I kept our climbing skins on and stepped
gingerly down from the rocky high point. We then traversed westward
until we reached the top of the aforementioned big open slope.
After removing our skins, we skied down this slope and predictably ended
up at the bottom of the gully we reached after crossing the drainage.
Instead of retracing our tracks though, we continued down the drainage
weaving between trees and deadfall before eventually emerging from the
forest along the north edge of the cut block. This saved us from
having to reattach our climbing skins, and in retrospect, this would be a
more efficient approach route despite the bushiness of the drainage.
We subsequently ran into a couple of skiers (and their out-of-breath
dog!) who had climbed to the top of the cut block and were on their way
out. We followed in their tracks which took us back across the cut
block to the logging corridor with relative ease. Zooming down the
logging corridor required us to be vigilant for the odd "shark" sticking
out of the snow, but overall, the descent to the highway was quite
enjoyable. In contrast, the return along the highway to the winter
gate felt long and mundane even with the benefit of some downhill
Here is a closer look at Powderface Northeast Ridge (right) as Zosia
makes her way across the cut block. The main spine of Powderface
Ridge is also visible at left.
Sonny and Zosia stand on the high point of Powderface Northeast Ridge