Archive for March, 2012

Spring Snow – Red Heather Meadows

This is late March, and in Vancouver, spring is in bloom; but in the mountains north of Vancouver the snow is still arriving in surprising quantities. Here is the promise of an outstanding spring season of skiing. As I write, it is raining here on Bowen Island. This afternoon the temperature rose to 9º so the precipitation arriving at the treeline is probably just turning to rain. Higher, it is new snow. BTW, these images are thumbs, so please click to see the full image.

Car - with chains - parked above 'Scary Hill'Last Saturday the sky was clear, and the weather was just below freezing. We were heading for Red Heather Meadows, and drove up the 16 km mountain road out of Squamish BC. Just after we installed chains on all 4 corners of the car, someone from the Garibaldi Provincial Park staff, driving down, told us the Diamond Head parking lot was full, and to park at the pull-out just above Scary Hill. It was good advice. The icy road bed was hard, and clean, so we could ski from the car to the trailhead.  This is the first use of those chains since I bought them (story about the new chains). We would not have made it up this icy roads without chains.

Diamond Head Parking Lot at the south end of Garibaldi Provincial ParkYes, the parking lot was full, and many people had parked along the road leading into the lot. Fortunately, this trail leads to such an enormous backcountry that, even with all those people, we never felt crowded.

Later in the season we may be carrying our skis to find snow higher up. On this day we were thrilled to find so much excellent snow.

Skiing up the trail towards Red Heather MeadowsAfter skiing up for the first couple of kilometers, the snow was much deeper and the old-growth high-altitude forest was quiet and powerful. I love traveling in this place.

It was just cold enough so that the new snow was real powder.

At the bottom of the glades called Red Heather Meadows,Snow covered Red Heather Hut there is a warming hut. Since people arriving here have been skiing, snowshoeing, or walking for 4-1/2 km from  the parking lot, most find this an excellent place to stop. Inside there is a wood stove and some gas hot plates for cooking and picnic tables. Although it is not for overnight visitors, some people, and school groups, use it as a base and camp in the adjacent meadows. This day, no one was inside. The hut was almost buried in snow.

View of the Tantalus Range, and 8540 ft Mt. Tantalus from Red Heather Meadows / Round MountainWe continued up to a snowy dome to ski. Within moments another group followed us up to the same spot. Fortunately, there was enough fresh snow for everyone.

The view to the west is of the Tantalus Range across the Squamish River valley.

Good day, eh?Ski Tracks above Red Heather Meadows

Edited to add: if you want to know exactly where we were, here is the location of the trail and the Red Heather Hut on Google Maps. Click >>


The Spring Snowpack Will Be Awesome – 2012

Yesterday a couple of us drove up to ski the the glades in the old growth forest above the local commercial ski area.

With the car problems, it has been a month since I’ve been on snow. In this interval it seems that there has been a huge amount of precipitation — and up there it is all new snow. I’d say that the snowpack has more than doubled in depth.

There was several inches of fresh powder over a crust (I’d hardly call it a base – I could poke my pole through it). The trees were blasted with ice and pillowed with snow.  Although the sun was often shining it was through a slivery mist. The place was magical, and I had the joy of sharing with someone who was experiencing that place for the first time.

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