May
3
2017
Français

Spring skiing

DCIM100GOPROG0270783.JPG C:DCIM100GOPROGOPR0140.GPRThe season is not over yet, for me it looks like it is the best time of the year, with endless daylight and still reasonable temperatures, not too cold but not too warm. Stability is better than all winter long if you avoid being too late on the slopes. With a hard snowpack, it is easy to travel long distances with minimum energy. The last days, the sky was not blue bird, but the weather was not too bad with good windows of a nice and sunny sky. It is still easy to find very good corn snow or even cold, noncohesive snow… almost powder a bit higher on north faces. White Pass or Haines Pass still offer some good possibilities and you can still ski right from and to the parking lot. Haines Pass was almost dead last weekend, we did not see anybody there. In town, people are too busy getting their summer toys ready, they do not think about winter anymore.  Snow stability was good but you will notice a lot of rocks, fallen from the cliffs and ridges. Yes, the earthquake did leave some tracks, especially on Haines Pass, it seems like the epicenter was very close to Kelsall Lake and Datlasaka. In the news, they said it has released a lot of avalanches, we did not notice that, but it was obvious that a lot of rocks came down that morning. We were sleeping close to Haines Pass when the ground shook…and it was quite an experience.  Specialists said it was recorded between 6.2 and 6.5… and yes it woke us up quickly at 05.30, the cabin shook violently and the noise was terrible. The heavy woodstove was moved, the stove pipe was disconnected and all the shelves were unloaded. Then for 30 minutes, it was shaking again every minute with still a very loud noise. It calmed down a bit for a while but anther violent shake put us outside again….very scary experience, for us it was the most impressive earthquake we ever felt… After a few coffee, we were on our way to king Throne for a last day skiing.

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A nice morning at the end of West Nadahini Glacier, still some very good snow, one of us felt very tired ….

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We were the only ones in the area, so we had a lot of options to make some nice turns.

It is also the good time of the year to stay a little bit lower to do some real Yukon Skiing in the couloirs.

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Dalton Peak area has dozens of those couloirs, large, narrow, steep, straight…it has everything.

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Another nice day on King Throne, Kathleen lake is still well frozen, offering an easy and quick access.

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Thank you to ZAG for this new pair of Ubac 105, the new 2018 model which will replace the Ubac XL. I tested these in various conditions…sure I will keep them. Very trustable companions, they will not disappoint you. Easy to forget when skinning up because of the light weight, but so responsive when charging down, and what a grip on steep slopes and hard snow.

Cheers…..and happy skiing.

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Mar
25
2017
Français

Haines

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You do not need a special occasion to go to Haines Alaska, if you like unusual lifestyle, something wild, Haines is the place. But, it is powder time and the Freeride World Tour stopped in Haines for a week, another good reason to go and meet friends and pro-riders. It was very inspiring for the kids and it gave them some motivation to try new things. The weather was great…nice snow dump on the evening, then a bit warmer.  For snow conditions, quality was good to very good, but stability was not that great, still a bit of concern about the surface hoar layer we had 3 weeks ago, deeper, the snow pack seems to be more consolidated.

When the weather was not that great, we went into the trees where we found very nice snow and a lot of fun for the girls.

froid-2805Nice evening in Haines

froid-2792Traveling into the nice coastal forest…the perfect magical forest for the kids.

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froid-2798The girls had a lot of fun in the nice light snow.froid-2799

froid-2786 They had fun skiing in the powder and having fun in the little pillow line.froid-2785

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froid-2796 Heidi really love her skis. so nice for kids to have some real freeride skis, as light as touring skis…….

And of course, for the aprés-ski, a quick stop at the 33 mile Road House for a drink and nice bunnies and.

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Mar
1
2017
Français

A bit of fresh snow but the snowpack is changing

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A good day skiing at White Pass today, but be cautious, there are some significant changes in the snowpack.

The weather was not great but not completely bad. We stopped at Log Cabin SE face (Halcyon) because of the good visibility and the minimal exposure to the cold N wind, we even got a bit of sun. temp was -14c without the wind.
The area received a bit of fresh snow during the last hours but also a noticeable cold north wind. Below the treeline, in sheltered area, there was between 10 to 20cm of fresh snow on a hard snow base.
As you climb up, the snow is getting  denser and affected by the wind, with obvious windslab formation.  Quick tests showed a very sensitive upper snowpack with a very reactive layer (in some places it was about surface hoar)
We have noticed a lot of signs of instability with fairly important to important propagation. Route finding was the key of a safe trip.
We remotely triggered a few slabs (size 1).
Skiing was good to very good in the fresh snow but the key was to be able to find a safe route.
On the way down I tested a slope I suspected to be nicely loaded, I got a nice result with a good size 2 wich remotely triggered a few size one as well.
So, if you plan to get out the next days, be aware of these tricky surface hoar layer with windslabs on top of it…just a perfect cocktail.
When we left the north wind was blowing harder with a bit more snow transport.
Have fun and ski safe.
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A little slab remotely triggered from the bottom of the lip.
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And a  nice result after a good ski cut test.
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A good size 2
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Feb
21
2017
Français

Haines Pass ski conditions

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I have skied on different locations on the Canadian side of the Pass the last 3 days, weather was great.
Ski conditions are not too bad, even good to very good in some places, not very deep powder but cold non-cohesive and soft snow.
General stability improved greatly.  Snowpack still a bit wind affected ( kind of usual February conditions), a bit of small sastrugis on some places but now mostly filled by last small precipitations.
Snowpack depth is highly variable from 0 on some ridges to up to 2.5m.
The base layer of depth hoar, as well as a layer of facets found in some places buried between 70cm and 100cm  seem to be well isolated from the surface now with mostly consolidated snowpack on top of it and one or two melt-freeze snow.there is around o to 15cm of fresh snow deposited by the wind providing good to very good ski conditions.
Not any sign of recent avalanche activity, snowpack is not reactive to tests but I was aware of N and NE slopes at higher elevation where the snowpack is a bit less consolidated than other aspects.
This morning it was a bit colder than the previous day and surface hoar are developing on every aspect, in some places we can see up to 4cm of hoar on top of the snowpack, something to be aware of is we do not have strong wind before the next snow fall.
Those days, I think the road conditions are way worst than the snow conditions, be aware of pure ice on the road.

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My companions of the day…and a lot of untracked snow.froid-2644
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Surface hoar is developing on every aspects and elevation.
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Feb
2
2017
Français

Zamboni Couloir

Since a few days, conditions are not too bad at White Pass, the last snow storm brought a lot of wind of course, but also some good fresh snow, it is up to us to find it.

So far it is a regular winter with regular amount of snow and pretty usual conditions for this time of the year.Of course, the snow pack is a bit bit wind affected in some places, mostly South and Southeast slopes.
in North and Northeast aspects, it remains some uncertainty about the stability of the snowpack, especially on some wide open slopes higher than 30 degrees because they have been well loaded.

But the sun is back, the wind slowed down a bit , so it is great t o be out, even if the temperatures are still winter temperatures.
We had a great day yesterday looking for good safe slopes and of course good snow. We were not disappointed.
When we started at 0945, the temperature was -24c at White Pass, the sky was mostly clear with just a high ceiling making the light very nice. higher the temperature was a bit warmer.
I wanted to ski a bit of steep slopes but also some good snow too. At this time of the year, South slopes are not a great location to find some deep powder, but when I have some doubts about the snow stability, South steep couloirs are often a good option.
And yes, snowpack was pretty solid, a bit of windslabs but well bonded to the cold and a bit wind affected underneath layer. The ski quality was fair to very good.
In one short section of the couloir, the snow was a bit hard but with a good grip, then it was between 10 to 30 cm of old powder, very pleasant to ski.
The Zamboni couloir is a nice little couloir on the Southwest face of Taiya. is not too narrow, not too steep but it looks nice. It is around 40 degrees steep with one section a bit steeper but not exceeding 45 degrees.                                                                            The access is a bit long, 2 hours from the road but it worth it ( see other routes and access on page 79 of the White Pass backcountry skiing guidebook.)

We finished the day with the easy large and open slopes of the glacier below, the snow was great.

The SouthWest face of Tayia with a nice evening light, if you have a good look you should be able to spot our skin track at the base of the Zamboni Couloir.

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The approach of the Zamboni Couloir, the high ceiling  gave us a wonderful winter light.

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Bootpacking the couloir.

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And skiing down, still with a magical light.

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Let’s skin up again for a last easy run.

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A bit windy on ridges, great for the ambiant.

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A winter view of the Chilkoot Pass.

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Jan
29
2017
Français

Haines Pass new guidebook

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I am very happy

It has been a long journey, since my first ski trip on the Haines Pass, till the release of this book, 8 years have flown by.

On my first trips, I did not know the area, I could not find any info, so I explored the area, sometimes with local friends but mostly by myself.

I have spent a lot of time there, with good or terrific conditions, I took lots of pictures, and spent long evenings taking notes in the good old Green Shack.

But, it was easy compare to the enormous time I have spent behind my computer screen, and the amount of energy I have spent trying to get a bit of funding. With more or less success.

But, finally my dream became reality. Now, just like after a long and difficult ascent, I hope I get to enjoy some nice turns.

I hope you will have a lot of pleasure reading this book and that it will help you to enjoy skiing the Haines Pass area as much as I do.

I would like to thank all the people who believed in my dream and who helped me to achieve my goal of writing and publishing this book. Thanks to my family and friends who believed in me and encouraged me and thanks to all that have helped me one way or another.

A big thank to the ones you will find advertising in my book. They helped me to get the money for my equipment and the achievement of this project.

ZAG skis

Plum bindings

Terre de Montagne mountain shop

Icefield Discovery

Skookum Backcountry Adventure

Yukon Heliski

Nicolas Dory Photography

The easiest part of the work to write this book….skiing and exploring Haines Pass….

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While writing the first draft of the book in the good old Green Shack.

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The book is already available online, if you are in Whitehorse, contact me and I can deliver it for free and is already available at Mac Fireweed, and soon in Haines and Skagway.

Aug
3
2016
Français

Summer skiing

It is the end of July, the Yukon summer is not completely over, we should still have 2 or 3 weeks of warm temperatures. But, the night is back, oh not the real dark night, nothing compare to the long winter night, but compare to the endless days of June and July, it makes a bit of a difference. It was time for a last trip on the Kluane icefield, in the Saint Elias mountains. Up there, it is another world with a very typical weather. Soon, the big snowstorm will come back, with cold temperatures. This area is so big, the main peaks are named, but hundreds of other one are still unnamed and some of them unclimbed. We took the opportunity of a good weather window to launch a quick trip  to try to find some interesting places for skiing….let me tell you, we were not disappointed.

Just like every adventure up here, it starts with a flight to be dropped on the icefield, and a flight to go there is always a scenic flight, it gives you a nice overview of what Kluane icefield is. Massive glaciers and mountains with peaks everywhere. After a 45 minutes flight, it was time to land on a huge plateau, we unload the plane quickly and day good-bye to Captain Tom, the pilot. And then, lets the adventure begins. Once the plane left, there nothing but silence and it takes a few minutes  to truly realize where you are…I go there every year and every time I am amazed by this incredible environment. The camp is quickly set up and let’s go skiing.  We enjoyed incredible scenery

We enjoyed incredible scenery and had some very good skiing, At low elevation ( 2600 meters of elevation) the snow was corn snow (hard in the morning and a bit soft in the afternoon. Higher, especially in the north faces, we found good cold and dry snow, 20cm of powder. We also crossed some large plateaus to check-out access to some nice slopes…projects for next years.

the landing area on the glacier

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A nice spot to set-up the camp

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Let’s go skiing

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Crossing a large plateau

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Claude Kluane

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Enjoying a nice evening at the camp, even if the days are getting shorter, the sun kept us warm until 2100, before disappearing behind the peaks.Kluane icefield 201600029

The evening light was unreal, at high altitude, the sky was a bit hazy because of the smoke of big forest fire in Alaska, hundreds of miles away.Kluane icefield 201600037

While shadows were getting longer and longer on the icefield, the  light was changing through the evening on the  Mount Hubbard, Alverstone and Kennedy.Kluane icefield 201600039Kluane icefield 201600007

And the night came, the air got colder and the sky clearer, allowing us to enjoy the stars.

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And it was time to go back down on earth, waiting for our plane.

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…our taxi from Icefield Discovery

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It was done for us, but not for Captain Tom our pilot, a few minutes to refuel and he took off again for a scenic flight…froid-2006

During this trip, we spotted and identified  lot of nice slopes of every kind and some possible first major descents. Sure I will go there again, are you interested too. Stay tuned, trips should be available for next summer.

Apr
21
2016
Français

Januaril

Are the ski conditions still good? Do people really still care?  In town there is no more snow left, bike trails are nice and dry. A lot of people are in mountain bike and canoe mode right now. But, for real skiers, the season is just at his best.  Even after a very mild winter with low precipitation, we still have perfect Januaril conditions. We have January snow quality but with April temperatures and daylight….it is just perfect.  On North aspects the snow is still cold and dry and easy to ski while everywhere else corn snow provide good skiing. For the snow stability, it is not too bad, and we finally can go in steeper terrain without too many concerns.

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So we went up to Cleveland area…

…and down in a nice South facing little couloir with good snow.Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00012

good toys and a nice playground for the day…what else?yukonbackcountryskiing Clevage

 

 

 

Up again to find a good line.Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00013

 

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And dropping down a nice line.Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00014  Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00019

 

And up again for more turns….a nice cornice on the top of the Southeast peak of Cleveland.Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00022

 

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At low elevation, spring is here and after a low snow winter, approaches will be soon tricky, so far it is still good but for how long?Claude Vallier yukon Backcountry skiing00026

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Apr
14
2016
Français

Is the ski season over?

I have spent the last days with a good team skiing at Haines Pass. Spring is very early this year, now we have the snow conditions we normally have in early May. Does it mean skiing is not possible, or not good?. Of course not, I usually ski till at least mid-may from the road with no problem. Currently it is still possible to find good ski conditions. The warm-up we had for Easter week-end has affected considerably the snowpack, actually we do not have more than 1 meter of snow at low elevations (around 1000 meters), creeks start to be opened, willows are everywhere. But that crazy warm-up did not have only negative impact on our snowpack. Of course, on short term it has increased the risk of avalanche (cf the accident at Log cabin) and the snowpack has melted a lot, especially at low elevation. But from my point of view, I try to be optimistic and to think positively. The big warm up helped us to clean most of the nasty surface hoar layers buried in a lot of places and waiting for a skier to ski by. But , be still aware at higher elevation, especially in north aspect higher than 1600 meters of elevation.
What about skiing now? during the last days, Haines Pass area received a bit of fresh snow, between 5 and 15 cm of nice cold and dry snow (powder) on top of a supportive crust or old dry compact snow at higher elevation on north aspects. So yes, skiing was good to very good on most of the slopes,and just a bit wet and sometimes sticky in the afternoon at lower elevation, most of the times, just for the last turns close to the road. It is that time of the year when you can ski powder and perfect corn snow on the same run.
For the weather, it was another story, with a mix of everything, just like april is good at, sometimes it was nice and sunny, sometimes it was a complete white-out.
So if you are thinking about going skiing, go now, and with a bit of experience you might find some good slopes and be surprised by the ski conditions.
For what is going to happen next…I do not know, with that kind of winter we had, everything is possible, if it continues like that, the ski season could end very quickly, maybe if we are back to the normal, we could receive some more good dumps of snow…who knows? let’s talk in a few weeks.

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Nice run far from the crowd…

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Of course you have to earn your turns, but it worth it.

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I had a lot of fun with Sam the multi-tools guy  and François, good luck for your next adventure on a big wall, a big line, a big mountains or a crazy flight.

Mar
29
2016
Français

Easter Week-end and more

The winter is passing by so fast. with mild temperatures and low precipitations, it seems like I am still waiting for the winter to show up. But, when I came back to town yesterday, it seems like spring is well set-up in the valley with the first swans already swimming on the unfrozen Marsh Lake. The forecast for the next days is not very promising with warmer temperatures and maybe rain even in the mountains. But, let’s keep thinking positive. The last 3 weeks were not too bad at all and we had some great ski. Easter weekend was not that sunny, the snow was not that great at the lower elevations, but had a lot of fun. So far, snow conditions are not completely bad for a low snow winter. There is a bit more than 1 meter of snow at White Pass and Haines Pass at 1000m of elevation,  the willows are visible, but higher in the alpine the difference is not that obvious.

Easter weekend was also the time to connect with friends on other ways, less time on skis but more time singing and playing around the fire.

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Before the weekend, conditions were excellent in Haines Pass, I have left a couple of nice signatures on the slopes.

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Then we set up the traditional Easter weekend camp.

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The sledders were also well represented with their huge camp at the Summit.

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Even if the weather was not that great, the sun was not very too far, we had some good windows and decent snow conditions to have a lot of fun.

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The girls had a lot of fun skiing in the fresh snow.

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Then we have spent a lot of time chasing the sun and the light, with more or less success…

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Some of us have found other ways to take advantage of the current weather.

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And the after ski was always amazing.

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Chasing the light…

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Regardless of the conditions, skiing around here is always an adventure, if skiing is not as great as it should be there is always something new to discover and friends to be met.

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