The Black Tusk area is a great place for early season turns. The smooth heather slopes on the south side of the Black Tusk transform into nice open ski slopes with just a minimal amount of snow. Last year, we skied here with just a 40cm snowpack on those slopes, so I was pretty confident we could find some more good snow here this time. Early November was shaping up nicely, and I had already seen a 60cm snowpack at the Tenquille Lake area, one weekend ago.
Paul and Kristen joined me for the hike up the switchbacks from Rubble Creek on Remembrance Day. I like to think of these early season snow-seeking trips as late-season hikes with skis, rather than early season skiing with lots of hiking. We pulled into the parking lot at 8am. A few other skiers were getting ready too. We strapped the skis to the packs, and then plodded up the well-manicured trail through the misty forest. Snow started before the 4km marker, but it was faster to just continue walking, until the 5km corner. We stashed the shoes, switched into ski boots, and skinned up the trail. There was just enough snow to skin up, not quite enough to ski down beyond the Taylor meadow junction at 6km. We went left, towards Taylor Meadows and the snow depth quickly increased.
We crossed the flat meadows, only slightly inclined. It doesn’t seem like it at the time, but the gradient is just enough to glide all the way back from the south slopes below the Tusk back to the Taylor campground. We switchbacked up the south facing slope, catching the view of Garibaldi Lake that never ceases to amaze me. It’s really cool to come up here at this time of the year, when there’s snow everywhere in the alpine, but the lake remains un-frozen. Due to the size, it’s not frozen until mid-January on most years (the internet tells me it’s frozen now).
We skied the soft fluffy powder here (slopes between 1700-2000m) reminding our legs how to ski. And to keep the base side down! I was curious on how the snow on the north side of the Black Tusk would ski today, so we went back up to the top, into the whiteout. The cloud ceiling lingered at 2000m, keeping the Black Tusk hidden. We passed two guys without skis, just booting straight up the skin track. Kristen wasn’t keen on traversing over to the north side of the Tusk in the flat light, so she went back down, skiing out to the Taylor shelter to wait for us. Paul and I continued across. The skiing on the northwest side was nothing to write about. There must have been a strong outflow wind. All the north facing slopes were scoured and the snow quality was poor. Boilerplate sastrugi and windswept rocky slopes. But we did find a very cool ice cave which we skied through in both directions.
Back on the other side, the wind was howling. I had issues with my crappy old skins on my rock skis, and had to stop to take them off, and warm them back up inside my jacket before they worked again. Meanwhile, I lost Paul, who also spent those ten minutes underneath the Tusk, curled up and trying to warm himself up. In between clearings in the clouds, we skied off the shoulder, leaving the disorientating whiteroom behind, and back down through the powder. Everybody was gone by now, and the slopes were well farmed from all the enthusiastic skiers trying to get a head start on making up for last seasons lackluster skiing. We found Kristen, and then continued skiing down the Rubble Creek trail. I have rock skis, but I still care about them. There’s a cracked edge on one of the skis, and I’ve been babying them, trying to keep the problem from getting worse. Kristen was on her rock-rock skis, and she blasted down the trail, seemingly oblivious to any of the small rocks covered by the 5-10cm base. Eventually the snow stopped, and we slogged back down the trail, in the company of many other hikers, snowshoers, and skiers out enjoying the freedom of the mountains.
Kristen and Paul smiling, despite the lack of a Pure Bread stop.
That view of Garibaldi Lake always amazes me