Chief Pascall Ski

Jan 21-22, 2017

The South Coast was hammered by the mango express between Jan 16-19, 2017, with a series of warm and wet storms originating from the Philippines. Over four days, there was over a metre of new snow above 1500m. If you look at the Tenquille Lake snow pillow, the snow water equivalent line is basically vertical for this period. The storm started off wet, with freezing levels going up to 2000m in the Whistler area. The freezing level stayed lower on the Duffey. The storm snow ended up right-side up, meaning warmer snow fell first, followed by colder snow. However, it was not a good storm for the North Shore Mountains though. My usual Tuesday night adaptive ski night with VASS on Cypress Mountain was canceled due to the heavy rainfall, forcing Cypress Resort to close for the day. And then on Thursday up at Grouse Mountain, the new snow was 15cm of mashed potatoes with a small gravy bowl of rain on the side.

East ridge of Matier and Joffre Peak

Instead of doing more swimming on the North Shore, I decided to enjoy some easy access ski touring up at the Duffey Lake Resort with Mylene and Jason. Given the conditions, we stuck with a modest ski plan and went searching for powder in the moderate angle open slopes and trees on the north side of Mount Chief Pascall. You can either take the winter trail or the summer trail from Cerise Creek to get here. The summer trail is more direct to get to the cut block on the northeast side of area, but low branches and tighter trees make it a more unpleasant route for the exit out.

The route up goes along the edge of the cutblock and then through tight to open trees onto the ridge top. I find the route up the east side of Chief Pascall, as I did this weekend, more pleasant and straightforward than going up the west side, from the Cayoosh parking lot. The west side is steeper, but does have more pillows to ski in the trees, and also gives better access to the Equinox slide path. Both sides are good for skiing!

Without a question, this is a popular place to ski, which can get a little busy when options are limited and everybody is looking for an easy access ski destination below treeline, but what do you expect when there is good wifi and a nice cafe at the top to grab a sandwich for lunch. This is not one of the quieter areas of the Duffey Lake Ski Resort.

Thin clouds above the cutblock above Cerise Creek
Sunshine on the east Duffey, over in the Melvin area


Vantage, Snowspider, Howard and Joffre, above Chief Pascall east bowl
Chief Pascall Sandwich. Bacon, pickes, mayo, mustard, butternut-kaocha squash patty, mozzarella, all barely contained inside a freshly baked rye sourdough loaf. This was the first of two this weekend.
This sandwich takes all day to eat. An all day, sandwich party.
Jason and Mylene checking out the snowpack. The storm totals from the Mango Express this past week was impressive. Mostly rain and wet snow below 1500m, but here at 1950m, there was over 1.5m of fist to finger snow sitting over the old surfaces (depending on where you are, crust, windslab, or facets).
Snow was not quite as dry and light as the past month, but still pretty good.
Mylene dropping in
Just looking at those big soft fluffy pillows. On days like this, with bottomless snow, you can’t help but jump off one of these mushrooms.
Three guys bootpacking/wallowing up a couloir on the northeast face of Chief Pascall. They only went half way up the right line, before skiing back down. Ski quality on the old sluff looked poor.
Low angle, open slopes above the Duffey Lake Road.
Bigger pillows
Rare photos of me skiing. Mylene offered to take photos of me with my camera, and I was happy for that! This is me ending up in the backseat as per usual. Photo by Mylene Lejay.
Back up for more. 400m laps from 1900m to 1500m. The chairlift was running slow, taking about 45 minutes from top to bottom. Lots of snow on the trees.
And now we go down the east bowl to exit

We skied out through a creek, and then survival skied through a brief section of tight trees to reach the big cutblock. Snow quality was hilariously bad through the cutblock, which was 10cm of powder over top of not quite frozen, wet snow. The icy road and winter trail out was way better in comparison. This snow froze up the next day into a nice firm base. We headed back to Pemberton, where Jason’s parents graciously hosted us, feeding us all with delicious dinner and giving us a warm dry place to sleep. If only I had a photograph of our dinner – venison tourtiere and lemon meringue pie. Pie and skiing, the best things in the world.

Planning out tomorrow’s ski options with the new Duffey Lake map. Photo by Mylene Lejay.
The next morning, we decided to head back to Chief Pascall again. There is a lot of open terrain, and tree skiing and it’s easy to find more skiing even if it’s busy.
Jason and Mylene on the logging road. Lower elevation snowpack had firmed up overnight.
Working our way up along the skintrack on the northeast ridge.
Patches of blue sky in the morning
Jason drops in. Cayoosh mountain, Rock and Roll Chutes, Jazz, and Southern Comforts chute above
Pillow hunting on the Duffey
Ski transition at 1500m

Did I tell you I like to eat sandwiches in the mountains, and also document them. Did you know there’s a guy who has a website, where mountain enthuisasts can submit photos of their sandwiches in the mountains? True fact, it’s called AlpineSandwiches.com

A few bites later
Checking out the new 1:33000 Duffey Lake Map by John Baldwin. It’s awesome!
Halfway through my sandwich now, a few laps later. And many bites.
Exit to the cutblock. Open trees and easy skiing out.
My sandwich at the end of the day, now supplemented with car chips.

More photos at Flickr

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