Mountain Weather

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The reverse is also true. There was a light breeze blowing when I left home at 7 a.m. on Saturday for the field portion of an introductory avalanche course. By the time we reached our destination an hour and a half later, the wind was gusty and strong and scattered clouds had coalesced into a solid snow-making machine.

We made it up the old ski hill road without chains on the loaded 15-passenger van. The wind was now a driving force and we quickly beetled into the shelter of the trees for beacon and shovelling practice. Neither wind nor snow stopped the entire day.

When it came time to tour for terrain assessment, we skirted up onto the old ski hill runs and along the ridge – where we were nearly blown over. Back into the trees again, we stopped to view avalanche slopes – at least we would have, if we could have seen them.

Instead we talked about avalanche terrain, dug a pit, wound our way through more trees and then zipped back down to where van was supposed to be. That’s when our instructor told us the van had left, taking another group down the hill already; we could ski/snowshoe down the road a little ways to keep warm.

We made it almost a third of the way down the road before we came across the van, stuck in the over eight inches of new, unplowed snow.

Chains kept coming off, but eventually there were enough of us to push, add weight, and rock the van out of the snowbank, get the chains back on, turn the trailer around, turn the van around, hook up the trailer and head back down to the bottom.

Soggy jackets and pants were exchanged for dry clothes and we laughed as the thick snow turned to rain before we reached the end of the valley.

Most appreciated gear (beyond the requisite shovel, probe and transceiver):

  • goggles
  • gaiters
  • waterproof pants and coat (with attached hood)
  • heavyweight long underwear
  • fleece pants and top
  • toque
  • down jacket
  • waterproof gloves with wool liners
  • dry set of clothes
  • thermos of herbal tea

Easiest part of the day:

Home by 7 p.m. and greeted with a glass of red wine and a handsome guy cooking up an early Valentine’s surf and turf feast. 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!


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