Jay's Report - March 07, 2004
Powder Skiing and Butt Darting at Island Lake � Special Report
I had the infinite pleasure of joining a cast of fine skiers assembled by part time local Brad Zumwalt for a 3 day Cat Skiing tour of duty at Island Lake Lodge this week. Island Lake is located just a few bowls over from Fernie Alpine Resort. If you�re a powder skier and you believe in heaven, then you need to schedule a tour at Island Lake to see first hand at what awaits you beyond the pearly gates.
There are about 2,500 acres of skiable terrain at Fernie Alpine Resort. There are about 5,000 acres of skiable terrain at Island Lake. On a busy day at Fernie Alpine Resort there are about 6,000 skiers/boarders. On a busy day at Island Lake there are 36 skiers/boarders. Know what I�m saying?
It is hard not to be knocked over with karma there. All of the greatest adventure skiers/boarders have heard of it and most have cut the sickest of lines there. From Scott Schmidt to the late great Craig Kelly. The place oozes with spirit. You can see the same Steve Kuijt that shows up on various ski magazine covers roaming the lodge getting ready for his next guiding operation. There�s something cool about that. You can see local legendary woodcarver and back country guide Reco rigging his prosthetic leg and adjusting his powder outriggers for the upcoming day. There�s something heroic about that.
The operation itself is slick and professional. There are 2 guides to each Cat with 3 Cats of 12 skiers/boarders. There is also a team of 2 guides that roam the area by snowmobile and Cat conducting snow safety procedures � opening and closing certain runs throughout any given day. This is a unique and welcome safety system for backcountry skiing operations. �Safety is first, fun is a close second.�, announced our guide Rob Foster. We were okay with that.
The skiing was as good as it gets. Our faithful guides Rob and Duncan offered up continual descents down deep champagne powder glades, chutes and steep treed aspects. A lasting image is veteran Mike Delich cascading down Stump Fluff�s 45 degree slope in the shape of a comet, snow sloughing in front of him like surf from a wave. Doug Stephen gazed, �The powder is so light your skis don�t feel anything, just love!� If there is better skiing anywhere else then I couldn�t stand it. As the late Harry Chapin once said, �Sometimes words can serve me well and sometimes words can go to hell, for all that they do.� Words can�t describe how good it was out there. I�ll let the pictures do that, most of which were taken by Kim Furhman. Thanks Kim. Mark Gallop would have been impressed.
The wonder of the skiing was surpassed only by the talent of our Guide, Rob, in the evening Butt Dart competition. Butt Darting is a skill invented somewhere in Michigan so I was told by none other than Butt Dart Bob. Bob is from, you guessed it, Michigan. The object is to hold a 25 cent coin in your buttocks while walking 10 paces and then releasing the coin in an empty beer glass while maintaining a standing position. The one who successfully deposits the most coins in the beer glass is the champion Butt Darter for the evening. Rob, our Guide, stood tall among what can only be described as the toughest (if not the funniest) of competition. After handily winning the competition, Rob admitted he felt, �Strangely proud�, but later wondered whether we would still respect him in the morning. We do Rob, even more.
The hill on the weekend was blessed with powder snow and mild temperatures. The lines ups on Saturday at the haul back T Bar were longer than I�ve ever seen there, but the tracks on Redtree and Snake made the wait worth while. Sunday snowed hard all day and the line ups were non-existent making for another near perfect day of powder skiing. We took a few hours out from the powder to run our entry in the Dummy Downhill, �Cat Skiing�, which, by the by, performed more like a dog.
The few days at Island Lake and the few days at the hill made this the finest week of powder skiing imaginable. At about 4pm on Sunday, my legs are thankful for a rest and my eyes are welting from tears of joy.