Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ski Day 3: Skiing the impossible

Vert: 755 m   YTD cum vert: 5,885 m
Runs: 5   YTD cum runs: 18

As a Sunshine lover and SnowHost, I rarely ski elsewhere. Sure, we have our annual trip to Big White, but since the 07/08 season, I have put in exactly one day elsewhere (Norquay) -- and on that day, I tried to go to Sunshine but it was closed due to high winds, so Norquay was a "back up plan". Today, I got to go somewhere few people do:
Fortress Mountain
Now there's a name that brings back fond memories for a lot of folks. Lots of people liked the place, and were sad when past owner RCR (owners of Lake Louise and others) shut it down. Banff Rail Company bought the place and nearly managed to run it for a year or so. Then it was taken over by a different owner group, though it has never re-opened. For the last few years, not much has been going on there. The owners argued with the Provincial Government over an old bridge on the access road. Movies have been shot there (including Inception), and the movie makers re-built the bridge. But on-going negotiations between the owner group and the Government have meant the place hasn't yet re-opened.

Well, it so happens I know one of the principles of the new owner group, and Rob kindly invited me to go up sled skiing with him today (the lifts don't operate at this point). What a kick; you get to ski your very own personal ski resort. Not only that, because they are currently shooting both a movie and a TV commercial up there...
Unhappy camera-jib equipped car's a personal ski area with groomed runs. I just wish the conditions were better (gosh, I'm demanding).

As I explain on my other blog at, there was a wind crust I had to avoid. We couldn't ski the old Frontside as that was in the way of the Nissan commercial being filmed. We couldn't ski the Farside because that was where "The Bourne Legacy" was being filmed. But the best snow was on the Backside anyway. How do I know this? Because as part of the safety protocol, they have two ski patrollers there supporting the various film shoots. They check conditions and assess avalanche hazard daily.

By the way, the two patrollers? Chris Chevalier and Rowan Harper, two of the folks involved in the issues at Sunshine last year. No, we didn't talk about any of that, nor do I find it interesting, and nor would I post about it even if I did.

So on the Backside, there was a bunch of blow in snow sitting on the crust which made for really sweet turns (so long as I didn't break through the crust). And as I was the only one skiing today, all the tracks were mine. Fresh, untracked pow every run. Since you may not remember Fortress, here's a trail map to look at.

I started out on Enchanted Forest (#29)...
Shame for the flat light
...which was sweet but still a little windblown. So Rob took me to Palisade (#20), which was super nice from top to bottom, so good that I took 3 runs on it.
Run 1 
Run 2 
Run 3
It was around here that Rob's snowmobile started to get unhappy with "Check Engine" lights on and blue smoke, so we had to call it a day even though it was only lunch.
The left side of Farside, and the Fortress
Near the base of the Backside Chair
The top of the old Curve T-Bar looking down the valley
The main part of the Farside
It's a very rare privilege to be able to ski Fortress, and I want to thank Rob for taking me up there. There's a chance that they will start a Cat Skiing operation there when all the movies are done in February. If they do, check it out. And cross your fingers that this little gem of a hill re-opens. Soon.

1 comment:

Bugnotogo said...

Derek, thanks for taking me down memory lane. The kids were members of a ski club at Fortress so we were there every weekend for years! Yes, you were very lucky to enjoy Fortress.