I’ve just returned from the annual remembrance day weekend Jumbo Pass trip my buddy Brace Lee puts together, and it was probably the most fun trip of the six years I’ve attended. Good times, adventure, great snow, delicious food and drink, and rowdiness on and off the slopes, including at least four avalanches.
It’s definitely winter in the mountains now, with over a meter of snow on the ground up high it’s full on out there, and we have a massive storm rolling in to top it off. There was about a meter of snow in the alpine at Jumbo, which made for some really deep turns, but it was hard to find safe terrain to ride considering a buried layer of hoar-frost 40 or so centimetres down lurked and waited for a trigger. It seemed that most of the steeper slopes at or below treeline (where the hoar crystals were preserved before being buried) were near or at threshold for avalanching, being as any time we tried to ski-cut or ride an unsupported terrain feature it would release in respectable size 2 avalanches, with wide propagation. We wanted to get rad and shred the early season goods, but the mountains were telling us we needed to be patient and cautious about which lines we ought to choose.
I feel that on this trip we faced some challenging decisions regarding which terrain to ride safely, and that in some instances we may have pushed a little too hard. It’s good to get out in the mountains during challenging conditions, as it’s a good time to learn and get a feel for the snowpack, but pushing too hard into terrain that you really want to ski but intuitively feel may avalanche is very risky business. Our group likely had the experience to manage our risk being out in those conditions, but we did still narrowly dodge a couple bullets and get some wake-up calls. It is early season, but we’ve still got to be aware of the avalanche danger, because like they say: “If there’s enough snow to glide, there’s enough snow to slide.”
We did still manage to have a great time, there was really good riding to be had, and we found the goods. Conditions ranged from flat-light tree-skiing during intense snowfall to riding off Cabin Peak in the sunshine. It’s so nice at Jumbo when the sun comes out and the grandeur of the place can be completely taken in, as it’s a place of epic beauty and power.
The mountains and glaciers around the Jumbo Creek drainage are astounding, probably the most beautiful place I’ve been on earth. The controversy surrounding the construction of a mega-resort here carries on, but for the time being it seems that the project is dead; although the developers continue to push for new permits and the laughably unoccupied municipality of JGR still somehow exists. To imagine this place being developed by people with such little connection to the Kootenays despite the longstanding, overwhelming local opposition seems almost unfathomable now. I understand the proponents want to bring something new to the Canadian market of Ski-Resorts/Real Estate, but the vision of the resort development is so full of problems I can’t even begin to get into them here without launching into a complete rant. So for now we are thankful that Jumbo remains a nearly silent valley, blanketed in snow that will only be tracked by those who earn their turns and make the pilgrimage.
The early season shredding this year is off to a great start, but I’d advise that we all need to be on our toes as the avalanche danger is very much present, so chose your lines wisely and conservatively as possible until things settle down a bit. The tree-skiing above 1800m or so is starting to really come along now though so after this storm it shouldn’t be a problem to find some great lines in the timber.
I hope everybody gets after it and has fun out there this winter! Enjoy this epic early season and play it safe!
Thanks for reading,