On Saturday, Keith and Leslie surprised me with overnight reservations at the Skoki Lodge. Skoki is a National Park backcountry lodge with no running water and no electricity that can only be accessed by skiers and snowshoers. The trail starts at Lake Louise, heads up a canyon, crosses two passes and drops into a narrow valley surrounded by hanging glaciers and spectacular peaks. The lodge itself is a historic building built in the 1930s by the Banff ski club.
Five of us skied in for the night - Stuart and Anna - a couple of Brits now living in Banff - my friends Leslie and Keith, and me. I was nervous about going there as a "second-day skier," but my friends assured me that some guests went in on cross-country skis (crazy people, I tell you) so it was probably doable by me on heavy powder gear. The trail turned out to be a nicely packed, gently inclining snowmobile trail that would have been perfect for Pugsley. Thanks to its national park status, Pugsley wouldn't be allowed on that trail; still, I couldn't help but daydream about all the great "pedal turns" I could be making. But I was stuck on skis, so I made the best of it. :-)
Climbing up Deception Pass. The weather was gray with occasional snow flurries, but it wasn't socked in enough to destroy the view.
The trip into Skoki only involved one downhill run long enough to take off the skins, which I was grateful for. Despite my perception that I'm in decent shape, I was feeling exceptionally tired from the day before. I tried to explain to my friends that skiing downhill was a lot more work for me than skinning uphill, even up steep hills, because once that terrain sloped downward, I had to use so much more muscle power to fight gravity. Stuart said, "You know skis are easier if you use them instead of fighting with them." This is probably true, but when a person has two strips of fiberglass, which they can barely control anyway, that are threatening to carry them off the edge of a cornice into icy oblivion, I don't think the person can be blamed for fighting them with every ounce of energy they have. Pugsley may be a beast to push uphill, but at least he has brakes.
Look at that wedge! That's pure technique right there. But I have to admit, once I got going and no longer had time to mull over my certain doom, I actually had a lot of fun.
First tracks! Awkwardly executed. But, hey, you can't beat the scenery.
In the early afternoon we arrived at the lodge, complete with a roaring wood fire and a large spread of snacks. Even though I had already sustained some fairly mean blisters after two days in the hard boots, I also seem to suffer from something my friends call FOMO disease, which is short for "Fear Of Missing Out." So I went out for an afternoon tour. Leslie and I looked for a route to an alpine lake up a side canyon. We stopped at this lightly dusted, boulder-strewn slope for several minutes, considering the dire consequences of my trying to ski down it. We decided to turn around. Now, if I had my snowshoes, I might just have beautiful pictures of a hanging glacier over a frozen alpine lake. Yes, I know skis are more efficient. But not if your trapped in noviceland. Then you can't go anywhere fun.
Well, I guess you can go to Skoki Lodge, which is a fantastically fun place. It's a bit like a classic 1930s Euro ski experience with a bit of Bush Alaska hunting lodge thrown in. Highly recommended by this Banff tourist.