I had a great last couple of days in Banff. The weather, which had been stellar all week, really opened up on Wednesday and Thursday with blue skies and temps that actually climbed above freezing (as Canadians call it, "Zero.") My long streak of visiting Canada amid the best weather possible continues. I have this theory that Canada loves me.
On Thursday, Keith and I skied up the Chickadee Valley.
It's been a while since the Banff-Jasper region had much fresh snow, and the conditions included about two inches of fresh powder surrounding a slick, well-packed skin track. It was winter singletrack at its best. I continued to pine for my Pugsley. My trip to Banff was intended to ignite new passion for skiing, but I just happened to visit during a week when the snow biking couldn't have been better.
The skiing was pretty good too, though. A little more than a decade ago, when I was still a teenager, a friend asked me what my own personal heaven would look like. I replied, "Canyonlands with snow." (Canyonlands is national park in Utah, famous for its towering redrock cliffs and large desert plateaus.) In Chickadee Valley, I caught a glimpse of my original vision of Jill Heaven.
Later that day, I hiked to the top of Sulphur Mountain to kill a couple hours before the night's planned all-you-can-eat sushi bender and the long drive to the Calgary airport.
Sulphur Mountain is a special place for me. I first walked to the top on June 10, the morning after I arrived in Banff ahead of the 2009 Tour Divide. I was a mess of emotions, and a large part of me did not want to start the race. But as I stood on the Sulphur Mountain observation deck and looked out over the southern horizon, I felt this strong sense of peace that the Tour Divide was the right thing to do. This is that same view, eight months later. Mount Rundle is on the left and the Spray River runs down the valley on the right. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route follows that river south.
I really had a great time going back to Banff, visiting the incredible people I met down there during the summer, revisiting special places cast in the blue light of winter, learning new skills and discovering new spaces of almost celestial beauty and fun. Thanks so much to Leslie and Keith for being great hosts, friends and teachers. (Click on the link to check out Leslie's blog. She's a distance trail runner and her blog awesome.) Banff really is a little slice of paradise.
Moving on ...
I'm back in Juneau and have a total of six weeks to train before the start of the White Mountains 100, a snow-bike race in Fairbanks. I used to use this blog as a training log to track my mileage and hours, but quit doing that shortly after I got frostbite during the 2009 Iditarod Trail Invitational and became a bit ambivalent to training. My plan for the next six weeks is to narrow my focus and pay more attention to the specifics of my workouts - both riding and hiking - so I'm going to start tracking again. I may not have enough time to really dial in my fitness, but at least I can push my own physical limits up to the event. So, for today's ride:
Date: Feb. 6
Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Weather: 39 degrees, light rain, southeast wind 10-15 mph
Details: Tempo road ride to Herbert River and back, intensity 65-90 percent
Note: Tendons behind left knee still sore from skiing, otherwise felt strong.