Skiing and Snowshoeing Au Naturel

This post is for adults hosting a healthy inner child and a sense of adventure.  Rumors abound about people enjoying Spring recreation in the mountains with abandoned disregard for conservative social convention.


The mountains west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada experience unique characteristics  throughout the winter when cold spells alternate with warming Chinook winds to   create rare but interesting opportunities for eclectic, recreational options.  The aberration is NOT an event which can be planned.  The magic occurs in the perfect, spontaneous balance of privacy, pace, physical endeavor and temperature with warm, reflected sun on snow in refreshing, cool air.  The amount of clothing necessary may be reduced to the point where winter sport can be enjoyed scantily clad with the exception of sturdy boots, snowshoes or skis, and very serious eye protection.  Perfect conditions can provide for a very liberating and memorable experience.  It must be private. It is not for everyone.

Elephant Rocks, Chester Mountain, kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Wind-swept snow formations on Elephant Rocks with Chester Mountain in the background at Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

The day begins normally with appropriately layered clothing for the conditions of the day and a small daypack containing food, drink, an emergency kit, toiletry kit, first aid supplies and space to contain, or hang, some or all of the clothing you are wearing.

It is wise to know the following two emergency signals.


Sunscreen is very important.  Application must be swift.  Body spots which remain protected from sun do not need sunscreen.  I am just saying.  Partners can practise at home to apply sunscreen on each others hard-to-reach areas.  If you discover, while trying to do this in under a minute, you end up in a tangled heap of undisciplined depravity, you are good to go for summer, but insufficiently disciplined for winter.
More practice is required.

Elephant Rocks, Chester Lake, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Wind-swept snow formations on Elephant Rocks above Chester Lake in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Men who measure a good portion of their self worth by the size of their phallic endowment should be forewarned said member is likely to resemble a short stack of quarters.  This shrinkage is a good thing because snowshoeing and backcountry skiing can generate a lot of full body movement and the alternative is a distracting, non-rhythmic, inner thigh slapping sound which is distracting and may reduce the magic of the overall experience.


Although you have found a private, secluded and sunny area, there could be aircraft  passing overhead which may be carrying parks safety staff or sightseeing tours.  They communicate by radio.  For some unknown, deep-seated, psychological reason, perfectly normal people seem to experience a more elevated sense of freedom and uninhibited abandon while skiing or snowshoeing in the buff.  If an aircraft passes overhead, many outdoor aficionados feel the irresistible need to toss nipples skyward into the breeze, arms flung high and wide, with an accompanying celebratory yell, (often ‘YAHOO’ in these here parts).  This is a healthy, liberating and therapeutic outburst but…….

There are two important factors which could be subject to criticism.  First, it is possible there is an aircraft overhead where, momentarily, no-one onboard may be paying close attention to where the aircraft is going.  Second, a bold, uninhibited and enthusiastic signal, for requiring emergency assistance, has just been issued.  If the aircraft is a patrolling parks safety helicopter, they will feel a need and an obligation to land and provide assistance.  The mental stress placed on an aircrew can only be imagined.  Do we land?  Do we not land?  We really want to land.  We know we should not land??

This stressful enigma can be resolved by flinging one arm in the air and keeping the other arm pointed towards the ground.  This is the ‘No assistance required’  signal which, at least, allows the pilot the option of looking where the aircraft is headed.   All the other signals and/or gyrations you are considering are likely inappropriate.

It is important to avoid the creation of mental visuals while reading this post.  Perhaps it would have been wise to mention this sooner.


Au naturel, Spring, downhill skiing is popular in warm weather, perhaps more on the West Coast in the Cascade Range, but also in the Rocky Mountain Range.  The following popular Valhalla video from Sweetgrass Productions, and publicly accessible on Vimeo, provides graphic evidence of the adventure opportunities.  Adult content.  The music is great.  Crank up the volume!  Dance!

The recreation featured in this post is for skilled and experienced backcountry people.  It is not a beginner sport.  A better than average sense of wilderness savvy must be combined with common sense and a broad base of backcountry knowledge and experience.  The natural conditions required to render these experiences possible are random and dynamic. Weather in the mountains, particularly at higher elevations, can change abruptly.  Unbelievably rapid!  The ability to read weather and respond quickly is very important.  It is wise to be prepared for any situation, any time.


One purpose of this post is to use real information to teach the basic emergency signals in a way which will not soon be forgotten and to make people aware of special, optional opportunity in the backcountry when all the forces of nature come together in perfect harmony.  If you did not find any humor in this post, it may be wise to avoid alpine adventure completely because if there are any essential qualities a person must possess to survive in the backcountry, they are the ability to maintain a positive attitude and a sense of humor at all times.

Have fun out there and stay safe.  Keep your inner child alive.  After a nearly 5-month-long medical hiatus, I look forward to joining you soon.  Nudge. Nudge. Wink. Wink.

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Memorial Lakes Trail – Status Report # 1

Original post published on December 3, 2014.  This entry completes the rebuilding of the blog posts lost by the need to restore the website to a previous date.

The initiative to pursue improvement of the Memorial Lakes trail in Kananaskis Country has been ongoing for many years.  Floods in June of 2013 impacted the schedule substantially.  Ribbon Creek Trail, which accesses the Memorial Lakes trailhead, has been largely restored and there are reports of determined hikers getting through to Memorial Lakes on the compromised trail along North Ribbon Creek.  The Memorial Lakes trail, remarkably, has never been a designated trail.  Estimates of opportunity for further work to improve Memorial Lakes trail range from two to four years, barring unforeseen circumstance.  The Kananaskis Country trail creation and maintenance staff have their hands full with the ambitious effort required to repair other popular and very important designated trails, many of which are used year round.

Memorial Lakes, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Memorial Lake # 2, long known as ‘The Emerald’, in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

On November 16 and 17, 2014, identical letters were sent to Alberta Premier Jim Prentice; Kyle Fawcett, Minister over Alberta Parks;  Alana Delong, MLA for Calgary Bow in the Alberta Legislature, and Kevin Smith, Director of the Friends of Kananaskis Country, requesting consideration for more expedient attention to improvement of the Memorial Lakes trail.  If this is possible, and it may not be, there will be a requirement for additional money and resources to make it happen.  Currently, resources are fully allocated on a very ambitious schedule.  At December 3, there has been no response from elected Alberta Government representatives.  I regard this as encouraging because they need time to consider impact and implication.  We will need their assistance in our initiative.

Comment cards were sent on November 17, 2014 to the Kananaskis Regional Office of Alberta Parks on trail condition and to inform them of the request to designate and improve the Memorial Lakes trail.  The considered response from Alberta Parks was returned on November 19, 2014, documenting their difficult situation,.

On November 24 this original blog post was promoted on Facebook and received 49 shares, several primarily supportive comments and 105 likes.  It is a beginning.  Alberta Parks and the Friends of Kananaskis Country give the impression they are interested in finding a way to make this happen sooner than later.  The constraints are real.  There may be alternative approaches and I will share preliminary thoughts on this in my next status update.

On November 26, the Friends of Kananaskis Country accepted me as a new member.

Primary motivation for improving and formalizing the Memorial Lakes trail is created by the surviving family members of the 13 people who gave their lives serving others in June of 1986, and the legions of Kananaskis Country Search and Rescue personnel who valiantly worked hard to locate and rescue them.  Their support in this ongoing initiative is paramount and encouraged.

Many people share my passion to close this chapter of tragic consequence in Alberta history.  There will always be a few opposed.  It may mean putting more, well-organized boots on the ground to achieve the objective in the 30th anniversary year of the tragic events.  I believe Kananaskis Country leadership and the Friends of Kananaskis Country will support a plan which does not comprise current reconstruction plans.

At the end of November,  emergency eye surgery for a detached retina reduces my consistent participation in the near term.  Future status reports will keep you informed on progress but there may be a delay.  Thank you for your ongoing support.

Please be advised you may not be able to comment on any post due to recent technical issues.  The long term solution to many issues is implementing an alternative to WordPress.

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December Was A Rugged Month – Ice Climbing Alberta

This is what I should be doing.

Ice climbing, Alberta, Canada

Yours truly, ice climbing at Waterworks , Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

Here is why I am not climbing the best ice in years.  The problem begins in October when vision in my right eye becomes compromised.  Symptoms are blurred vision, floaters, a curtain effect and lightning-like flashes in low light.

During an early November WordPress course at Mount Royal College, I naively and ironically make a small change on my blog which creates a massive negative impact on access to  Attempts to resolve the problem are ineffective.

On November 26, I attend the longstanding appointment with my optometrist.  The same evening I am attendant at Rockyview Hospital Emergency.  On November 28, following a wait time far too long, I undergo surgery for a detached retina.  There is an uncomfortable aftermath.  A massive snowstorm eliminates service from Calgary’s woefully inadequate taxi service.  The only people even remotely close enough to shuttle me home are my employers at Norseman XC Ski, Hike and Climb Shop.  The owner arrives a half hour later and drives me home in terrible road conditions.  I remain perpetually grateful for his assistance.

During convalescence in early December, I attempt to resolve blog issues but make matters significantly worse.   There is paid-for daily backup on my site and it becomes clear it will be necessary.  Immediately, I discover the people who host my website are unable to communicate, verbally or technically, with the people who back up the site.  Support from both firms is atrocious and consists of nothing more than finger-pointing at each other.  With the possibility of complete website failure, I write the ‘Thank you’ post.  It is one of the most emotionally difficult pieces I have ever composed in my entire life.  Text follows.

Originally posted on December 12, 2014

A bizarre series of unpredictable events, both technical and personal, have put me in a position where my only sensible alternative is to suspend operation of this website for an indefinite period of time.  Attempts to resolve technical issues have created additional problems.

Thank you for your support and comments over the past 5 years and for following or referencing this humble hiking blog.

This decision is not made lightly.  Past adventures have been rewarding in many ways but it takes a lot of time, effort and personal expense to maintain the blog.   It has been an amazing learning experience.

I wish you and yours all the best for the Christmas Season and for the upcoming New Year.

All blogs which link to mine should remove those links.  If there is a specific post which is important or meaningful, please make an electronic or paper copy in the near term.  I bid you a fond farewell.  Perhaps we shall meet on the trails one day.

Almost immediately, comments arrived.  There are two levels of comment filtering on my site which eliminate spam and, unfortunately, many legitimate comments.  Spam is a significant and pervasive problem on the Internet to the point where it should be considered criminal.  Many people whose comments were incorrectly blocked took the time and initiative to contact me by email.  You are responsible for recovery of the site.  Many were people I had never heard from previously.  I suppressed my despair and strengthened my resolve by requesting help from Semper IT in Calgary.  She resolved the communication issue expeditiously which reveals system backups do not work and actually takes my site down for nearly 3 days between December 15 and 18.  If there is any software in the world which must never fail, it is backup and recovery.  I figured the blog was gone but Semper IT relentlessly continues to work with VaultPress to resolve the problem and the site is finally restored on December 19.

During this stressful time, the recovery from eye surgery was, and continues to be, agonizingly slow.  It is mid January before I can drive a short distance in daylight using very dark chromed glasses normally reserved for high altitude work in snowbound mountains.  The inability to tolerate even normal light requires sunglasses indoors and out.  I am unable to effectively counter the recurring annual effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, so physical and emotional systems are fragile.  It is an interesting and challenging time.  As healing progresses at an agonizingly slow pace, I take some time to attempt contact with friends from many decades ago after receiving an inspirational and unexpected email from a beautiful and valued friend.  The research has been fun and there has been some success when, in reality, it has been too long on my part (50+ years) to begin the initiative.  All my keyboard entry is done using one eye, due to screen brightness and the fact the eyes do not yet work together.  I will lose the outdoors for at least the remainder of January and all of February.  Eyewear is on order to reduce light infiltration to about 5% polarized and UV filtered light.  We are enjoying the best ice climbing conditions in years and I hope I shall get in a couple of easy ice climbs in March.

Good memories follow.

Ice climbing, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Yours truly behind Troll Falls, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

The Queen, Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Dave approaching the Queen in Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Mélanie, Grizzly Creek, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mélanie ice climbing on Grizzly Creek in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mélanie, Grizzly Creek, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Mélanie and Dave ice climbing high on Grizzly Creek in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

The Memorial Lakes trail initiative has been interrupted, but not forgotten.  I will be Bach.  Feel free to leap in and cover me off.  To all my readers, thank you for your patience.  I hope you are all out there on skis and snowshoes, or wearing harnesses with crampons on your boots with ice axes in your hands.

Stay safe.

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