Gday Splitters, we ventured on a splitboard mission to Chester Lake in Kananaskis, Nov 10, 2015.

After a pretty snowless fall, it all seemed to turn 180 degrees this past week, prompting us to get out and have a look around to see if we could find any turns.

So, after arriving home from a family/friends/surf trip in San Diego (24 hour drive) on Monday night Tom, Dennis and I rallied a quick plan to head to the Smith Dorian in K-Country to try and get up high, dust off the legs and gear and to check out a reliable early season gully that has served us well in November’s past.

Photo: November 10th scene in the Chester Lake Parking Lot

Firstly we were shocked to see how much snow was on the ground in the Chester Lake/Burstall Pass parking lots, on the drive out we were joking that we might want to have bought our mountain bikes, this however wasn’t the case.  We were greeted with 20 cms or so of dry snow in the parking lot and on the trail.

After gearing up we made our way up to Chester Lake area before heading into the bushes to check out our line. It’s a dam shame that you can’t carry over touring fitness year to year, definitely remember skinning up being a much easier time at the end of last season.

Photo: Looking up about 2000 vertical ft to the col

Once we reached the base of our planned goal, we were stoked to see that it looked in fine form, we had high hoped that the regular winds that howl through that gully had built a solid wind slab at the base higher up, and that the new snow would just be gravy on top to help pad things out.

The lower elevation climbing was all a mix of shallow snow on rocks and wind loaded pockets, we were surprised to see the snow changing to almost spring like conditions as the sun had some real intensity to it.  As we climbed the snow became deeper and the wind slab layer we had hoped for was building nicely, enough so that through the last half of the climb we were fully supported by the layer and we came across very few rocks.

Photo: After getting past the first steep section it was supportive easy climbing for the most part

 We dug a quick pit on the direct leeward slope near the top of our climb, it was south east facing and had a snow depth of around 70 cms, the bottom half was largely windslab and the upper 20 + cms was new storm snow.  One thing of note was there was virtually no depth hoar to be seen, there was a 4 finger density layer at the bottom but it hadn’t fully rotted out yet.  Fingers crossed it stays that way….

 Photo: A snow profile dug near ridgetop on a south facing slope near Chester lake

After soaking up some beautiful views we both strapped in for a very high quality descent, we rode pretty cautiously but both Dennis (Telemarking) and I (splitboarding) hit very few rocks on the way down, a couple of little scuffs on the bases but nothing of note.

Of the 2000 ft descent we were able to ride about 1500 ft before transitioning to skis and skins to prevent gear and body damage.  Definitely as good a start to the season as we could have hoped for.  It looks like K-Country still needs a bit more snow (a good amount forecast this week I believe) before you can ride without risking hitting buried rocks hard but, there are some turns to be had out there right now.

Photo: A gallery of pics below from our day in the moutains

Here’s to a great and safe backcountry season, if you have any cool pics or trip reports you would ike to post this year please fire me an email at with details.

Check for up to date hazard report and current Kananaskis Country conditions here on Facebook.


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