Whistler – Cowboy Ridge

Today was supposed to be an attempt at Fissile but it turned out to be rather half-hearted. First I left my backcountry gear at home and had to scrounge gear from a buddy at Whistler. Then the temperature stays really warm – like 10 degrees in the shade in the alpine warm. It doesn’t look too good even by late-season spring corn standards. But you never know till you try and with that ringing in my ears we’re off for the Musical Bumps backside of Whistler and Fissile – click here for a map.

This is my first time touring and meeting Toby who turns out to be an exceptionally skilled skier and an enthusiastic backcountry tourer. What’s more important is that he’s got even more time on his hands than I do! Yeaa for new play buddies! Here’s Toby and Sharon crossing a flattish part of Flute with the Fitzsimmons Glacier, Overlord Glacier, Refuse Pinnacle, Fissile and Whirlwind glinting in the sun in the foreground – from left to right. At 10 am ski penetration is already 2-3 cms and the slope is already lightly corning up on some aspects.

Its already glaringly apparent that the snow has approached what I call “binary” status. To me, that means there’s two outcomes; either the pack holds and everything is fine or something deep releases and everything goes to hell. There are what looks like natural slides on some southern aspects running off Tremor more then 1000 ft. Some cornices’ have broken off the peak of Oboe and fallen but have not generated any more activity. We get down Flute’s backside, ski up Oboe and then down Oboe picking low-angled slopes the whole way. In the meantime ski penetration goes from 2- 3 cms to about 5 cms at the base of Cowboy Ridge.

We decide to go up a relatively safe path up Cowboy Ridge. At valley floor (approx 1700m), boot penetration is 7 – 10 cms which is where I get a little antsy. At 1900 m at the top of Cowboy Ridge the snow has significantly less deterioration and boot penetration is only about 3- 5cms.


I forgot my snow saw so dug a pit with doubtful results so keep that in mind. Pit was on W facing slope – dug on 22.04.05 at 1800m Found the following layers;. 5cms thick at surface on melt-freeze 5 cms thick (35down) 7 cms thick (55down) (90 down)

After navigating Cowboy Ridge successfully, its time to get a shot of some skis I am demo’ing for a local distributor. Very nice skis and my review will follow. Fissile is in the background and you can see the chutes quite clearly. You can also see that the NE face has been cleaned out by a slab release. What you can’t see are the cornices overhanging the chutes.

Its not a lost cause as the snow is nice firm corn and its just a gorgeous day to be out. Besides we have 750 ft of slope to slice and dice. Here goes Toby slicing and dicing.

Sharon cruising

The run gets real sloppy 2/3rds of the way down; thus making up our mind whether or not to do another run. We head back up the low angled slopes of Oboe to the south and then contour over to Flute Shoulder and take our last run back to the groomers. Here we are on Oboe Peak – with Fissile in the background. I will be back!

Here goes Toby again pretty much trying to break the sound barrier on the slopes under Lesser Flute. Everyone makes it back down safe and sound other then for outstanding tans.

Here is my Movement Skis review:

Movement Red Apple 74 in 178 cms length tested. Dimensions are 114-74-104. Website is www.movementskis.com. Tester is 5′ 11″ male; 165 lbs; experienced skier skiing at PSIA 9 level or CSIA Expert/Advanced level. Bindings are Fritschi Explore 2005. Conditions were soft-packed, corn deteriorating to melt- and grabby later in the day.

  1. The ski is eye-catching and has terrific graphics
  2. Love the light weight of the skis. The skis have low swing weight also.
  3. Nice tail attachment for skins  due to rubber bumper on the tail. Like the fact there is no tip attachment so euro-style rubber tip skins can slip on easily. Would be nice to have cutouts at tips of skis so you can rig a sled out of it.
  4. Decent torsional rigidity on groomers.  Holds carve well in groomers in short and medium radius turn. Exceptionally  good in short turns due possibly to swing weight and large sidecut. Good in moderate turns. In long radius big turns at high speed, ski tips noticeably deflect and chatter.
  5. On corn snow, same observations as above. Unable to find powder to test the skis.
  6. On schmooey melted snow; the skis get bounced around a lot when going at speed (ie my preferred way of skiing schmoo snow)
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