Spray Range Traverse : K-Country

Max and I headed out on the Smith-Dorien Hwy to the Burstall Pass trailhead, temperatures were sitting around -17 as we left the parking lot but the sun was out and we were moving quickly as we had a fair bit of elevation (1500-1600m) and distance to cover. 

Once we made our way into the flood plain below Burstal pass we headed North towards the Mt.Smuttwood/PigsBack Pass. The first half of the ascent was significantly faceted, with ski penetration varying between boot to knee deep. Once we got into the alpine we were faced with navigating wind-scoured slopes that were heavily wind and sun affected. Travel was quick on this terrain until we encountered steeper slopes leading up to the pass. We decided to boot-pack the last 100m.

Dropping down towards commonwealth creek we observed avalanche debris from a week old size 2.0-2.5 avalanche. The ski quality on the north facing aspect was not stellar, significantly wind affected. 

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We then ascended super slope which was mildly more supportive, and dropping into one of the Tryste Lake chutes, which were heavily tracked out. 

We ascended further west from Tryste Lake and then up a North Facing slope to a Col that was adjacent to to Tent Ridge. Instead of descending down the drainage and then back up Tent Ridge we boot-packed West over a peak and then headed North over to Tent Ridge. Soon enough we headed down the north Shoulder of Tent Ridge back down to our drop-off car. 

Overall, conditions were pretty dire, lots of wind crusted snow in the alpine, and heavily faceted snow within treeline. With that said it was great getting out onto some interesting terrain and challenging our terrain evaluation and decision making. 

Handcrafted Skis in the Canadian Rockies

Every pair of our skis are handcrafted right here in Canmore, AB. It all starts with locally sourced hardwoods, specifically Maple and Poplar. We laminate various combinations of these hardwoods to develop lively and long-lasting cores for our skis. 

Once the hardwoods are laminated, we produce core blanks that are shaped and profiled to provide the desired sidecut and flex-pattern. 

Using various templates and jigs the cores start to take shape. Our sidewall material (UHMW-PE), must go through the same process of profiling as they are ultimately attached to the sides of the core. 

From here, the base material is cut out to match the geometry of the ski and hardened cold-rolled steel edges are attached. We have tip, tail, and effective edge segments of our edges, which are bent to match the radius of the tips and tails. 

Once all the materials and layers of the ski have been prepared it is time for it all to come together. Between each layer of the ski a thick coat of epoxy is applied which holds everything together. In total there are 8 layers of different materials within the ski and the layup process takes roughly 30 minutes to complete. 

Once the layup is completed the skis are placed in our pneumatic press, where they are heated to above 70 degC and left to cook for roughly 2hrs. 

From this point, all that is left to do is cut out the skis from all the excess materials and epoxy, give a stone grind, and hit the slopes! 

If you are interested in learning more about the process or want to see it first hand please stop by our shop Thursday February 2nd! We are hosting an open-house 6:00 - 9:00 PM, where we will be providing tours and offering some pizza and beer. 

 

Photographs kindly provided by Mikey Stevenson. 

 

Icefield Parkway Ski Conditions Report - October 11-15

View from the Bow Summit ski area looking south towards Bow Lake

View from the Bow Summit ski area looking south towards Bow Lake

On Tuesday October 11th Max and myself (Sam), headed out to the Bow Summit Ski touring area to get a feel for the conditions on the parkway. Overall conditions were typical for an early season snowpack, rocks and more rocks! The snowpack varied from 30cm to 50cm, with the deepest snow found in the before the treeline.

Sam about to jump into the shark tank

Sam about to jump into the shark tank

Pretty good backdrop for these skis

Pretty good backdrop for these skis

The area definitely needs about 20-40cm of additional snow to keep the sharks at bay, but it was still a great day to stretch the legs! A few days later, October 14th, we headed up towards Jasper to pick up a ski base grinder.  That night it was snowing pretty hard (which would have helped with the base development at Bow Summit) as well as Nigel Pass (Parker Ridge area). 

Emma and Max stoked on the amount of snow we found

Emma and Max stoked on the amount of snow we found

On Saturday, Oct.15, we headed out to the Parker Ridge Day Use Area with our friend Emma from Jasper. We decided against going up Parker Ridge due to the recent snowfall loading and shallow snowpack. We instead crossed the highway and headed up into the Mt. Nigel Basin for some turns. In the basin there is some fantastic low angle skiing to be had between small trees. We found the snowpack to be between 40-70cm. 

Some great skiing was found within the small trees in the Mt. Nigel Basin

Some great skiing was found within the small trees in the Mt. Nigel Basin

Emma havin' a time

Emma havin' a time

Overall the conditions here were much better than what we saw at Bow Summit, we only found a few rocks above the trees and had amazing conditions below. With another storm, the terrain above the trees will be fantastic as well. All-n-all, conditions are pretty great for October! Hope to see you guys out there!

Looking at Parker Ridge across Hilda Creek 

Looking at Parker Ridge across Hilda Creek 

93 North Skis Moved to Canmore!

Max stoked to be in Canmore!

Max stoked to be in Canmore!

It’s official, 93 North Skis has set up shop in Canmore, AB! We would like to think it was a difficult decision but really it was one of the easiest things that we have done. In terms of developing a brand and culture around our company, there is no better place. Being surrounded by like-minded small business owners and outdoor enthusiasts make anything feel possible. 

The move itself was pretty uneventful, other than moving our press, Ronda. Weighing in a 2300 lbs, she definitely doesn’t like moving. Hoisting her up onto the trailer was a painstaking 3 hour ordeal! There were definitely some lessons learned from that day, hopefully Ronda doesn’t have to move for some time to come.

Getting Ronda (our ski press) onto the flatbed trailer...

Getting Ronda (our ski press) onto the flatbed trailer...

The shop is all set up now and we are closing in on our product and development cycle. We anticipate R&D being completed for our All-Mountain line-up by the end of October.  The All-Mountain line-up features a camber-rocker profile combination that will have you charging through the crud, and at 104mm underfoot you will be hooting-n-hollering on those powder days! 

This is the woodworking and machining section of the shop!

This is the woodworking and machining section of the shop!

Sam with a freshly pressed prototype

Sam with a freshly pressed prototype

Please feel free to stop by whenever you are passing through Canmore, we would love to show you around! Our location is Unit #4, 111 Bow Meadows Crescent, Canmore AB. 

Cathedral Mountain, 3190m

Cathedral Mountain worked us. Partly because it is a large ski tour ascent, partly because there was no snow for the first 4km and 300 vertical meters, and partly because the snow was bullet-proof on the moraine and post-holing down in the trees. 

With the ski season winding down, we wanted to get in one or two more ski ascents in before the end of the season. So at 4:00am May 1st, myself(Sam) and two friends, Dylan and Evan, departed Calgary and made our way to Yoho National Park. The start of the route is at the Lake O'Hara access road, which was bone dry and so we swapped out our ski's and boots with runners. The 4km trek up the access road went quickly and we were shortly greeted by a river ford, for those of us who were not awake by this point surely was now! After crossing the river we had to ascend to the snow-line which was 200-300m above us, which was a slog to say the least. 

Once we reached the snow-line, we strapped on our touring gear and started to make better headway up the mountain. After an hour or so of touring we had to ascend a large chute which normally would be a breeze to bootpack but for us it was a mixture of crusty snow and loose rock. Ascending the chute took more effort than anticipated, it was a 2-step-froward/1-step-back situation. 

 

At this point, I was starting to feel a little hooped but we still did not have eyes on the summit, not ideal...Slowly but surely we ascended the moraine features and then up and over the toe of the glacier. Finally we could see Cathedral's summit! Making our way up the glacier we could not help ourselves but be amazed by the massive cliffs on either side of the summit ridge. For the last 100 vertical meters we decided to boot-pack as the slope was quite steep and a fall could have dire consequences. The last 100m were not made easy, full on winter conditions were present at the top with lots of loose snow and wind-lips that had to be broken down along the approach. 

The weather gods did not fully co-operate with us on the summit but we were able to get a glimpse of the shear drops on the west side of the mountain! After a summit snack and waiting (in vain) for a break in the weather, we decided to make our way back down. 

There is an alternative descent route that goes down an hour-glass feature on the north side of the mountain, descending down towards the town of Field. This provides an impressive 1934m of vertical descent! 

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Halfway down the hour-glass there is a 10m frozen waterfall that can be rappelled. Once past the waterfall, the terrain opens up and you can enjoy some amazing turns on an open face down to highway 1! 

Overall this is an amazing ski tour that I would recommend to anyone who wants to get on top of a great summit and have a pretty amazing ski line down. Side-note: before reaching the highway on the descent you must cross a set of train tracks, so be aware of cargo trains and the Rocky Mountain Express Train (so be sure to wave to the tourists onboard!). 

 

 

Ski Testing on the Robertson Glacier

The problem with making skis in the summer is that it becomes very hard to get them out on the snow. Lucky for us, marginal snow conditions persist year round on the Robertson Glacier, which is where we went on August 12th.

Starting from the Burstall Pass parking lot,  a short hour and a half drive from Calgary, we trekked up the valley on a popular hiking trail. Branching off to stay in the drainage, we followed a cobbled mess of stones and braided streams up the toe of glacier.

Playing it safe, we roped up before stepping onto the glacier and worked our way up a steep icy section, one kick-step at a time. We made our way out onto the snow safely and boot-packed up to the col which looks down at the Haig Glacier.

Sidenote - The Haig glacier is home to the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team in the summer months and the track-sets can be seen from the Robertson Glacier Col.

The ski conditions were not great, the top of the Glacier was relatively soft and made for fun turns but as soon as we got onto lower angle terrain the snow was very firm and pocketed with melting pools. Regardless of the conditions, it was so much fun getting out there to test our most recent prototype. They held an edge well on the ridged variable crud and were stable at speed.

Going forward, we are continuously striving to reduce the weight of our skis while maintaining the performance we demand from them. 93 North is currently developing various core constructions that are engineered to enhance torsional stiffness which will be pivotal in creating a lightweight touring ski that can handle even summer skiing on the Roberston glacier...