The Alberta Boys Ride Big White

Well it’s been about a month since we did the trip but Big White was amazing. I think the reason it took so long to write this was that I’m feeling a bit lethargic. Last time I went to wholesale sports here in Edmonton I was in the fly shop as usual. I was looking for things that I don’t “need” but would help me tie that one fly in my book that I am missing a few things for it. Usually I check the black board where they will have a fly pattern of the week, fishing conditions, etc etc. The quote read something like this:

 

“Its winter and the fishing is slow, the fish are lethargic and so are the fisherman. Your best bet is to sit down with a drink and tie some flies”

 

Well I’ve defiantly tied a few in the past month but my productivity in the aspect has gone way down as well.

 

Colin and I rolled out for Big White at the crack of dawn, and while the road ahead was long, the destination was worth the trip. Things were pretty uneventful until we were in the pass near Mount Robson. The weather had gotten progressively snowier with each mile that passed and we came across this green van that was going slow. I went to pass and my good old Jetta had the engine light actually. It was flashing meaning my catalytic converter was having a shit fit. After a short while it just stayed on and I had a lovely stuttering feeling while going up hills. That combined with the crappy roads and weather stretched our trip a few hours longer than anticipated,

 

The most memorable thing about the drive was when we were just outside of Kamloops. It was snowing pretty hard and Colin throws this gem my way.

 

“I know you’re trying to concentrate, but if you stare off and look at the snow coming towards us, it looks like were going light speed”

 

What a guy, here I am doing only 80-90kph BECAUSE I can’t see anything.

 

We rolled into Kelowna and up the hill to Big White. We got in right behind a group of about 30 Germans and had to wait another half hour to check in. The bar was still open and after having a few pops we got ready to ski the next day.

 

The mountain was pretty unreal. Much too much to explore in one day, luckily we had two and rode the short road to the hill. We headed up a few lifts and burned some turns down to the village. A real cool thing was the TELUS chair, which overlooked the TELUS Park. There were a few guys doing some stuff in preparation for the rail jam later that day and the next but that was all we saw. We headed to a place called the Black Forest and when we got there it wasn’t that busy. We had some awesome runs and a few hours later it was getting pretty busy. It was also getting really close to that magical time when man’s legs are tired, his face is wind burnt and the best remedy is a cold beer.

 

We got the après ski party going at our hotel bar with some Caesars. We moved to a few more places in the village which is really the coolest part about Bit White. Everything is so central. Our hotel was steps from another one. And each one has its own bar, restaurant, vibe and people just like us. Just folks, looking for a cold beer and a good time. Our bartender Stu, from Melbourne, recommended we hit up a place called Gigi’s. He said it was like a classy living room, and it was. Our server there was another Aussie named Neil. Neil joined us for a pint when we had cashed out and he provided us with another tidbit of info on another bar.

 

So we stumbled across the way to a little bar called Snowshoe Sam’s. Now for those who don’t know, Snowshoe Sam’s was voted “#1 best ski bar in North America”. So we were pretty pumped. We walked in and the place was wall to wall. There were people in ski pants, jackets and toques. The young and the old side by side, and up on stage there was a rocking band playing. We ended up running into a few folks we met at our hotel bar and ended up partying with them for most of the night.

 

We woke up to massive hangovers. Colin had bought some Eno and Aspirin for the morning just like in Mad Men. We popped those and headed down for breakfast and then onto the hill. Talk about a brutal day. I’d been hung over on the hill before but you know that feeling when you know you have to leave a bar, but it doesn’t hit you till the next day. That was me. We were riding this section of the hill called Jem Lake and it had a variety of more advanced terrain. The main lift went top to bottom and it was snowing like crazy. While this sounds like a dream, as soon as we got to the top it would be a white out. No visibility and snow hitting my hung over face with no mercy.

 

After a bit of that, we headed in. I thought I was going to puke a few times, but was really having more trouble with basic motor skills like putting on my bindings and standing up straight. It was Super Bowl Sunday and wanting to watch that we got to the hotel ordered some pizzas and watched the pregame. We had to drive the next morning so I packed my bag and went to bed.  

 

The drive was pretty good till about 30 kms from Revelstoke. It seemed an avalanche had covered the highway – 2 hour wait. After getting through there and having no car problems the “quicker way” ended up taking just as long as our trip up. Go figure.

 

My thoughts on Big White? Awesome Mountain. Awesome People. Awesome Nightlife. I think it’s a great place for anyone from singles, groups to families. I would like to go with a bunch of people next time. Would I go back? Hell yes but next time I’ll fly. Until next time, hopefully it won’t be so long but if it is, my apologies.

 

 

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Marmot Day Trip

Last weekend we decided to head out to Marmot and do a day trip. It has snowed a few times in the last few weeks and it was rumored that all the rocks that had been painted white in the off season were now all covered and conditions were prime. It was going to be a busy one so we got started early. Vic called both Colin and I at 4:30 am and a few minutes later he showed up at the house and I started getting my poop in a group. Moments later Rich walked in the door and we were starting to load the stuff.

 

I grabbed my board and boots and Vic grabbed my backpack and we started to go to the truck. Colin and Rich had ran down the block to push out some damsel in distress who couldn’t figure out how to drive in the snow and had gotten stuck. Little did we know that she was a raging crack head full of booze and or one or more illicit substances. She was spitting profanities like no ones business and decided that after getting unstuck and going down good ol’ 100th street she would be better off to go back, turn down my avenue and ram the truck. Colin was pretty quick to act as the rest of us onlookers watched as our ski trip was about to be potentially put on ice. She ended up stopping about 4-5 feet short of the truck and Colin reversed the whole way down the block into the alley where she was headed. That didn’t seem good enough so he reversed again, this time onto 99th and she finally got to her crack spot and left us alone.

 

We finally got on the road at about 5:20 am, a little worse for wear mentally but that quickly faded with the prospect of mountains, ski bunnies and good snow on the horizon. We made the traditional quick coffee stop in Edson, and Rich met up with his buddies who we were going to ride with that day. The sun was coming up by then and despite a desperate need to get rid of the Tim’s coffee we just drank, we made tracks for the park gate and rolled up to lot 4 at around 9:15. I knew mike was on his way as well but hadn’t heard from him since we stopped in Edson. He mentioned he was just in Edson and roughly 2 hours from any sort of skiing. Boo-earns.

 

After a nice first run to the base we went to buy lift tickets and it was a total gong show. People left right and center. A long snaking line of humanity, eager but impatient to get out there and experience the mountain. We took a collective pee break and purged the Tim’s from our bodies before biting the bullet and getting in line. On our second loop in the line, a saint of a man pulled us out of the line and took us to the front of the group sales line and we were off and running.

 

I don’t know where the miscommunication happened but as soon as we got to the top it was planned to head to the Knob. Now although Victor is one of those guys who is awesome at any sport, he bailed in transit to the Knob chair and while he and Colin were shopping at the yard sale that had ensued they managed to get to low. By this time I had hiked up to the chair and was with Rich and a few cats he knows. I decided to stick with Col and Vic and we planned to meet up again at around lunch time.

 

Here’s the thing. That never works. You get side tracked. Some one is riding the top when the other party is riding the mid mountain. I found it quite regrettable that we didn’t get to ride much together that day. There will be another trip and maybe we can keep our poop in a group next time. We rode most of the mountains and after hitting the Knob chair till it got busy we spent the rest of the day riding the far right of the mountain. Although the Caribou chair was pretty slow at times the snow was nice and there were fewer crowds then everywhere else. And then a funny thing happened. We caught site of Rich and when we came down he was going up! So we were back together as a unit. And then another thing happened. Mike and Cindy yelled at me from about 5 chairs back of Rich. So now we were really rolling. We did a few more runs and then called it. My ankle was bothering me and it was 10 to 4. What an awesome day.

 

I’m still hunting for a powder day this season. I think my key is going to be taking a day or so off work mid week when it snows. Beat the crowd’s sort of thing. But there’s hope after all. First week of February we will be in Big White, and I hear it’s sensational.

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First Ice Fishing Trip of the Year

Last Saturday I went out ice fishing with my buddy Nathan. We went to high school together but I never went fishing with him I always knew he had a passion for the outdoors that was similar to mine which is always a good thing. The best part about going fishing or camping with new folks is that you get to share all your best stories and they are fresh and new again. The plan was to head out to Jack-Fish Lake early, smash some fish and come back before dark. However, we got a bit of a late start given the blizzard that was raging in and around the Edmonton area. I heard one stat saying that in those two or three days we got as much snow as we had in the entire month of January 2004, when the last big storm hit. And we were going ice fishing – PERFECT!

 

I rolled over to Nate’s at about 8am and was feeling pretty sleepy, I had gotten a decent night sleep but I wasn’t sure how he was going to be. Nate got off work at around 5 am but when I got to his house he was busy getting his truck prepped. I joined in and soon we were on the road after a quick fuel and coffee stop. The roads were garbage to say the least and we managed to get the truck up to 70 kph on the highway. Pretty impressive, considering the conditions. Once we got onto the secondary highway we got stuck behind a snowplow and were doing about 35 kph. After about a half hour pulled up to the lake. The only problem was that the drive down to the water was so bogged down with snow it was up to my knees. After finding a place to turn around we cut our losses and headed toward Hasse and Spring Lake.

 

All I wanted to do was to catch some fish. That was my goal. 2010 was a crappy fishing year for me, so I wanted to start 2011 with a fish on the line. I had been to Spring Lake last season with Eric, but I had no idea when to drill a hole. Nate mentioned he had been to Hasse lately and it was good for Yellow Perch, along with some Northern Pike and Trout hanging around. The real gamble was access and not wanting to get stuck we drove down and were pleasantly surprised to find the road had been plowed. The parking lot on the other hand was another story but we went in and had little trouble getting out.

 

The night before I had had terrible dreams about falling through the ice, and although improbable, the warm weather the week before had created a nice layer of water under the foot of freshly fallen snow and above the foot of frozen lake water below. After getting over it, we drilled a few holes, setting the shack up and putting a Tip-up for Pike a ways away we threw on some maggots and dropped our lines.

 

It didn’t take long before I landed a nice little Perch. I must say, I love Perch. Even though they don’t get that big, they always bite and a fish on the line is a smile on the face. I was using a two hook system with a Forage Minnow on top and a Black Chironomid on the bottom as I had for the Salter’s trip, but the perch were loving my Chironomid, and hammering it like crazy. It really put a smile on my face knowing that something I tied actually caught a fish.

 

Even though not many of the fish we caught were keepers it was excellent and I recommend ice fishing for Perch for anyone in a slump or needing a confidence boost. We left at around 3pm, the temp had started to drop and it was getting windy. I was getting a bit chilled and as a result, was getting crabby and hungry so we packed up and made the trip back. It took a bit longer than expected but it was uneventful. When I got home from Nathan’s I noticed I had a flat which was the only downside but other than that it was a pretty perfect day.

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My Return to Lake Louise

Victor and I headed out to Calgary to visit Ryan and Domi and go skiing this past weekend. Being New Years day when we left, the roads were pretty quiet and after a few hours we were at Ryan’s and enjoying episodes of The Wire in preparation for the day of skiing ahead.

 

This was Vic’s first trip to the mountains and my return to Lake Louise after a long absence. I never really liked Louise because she was always icy when I went. But after hearing Ryan rave about it for a few weeks we all decided to give it a shot. Given our collective boredom with sunshine these days and the twinning of the highway to Lake Louise everything was lining up nicely.

 

Snow reports didn’t look to great since there had been no new snow in the last few days but when we got there at a bit after nine we were pleasantly surprised to find a spot in the first parking lot. After getting suited up I collected my free lift ticket (loving that Lake Louise card) and headed to the quad. Temperatures were hovering around -18 but after a few runs I was nice and toasty warm. I was also wearing my new wool sweater which helped tons.

 

Ryan played tour guide for us since I’d never really ridden a big portion of the hill before. Over the course of the day we hit up most of lifts and a bunch of trails. I had a few spills but nothing serious and by the time lunch rolled around we were getting some mid-afternoon sun that was softening up the slopes nicely.

 

After enjoying some chicken fingers and Poutine we headed back out and went to the Larch chair to shoot some video, which can be found on our YouTube account and in the media section.

 

The rest of the day was cake, fast runs, sharp turns and deep carves punctuated the last hour or so. It wasn’t until the sun went down enough to cast most of the mountain in shadow did I start to tire. I had a particular big spill on my second last run as result of an icy spot and when I got to the lift, the lifty even asked if I was ok. Glad to see someone cared, even though I wished it would have been the hot blond from before as opposed to the Aussie that remained. All in all it was an awesome trip and Vic’s defiantly a skier. It might be his natural skill when it comes to sports but whatever it is I’m glad to have another person to explore the ski areas of this province and beyond.

 

Now if only I could get a good powder day in…

 

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Salter’s Lake

Headed out at to Salter’s lake with Mike and Logan today for the first and last shot at ice fishing this year. It was pretty nice weather wise, and having just bought my first ice rod I was pretty pumped to get out there and slay some fish. We headed out at about 9:30 and being the Salter’s lake is out near Alberta Beach it’s not an ungodly distance but takes about 40 minutes.

I was feeling pretty lucky and optimistic, given that the last time we were at Salter’s I caught a pretty sizeable rainbow and it was my birthday so that was a nice present for me. When we got there a few folks who were leaving had limited out at 5 fish and mentioned someone had pulled out a 3 pound monster earlier in the morning. This fit with the rumor of a 4 pounder a few weeks ago according to the folks at the Fishing Hole. I was using a Forage Minnow on top and tied on a Black Chironomid I tied the night before as a drop down fly. Once I got in the ice tent I could see there was lots of interest but nothing took the bait. Story of my life these days.

After those few interested fish took a look and decided how unhungry they were the fishing dropped off. ´╗┐Logan´╗┐‘s brother pulled in a small rainbow about 20 minutes before we left. In addition to being an expert fisherman, taking photos is another one of my fortes, but I only managed to get him releasing the beast back into the hole from which it came!

Better luck next time boys!

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A few new fly patterns

It’s about this time I think all anglers including myself get anxious. The rivers and lakes are newly frozen but not frozen enough to start ice fishing. I’ve been pretty bored over the last few weeks and I’ve been meaning to hit the tying bench but didn’t get to it till today. I went out and bought a few new things to bolster my supply of feathers and hooks and after talking to my uncle this afternoon about fishing I decided to make an effort and try a few new patterns. I picked two new ones from my tying book, improvised a multi-colored Woolly bugger and then winged it and tied a pattern out of the latest issue of Fly Fusion.

 

The First one I tied was a pattern called a Red Tag, which was relatively simple. Materials used were: red yarn, three peacock herls, one red-brown cock hackle, and black thread. I used a number 10 Mustad hook. This is a dry fly but can be tied to be fished wet in rivers or lakes. Best used against Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Arctic Grayling.

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My second pattern I tried was called a Soldier Palmer, which is a wet fly. Materials used were: red yarn, gold wire rib, two brown cock hackles and black thread. It is for use in lakes mainly and is effective for Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout and Sea Trout.

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My next one was just a Woolly Bugger and while I though I remember how to tie one, I ended up doing it backwards and forgot to put a bead head on. Materials: one brown marabou feather, one white marabou feather, grey chenille, a short strand of lead, brown cock hackle and black thread. I used a number 10 Mustad 3xl streamer hook. This one was pretty haggard. It can be used for Browns, Cutthroats, Rainbows and Arctic Char.

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The last one I attempted was a pattern I saw in Fly Fusion regarding flies from around the world. This one is from Japan and is very simple.  Materials were: cream color dubbing, one grizzly hackle and black thread, tied onto a number 14 Mustad hook. This is a typical Tenkara pattern. These patterns usually don’t use anything else from what I listed above. In Japan they have fish like Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden and a land locked Salmon called a Cherry Trout. I’m sure this will be effective here as well.

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In preparation of the upcoming ice fishing season I’ll be tying some simple patterns to be used as a second drop down hook. My Uncle Dean mentioned a small freshwater shrimp pattern that apparently makes fish go nuts at Hasse Lake. If anyone has this recipe, would you care to email it to me? Thanks!

 

Winter

Well if you don’t have any snow yet it’s probably coming soon and if you’re in the mountains hopefully it’s dumping. This winter is going to be a good one. With a few trips already planned and a few other weekends open there should be lots of time to get out there and enjoy the cold snowy Alberta landscape.

This winter the main things you’ll notice that have changed on the site is the snow report that I added and that the schedule is looking pretty sparse right now. Depending on how things shape up I will be having a more fluid and spontaneous time this winter as commitments cut into adventure time. For anyone looking for the hunting and fishing regs please email me and I will be more than happy too hook you up.

As for updates you can look forward to things like Ski trips, Cat Skiing, the paddle project, possibly the canoe project, fly tying (or my attempt at it), Ice fishing, maybe some indoor climbing, curling updates, some possible hikes, snow shoeing, and anything else that comes up. Also, I think I’m going to another rodeo so that should be in there too. And of course watch for guest bloggers.

Please keep in mind that the snow reports are updated every hour and if you don’t see your resort or are planning an awesome trip you can check that stuff at onthesnow which is linked on that page as well.

Another thing I’d like to see is some emails from you guys, let me know what you’re doing and what you think.

In parting checkout my last shot before freeze up. I didn’t catch any fish which isn’t a big surprise but having to cast around little bergs was kind of cool. It’s hard to imagine that a few days after I took that the river was almost totally frozen.

See you out there,

-Tom

 

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