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Backcountry skiing at the local mountains behind Vancouver Canada has all the qualities of a maritime location; somewhat dodgy. Hope is eternal though, and several times during winter the storm cycles come trundling down from the gulf of Alaska and it's, game on. This is the "wet coast" though, and the snow quality is at best temporal; dawn patrols are the order of the day with the added win of mid-week skiing and still making it in for that 10am meeting. Innate, a Vancouver-based company that has gear posted for review on Trailspace, shared this blog post written by Julian Stoddart about this somewhat obscure obsession. As a keen practitioner of dawn patrol on the mountains behind Vancouver, Julian is well aware that the moist climate and complex terrain mean any gear selected needs to perform well; this is the same place where Arc'teryx designers go to test their latest prototypes.
When my alarm starts chiming at 6:00am I can hear the fat raindrops and the occasional car hissing through puddles on the street outside my window. The lucid stoke I’d felt as we’d drummed up this plan the night before has fled the scene almost completely and for the umpteenth time I’m seriously tempted to bail. I’m expected to be there, however, so drag myself out of bed quietly, close the door to my bedroom and turn on the espresso machine.
Pack on back, skis/poles in one hand, toasted bagel balanced on full Doppio in the other, I clomp down the hall towards the elevator with ski boots on already. I’m not sure one should drive in their TLT 5’s, but I’ve done it often and find it pretty easy.
Our local version of a border guard is moving the pylons off the road, as per the strictly enforced rules, when I drive by at 7am sharp. Twelve minutes later I park and sit finishing coffee and bagel, watching friends crawl from their respective vehicles to don boots before I join them in sticking skins to skis.
Together we start out, both fatigued and encouraged by the lack of up-track; it only takes a few minutes of breaking trail to wake us up fully. We all know these trees well, having made this trip several times already this storm cycle: a little steep, then quite steep, then a bit more flat, and then steep again at the very end. Around 8:00am we’re standing on top, invigorated by the fresh air, wind and wet snow hitting our faces. Skins off, jacket/gloves/toque/goggles on - there are several ways down from here, all of which should be really good today.
Back at the cars, now in full daylight and in full agreement that this was a good idea.
“That was great guys - I can probably do tomorrow morning again if any of you are interested”.
And like that, I’m committed, which should be just enough to stave off the doubt I’ll surely feel when my alarm sounds tomorrow morning.