Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sixth Annual Christmas Tree Hunt

Trip Date: November 2017

This year marked Cooper's first Christmas and thus his first Christmas Tree Hunt. Christine and I were both really looking forward to having him along on this adventure and for many more years to come! For our sixth annual Christmas Tree Hunt we decided to try a new location. Instead of waiting until the calendar flipped to December we opted to go out the last weekend in November as those dates worked best for everyone. Due to the earlier than normal departure we were able to access some terrain that is typically closed at the beginning of December each year. Powder Face Trail, which is located in the Elbow River Cutting Area, is closed annually from December 1st to May 15th, so we'd never searched for trees along that road before. The gamble paid off handsomely as everyone managed to find gorgeous trees this year. In fact I think this year's trees were easily the best looking than all the previous years combined! There were even some rumblings of hunting in late November next year as well to ensure similar trees could be obtained.

Cooper's first Christmas Tree Hunt
This year's tree was a real beauty!
This little family photo actually made our Christmas Card this year
Playing around with my GoPro to get this action shot of me harvesting the tree
As with previous years the weather was fantastic and there was even some snow on the ground, which made the outing all the more festive. The day wouldn't be complete without the customary bonfire after the trees were harvested. This year we opted to try Dawson Provincial Recreation Area and it suited our needs just fine. The day-use sites were well-equipped with picnic tables and fire pits and the out-houses were unlocked and clean. It was the perfect way to cap-off our annual tradition and we were all looking forward to the after-party, being hosted by Ben and Jess this year.

Time for a bonfire
Me and my little man!
All that fresh air tuckered him out
Good-looking crew for this year's adventure
Helping dad set-up the tree
The 2017 edition of our tree after being decorated
If you're looking to start a new tradition of harvesting your own Christmas Tree please refer to my previous post, Searching For The Perfect Tree, for all the details on how to obtain a permit. I'm already looking forward to next year's adventure!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Nakiska Ski Area

Trip Date: November 2017

On Wednesday, November 1st Nakiska Ski Area announced they'd be opening for the season on Saturday, November 4th, making them the first resort in Canada to do so. But then Mount Norquay dropped a bomb on Nakiska's plans and declared they'd be opening a day earlier to claim the title of earliest opening this year. In the end who really cares because ski and snowboard season is once again upon us and that's all that matters.

On the road to Nakiska
Welcome to Nakiska Ski Area
Located less than 100km from downtown, nestled in picturesque Kananaskis Country, Nakiska is the closest resort to Calgary not named Canada Olympic Park. Like COP however, Nakiska played host to the alpine events for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games and today offers 1,021 skiable acres. The resort boasts something for everyone with 13% of the runs considered beginner, 59% intermediate, and the remaining 28% advanced. The resort also features the Na.Jib.Ska Rail Park, a skier/boarder cross course, and the Monster Glades.

These signs were posted all around the base area
Uploading and downloading via the Olympic Chair
Excited to hit the slopes!
Normally I'd wait a few weeks for the conditions to improve before hitting the slopes, but the team at SnowSeekers surprised Christine and I with lift tickets. One of my cardinal rules is never turn down free snowboarding (you'd have to be crazy to do that), so we secured a babysitter and made plans to head out for the day.

The snow-making machines were in full effect, hence the hazy conditions at the Mid Lodge
The visibility drastically improved as we ascended the Gold Chair 
Pretty good view from the top of the Gold Chair
We didn't make first chair because it's tough getting anywhere when you have a 5-month-old at home, but we made decent time on the drive. As we were about to enter the lift-line Christine discovered she had a busted binding buckle that needed to be repaired before we had any hope of riding. With some helpful assistance from the repair shop we were on the chair with very little time wasted.

Overlooking the mountains in Kananaskis Country
I can promise you there's a big grin hidden underneath all the layers of warm clothing!
The trees were coated in snow and reminded me of the Snow Ghosts at Whitefish Mountain Resort
The only accessible terrain was off the Gold Chair, so everyone needed to upload and download via the Olympic Chair. Even though Nakiska received 65cm over the past seven days many of the runs still weren't open. From the Gold Chair there were approximately 10 open runs including the Monster Glades, which gave us some varied terrain to explore. It was a chilly -20 degrees at the summit, but the sun was shining and there wasn't a breath of wind so it didn't feel too bad, although Christine described her day as "frigid"!

Christine riding through the Monster Glades
Good snow in the glades
GoPro selfie on the day's final run
Christine and I closing out a superb opening day!
For me the entire day was completely unexpected. I was caught off-guard when Nakiska announced they'd be opening this early, the lift tickets were a big, yet welcome, surprise, and the quality of the snow was better than we could have hoped for this early in November. I am so glad we went and now I'm even more excited for the rest of the season to get underway.

The sun sitting low in the sky as we made our way back to the base
A brief video showcasing Opening Day 2017 at Nakiska

For additional photos and information from opening day please refer to this post from SnowSeekers.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!