Canmore Kananaskis
The weather can get unpredictable for snow sports near Canmore Kananaskis.

Weathering Heights: From Blue Skies to Whiteouts and Back Again

Dispatch by Lena Desmond

Photos by Sergio David Spadavecchia

There are so many things you think you can control in life. The weather is not one of them.

“There’s been nothing but blue skies for a week,” my adventure partner, Delano Lavigne, had told me. Yet we were up at first light and opened the blinds to find a fog so thick you could jar it. It billowed. It churned. It hung like a set of blackout drapes, except the only things it kept from sight were the mountains.

As we left our hotel in Canmore to hit the hills for our first day of skiing, rain pelted our windshield. In the car, Delano pointed at things out the window that should have be visible, but weren’t: the Three Sisters, Mount Rundle, Cascade, Mount Lady Macdonald.

No matter the weather, we were hell-bent on making the most of every turn.

In an effort to direct our energies into changing the weather, we fluttered our lips in unison, all four members of Team Outpost mumbling about how great it would be if we could just see the mountains. 

As we threw on our ski gear in the parking lot, the day started warming and the clouds started lifting. It was one of those moments we didn’t want to jinx. We all nodded our heads at the shift in our fortune, but still layered up. Base layers, mid layers and shells.

We boarded the gondola, drawn into the alpine less like clothes on a hanger and more like touch-starved sailors following a siren’s call. This might be the last time on the hill this year for both Delano and I, so our energy was high; no matter the weather, we were hell-bent on making the most of every turn.

Lena Desmond
The weather wasn't always cooperative—but, then, it rarely is.

As we moved farther up, we passed through the layer cake of cloud and emerged into blue skies—and the skiing conditions we’d dreamed of. The snow was still hard, but not icy. The top of the first chair was chilly, but soon thrust into sunshine. A stone’s throw away you could see the surrounding mountains, with small pillowy clouds still clinging around their summits. We layered down after the first run, gladly shoving our mid layers away, thinking we’d won.

A few hours later, we were heading up one 2,600-metre peak when a weather system started coming in. The blue skies went white in what felt like seconds, and the sky began spitting tiny bits of hail. At the top, our visibility was shot. You could barely see the lifts meandering into their turnstile fewer than 100 metres away. To the naked eye, the ski hill’s incline, its bumps and moguls, appeared featureless. We paused at the top to add back on our warm layer. The temperature dropped.

“Yeehaw!” I bellowed as we pressed onward, or should I say downward, sitting back in my thighs imagining my legs like shock absorbers, ready to take on whatever ups and downs the storm had hidden from me.

From fog to clear skies to snowstorm and back again, we had four days of weather in one.

Somewhere on the face, we paused to collect ourselves. Big, wet white flakes glued themselves to our helmets, as we said things like, “This will make for a great snow scene.”

“It’s going to look like a whole different day on video!”

“The colour of our jackets is really going to pop!”

“Did you see me catch some air?”

After a minute of rest, we noticed the snow stopped. Just as quickly as they disappeared, the surrounding Rocky Mountains ripped through the clouds again. A blue-bird day again had landed on our shoulders. We de-layered for the second time. From fog to clear skies to snowstorm and back again, we had four days of weather in one.

As I sit here now, I smile thinking of the words Delano wrote in an earlier dispatch: “It is a beautiful world upon which we, or at least I, project an infinite number of ideas about what that adventure will manifest into. Will it rain when I want sunshine? Will there be clouds when I hope to see the stars?”

Our first day skiing in the Rockies gave us a mixed bag of conditions. With mountain weather, you’ve got to take it all in stride, with a smile and not without a layering system that keeps your warm, light and happy. After all, we asked Mother Nature for a change. She sure gave us her all. We took it gladly, and then gave it right back. 

If you want to follow our expedition live using #opxCanmore, check us out on social media:

Want to read more? Check out our full expedition to Canmore Kananaskis: 

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