MOUNTAIN LIFE - Blue Mountains | Winter 2019

88 ML BLUE WINTER 2019 PRAIRIE TO PEAKS Rediscovering the Rockies, on- and off-piste TRAVEL N othing else hits you like this. Grassy flats give way to mammoth fortresses catapulting to the sky—here where the prairies of Alberta meet the Rocky Mountains. These mountains have stopped many before us, as we pull the rusted Land Cruiser off the blacktop, en route to Waterton Lakes National Park. This is not a pre-packaged ski vacation. It’s wilder and less mechanical. A secret between friends, this is our own voyage of discovery. This is the first stop in our “Prairie to Peaks” route from snowy trails here at Waterton, to the crushing fall-lines of Castle Mountain Resort, and finally across the provincial border to face-shot-filled Fernie. NATURALLY INSPIRING TURNS Cresting over a ridge, facing a flake-filled fog, the muzzle of a bison lifts, giving us notice, and maybe a welcome, before vanishing out of view. At 505 square kilometres, Waterton Lakes National Park, tucked into the southwestern corner of Alberta, isn’t huge compared to other national parks in the West, but don’t judge this prize fighter by size. Its acreage is jam-packed with adventures for all backcountry and wildlife seekers. While the 2017 wildfire wreaked havoc on portions of the park and closed an area we typically ski-tour, there’s enough terrain still available to burn your quads out. We unpack planks, weaving in and out of naturally thinned lodgepole pines, wind-bent to extremes. With no steep rippers, this is a slower cycle where one can reflect in cruisy terrain. Accessed from Highway 6, we start forest skiing from the Chief Mountain overlook, enjoying a mix of mostly touring with a few pockets of fresh. After turns, we do après naturally—a big lake walk with skinny skis and headlamps, star gazing, followed by campfire s’mores. We have no plans; we just let goodness happen naturally and unexpectedly. words :: Matt Mosteller Waterton Lakes National Park,Alberta. COURTESY PARKS CANADA