Real Ski Report: February conditions have improved

Paul Karchut's Real Ski Report tells us where to find the best downhill and cross-country conditions in Alberta and B.C.

Despite the rain at many resorts this week, the 'dust on crust' is still pretty good

Things have improved a bit at several Rocky Mountain ski resorts this week. (_T604/flickr)

Each week, CBC Calgary's Paul Karchut speaks with dozens of dedicated skiers and boarders across eastern B.C. and southern Alberta to get the real scoop on conditions at resorts, on cross-country trails and in the backcountry.

This week brought rain to Fernie, Revelstoke, Panorama, and Kimberley. Paul Karchut's ski scout Ryland Nelson reported from Kimberly this week.

"The skiing has been warm, definitely unseasonably mild temperatures, but we had some snow on the upper mountain again [Wednesday] night, so it's nothing too catastrophic out there," he reported.

You're not going to get frostbite, that's a good way to look at it.- ski scout Ryland Nelson

Warmer temperatures could bring wet flurries to many resorts this weekend so check the conditions at your hill of choice before you set out.

  • Revelstoke: Paul's scouts say your best bet is to stay up high. The cooling trend should keep upper slopes in skiable condition. More snow is in the forecast.
  • Fernie: See Revelstoke.
  • Panorama: See Revelstoke
  • Sunshine Village: Ski scout Sue Shih reports that Sunshine had the best conditions this week, with 48 cm of fresh snow and cooler temperatures.
  • Kicking Horse: With 50 cm of new snow, ski scout Leah Gardener reported steady dribs and drabs of snow have kept it consistently refreshed and it's remained cool right to the base.
  • Lake Louise: There is a hit of snow in the forecast, expected to amount to about 15 cm by the weekend. The recent warming trend didn't hit Louise as hard as other resorts, but you'll still want to ski up high where the snow is good. Ski scout Sue Shih reports there are some rocks poking through the snow, which is unexpected at this time of year.
  • Nakiska: Status quo, a few cm of new snow here and there, but most weeks it's just fast groomers.
  • Norquay: See Nakiska.

Cross-country skiing: things have improved

The big cross-country news is that it snowed a few centimetres in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park this past week, and the temperatures have cooled down.

So conditions have improved quite a lot, particularly in the north end of the park where the elevations are lower.

The grooming staff in Kananaskis tended to the south end Thursday night.

They told Paul Karchut they'll focus on the north end Friday and Saturday night in and around the Pocaterra area.

That could make for a great option for the weekend.

Bob Truman (aka Skier Bob) says the Ribbon Creek and West Bragg Creek trail systems continue to be a no-go zone.

But if you want something closer to Calgary, Truman was at the Canmore Nordic Centre earlier this week and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the skiing  — even on natural snow trails.

But it's the trails around Lake Louise that win out for best conditions ... if you're willing to put in the drive.

Backcountry avalanche warning in effect

High winds in Kananaskis country this week have scoured alpine slopes or loaded them with serious wind slab.

The folks at Kananaskis Public Safety report there's still some decent skiing in the trees, but it's not great out there.

Avalanche Canada is seeing touchy conditions in B.C., including the north and south Columbia mountains, the Purcell mountains and the Kootenay Boundary.

Avalanche Canada has issued a special avalanche warning for those regions for this weekend.

"We've had a lot of storm snow recently, and that storm snow is sitting above quite a slippery crest," explained Avalanche Canada forecaster James Floyer.

"This weekend it looks like we're going to get some sunny weather, and that storm snow is likely to shed, certainly on south aspects and maybe as well on other aspects, possibly natural and possibly in response to triggering by a human such as a skier or sledder."

Floyer advises backcountry skiers to group up in safe spots away form runup zones above, and says to check the Avalanche Canada website before you hit the slopes.

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With files from CBC's Paul Karchut