December 23rd,  2004
Ski report: Christmas Canyon
Christmas eve day was looking to be uneventful until about 11 AM. At that time Liz decided to go for a
run and I decided to go for a ski tour. Leaving Anna and Grandma home alone to enjoy each others
company without the distraction of Mom and Dad.
For todays ski tour I chose to go into a canyon on the east side of the Egan Range. I had been part way
up this canyon on foot once and had looked down into it from the top another time but I had never skied up
it or down it for that matter.
The bowl at the top always looked attractive but with other nearby canyons leading to good skiing
nearby this one always got overlooked. The tour up the virtually sunless canyon gets quite
claustrophobic at times with steep slopes and cliffs bordering both sides of it and narrowing to nothing
but a dry stream bed in the bottom. Terrain trap comes to mind in many places and touring up this in
high avalanche conditions would not be a wise idea. This ran through my head quite often during the
first mile or so of the tour.
The positive aspect of these steep canyon walls is that the snow in the bottom remains
unaffected by the pesky sun. The few spots that did get any sun had developed quite deep
surface hoar. This meant I didn't hit a single rock on the tour despite the fact that no new snow
had fallen for quite some time and I was starting my tour at 7,000 feet, 1,000 feet lower than the
usual starting points in the Schell Creeks.
About the time I was starting to wonder if the bottleneck canyon would ever end I broke into a
grove of aspens and some open terrain where the skyline was visible without looking straight up.
Before long I was catching glimpses of the snow filled bowl which was my destination.
The sun was already behind the mountain when I hit the open slopes of the bowl which
concerned me until I looked at the time and remembered that darkness was still hours away.
Skiing on the east side of a range in the winter isn't about enjoying the sunshine.

The snow told a story as I made my way up the low angle apron. The story was one of snow
sliding. I could see where the north-east facing tree lined avalanche paths had slid earlier this
season depositing loads of snow in the bottom. Skirting the edges of the deposition zones I
continued on up until I was at the base of the last 1,000 feet or so of steeper slopes leading to
the main ridge. Surveying the situation I decided at this point that I would definitely go
for the main ridge using the most direct east face of the bowl. The north-east slopes and gullies
had all slid and looked to be boiler-plate conditions. The south-east faces had not slid and were
sure to be crusty on top.
The slides had all originated in the North by Northeast facing aspects in tree lined slide
paths.  It was quite obvious that these slopes slide often.  Note the lack of big trees in these
paths.
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