Skiiers got a taste of some fine Rockies powder - literally - when Marmot Basin received 71 cms, a record-breaking snowstorm for the resort near Jasper, AB.
JASPER, AB - "This has got to be one of the fattest storms I've ever seen at Marmot."
Coming from your average weekend warrior inhaling a plate of fries and a barley sandwich at the Eagle Chalet, that comment might garner some suspicion. Sure Pops, these are the Best Conditions Ever (*eye roll*). But heard over the radio on a ski patroller's jacket while flying above Knob Bowl, one tends to give the anecdote a little more credence.
"We got a metre in a weekend in '98 or '99 but I seem to remember that it warmed right up on the last day and everything turned to cement. This weekend is much gnarlier in terms of snow consistency."
That's Greg Shore, a veteran ski patroller and long-time Marmot Basin shredder. Between patrol duties, which includes obligatory powder smashing, Shore offered up his thoughts on the 70-plus centimetres that fell in just under three days in Jasper during the March 1-3 weekend.
"It's blower, it's Rockies dry," he said, poking at the build up of wind slab on T-Bar Ridge with his pole. "It's wicked gnar."
The dry Rockies powder was flying.
That was last Friday, when the tirst flakes of the storm fluttered in. By day's end, 26 cms had accumulated and skiers were reporting excellent conditions.
However, temperatures in Jasper were hovering around zero. "I was seriously concerned that it was going to rain," said pass holder Jesse Lent.
He needn't have worried. A cooling trend blew in Saturday, as well as another half a foot of snow. On Sunday, just when skiers and snowboarders were wondering if conditions couldn't get any better, Marmot was blessed with 30 additional centimetres, making for a total of 71 cm.
The storm closed the Icefields Parkway and made race conditions challenging for the Jasper Junior Olympics, which was being hosted by Marmot the same weekend. But those not wearing race bibs were praising the Ullr, the Norse God of snow.
"Wow. I don't know what else to say," said Jo Nadeau, who was one of the first skiers to sample thigh deep snow in Charlie's Bowl. “Every turn is incredible.”
Because there was little wind over the weekend, the snow gave avalanche control workers more latitude while working to open terrain. Eagle's East opened around 11 a.m. on Sunday while the Knob Chair started spinning to the public in the early afternoon.
Visibility was off and on as the storm periodically socked in the upper mountain, but there was no questioning the quality of the turns. "It was very low density, dry powder snow that made for excellent skiing," avalanche forecaster Mat Charet explained.
No argument there, Hoots and hollers ricocheted down from McCready's Run, to Kiefer's Dream, all the way to Jasper's lounges, dinner tables and hot tubs.
"I can't stop smiling," said Jeff Bartlett, Tourism Jasper's media relations officer. “It’s all anyone’s been talking about.”
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