Tres, Tres, Tres Massive

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Jasper, AB – Snow sloughs over the hump of the large cliff I’m standing above, trickling down over the rocks below. I wait poised on the shoulder of a spiny chute dropping into the new Tres Hombres area, via the second gate off Marmot Basin’s Paradise area.

The entrance is guarded by large Rockies granite slab on either side - steep, narrow and no mistakes allowed. Straight-line through these jagged stone sentries and you’re spit out onto a single-lane powder freeway falling right to the boundary below.

No point thinking about it too long. I give myself a three count and drop in. Rock rips past my peripherals as snow blows up around me, heart pumping adrenaline as the slight, tingling edge of fear gives way to elation.

“I’ve been staring at that forever, especially that windlip,” said Chris Peel, after we dropped in. The former Jasper freestyle coach and co-owner of local shred shop Freewheel Cycle, there’s not much if anything Peel hasn’t skied on the mountain.

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Jesse Lent, coach of Jasper’s U-12 downhill team, skied Tres just one day after it opened. In his words, “It’s a massive chunk of terrain, it’s easily accessed - and you’ve got this incredible, uninterrupted fall line… ”

Bruce Perry, owner/operator of ski tour company Magic Bus, was up taking advantage of the goods on a snowy Sunday in January. “Fantastic! The longest, coolest pitch you’ll ever see,” said Perry, who’s seen his fair share (OK, maybe more than his fair share) of western Canada’s mountain resorts. 

Being among the first into a new area comes with prime bragging rights, and that hasn’t been lost on the Marmot faithful. Asked if he has seen the excitement among his passengers, Perry replied, “Oh, definitely. Whenever it snows (at Marmot), the phones ring.”

Terrain expansions are not that frequent in North America. They don’t happen every year, or even every few years. Much of the skiable inventory on the continent has remained unchanged for the last decade.

Photo: Jeremy Allen

The original concept for Tres Hombres was first explored in the mid-1990s. But before it could open, Marmot had to undergo significant consultation with Parks Canada to ensure habitat preservation (both mountain goat and caribou frequent the nearby Whistlers Creek corridor) and develop avalanche control plans, emergency and safety protocols, says Kerry MacDonald, director of public safety.

MacDonald and his team spent many man hours in the area between 2013 and 2018 to reach the point where the ski area could finally flip the signs on the gates this season.

With five new runs opening onto chutes, bowls and cliff drops spread buffet-style across a 45-acre, northern face off the backside of the ski area, Tres Hombres offers over 1,200 vertical feet of steep skiing – the longest uninterrupted fall line riding on the mountain. It’s far from being the only advanced area on the mountain, however, 40% of the hill’s terrain is rated advanced to expert.

Marmot has its share of steeps and rockier terrain and it’s really accessible, often just a short hike or traverse off the chairlift,” Peel adds, listing classic favourites like Charlie’s Bowl, Eagle East, the Knob and Cornice.

All four are familiar to me, as the scenes of some of my favourite skiing moments over the last 15 years, but the lure of the unexplored and the untamed draws me back to Tres again and again. Nearing the bottom of another epic descent, I find myself poking around blind drops and corners, scouting the next line, and the next - and knowing that this new favourite will keep me occupied for a while to come.

Photo: Jeremy Allen

Derksen's Fave Tres

In 15 seasons at Marmot, as a volunteer patroller, a ski journalist and (briefly) as a Jasper resident, I’ve managed to explore almost every hidden feature on the hill. And yet, I’ve been careful not to reveal in writing all my favourite expert runs for fear they might get skied out. 
I’ve realized, though, that part of the beauty of skiing in Jasper is the way crowds disperse across the mountain. So, inspired by the recent opening of Tres, I’ve decided to share my current favourite three.

3. Knob Bowl 
Partly, it’s the hike and the view. Standing atop the peak in utter silence is breathtaking. And so is hucking the windlip and arcing out air back and forth over the spine separating Knob Bowl from Wendy’s choice.   

2. Poacher’s/Morning Glory
I’ve only popped in here a handful of times and the lines can be sketched at times. But when the snow is good, it’s pick-your-way in tight, with little boulder drops and pillows that will lure you into… cue “Archer” voice: the danger zone. 

1. Tres Hombres chute 
As yet unnamed, the chute just below Gate 2 has a steep, rocky entrance that will deter all but the most adventurous from dropping in and plundering the seemingly endlessly refilling powder below. It may be because it’s new and thrilling, but I’ll probably obsess over this one for a while.

Of course, on any given day, these might all change due to snow conditions, weather or my mood. But for now, that’s my top three. What are yours?

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