A popular area when the rest of Roger's Pass is closed, Teddy Bear glades offers some fantastic tree skiing through old growth glades. Playful features and sustained fall lines make for a fun lapping and a fantastic way to spend a storm day when alpine conditions and visibility are less ideal.
Your group will need to obtain a free winter permit to park by the discovery center and ensure you don't accidentally wander into a closed area. The short approach, easy skinning, and great skiing make it a good alternative when the weather isn't cooperating.
Park at the Roger's Pass discovery center and proceed north. The discovery center will help print a permit for the day if you were unable to access a printer.
Follow the path north before turning left by the creek. Stay on the undulating path on the left side of the creek before reaching a bridge. When emerging from the trees, space out and cross the Grizzly slide path - it's been known to cycle naturally during the season and run it's full course. After reaching the opposite end of the slide path, begin climbing through the trees until your desired transition point.
It's possible to go much higher than the transition point indicated on the gps track, but there will be a small rock band to navigate around. From there, choose your line down. With plenty of pillows, drops, and slightly steeper pitches, cheers and face shots are plentiful.
Seeing is believing. It didn't take much to realize why Roger's Pass is hailed as a mecca for ski touring. A short drive from either direction provides endless access to a wide variety of terrain with heavy annual snowfall. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I actively curtailed my imagination while glancing at the surrounding slopes on the uptrack. The abundance of natural features and chest deep snow had me beyond eager.
I was equally thrilled as I was nervous when Ben and Margaret invited me on this trip. On one hand, I didn't think I'd ever get a chance to tour in the pass. On the other, they're both superhumans on the trail and 3 consecutive days of touring sounded grueling. Fortunately (?), we were blessed with a large storm which kept the larger alpine circuits unticked for another year.
Not unlike Yoho National Park, I imagine Roger's Pass must have a unique topology that's conducive to the numerous storms. Especially with how much less snow the area around Golden receives in comparison. After admiring the some of the historical items in the visitor center, we hopped on the Balu pass highway. The approach started with a mellow climb with thick pillows bracketing the adjacent winding creek towards a bridge.
While the cloudy forecast had dampened my photography hopes, my optimism returned as the sun started to peek through between the glaciers. A myriad of light pools danced across numerous aspects sporadically through the morning. I heeded Angela Percival's tip to make an active effort to periodically look behind where you're headed and getting tight with your viewfinder to isolate more interesting elements.
After a less than stellar experience getting fenced at Narao Glades, I wasn't sure how big a fan I was of backcountry glade skiing. It turned out I simply needed to experience an old growth forest. The fall lines were longer and had substantially less bush whacking involved. Safety-wise it was easier to keep an eye on the rest of the party which provided some peace of mind.
Some say the Steller's Jay represents adventure and life's passion, venturing outside of one's comfort zone. Perhaps some might attribute fate to this encounter with our piloerected friend. The reality, however, is less poetic - I suspect he simply wanted Ben's tasty snacks.
On the way towards our highpoint, there were a number of larger pillows formed on top old tree stumps and the odd 6-10 foot cliff. The runouts looked good, but I didn't trust my legs to absorb the landing. Eventually, we came across an opening with a view of the east aspect that exits onto the main slide path.
Although we saw tracks, the east aspect appeared to be 30°-35° with a terrain trap at the bottom. Proceed with caution.
We had endeavoured to reach a high point further up the shoulder but eventually came across a rock band and decided to transition there. Hopping off my splitboard I immediately sunk up to my chest and knew I was in for something special.
According to the locals, the area only caught a desperate refresh the night before we arrived after a recent dry spell. The snow quality was reminiscient of our time out at Ogden Bench but there was simply so much more of it. Dry, blower, endless. Ben and Margeret graciously let me take the first pitch so I could park myself to catch them shredding.
We echoed the chorus of woohoos sounding off between the trees and ended our first lap ready for more. Near the bottom, Ben spotted my first backcountry pillow drop. I was shocked how weightless the landing felt as I went snorkeling through the storm pow. This day was a dream come true.
Our second lap took us in search of untouched fall lines a little further west to avoid the incoming groups arriving in the late morning. We reached the earlier rock band and dropped in to a mellower but longer pitch. Ben and Margaret effortlessly cruised through the meadows playfully unweighting at the apex of their turns as I began to lose steam.
A fully loaded everything bagel took the edge off a bit as we stopped for a much needed lunch. A number of groups skinned past us further into the valley towards Ursus Trees and beyond. One of whom stopped briefly to show me his Phantom Slipper hardboot setup and how it changed everything for him. The limitations of using my resort boot became more evident. Gathering what energy I could muster, we headed up for our third lap.
Head too far west and you'll exit onto the neighbouring slide path. There is also a creekbed where our tracks went - expect sudden drops and some running water.
Using the same transition point again, we headed even further west. We thought we had seen a steeper continuous fall line from the uptrack earlier and hoped to find it. A band of tighter trees made the upper pitch more reminiscient of the Bow Valley before opening up again.
A new found appetite for Roger's Pass (and tacos) had me dreaming of some of the other classic circuits for another year. Ben had the Sifton traverse earmarked for us pending alpine conditions as well as a redemption lap up the Seven Steps. After a fantastic outing and day 2 of my first touring trip, I slept heavily that night in preparation for our next day in the Icefields Parkway.
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