The Rockies are known for cold temperatures, and a snowpack that can be...thin...for lack of a better word. From November to February, you can expect to find similar conditions throughout the region but there are exceptions to the rule and one of these exceptions is in the tree skiing around Hector Lake on Hwy. 93 N. With deeper snow and often shielded by the wind, the Pulpit offers medium length runs, steep pitch and a good opportunity to ski in the trees in an area that's known for its alpine features.
To get to the lower slopes of Pulpit Peak, you have to cross Hector Lake. Obviously, the key here is to make sure that the lake is frozen. I’ve had my share of close calls on this lake when trying to cross it too early in the season...let me say that the sound of shooting cracks and the feeling of ice shifting under your feet is the worst thing in the world, especially when you’ve got skis and a backpack on and it’s -20C. You don’t want to get your skins wet, never mind breaking through the ice! The big challenge is that the crossing point is between where the Bow River enters and exits the lake, so at most (if not all) times of the year, you’re crossing between two patches of open water regardless of how cold it’s been. Trying to cross the Bow below the lake is challenging too because it doesn’t regularly freeze over, and it flows deep and fast.
Due to the access issues, the skiing here often holds on longer in the early season while everything else in the area is being skied heavily. There is lots of room to make turns on many aspects, and if stability is good, there are even a few chutes (rowdy!!) that come right down to Hector Lake. In the spring time, access to the very top of Pulpit Peak is easy, and you’re rewarded with a spectacular alpine run after getting a beautiful view of the Waputik Icefield. The lake usually stays frozen solid well into April, although the past few tropical winters have deviated that trend by a few weeks.
Some might consider the access long (2 hrs or so) but the advantage is that when you’re at the Pulpit, there’s opportunity to yo-yo runs over and over. Once the uptrack is set, runs are quick, and you’re skiing 300-400m every time. Though the early season skiing here is usually amazing, it pays off to come here in March when the snow is deeper because you’ll then have access to all sorts of lines that were off limits in December. Also, after daylight savings in early March, the sun actually shines on the Pulpit giving you opportunity to ski in the afternoon sun, instead of finding the sun simply to stay warm!