Nipika Mountain Resort...in transition between seasons
It doesn't take much to get me hooked on an adventure, so when Lyle threw out the line, I jumped! Nipika Mountain Resort remains one of my favorite trail running destinations. It's about 1.5hr drive from Canmore straight South (via hwy 93 South), and border Kootenay National Park. Lyle is an ex-National Team coach and following his coaching career, he moved to the Invermere area and literally stumbled in this beautiful giant meadow. He loved it so much he bought the land and build an amazing eco-mountain resort that features six timber frame/log cabins which accesses over 50km of ski trails that double as mountain bike and running trails in the summer. Interlinked with all these ski trails is one of the best networks of single-track in the World - really! Nipika hosts two stages of the TransRockies (bike) event as well as the Nipika Loppet (40km Classic race) and will soon have it's own Nipika Trail Run (10k, 21k, 42k) on May 31st!! Now that my little promo rant is done...on with the story!
I'm always looking for an excuse to go to Nipika and since the resort is hosting a couple of stages for the TransRockies Bike event (of which I'm the operations manager), I figured it was a good reason to head down and 'discuss details' of the upcoming event...
Upon our arrival, It didn't take long to realize that my ski equipment may not get used... The 20C heat wasn't giving the snow much of a fighting chance as the meadow was quickly turning into one big mud bog! After giving Kellie (my girlfriend) and I a quick tour of the new Bill Yearling Cabin renovation project (Lyle and his son refurbished this old 1900's logger/miner cabin, raising it off the ground, and turned it into an interpretive centre), I convinced Lyle to strap on the nordic gear one last time - and off we went.
Despite having to jump/run/hop over a few bare sections, the packed snow was actually holding up nicely in the shade. We cruised around the trails trying to find the best 'shaded' loops and eventually made it to the Cross River (which flows into the Kootenay River). As we crossed the narrow bridge, a huge golden eagle took off from the bank grazing our heads in frustration...We quickly realized that we had interrupted its meal, a freshly killed deer- The dogs were on the carcass in an instant, sniffing away at the potpourri of gamy goodness. We skied down to investigate further and Lyle quickly identified some pretty big cougar tracks all over the area...We lingered long enough for me to snap a few shots as the tracks were less than a few hours old!
Deer carcass on the banks of the Cross River
"Feeling a bit nervous...time to move" Lyle says.
Lyle figured this "less than 2hr-old cougar track" was from a 150lb cat! Meow...
An hour later we were back at the cabins, dogs in tow, happy and muddy just like their guides!
We definitely stretched the last ski of the season, but it was a great way to wrap up the winter and get set for trail running. Another month and the Nipika trails will be dry and ready to go for trail running season!