Bayes’ Theorem: K8 Learns to Ski

Four years ago François invited me on a hut trip, despite the fact that I hadn’t skied in 19 years. I borrowed an entire backcountry set up from Sully and carried 8 pounds of yogurt up the skintrack having no idea what to anticipate. Fortunately, everyone in the group was unbelievably kind for me being a newbie. Allison and Max Powers gave me pointers, Henri told me what to do in an avalanche (switch my beacon and get out of the way), François and Wayne made sure I didn’t get too big of a head— and met a whole another crew of humans who were friends of friends and now good friends (love it when that works out). It was so much fun and despite the fact that I thought the video Wayne took of me was in Slo-Mo (it was not) and where I picked up the Supernova nickname— it convinced me I wanted to take up skiing. 

I did a hut trip last March with most of the crew in Colorado where again I was on borrowed gear (I ended up getting the same pair of skis this year that I was on). It’s hard to remember much from that trip because I felt like I was still in such a freeze response (but certainly starting to thaw out). But remember how great it was to gather with friends, take some deep breaths in the mountains, and ski lines that seems inconceivable a few years before.

This year I had emailed them all about potentially going to Chamonix before I had to be in Geneva for work— they countered offer with a trip to Canada the same week and realizing I could make it work with work, signed on. It just required a lot of compartmentalizing when packing, dresses and heels for Switzerland, backcountry gear for Canada. And in true Kate fashion the days leading up to the trip I went skiing multiple times and postponed packing until 10pm the night before. 

I got to Calgary without much issue, my bags, however, did not. I met up with the rest of the crew and found out that Félix was also missing a bag. Both airlines guaranteed that when they arrived they would deliver them to us. We left Calgary and started the four hour drive to Revelstoke. 

Day 1: Revelstoke Ski Resort

We decided to ski the resort the first day and had a bit of a slow start to the morning. Danielle was able to outfit me with most of the gear I needed and the guys were able to get Félix going (including another ski set up). I decided to not ski Henri’s 190 skis (I ski 161 for context) and after dropping them off at the resort went to get a rental set up. Fortunately, I had packed my boots in my carry on. I got a similar set up to what I had, except a little longer skis (167). I made it back to the resort and took the two gondolas up to the top and met up with Max Powers to regroup with the others.

Max and I headed to the top after we touched base with the others to figure out a link up spot. The first run was a bit choppy as I got used to the new skis and the turning radius. I followed Max down to the bottom feeling somewhat like I was a rag doll that had just gotten tossed around. We found the others and headed back up the chair lift. I asked Max what all those bumps we hit were, if they were considered moguls. He informed me they were and I could just call them bumps— I said they were fun (they were despite getting tossed around) and that I wanted to work more on jump turns.

We got in another short run with everyone before taking the lift back up and boot packing to the top to get a different line going down. Danielle and Max gave me pointers for boot packing up the hill, hinging at the knee rather than the hip.

We got to the top and split into two teams of three, with Max P, Félix, and Henri taking one route down and François, Danielle, and I taking another. After entering through a slot in the rocks we had most of the run to ourselves and it lasted so long that I had to stop and delayer. We met back up and headed for one more lift as the resort was closing, we ended up dropping about 5,000 feet on the last run to get to the bottom, which was amazing and also a quad killer. We got done and learned that the aquatic center was not opened on Sunday ruining our plans for the evening but we rallied and packed the AirBnB hot tub. We met up with three more CO friends that evening who drove up to meet us.

Day 2: Christiana Glades

The next morning after Félix’s bag had shown up and mine had seem to have gotten lost somewhere between Seattle and Calgary, I went back to the rental shop to get what I’d need for the backcountry and some additional attire, we headed up to the visitor’s center on the pass.

Skiing on the pass requires a permit and registering with the park service. After getting our permits squared away we backtracked down the pass to head into Christiana Glades. We started up the skin track and I got use to all my new gear- we spent time swapping ski stories that we’d had thus far this season and all the fun things we’d get to do at the aquatic center later.

At some point the sun broke through the trees and I stopped to bask in it, feeling like it had been ages since it had really provided any warmth embrace. We went down and crossed through a gully to start skinning up the other side. After some discussion towards the top about how far till we turned around, we decided to keep going for at least 15 minutes and if we weren’t near the summit we would turn around. Soon after, the tree coverage broke and we were rewarded with views throughout the valley floor. I had Max Powers snap a few photos of me but in the process managed to fall over and get stuck in the snow. After I graciously got up, I went to put on my new helmet that I had got the day before and had tried on but this time it didn’t want to go on, what oh no, I readjusted my poorly tamed hair and looked at it, I had ended up with a kids helmet, well rung what ya brung and shoved it onto my head. I thought the color was maybe too much fun for an adult color… After that we split into teams again to pick our routes down. 

I looked around and it seemed like they had all disappeared into the woods, I followed a line down into the trees and was soon flowing in and out of the large trees and following similar lines down. Félix and Max P stayed in front of me and Félix would call things out for me, like you can hit that or it’s a soft landing. And it was true, the landings were soft which only helped to inspire my confidence knowing the landing would in fact be soft. I followed Félix down and stopped where a fallen tree had created a bit of a jump, seeing Félix take it he called back up saying it was good to go. I followed his line down but unlike him did not actually stick the landing but avoided crashing into Félix as well (which was really like sticking the landing).

We got done with the run and linked up again with the group. Danielle and I stuck together on the luge track of the skin track. I kept joking that it felt similar to Alaska with the light fading as we were coming out of the day. Félix and Max Powers met us at the bottom to provide some lights for our exit. As we were going up the last little pitch I said I was so excited for the aquatic center.

Upon cresting into the parking lot, we saw cars backed up on the highway. After some discussions with others in the parking lot we learned there had been a crash and the highway had been closed in both directions for nearly 2 hours. Not going to make it to the aquatic center. We hung out in the parking lot for about an hour before deciding to head in the opposite direction for dinner and wait for the highway to open up. We got dinner and then about 5 hours later we were back in Revelstoke. 

Day 3: McGill Shoulder

On Tuesday we split again, with the three from CO who had driven going to the resort and the 6 of us heading out to the same starting location. Instead of crossing down into the valley we would stay on the same side of the skin track and ski the shoulder (hence the name, McGill Shoulder). We got our permits and went back to the parking location, again having a bit of a slow morning to get going. We headed up the skin track and took a hard right to continue up the slope instead of venturing down the path we had hit the day before.

We climbed up again but not all the way to the top and transitioned. I took off both my skis which I learned why it was a big no-no when I fell into a tree well and couldn’t get out. My general approach is to tell them to not look at me as I fumble around but in true friendship form, they all grab their phones to document.

After I managed to get out we split up into teams again. I went with François and Danielle as we zipped and zagged through the trees. There were a few spots that were a bit more persnickety and we would go down one-by-one radioing when it was clear. The snow was so light as I moved through it, trying to use the natural objects to practice my jump turns and navigate tight spaces.

We got down and opted to go back up and do another lap, this time during the transition I left at least one ski on. Having some familiarity with the route I felt more confident going down and skiing a bit steeper things. Again meeting up after a wide opening with the group we navigated back to the skin track which was a bit more survival skiing through down trees.

Thank goodness Max Power had a super bright coat on so I would look for him and point my skis in that direction. We made it out and shot down the skin track and back to the cars. I waited with bated breath as we crested the last uphill before the parking lot. No cars backed up on the highway which was a good sign for the aquatic center.

We got back in time for the aquatic center which has a slide, a lazy river, and a diving board. I did a not so graceful entrance from the diving board, if you can imagine both my hands and feet hit the water at the same time as I was in an upside down U. After that I opted for the lazy river and hot tub while watching all the others take their turn on the diving board. We hyped up the aquatic center but for such a small town it was actually pretty great and a good way after three days of skiing to reset the body.

Day 4: Having fun isn’t hard when you have a library card

We were leaving Revy to go stay closer to Golden and we figured we would ski on the way. The only problem is that my ski bag was set to show up in Revy and could not be re-routed or delivered to Golden. Because we had two cars, we split into teams again. Henri and I stayed in Revy and went to the library to work and the others went and skied the Teddy Bear Trees. I was a bit bummed initially but overall happy to get my ski bag. I went for a run around the town and saw more parts of it. I currently have a friend who winters in the area and definitely keeping in mind coming back for a few more weeks next winter. My bag finally showed up and we did a quick stop at the grocery store on the way out of town. Because we had to pack everything up as we were checking out I had the realization that we would have to fit the three bags of groceries in the car– fortunately we made it to the house with only 4 eggs cracking on the way.

Day 5: Grizzly/Rodgers Run

We started the day as we had done previously, making large amounts of coffee and food and reading the avy forecast. What we had discussed doing the night before changed a bit with the addition of “deep persistent slabs” included for the first time in the avalanche forecast so we took a while to figure out a new route.

What we had thought about doing before would have required us to cross potential avy shoots but with this addition in we thought it was best to avoid those areas. We all settled on a plan for the day and headed out to get our permits. We didn’t go all the way to the summit and checked the slope angle a few times on the way up to make sure everything we’d be skiing wasn’t over the 34-35 degree range.

On the first lap I adjusted to my skis again, having wished I had been able to ski them in the resort, they were a little bit shorter and wider than my rental so the first few turns required getting reacquainted. We split into teams and my team went one by one down, we were weaving in and out of a previous avalanche run (it was totally safe mom) and the variable snow made me have to react quicker than previous days required. I was grateful for my skis and followed François’s line back into the trees before all meeting up at the bottom and deciding to do another lap.

On the skin up I struggled in a few spots with sliding backwards, even though D had been coaching me on more efficient kick turns. I caught up and the rest of the way it became a Kate therapy session with the boys and D, which was highly comical, cathartic, and reassuring.

Especially getting male friends’ perspectives on my dating life (probably best saved for a different blog post or my book) since they’ve known me for the duration of multiple relationships it’s always nice to have a check in on my choices. Like I’m probably asking for the right things just from the wrong people– and it’s okay if they don’t understand my work, it was pointed out that unless I wanted to date someone within the department of ag, it’s unlikely anyone will really understands what I do. We got back to the area we were just in to transition and planned to go the whole run down. Félix started by doing a star fish off a log jump.

I followed D and her lines through the trees and again took space for the avy path. We crossed over after it had run out and followed Félix off a log. Or more so stopped and watch Félix send it off a log into a very anti-climatic landing. We weaved in and out of the powder in the trees and I felt my turns come more easily. We got back on the skin track and waited to regroup. We looked at the chute nearby that a friend of a friend had skied before and talked about the approach and conditions for it- it was not something our group was comfortable undertaking in the conditions but everyone’s risk tolerance is different.

Day 6: Kickinghorse

Our final day we decided to go near the resort to ski a bowl in the out-of-bounds area. We ran into a very friendly guy in the parking lot who after we told him our plans actually suggested something closer that had been tracked out but was less prone to sliding at this point. We took his words and readjusted our plan and headed up towards his suggestion. We started skinning up one of the resort’s runs and I started talking about kickturns as the slope was gentle enough that I was able to practice. This led to Henri and Max Powers getting into a discussion about friction and mass and force and cars which carried on for a while as I just kept saying, “Kick….turn…kick….turn”.

I’m not sure what conclusion they reached but if anyone has any thoughts around if coefficient of friction is directly related to pressure, feel free to reach out. After that, François and Félix decided to opt out and take a half day pass and go ski the resort, Henri carried on for about 5 more minutes before also deciding to head down, leaving our team of three, Max Powers, D, and I. We kept going up, trying to figure out if we were even allowed to uphill at the resort but those that did come down didn’t say anything and there weren’t too many people on the run so we didn’t feel too weird about it.

We got to a juncture and ducked under the rope to get on a skin track. We chatted more about life, and the possibility or not possibility of kids, and the communities we want for the future, and what we like about our communities now. We got to the ridge and looked over, I was giddy with the possibility of skiing it but very quickly realized that the snow was not set for that step of an angle at the moment and we continued up to the summit where we would stay on the side of our skin track.

We transitioned, myself having practiced leaving both skis on and ripping the skins off (I can do it on my skimo skis but the heavier ones are a bit more challenging). And passed around the donuts and bacon I had packed for everyone from the left over breakfast.

Max P went first and I followed. I pushed off into low angle (29 degrees) glorious powder. I took bigger turns and floated through the apex, feeling the force pushing back into my skis at I pushed through the turns. I regrouped with Max P in some trees and waited for Danielle to come down. We went a bit further down before stopping and debating if we had time for one more one.

We all agreed we were okay either way and not coming to any real consensus I suggested we do one more. We got back up to the top and discussed taking a similar route down. I went first and focused on making tighter turns, planting my poles, and really looking down the fall line, and it all seemed to make a difference or at least felt like it.

We regrouped around the trees and party skied for the most part back to the skin track and out the way we came. Toward the bottom of the resort, soft sleet was falling making the snow sticky and grabbing our skis, cutting out any smooth skiing we thought we’d be having. We got down to the end and met up with the others to regroup and make our plan for the rest of the evening. We split up to get groceries and drinks and meet back at the house.

We spent the evening reliving parts from the week until it was nearly 1 am an we realized we needed to pack to leave the next day.

We all got off to our respected locations the next day, Félix checked my ski bag for me for Colorado so I wouldn’t have to haul it for Geneva for a few work meetings. Skiing with them I felt incredibly lucky for all the pointers and tips they gave me and in a way that only inspired confidence. I’ve realized how lucky I’ve been with ski partners this year and feel like I’ve been able to build out more of my skills as a result. Taking up a sport as an adult can be incredibly humbling but it’s also amazing to be able to see actual growth and progress happening. I’ve been cycling for so long that sometimes it’s hard to see any real marginal gains. It’s also really nice to be at point in my life and our lives where we can all take a week off and go ski somewhere. I’ve since mostly recovered from the jet-lag of Canada to Geneva. I finally got a pedicure as Henri pointed out that the only people with worse feet than skiers are ballet dancer so didn’t exactly set myself up for success this fall by getting back into ballet.

I thought a lot on this trip about snowpacks with the constant analyzing of the snow since we were all unfamiliar with it, we were constantly taking in information and adapting. Much like life they are never static, it’s ever changing even once it’s buried, changes in temperatures, precipitation, humidity and wind can all turn a benign snowpack into a deadly one and vice-versa. As I continue to unpack and repack things I think about this a lot the snapshot in time, the factors that go into it– I mean even digging a pit, unless you’re collecting season long data, only really tells you about the snow in that pit or the surrounding area but if you get on a different slope or different face or different wind exposure all the snow could be different underneath you. So while sometimes I wander into the world of “what ifs or I’m worried about” I remember to just dig my pit and take stock of the information I know now and trusting in myself that I can recalibrate if needed.

Bayes’ Theorem is is a mathematical formula for determining conditional probability. Conditional probability is the likelihood of an outcome occurring, based on a previous outcome having occurred in similar circumstances. Bayes’ theorem provides a way to revise existing predictions or theories (update probabilities) given new or additional evidence. Somehow the trip went from “K8 learns how to ski” to Bayesian K8 which was then pronounced Bay-shin…anyways you probably had to be there but if you want a souvenir sticker, holla!

Up next, the grandest of canyons!

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