Definition: A warm ocean-born wind that makes its way into the pacific northwest region and the southern Canadian Rockies. Commonly called ‘snow eaters’, these winds will break the heart of anyone who loves winter and deep powder.
Your winter can be going along perfectly; you have lots of snow on the ground, the temperature is well below freezing and ski or snowshoe conditions are great. And then BOOM. In rolls a Chinook and it’s all wrecked. Chinooks bring high wind levels and high temperatures. During a Chinook, temperatures can swing from -20 up to +10 in the matter of a day. The warm winds are drying and melt away or evaporate all of the snow, leaving the ground bare, when just days before it was a winter wonderland.
Now, this might not sound like something awful to you, getting above-freezing temperatures in the middle of winter. But if you love winter, your heart breaks a little every time a Chinook rolls through. While last week I was skiing on pristine xc ski trails, now there is dirt and grass and pavement poking through. The downhill ski slopes are icy and snowshoes are pretty much unnecessary unless you are at a high elevation.
So what do you do when a chinook rolls in? Well, my friend Tiffany and I decided to make the best of it.
Both of us love outdoor adventure in the mountains and are avid paddlers. So when we heard there was open water to be found in Canmore, we decided to spend our Sunday morning paddling it.
One of the nice things about winter is that if you’re looking to do a sunrise hike or paddle, you really don’t have to get up all that early; Tiffany and I met up for breakfast at Rocky Mountain Bagel co (a pre-paddling tradition!) and headed out to the reservoir in Canmore. We found open water by the trailhead for Grassi Lakes, pumped up our SUPs and headed out.
It was an absolutely incredible paddle; the morning was beautiful and warm and it was fun to watch the ice climbers at Grassi while we paddled. We found a fairly large section of open water and managed to paddle almost all the way to the dam. We snapped a bunch of photos along the way; check them out here:
SAFETY NOTE:Tiffany and I are both very experienced paddlers who had the right training and right gear in case we went for a dip; we also had a chat about risks and what-ifs before heading out, so we had a game plan in place should one of us fall in. Paddling in the winter definitely isn’t for the inexperienced or unprepared paddler, so if you choose to find open water this winter, make sure you know what you are doing and are prepared for the worst case scenario.