Surprise Pass is a very popular ski tour in the Lake Louise area. It offers 600m of fall-line skiing, and makes for a relatively short day. Though it is a popular route, access is not easy – multiple avalanche paths must be crossed.
Approach: From the Lake Louise parking area, walk towards the Chateau and follow the signs for Saddleback Pass/Fairview Mountain (left of the lake). Once near treeline, the terrain will begin to open up. Veer right and cut across the base of the south face of Fairview Mountain. If you go too low below Fairview you’ll notice it becoming very steep or ‘cliffy’, but there’s no need to go too high either. You will have to cross some steep, high consequence avalanche paths off Fairview. There is a large saddle/col just past Fairview Mtn. This saddle makes for some excellent but mellow yo-yo skiing, and there are some more advanced lines off the knob to the lookers left of this saddle. Heading past the saddle, you will eventually have a short but steep descent into the moraines. Once in the moraines, continue heading west. There are multiple ways of navigating the moraines. As you head through the moraines you’ll notice a couple of couloirs – these are not the route to surprise pass. Near the back, you’ll find a rather wide chute leading up to the pass. In good conditions, it’s a fairly easy but steep skin up, however bringing ski crampons wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Descent: From the top of the pass, the descent is quite obvious. If you’re still yearning for more turns, stop half way down and look up. You’ll notice a couple of additional couloirs. Bootpack up and ski down to enjoy a bit more skiing. After enjoying the 600m+ ski down, head towards and across the lake. In early season, it’s best to work a bit up to the hiking trail at the end of the fan. You will have to be extra alert for unaware hikers, but the trail is free of bush and boulders.