A Man for the Mountains: Jim Woods

I seem to be writing a few of these lately, luckily Jim Woods is still with us, but I was thinking of him last night after viewing my Facebook account. .

Someone had posted on their account that Jim had just retired from Parks Canada in Lake Louise after a 49 years slog with them. Having worked for Parks Canada for a few years myself, I can’t recall anyone else having such a long career with them–must be a record of sorts.Canmore Folk Festival

Upon reflection, I remembered a few memorable hikes and ski trips I did with him over a 10-year period in the 1980s-1990s. I first met him on Banff Avenue in the early 80’s walking with Blake O’Brian, Kim Hartlin and Donny Dynes. I had heard of this legendary mountain man through them and others, including Mosquito Creek Hostel parent, Mark Holmes.

Jim was the impetus behind Mark and my misadventure, at times, into telemark skiing. Jim insisted that we buy the latest telemark skis–Kazama Mountain Highs. The biggest mistake we ever made was trying to do the proper figure eight turns that Jim had showed us with our bloody 220 cm skis–not an easy task.

Mark and I eventually bought different skis-me getting Rossignol Descentes 210 cms–a much better, wider ski for telemarking. Our skiing got much better, to the point where Mark and I bought mid-week ski passes from Sunshine, and for one brief winter in 1985, skied our asses off. The highlight of that winter was to show off how much we had progressed up at Sunshine when Jim came back from one of his winter sojourns to India. He was duly impressed.JW&RP, Zion Park, 1985

There were a few memorable backcountry ski trips and backpacking trips we all did with Jim that come to mind.

The infamous Egypt Lake Hut winter ski trip-where Jim, Mark and I got snowed in for 3 days in a row after consequently breaking heavy trails for those days up to Healy Pass. Because he hadn’t counted on being at the hut those extra days; he ran out of food. Luckily, Mark and I had packed extra rations, and between the two of us had enough to feed him.

A hellacious 3 day romp from Kootenai Plains over maybe 5 passes to the Ram River Glacier and its abandoned glaciologist’s hut with Jim, Mark, Andrew Morgan and myself. We were supposed to do a traverse that would take us back to the Icefield Parkway, but we got stonewalled by the unclimbable Nordic Ridge. We opted to hike back to the Plains, but by a different route and in quick time too!

There was the ill-fated winter camping trip up to Mount Hector which I gracefully exited early only because I was going to dally with a red-haired Kiwi damsel back in Banff, but that is another story. At any rate, winter camping in the Rockies is too much like survival camping–who needs that shit!Ugly Jim@Lizard Pass, 1985

In 1985, Robert Parkinson and I also did an extended road trip with Jim down through BC onto Utah, Arizona and Colorado. We did some fabulous spring telemark skiing at Lizard Pass and near Squaw Valley as well as incredible hiking in Utah’s Zion and the Southwest’s other canyonlands.Parkinson&Woods@Zion, 1985

In his prime, there probably was no better a hiker in the Canadian Rockies, and he was unmatched in his knowledge of the Rockies. Moreover, he was a mentor for a few of us, notably, Mark Holmes, Stevie B., Joaquin Laustaunau (Jack), and Stephen Legault.

I just wish we had of been there at his retirement two days ago in Lake Louise.

Good luck in your retirement Jim: the mountains are going to miss you.

I’m sick to death of your well-groomed gods,  your make believe and your show.                     I long for a whiff of bacon and beans and a snug shakedown in the snow.                                A trail to break, a life at stake and another fight with the foe.

from Song of the Sourdough, by R. W. Service

4 thoughts on “A Man for the Mountains: Jim Woods”

  1. Good memories Joe. A couple corrections if I may. We didn’t ski squaw valley,that is in California. We did ski somewhere near Ketchum,ID, Galina Pass if I recall. Lizard Pass was near Teluride, CO. Also we didn’t quite enter AZ. Minor details. I saw your brother in Burley the other day. Cheers.


    1. You know I didn’t think it was Squaw either but Ketchum and Galina for sure. Jim stayed on the highway. Telluride for sure–great bakery there and a cute French gal in Ketchum bakery.


    2. BTW–that Egypt Hut Lake trip you and Mark Stewart were there too–I think that is the first time I really met you. I also remember meeting Mark S. in Safeways and him complaining about women, his gf at the time.


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