Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day 24 a bit of a nippy start

Well today was a little slow getting underway. This was partly due to all the port we drank last night while watching snow porn DVDs ( ski movies to the uninitiated) and partly due to a starting temp on the deck of -24. As it was we got to the hill at about 9 and put on full cold weather kit (no exposed skin) ready for the day.

We had been told that there was a massive inversion with temps of about -10 and sun at the top which proved to be right. Unfortunately we couldn't test this a Timber chair went down for half an hour so we hit the Old Side. Even there things weren't great as the Bear Chair was down and stayed down all day. I'm afraid my fears of a complete shambles in the lift system over the holiday period is starting to be justified.

It was quite warm at the top of Boom but as soon as you dropped down you were well into the -20's. Not often I ski with hotshots in my mits but today was one of those days. The snow in Boom was good and soft but Boom ridge was a bit scratchy. By 11 we got the word that Timber was running so we headed over the New Side.

Up top it had warmed to about -8 so we skied around White Pass droping the Gun bowl, I bowl, Surprise Trees, Highline trees, all of which were well skied but good fun. The Knot Chutes opened and we hiked to the top with a view to skiing the near shoulder which looked like untracked powder. We were wrong big time, it turned out to be pretty ugly windslab with a few soft turns about half way down. No all that bad but certainly not worth hiking for.

Took a couple of loops down the County Line which is in ok shape all things considered. First time we dropped Cougar Glades which was a bit chunky but we found some soft stuff in the trees on skiers right. As expected it was a bit icey at the bottom but skiable. Next time we tried Decline for the first time this year. Loads of soft snow at the top which you could free ride ok. Ice crust at the bottom was hard work but with fewer alders than on Sykdive it is probably the best of the three main front runs on the hill.

Very very later lunch so that afterwards we only just had time to head up the New Side, have a couple of runs through White Pass then ski off the hill through Currie. I expected the Griz to be ugly busy tonight but it wasn't, there were free tables and about half the numbers I would have expected. Perhaps this is a sign of the times.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 23 and a very happy Christmas Day

Do we ski on Christmas Day - you bet, but only until lunch time when we hit the bar for a few beers with ski buddies then head home for a full on Christmas with much too much to eat and drink.

Starting temps were -16 and it looked overcast but actually it was just low cloud that gave up some valley snow with a temperature inversion so that it was warmer (-10) on top and a bluebird day above the cloud. The great thing about these conditions is that as you pass through the tops of the clouds the moisture in the air is frozen into ice crystals so you see things like Sun dogs, Angel dust and a rainbow round the sun. If you have never been in the high mountains in cold weather you have never seen these amazing sights - ask me about them.

Great skiing up in White Pass in bluebird skies with a carpet of cloud below us. The snow was strange, it looked like chopped up crud but when you skied it it was real light and skied like powder. Dropped back to the base a couple of times via Easter bowl and Cougar Glades which were pretty good but the snow up there was surprisingly heavy and quite hard work to bang out the turns.

One long stop on Timber Chair convinces me that they haven't sorted the reliability problems on the New Side and with the busiest few days of the year coming up I fear a disaster but I hope I am wrong. The good news about the stop was that we pulled up along side a Piliated Woodpecker who was having his Christmas dinner of termites only a few feet from us. Watched for the 5 mins of the stop and in a way it really made our day.

Now back at the house with a temp of -13 on the deck with all the cloud burned off and beautiful sunshine. About to start the hot tub, food, drink, fall asleep in front of the TV cycle. Tomorrow will be ugly busy on the hill.

Day 22 what a great way to spend Christmas Eve

As forecast it started cold at -26 and didn't get much above -16 at the top all day. There was light cloud which gave up very light snow on and off all day but only about enough to screw up the light and not really to add to the base.

We started on the old side where some grooming had taken place to try and groom in the avi debris from yesterday. As it was so cold we were grateful that so much was ungroomed and therefore starting to turn to bumps. A morning of bump skiing on Bear, Lizard, Cedar and Boom Ridge kept us warm. One run through the newly opened Kangaroo proved it to be ugly ice bumps with twigs and a big ice crust drop off on to Cedar Trail, and that's from one of thr few fans of the run. Just as we headed in for a hot choccy break I saw two people dropping through Corner Pocket into Lizard and that set the agenda for the rest of the day.

After the break, went up the new side and hit out on the County Line, dropped through Corner Pocket which was well covered and a nice ski despite the double black diamond rating. Only problem was just at the bottom of the chute where we lost the light but a couple of turns in and it came back and then all you had to do was to pick the tracks between the avi debris and you had good deep powder all the way down to Dancer. The next couple of hours or so were taken up lapping through Corner Pocket, High Saddle ( a bit tougher) Low Saddle ( a bit steeper) and always tracking into Easter for the ski out.

Last run before a very late lunch I took a hard right hook into Spinal Tap for the first time this season and it proved to be a bit of a mistake. Ok at the top but it got icey with death cookies underneath half way down. a bit further down a tree had fallen across the stream bed which may be a problem as the snow builds later on ( you won't be able to duck it) but it probably will allow you to jump the tree to the right but let's see how that goes. Very tight on the ski out with an icey base and/or ice crust so not the place to go until the next weather cycle.

In the short afternoon went out to Corner Pocket to find that it had been scraped out by boards but the snow below was still good. Last run decided to try Cougar Glades on the grounds that the top should be as good as the top of Skydive and the bottom nowhere near as bad due to less traffic. For once got the call dead right and had a great run top to bottom with only a little toughness in the lower sections.

Great evening visiting friends, having drinks and opening Christmas presents at home. Looking forward to a short day tomorrow followed by Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 21 and a day of not very good guesses

Today dawned clear with temps at a cool -12 and these actually fell during the day to about -16 by evening. When we hadn't heard any bombing by 7:30 it was easy to figure what was going to happen. When we got to the hill our suspicions were confirmed and the helicopter was up and they were heli bombing all the ridge lines from one end of the hill to the other.

This was good news in that it meant that everything was clear to be opened subject to a bit of extra work as most of the ridge lines had fractured for most of their length. It was bad news in that everywhere was covered with avi debris in fact a long term local told me in the bar in the evening that this was the most avi debris he had seen in the bowls ever.

We hung out on the new side to await the opening of Currie that didn't happen during the morning. All that did happen was that White Pass chair broke down for another 30 mins ( they had better sort this problem before the holidays start) and we skied ever more difficult conditions as the powder firmed up in the cold and the base became hard and quite slick. Loops through Surprise, I bowl, Highline etc were all ok but no more than that.

At lunch we discovered that the old side had opened up a bit and Cedar bowl had been pretty good so we had been in the wrong place all morning. After lunch we headed up the Old Side only to see that Snake Ridge was not open despite what we had been told but there was a sign saying that Currie was open so we headed back to the New Side. Dropped down Arrow expecting it to be a quick groomed way back only to find it was avi debris all the way down to China Wall - that's one amazing slide.

By the time we got back to the New Side there was only time for two loops. In the first we tried 1-2-3's and found loads of avi debris, so much so that we skied about half the time on powder and the other half on 2 week old rain crust which is how far down the avi had slid to.

Final run was out to to Skydive along the County Line. All the way across we saw how the hill had slid pretty well all the way. Doesn't look like the skiing out that way will be much fun until the next fall of snow with the possible exceptions of Currie Creek and Cornice chute where the snow looked like it might have held. Skydive was good at the top but the rain crust started to form about half way down and the lower third was just ugly hard work but the pow at the top made it just about worthwhile.

Looks like more of the same for the next few days.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 20 and pretty awesome in places

The rain that was heaving down in town last night turned to wet snow eventually and we woke to fine a fresh covering and conditions of around zero. The situation when we got to the hill was that we had 30 cms over night and the base was now a solid ( in every sense of the word) 185 cms. Given yesterdays rain at low level the only way to go was to go high on the New Side to White Pass and loop up there in the combination of yesterdays snowfall plus what we had over night.

Most of the New side was closed so the first few runs were through the Gun bowl, Highline, Heartland etc all of which were good. About third loop through some buddies from the Patrol tipped me the wink that they were about to drop the fence on the I bowl so we were able to ski over with them and duck the fence to get first tracks as soon as they lifted it. An awesome run down a totally untracked bowl - how good was that.

White Pass Chair then broke down for 20 minutes so we looped to the bottom through Black Cloud which was a bit too chunky at the bottom to be fun. As soon as normal service was resumed we went back to looping Surprise Trees where there were many different lines to be taken providing fresh snow as long as you were prepared to cut it close to the trees. We also took a few drops through Anaconda and then on to Bootleg Glades all of which was very nice untracked powder and kept on going until they closed the Glades around luch due to an increased avi risk on the back of rising temps - they had just had a class 3 natural in Lizard bowl.

In the afternoon we had a quick trip through Mitchy's on the way to White Pass which was nice and deep in all the chutes. We then looped Surprise Trees all afternoon. Each loop we went further into the trees skiing an area that I haven't really skiied that much in the past. We ended up dropping onto Trespass Trail not that far beyond Bootleg and had some just awesome skiing through the trees which in that part of the world are tight, but not too much, and quite steep but well able to be skiied in nice linked turns as long as you put your mind to it.

Had a few beers in the Griz afterwards and then on the the Pub for wings night. Forecast looks like it will cool over the next couple of days with more snow then a few days of much colder dry weather - the jury is out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 19 and today we have Elephant Snot

Of course the polite terms for what we got today are words such as Jersey Cream or Sierra Cement but Elephant Snot seems to cover it well enough for me.

The snow came last night but towards dawn as the temps rose the moisture content of the snow rose until it was high, very high, 100% actually ie rain. When we got to the hill the temp was +1 at the base and we were told it was much the same at the top. In what proved to be a pretty average idea we decided to do an old fashioned powder chase to the old side triangle.

We got first tracks in Boom but it was heavy. All over the hill you could see people stacking it as they tried to ski the rain affected snow and we were tempted to think that maybe today would be a short one. Spent all morning getting fresh tracks on the old side in Linda's, Cedar Ridge, Boom Ridge, Gully and Gulch etc but the rain line crept up the hill and the snow was heavy.

Tried the new side which was a bit better as we went higher and it was snowing in White Pass if raining pretty well up to the White Pass base station. Most of the new side was closed but by late morning they had managed to open all of Timber bowl and Anaconda down into the top of the Gilmar Trail. We looped several times through Surprise Trees which were awesome but heavy. Seeing Anaconda was open we started looping Anaconda and Bootleg then back up Timber Chair. First time through Anaconda we witnessed a huged avi in the bottom of 1-2-3's which the Patrol told us was the smallest of three in Currie bowl although it looked pretty big to me.

In the afternoon we headed up the new side in pouring rain and by White Pass this had turned to wet snow. Spent all afternoon looping towards Surprise Trees in poor viz and full on winter storm conditions. Snow was filling in and a last run through Surprise was pretty much fresh tracks. Finished by dropping Anaconda in the far chutes which we thought probably didn't have enough snow but were happy to find there was loads and most of it untracked then out through Bootleg which seemed to be reparing quite well in the snow and cooling temps.

A few beers in the Griz bar followed by Christmas shopping down town then back to the house to eat and have an early night. Forecast is for flurries and cooling which we will need to cover the soft snow low down which will go to boiler plate when the temps drop later this week. The future is very uncertain - welcome to the Legendary early season conditions in BC.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 18 short report

And the reason it is a short report is that after a great day's powder skiing we drank loads at the Griz Bar and got totally blitzed then went out for a meal with our buddies Rob and Katie and got even worse.

Good day on the new side with temps at or about zero and snow on and off all day. Loops through 1-2-3's and Bootleg were good. As soon as they opened the low traverse out of Currie we hit Skydive ( very rough in the lower section) Easter ( good all the way) and Secret Chutes ( untracked powder top to bottom). We also ran in some good stuff in Mitchy chutes, Big Bang and a neat little line in Puff Trees.

In the afternoon we got word that Lone Fir was opening off a side step traverse in Currie then a hike up Corniche Chute. The word was right and we had two great trips through Lone Fir which is some of the steepest tree skiing on the hill and then into the avi damaged area of Easter bowl which was over the head powder all the way down.

Finished with a rip down Skydive which was predictably awesome from the top and surprisingly not too crap at the bottom on account of the fresh snow that had fallen during the day.

Too much beer following such a good day. Puking down snow as I type this and maybe 50 cms overnight now called for - who knows. Tomorrow could be a new definition of awesome.