Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 15 Last Saturday before Christmas and still no crowds

The day started at -19 on the deck, clear blue skis and the fear of Saturday crowds. Whether it was the cold weather or the crazy prices of lift tickets puting people off I don't know but the crowds never really showed up and we never found more than one or two people in front of us in the lift line all day - Europe eat your heart out.

With extra layers and hot bags in the mitts we headed up the old side to try our luck. Even in the sun it felt much colder than the recorded temp and we had to make regular checks of exposed skin the watch for frostbite. We warmed up with a run down the immaculatly groomed Bear then spread across all of the old triangle between Bear and Boom testing the conditions.

In summary most places had enough traffic so that there was no untracked powder but not enough traffic to piste the surface. What was left was very chunky chopped up ex powder which varied from light dust to heavy refrozen crud in density. Where the base was visible you either landed on soft snow taking a good edge or boilerplate and just by looking it was hard to tell what it was before you hit it. Add to this a rolling pillow of hard ice base covered by variable depths of snow and you get the picture. It was a day when you could never relax, you were always fighting your balance and control was always trying to get away from you - I enjoyed it but it was tough.

We spent the morning heading out along Cedar High Traverse and dropping in a bit further each time ending up just before a late lunch in Steep and Deep. The whole face skied a bit tougher than yesterday as described above, but in my opinion the scratchy ski outs (particularly bottom of Snake) didn't seem so bad - as Lynda said she thought they were worse it could just be me getting used to them.

Three more runs through Kangaroo confirmed that it is back to it's ugly, stumpy, icey best (worst?) particularly on the drop off onto the cat track half way down. An extra run into King Fir found some good powder but by the time you realised it was good you were back to the chunky, hard packed norm. Final run before lunch was to take Boom ridge and come out along Cedar trail. Funnily enough Boom ridge was better than most places probably because the narrowness had pisted the centre of the ridge and it was at least consistant hard pack.

In the afternoon things began to cloud over in anticipation of tonights forecast snow, temps flattened out at about - 10 and we hit the New side. Conditions in White Pass were much the same as on the old side but with some soft stuff in the Gun bowl and Highline trees.

After a while we dropped over into Currie bowl and along the County Line only to find that the Saddles had been opened earlier in the day for the first time this season. I dropped Corner Pocket which was a hard rain crust fron the rain earlier in the week - tough edge to edge jumping but ok powder with some avi debris in the bowl below. Next time round I went in High Saddle which was the same as Corner Pocket for about three quarters of the way then became a real scraped out trench which was a bit of a slither. Talking to a patrol buddy later he mentioned that everyone had been on about opening the Saddles but he couldn't see why as he knew it would be down to hard rain crust after a couple of runs and really no fun at all. He was right but I guess there are bragging rights involved in dropping steep double black diamond chutes.

Linked up with a buddy towards the end of the day a went right out into the boonies beyond Surprise trees and did find some untracked powder but as everywhere else there was the scratchy base. Of course final run down Skydive which is a little more skied but still very nice if you like terrain park like skiing - I do.

As I am typing after a hot tub and beer (not going to tonights hockey game as we went last night and saw the Riders win 11-1) it is -12 on the deck and light snow. It would only take about 5 cms of fresh (well ok a bit more if it came down cold and hence light) to restore the hill to great conditions so here's hoping.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 14 Blue bird day and fresh snow in Cedar

Temps dropped overnight so that this morning it was -13 as we arrived at the hill on a perfect blue bird day and ready to see what we could find. The forecast was for temps to rise and they did a bit so that by close we were around -10 and the effect was to keep the base hard and such powder as there was still pretty light.

I have been asked why I never comment on the state of the groomers on the hill. The answer is in two parts - firstly don't regard skiing groomers as skiing. Skiing is about an interaction with the hill when covered in snow and after the hill has been groomed there is no interaction, it's all been smashed flat by a snow cat and there is nothing natural or interactive about that. Secondly groomers are groomers. Once a slope has been groomed it's no different from any other groomed slope except in pitch or view. When you have skied one you have skied them all. Good for getting around and having a warm up run but apart from that a rather pointless exercise.

Went to the old side and had a warm up down Bear then a nice rip down Sun Up which was dust on crust bumps and ok. Found that they had opened up the Cedar high traverse for the first time in days so took maximum advantage. The rest of the morning was taken up looping out along the high traverse and dropping in on various parts of Snake ridge, and just before lunch ending up in Steep and Deep. There was great untracked powder in the top of all the runs with some rather more crusty stuff towards the bottom. Each loop returned through Haul Back and for the most part down Kangaroo ( 4 times) which was getting more like it's usual self - icey, stumpy, bumpy and ugly. Boom bowl was the usual route back to Bear and it was ok if a bit chunky with a very firm base.

After lunch we headed over the New Side and did a re run of yesterday just looping out along the County Line to the Skydive Traverse. Given the heavy releases from the head wall from last evenings heli bombing I had hope of the Saddles but they remained closed and we remain vigilant for the first opening. The afternoon loops were Decline (twice), Stag Leap, Cougar Glades and Skydive (twice) all of which were good deep snow on rolling terrain and a bit scratchy at the bottom. Once off Timber we took Lazy Locals out to Mitchy Chutes which seemed to have benefited from some blow in but as always were a bit technical in the mid section.

The very encouraging sign this afternoon was patrol moving the padding up the lift pylons which is usually a sign that snow is on the way. Forecasts call for some snow with the local hill forecast calling for the most - ok by me. Looking forward to developments.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 13 another good day by early season standards

Temps continue to fall so that it was -8 on the deck this morning and during the day it didn't really rise much above -4. We had a fair bit of sun between the clouds and also on and off light flurries all day which weren't really enough to give any accumulation.

Tonights report is going to be real short as we have buddies round for a hot tub party with food about to be delivered by the ever reliable Boston Pizza.

It was a complete re run of yesterday. We went to the New side and stayed there all day hitting out across the County Line and dropping in. Just like yesterday it was very good at the top and a bit crispy from about quarter way from the bottom. If anything the snow had dried out a little and was a bit lighter but places such as Lift Line were still rough as a Bear's ass.

We did cross Lazy Locals all the way to Mitchy Chutes today which was in much better shape than Big Bang had been earlier in the day. Runs off the top were Decline (twice) Stag Leap (a bit scratchy at the bottom) Cougar Glades (twice) Secret Chutes, Easter bowl, several Currie chutes and Skydive twice ( last time a really good head to head race with a buddy for the beer in the bar).

Great days skiing with good blow in powder on top and a hard base at the bottom. Sorry for the short report but the pizza man has just arrived and Rob and Katie need more beer. More details tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 12 more like early season conditions

A number of people have expressed disappointment over the past couple of days over the conditions. We must bear in mind that the conditions for the first 9 days of this season have been totally exceptional in that the powder has been as good as any you will get. Certainly things have gone downhill over the past few days but however you look at it the conditions are more than ok for mid December - we can all remember seasons when we have been downloading on Timber chair due to lack of snow so at least now we have good coverage all over the hill.

Over night there had been wind and about 10cms of fresh snow with temps well below zero. On the way to the hill it was -1 and we had light flurries off and on all day. The temp didn't change much all day and tonight it is heading down to about -6.

The effect on the snow was that everything that had softened yesterday was a hard refrozen base with some soft on top but in other places the soft seemed to run much deeper. First run off the top of Timber was down Lift Line which had grabby soft on rough boiler plate with death cookies. We found that tough and thought that if that was what the day was going to be like it was going to be super tough - fortunately it was ( and remained throughout) the ugliest run of the day.

We looped White Pass a few time enjoying good fresh powder in the Gun bowl and jumping the avi fracture line which had been marked by ski patrol. Surprise Trees was mostly untracked but with the hard base coming through when you least expected it. About 11 they opened Currie bowl and also the County Line and that was it as far as we were concerned.

We spent the whole day working our way across Currie Chutes going a little further down the County Line each time to find fresh tracks. We did take a look in the Saddles but they were closed and similarly I once hiked Cornice Ridge with view to dropping Lone Fir only to find that it was also closed - second prize was to drop back into the top of Cornice Chute (untracked) so it wasn't all bad.

All the runs were pretty much the same (Concussion several ways, Toms, Tekkers, Cornice Chute, Barracuda twice, Currie Creek and Cougar Glades twice) beautiful untracked powder at the top becoming a reasonable depth of soft on boiler plate base about 2/3rds of the way down.
As always finished with a rip down Skydive which was in rather better condition than expected and made me wish we had gone out that way earlier - ah well there is always tomorrow.

Beers, hot tub and bed. Can't make any comment on the Old side not having been there but I get the impression that it was mostly like lower Currie Chutes which would make it ok. No real snow in the forecast but with disturbed conditions who knows and the wind does suggest that blow in could be a good compensation high up tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 11 why you should always hang on in there

The reason why you should always hang on in there is because things can always get better as they did today.

We woke to find a covering of something white on the trucks outside our house which turned out to be very heavy wet snow. As we drove to the hill it was a snow rain mix with a temp of +1 and at the hill it was rain at the bottom becoming wet snow as you went higher.

As yesterday we decided to go high and as yesterday the White Pass chair was shut so we returned to the base where I put on a layer of rainproof plastic ($9.99 from Canadian Tire) and headed for the old side.

The Old side was mostly closed with no chance of getting into Cedar or Lizard bowls so we skied a bit on the old side triangle. If anything had been groomed it was long buried under the rain snow mix so skiing was on pure elephant's snot becoming a bit pisted lower down. Add to this poor viz and a continuing rain snow mix and it is fair to say that an early finish looked on the cards.

We got notice that White Pass had opened and we headed over. Very little was open, the Gun bowl was closed and full of avi debris with a 1 metre fracture line in the top. The I bowl was closed and full of debris from the Knot Chutes. All that left was Highline/Heartland and similar which were all good powder in poor viz but getting a bit chunky towards the bottom. We hiked several times into Milky Way Trees which were good but heavy powder and really hero snow all things considered.

After lunch I hooked up with my buddy Dan and we went back up the New Side and he showed me Morning Glory Trees for the first time this year. By this stage the temps had dropped so that even the lower hill was setting up pretty firm and the flurries were coming in as ice pellets top to bottom. Morning Glory Trees were just great, loads of untracked so you could pick you line, wind filling in as you skied, and fresh snow just a longer traverse away.

Things were so good that we just looped Morning Glory until close always finding untracked snow. The long ski out was a bit of a pain but if that was what was putting everyone else off then it was worth it.

A couple of drinks in the bar with friends then off to wings night at the Pub. Temps continue to drop with more snow in the forecast so it looks like we may have got away with this lastest pineapple express without too much damage to the hill although not having seen the avi damage in Cedar or Currie bowls I may want to revise that opinion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 10 the best of times and the worst of times

So far this season we have had the best of times with the most awesome opening week for many years and today we had the worst of times with the hill in horrible shape due to the pineapple express,

In the valley it rained pretty well all night and though the hill was calling for 19 cms in the last 24 hours it didn't say 19 cms of what. On the way to the hill it was +2 and raining. We decided that the best thing to do was to go high but were told that Timber wasn't going to open for half an hour and White Pass would be even longer. By force of circumstances we headed for the old side.

The rain line was just about at the top of the Bear so everything was subject to rain damage. The rain had gone higher during the night so the ridge lines were very, very unstable and as a result both Lizard and Cedar bowls were close so there was only very limited terrain. We skied around on Bear, North Ridge, and similar areas and found rain on the top of soft snow was predicably heavy elephants snot with only the groomed lower hill even half way decent but that was in heavy rain.

Eventually the New side opened and we went to investigate. The very top of Timber was wet snow which turned to rain at about White Pass base. After a couple of rounds we were told that White Pass wouldn't be opening at all today which meant that the only chance of anything like normal skiing was gone. With nothing left but the option of rain skiing on a highly restricted hill we decided there were better things to do and headed home for beers an a hot tub.

The future looks very unclear. More precip called for with falling temps so if the base freezes before the snow falls things should be great but if the snow falls wet before the freeze cuts in we will have conditions as ugly as bears ass. Only time will tell.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 9 a day of two halves

Bit of a weird day today. The morning was an awesome powder day as good as any and the afternoon was a horrible mess as the pineapple express hit us with it's full force bringing rain to all of the hill below the White Pass base.

Overnight there was 12 cms of fresh reported on the hill and as this measure was taken at about 5 am I guess that we had 20 cms of fresh by first turn and a base of well over 120 cms. On the way to the hill temps were -2, snow was falling and we were all pumped up for a maximum powder day - even had our own private snow plough in front of us all the way to the hill.

We went to the old side in continuing snow and just had an awesome morning chasing the powder all over the areas off the Boomerang chair. Cedar bowl was closed at the top but open from Alpine way downwards so we could drop into Cedar ridge pretty well anywhere from mid Alpine Way to King Fir. Actually King Fir was skiable for the first time this year and after a few turns through the bushes it was seriously deep all the way to the bottom.

Other great skiing was Boom bowl, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Buck Shot, in fact the whole Boom area. The way back from Cedar was always through Kangaroo ( 5 times making the YTD Roo count 17) and the Roo was great deep snow. In summary we had a great morning in super deep powder all over Boom and Cedar Ridge.

About 1 the snow at the base changed to rain and started to move up the hill just as was forecast. After lunch we headed up to White Pass and stayed up there all afternoon looping Surprise Trees, Highlne Trees, Milky Way Trees, the Gun bowl, and other assorted bits. Even though the snow seemed to be coming down white the surface became very heavy but with so few people around it was lots of untracked powder (?).

Finished with a rip down the third chute of Anaconda which was so heavy that when it sloughed out I had to ski real hard to miss what was an express train of snow following me down. Came off the hill down Diamond Back for the first time this year which was a good surface and clear of alders but being below the rain line it was like skiing on rice pudding.

Beer in the Griz bar where we agreed that no matter how ugly the hill looked in the rain it was going to look a lot uglier when the temps drop and the un groomed snow re freezes.