Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day 56 Awesome awesome, awesome.,

And if you want another ajective to describe today then just try awesome.

First of all a thanks to all who emailed me to wish me well with the injury and amazingly enough the large numbers of visitors on the hill who knew me, and the blog and wanted to wish me well. I feel a bit of a fraud as the injury responded really well to treatment ( hot tub, beer, vitamin I gel and tabs and ice) so despite being forced off the hill with pain yesterday I was able to ski a full day today although it was a little painful. The injury itself has swollen to a beautiful mass of blue, purple, green, yellow and pretty well every other colour of the rainbow but things should get better from now on.

Arriving at the hill temps were -1 at the base and fell during the day to -7 by the close. Up top we were in -10 but most importantly it puked snow all day from when we arrived to when we left and as I was lying in the hot tub a few minutes ago it was -7 and still puking snow to the point where some got in my beer. Best of all the snow wasn't low moisture fluff but good solid high moisture hero snow which meant that we could pretty well point our skis wherever we wanted and get away with it.

Thinking (wrongly) that temps would still be an issue I went to the New side. I had an experimental run down Puff to see how the leg was and found good deep untracked hero snow and no problem with the leg. I was one happy bunny.

As usual only half of White Pass was open with poor viz and the sign line down at the I bowl. I had three really good deep and fresh runs through the Gun bowl, variations of Highline/Highline Trees and the lower trees which would pass as great powder in most places on earth. Next time up it was apparent that the I bowl was open so time for two runs through Surprise Trees going just a bit further each time to get beyond any tracks - really good skiing.

Next time up Currie bowl had opened and I was amazed to find than not only had the County Line also opened but the saddles were also there for the taking - this didn't deflect me as I was on a mission. I had to cut first tracks along Skydive traverse which was a bit of work but for 5 minute cutting I was rewarded by standing at the top of Skydive in tons of fresh powder and first tracks for me. There is no sensation (at least none I am going to write about here) that begins to match a first track Skydive rip in deep powder, no point in trying to describe it.

Next loop I took Stag Leap on the grounds that it is less used than most and found that only two tracks had been in before me. They obviously knew what they were doing as they had taken the left side where the terrain is best but the right side untracked was good enough for me. Cougar Glades had a few tracks in the top but by pushing left into the tighter trees it was all untracked. The left hand chute ski out which had been pretty slick the day before was now good and soft and great fun to race your own slough to the bottom - even managed to beat it today.

The obvious next choice was the Brain which was well on the right side of awesome. A ski school group had hit the left side but the right side was mostly untracked and some great tight skiing if you held your nerve as the trees tightened.I then headed for Lone Fir and something odd happened.

Actually it wasn't that odd, as I started the side step up my heal binding broke with the usual Rossignol problem of the base plate snapping - about the 5th time it has happened, you would think a big company like Rossignol would have got this sorted years ago. On the bright side it didn't break when I was pushing it in the chute. On the bad side this was about the furthest point you could be to have to get down on one ski with some tricky terrain - rather obviously I made it but it was piece of work.

Dumped the skis in the repair shop to put on a new binding which I have at home. In the meanwhile I used my free performance rental voucher to take out some S3s which this year are 98 m under base and a bit of rocker in tips. Great fun and a quick run down Lift Line convinced me that they were really just like my old S5s.

The whole afternoon was spent on new side loops. Cougar Glades, Currie Creek, Secret Chutes, Spinal Tap, Window chutes (log drop only about 4 ft now), the Brain (untracked even though I had skied it in the morning) and of course Skydive for the last rip. No point in commenting on any of the runs they were all deep and getting deeper in hero snow, previous tracks filled in and just awesome.

Still snowing with tons more to come in the current cycle, things are getting awesome even by Old Fernie standards.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day 55 a painful day

And I am not talking about the skiing but an injury that I picked up in a stupid fall. Not too serious but the first time I have been driven off the hill by pain in 7 years so I guess I can't complain.

The cool down forecast for last night didn't happen to the extent anticipated and it was about zero when we got to the hill and overcast. My thoughts were that all the South facing stuff yesterday would have been sun affected and therefore chunky this morning so the way to go was to either hit the north facing slopes or the south facing ones where trees would have provided shade from the direct sunlight.

A quick run back through the Gun bowl proved that the sun affected snow was indeed hard. My guess was that Cougar Glades would be good and I was dead right. Still soft untracked blow in most of the way down with just a bit of rain crust to negotiate on the way out - very mellow.

After giving Lift Line such a good write up yesterday I would have expected it to be kind to me today but it wasn't. In the final section as I landed a turn my uphill ski landed on a hard death cookie and slid into my downhill ski effectively wiping muself out. On the fall the slow twist of the ski push the boot into my right calf muscle before the binding released.

When I got up and skied down to White Pass I was in a lot of pain. I tried a groomer run off the top of White Pass and back to base which was ok but painful. Next I went back to Cougar Glades and whilst it was ok the pain was just too much and the turns to the left not in enough control for safe tree skiing.

After a break and a rest it was apparent that to continue would risk further damage so I was off the hill by 11. The good news is that it is just muscle pain with swelling and bruising and no damage to a joint, ACL, MCL, ITB etc so it should get better pretty quick. The bad news is that we are due a powder cycle, things seem to be socking in on the hill and may have to miss a day or two although with luck I will be able to manage groomers at worse for a couple of days.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 54 knots and saddles

A very very good day nothwithstanding all the strikes against. The temps remained warm and as there was no precip we appear to have got away with this latest warm up.

Yesterday when the rain finished we were left with a rain affected band at about the lower quarter of the hill level which had turned to rain crust overnight. Starting temps were about +2 at the base cooling as you got higher to minus temps (just) and a general warm up during the day to +5 at the base but with no precip the snow stayed in pretty good shape.

A quick mention to the excellent guys at Top Shelf who yet again had stuck my boots together overnight. Must be 550 days and still going. 800 days of ordinary skiing and 20 years of skiing for the most enthusiastic recreational skier. Worth every cent of the price which is a little more than the price of normal shop bought boots. Top Shelf Rules.

I went to the New side to investigate and dropped to White Pass via Lift Line. I haven't mentioned Lift Line much as it is the path used 90% of the time when going from Timber Top to White Pass base but to give it it's due the run is skiing soft and fast with loads of interesting terrain which would be fun in it's own right but tends to get ignored as it is just part of the loop.

Heading into Currie bowl I found the County Line closed so went out on the low traverse just looking for something. What I found was Concussion untracked with wind sift blown in all the way down and a great rip. The rain crust didn't start until well below the ski out into Gilmar Trail and this provided a useful marker for the rest of the day.

Next loop round they had opened the Knot chutes for the first time in almost two weeks and that was it for the rest of the morning. This year they are not insisting that you hike to the top of the chutes but are allowing a traverse in from the Gun bowl. This worked quite well as on the way across the first time I heard two guys behind me say that they didn't like the ice shoulders and doubled back, just beyond the second shoulder was Tight Knot and some awesome powder.

Spent the whole morning working across the chutes taking a different line each time, Tight Knot, Slip Knot, Slim, Thin and Jim and many lines in between. Only bad decision was to traverse all the way across the ridge line to Gotta Go only to find it was closed but then, if you don't go you don't know. After the chutes it was a variety of Surprise Trees (filled in soft powder all the way down) Anaconda ( all chutes now untracked) and Bootleg (nearside trees good powder with only the lower parts in the rain crust band).

As the chutes were starting to get a bit heavy in the sun I headed out along the County Line (now open) and got to Cougar Glades to find only one track which quickly disappeared and had untracked blow in all the way down until the final stream bed when it all got very rain crusty again. Final run before lunch was what I call the 6 diamond finish (3 x double Black diamond runs) - Tight Knot, Second Anaconda chute and the trees to the left of Bootleg Glades - all still lightly tracked and fresh deep snow.

In the afternoon I had decided to hit the front runs out of the sun but two Swedish guys riding the lift said the Saddles had just been opened and they were right. Did them in order - Corner Pocket,High Saddle, Low Saddle and Lone Fir. All ok if a bit scrapy in places but great untracked powder underneath. Ski down always through the left of Easter bowl which was surprisingly lightly tracked and then out through a rain crusted and icey Freeway. Bigest problem in Lone Fir was avoiding being wiped out by your own slough.

Final run was (surprise, surprise) Skydive which for the first two and a half pitches was very acceptable partially tracked powder. Last bit was rain affected crust but not that bad after a bit of traffic and anyway we had to pay for our fun somehow.

Beer, home, beer, hot tub, beer early night. Cooling trend and flurries in the forecast.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 53 happy Australia Day

Yup to day was Aussie day and the Aussies were celebrating in the traditional fashion by going to a pub and getting amazingly drunk - not sure exactly how this differs from the other 364 days of the year, but there you go.

Having put my visitors on the bus to the airport I was at the hill early. The weathermen had predicted a warm up to +4 with a rain snow mix and for a change the weathermen had got it dead right. It was + 3 when I got to the hill and raining at the base but this quickly turned to snow as I rode the Timber chair to the New side. It looked like it would be an old fashioned New side loop day when the base goes to rain.

On top there had been a surprising amount of new snow which kept coming all day as a mix of grappel and ice needles. The result was some good accumulation in the higher regions offering un tracked skiing and the only draw back was very poor viz and flat light - the worst we have had in White Pass so far this year.

I looped back down Cougar Glades and the Stag Leap which had started to become good untracked powder but rain affected in the lower sections. The final trip down was so wet that it convinced me that White Pass loops had to be my only choice.

The rest of the morning was spent looping the Gun bowl (excellent deep snow but no viz) and Surprise Trees - first four trips into the trees I set fresh tracks just beyond my previous loop so that it was 4x first tracks all along. As the morning moved along a few more tracks appeared so an Anaconda Glades /Bootleg Glades trees seems well worth while despite the rain low down and the snow was starting to get very deep and untracked in all the Glades.

The run off the hill for lunch was the Brain which had filled in a lot from yesterday and as alway provided great untracked tree skiing until only a little above the cat track.

In the afternoon I returned to the New side and looped Anaconda Glades, taking a chute further each time all of which were deep and fresh. When the push back along Trespass trail (the only trail up hill in both directions) got too much I took a short loop in Surprise Trees but always went far enough to get the good stuff out in the boonies.

Last run was the traditional rip down Skydive which had filled in to a massive extent and was by general agreement the most "mellow" anyone had ever known. Last 10% went elephant snot on us but apart from that great.

Back home doing all the housework that you have to do when guests leave. Forcast calling for one more warm day then a cooling trend in flurries, who knows, could be quite good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 52 back in the saddles again.

Today we celebrated the reopening of the Saddles after about 4 weeks when they have been closed for one reason or another.

The overnight snow didn't materialise and we got to the hill in temps of about -2. During the day we had some socked in conditions with light snow while down in the valley we could see it was a sunny day. By afternoon things had cleared up and it became fairly bluebird with plus temps of around 4 at the bottom and on just below zero at the top. Despite the conditions the snow held up fairly well with some blow in later on and the surface only just starting to set up towards the end of the day.

Of our guests Tom was hurt to the point that he couldn't ski but Sophie came out and hung on in with me for a great day.

We started on Cougar Glades which just like yesterday was a bit crunchy on the first two turns but then got better and softer as we went down.

Next for a change we went into Siberia ridge which I hadn't skied for a while. The gnarly section wasn't all that gnarly and the terrain park section below was just fun all the way down flying the bumps and ridges.

We had noticed that the Saddles were open for the first time in weeks so we went out along the County Line and dropped Corner Pocket. This was in excellent condition if a little slick but with no sign of the tires coming through. Soft powder all the way below and a cut into Easter meadows for a nice run.

Next saddle was High Saddle which was a bit tougher with edge to edge jumping all the way through. This time we cut into Spinal Tap and as long as you avoided the sink holes it was very good deep only partially tracked powder all the way to the cat track.

We decided to go out to Skydive and have a look in the Brain which was probably the best snow on the hill as with a bit of work by getting close to the trees on the skiers right you could get mostly fresh lines until you had to traverse out into Skydive somewhere near the bottom.

Last run before lunch was a hike up Cornice Ridge and working our way into Lone Fir - biggest risk being barreled out by your own slough. This was great soft snow with an excellent ski out into Easter meadows for a final rip through for lunch.

After lunch we went back to the New side and went into Stag leap which as always was fun in the trees, good free riding all the way down and particularly fun hiting the big bumps on the skiers left in the final pitch.

As the Brain had proved so much fun we went back. This time I got in the trees to the left of the stream bed where I don't think I have skied for a few years. Very testing getting steeper and tighter but I did manage to get to the cat track in some very tight steep tree conditions.

A quick loop down Currie Creek proved that just like yesterday it was rather crusty with avi debris in the lower section. The final run of course was rip down Skydive which was setting up fairly hard.

Wings night at the Pub was good but on the way home it looked like we were going into the first section of a possible rain/snow mix called for over the next 24 hours - thank goodness they are calling for a cooling trend with precip after that.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 51 sometimes fishing just doesn't work

This morning deck temps were around -8 with a forecast for it to warm and snow. Sure enough it got up to about zero degrees and although it looked like snow all day it refused to give up any accumulations and in the end just remained overcast.

We decided to hit the Old side and after a quick rip down Bear just to get the legs in the right place we went out to the Fish bowl in search of powder. Naturally we were fully kitted up and just a word to any prospective out of bound skiers, don't go unless you have transceiver, probe, shovel, friends who know how to use them, helmet, and a good understanding of what the latest avi report means.

The hope was that wind would have filled in the Poppa chutes on the nearside of the Fish bowl but this proved a lost hope. There had certainly been a wind event but the result was wind crud on a base of rain crust which was just about as good as it sounds. The interesting thing was the avi debris which came of Ridge 2000 which was about half the bowl and top to bottom with a 20 ft high debris pile and death cookies about the size of my truck. Good thing was that it has scoured the alder growth out of the bowl so things might get better later in the season.

Back inbounds we found Kangaroo, just as icey and ugly (and as much fun) as usual, Boom Ridge, groomed and hence no fun, Linda's, a bit of a chunky challenge but ok and Boomerang which was wind grooming in the tight skiers right.

We went to the New side and had a great rest of the day playing a lomg the County Line -
Window Chutes - Decline was a bit slabby in the top but the cut into the chutes was deep untracked, the log drop pretty mellow and the ski out a bit heavy.
Stag Leap - a little chunky in the top but soft deep lightly tracked powder on the right side and great soft snow on the left on the ski out.
Cougar Glades - Like most places very crusty in the first few turns then softer and deeper as you got down into the trees.
The Brain - Probably the best snow I found on the hill all day with yet again the first few turns leaving you thinking it had been a mistake but as the run went on the snow getting softer and better as the trees got tighter.
Secret Chutes - Not bad at all with loads of untracked available then a cut into Spinal Tap which only had three tracks in and was awesome with the exception of a couple of 4 ft sink holes in the stream bed which had to be jumped.
Currie Creek - We decided to drop short into the Creek which was getting hard as it set up at the end of the day but was good with a little avi debris to be negotiated on the ski out.
Skydive - Final ripper with buddy Rob on stiffening end of day snow but great fun if you held the speed and stayed on top.

Somewhere in there were loads of Lift Lines off Timber and the odd Mitchy chutes which were all good. The Skydive traverse deserves a special mention for staying in such ok shape considering the traffic it has had although you wouldn't think it from the number of bodies that we encountered when looping it - no accounting for folk.

Waiting for the promised snow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 50 and the cost of skiing drops below an average of 20 bucks a day

First thing to comment on was that for a Sunday the hill was quiet, I mean really quiet like we didn't have to wait in line more than a couple of turns all day.

We got to the hill first thing and found that temps were around -1 which was much warmer than forecast. For most of the morning we had cloud and even some flurries of grappel on the hill while the valley enjoyed sun. As the day moved on we had good sun all over the hill so that there was a general softening followed by a pretty serious set up on the north facing surfaces as the sun set at the end of the day.

We went to the New side still convinced that the old side skiing would be pretty scratchy and a conversation with a buddy late in the day convinced me this was a good decision. Surprise Trees was good fun in blow in for a couple of loops while we waited for Currie bowl to open. When the bowl opened we ran through looking for the traverses to the chutes which remained shut so we dropped Bootleg Glades which were pretty scratchy in the first couple of turns in the trees but got better as you went down.

As the traverses were not open we tried a couple of loops through Anaconda Glades which as always were steep and soft in the top but now with some covered avi debriis in the lower sections which made the ski out a bit technical. At Timber chair a buddy mentioned that the Currie traverses were now open and that was it for the day - we just looped the front side runs until close -
Skydive - had to be first as it has been closed for over a week and was a bit slabby in places but good heavy powder as long as you kept your speed up.
Stag Leap - best of the bunch with great untracked skiing through the trees and soft deep untracked powder all the way down on the right hand side.
Cougar Glades - A little crunchy under the trees where last weeks snow had been washed off in the rain but overall good and mostly untracked.
Declined - Rather slabby in the top section but becoming nice chopped up powder in the lower sections.
The Brain - Very interesting as it was powder all the way down with very few tracks and some great jumping over the ground logs. A bit crusty in some of the wind affected areas but for the most part very good tree skiing in good enough powder.
Window Chutes - Top section mostly untracked and the log drop reduced to a soft 5 foot. Managed to stack it in the slab on the ski out but rolled up right and carried on - not one of my finest moments.

Finished with a loop through far side Anaconda which was still untracked even that late in the day. A final traditional rip through Skydive showed that the snow was setting up pretty quick in the cooling conditions and best skiing was going real quick to stay on top all the way down.

More snow in the forecast.