Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 111 A crazy crazy day

Yes, today was a crazy, crazy day in so many respects. Lets start with the weather. Last night we had a heavy snow warning for the Elk valley which was then expanded for the whole of the East Kootenays. The warning was right, it puked snow all night so that by morning we had another 30 cms of fresh on the hill and the base had risen to 414 cms. In mid winter that would be awesome news but at this time of year things are rather different. The snow was wet and heavy at the base and although it might have been pretty good up on top, as we never got up on top that is something that we can only guess at. With heavy wet snow as always there was problems with the electricity supply and although it didn't affect us there were power outages all over the valley. As we got to the hill with a temp of -1 and awesome snow everything looked good. We entered the day lodge just as a power outage hit the base affecting the lodge and the lifts. We had to get changed in the dark in the locker room (I know a lot of people think I always get dressed in the dark) and then stand by for openings. Power came back on by just after 9 but we were held at Deer chair because of "avi safety reasons". I don't know how stupid RCR think we are as there are no runs that are avi affected off the Deer chair and when we got to Bear and found it running and tracked out it was apparent that yet again we had been held back to allow those willing to pay (breakfast club, first tracks etc) to ski the hill while we were held back - at least they have learned not to let us get as far as Bear and actually watch them doing it but that doesn't make it right. With only Bear and Kodiak open skiing was restricted and more so because half of Bear was shut down for some junior ski race giving us about 5% of the ski hill. The snow was knee deep and great skiing on the Bear getting a bit heavy towards the bottom. First three runs were good by which time the restricted space was like an anthill and everything was well tracked out. We took a few drops off Kodiak into the trees which was thigh deep but so heavy and tight you couldn't make many turns before having to check. Although riding up on the Boom only allowed access back to Bear it did allow us to see what Boom bowl and ridge looked like. On the face of it the surface looked great but a couple of patroller buddies were trying to ski cut and it was so soft that they were getting sloughed out all the time. We took a trip to Timber to be told that it wouldn't open today so cut back and just continued to loop Bear as far across as we could either from Bear chair or Boom chair. The snow got wilder and the viz reduced to about 20 metres and the snow got wetter. By about 12:30 we had skied the Bear every way you could and things were just getting crazy with the snow so we quit and went to the bar. Whilst drinking in the bar a buddy came in. He had been intending to ski but a transformer had blown so that even the little that was open couldn't be accessed - we stayed in the bar. I have no idea if things got repaired but certainly there was nothing left worth skiing when we left the hill. It has continued to puke snow all evening and there is a load more in the forecast, what chance for a 5 metre party ?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 110 a pretty challenging day

After a day like yesterday when it rained to the top of the hill we needed one of two things to make today good, either sun (for corn snow) or snow (for powder) but in the event we got neither so the day was just pretty hard work. We got to the hill in a temp of +1 so we knew that everything on the hill would be frozen solid. We hoped for sun which started to come through late morning but quickly was blotted out by clouds which began to deliver mountain snow around lunch time. By close it was snowing at the top, raining at the bottom but with the freeze line moving down the hill so that as I look out on the back deck now the white stuff is just starting to fall here in the valley. The New Side was closed so we went to the Old Side where just like yesterday only the Bear was open. Today the Bear had been groomed but to me it looked like it had been done while the snow was still pretty wet last night so the resultant grooming was a bit random with some chunky icey lumps all over. After a few runs up and down the Bear we did try the ungroomed stuff on the sides but as this had been skied over yesterday it was rough, hard and very ugly. We got news that the New Side had opened and went there. The theory was that yesterday's rain with no skier traffic would have beaten the surface smooth which would be pretty hard ice but would soften in the sun. The sign line was closed at Lift Line so the only way down to White Pass that looked interest was Puff trees. With no sun we ended up with just smooth boiler plate all the way through the trees which was very challenging. At the top Knot chutes and Currie bowl were closed so we just had White Pass core to play with. Gun bowl was breakable crust which was a challenge and I saw several guys fall 10 or more times on the way down. Rock hard Surprise trees were never going to appeal so we just went up and down White Pass with breakable crust in the top and boiler plate lower down. Late morning Currie opened with a warning that there was no grooming and all runs should be treated as black diamonds. We did a couple of loops on Currie Powder then down into Gilmar Trail which were crunchy and still breakable crust in places, time for lunch. After lunch we set up loops of Timber down to White Pass (Puff trees smooth boiler plate) a White Pass loop (Gun bowl breakable crust and other various ways down) alternating Currie Power and Downright (crusty) and finishing each time down Diamond back (soft and the best snow on the hill) total of 4 loops. After that beers and and early night. Looks like snow is setting in which should solve most of the upper mountain problems in time for tomorrow. In summary today was a bit of a non day while we waited for the hill to repair but even so managed to get an ok day in with rather challenging conditions.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 109 ugly a bear's ass

In keeping with the way conditions have swung from one extreme to the other, following on from yesterdays pretty good if wet powder then today most of the hill was destroyed by rain and as I said, ugly as a bear's ass, and thats being rather unfair to bears asses. It was warm at +3 and raining as we headed for the hill. The official site claimed 10 cms of fresh but the warning signs were there for those who know, the run of the day was Hollow Hike, a lower mountain run which wouldn't even be on the radar if the upper mountain was open. Sure enough the whole of the New side was shut down due to avi risk with an initial estimate of an 11 o'clock opening quickly revised to closed all day. On the Old side the Bear was down for avi control and the Boom down for mechanical problems so the only lifts running were the Elk and the Deer (I don't count the Mighty Moose) giving sking well below the snow/rain line on mushy groomers. We had a coffee and decided to take a quick run just to see how it was. By the time we got up both Bear and Boom were running but with sign lines at either side of the Bear run and I guess the only way down to Boom being on Kodiak although I didn't attempt it not having an aqualung with me. The sign at the foot of Bear said no easy way down and that was dead right. It was raining pretty well to the top on about 10 cms of mushy snow so the result was pure ACL ripping elephant snot. There was hardly anyone out, only a few ski school groups who had no choice and the smart guys who were buying a cheap ticket today and then going to exchange it for a snow check on what should be a full priced day tomorrow. By lunch we were soaked even if the surface was skiing a little better - couldn't decide whether our crud skiing technique was improving or the surface was a little more chopped up and easier to push around. We decided that as we were soaking and there are only so many different ways you can ski down Bear then lunch time was as good a point as any to call it a day. Relaxing afternoon and now up to the hill again for Ski Patrol appreciation day in the Corner pocket (the bar not the chute) for the rest of the evening. Things due to cool tonight which should stabalize the upper mountain at least, then a significant snow event Saturday, we will see.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 108 a great powder day, if a bit wet and a bit short

The official word was 15 cms overnight but on the way to the hill it was +2 and raining as we met up with Rob to head up the New side. The rain line was pretty low down to start with but rose to about White Pass base by just after lunch before petering out altogether. Above the rain line it was pure winter with just minus temps, wind driving snow and probably at least another 5 cms to add to the 386 cm base - I am still betting on the 4 metre party and closing day falling on the same day. It was just like winter with most of the hill closed (Currie, Knot chutes and Anaconda) so we had to content ourselves with White Pass loops in Surprise Trees which were very deep and filling in about as fast as you could ski them. We noticed a patroller about to drop the sign on Knot chutes and when he gave us the ok we jumped in while some of the chutes were still actaully being cut. Great deep powder in all chutes down to the Idiot Traverse. We had been told when we ducked the line that by the time we got to Anaconda it would be green and that was not a lie. Two tracks beat us in but they vanished off to the right and we had the pick of the chutes. Conditions differed from yesterday in that the sloughs were running just a little slower in the heavier conditions so we could play ay beating our sloughs rather than waiting for them to clear - awesome fun. Bootleg was still in good shape. After that we hit first tarcks in Skydive (yet again), me left, Rob right and Lynda down the middle. The top 75%was great untracked powder but the last 25% real heavy clunky softened by rain death cookies, I guess everything comes at a price. After that it was Secret chutes/Spinal Tap which were also untracked in the top with the creek bed getting heavy for the final couple of turns. Last run before lunch was Cougar Glades which was the best of the lot. One track in front which cut off left and then the top 75% was just like cat skiing, untracked glade deep powder where you could go anywhere you wanted. Last 25% was GS turns in rain affected slush through the trees. After lunch we went back to the new side but the rain line was rising to White pass base and in any even we were soaked through. We did a few White pass laps of various Knot chutes (Tight, Fraid, Jim and Thin) each followed by some variation of Surprise Trees. The rain line was rising and the viz line dropping and we were wet so at 3 we pulled the plug for an early day with a totally awesome rip through Anaconda which by now was mostly filled in although the far chutes that we hit probably hadn't been skied any way. Beer and hot tub. More snow called for over night. If we can dry the kit out looks like another great day tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 107 can you believe another awesome day powder skiing at this time of year

It looked like it had snowed a little overnight and the reports from the hill said 7 cms of fresh snow. When we got to the hill temps were hovering around -1 and although they warmed in the base area probably stayed around -1 on the upper hill all day. With the precip starting as wet snow in the low section the obvious choice was to go to the New side and get stuck in to the fresh powder that was starting to roll up. For the record the snow just kept coming all day and by the end was piled up over our knees in all the chutes and even though it was a little chunky down low it was great. Lynda had a few jobs to do first thing so it was left to me and Rob to trash things as best we could. Just like yesterday it was either Mitchy chutes or the trees between Big bang and Lift Line every time on the way down from Timber and they were all steep, deep and mostly untracked all day. We went to Skydive and, yes, it was untracked yet again - we trashed it top to bottom in deep fresh which had covered even the roughest death cookies in the lower section. Next we dropped Knot chutes where we had to hold up to let the sloughs on the hard surface rip out which at least saved the patrol a bit of ski cutting. Anaconda was even more scarey when we made the first turn in the second chute then had to call a time out when the whole side of the hill came alive as our sloughs (avies?) went out trough the whole of the glade area. Bootleg through the trees was similarly a race to stay ahead of the slough. After that it was Decline/Window chutes, Cougar Glades, and then Secret chutes/ Spinal Tap in a series of loops. In every case if we didn't get first tracks there was only one or maybe two tracks in front of us. It seems that although there were cars in the parking lot and people in the day lodge and on the lifts, there was no one in any of the parts of the hill that we wanted to ski, great for us. After lunch I got back on the hill and linked up with Lynda who was now back skiing but it took me two loops through Surprise trees (totally awesome) to get in sync so we could meet up. We then looped Knot chutes/Gotta Go which was just so deep, particularly into the top of 3s and Bootleg (still good) before having to do yet another Surprise Trees to link up with Rob and Fred. By this time it was pretty apparent that the snow at the bottom was wet (it never quite became rain) but as it was so late we decided that going to base was no problem as we would be able to dry out later in the bar. Quick loops of, The Brain - awesome snow in the top if a little chunky in the lower section of Skydive. Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap even better than in the morning. Final rip down Skydive, totally deep and totally good. Beer, wings night, fairly early night. Tomorrow could be an even more awesome powder day if the forecasters can be believed.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day 106 yet another really good days skiing

The overnight report said 1 cm of fresh but that isn't the real story. What happened was that we had mountain snow so that it was about 5 cms up top, 1 cm at the snow plot (hence the report) and nothing in the valley. This sent me high to the New side which may have been a mistake as some buddies who went to the Old side and skied Snake and Gorby said that it was awesome untracked powder. Temps were about -2 rising during the day although we had yet another day of overcast and flurries so whilst temps did rise we didn't get any sun damage or any of that really slushy spring skiing mush that everyone else seems to rave about and I think is just crap. Viz was really bad at the top of White pass with the light as flat as I have seen it all season so even getting down Gun bowl was a challenge but things did improve later. First loop was back through White Pass/Highline trees which just confirmed poor light but great new soft untracked snow. Next we pushed out to Skydive and for what seemed like the one hundreth time this season got first tracks. Not a great call as the first two thirds were very good but the bottom third was refrozed death cookies that hadn't softened even a bit and were as ugly as a bears ass - I guess everything comes with a price tag. After that we just looped Anaconda (several different chutes and one so good that I got taken out by my own slough) followed by Bootleg which just about held up as soft snow until the groomer above Gilmar Trail, needless to say all of these were either untracked or had just one or two previous visitors. Last run before lunch I hit High Saddle which was still skiable but starting to get a little scraped out in the lower section. Easter bowl nearside remained good winter sking. At this stage I have to mention some of the best snow on the hill which I got all day every time I dropped from Timber top to White Pass base. This snow was in the chutes in the trees between Lift Line and Big Bang, normally this area is really ribby with logs, roots, scub etc and is therefore off everyone's radar. At present this is now all filled in with great snow and lightly used giving some of the best steep chute skiing on the hill - did it every run with variations. In the afternoon it was back to the New Side loops but working on the basis that the warmth would now have softened the lower front runs which proved to be more than right. First loop was in Stag leap and I swear that even though it was early afternoon there were no tracks through the trees going in and nothing in the run itself - pretty soft and the chunky stuff low down now skiing like soft jersey cream. After that it was good slightly firmer skiing in Decline/Window chutes. On a whim I dropped Low Saddle and to my surprise found the best snow of the day by just dropping straight below the chute and hocking off the avi crown into what was soft untracked powder to the bottom of the bowl. Exit was by a traverse across Easter into Spinal Tap which was again great soft skiing even in the low ski out. One more Low Saddle/Easter (it was that good) and then it was time for the final rip down Skydive which had improved out of all proporton since the morning by getting a lot softer and more skiable than the morning. Beer, hot tub, bed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 105 and yet another good day on the hill

Yes, despite our misgivings today was pretty good. We got to the hill with temps of -2 and therefore knew that anything that had melted yesterday would be ugly but anything that had not would be in pretty ok shape. The official word from the hill as usual was "stick to the groomers" whilst the correct advice would have been to stick to the North facing slopes until the South facing slopes had started to soften, however who am I to object to bad advice which keep crowds away from the parts I want to ski. The conditions today were mountain snow which continued in flurries all day. Friends arriving late from town confirmed that there was no precip in the valley floor so what we had all day was genuine mountain snow. This didn't make for much accumulation but it did at least keep the sun off the south facing slopes which never softened but did not suffer from sun damage. We decided to try the Old side but it became apparent after a couple of runs that the crud band was right across the middle of most runs and the only place to go was back to the New side where we have been for about the last 10 days. On the New side we discovered an amazing few lines form the top if Timber Chair to the base of White Pass. Normally the trees to skiers right of Lift Line are pretty scratchy and so not skied that much. Now all the chutes are well filled in and so some straight line drops are possible but are being ignored through habit. We broke the habit and had some great skiing. Morning loops when we got to the New Side were... Gun bowl/Anaconda/Bootleg - all very good, even Gun bowl with the fresh covering making the surface at least ok. High Saddle/Nearside Easter bowl - amazing to be skiing (and I mean skiing as opposed to just being able to slither through) the Saddles at this time of year. Found a ski in the bottom of the chute and reunited it with a skier about 100 metres below which involved about a 6 ft crown jump whilst carrying a ski, a clear deposit in the karma bank. The rest good but with crap light. Lone Fir/One Step Beyond/ Easter - Actually Lynda took LF and I took OSB and both were great soft snow if a little more tracked up than yesterday, Easter remained great soft snow. Skydive - Very good in the top two thirds and very crunchy in the lower third. The best technique to deal with this was skiing fast and hard so that the individual death cookies had no effect and the average of the many impacts from fast skiing gave a kind of average effect which was not far off hard powder. In the afternoon it was much the same... High Saddle/ Easter - just like this morning, the jump off the crown was still about 6 ft and Easter remained soft. Decline/Window chutes - Top of Decline really good soft snow, Window chutes pretty ok and a nice log jump in the middle section if you reversed it right to left. Last couple of turns in death cookies pretty clunky. Stag Leap - ok all the way down getting a little more crunchy in the last third. Knot Chutes/Gotta Go - really some of the best snow hitting it from the left hand side and then all the way down into 3's and to Trespass Trail. Skydive - final rip very good. Bumps in the top, great top two thirds and then the final third what looked like death cookies but were actually rather softer than they looked. A number of beers with good buddies. The last 14 days of the season are forecast for precip on every day, mostly a snow or rain snow mix but a couple of rain days. None the less this is a valley forecast so it could be a stellar end to a great season - who knows.