Monday, April 18, 2011

Season 2010-11 a season summary

If I had to summarize the season in one word it would be "awesome", in fact the most awesome season that anyone can remember for some time, but looking back it is worth bearing in mind that for much of the early season things were not that great and at the turn of the year the snow base was in fact lower than it was at the same time last year which was a very poor season. First the hard statistics. We had over 1100 cms (35ft) of snowfall during the season. This resulted in a snow base of over 450 cms on closing day which gave fantastic coverage all over the hill. As a side effect it covered a lot of the usual landmarks on the hill making navigation more difficult than usual and had us encountering branches that were usually well above our heads giving a number of unexpected face and head hits. Because of closures and subsequent rolling openings each fall tended to give several days of powder skiing so that by our estimate we had over 70 powder days (counting a powder day as one were you get significant fresh tracks in powder snow) - one of the more depressing statistics I once read was that the average European vacation skier gets one good powder day every two years so on that reckoning we got 140 years worth this season. The season started with a big snow dump prior to opening day but with no base so despite a very good snow depth we were going through to ground pretty easily. We had a bit of snow in December and a run of brutally cold days but the usual snow dump around Christmas never materialised but the cold did. By New Year the base had packed down well but it was pretty thin and there had only been a few powder days. The first couple of weeks in Jan brought the snow and we had the first awesome powder cycle of the winter lasting about 2 weeks. This was followed by 4 days of the worst pinapple express (rain) I can remember giving a couple of days of the worst skiing I can remember - we even came off the hill early. We then dropped into the freezer for a week giving the hard frozen rain crust which remained a problem all year with new snow not sticking to it and the avi danger running off the scale time and again. After that it was just all awesome powder through Feb, March, and even up until closing day when it puked snow all weekend and we were skiing powder. The last run of the season on the Sunday of Fernival was a hike up into Skydive followed by a ski down in powder, that says it all. High spots of the season were the days of endless powder, especially more than 10 times getting to the top of Skydive and finding it untracked. This was all made possible by the reduced numbers on the hill, even Saturdays were pretty quiet and all other days there was no one. The Uk tour company Inghams reported numbers down by 50% which with the Canadian dollar at 1.60 (was 2.60 a few years back) and no price reductions for multi day tickets what else would you expect. Bad business decisions but good news for seasons every day skiers. Low points were the many avi closures which I know cause a lot of bad feeling but given the risks and an in bounds avi early season there really wasn't any choice - when you saw the debris in the areas when they were eventually opened you could see why they had to be closed. A good side effect was the rolling openings after a fall which usually gave us 3 powder days at least for the price of one. Another plus was that the snow and therefore the closures came at weekends so the openings tended to roll Monday to Friday when the hill was at it's quietest and the snow was just available for mid week skiers. The other low point was the habit of the hill at weekends to keep areas closed first thing to allow various pay for powder groups (first tracks/breakfast club/corporate freebies) to have their go ahead of regular season ticket holders. I know I am always going on about this but in my view powder is there for all of us and we should use our skill, strength, work ethic etc to get as much as we can, it is against everything that skiing stands for to allow specific groups to get fresh tracks just because they are prepared to pay - rant over. So that was it, probably the best season for many many years with some of the most awesome powder I have ever skied coming at you day after day. That's all folks, see you all next year.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 121 Final day of Furnival and more fresh powder

What an end to the season. Overnight we had another 5 cms of fresh giving a starting base of 453 cms which is the highest I can remember at any time in the last 7 years. Arriving at the the hill it was -2 at the base and -6 at the top and snowing which it did all day. The difference between today and yesterday was that yesterday things warmed up pretty quick and by early afternoon we had a rain line moving up the hill, today it stayed cold enough so that the snow stayed as snow top to bottom all day, in other words a full on winter ski day in the third week in April. The rain yesterday has come a fair way up the Old side (only side open on Furnival) so that the top was great fresh untracked powder but about half way down it was fresh on a rain crust. The interesting thing was that the crust wasn't the boiler plate that we all expected but rather soft mushy ice (a bit like a slushy) so that when you banged an edge in you got an edge set rather quicker and firmer than you expected and as a result nearly took a header down the slope. Once you worked out what was happening and edged two footed it became very easy and forgiving skiing. During the day we looped pretty well everywhere and found great powder on top and pretty chunky stuff lower down which got better during the day as the underlying rain crust softened in the warming temp but at the same time new powder gave a good soft covering, a strange combination. We went as far skiers right as Easter bowl which was good and only lightly tracked but with a very chunky exit on Freeway. On the left we went as far as the Snake ridge sign line which was also great powder on top and very challenging crud lower down. All the rest in between (Cedar ridge, Boom bowl, King Fir, Bear chutes, Kangaroo etc) was great powder of sorts becoming tougher, in fact the greatest challenge was the light which was very flat and foggy in places most of the day. Skied through to last bell and arrived at the top of Bear just gone 4. Only game in town was a traverse then a long side step traverse into Skydive which I got into just at the point where it splits from Decline. The result was, first third awesome powder mostly untracked, middle third ok but a little crunchy where it was setting up, final third very hard work in pretty cruddy conditions - overall well worth the hike to be skiing awesome powder on the last run of the season. Beer and music and now a quiet night in. Watch this space for a season summary report.