Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 40 Lost for words

Of course anyone who knows me knows that I am never lost for words but with yet another day much the same as the last few it's getting hard to think up anything new to say about the current conditions on the hill.

No new snow overnight but instead of temps dropping to around -6 as forecast they rose during the night so that arriving at the hill it was +1 at the base and about -6 on top. During the day they rose further so that at the base it got up to about +4 and barely minus temps at the top. The base was claimed to be unchanged at 152 cms which might be true.

The feature as we started up the hill was the wind yet again. The wind has been different this year for three reasons, firstly there has been so much of it (nearly every day), secondly it has seemed so cold ( today on mercury temps of around -2 I was dressed for -12 and didn't feel any too warm and thirdly it has been stronger on the Old Side than the New which is most unusual - today the Bear chair was stopped for a short while due to that wind.

For all the reasons mentioned over the past few days we went to the New Side concluding that the Old Side would be pretty scratchy, a view confirmed by buddies coming over from that side and saying the only good thing was that the grooming on Lower North Ridge was ok - damned by faint praise.

We dropped Lift Line and cut into Big Bang and found that the blow in on top was a bit better than yesterday but lower down the ice was just as hard. Funnily enough things seemed to get better there all day and the couple of drops we did through Puff Trees were actually quite nice down to the last few turns which were ice.

The top of White Pass was socked in as badly as I have seen it this season so that the first drop through the Gun bowl was braille skiing of the worst kind on wind swept ice bumps, I don't think I am over selling it. The return through Surprise trees wasn't much better as the blow in had gone elswhere.

The rest of the day was spent trying to chase down some blown in snow on the hard ice base in poor viz. I have been asked to explain a bit about wind affected snow and how we describe it so here goes. As a general rule (and there are many exceptions) downslope wind produces good conditions through windsift (snow blown in between bumps and other features) and wind grooming ( the windsift blown flat so that it resembles a groomer). Upslope wind produced either wind crust ( a breakable crust on a softer base) or wind slab ( solid snow packed in that breaks away in large slabby chunks). As I said this is a vast simplification but I hope it helps to explain what is happening.

As the day went on it became more overcast and we started to get a kind of drizzle that froze to the goggles at upper elevations and just settled on them as water as you went down - either way it didn't have much effect on the skiing surface which remained variable to put it politely.

Just like yesterday here is a summary of the remaining runs some of which were skied several times -
Anaconda Glades - Problably the best snow on the hill with deep blow in on a firm base.
1-2-3s - ok once you could see where you were going in 2s
Bootleg Glades - still ok with a bit of blow in on a hard ice base
Concussion chutes - vary variable ranging from sheet ice with potential death falls to some blow in - not to be trusted.
Alpha Centauri - Probably the deepest blow in on the hill and the only thing preventing it being the best run is the relative lack of steepness in there.
Easter bowl - nice blow in on top but really ugly icey bumps from half way down with the light even flatter than yesterday.

Patrol had made a very sensible decision with the front three runs to open the top sections (albeit with warnings) and close the lower parts. Cougar Glades remained closed and after yesterday's adventure there we didn't really feel like testing this decision.
Stag Leap - Crunchy through the trees then ok down to the trail out. Best way out to take a long right traverse into the bottom of Cougar Glades.
Skydive - The surface has firmed up a little but great skiing. Cut left early and head for Easter.
Decline - Best of the lot and done three times. Very soft surface with not too many hazards down to the trail and sections where you could just take air and fly the humps.

Another ok day where despite all the whining ( and there was some) about the cold and the tough conditions there was still a good day to be had if you were just prepared to put yourself about a bit.

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