Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 52 a peek at the Peak

Today for the first time we rode the new chair to Polar Peak a couple of times and although the viz was totally socked in and the skiing wasn't great it was so cool to be up there in reasonable physical shape not just having boot packed for 35 minutes to get there, but more of that later.

The hill called 2 cms of new snow overnight but this was added to during the day with flurries. We have had 10 cms of new snow since the big dump but the base has shrunk from 230 cms to 220. This says everything, the snow is compressing and as a result feeling a bit heavier to ski although still way lighter than some of the wet dumps we have had at this time of year.

The temp on the way to the hill was -14 with an inversion of a few degrees as you got to the top. As we left it was -10 so things are starting to warm. The most challenging aspect of the day was that first thing and last thing (but strangly not for most of the day) we had a kind of freezing mist/drizzle that stuck to your goggles and meant that after a very short time on each run your viz reduced to zero with an ice sheet covering every part of your clothing. As luck would have it for the major part of the day this problem went away.

We went to the New Side and found that Lift Line which is an easy drop from Timber to White Pass is not quite so easy when your vision is totally iced up. The run out along the Reverse Traverse was delayed a couple of minutes as Patrol finished ski cutting which we took as an encouraging sign. Cougar Glades was the first run and there seemed to be a fair bit of new snow in there repairing the powder pretty well - rather more than the 2 cms reported.

Next loop I hit the top of Decline which was pretty good at the top followed by a drop into Window Chutes which were still deep powder but with some dead fall to avoid. The log drop is hardly there and the exit was bit scratchy but the chute itself was soft and deep. Any further New Side activity was curtailed by a break down of Timber Chair.

The journey to the Old Side was as usual slow via the Elk and Bear Chairs. There followed three loops through Steep and Deep (it was ) Gorby Bowl (even better) and Redtree (great deep powder if you were prepared to bushwhack in the mid section. The crowds were building partly because of the New Side problems but mostly because Calgary had decided to take the Friday off and come to the hill to try the powder. All returns were through Kangaroo which is still skiing well if a bit twiggy in the top.

After lunch we went to the New Side and first stop was the Brain. It skied better than last week but still needs a bit of traffic to beat in the current dump and then more snow on top to cover the dead fall which is still a big hazard all the way down. I was just looping out next time round to try something as yet undecided when I noticed Polar Peak chair was open for the frst time since it's 11 minute debute last Saturday. The conditions were not ideal with the top totally socked in but the thought of getting up there without hiking proved too greater temptation and I went up.

They seem to have done a great job up the top. The exit from the chair is now very user friendly and the cat track off the top is pretty uncomplicated skiing. With no viz I dropped the face of the old boot pack and had some ok blind turns in powder before having to ski out. I completed the run down through Stag Leap which was still deep in the trees at the top and in good shape all the way down.

I had decided not to bother with the Peak again but bumped into my buddy Rob who had already run it twice and he twisted my arm to give it another go. This time we hit hard left off the cat track quite high up and after getting over a couple of rocky shoulders found ourselves in a chute above the Reverse Traverse ( could have been Polar Bear but it was hard to see in the poor viz). This time we hiked into Easter bowl and had a great rip down in deep tracked powder.

When we got back to White Pass things were starting to ice up but we had a quick loop through Surprise Trees which were still good soft tracked powder. Last run of course was Skydive which was a great rip and even the bottom section through the alders is starting to get not too bad.

Tomorrow is going to be ugly. The weekend crowds that started today were bad enough and tomorow everyone who fancies themselves as a powder skier in a 500 km radius will be here to prove the point. My hopes of a big dump this afternoon to close Crowsnest Pass has not materialised so I guess we are just going to have to suck it up for the next two days. To be fair we have had three of the best days skiing ever this week plus a day today that in normal circumstances we would have called awesome but in the light of the previous days we just described as good - I guess we can let the weekend warriors have our left overs and be phlegmatic about the crowds we are going to see.

More snow in the forecast so fingers crossed.

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