Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 84 all four seasons in just one day

First an advert which as everyone knows that I don't do them must mean that this is important so listen up. This event
is due Saturday night and when Steve gave a similar talk on the first Sunday of the season it was well worth it. It will be of particular interest to the weekend skiers who often find areas of the hill closed and wonder why, sometimes speculating it is something to do with saving the good snow for the locals. This talk will explain what closes, why and how the patrol assess the risks before opening and closing areas - a must for any recreational skier with a brain and an interest in real skiing issues.

Today was crazy - the only word for it. We had crazy weather, crazy snow conditions, crazy precip and in the end a crazy good day. It's hard to describe what happened but I'll have a go as best I can.

We arrived at the hill in rain/sleet and a temp of +2 and with the forecast of a continual warm up and rain we expected a day which at best would be rain at the base and snow up in White Pass. We were wrong and about th only thing we guessed right was that Polar Peak would remain closed due to the brutal conditions up there.

We went high on the New Side to get to the coldest part of the hill and get away from the rain. As it turned out we didn't need to as the rain stopped and we got on and off ice pellets all morning with some freezing rain hitting the goggles at around Timber Top which was just enough to make things interesting.

The hill only claimed 2 cms of fresh over night giving a base of around 268 cms but there clearly had been a huge amount of wind activity so there was stacks of powder (if a little wind packed) everywhere. The first three runs of the day went to plan in overcast conditions and were -
Skydive - we got first tracks anywhere we wanted beyond Currie Creek so hit this and had great first tracks. Around the bottom third things went soggy and we were pushing soft snow balls all the way down that section.
Cougar Glades - first tracks and just like Skydive, except that as Cougar finishes a bit higher up the lower parts were rather less soggy.
Stag Leap - thought I had first tracks but had to make do with second as some tracks cut in right from the trees. The first tracks were pretty neat so I had fresh snow all the way down, not first tracks but fresh tracks (not paid for) so still pretty good.

Then something strange happened, we had a snow storm of the like you rarely see where it must have fallen 5 cms in the first 10 minutes. We took the view that it was raining at the base ( we were later told it wasn't) so we stayed up looping White Pass, taking Knot Chutes when the viz wasn't too bad and Gun Bowl when it was and then through Surprise trees which were getting totally untracked in the deep new snow. By the end of the storm we had cycled White Pass several times and had great fresh tracks in the chutes.

The storm passed and we had sun. As a last run before lunch we headed out to the Brain which was untracked (of course it might have been tracked before the storm but it certainly wasn't after) the cut out into lower Skydive revealed that the lower part of that run was a lot less softer than for the first run.

After lunch things cleared for a while then clouded over for grappel storms to rip through with poor viz but great fill in snow. Runs were -
Knot chutes/Anaconda Glades/Bootleg Glades - still great untracked skiing in most parts if a bit heavy in the bottom section.
Easter/Spinal Tap - great skiing in the Easter trees which had tons of fill in, Spinal Tap was good but heavy low down
Decline/Window chutes - becoming very friendly as by this time the grappel was starting to cover the early melted surfaces.
Mitchy chutes - standing at the top for last run and looking up the valley I could see sun, cloud, ridge line sock in, valley fog and all the while I was standing in a snow storm - how crazy is that.
Last rip down Skydive which was great but with the bottom section starting to set up in the cooling temps.

In summary we got away with it. We were forecast precip which we got and valley temps of +6 which we also got. If this had gone against us we would have had an ugly rain day. As it was we got crazy mixed precip. wind blown coverage and heavy powder on the upper mountain. The worst that has happened has been the softening if the lower parts of the main runs which will now get very scratchy in the cooling conditions - not great but by no means the worst thing that could have happened.

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