Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 113 limited terrain open but great skiing in Knot Chutes

Looking back at the title of todays blog it more or less says it all and perhaps I would do best to stop here. On the other hand a day like today does require some explanation.
It rained all night in the valley and I don't just mean it rained, it peed down all night. The official site was calling for 29 cms of fresh snow raising the base to 423 cms but this was obviously at the snow plot some way up the mountain. A look out of the window confirmed that the rain/snow line was half way down the hill so whilst on top we would get fresh snow the base would be a wash out.
On the way to the hill temps were +2 and it was around zero on top. Although temps may have risen a bit by the middle of the day we got a cool down in the afternoon so that we had minus temps by a degree or two when the afternoon storms hit.
We arrived to find that as a result of the wet snow/rain mix overnight pretty well everything was shut due to avi risks. These risks were confirmed by a class 4 avi in Cedar bowl which slide for the whole width of the bowl and ended up below KC chutes. During the day a slide let go off the Timber Headwall which carried across the cat track and cause some disruption - clearly these were very unstable conditions. Thanks to great work by the patrol (and I do mean thanks) we got Timber chair open around 10 and White Pass not much later. By a happy coincidence the rain stopped just as the lifts were opening so we had some pretty ok conditions for the morning.
Unsurprisingly not much was open. Initially we just had the Gun Bowl and the tree runs underneath (Highline, Quite Right and Milkey Way) to play with. We had great powder in socked in conditions in the Gun bowl and slightly thicker powder in the rest but still ok. With all the best skiing being in this area it was to be expected that after your first three loops you were struggling to find any fresh tracks.
We then had what proved to be the final opening of the day which gave us Knot chutes, the Idiot Traverse across as far as the near side of Surprise Trees and then a sign line all the way down the left hand side of Silver Lining so that the first place you could turn left was Black Cloud.
We spent the rest of the morning looping the Knot chutes (all the way across and back) which were great powder skiing in light traffic and the only real danger being sloughed out. Trips to White Pass base were either through the I Bowl, Firey Hornet or the chutes to the left of that just before Surprise Trees. Even below the chutes the snow was pretty good and untracked lines could be found. We skied through to lunch and then dropped to base via a very slushy Black Cloud and Summer Road.
We had decided to give the Old Side a try in the afternoon but it started to rain over lunch so we decided to stay high on the New Side above the rain line so that's where we went. The weather was brutal - howling wind, horizontal snow/ice pellets, totally socked in viz and a snow base that was starting to set up in the cold. First run down Lift Line was a nightmare as it was deep chopped up refrozen death cookies all the way down - a real work out.
For the rest of the afternoon it was just more loops of Knot chutes with runs to White Pass base via the I bowl, Firey Hornet or the left hand chutes and the final part through Silver lining which by this stage had set up as a rather fun bump run. The Knot Chutes just got better all afternoon partly because of the new snow and blow in plus the fact that hardly anyone was there. By final run I would guess that there was no more than half a dozen of us up in White Pass. The last run through Tight Knot in deep untracked powder (at least I think it was as by this stage viz was really bad) just about qualified as awesome.
The run off the hill through Black Cloud was very interesting in the soft snow that was just setting up with an ice crust but still soft enough to be bossed by your skis.
In summary a much better day than we had a right to expect with some really great powder conditions and untracked skiing but very repetitive due to the limited terrain available. If you had been restricted to the lower mountain for some reason no doubt you would have taken a rather different view. Not bad as days go.

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