Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 1 a very marginal opening day but still fun

I took todays title from the warning boards put up by Ski Patrol at the top of Bear telling us of some very marginal skiing conditions. A title suggested by a buddy was "best day so far" but I decided to go with my original idea - sorry Katie. Comments from my many and various ski buddies ranged from ok to crappy with nothing on the upside of ok - judge for yourselves when you read the details. So why do I say it was fun? Well, anyone who knows me knows that I get my fun out of skiing by taking the challenges thrown up by the conditions and the terrain on the hill and mastering ( well at least giving it my best shot) them. Tough conditions like today are fun when you take them on and have a day skiing when you were in control at least most of the time.

It rained all night and was still raining on the way to the hill with temps of +1. At the hill it rose to around +3 and continued raining. The snow line was just below the top of Bear so with the very limited opening you were skiing in the rain showers pretty well all of the time. Around 1 o'clock the rain suddenly stopped and we had clearing skies for the rest of the day with temps dropping back to around zero so by the end things were starting to set up quite firmly. Driving back the rain came on strong again with +2 in the valley and a promise of cooling temps and snow, or at least a snow rain mix over the next few days.

As a result of rain almost to the top starting conditions were pretty aweful. Grooming had taken place sometime before the precip in most places so there was a firm if rather mushy base. On top was the rain snow mix which was heavy elephant snot in most places. The first few runs were very tough indeed with a lot of physicality having to be used to push the "snow" around. Because of the limited opening the skier traffic soon had the effect of pisting the snow and provided bumps to help turning. Coverage was desperately thin with many bare patches, rocks, alders sticking through. The ski off the hill was particularly sketchy to the point where they were allowing downloading on Elk if you wanted. By the end of the day most of the snow had been compacted and as it set up in the cooling conditions there was some pretty ok skiing to be had but the bare patchs had got bigger and the rocks, particularly just below Bears Den were very prominant.

According to official reports we had 25 runs open which I guess if you cound every gully and side track might be true. What we really had was the Bear down to Bear loading and the Elk to base. North Ridge was open and quite nice if a bit tough and then Emily's down to Haul Back. The only thing open from the top of Haul Back was View Trail to Boomerang to complete the circuit. So it came down to a couple of groomers not really groomed and some trail skiing. Despite the limited terrain a lot of fun could be had on what was available as runs which would normally be considered easy developed challenges all of their own.

We started at first bell as tradition demanded but by lunch Lynda had decided that there would be better days and took the afternoon off. I skied bell to bell with a couple of breaks and really started to feel all the usual problems by the endb( thigh ache, first day feet etc) none of this was made any better by the fact that we were still wet from the mornings rain. It was a day for my super expensive rain jacket ( a yellow plastic jacket 10 bucks from Canadian Tire) which once again did sterling service. By 4 I was certainly ready for the first Griz Bar of the year - great to meet up with so many friends.

So, as I said, a pretty sketchy opening which proved to be rather more fun than looked likely. I think it is all to do with expectations. We went to the hill expecting nothing (I understand it was a call late last night as whether or not we had an opening at all) and we got something. It wasn't very good but against our expectations it felt like a good day on the hill. More snow in the forecast so fingers crossed for a big improvement this week.

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