Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 80 where were the crowds ?

We had expected massive ugly crowds this weekend due the a "perfect storm" of holidays. With the Alberta family weekend, other assorted Provincial family weekends and Presidents day south of the boarder on Monday we expected the ugliest weekend for crowds in living memory. What we got was a pretty busy Saturday but nothing to write home about. We went to the New Side to avoid what I thought would be the greater crowds on the Old side (families like the Old Side and the racing teams are based there) and during the day reports of some ugly line ups at Haul Back convinced me that this was a good call.

We had another 4 cms of fresh although it appeared much more in places. The base was up to 252 cms nd the starting temps at the base were -3 and several degrees cooler on top. During the day temps rose to low plus figures at the base and low minus figure above. It was overcast all day and we had snow (to be fair mostly grappel) off and on all day. At the end of the day it was still coming down pretty white so we have some optimism for tomorrow.

When we got to White Pass top we found that it was socked in and that Polar Peak was closed. As a result we took a run out through Concussion which was still not all that easy in the flat light but as it had a covering of new snow it was ok. Next time round we went to Cougar Glades and had first tracks although as usual a couple of tracks appeared and disappeared half way down. It was very good skiing with the new snow providing a great surface particularly on the left hand creek bed ski out.

Next we tried Stag Leap which as usual was rather more tracked than I would have like but some ok skiing in between the tracks of others. On the previous time passed we had noted how light the tracking up to the top of Easter Bowl had been so we hiked up and were rewarded with some great skiing with only a couple of tracks in front of us. To exit we cut right into Spinal Tap and had fresh tracks all the way down the stream bed which as I have mentioned every day is great to jump in to from the right hand shoulder.

Spinal Tap gave us the idea that Window Chutes might be quite nice so we took the top of Decline which still had plenty of untracked lines and then cut into Window Chutes which had just one track ahead of us in the lower section and had wonderful deep skiing all the way down to the cat track.

We had decided on a late lunch to avoid the crowds so we went to the Brain which had a couple of tracks in the top section and after that was great untracked snow on the right hand side of the creek bed. Met a couple of blog followers in there who said kind things about my poor efforts so thank you guys.

Last run before a very late lunch was a hike up to Lone Fir where I was amazed to find about a dozen skiers getting ready to jump in - the most I have ever seen up there. As they were putzing with their gear I took the opportunity to jump in ahead of them and get about fourth tracks into the chute which was skiing like dream and could be GS turned from top to bottom. As it had been so good before I hit Spinal Tap again and although there were a few more tracks it was still pretty spectacular.

We had a very late lunch to avoid the crowds which seemed to work. After lunch we found that Polar Peak had opened. Acually it had opened just before lunch but only for the "easy" looker left side with the chutes closed. This had no attraction so we ignored it but after lunch the chutes were open even though we only had a very short afternoon. Light was very bad for the first couple of turns but after that it improved. The chutes were filled in with deep new untracked snow and windsift and were great, I had two drops down Popa Bear going back to the Peak chair.

Next time I had a tough choice. I wanted to loop back to the chair but was convinced that the best chute would be Baby Bear from which the only way back was via the base. The awesome deep untracked powder of Baby Bear won and I dropped that and then Secret Chutes which had filled in nicely with the grappel that was coming down - not so much fun on the Polar peak chair where it hurt even through your ski pants !

A quick White Pass loop through the Knot Chutes (tight knot) which still had loads of deep semi tracked snow all the way through the chute. Final rip down Skydive top to bottom without a break which was a good work out and great soft bumps/tracked powder/harder bumps down low.

A great day's skiing with snow still coming down this evening - fingers crossed.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 79 it's amazing what a difference 4 cms make

No this isn't a line to try on with ladies, just a statement of the facts regarding today's skiing. Overnight we had snow but only 4 cms. It was enough to make everthing look pretty and to give a soft surface raising the base to 251 cms. You would not have expected more but amazingly enough it delivered a great days skiing and some stashes of deep powder which I can only assume came from some windsift.

We went to the New Side with temps of around -6 at the base and overcast ridge lines threatening flurries all day. During the day the base temps rose to about zero and upper mountain temps hung in at about -5 but cold in the wind. We decided to try Polar Peak if it was open on the grounds that the elevation and windsift in the chutes should have created some good powder.

On arriving a White Pass top we found that Polar Peak was closed due to poor viz so we had a couple of runs up and down White Pass and found fresh tracks almost anywhere we wanted. With no sign of the Peak opening we went out to Cougar Glades which were untracked in the top although a couple of tracks appeared half way down and then disappeared again - great skiing particularly in the left hand creek bed exit.

Next time round Polar Peak was open but it didn't look like the viz had improved much. When we got to the top a patroller buddy told me it was "a bit milky" in the chutes, half way down I thought that rather than "a bit milky" it looked like we had got the whole frigging dairy until we dropped out of the clouds and had a great rip down the lower portion of Popa Bear. Stag Leap was tracked on the left and centre but on the right it was untracked and I had great soft skiing top to bottom.

At the White Pass top next time unsurprisingly Polar Peak had been reclosed due to poor viz. We went out and I hiked Cornice Ridge to the top of Lone Fir and then has some great steep chute skiing with only a couple of tracks in front of me. Lynda had taken Easter from the top and said it was untracked when we met briefly in Easter bowl before I headed off into Spinal Tap which was again lightly tracked deep snow. As always it was fun jumping from the creek bed to the right shoulder and back againg all the way down.

Last run before lunch was Skydive which still had soft bumps in the top and great skiing in soft snow all the way down - a bit ribby in the bottom section.

After lunch Polar Peak had reopened although it was still very white in the top. We went out to Mama Bear which was very deep soft powder untracked in the wind sift - awesome skiing. I then hiked up to Lone Fir but decided to do to chute one further which we call One Step Beyond, it was tight and steep but great soft snow skiing all the way down through the chute and then into Easter bowl.

Next loop we went up Polar peak and got out to Baby Bear which was even better than Mama Bear with amazing deep untracked snow. We cut left out to the top of Decline and after the first section dropped Window Chutes which were still lightly tracked and very deep under the log drop. This brought the seasons Polar Peak total to 58.

We didn't have quite enough time for another Peak so we went out to Anaconda and had a great drop on the second shoulder which was untracked as usual with all the traffic having taken the chutes themselves - more great powder skiing.

Final run was the usual rip down Skydive which was just as it was in the run before lunch (see above) and after that beer. As I said for some reason today was great powder skiing, perhaps it was the wind sift and the 4 cms of new snow or pehaps it was that we were accessing areas that had not been tracked much in the past few days. For whatever reason it was a great day. Snow now forecast for the next 7 days and although tomorrow will be ugly as the Saturday of Alberta Family weekend I think we could be in for some good skiing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 78 a good day and some stuff coming down tonight

This morning dawned overcast and with no new snow but with a promise of flurries. Temps were around -10 but got up pretty quick to low minus figures at the base and about -5 on top all day. It remained socked in all day despite an attempt for the sun to shine mid morning so there was no direct sun warming. Early afternoon it clouded over and started to snow with a light high moisture content snow which had great fill in qualities. By the end of the day it was coming down reasonably hard and although it seems to have slackened off in the town I have a feeling it is still coming down pretty hard up on the tops.

After a couple of days on the New Side we went to the Old Side for starters if only because the viz deteriorated pretty quickly above Bear top. Conditions revealed some well wind affected surfaces with a mixture of wind sift and wind slab. This was the pattern for the day - very variable conditions as you were never quite sure what kind of blow in snow you were going to ski on plus the surface it had accrued on could be anything from soft powder to bullet hard ice. In other words you had to stay alert and on your game all day in some very mixed conditions.

We warmed up down Sunny Side shoulder and the China Wall chute both of which were exactly the varied conditions described. Next was loop out to Steep and Deep which was just that but getting a little crunchy in the sun affected snow on the right hand side. for the first time in a few weeks I dropped the mid chutes and they were surprisingly good but as always tight and steep.

After that it was loops off Cedar Ridge, King Fir, Boomerang, Buck Shot etc, Boom ridge was off the agenda because once again the groomers had destroyed the surface into a flat boring carpet which was nothing to do with my definition of what skiing was about. We took another loop out to Steep and Deep and this time I stayed a bit further left to avoid the sun crust and had great soft snow skiing all the way into the left hand exit chutes.

Returns were always via Kangaroo which we skied 5 times and was always hard icey bumps, the best test of a good skier you can get. Just once I had to avoid a large number of visitors not having their best days skiing as they tried to negotiate the bumps and particularly the drop onto the cat track mid way down.

Lunch ....... dinner just called, report to be corrected and completed later............. oh dear one very heavy red wine based meal later, God only knows how this is going to turn out.

In the afternoon I went to the New Side and found that Polar Peak was closed on account of it being socked in - probably a good call. We went out to Cougar Glades and had an ok run in tracked snow all the way down to left hand creek bed at the bottom which was a bit less tracked.

Stag Leap was also ok soft snow although tracked up. Having met up with my buddy Rob who was skiing his split shift we went out the Decline top which was all soft bumps followed by Window Chutes which were still pretty good and soft if a little icey on the final ski out.

By then we had met up with two more buddies - Stinger and (Manchester) Peter who had just tried to find the Brain and not succeeded. Next loop we all went out to the Brain and I think everyone was satisfied as it was lightly tracked and as you dropped the trees there were still plenty of untracked lines to find.

We had some time to kill so with the others gone Stinger and I went into Knot Chutes which were ok but a bit chunky and then Surprise Trees which were in ok shape and getting better as the late afternoon flurries were starting to accumulate.

Final run was of course Skydive. The bumps in the top are steep, the middle section is great and the lower section just a little scratchy but getting better in the new snow. Hoping for some more snow tonight but not too much more as I can hear my Irish guests getting the bottle of Jamesons out so it could be a long night.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 77 no new snow but some ok skiing

Overnight there was no new snow but the base held up at about 256 cms. It was a blue bird day but with starting temps of -16 the snow had dried out and was still in great shape in many places. During the day we had the odd bit of cloud but it was mostly bluebird. Temps rose in the direct sunlight to plus figures but to be fair they remained just below zero at the base in the shade and about -5 on top for most of the day. It was a pretty good day to go skiing.

We went to the New Side which I suppose has become the default setting given the attractions of Polar Peak, both from the point of view of the skiing in the Polar chutes and the fantastic views from the top which on a 360 degree view must rate as one of the top 10 views in skiing anywhere in the world.

As we had friends with us on their last day of their vacation we did some guiding which I hope was appreciated and which involved taking in as much of the New Side steep stuff as we could -
Knot Chutes/Surprise Trees - we went there as the chutes had seemed ok last thing yesterday and Surprise had been in pretty good shape. The chutes were a bit patchy (soft on one side crud on the other) although the trees in Surprise were great soft lightly tracked skiing all the way down.
Polar Peak/Easter bowl/Spinal Tap - actually we did two loops in Polar chutes, the first through Popa Bear and the next through Baby Bear and which were both great with wind sift filling in the bumps. Easter bowl was nice wind sift in the top and Spinal Tap remained soft tracked snow with great jumping from the creek to the right shoulder and back again,
Polar Peak/Decline/Window Chutes - Popa Bear getting even smoother in windsift. Top of Decline quite steep bumps getting better all the way down. Window Chutes were still mostly untracked and soft snow in the main chute with the log drop much reduced but still good fun.
Polar Peak/The Brain - Baby Bear chute still super soft and deep. The Brain had been untracked yesterday afternoon so it looked worth a go. It was: I think mine were still the only tracks in there since yesterday and by taking a slightly different line (since when have you ever been able to drop a tight tree section with the same line twice ?) I had fresh tracks again all the way down.

After lunch it was just a repeat for the guests -
Polar Peak/Easter/Spinal Tap - just like the morning
Polar Peak/Decline/Window chutes - ditto.

This brought the Polar peak total for the day to 6 and the total for the seasn to date 55 which I am sure is well surpassed by some hard core skier but remains an ok total to my way of thinking. With the day winding down we did a loop of Mitchy Chutes (actually really nice blow in) Knot Chutes ( still a bit varied but good soft snow now we knew where to go) and Surprise Trees ( getting a bit tracked up and sun affected and probably a lot tougher than earlier in the day.)

Final run of course was down Skydive which as always was great hard skiing top to bottom with a mix of soft bumps, hard bumps, soft snow, crud and tracked up hard pack - to name but a few.

A few flurries in the offing so lets see what happens.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 76 happy Valentine day and back to the powder

We were right to hope last night as overnight we had 10 cms of fresh pushing the base up to 257 cms and a source told me that on the New Side the new snow in fact was 12 cms and as that was the side that we stayed on all day then that was the number we had to play with.

The temps on the way to the hill were -6 and probably -9 on top although during the day the base got up to just about plus temps before falling back to around -5 tonight. On top it was mostly just below zero although getting a little warm and heavy in the direct sunlight without actually ever getting what you would call soft. The conditions for the day remained a sun/cloud mix all day.

We got to the New Side almost in time for first chair and had a great drop down Lift Line (the first of many for the day) in mostly untracked snow. Just to put it in perspective, what we had was untracked powder but we were finding the base through the new snow so it was by no means bottomless.

Polar Peak chair was not running so we headed out along the Reverse Traverse and found the final track ahead of us dropping off in Currie Creek so we cut the trail out to Skydive and had Skydive untracked top to bottom without a soul in sight, reminded me of last year.

Next loop round Polar Peak was open so we took a loop in Poppa Bear chute back to the chair before heading out into Baby Bear which had not been bumped up and as a result was great powder all the way down. We tracked out to Cougar Glades and were amazed to find them untracked. About half way down a couple of tracks appeared from the right but there is so much terrain in there it was only a couple of turns before it was once again untracked. The left hand ski out produced sloughs which were in danger of taking me out - awesome.

When we arrived at the top of White Pass the Polar Peak chair wasn't running so we just headed out to Stag Leap which was rather more tracked than I expected with about six tracks in front of us. Next loop was Polar Peak chair now re opened so it was another loop back through Poppa Bear ( still great soft snow on the bumps) and then a trip into Mamma Bear avoiding the rock in the middle. We finished the morning with a hike up Cornice Ridge to Lone Fir and had about third tracks in there in very deep steep chute skiing. The exit through the debris trail into Easter was great soft steep skiing.

In the afternoon it was back to the New Side for -
Polar peak/Decline/Window chutes - a great run through Poppa bear now filling in with windsift. Top of Decline still with some untracked and the Window chute almost all untracked on the previous deep base, up to that point some of the best skiing.
Polar peak/Easter trees/Spinal Tap - another great run through Spirit Bear then Easter trees which had hardly been touched. Once again Spinal Tap was still deep underneath the new snow and great fun jumping from the right shoulder to the creek bed and back again.
Polar peak/the Brain - Poppa bear chutes again but this time into the Brain. Now, I hope for fresh tracks first or second run of the day just as we had today. What I don't expect is that after 3 in the afternoon to get totally untracked inbounds steep powder which is what I got in the Brain. Actually there were a couple of tracks ahead of me above the top trail but they all hit left of the second stage stream and as I always ski the right hand shoulder I had untracked deep powder all through the trees wherever I wanted to go - awesome.

To kill time I had a loop off White Pass traversing into the Knot chutes which were ok but a bit crunchy and then Surprise Trees which were only lightly tracked with loads of fresh lines to be found all the way down.Final run down Skydive which was still in amazing shape with lots of untracked even at the end of the day.

So in summary a great powder day and my Polar Peak chute tally after 7 drops today rises to 49 times this season - lets see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 75 a change on the way we hope

On the way to the hill it was -2 and overcast. During the day it must have got up to + 4 at the base and lower plus figures at the top but luckily the sun stayed in so with no direct sunlight to damage the snow the cooling effect of the snow base meant that there was very little deterioration in the underlying conditions. The base shrunk to 249 cms which was good enough when it has been packed in the way it has been this season.

The warming trend was the first change we saw. The other was ridge line cloud (which once again socked in White Pass and closed Polar Peak) and which brought flurries at first and by the time we left the hill we had snow with the look of an accumulation. The call for tonight is 8-18 and you may recall that the last time these figures were called we got 75 cms. I am not that optimistic but there has to be a chance that tomorrow will be a powder day.

Today was really no change from the last week, with the exception that the higher temps gave a softer surface, and we went to the Old Side. We looped out Steep and Deep (soft on top but a bit scratchy on the exit), Gorby bowl (great soft lightly tracked snow and a bit technical on the exit through the rock band) and Snake main which was great wind sift and an exit through KC chutes which was again nice edge to edge jumping in soft snow.

We spent a little time off Cedar Ridge and King Fir, Boom bowl and Buck Shot all of which were good soft snow but a bit tracked up. We had 5 returns through Kangaroo which were all hard icey bump skiing and as a result great fun before finishing for lunch with a drop through Bear Chutes which was tracked in and taking a nice edge. The Old Side was mostly tracked up but with great skiing taking an edge in fairly soft snow wherever you went.

After lunch we went to the New Side and just like yesterday did loops off White Pass which was totally socked in. With Polar Peak closed there wasn't much else to try -

Decline/Window chutes - soft bumps in the top and soft heavy snow lower down with the exit taking quite a nice edge.
Easter/Spinal tap - top of Easter was soft blow in and after a traverse into Spinal tap it was tough edge to edge jumping but fun jumping from the right shoulder to the creek bed and back again in the lower section.
Stag Leap - soft all the way down with the lower section almost getting friendly in the softening conditions.
Cougar Glades - much the same as Stag Leap.
Skydive - last run of the day and like all the other runs softening in the lower section making it altogether more friendly. With no one else around I hit the run top to bottom without a break which in the improving conditions was no big deal.

Fingers crossed for new snow tomorrow.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 74 a quiet Sunday

And it was a quiet Sunday, in fact I have known quieter week days, no crowds, no line ups, in fact no nothing.

I said yesterday it's getting hard to say anything new in the unchanging conditions and as we had yet another day of no change it is becoming even more difficult. No new snow overnight, temps of about -4 at the start but rising to low plus temps at the base during the day and about zero on top. The conditions were overcast all day so the snow stayed in ok shape and we even had some flurries which didn't give any accumulation to my way of thinking.

The top of the hill was socked in so much so that the Polar Peak chair remained closed all day due to poor viz. The poor viz line worked it's way down the hill during the day so that even the top of White Pass was very white and the ski out across Currie to the Reverse Traverse was a bit of a blind descent at least for the first part.

We decided to go to the New Side for the day so I have no news from the Old Side. We just looped all day off the top of White Pass to the base and what we got from my beer affected memory was -

Easter Bowl - very nice soft bumps with some wind sift in between the bumps.
Skydive - getting hard bumps in the top, soft bumps in the middle and rather ribby down the bottom which for some reason seems to ski pretty well.
Cougar Glades - nicely hard packed in at the top and the snow lower down stating to dry out and get a little lighter.
Anaconda Glades - a bit chunky but ok.
Bootleg Glades - difficult to avoid the death cookies pushed in by the groomers (don't get me started) but after that some ok hard packed skiing.
Stag Leap - as usual a bit more untracked because of the tree entry at the top which still had some untracked lines. Great skiing all the way down with some hard work through the alders in the bottom section.
Decline - nicely bumped up all the way down and ok soft bump skiing.
Spinal Tap - surprisingly good with great fun to be had jumping from the right hand shoulder into the creek bed and back again all the way down.
Window Chutes - inspired by Spinal tap we gave this a go and found a surprisingly large amount of soft snow. The log drop was pretty well non existant and the ski out which looked as if it was an avi chute was acutually quite soft and taking an edge and the avi debris underneath was fairly easy to negotiate.
Alpha Centauri - soft blow in, at least that's what Lynda tells me.
Stag Leap - just like the time before - very good.

We had dropped from Timber top each time in different ways, mostly Lift Line but Puff Trees and Michy Chutes were also tried and all were good packed bumps with some ridge line blow in.

Final rip down Skydive found it in better shape than earlier in the day although it's difficult to say exactly how, perhaps we were just getting better at it. So all in all a great days skiing in tough conditions with no new snow but good coverage. I dare say that those looking for easy skiing would not agree with this conclusion but let them - this is my opinion and I stand by it.

No new snow so it looks like same old, same old tomorrow.