Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 114 a short report

And the reason it is a short report is because I am totally pissed after and evening in the bar with my (very bad) buddy Rob.

We had another 19 cms of fresh over night which gave a base of around 440 cms. Snow on top, rain below so we went to the New Side.

Snowed all day on top rained below. Great skiing in Knot chutes and heavier in Surprise.

Awesome chute skiing in Knots. In the afternoon we abandoned when the snow line reached half way up the Knot chutes around 3 in the afternoon.

Early entry to the bar shortly after 3 which accounts for our state at this time.

As I said totally pissed = good night.

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.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 112 winter returns - sort of

Overnight we had some rain in the valley and the official site said that there had been 10 cms overnight pushing the base back up to 402 cms which seemed about right for the mid mountain snow plot.

On the way to the hill it was +2 and light rain. It rained at the base pretty well all day but by the same token it was snowing up in White Pass. The variable was the rain/snow line which started very low down but by afternoon had risen more or less to White Pass base before droppin to about half way up the hill as we drove away tonight. The result was that we went high and had powder on the upper mountain all day whilst the lower mountain was always very sticky and the bits in between were (in the words of the official site) variable.

We went up Timber and found that Lift Line was ok if slightly heavy powder but very hard and scratchy underneath. The Gun bowl had filled in with excellent powder but Surprise Trees were a little disappointing with the powder not as deep as we hoped and the base a sort of breakable crust with not enough fresh to pad out the surface and make it really comfortable.

After that with the top of White Pass socked in and no chance of Polar peak we looped out along the Reverse Traverse and for the rest of the morning got -
Skydive - only second tracks and great powder in the top two sections which got a bit claggy in the final pitch.
Cougar Glades - I was amazed to find it untracked and like Skydive it was great powder followed by some tricky mush in the very bottom.
Easter bowl - a few tracks and just like the others, great on top and then heavy.
Anaconda/Bootleg Glades - Fantastic untracked powder in Anaconda which up top was just building as the day went on. Bootleg was mostly untracked but a bit sticky lower down.
1-2-3s - Very good powder 1s and 2s but 3s werev very hard work.
Stag Leap - about 4 tracks in ahead of me so still plenty of untracked to be worked between the various lines. Really starting to get to elephant snot in the last pitch.

We had a fairly late lunch up at Lost Boy's having decided to make the best use of the snow in the morning before the rain line got too high. One run to the base via Decline and Window Chutes and we were convinced that there should be no more runs to the base today as the rain line was now pretty well up to White Pass base and very wet below that.

We spent the rest of the afternoon looping White Pass through the various chutes of Knot Chutes which were all deep and untracked powder filling in very fast followed by a variation on Surprise Trees that had improved out of all proportion from the morning with more snow on top of the crust. A great afternoon in fresh powder albeit in limited terrain.

A final run back down Skydive was very good for the top two pitches and super super heavy elephant snot for the final third which was all a bit technical.

Beers and a quiet night in with Ice Station Zebra on TCM, what could be better.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 111 a really tough ugly day

So why was today so tough and ugly ? We got to the hill this morning with temps of +2 at the base and about zero on top. It was clear that it had not got very cold last night and we had both mountain and valley fog socking things in all day. During the day it warmed, the sun came out, it clouded over, it then produce a serious ice pellet storm and finally produced lightening which caused the lifts to be closed an hour early - actually the lifts reopened after about half an hour but by that time we had ditched our skis and didn't feel inclined to go back out again in what were some pretty marginal conditions.

We started on Lift Line and found mushy snow on a crunchy base in poor light that was far from easy to ski. After that we tried the Gun bowl from the top of White Pass which was hard refrozen crud and avi debris left over from yesterday. In poor viz this was about the worst conditions you could find.

We decided to go to the Old Side via the Reverse Traverse and were pleasently surprised to find that the Saddles were open. We dropped Corner Pocket which was great if heavy coverage and although under the chute the viz was poor it was great untracked powder skiing which got a bit technical in the lower portions. We exited via Dancer as getting into the groomers was the only game in town when you got below the melt line.

Having lost Lynda we went up and down Bear a couple of times looking for her with no success before heading back to the New Side. A run through Easter bowl showed it to be super heavy both on the way out on the traverse and then again in the run. It was not a quick run, nothing was today which explains the relatively low number of runs done compared with a normal day. Easter was very heavy all the way down and require 3 stops to reset the legs during the course of the drop. Our only defence would be that we were doing one hell of a lot better than the couple of other skiers we saw out there. Early lunch.

After lunch we went back to the New Side and went to check out the Saddles but found them closed. The only solution was to go out to Skydive which was even heavier than the other stuff we had skied. We made a very slow descent in the mush.

Next time round we tried 1-2-3s which were still pretty tough. It's always a bad day when you are trying to find avi debris to ski on the grounds that it is better than anything else. We exited via Diamond Back which had a pretty firm base and was rather less sticky than most of the snow on the hill.

Last time round we arrived at the base of White Pass in a grappel (yes I know it isn't spelt like that) storm with the ice pellets hosing down, very high winds and a thunder storm - events much enlivened by a lightening strike that sent sparks flying fron the bull wheel in the loading area. We just got the last chair before they closed and from a very socked in White Pass groped very slowly along the Reverse Traverse until we arrived in the shelter of the trees above Stag Leap. As I had hoped the transformation was wonderful. The covering of ice pellets had cooled the mush so it was starting to set up as well as provide a slick skiing surface on top. The result was great rip down Stag Leap in what was almost winter conditions apart from the final few turns.

Arriving at the base all lifts were closed due to weather (lightening) and we were told that they were unlikely to open again. As it turned out they did but we only lost an hour of a not very special day. As we drove away from the hill it was +3 and raining in the valley which probably means it is snowing in White Pass or at least it will be over night.

Off for a Patrol appreciation drinking night with fingers crossed for better conditions tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 110 new snow but serious spring conditions

This report could be a bit short as my buddy Ray arrived from Vermont tonight (where they have run out of snow) and we have been down town drinking beer and are now back home drinking even more Irish Whiskey so things are getting pretty out of order. Just in case his wife is reading this, ok, only joking.

Overnight it rained in the valley but we had 16 cms of fresh pushing the base back up to 410 cms and as we looked out of the window this morning the snow line was only just above the valley floor. Temps when we arrived at the hill were +2 at the base but the problem was that it was mixed sun and cloud so that in the direct sinlight we must have had +15 at the base +7 on top. Later in the day it clouded over and temps dropped so that the south facing mush that we had been skiing started to set up towards the end of the day.

We went to the New Side and had a great rip down Lift line in the 16 cms of deep powder. Having gone up White Pass we found that Currie bowl was closed so we just had to loop back through Knot chutes, Surprise Trees etc for a couple of hours until Currie opened. We were amazed how soft the snow was on the south facing slopes even from early on where it was super heavy even in the Knot chutes where wet slough management was a major problem.

As Currie opened we hit the Reverse Traverse out to Skydive and got 3rd and 4th tracks in Skydive which was totally untracked on the right hand side in the shade and was awesome fresh if slightly heavy powder. Next decision was bad, Cougar Glades which had some great untracked turns in the top but heavy soft elephant snot in the lower section which was hardly skiable. Final run before lunch was Decline/Window chutes which were soft but ok as they were tending towards the North facing - not too tracked up either. Lunch

After lunch it was just like yesterday in big 3 loops. Skydive, Easter/Spinal Tap, Stag Leap, Skydive. The sun had gone behind the clouds so all the runs were setting up and had to be skied with big GS turns in the soft/crust snow. Really hard thigh breaking skiing but good soft spring conditions and very rewarding if really hard work.

Another ok day in tough spring conditions.

Apologies for no explanation as to why the Old side was down all morning or why Polar peak couldn't be opened - put it down to too much whiskey, promise to do better tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 109 not as bad as it could have been for us.

The reason I added "for us" in the title was that if you were a groomer skier today might have been a pretty good day. From what we saw when we used them the groomers seemed quite firm with a soft slushy covering and skiing in an easy way. We of course do not ski groomers (my view that skiing groomers doesn't count as skiing at all is well known) so we had a lot more work to do to salvage some good skiing from what the hill served up today.

On the way home last night it was +10 in town and arriving back at the hill this morning it was +3. I am sure that it stayed at plus temps all the way to the top of the hill all night, it certainly felt like it. Conditions were overcast to the point that the top of White Pass was socked in as thick as I have ever seen it, obviously Polar Peak was never going to be on the agenda. The forecast was for light rain all day but we got away with it to the extent that we only had a little precip off and on and by the end of the day when it started to come down it was coming down as ice pellets on top.

We decided to go high and went to the New Side. Our first drop down Lift Line to White Pass said it all. The 2 cms of new snow was wet and very sticky slowing down everything, the underlying surface was very soft and where it had not been skied was heavy elephant snot. The only partly skiable stuff was where the surface had been skied yesterday and in normal circumstances would have been a hard icey base.

At the top of White Pass things were so socked in that it took a long time to grope down the Gun Bowl and eventually get back the White Pass base. This got so bad during the day that people were actually down loading White Pass as they couldn't see to ski which went down really well with those of us stuck on the chair going up as it had to be stooped for each down loading - thanks guys.

We decided to try the Old Side and worked our way out to Skydive (no easy thing in the viz) and found that the bumps in the top of Skydive were soft and the main run was very heavy slush but skiable if you put the effort in but slow motion skiing.

On the Old Side we tried the Sunny Side shoulder which was just mush then Boomerang which was ok but soft on the old bumps. We then spent the rest of the morning working our way down the more skied parts of Cedar Ridge which was ok. Returns were through Kangaroo which was pretty much run of the day as the bumps that would normally have been icey were in fact quite soft. The only mistake was trying to take Buck Shot all the way down which proved too slushy with no firm base to give you a starting point to jump your turns, slow motion GS turns were the only way down and were very hard work - lunch.

After lunch I resolved to go back to the New Side as Skydive had been the best of a bad bunch and just spent the afternoon looping out on the Reverse Traverse in dreadful viz which did actually get a bit better and very slushy conditions that just started to set up towards the end of the day. The order of service was Skydive, Decline, Skydive, Stag Leap, Skydive. Decline was bad for all the reasons that it has been good up to now - lots of untracked snow. Stag leap was ok but the entrance through the trees was a bit dodgy as in these conditions my navigation is +/- 3 feet which does reduce my safety margin in the trees. Skydive just semed to ski easier all day or perhaps I wa sjust getting used to it.

Not a bad day considering and we were lucky that the rain held off until after we had finished. Now for a rant - the hill is in a mess from all the garbage that has been thrown from the lifts over the past few days. Why it should suddenly have got so bad is a puzzle to me but it has and it makes me mad. Throwing garbage in this way shows a lack of respect for the hill and angers the snow gods resulting in poor snow conditions.

The hill themselves are not blameless in this for two reasons. Firstly it doesn't seem to be anyone's responsibility to pick up this garbage. Hosts, patrol, lifties, all tell me it is not their job. My question is who's job is it and why aren't they doing it, I have probably picked up more drink cans from the hill than members of staff over the past two days. Secondly there does not seem to be any system for penalizing the offenders so (surprise surprise) they go on offending. I suggest some notices saying that anyone found deliberately throwing garbage from the lift will have their passes pulled for the rest of the season. This, with some well publicised pullings should send a clear message - RCR please do something about this - rant over.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 108 from winter to summer in one day

Yes, having had a week of full in winter powder snow conditions, in one day we went to spring skiing although as the heading implies the temps went way beyond what I would normally call spring and gave us summer (by UK measures) temps all day.

No new snow overnight so the base settled to 400 cms (still pretty good) and the starting temps were -4 at the base. A kind of valley fog persisted for most of the morning but around 11 o'clock it burned off and we suddenly found ourselves with a bluebird day and temps climbing to +13 at the base and + 5 on top. The result was that everything became very mushy very quick.

As we hadn't been to the Old Side for a while we did and tried a run down Bear which just confirmed that yesterday's soft snow was now bullet hard. We tried Sunny Side shoulder to see if it had started to soften and found rock hard bumps and uneven tufted surface features all the way down - a pretty tough start to the day.

After that Lynda had the idea that yesterday's north facing slopes would still be in good shape as they would not have been sun affected and as usual she was right. We spent the morning running down Cedar Ridge from the gully on the left to King Fir on the right and all stations in between. The surface was good soft tracked powder that showed no signs of crud or crust.

Just once we dropped Boomerang which was ok and just starting to soften from it's re frozen crud starting point, in order to go out and try Steep and Deep/Redtree. I tried Steep and Deep and found it to be crud just starting to soften. Lynda guessed at Redtree and yet again proved the better judge as this was round towards north far enough for the surface to be soft with some untracked near the boundary fence.

Each return was through Kangaroo (5 times) which as you would expect was pretty hard icey bumps for the most part but with the surface softening to take and edge by the end of the morning - lunch.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and by this time it was getting very hot in the direct bluebird sunlight. Polar Peak was open and I guessed that by this time it would be soft enough to be ok. I was right and the chutes all had soft big bumps which were very mellow skiing but with the caveat that if you made a mistake your were not going to stop any time soon.

I looped Polar three times (Papa Bear, Barely Legal and Mama Bear) all of which were soft big bumps getting almost slushy in places before heading out along the Reverse Traverse. I didn't even look in the Saddles as I guessed by now thay would be totally scraped out. I went out as far as Decline and had a rather lazy drop in the slow motion deep soft melted powder that was there, great fun but very had work.

Next time round I found that Polar Peak had been closed due to mechanical problems (again) so had to work my way across to the big three and this time took Stag Leap. It was surprisingly good in the trees although you did have to ride the berms to get good deep snow and stayed in good shape (not too soft or melted) right down until the last couple of turns of the lower section.

I did not expect to find Polar peak running again this afternoon but to my surprise it was. I just had time to go up and have another quick soft bump run in Papa Bear (107th of the year) after admiring the fantastic 360 degree view from the top. This time I hiked into Easter bowl on the basis that it was North facing and would have stayed in great shape. I was rewarded by being right and had a great run down in what was still recognisable as winter snow before cutting off into Spinal Tap which was still soft and deep and in ok shape condidering how low down and warm it was.

Last run of course was Skydive which was big soft bumps on the top, ok skiing most of the way down and a bit slushy in the final pitch. In summary it was an ok day in spring conditions (I know I am considered strange because I don't really like the sunny warm spring skiing - I would much rather have cold winter conditions) but with the hill starting to set up towards the end of the day it could get ugly tomorrow. A lot of precip in the forecast but I fear it may be pretty wet - lets see.