Saturday, April 7, 2012

Day 121 and we have varied conditions

Now just to make things clear, when I say conditions are varied I mean just that. I know this is a term that official sites use when things are totally crap (perhaps they can't spell totally crap) but in this case I mean the words in their true sense, things were very varied.

Let's start with the weather. There was a couple of cms of snow overnight and the base settled to about 425 cms. We arrived at the hill to temps of -1 and during the day they may only have risen to low plus temps. The result was that the snow stayed in it's overnight condition (good powder on the North facing slopes and refrozen crud on the South facing) except were it was in the direct sunlight where it softened but reset as soon as the sun went off.

The real change was that throughout the day we had sun, cloud, full on winter flurries of snow or ice pellets and back to sun again sometimes in the space of less than half an hour. This has continued into the evening so no one is quite sure what is happening. The surface was varied in that depending on where you were in the cycle it could be powder, soft (but not slush) hard pack, refrozen (ranging from crud to mush) and all other points in between.

Of course we had a job to do on the Old Side. We had a couple of runs through Cedar Ridge which was soft powder in the top and a bit chunky lower down before I went for the recovery of the beers buried on Wallaby on Hotdog day. It was only partially successful, five cans were recovered but one was pierced by my ski pole during recovery. To my amazement the beer had not frozen despite a couple of -8 nights and I think this is living proof of the insulating effect of the snow and how perhaps digging a snow pit if you are ever stuck out on the hill overnight might just save your life.

Today was the Powder, Peddle, Paddle, a four legged relay race that can be run by a team or just one competitor involving skiing down the hill, biking to town, canoeing back up the river then running back up Ski Hill Road. We watched the start and by that time most of the morning had gone.

We spent the rest of the morning dropping Cedar Ridge, Gulch, Boom Ridge, Boomerang bowl all of which were ok but rather crustier than I expected due to the lack of direct sunlight. Returns were through Kangaroo which having softened and then set up a bit was skiing as mellow as I can remember it all season - 3 trips through proved this.

In the afternoon I hit the New Side which was (now here's a surprise) varied. Lift Line had improved and was now soft bumps.

Getting to the top of White Pass I noticed Polar Peak had just opened. It didn't look very inviting and the signs at the top of the chutes described the conditions as "poor" which is just about as bad as official reports ever get. Popa Bear was icey ugly bumps which I took back to the base. Baby Bear had looked a bit more inviting but when I got in there it was just the accumulation of the days flurries on a very scratchy base. As I said conditions were changing every loop.

The trip to base was through Corner Pocket which is still in remarkably good shape with just one tire showing and the best soft, deep and in some places untracked snow on the hill. From there I went to Easter bowl which for whatever reason was hardly skied all afternoon and in great shape with soft snow and few fresh tracks.

Next time round I tried Popa Bear again off Polar Peak which was a little better than the previous time, at least now taking an edge. Mama Bear looked just as tempting a Baby Bear had and in the event turned out to be just as crap. As a slight variation I dropped High Saddle which was still in good enough shape to allow edge to edge jumping all the way through and the snow below was tha same as the previous time in CP and Easter.

Winter set in as I got to the top of White Pass with snow puking down so I decided against Polar Peak or any one of the Saddles but went out to Stag Leap and was much entertained by two skiers in front of me stacking it on the whoopdie -do at Currie Creek which to be fair was a bit gnarly all afternoon. By the time I got to the top of Stag it had become summer again so I need not have bothered but the run down was very good in soft reforming snow under the cover of the newly fallen snow.

My timing was a bit out so I had to to do a quick loop in White Pass to kill some time and had a fairly scratchy time down through Surprise Trees but just about ok. Final run was Skydive which skied really well in (yet again) varied conditions from top to bottom.

A few beers with friends. Tomorrow is only one of two days a year when we intend to ski a short day. Of course sometimes we do ski a short day due to weather, injury, avi control etc but we only ever plan to ski short on Christmas and Easter. Tomorrow being Easter we intend to go through to lunch and then have a big Easter dinner at home. Whatever happens I will set it out in the blog tomorrow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Day 120 a very very Good Friday

Yes, it was Good Friday so a holiday on the hill but despite that there were no real crowds, just a few more people around than usual.

Ovenight there was no new snow and the base settled to 430 cms but more importantly temps dropped to around -8 giving the hill a well needed freeze up. It was a bluebird day with a little cloud cover in the afternoon so things warmed up but on the North facing slopes things stayed in great winter shape and even elsewhere the cold overnight temps meant that the snow never became over soft or slushy. With loads of fresh snow left over from yesterday this had the potential to turn in to a really good spring skiing day, which of course it did.

We went to the Old Side as I was on a mission with my back pack to recover any beers that person or persons unknown my have buried on Hotdog day. We had a good run down Cedar Ridge in lightly tracked winter snow in the top and some rather more chunky stuff lower down. When we got to the top of Haul Back we were amazed to find the whole Kangaroo/Wallaby area closed for no reason that we could work out. A run down Boom was a bit crusty and back to the base to drop off the back pack.

Next time we had another Cedar Ridge drop which was just as soft as was the snow in the Gulch below. This time everything was open from the top of Haul Back and we discovered that the reason for the closing was a wandering moose on the loose which could have got a bit out of order, we noticed the tracks on the way down. We checked and found the beer and made a note of where to go back tomorrow. After that we just looped all the usual places on the Old Side - Cedar Ridge several times, Boom Ridge, Boom Bowl, Kangaroo etc. All were ok but not great skiing. We went for an early lunch and then headed for the New Side.

We had word over lunch that the New Side was pretty good so off we went to confirm this -
Lift Line - well tracked easy skiing in soft snow on a firm base.
Polar Peak - Papa Bear, Grandpa Bear and Mama Bear were all good soft tracked up snow taking an easy edge in the sun softened snow.
Corner Pocket/Easter Bowl - easy through the chute and great powder still with fresh tracks underneath. Easter in it's north facing aspects was still good and not over tracked powder.
Polar Peak - Barely Legal and then Baby Bear bringing the daily total to 5 and the years total to 131. This now means that whatever happens I will have more Polar Chutes than day's skiing this year.
Low Saddle/Easter - previous time through we had seen the chutes to skiers right of Low Saddle and just how good they looked. We were not disappointed, it was the best, deepest and lightest tracked snow on the hill. Easter still good everywhere.
High Saddle/ Easter - Polar Peak was closed due to technical problems which was good as I only had time to do a quick drop through High Saddle where both the snow in the chute and the snow below were just as good as yesterday and still with untracked sections. Easter still good.
Skydive - last run was down Skydive which was still soft with some chunky stuff underneath and even the final section was ok but hard work in the soft but refreezing snow.

Wonder what tomorrow will hold.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day 119 an awesome powder day in April, and why not ?

Yup, today was a great powder day of full on winter skiing, none of the spring skiing crap that we have had to deal with over the last week or so. Overnight we had 17 cms of fresh pushing the base back up to 437 cms but best of all was it came down cold (well sub zero) all over the hill so that today was a powder day in winter conditions that would not have disgraced January let alone April.

On the way to the hill it was -3 at the base and colder on top. During the day it warmed to about +6 at the base and low plus temps on top. For whatever reason this didn't seem to adversely affect the snow which stayed in great shape. During the morning we had some sun which did seem to make the south facing slopes a bit heavy but it soon clouded over and we were getting snow (well at least ice pellets) off and on all day but with the occasional bluebird periods getting more so towards the end of the day. However, as I said the snow remained good powder all day.

There were very few cars in the parking lot as we arrived and things seemed to start slowly which given yesterday's Hotdog celebrations was not a complete surprise. More people turned up during te day but at no stage could it be called anything but quiet.

We went to the New Side and found Currie closed so we looped back through Knot chutes (Tight Knot) which were the only disappointment of the day. They looked so good but were no more than ok with the new snow on a very scratchy base. They then opened Currie and we had an awesome day.

Skydive - we had two tracks in front of us but they were good skiers and had cut tight lines so there was plenty of untracked for us. Great powder skiing all the way down with the final pitch now a soft base with powder on top.
Corner Pocket/Easter Bowl - as we tracked out along the Reverse Traverse we were following two patrollers one of whom stopped in front of us and dropped the sign on CP. Really awesome powder through the chute and below totally untracked. I think Lizard might have been closed as there were no tracks in to Easter from that side so we took the nearside trees untracked all the way down to Freeway. As I said the powder was good winter snow no matter how low down you went.
High Saddle/Easter - High Saddle was every bit as good as CP and the snow below still untracked. This time we cut a bit further into Easter and still found some fresh lines.
Knot Chutes/Anaconda Glades/Bootleg Glades - far side Currie was closed to allow some ski cutting in the Polar chutes so we cut back to the Knot Chutes and at last managed to find some deep lines in there. Anaconda was almost untouched and the only problem was beating your own slough. Bootleg trees nearside were also untouched and great deep powder.
Polar Peak - the ski cutting had worked so we put two loops in Polar Peak (Papa Bear and Barely legal) before heading to base via Baby Bear.
Low Saddle/Spinal Tap - Low Saddle with the right cut into the chutes was again steep, deep and mostly untracked powder. We cut across Easter and hit Spinal Tap that only had a couple of tracks in front of us and although it was starting to get a little heavy it was still great skiing.
Polar Peak/Lone Fir/Window chutes, sort of - we went back up Polar for a loop through Papa Bear then a drop through Mama Bear before traversing out to the hike up to Cornice Ridge and then down through Lone Fir. This had been skied a little but was still totally awesome deep powder particularly below the chute. I had decided to cut across to Window chutes but the trees between Spinal Tap and Window Chutes looked so inviting that I just took them untracked top to bottom, not a part of the hill I have been in before but great tight tree skiing.
Polar Peak/Corner Pocket/Spinal Tap - at this stage it had gone 2 o'clock and Lynda decided to go a bit girly on me and went for some lunch. I hit Spirit Bear off the Peak which had hardly been touched and then hit CP and Spinal tap as that is where some of the best snow had been. They didn't let me down it was still awesome.
Stag Leap - with time running out I abandoned the Peak, after all the six runs through today brought my year to date total to 126 so I was happy. I had time for a Stag Leap loop which was fine with loads of still untracked snow through the trees and some fields of untracked snow in the run itself.
Skydive - final run of course was Skydive which was more tracked up than the first time but still plenty of untracked off in the trees on either side. A great way to finish a great day.

An awesome day of powder skiing by any definition made all the better by a sure sign of spring as we watched a bald eagle circling above us in Currie bowl just before strating the last run. Can't wait until tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day 118 a bad hotdog day

Well, of course it wasn't bad in the sense of anything being wrong but it was bad in the sense that after skiing we got in some very serious partying with our buddies and now are trying to recover with a quiet night in which isn't being helped much by the need to get rid of the remians of the Jamesons Irish Whiskey which should keep us busy for the rest of the evening.

This morning dawned overcast with temps of about - 2 as we arrived at the hill. No new snow overnight still left a base of around 425 cms but the conditions were rock hard ice everywhere off the groomers. Even on the groomers it was pretty slick ice in most places. It warmed through the day but not as much as you might have expected in the overcast conditions.

Today was hotdog day (a celebration of the 1980s movie Hotdog which is a sloppy mix of skiing and soft porn) so we celebrate in the only way we can by dressing in retro gear, doing hot dog stunts and getting unbelievably drunk in the process.

We went to the Old Side as tradition demands that on hot dog day you only ski the Old Side. Everything was very crunchy and we looped out Cedar Bowl by the big avi debris and a few other places staying on the groomers initially as everything else was all but unskiable.

Now, on Hotdog day security comes into play to stop anyone taking beer on to the hill. Why they should try and do this is beyond me as they are quite prepared to serve you all you can drink (and more) at the Lost Boys Cafe and on any other day they are quite prepared to tolerate drug taking (people smoking skunk unmolested) all over the hill, so why it becomes an issue with alcohol on Hotdog day is anyone's guess.

I am not suggesting in any way that the rules should be broken but if you wanted to then what you would do would be to get to the hill early before the security checks and take your cans up the hill to bury them up near Wallaby where the action is going to take place. This of course is something that we wouldn't do. After we hadn't done this we spent the rest of the morning poking around the Old Side.

We got into Boom a bit early and like most of the Old Side it was crunchy, tracked up frozen horses heads. next time round it was no better, nor was Cedar Ridge. Kangaroo actually skied ok if a bit crunchy in places. Boom ridge was probably the best skiing but still crunchy as the overcast conditions kept the snow colder than it might have been in other circumstances.

After an early lunch what with the Old Side skiing and the other stuff that we didn't do we then headed to the New Side. We were amazed when arriving at the top of White Pass we found that Polar Peak had just opened. No one had gone up the Peak ahead of us and no one went up while we skied down - the conditions were butt ugly and it may just be that we were the only ones stupid enough to give it a try. The Papa bear chute was zero viz in the top and ugly crud lower down as soon as soon as the viz improved. We dropped via Corner pocket which is still skiing very mellow with no tires showing and the snow underneath was the best all day which was untracked (almost) powder all the way down to Dancer.

We had decided to go back to the Old Side but a trip up Elk confirmed that the rain that had been threatened for the day had started - it had been coming down in Polar Peak as wet snow. One trip up was enough to convince us that old hotdog ski gear just isn't up to rain and we called it off for the day and headed to the Griz bar. If we had buried any beer then the first job tomorrow would be to go and dig it up from just above Wallaby.

In the bar things got totally out of hand with drink, music, more drink, dancing and more drink - a perfect Hotdog day. Best of all is that the snow line has moved down the hill so it is snowing on the deck as I am writing this and there is a heavy snowfall warning in place for the Elk Valley - bring it on.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Day 117 a lazy day with a bit of peak performance

Today had the makings of a lazy dogday of the season. No new snow over night, a mid week day, about two dozen cars in the parking lot, forecast highs of +12 and blue bird conditions, just the kind of day for a lazy cruise round the hill but it the event it didn't quite work out that way.

It was a bluebird day as we arrived but clear overnight skies gave a starting temp of -3. Things warmed up during the day so that at the base mid day it must have been +10 and more in the direct sunlight with the mercury in the shade at Polar Peak base about +4. It started bluebird but became overcast in the middle of the day before clearing again late afternoon. The result was a melt to start with things setting up early afternoon before softening once again.

We went to mooch around the Old Side and found ourselves pretty much on our own. When we first dropped in to Cedar bowl from the top in untracked powder it seemed so strange that we had to check that we hadn't accidentally crashed a sign line (we hadn't) because that is what it felt like. Good soft powder skiing to right along side the class 4 avi in Cedar. The debris must have been a good 15 ft above my head and the death cookies were about the size of my truck. Pity the poachers who were in Cedar last week couldn't have seen this although poachers are so stupid it probably wouldn't have done any good.

After that we just poked around the Old Side in all the usual places, some more than once - Cedar Ridge (nice and soft powder on top and bit chunky low down), Boom Ridge (ok broken surface due to skier traffic), Linda's Run (difficult to tell the death cookies from the soft snow balls so a bit challenging), Boom Bowl ( ok softening snow all morning) Sunny Side Shoulder (hard at first but getting better as the sun got to it) and of course Kangaroo which was it's ugly icey self only softening late morning.

Around 11:30 while riding the Bear Chair we noticed what looked like people on Polar Peak and went to the New Side to investigate. We struck lucky and they opened the Polar Peak chair in bluebird conditions just as we arrived. The skiing surface wasn't great as it was powder in places and crust in others but overall good untracked skiing. We looped Papa Bear, Grandpa Bear and Barely Legal twice before taking Spirit Bear to go down to lunch (7 chutes in all). The way off the hill was through High Saddle which was still pretty mellow but a bit harder work than yesterday and the snow underneath was the best on the hill being only lightly tracked deep powder.

In the afternoon I was back up Polar Peak (Lynda having gone to the gym) for a couple of drops of Papa Bear which were now starting to set up in the overcast conditions and get rather chunky. The run down was through Corner Pocket which had developed bumps but still no tires showing. If anything the snow under CP was even better tha that under High Saddle - actually quite a lot of it is the same pitch.

I then returned to Polar Peak having three more loops - Grandpa Bear, Barely Legal and Papa Bear. This brought the daily total for Polar Peak to 12 and the year to date total 119. As I caught the last (3:30) chair up I tried something I hadn't done before. I ripped down the chute then hit Currie Powder before exiting Currie Bowl via Trespass trail back the White Pass. I wanted to see how the time worked out and I am pleased to say I had plenty in hand for a last run down Skydive which was nicely soft in the top and heavy ugly slush in the last pitch.

So despite planning a lazy day we actully put in the most loops ever on Polar Peak in a single day - ah well I guess that's how it goes.

Tomorrow is Hotdog day so the report may be late or missing altogether. No worries as I can make the report now.

In celebration of the 1980's movie Hotdog (a dreadful mix of skiing and soft porn) we celebrate once a year by dressing up in retro gear, going to the hill and getting unbelievably drunk, pulling some stupid stunts on the only day of the year we aren't wearing helmets, go to the Griz Bar and get even more drunk and then go to the Pub and get more drunk still while trying to watch the awful movie. There you have it, just in case I don't make it please cut and paste this as tomorrows report. Of course the Weather Channel is calling for 15 cms of fresh and that could change everything.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 116 a good day

I was going to head this report a good day for early April but on balance this was a good day by any definition. Best of all it was a Monday late season so there was almost no one on the hill and the parking lot was almost empty as we rolled in at just before 9 this morning.

Overnight we had 10 cms of fresh which added to the 18 from yesterday and the 1 metre of snow that has fallen in the last week has given us a base of 438 cms and a year to date total of 1116. On the way to the hill temps were about zero at the base and a few degrees lower on top. Forecasts were for the temps at the base to get to +7 which seemed about right and everything else got correspondingly warmer. During the day we had a sun cloud mix which worked out with snow starting to warm and sun ball first thing then cool down in the mid day overcast conditions before warming again in the late afternoon sun.

The overall effect of the new snow was to give us three distinct conditions depending on your elevation. High up was fresh quite deep full on winter powder. Just below this was the breakable crust from yesterday which with a 10 cm covering was very well repaired but you could still feel the crust underneath. Finally low down there was spring warmed soft snow which was ok for most of the day but a bit slushy late afternoon and then starting to set up on the final run.

We went to the New Side and the first run (of many) down Lift Line confirmed the improved conditions with the only worry some major death cookies that needed to be avoided. Currie bowl wasn't open so we had a couple of loops in Knot chutes which were excellent and mostly untracked (Tight Knot and Slim for me) with exits through the I bowl which was mostly untracked and then Surprise Trees. I was surprised just how many tracks there were in Surprise considering how few people were on the hill and the fact that the snow was starting to sun ball that early.

Currie opened and we hit out across the Reverse Traverse and ended up side step cutting the traverse to the bridge on the Skydive Traverse which of course meant that we could have any of the big three untracked - We took Skydive top to bottom first tracks and as I said it was great with just a little base crust in the mid section that you could ignore as long as you kept your speed up. Once again Lynda blasted past me in the powder, must find out what she is on this year.

After that we had -
Cougar Glades - again first tracks all the way down in great powder.
Stag Leap - about four tracks in front of us but plenty of room to find untracked lines all the way to the bottom.
Decline/Window chutes - only lightly tracked in Decline and two tracks in Window Chutes. A little scratchy in the choke but otherwise very good.
Corner Pocket/Spinal Tap - We noticed CP was open so took a look and as no tires we visible we dropped in. The chute skied about as mellow as I can remember and the face below was great untracked powder even though we did have to pick our lines to avoid the avi debris trails. Spinal Tap had a few tracks and was getting decidedly heavy in the ski out.
High Saddle/Easter bowl - High Saddle was very full of snow and again very mellow edge to edge jumping. We had noticed looking back the previous time through that there was a particularly nice line below High Saddle and we hit it to great effect with untracked powder all the way down to the Easter ski out. Easter itself was not over tracked and ok skiing even low down

All this led to a very late lunch so the afternoon was short but with conditions warming we had planned it that way. After lunch it was -
Knot Chutes/Anaconda Glades/Bootleg Glades - the snow was still holding up well in Knot chutes and as Currie had been open for so long there had been very little traffic so still plenty of fresh. Anaconda being North facing was good but right in the middle of yesterday's crunch band so it was no better than ok. Bootleg was also ok but starting to warm.
Lone Fir/ Easter - the chute at Lone Fir was so deep that most of the trees have disappeared. It was about the easiest ski down I have ever had but was a little scratchy in the mid section where it looked to me as if the snow had been removed by avi blasting. Easter was still good but getting softer below.
Skydive - predictably the final run was Skydive which remained in fantstic shape for the first two sections with a surprising amount of untracked snow still available. The final pitch was another story as it had been tracked up while very soft and was just starting to set up as the sun had gone off it, a bit technical but ok as long as you paid attention.

All in all an excellent days powder skiing. My view has always been any skiing in April is a bit of a steal so this was a real bonus. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Day 115 Another short report

This time the short report isn't due to me and Rob celebrating his upcoming wedding but thanks to Shaw Communications who lost my internet connection for me (and several million others I believe) all yesterday. The result is having to dash off this note just before heading off to the hill today.

As it was a short report is all that is needed. The high rain line on the hill froze overnight giving some of the ugliest breakable crust I have ever skied on. Most of the hill was closed by patrol not because of avi danger but because of a genuine fear that people would hurt themselves.

Going high to the New Side in overcast conditions and flurries (some pretty hard in the afternoon) looked the only bet and from what I heard from the Old Side that was a good call. Currie bowl was closed amid much whinging from the ignorant due to the conditions. My suggestion would be that anyone not happy should have tried Surprise Trees (which I only tried once) which was the same elevation as much of Currie and was all but unskiable breakable crust. I had one long trip down Surprise jumping every turn and never went back.

All day we just looped Knot Chutes and the chutes just out beyond Firey Hornet which by a combination of elevation and skier traffic stayed in ok shape - we must have dropped Knot Chutes about 20 times during the day and even allowing for the fact that the massive snow base (still arouns 430 cms) has given you many options not usually available it did get a bit repetitive. Still, it was good skiing in April so that has to be a result.

We left the hill in winter conditions with wet snow falling at the base in almost blizzard conditions. Can't wait to see what today holds.