Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day 78 Alberta Family Weekend

Normally this weekend with the provincial holiday in Alberta on Monday is one of the busiest days of the year. Whether it is the lack of new snow (1 cm in the last 7 days) or the premium pricing on everything from beers in the Griz bar to lift tickets (including burgers in the day lodge) but today wasn't much busier than a normal Saturday.

As I said no new snow and the conditions are getting decidely ribby and bumpy all over the hill. On the way to the hill today it was about zero at the base but got up to +4 during the day and even up at White Pass we were struggling to see minus temps. The top of White Pass was totally socked in which meant that Polar Peak was never going to happen, perhaps no bad thing given holiday crowds and hard pack skiing in the chutes.

During the day we had snow/ice pellets off and on but by lunch time the precip at the base was rain for sure and the only good snow still falling was above about half mountain height. As we left the hill tonight temps we getting down to +2 and the snow line was getting pretty near to the base. With a possible 20 cms of snow forecast in this cycle we have to hope that the diurnal cooling effect does it's stuff.

We went to the Old Side in the knowledge that today would be crowded with lifts being slowed for families so that the actual amount of snow you could put under your skis would be a lot less than on a weekday - we were right. After a quick loosener down Sunny Side shoulder which was firm but taking an edge we hit out to the fence by Fish Bowl and dropped Gorby Bowl which was also firm but taking an edge.

Next loop out we went for Snake main which had some good sift and KC chutes which still had lots of soft blow in all the way through the main chute. On both loops the return was via Kangaroo (good hard icey bump skiing) and Boomerang - pretty flat and taking an edge on firm snow. As Haul Back had a few people around it we went to the New Side to get away from the crowds.

On the New Side we found White Pass totally socked in and it remained so all day. We ran to the base via Gun bowl (so white you couldn't see anything) Anaconda Glades (lovely crisp skiing in the second chute) Bootleg Glades (big death cookies pushed of the cat track by the groomers but after that ok) and then some nice skiing in Gilmar Gully.

We then looped Skydive which was great skiing from the bumps in the top to the flatter stuff lower down. Last loop before lunch I hit Cougar Glades as hard to the left as I could without actually getting into Stag Leap and amazingly still found some fresh lines. I took the lower exit all the way down through the trees and then decided to drop off the disused cat track that cuts into Stag. This was a mixed decision as the first few turns in the top were deep and untracked but pretty soon it became alder city. Still nothing that couldn't be handled by some good old early season bush whacking and then it was time for lunch.

Over lunch the rain started in earnest at the base so I made the decision to go high and stay high for the afternoon. I spent all afternoon working my way through a zero viz Gun Bowl (very tricky skiing) and then hitting the face between Surprise Trees and Triple Trees all the way down to Trespass Trail. With the new snow puking down and no one around it was great (almost) powder skiing all afternoon in varied and sometimes steep tree terrain with the plus that I stayed dry by not running to base.

Last run was Skydive which was skiing bumpy in the top but pretty mellow all the way down. We were joined by a stranger at the top who then seriously kicked my ass in the top to bottom run - ah well, that's how it goes.

It's precipping as a wet snow/rain mix on my deck at the moment so here's hoping it's coming down white up above.

Day 77 No Report

Yesterday a car crash near the BC/Alberta border cutting the Shaw cable line and blacking out all Shaw internet and cable TV for the whole of the East Kootenays. As a result I couldn't get on line to write the blog.

The system has been restored this morning but we are heading for the hills early to beat the Alberta family weekend crowds.

Yesterday was pretty much the same as all of the recent days with no new snow. Maybe some snow this weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Day 76 a very short report

The reason for the short report is that my Irish buddies got me to drink a lot of Kokanee in the Griz tonight. We then went to my buddies Rob and Katie who had just got back from seeing The Who in Vegas and drank more beer and then hitched up with my new guests just arrived from the UK and who brought two bottles of Jamesons Irish Whiskey.

There was no new snow and the temps were cold at -9 on the way to the hill but got up to plus temps in the sun on a bluebird day. Skiing was hard and bumpy. We went to the Old Side and found some soft in KC chutes, Snake Ridge and Gorby Bowl.

On the New Side I just looped all the tight trees stuff I did yesterday and had great tight steep tree skiing with a lot of untracked snow. The steeper and tighter you go the less tracks there are.

Had a great rip down Skydive at the end. Oh, somewhere in there I did give Polar Peak try which was hard, bumpy and just an accident waiting to happen if you didn't take care.

Too pissed to remember anything else - a better report will follow tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 75 well if you call 1 cm new snow we have had some

Over night they called 1 cm of new snow which usually means there is rather more up on top. In the event there seemed to be rather more snow lower down and on top there was either no new snow as it had been swept away by an overnight wind event of there was some accumulation resulting from where the wind had dropped the snow.

It was +3 on the way to the hill and got up to +5 during the day at the base. Even up at White Pass it was around zero during the afternoon. The weather fluctuated from blue skies at times to overcast and socked in even with a bit of light flurry activity around lunch time. The result was that the surface stayed in ok condition with no really bad sun affected areas. As the Old Side was given over to kids racing we had a New Side day. It panned out as -

Polar Peak/Stag Leap - we had hoped that the wind would have blown some sift in to the Polar chutes. We were wrong they were hard, slick and only just taking an edge. We had quick drop down Pappa Bear before heading out to Stag Leap which was quite firm but with a soft covering of windsift.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - all nicely covered with sift but firm underneath.
Decline/Window Chutes - just as above.
Lone Fir/Easter Bowl - a lot of sift had blown in Lone Fir and only one track had been in. It was good and soft in the chute and in the fan with nice firm skiing in Easter Bowl.
The Brain right side - no one had been in so the sift was quite soft and deep. By holding tight to the creek bed shoulder I was able to find some untracked snow.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - as usual by taking the very tight tree line to the left you could find some untracked lines. Stag Leap was as before.
Trees between Stag and Skydive - today I held the right to avoid the open section in the middle and got some great tight lines in untracked snow through the trees. The final cut out in to Stag was very near the bottom.
The Brain left side - just like yesterday this was super steep and very tight in the trees with the result that there was loads of untracked lines.
Trees between Stag and Skydive - this time we held the left side very near Skydive itself and to the left of the creek bed. Although steep and very tight with dead fall the skiing was amazing untracked deep powder all the way down. We made it to the cat track by the Elk chair which is the longest tree drop I have managed this season. Deep powder 7 days after a storm can't be bad.

Skydive to finish as usual and it was bumps in the top and actually quite bumpy and firm all the way down. Of course we did it top to bottom in one and then went for some beer. Still no snow in the outlook and the temps are unseasonably warm. It looks like I may be spending a few more days in the tight trees.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 74 no new snow but some great tree skiing

Yup, over night there was no new snow and not much sign of any more tonight although during the day there was the odd flurrie of ice/snow mix that may have accumulated almost 1 cm. It was -5 on the way to the hill and although base temps got up to about +3 it stayed well below zero on top. The hill was totally socked in at White Pass top and as a result Polar Peak remained closed all day. We decided to have a New Side day.

With everything socked in I took it into my head to have a days tree skiing which in the event turned out to be one of my better decisions. We went straight for Triple Trees and just like last night found good untracked lines. The final exit on to Summer Road was a bit sun affected but apart from that it was soft and deep.

Next loop we tried Cougar Glades which were good soft snow on the left. We hit the lower trees just to the right of Stag Leap and found a very interesting line which got wider and then thinner all the way down before turning into a disused cat track covered by deadfall. This was a part of the hill I had never seen and we had good fun high siding the deadfall on the cat track until it spat us out at the foot of  Stag Leap.

The Brain was next and was good soft snow still with some untracked lines in the lower section. I skied it just about as fast as I ever have as the lines just seemed to open up in front of me. We then had a drop through the trees above Stag Leap which were good tracked tree skiing before dropping the run itself which was still soft and not too bumpy.

With the morning running out I hit Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap and then Decline/Window Chutes which were all tracked but good soft snow if a little hard packed in the choke areas. We had a fairly late lunch.

After lunch I decided to adventure in runs that I knew but to to take lines that I didn't normally and that looked just very gnarly -
Cougar Glades - I stayed on the left side almost in Stag Leap and found some very tight lines in the trees almost all untracked because of their tightness. I took it all the way down to the newly discovered disused cat track from this morning.
Stag Leap left - I dropped the trees to Stag Leap but stayed in the trees to the left of the run which were good tracked tree skiing. After a while they opened up but as the open area and the creek below looked a bit easy I stayed in the trees to the right which had a tricky cross camber and were steep and untracked. I popped out on the final Pitch of Stag Leap from the left.
The Brain - but this time after the Megasauraus bike trail instead of hitting the trees to the right of the creek bed I went left, near to Decline. This pitch became super steep and tight so that you were having to drop 4/5 ft round each tree, taking air as you went and still having to work the tight trees. For the first time this year my heart rate shifted up a notch which was fantastic as far as I was concerned.

At the end of the day I found myself with a chance of one more base loop but maybe not and so I just did two Surprise Tree loops back through White Pass which were ok and still tree skiing although not in the class I had been doing all day. Skydive was great rip with buddies Dan and Stinger (just back from Mexico) all the way down in one.

With such a good day tree skiing too many beers got drunk in the bar and now it is down to my Irish guest to cook dinner before we all fall asleep. My good patroller buddy Tyler tells me that we may get a bit of snow tonight.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day 73 the snow drought continues

It is now a week since we had any significant snow an after a very promising start to the season it is turning into a pretty sketchy year. The base is down to 229 cms and although we still have coverage from fence to to fence it is getting hard and bumpy with fresh snow very difficult to find. I make this comment as a counter balance to all the advertising hype I hear on the radio about the awesome conditions that we are supposed to be enjoying. Things are ok given the lack of snow but no better than that.

Today started as -9 and was overcast with anything around White Pass or above totally socked in. During the day base temps rose to plus figures but on top it remained a good -5 and was not only socked in but windy. This should have indicated the start of a weather front but by the end of the day temps were on the rise with the wind dropping off which would suggest to me that the snow we have been promised is not going to show up.

We went to the Old Side and Traversed out to the Gorby/Steep and Deep shoulder which was ok but tracked and then cut into Steep and Deep itself which was very chunky and crusty, to be honest the juice just wasn't worth the squeeze. We came back via and icey and bumpy Kangaroo which was tough and ugly and as such great fun. During the morning we had two more returns through Kangaroo which were just the same and just as much fun. I still find it strange how many people try to drop on to the cat track half way down from the right which is gnarly rather than from the left which is comparatively mellow.

Cedar Ridge, King Fir and Boom Ridge were all firm and taking a nice edge but with nothing that could be described as soft. We went to the New Side via Boom Guts which had some wind grooming but in most places was firm bumps.

On the New Side we were amazed to find Polar Peak open given that it was totally socked in and the winds even at the base were howling. There is no greater fan of Polar than me but even I couldn't see much advantage in giving it a try and after a few hours during which only a handful of people went up they closed it - better luck tomorrow.

Cougar Glades was tracked but there were still a few soft lines tight to the trees on the left. We cut out into Stag Leap and found it ok, soft bump skiing. Last run before lunch was the Brain which still had some genuine untracked lines in it if only because there is about a million different ways down it and no matter how much it gets skied there will always be some soft somewhere.

The afternoon on the New Side panned out as -
Lone Fir/Spinal Tap - getting a little sparse in the chute so at least your own slough isn't a worry any more but the fan and through the avi trees is still great soft snow. Spinal Tap is getting a bit firm in places but as it was all taking an edge you could have loads of fun jumping in and out of the creek bed particularly in the lower section.
Decline/Window Chutes - Decline is pretty bumpy in the top getting to just undulating in the mid section. Window chutes remain super soft in the drop through the trees but are starting to get a bit firm and tracked in the chute itself.
Stag Leap - still slick in the trees but still probably the least skied and least bumped up of the big 3. A really nice run from top to bottom in easy conditions.
Triple Trees - having a bit of time on our hands we went out to Triple Trees and dropped the first section to Trespass Trail before cutting back to White Pass. Although there were some tracks in there I was surprise by just how much untracked there was in the trees and on the final drop to the trail - maybe a good starting point tomorrow.

We finished on Skydive but first it is just worth mentioning Big Bang, Lift Line, Puff Trees and Big Bang/Lift Line Trees which were used all day to get from Timber top to White Pass base and were all firm but good skiing taking a nice edge. Skydive was big bumps in the top, smoothing out in the mid section but bumps coming back again in the final pitch with the surface tracked but ok all the way through.

Maybe snow tonight, maybe not, who knows, what ever it is we will be skiing it tomorrow.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Day 72 in really good shape considering

And what I am talking about is the hill and not me, although I am in better shape than usual at this stage of the season. No, considering we haven't had any significant snow for over a week and we are coming out of a weekend of high skier traffic it has to be said that the hill is holding up in better shape than we have a right to expect, although not the awesome conditions that the official site would have you believe. New good snow is very hard to find but ok firm and crisp skiing is the order of the day all over the hill.

There was no new snow to speak of overnight and the mid mountain base was drifting below 230 cms which is low for this time in the season. On the way to the hill it was -6 and overcast but with the hint of light coming through the clouds which suggested maybe an inversion was up there. The hint was right and we went to the New Side and straight up Polar Peak which was on top of a cloud base with the most fantastic view of peaks in all directions pushing up through the clouds.

During the day the clouds slowly cleared so that temps asserted themselves in a more normal pattern and by the end of the day it was about zero at the base and -5 on top. Even in the direct sunlight the snow was staying in pretty good shape.

We looped Polar with a run down Grand Pappa Bear (scratchy but ok) and then a drop down the tight chute between Pappa and Mamma Bear which my patroller buddies tell me hasn't got a name but I am calling Bill's chute as no one else seems to ski it much - it is steep with great untracked snow. Cougar Glades/Stag Leap was good soft snow in the trees and the just nice soft bumps skiing in Stag Leap.

Next time up Polar I took my chute then cut out to the The Brain. Of course there had been tracks in there but there are so many routes through that good untracked tree skiing could be had in many places. Another Polar loop through my chute then a traverse out to try Stag Leap. It was a bit slick through the trees in the top but after that the run was very nice skiing with some soft bumps in the upper section.

Last run before lunch and we did a Spirit Bear run off Polar although I will admit I ducked the fence to avoid the rocks before cutting back into the top of the run. We exited via Secret Chutes (still loads of untracked snow) and and Spinal Tap (hero snow in the upper chute and just great lines in and out of the creek bed lower down) - lunch.

After lunch it was -
Gotta Go/Bootleg Glades/Gilmar Gully - we had a good traverse out to Gotta Go to get a pic of Simon in front of the Simons Crack sign. The left chute of Gotta Go (which my patroller buddies tell me is called Google Earth) was untracked and just fantastic. Bootleg and the gully were hard packed but taking a nice edge.
Polar/Decline/Window Chutes - Mamma Bear was good skiing off Polar and Decline was soft bumps all the way down. The drop into Window Chutes still had some soft in the top and the chute itself was good creek bed skiing taking a nice edge.
Polar/Lone Fir/Spinal Tap - my chute again still mostly untracked. Lone Fir was a bit firm but great for edge to edge jumping through the chute and the fan was super soft. As before Spinal Tap was hero snow and great creek bed skiing.

I just had time for a quick loop on White Pass to kill time. I had a fit of indecision on the shoulder between Fraid Knot and Tight Knot in the Knot chutes trying to decide which would be the best. In the event I reversed into Tight Knot which was a mistake as it was scratchy and gnarly all the way down, so much for experience and judgement. Surprise Trees were ok skiing wherever the sun hadn't got to the surface.

Skydive was a lonely experience as no one else turned up. In true keeping with the faith I ripped it top to bottom in one and quite enjoyed myself in the process. No new snow for a day or two so I guess we are going to have to make our own fun until it comes.