Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 126 Awesome - which isn't bad for this time of the season.

As regular readers may recall we were promised 10-15 cms of fresh overnight by the forecasters. Well, not for the first time they got it wrong - we had 32 cms of new snow over night. Better still it just puked snow (and I don't use the term inadvisedly) all day so I would guess that we had at least another 25 cms during the day giving us over 60 cms in 24 hours and making this the biggest snow cycle of the winter - as I said, not bad for the closing weekend.

The snow was pretty wet low down but as we headed to the hill in temps +1 we were optimistic that up top it would be rather dryer. When we got to the hill we found that power had failed in the day lodge and so had to get ready using cell phone lights to open the combination padlocks on our lockers which wasn't as easy as it sounds. The fact that we were made late didn't matter as only the Deer and Elk chairs were running to start with as most of the hill was shut down due to the massive avi risk from this huge dump of snow on a fairly indifferent base.

We took a couple of trips up Deer just to get some snow under our skis and found that really deep wet snow doesn't ski so easy on gentle slopes. Timber eventually opened and we found Lift Line closed but everything to skiers left open - we hit Puff Trees which were just awesome, hardly had to turn in the deep powder and almost choked on the over the head face shots.

White Pass was closed which we assumed was just a temporary hitch. We were wrong, after several delayed opening times were we told that White Pass would not be opening today and the dismantling of the maze seemed to make the point. We just spent the morning off Timber hitting Puff Trees, Lower Lift Line, Black Cloud, and all trees and chutes in between. Whilst the terrain was limited the skiing was just awesome in hero powder and as the snow continued to fall the conditions didn't deteriorate to any great extent. Another plus was that whilst we had a bit of a line up to begin with, after that there were no line ups so no delays in getting to the powder.

In the afternoon I don't think I played it very well. On the New Side Lift Line and Big Bang had being ski cut but I decided to try my luck on the Old Side. I am told that when Big Bang and the side step into Siberia Ridge opened it was just awesome, and I missed it, well that's the way it goes. The Old Side didn't suck but a lot of the openings had taken place an hour or two earlier. That having been said the rate of fill in from the snow fall was enough to guarantee great skiing wherever you went.

I just poked around the Old Side all afternoon with hardly anyone there - Bear, Bear Chutes, Boomerang, Boom Ridge (twice) Linda's, Cedar Ridge (three times) King Fir etc.These were all that was available as Ceder Bowl was closed to the skiers left (even Alpine Way was closed) and the only stuff open in Lizard was Tower 6 trail and below. The sking was great soft powder getting a bit heavy lower down but still awesome for the second week in April.

Kangaroo deserves a special mention as it was great soft snow from top to bottom. I am told there were a couple of closed signs in the top but I didn't see them. As I came off the hill it was still snowing and continued to do so for a couple of hours after the lifts stopped turning. Tonight it is forecast to get cold which may work out really well because if it stabalizes the snow then we could get most of the hill open tomorrow for a spectacular closing day.

The entertainment events of the day were the Powder, Pedal, Paddle relay which I guess took place but as I was getting over the head face shots on the New Side when it should have happened I can't really comment. Similarly the band in the Plazza was Chilliwack but after a few minutes of listening I was so tired from the days skiing that I just sat in the Griz drinking beer - I guess they were pretty good as everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves.

So here we go with tomorrow as last day and everything pointing towards a spectacular powder day - lets see.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 125 a really tough day

The reason today was so tough was that all the things that have been happening in this latest weather cycle to make skiing easier failed to happen today - let me explain. So far we have either had softening conditions during the day so it didn't matter what had happened the previous day, you could ski the mush. Alternatively if it had frozen overnight and not softened during the day there has always been some new opening available so that you could ski previously untracked snow which of course was smooth and easy to ski.

Today our chickens came home to roost and we found that everything had previously been open in soft conditions so what was available (ignoring groomers)  was tracked up and ugly. This wouldn't have mattered if things had softened but they didn't. It was -6 overnight and arriving at the hill it was -1. Initially things looked quite encouraging as it was tending towards the bluebird with temps rising fast. In the event we had cloud cover coming in off and on all day and as result it never really warmed up so everything stayed pretty hard. By the end of the day we had a little atmospheric warming so that the very lowest part of Skydive had softened but apart from that we were dealing with some hard ugly conditions.

We went to the Old Side initially and skied around Bear and into the Lizard bowl looking for things to soften up which of course they didn't but the hard groomers were ok skiing. We experimented with runs down Boomerang and Boom Ridge which were just about skiable as we could find untracked areas in which to turn. Out across Lizard nothing had been groomed and the lower Dancer area was ugly refrozen crud. Somewhere in there we looped Cedar Centre which skied ok and gave every sign of being about to become soft but that was before the morning cloud rolled in.

We went to the New Side and found nothing much different. Puff and Lift Line were tough and hard all day. We looped back through Gun Bowl/Highline/Heartland a few times and again had to work very hard in the tracked up refrozen crud to get any kind of skiing at all. I think that part of the problem was that we had a graupel storm just after close of play last night and the layer of pellets sat on top of the under surface and acted like and insulating blanket keeping things cold without really providing much of a skiing surface to make up for it.

We ran to base a few times trying a combination of Alph Centauri (really ugly ice crust) and Currie Powder - a lot better off the groomed surface to skiers left giving some soft surface pellets to work with. It was time for lunch with the expectation that the afternoon's skiing would be soft and slushy.

Our expecations were not fulfilled as on emerging form lunch the clouds had socked in again and by late afternoon we were even getting some flurry activity. Again we had to look for lines that were either groomed or not too affected by the skier traffic and freezing conditions. Currie Powder and Down Right provided some ok skiing with good lines in between the groomed areas either to the left of Currie Powder or in Currie Glades. I even ran to base through Diamond Back which hadn't been groomed for a couple of days but skied ok if a bit scratchy.

I was getting bored so pushed out to High Saddle on the basis of what ever didn't kill me would make me stronger. As it turned out the skiing through the Saddle was great winter snow as was the first half dozen or so turns underneath. Below that it got a bit tricky on refrozen crud but by sticking to untracked areas and keeping the speed up I found things were not that bad.

All too soon last run of the day came round and we headed to Skydive expecting totally horrible conditions. The top section confirmed our worst nightmares with an ugly refrozen ploughed field of icey crud to negotiate. By the time we got tothe second section both Dan and I thought we were detecting a softening which made the skiing a little easier. By the final pitch the late afternoon warming was taking effect and the surface was hard underneath but soft on top and by the last few tuens was easy mush skiing - overall not quite as bad as I expected but then I did expect it to be pretty bad.

After skiing we had drinks in Kelsey's where Dan and I (and later Lynda) registered our two man and one woman protest against the closure of the Griz Bar for the last two nights - over to you guys. The best thing about Kelsey's is that they serve 23 oz pints for the sme price as they serve 20 ozpints in the Griz.This amounts to 15% more beer per buck spent, or a 15% reduction in the price of beer depending on how you look at it - just saying.

The forecast is for 10-15 cms overnight so it could end up as a full on powder day to finish the season - who knows.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 124 still pretty good

I am of course refering to the skiing and not the stupid decision to close the Griz Bar for a couple of days. The funny thing is that today was the final day for the Non Stop level 2 skiers and after their exams they were looking for somewhere to celebrate/drown their sorrows and of course they had no where to go. Anyone who understood the business would have seen this coming but the decisions on the opening/closing of the facilities on the hill are clearly being undertaken by people who's greatest contribution to the planet is to breath out carbon dioxide which is good for plants so you wouldn't expect anything like a sensible decision from them. So, having cost your employers a load of lost income what next guys?

The skiing was pretty good. The official web site said there was no new snow but later changed their mind to say we had about 11 cms of fresh which looked about right to me. We went to the New Side on the basis that the snow line looked as if it had stayed high. The conditions were overcast and +4 on the way to the hill. During the day the conditions fluctuated from full on winter on top, rain below and sun, becoming very warm and spring like in the last hour of the day. We had pretty well everything.

Lift Line gave a hint of what we could expect. It was soft powder at the top becoming quite wet and even crusty lower down. We looped White Pass about 4 times in great soft powder but becoming heavier as the temps rose to above zero. After while we decide to do a couple of loops out in Surprise and found just like the other day we were laying first tracks all the way across but this time rather than scratchy it was all a little mushy in places. In fact I was quite surprised how soft the snow was today even away from the direct sunlight.

After all our activity high up getting some great pwder skiing we had to look elsewhere and predictably we went to the Saddles. Corner Pocket was still showing tires but I did hit a high left line that allowed me to slide round the worst of the rubber. High Saddle was skiing like a groomer - ok a very steep tight groomer but nothing to frighten the horses. Low Saddle was just awesome - all the saddles had great soft powder underneath but Low had totally untracked chutes off to the skiers right - I guess it was all a function of hardly anyone being on the hill. Actually I didn't feel that I had skied Low in quite the tight controlled way that I liked so I gave it another go before lunch with much better results.

Down below the Saddles in the Dancer area nothing was groomed and at first it was a case of difficult skiing on a slush/crust surface. Whether it was the changing conditions or just the fact that we were getting more used to the conditions but as the day went on the lower skiing which had been challenging at first became easy soft mush skiing and I was staying in the mush as long as I could instead of exiting it at the first opportunity as had been the case early on - it was just a case of keeping up the speed and staying on top.

After lunch it was the Saddles High/Low/High/Low which were just as good as the morning until it was time for Skydive. I had mixed feelings about Skydive after the previous hard icey experiences but today it was soft if chunky skiing all the way down - hard word but ok.

After skiing we went to Kelsey's as we will tomorrow despite the Griz reopening. Many thanks for all the messages of support and confirmation that many of you will be taking a day off from the Griz to register your protest - remember, today they close the bars, tomorrow it will be the lifts, take action now to meet my target of hitting the income line by 2000 bucks as a shot across their bows.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 123 not as good as it has been but some promising signs

Overnight the temps stayed above zero in valley and probably didn't freeze over most of the mountain. It was +3 on the way to the hill and overcast becoming showery in the morning. The showers were rain at the base but became snow/ice pellets not all that far up the mountain. As the day wore on the precip became heavier and was rain at the base but up in White Pass it was full on winter conditions with snow starting to pile up in significant quantities but the end of the afternoon.

We went to the Old Side and found that the groomers were ok and just starting to soften so we had a few runs down Bear, Arrow and assorted parts of Lizard bowl just to let things settle down. We dropped into Cedar and found that the centre was skiing very mellow and taking an edge. After that we tried Cedar Ridge twice, both of which were ugly death cookies but it had to be tried.

Each exit was through Kangaroo which had closed signs in the top but by taking a left chute in I guess you could just about argue that you hadn't skied above or between the signs. In any event it was the run of the day with the terrain beaten down to undulating bumps, a hard ice base underneath and a few inches of melt on top - in fact it was the nearest thing to corn snow that I have seen this year so obviously couldn't have been closed as it was the best run on the hill.

It was starting to get a bit wet low down so we headed over to the New Side to get high and found that Puff was smooth with a soft snow covering and everything in White Pass was good with real winter conditions and snow falling. The only down side was that it was socked in at the top of White pass so that viz was down around your boots and to be honest didn't get much better all day. We looped White Pass before heading to lunch down Currie Powder - to my great relief the Reverse Traverse was closed so that it would be impossible to ski Skydive at the end of the day which despite the changing conditions was bound to be as ugly as yesterday and tradition would have required me to ski it. Currie powder was smooth, groomed and covered in soft snow all the way to the base through Gilmar Trail and the Medow.

After lunch it was apparent to me that the rain line was going to rise up the hill so the only game in town was to go high and stay high in White Pass. My decision seemed to be confirmed as the conditions in White Pass became more and more wintery as the afternoon wore on, the snow came down heavy and was accumulating so that White Pass loops became powder skiing. The only downside was the viz that reamined bad and the lack of terrain as the opening was only from the I bowl line on skiers left to Timber Lift Line on skiers right.

Finally I had no choice but to run to base at the end of the day which I did via Currie Powder. This just further confirmed how good my decision had been as I hit rain about half way down and from Gilmar trail it was just mush all the way to base. So,on balance pretty good day due to a good decision to stay high and maybe a better day tomorrow if the forecasters have it right.

When I got to base I found that the Griz bar was closed today and tomorrow due to lack of customers which is huge kick in the teeth to us regular customers who keep the place going every night of the year, even lining up to get in at busy times. No other business but RCR would treat their regular (best) customers in such a disgraceful way. Well, they have put the game in play amd set the rules (bottom line is the only thing that matters) so lets play guys. I have agreed with a large number of buddies that we will take one day off drinking in the Griz at a time when we normally would - in my case Friday. I would like everyone reading and following this blog to do the same to show them that customers deserve to be treated better than this. By my calculations if half the regular blog followers, and the buddies who have agreed go through with this and they normally spend about 20 bucks a night (like me) then the effect will be about a 5000 buck hit on the sales line. At the outrageous mark up in the bar this should hit the bottom line to the extent of about 3000 bucks give or take.

I would imagine they saved a few hundred at most by closing the bar for two nights so I think an action costing them 3000 bucks might just make them realise that in the long run this is not a wise course of action. Not the sort of thing I like doing but they set the rules not me. Please support this action, after all it only requires you to change your drinking place for one night and it sends a strong message.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 122 still skiing untracked snow - how good is that

Still no new snow but it dropped to -7 in the valley overnight and I guess it was a lot colder on the hill which help the stabalize the snow pretty well all across the hill allowing for more openings. On the way to the hill it was -4 and conditions were mostly sun with some cloud. The result was that in the direct sunlight temps rose to plus figures of up to +8 softening all surfaces but in the shade not much softened at all.

We initially went to the Old Side because we had been told that someone was trying to set a new world record for the most vert in one day and to do this he would have to ski the Bear 58 times. On the way up we did the math and worked out that he would have to loop the Bear once every 7 and a half minutes which as the Bear takes 8 minutes to run to the top at standard speed looked a bit of a tall order. I think he would need to have a word with the hill to get the hours extended and the lift speeded up if he wants to stand a chance.

Having lost interest in the record attempt we skied around Lizard Bowl always running down to Bear load to check the snow conditions if we were to start skiing the Saddles again. Everything looked ok and much, much more was groomed in Lizard Bowl today making any skiing below the Saddles much easier than yesterday, if that is what you are looking for. We went to the New Side to see what was new.

Arriving at Timber load I was told that Surprise Trees had opened for the first time in a week or so. When we got to the top of White Pass we found that although Knot Chutes remained closed, the Gun Bowl and the Idiot Traverse were open and so we could go out to Surprise Trees or Anaconda Glades. The Gun bowl skied very mellow and powdery and when I got to the end of the traverse I found that all the tracks went into Anaconda and I had to cut fresh tracks into Surprise Trees. The skiing was soft slighly heavy powder on a rather scratchy base and totally untracked. A little lower down some tracks came in from the right but there was still plenty of untracked.

Now for the amazing part - the next time round I found that mine were still the only tracks into Surprise and so I cut the traverse a bit further and then dropped with much the same effect as before. I did this again on the far side of Surprise, and then again on the near side of Triple Trees first section and then again in Triple Trees first section proper - all loops were returned to White Pass load along Trespass Trail. I couldn't believe I got 5 runs of untracked powder with no one coming out to follow me - I guess that's a function of the hill being even less busy that yesterday if such a thing was possible.

I noticed on the Idiot Traverse that soft snow was starting to pinwheel out of the Knot Chutes and figured (wrongly as it turned out) that the traverse would be closing soon. We hit Anaconda Glades and had an awesome run in good powder on the north facing slope so that we both had to stop at one time to let our sloughs pass to avoid being barrelled over by them -conditions lower down were a bit varied so beating out your own slough would have been a bit of a ballsey call today.

We hadn't forgotten the Saddles and took a High Saddle loop followed by a Low Saddle loop.The chutes were getting a bit slick in places but nothing some good edge to edge jumping couldn't handle. Under the Saddles it was just like yesterday with great powder and many untracked lines to be threaded if you just paid attention. We went for a very late lunch.

After lunch it was just more Saddles (Low, High and then Low again) and although they were getting more marginal as the day went on they were still in pretty ok condition. The skiing underneath still had many untracked lines to offer if you just looked hard enough. At the end of the day I had just time for a quick groomer loop on White Pass which was so unused that you could almost straight line it from top to bottom.

Tradition has a lot to answer for - I could have had an easy saddle to finish but found myself heading for Skydive. My buddies had quite sensibly avoided me by this time so I faced the final Skydive drop on my own. At first it wasn't too bad with soft snow on the bumps and then the mid section was soft and melting and my hopes rose - all too soon as it turned out. The last section was ugly icey ploughed up crud and even worse than yesterday if that was possible. It was very hard work to get to the cat track but eventually I made it, lets say the skiing was effective rather than pretty.

I only stayed for a couple f beers in the Griz Bar tonight as it is Beer and Burger for 10 bucks at the Northern and I don't want to miss that. The forecast says we are in for four days of "mixed precip" I wonder what that will actually turn out to be, only time will tell.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 121 Sensational Saddles

The heading about sums things up so maybe I should stop here. Ok, just to put it in perspective - it didn't snow overnight as forecast although reports all around indicated snow such as the Crowsnest Pass being single lane and the "local" radio station (it's actually based in Cranbrook) reporting difficult driving conditions. I guess the storm slipped by us on either side.

What did happen was that overnight things froze and it was -3 at the base as we arrived at the hill. We were a little late as we had to get the car checked in for a service next Monday which will be the first days non skiing since November - where did this season go. Conditions at the upper hill were much colder and I noticed temps of -8 at the Timber top as late as midday. Conditions varied from sun at times to overcast with even the hint of light snow from time to time. Even by late afternoon nothing much had got above zero and we were really back to winter conditions.

The resut was that everywhere we had skied yesterday was ugly icey refrozen crud. The groomers such as they were (there was very little grooming in the bits of the hill where I was) were very hard and scratchy. Of course where things hadn't been skied yesterday we had the most wonderful deep full on powder.

Arriving at the hill a patroller buddy of mine told me that the Saddles were just awesome. We headed there via Lift Line which was about as bad as I have ever seen it with ugly refrozen crud. We looked in to Corner Pocket and found the tires just about showing. I am not a fan of tire skiing in Corner Pocket so we headed on to High saddle which skied just like a dream through the chute and deep powder with huge untracked areas below - some of the best powder skiing of the season.

We decided to stick with alternate runs between High and Low Saddle as most of the traffic on a day like today seems to head for Corner Pocket - the Saddles stayed filled with snow and easy edge to edge jumping through them all day. Despite the slide over the tires in Corner Pocket I think people like the idea that it is only a couple of easy turns after that to get out of the chute and that is why they go there. This leaves High and Low Saddle and the skiing below mostly untracked.

We resolved to ski the Saddles until we couldn't get any more fresh lines and then move on. When we went to lunch just after 1 we were still skiing the Saddles which speaks volumes. Lynda did try one run down Concussion which she said was ok in the top but nowhere near as good as the Saddles so we went back to our original plan.

After lunch we just continued with particularly good skiing in the chutes to skiers right after a hard right cut out of Low Saddle. Abour 2:30 I had to cross another skiers track which was quite annoying but still not bad for the second week in April. The secret was that if you took away vacation skiers sticking to groomers and a couple of level 2 groups also on groomers there were only probably about 2 dozen of us on the hill skiing serious lines and lets face it there is an awful lot of hill for us to try and trash.

I wasn't looking forward to last run of the day - by tradition if Skydive is open we have to ski it. I had a feeling it wouldn't be good and I was right. Up to about half way down you could find untracked areas that skied ok. After that you were in heavily tracked stuff from yesterday which had refrozen into an ugly ploughed field of ice tufts. I couldn't really complain as I was one of the main offenders in creating these conditions by hiking up into Skydive yesterday. It was a slow crunchy descent in just about the ugliest conditions in Skydive of the year but - whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger and me and my buddy Randy who I had met on the traverse out got to the bottom in one piece and went for a beer.

So, a really great start to last week week of the season. Skiing the Saddles over and over again is a bit repetitive but repetitive untracked powder is ok by me. The forecasts for the next 7 days call for rain, sun, snow and everything in between, could be an interesting finish.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 120 a powder day at this time of the season - I guess so

If you define a powder day as any day when you are skiing untracked powder snow with more than 10 cms of fresh for a significant part of the day then I guess today qualifies as a powder day.

It rained all night in the valley but the temps were only just below zero so we had hopes that on the hill things were coming down white. The early morning figures from the hill were for 12 cms of fresh but we were understandably sceptical. On the way to the hill it was only +2 at the base and on top the viz was swinging from socked in to quite clear and back again on a 10 minute cycle.

We went to the New Side and found that up top in White Pass we had almost full on winter conditions with real powder in the top of the run becoming a little heavier as you got to White Pass base. The White Pass loops were a  bit better today as the open area extended from the I bowl sign line on skiers left to about Mitchy's Chutes on skier's right.  The extra area gave us much more to go at with a 12 cms powder covering and the total lack of crowds (even for a Sunday) meant that there were significant areas of untracked snow available all morning.

After a few great powder loops in White Pass which involved Gun Bowl, High Line, Quite Right under the lift, Highline Trees, Little Trees, and many other lines where we found good untracked lines, we headed down Currie Bowl. We hope for a traverse out beyond Currie Powder but that was all closed so we had lots of good untracked powder in Currie Powder itself although by the time we got to Gilmar Trail it was getting pretty heavy.

For the rest of the morning we put loops in White Pass always looking for new untracked lines which we found quite a lot of the time and then dropping to base off the top of White Pass. The base runs were always through Currie Glades which we entered via the Polar Peak load (Polar Peak was closed)  and found great untracked line albeit getting a bit heavy by the exit. A special mention has to go to Gilmar Gully which was super soft on the old bumps and getting heavy but challenging if only to avoid the sink holes above the stream in the bottom of the gully. We looped about three times and went to lunch.

After lunch I decided to try the Old Side to see if I could access the Big 3 from Easter bowl. I didn't really expect the skiing to be much better but it was somewhere different to go and something different to do and so seemed worth while to me. As I started the afternoon it socked in and started to snow from about above the Bear load and rain below that - off and on those were the conditions all afternoon.

First loop was a low side step into Skydive which was ok soft snow with some untracked lines but generally speaking more tracked than I expected. Next I went low into Decline and found a lot of untracked lines. One of the funny things about Decline is that because of the great skiing off either side the tracks in the run tend to become fewer as you go down and today was no exception. The final pitch was great with a lot of untracked areas but a bit sticky on the last couple of turns.

I had noticed a couple of guys hiking high off the Easter traverse and decided to follow suit. The result was that I came out in the top of Skydive with all my options available. It may seem strange but the very people who were working so hard to hike into the big 3 were totally locked into the idea of skiing one of the runs rather than any of the trees. I dropped into the Brain and had totally untracked skiing all the way down and it only got mushy in the last two turns of the final section before I cut out into Skydive. Last run was another maximum hike up to the top of Skydive but this time taking Cougar Glades untracked from top to bottom as a spectacular finish to the day.

Having hiked as much as I did the only cure was a lot of beer in the Griz where the first one didn't even touch the sides. Sunday is my favourite night as it is a locals only event with everyone coming up with stories of the weekend. So, today was a great full on powder day which can't be bad for the start of the second week in April - Lynda was also celebrating her 100 days on the hill.

The forecast for the next few days is cooling and snow - who knows, they might even be right.