Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day 3 Beautiful but brutal

No, I'm not describing some young lady but the way the hill was today. It was beautiful because we had a bluebird day with no moisture in the air so everything was absolutely clear. Brutal because the very low temps which made the skiing surface as hard as nails and the cold which made skiing a real survival experience.
The day dawned clear and sunny and stayed that way all day but with a cold wind which gave a severe wind chill - so severe in fact that there was a wind chill warning for the whole Elk Valley with a recommendation to stay in doors, now where's the fun in that. It was -24 on the drive to the hill and when we got there the New Side was closed (and stayed that way all day) due to a wind chill of -43 at the top of White Pass. The Bear Chair was closed initially due to cold and would guess even on the Old Side we were seeing wind chills of around -30. So with just the Elk, Boom and Haul Back running we had to make the best of what we had.
Skiing in conditions like that wasn't easy as the snow had hardened up a lot although it was still just about taking an edge in most places. Like yesterday the lower traffic areas which by rights should have been soft snow had firmed up to a kind of stiff untracked crud with a mixture of death cookies and frozen slab - sounds like fun eh ?
Things weren't made any easier by the amount of clothing that was needed to keep out the cold. Two pairs of thermal long johns under the ski pants, three pairs of gloves, five layers under the ski jacket and the fleece balaclava under the helmet just about tells the story. Of course there was no skin showing and I am always amazed on days like this the number of guys (and it always is guys) who go out with exposed skin and are surprised when they come back half an hour later with frost bite, I guess there is no cure for dumb.
On a day like this there was no New Side, Lizard bowl is always a bit easy for my taste and Cedar High Traverse out to Snake Ridge was running very slow in the cold so the only real option was the Old Side triangle off the top of Boom and later Bear when it came on stream mid morning. Everything was as described, hard bumps, tough untracked crud and just very, very hard work. I ran through Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Bear chutes, and Cedar Ridge several ways. Loops back were always through Kangaroo which was hard but no tougher than usual. Time for a late morning choccy warm up break.
The next session was a repeat of the first until an early afternoon lunch break. Things did warm up a little but not enough to change the underlying conditions and certainly not enough to allow any shedding of layers or exposure of skin. Lunch
The final afternoon session was a repeat of the earlier two with temps falling as the sun went down. I had planned to take Easter Bowl to give me at least a partial final run on Skydive. Unfortunately a fault had developed on the Bear Chair and it was shut down curtailing my plans. This made for a slightly early finish but as I was feeling so beat up for a whole range of reasons it was perhaps no bad thing.
The outlook is strange. We may have one more day like this then a warm up with quite a bit of snow. After that they are talking about warming up to plus 7 with rain but who knows - that would be crazy weather. Only time will tell.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 2 Getting tougher

And just to get the record straight things aren't getting tougher just because I am on day 2 legs which are always a bit weaker than day 1 legs. The conditions toughened up over night due to the big drop in temps and a wind which dried out the snow. The result was what ever had been skied into bumps became really hard but at least not icy. What hadn't been skied and previously had been soft snow became very chunky hard untracked "powder" which was really hard work to make the skies go where you wanted and was overall very hard work. Ok, day 2 legs didn't help.

We had a dusting overnight but no significant accumulation so the base hung in at around 250 cms. Avid readers will recall that I was worried about rising temps but I need not have worried. Overnight temps dropped to about -13 in the valley and a dry cold wind did the damage to the hill described above. When we arrived at the hill it was overcast with flurries so the viz wasn't anything to write home about but as the day wore on things brightened up which improved the viz and raised the temps at the base a little but not up the hill. All day mid mountain temps were around -16 with a wind chill adding 5/10 degrees so over all a rather brisk day.

We went to the New Side as Lynda had missed this yesterday but after a couple of loops on White Pass we were very cold and with the snow chunky and the viz poor we decamped to the Old Side via the Bear connector. The run down through Currie Glades was ok but like everywhere today it was hard bumps and chunky tufts. We did a few Old Side loops on Boomerang, Cedar Ridge, new Lift line, Gully, Gulch, in fact all the Old Side stuff you would expect. Do I need to say that the bumps were hard but taking an edge and the soft snow was by no means soft.

We needed a mid morning break as the cold was getting to us and after a refreshing hot choccy we went back and did loops in Linda's, Bear chutes, Cedar Ridge again and Cedar centre left - conditions were exactly as before but not quite so cold as we approached the mid day "high". Three trips down Kangaroo confirmed just what I said yesterday which was that for Kangaroo it was ok (which makes it pretty tough compared with anywhere else) and compared with the rest of the hill it was certainly no worse.

So it was a late lunch and Lynda headed for home as the chemo has left her a bit behind the 8 ball and probably will do for the rest of the season. I headed to the New Side for some loops which excluded Polar Peak on the grounds that it was closed. This was a good call as the wind chill on White Pass must have been down around -25 and I wouldn't even want to think what it was on the peak. The afternoon runs were -
The Gun bowl - nice blow in but firm
Anaconda Glades - very chunky snow and just hard work in the steep sections.
Bootleg Glades - well skied in hard bumps and as such pretty easy.
Highline trees - nice hard bumps.
Surprise - a bit like Anaconda but not so steep, the exit was surprisingly hard to find.
Decline - still skiing good hard bumps with soft snow on top.
Window Chutes - Chunky snow in the very top section but once in the stream bed it skied firm but nice and the log drop has more or less disappeared.

After all that it was time for the final rip down Skydive. Today I reverted to my more normal approach of ripping hard GS turns through the upper sections which had me almost back to normal run speed. TThe bad news was that this was brutal on the legs with the hard bumps so I had to take on break before the final pitch which I skied  little more gently, give me a couple of days and I will be back in the game.

So a tough but good day with an interesting outlook. The forecast is for some really cold weather over the next few days like a wind chill -43 tonight and not much better for tomorrow. There is talk that the New Side won't open at all tomorrow if the forecast is correct. Looking into next week we are due a warm up to zero/low plus temps and quite a bit of snow - it's a forecast so anything could be right, who knows. I don't care as long as we are here skiing it and tonight is a classic for a warm night at home ignoring the weather.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Day 1 Good to be back

I'm sure everyone will forgive me using a Gary Glitter song title in the head line but it is good to be back.
So what's been happening so far this season while we have been away ? Well, if I can believe my buddies it was good early season and they had great skiing on deserted hills up to Christmas. There was a big dump just around the new year and then nothing for 6 weeks. In fact everyone tells me it was the worst January snow drought anyone can remember. Add to that the fact that the temps went really low and it made for some very not fun conditions and quite few people I know are well behind their normal tally of days skiing for this time of year.
In the last couple of weeks we have been hit by a couple of good snow cycles ( well over a meter of new snow) and the temps have stayed low. The result of this is great coverage with packed powder and soft snow bumps all over the hill but with a relatively low base for this time of year (circa 260 cms) which means that while the skiing is good the conditions are fragile and a big warm up in the spring could see us with real trouble with coverage.
So today dawned sunny and with broken cloud but a cool temp of -13 on the way to the hill. The day had started badly when the alarm had failed to go off, not because I had set the time for 7 pm, as Lynda suggested, but because I had set the clock 12 hours out when I turned it on yesterday. The timer on the coffee was perfect but I had not put the flask in correctly so we had coffee all over the kitchen work surfaces. Knowing that disasters always come in threes I was worried as I headed for the hill thinking that the next one might be a skiing related disaster but not to worry, in the locker room I found that I had left my seasons pass at home and had to get a temporary one from guest services - thanks guys.
So with the disasters out of the way we parked up the new set of wheels (a bright red Ford F150 crew cab truck) and headed for the locker room. With no new snow, conditions were a kind of packed powder all over the hill with bumps on the higher traffic areas and soft stuff in the low traffic areas. The low temps kept the snow in good condition although driving back from the hill tonight I noticed that the temp had risen to -2 which could be a worry. There was a little cloud cover which came and went giving conditions ranging from bluebird to flat light and back again all day.
We hit the new side straight off and had the obligatory practice down Bear which convinced us that we had forgotten how to ski for the first two turns and then things got better. After that we just moved around Arrow, Sunny Side, Cedar Ridge, Boomerang, Bear Chutes, Boom Ridge, Linda's, King Fir and even a trip out to Steep and Deep along the Cedar High Traverse. As I have already said the skiing was nice soft bumps for the most part with some soft powder close in to the trees and some nice soft stuff out on Steep and Deep. All this involved three trips back down Kangaroo which was also soft bumps and skiing just about as mellow as I can remember it.
After lunch Lynda took a break ( she's still a bit weak from all the chemo) and I went out to explore the New Side. I did three loops of Polar Peak and the front runs which panned out as - Papa Bear/Decline, Mamma Bear/Stag Leap and Baby Bear/Cougar Glades. As I expected the runs off Polar were pretty firm but taking an edge with some blow in and bumps only on Papa Bear. The front runs were all soft bumps with not too much evidence of high traffic. Lift line down from Timber top to White Pass base was skiing firm bumps but ok. After a final White Pass loop to get the time right it was time for the 4 o'clock Skydive run.
Only a few of us turned up and considering that I was jet lagged, getting over a cold and on my first day I was pleased to get down in one with no break and only a bit slower than I would normally expect. After that the only thing to do was to hit the Griz bar for some well earned beers.
A big thanks to all our friend who have been telling us how much they have missed us and all the good wishes for Lynda - these things are really appreciated. The forecast is calling for flurries ( Fernie flurries could be anything from a dusting to 100 cms), a cool down to mid -20 temps this weekend then a warm up to big plus temps and rain snow mix next week - who cares, we are just pleased to be here.