Saturday, March 8, 2014

Day 10 a good day but what will happen tomorrow.

Yes, I am not usually one to get too hung up about what will happen tomorrow (what will happen will happen) but after a pretty good day today I really think that tomorrow could be a very ugly day and maybe one where just getting through to the opening of the Griz Bar at 11 could be something of a challenge - but more of that later.
Today dawned with overcast skies which hung around all day with the odd bright periods but finally turned to rain at the base on the last run of the day. Temps were about +4 on the way to the hill and stayed above zero all day all over the hill so we had a softening trend. As we drove away tonight it was +3 in hard rain at the base.
Just like yesterday as I arrived in the locker room I was told that the skiing was bad but I have now worked this out - the people who tell me this ski in places where the skiing is bad so what they say is correct. If they skied where the skiing was good they would have a very different view but they don't - why not is anyone's guess but as they say in Yorkshire "there's nowt so queer as folks".
We went to the New Side and tried Lift Line under Timber which was just ugly, heavy, refrozen crud and very hard work. When we got to the top of White Pass they had opened Currie Bowl for the first time in two days so we headed out across the Reverse Traverse to see what we could ski. The notices told us that Polar Peak and the Saddles were closed and a patroller buddy told us they had put a sign line in on the far side of Currie Creek to rule out any chance of the Big Three - don't anyone dare call them the fingers in my hearing.
We looped out to the Concussion/Toms Run area and had great untracked powder for about the top two thirds of the run. The last third was crust and very hard work but when you have a good time you always have to pay the bill in the end. This was the form for the next few laps of Currie Chutes with untracked powder followed by work. As the day wore on things changed in that the upper sections became tracked up soft snow which was not so good but still ok while the lower section softened into spring skiing which was actually quite good fun with soft bumps on the Gilmar Trail. A number of people have asked my how Lynda is hold up in these conditions given her chemo therapy. Well, the answer is that she hung on in with us skiing all the stuff we did all morning but by about 1:30 she was through for the day. This is a bit of a pattern and it looks like she will take a season to get her full fitness back but while she is on the hill she still giving it.
The whole morning up to a late lunch was spent looping the Currie Chutes from Currie Creek to Concussion in the conditions as described above and having a great time. After lunch we went back to the New Side and did a couple more Currie loops each time dropping Lift Line off Timber top which had softened to be just about acceptable. The end of the day found us with some time on our hands so we looped White Pass through Knot Chutes which were surprisingly good and then a ripper from top to bottom to get the timing right. The final run in Currie was another chute out beyond Tom's and then a surprisingly bumpy exit through the Gilmar Trail.
We had some good beers with patrol buddies in the Griz but it had started raining hard. The official word is that this rain will stay with us on a warming trend and by tomorrow we will have rain all the way to White Pass top all day. You have to hope that they have got it wrong but I fear they haven't and it will be a challenge to stay dry long enough to make it through to opening time for the Griz at 11 tomorrow morning - all this and clocks going forward for daylight saving, what a weekend.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Day 9 no pleasing some people

I arrived at the hill today about half an hour after first turn for reasons too complicated to go into here. When I turned up I was met with a large number of people in the locker room telling me that the skiing was so awful that they were heading home after one run so I had very low expectations as to what might be up there. In the event I had a very good days skiing on what has to be admitted was limited terrain and I am at a total loss as to what anyone could find wrong with today as a days skiing - I guess some people just have much higher standards than me.
I also asked myself the question last night as to the value of this blog when there are so many official sources of information regarding the ski hill and decided to compare my summary of yesterday (pretty crappy) with the official version. On the official version I discovered that we had 94 cms of snow in the last week, 22 cms in the last 24 hours and a base of 320 cms. Any inexperienced skier reading this would be excused for thinking that yesterdays skiing was way better than it actually was - the only hint that all might not be a bed of roses was the description of the upper mountain conditions as "wet snow" when elephant snot would have been more accurate. On mature reflection I think the blog still has a role to play in keeping snow users on the hill informed as to the true conditions.
It had rained in the valley overnight but by morning it was overcast with the odd flash of sun and no rain. In the middle of the day we got some slight precip which was wet at the base and white on top but not really enough to bother with. On the way to the hill it was +3 and warmed during the day so that on the way back it was nearer +5. Up the mountain it was a little above zero all day making the snow heavy and getting heavier but with a wind which held off the worst of the warming effects.
I went to the Old Side expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised. The top of Arrow was open and the rest of Lizard Bowl was open from below Tower 6. This gave access to untracked skiing in Bow and Cascade made all the better because of a broken down cat on the Tower 6 trail which meant that access across Lizard was a bit restricted. People will know that I don't usually find the skiing in Lizard challenging enough but today was different. The untracked snow was wet and a little crusty so it was quite challenging but fun and certainly good to be first in, as second would have meant skiing some horrible chopped up crud. I managed a couple of hours of fresh tracks taking lines from Dancer to Sunny Side and regular exits through China Wall. Not classic powder but great first tracks on heavy cream if you were prepared to work for it.
The New Side was calling so I went and being that bit higher the fresh snow was heavy but certainly qualified as powder. I got lucky and they dropped the fence on Lift Line under Timber just as I got there so I took first tracks. When I went up White Pass I got to the Zig Zag just as they dropped the fence there and so had great first tracks back under the lift line. The patrol had put in a sign line just this side of Surprise Trees so the rest of the morning was skiing Knot Chutes in semi tracked powder and the back to White Pass base via the chutes just before Surprise. This was excellent if limited terrain skiing.
The afternoon was straight back the White Pass for a repeat performance of the morning. I don't think I have ever skied the Knot chutes so often and we tried every line from the Cheese Grater to beyond Simon's Crack and back again, jumping logs and rocks to try and find new lines. There are only so many ways you can ski the Knot  Chutes and the stuff below so by about 3 we had tracked everything but it was still soft snow and fairly deep so not all that bad. We skied to last bell at 4 when we went to the Griz to drink beer and celebrate a pretty good days skiing and wonder at those who had decided to write off the day in the early morning.
Got a feeling tomorrow could be good with a Polar Peak and Currie bowl opening but with conditions for Sunday looking decidedly mixed.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 8 a pretty crappy day

Sorry guys but there is no way to honestly describe what we had today other than those used in the title. What we really had was the day we had feared yesterday but got away with - well today we didn't manage to dodge the bullet.
The rain died away yesterday evening but came back with a vengeance around midnight and it has rained in the valley pretty solidly since that time. This morning temps on the way to the hill were +3 so it was bit warmer than yesterday. As we looked up the hill while pulling in to the parking lot (car park for UK readers) we could see the rain line up around  White Pass base and made the obvious decision that the only choice was to go high to White Pass and avoid the rest of the hill like the plague.
Everything was stood on it's head as we found out that Timber Chair was closed and was not likely to be open until 11 due to avi risks so the only option was to ski the Old Side in the pouring rain. We hung about for a while at the base drinking coffee and then decided to give it a go. We were partly influenced by the idea that the new snow had pushed the snow base up (if only at the snow plot) to 307 cms so technically we were celebrating the 3 metre party for this season even if it didn't feel like it.
To say that the Old Side was mostly shut down was an understatement. All of Lizard bowl was closed and nothing to the lookers left of Bear was open - not even the Tower 6 trail. After a few runs through some very chunky tracked up deep crud in the Bear area we decided to see just what was open to the skiers left, suspecting that we were restricted to the Old Side Triangle. In the event things were even worse as Alpine Way was close short of Cruiser so that only the near side of Cedar Ridge was available and that was ugly as a bears ass. Even Kangaroo was closed and loops in North Ridge and Emily's showed that the surface was chunky ugly heavy crud.
We got word that Timber had opened and went up to test the situation for a run or two before a late lunch. I have never seen such restricted opening on the New Side all due to avi risk. In White Pass all we had was Highline and Heartland with the Zig Zag closed on one side and a sign line just short of Milky Way Trees on the other. The run off the hill was even more restricted with everything shut off so that a straight drop through Deep Sea was pretty well the only way off the hill - even Summer Road was closed !
After lunch the only game in town was to go back up the New Side and cycle White Pass which was exactly what we did. The snow which was falling up there all day was heavy and for about the top half of White Pass we had heavy but good powder but almost no viz and for the lower half of White Pass we had heavy elephant snot but ok viz - not great skiing. Given the limited terrain there are only so many ways that you can ski White Pass but we did out best to shake it up and got some interesting variations and permutations. That having been said it was poor viz heavy crud skiing and we had to get pretty physical to make the whole thing work at any level.
In the conditions we decided to quit at around 3:30 by which time there were not many taker still on the hill. Tomorrow looks drier but if the chopped up crud freezes we will have conditions that will really sort out the sheep from the goats. I can't decide exactly what to hope for but what the hell - it's sliding around on frozen water.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 7 No

Avid followers may remember that last night I posed the question as to whether or not yesterday would be the last good day's skiing in the current weather cycle. Well today we had the answer "No" as today was a very good day in it's own way and there may be better to come. Today's skiing could be easily summarized in few words such as , awesome up high but pretty crappy lower down, but those who know me know that  a few words is not really my style.
It rained all night in town and temps on the deck this morning were around +2. The result of this was bloody mess with flooding as drains were blocked with ice and flood covered ice on the roads made for challenging driving conditions. At the hill the base temp was +1 but up at White Pass base it was around zero and these temps didn't change all that much during the day. The rain line was around the top of the meadow and rising although it never got up to White Pass Base and by the close was only a little higher than it's starting position.
The result was that we had about 10cms of fresh snow overnight and probably a similar amount during the day above the rain line. Of course the snow was heavy with a high moisture content but this was no bad thing giving hero skiing in what would normally be tight situations. The lower mountain was just heavy chunky wet snow which was super sticky and very hard going . The conditions dictated the strategy for the day which was go high and stay high - in a practical sense this meant go to the New Side and do loops in White Pass, only going to the base when you had to.
The first run down Lift Line from Timber top confirmed that we had a slightly heavy but smooth powder surface that made ripping hard almost easy. We cycled White Pass for about an hour with very little open (not even the Zig Zag and Surprise Trees) but had some great untracked skiing as many people seemed to be giving the hill a miss. For a change the fences on the Zig Zag, Anaconda and Currie Bowl all dropped at the same time so choices had to be made. I hit out to Cougar Glades and had about third track in which meant untracked skiing and in the conditions it was pretty much a fall line rip through tight trees. The last few turns in the Glades were very mushy and the ski out was in horrible sticky snow and rain - this resolved me that no matter how good the upper part of a run to base was it just was not worth getting that wet.
For the rest of the morning I just looped White Pass always heading out into Knot Chutes which I ran from one end to the other during the several runs in the course of the morning. After the Knot chutes we would head out towards Surprise Trees and drop everything from the near chute all the way out to the far side of Triple Trees which as usual were untracked and offered so many variations that you effectively got first tracks all morning. Of course we always cut out at Trespass Trail to get back to White Pass and avoid a trip to base.
To go to lunch I drifted out to Gotta Go for the first time this year and had the most awesome untracked powder run where the biggest problem was the risk of being barrelled out by my own slough. The near trees of Bootleg proved chunky but ok and Gilmar Trail and below was just a wet sticky mess.
After lunch it was back up into White Pass for a repeat of the morning. The temptation of Currie Bowl was removed when it closed but that was no big deal, as I have always said, I would rather have a restricted area of really awesome skiing than a huge area of elephant snot. The final run of the hill was a repeat of lunch and by then Gotta Go had mostly filled in and was just as steep and deep and untracked as before. We had considered skiing out down Diamond Back but while skiing past the trees to the right of Bootleg (don't even think they have a name) we got tempted by the untrack lines in the trees and as Oscar Wilde said - the only way to rid oneself of temptation is to yield to it. It was much better than expected and even if it did become a bit heavy and slow motion skiing lower down it was pretty ok way to finish.
The outlook is for a slightly cooling trend with more precip which suggests to me that we could have few more days like today which was well on the right side of acceptable. Of course a variation of a degree or two either way and the results could be very different - let's see.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Day 6 Could this be the last really good day in the current cycle ?

 The question posed in the title is a fair one. Today was an awesome day (of which more later) but with the warm up forecast for tomorrow what will the future hold? Optimists are saying that it will be good in the morning deteriorating in the afternoon a more pessimistic view was taken by a ski patrol buddy of mine in the Griz bar tonight who told Darcy ( the manager) that he should take on more staff for tomorrow as they would probably have more areas open in the bar tomorrow than on the hill - what will be will be.
We woke this morning and had another reported 23 cms of new snow although some of that came down yesterday. The base was up at about 280 cms which is still a bit low for this time of year. Temps at the base areas on the hill were +1 and about -1 up the mountain. They stayed much the same during the day but a strong cold wind kept everything in good shape and provided a bit of blow in on north facing slopes. It was overcast with the upper mountain completely socked in with poor viz and some rain/ice pellets in the afternoon which fell as rain down in the town.
We went to the New Side to avoid the upset that I feel when I see that the first tracks that you are looking for have been grabbed by various pay for powder groups as always happens on the Old Side - for my views on this reprehensible practice see my (many) previous posts. On the New Side there was a slight delay on opening White Pass and then we had the whole White Pass area minus the zig zag to trash up the new powder. We had a great time with many runs through the Gun bowl and Highline/Heartland trees floating on the powder which at the higher temps kept us floating on top all over the hill all day.
Eventually they opened the zig zag and the Idiot Traverse out to Surprise Trees and we had more great untracked powder as we looped these areas although Currie Bowl and Anaconda Glades remained closed due to problems with stability in Polar Chutes. Anaconda opened and we had the most awesome rip through the Glades in Deep snow and some even better skiing in the trees to the left of Bootleg Glades on the way out. I forgot to mention that during the morning we took a few traverses into the Knot Chutes and found plenty of soft untracked snow but also some gnarly ice - well they are double black diamonds so what do you expect ?
Currie opened and we spent the rest of the day looping out along the reverse traverse and then taking the front runs as Polar Peak and the Saddles remained closed. Among others -
Cougar Glades - run of the day with deep untracked powder tight through the trees all the way down.
The Brain - a few tracks in the top but untracked in the lower section and really deep powder to the right of the creek bed.
Decline Trees/Spinal Tap - we had intended to ski off the left of Decline and hit Window Chutes but the trees just seemed to open up and we had some amazing untracked fall line skiing in the trees down to Spinal Tap which was tracked but with loads of soft snow.
Skydive Trees right - we are not even sure if this area has a name but it is in the trees to the right of Skydive but not going in as far as  the opening in the trees. Great soft deep skiing all the way down until we bailed left into Skydive just before the bottom.
Worth mentioning here that many of our drops from Timber top were done by traversing out towards Big Bang in an area that is often rocky and cliffed out but at the moment is tough but ok. The snow just underneath the traverse was flat soft untracked blow in and we made the most of it.
We did a White Pass loop to fill in time which was Knot Chutes through Jim chute and then Surprise Trees which were still in good shape.
Last run of course was Skydive where we arrive about 10 minutes early so apologies to any regulars who I missed. Skydive skied like a dream after the top section of bumps which were much improved by the new snow. Loads of soft snow and sweeping GS turns on top all the way down were the order of the day - just awesome.
So tomorrow may be good, may be bad - who knows. Whatever it is I will be out in it and writing about it here tomorrow night.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 5 A full on powder day

It's true, despite some signs to the contrary this morning we had a very full on powder day today with all the indications being for something better tomorrow. So I had  better start with the story of the conditions before talking about the runs that we had today.
It snowed over night and official figure gave us about 13 cms overnight on top of the 3 we got yesterday which felt about right. It snowed all day sometimes harder than others and unofficial figures from my ski patrol buddies say that we may have had 8/10 cms of snow during the day. The best news is that it is still snowing hard out on the deck so tomorrow could be a pretty spectacular days skiing.
We had been promised a warm up this morning but temps on the deck while we drank coffee and on the way to the hill read -14 which didn't really seem to confirm this. Once at the hill we found that there was a big inversion and upper mountain temps were a good 8 degrees warmer than the base all day. So with the warm up that took place during the day we drove back from the hill with a temp of -10 and temps up the hill of a little below freezing. This meant that snow came down in many and various forms during the day ranging from ice pellets to huge flakes and all points in between but the important thing is that it did snow and the snow accumulated really well. Conditions on all runs improved throughout the day as the base was supplemented but the new snow.
We went to the New Side and initially found Currie Bowl closed so we had several runs back through Highline, Heartland, Surprise trees etc all skiing really nicely in the fresh powder. They dropped the fence on Anaconda and I found the first chute over the hump full of soft snow as were the trees on the near side of Bootleg Glades and even the ski out down to Timber Chair. When we got back to White Pass top they had opened Currie Bowl and that was it for the rest of the Morning through to a very late lunch -
Stag Leap - great through the trees but still finding bottom in the mid section
The Brain - first time in the tight trees this year and the new snow made for some very mellow tree skiing.
Skydive - the snow was starting to build up and it was just possible to get down with fast GS turns staying on top.
Cougar Glades - by then the snow had made the tree skiing really easy and the glades could be taken at full speed.
Decline/Window Chutes - just getting better in the deeper snow.
Somewhere in there they opened Polar Peak which was a run of two halves. The top was poor viz, hard ice bumps and wind slab whilst the lower section was deep untracked snow, you just had to earn your turns.

There were hardly any people on the hill and even where you hadn't been lucky enough to get first tracks there was still good snow to be had and the hill was repairing about as fast as we could ski it. We took a late lunch so afternoon skiing was curtailed to put it mildly.

After lunch I headed up Polar peak and found it much as before. A traverse and hike out to Lone Fir showed the chute to be full of soft snow and then a traverse across Easter bowl to Spinal Tap found that creek bed equally full of snow.
A quick White Pass loop just to pass the time was followed by the traditional Skydive rip at the end of the day. By this time the new snow had built up so that most of Skydive could be taken in wide GS turns at speed staying on top in best full on powder traditions - a great end to a great day. As I look out it's still snowing so tomorrow could be better still.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Day 4 Tough at first but getting better

Yes, the summary of today was that yesterday's conditions carried over into today but then got better as the day went on and the new snow accumulated slowly to improve the underlying conditions.

The starting temp this morning was -24 as we drove to the hill and there had been overnight snow although official figures showed only 2 cms of new - as that was an early morning reading it was probably a bit low and it seemed to me that we had about 4 cms of dust on crust. It was overcast with flurries and light snow all day so the snow accumulated to about 8 cms by close but very light with hardly any moisture content due to the low temps. By the afternoon the mercury was showing -18 at White Pass base so things had warmed up, but not much.

The effect of the new snow on the conditions was initially to make things a bit tougher than yesterday. The new snow covered the under surface obscuring the terrain so everything came as a bit of a surprise as and when you skied over it. The light was flat under overcast skies so seeing the surface was made more difficult than yesterday. To top it off the snow was so light that it didn't provide a cushion to what it covered and after two nights of -30 temps up the hill the base was rock hard and uneven. Skiing was very challenging with the hill always trying to throw you off balance or grab your skis.

As the day wore on the conditions improved and the accumulating snow provided a surface that started to take an edge. By close skiing was getting back to something that approached enjoyable but the base and the bumps remained very firm indeed.

Having dipped out on the New Side a couple of days ago because it was so cold and then had it closed all yesterday I felt justified in having an exclusively New Side day today. Because of the cold we were all well layered up and skiing tended to be a bit defensive as it always is in super cold conditions. I managed to get through with only one break but and extended lunch and frequent stops because of cold stiff muscles meant that there was no great mileage covered although most of the New Side front runs got a visit.

There is not much point in doing my usual run by run account as they were all very similar. Soft snow on top getting deeper and softer as the day went on but with hard bumps underneath. As has been the case all week the low traffic areas were softer and flatter and the high traffic areas very bumpy - particularly the top of Skydive/Decline. A brief account of some of the runs were - Stag Leap (tough in the trees but soft lower down) Decline (ok bumps) Cougar Glades ( very tough uneven bumpy skiing on hidden crud) Skydive (very mixed conditions with bumps at the top and bottom) Concussion (hard bumps) Easter Bowl ( quite nice a soft and not too bumpy) Secret Chutes (nice and soft) Spinal Tap (nicely filled in with soft snow and bumps in the lower section taking an edge) Window Chutes ( soft on firm bumps and even the choke skiing ok) - these were just the highlights.

The end of the day found us taking a loop through Surprise Trees which were really getting quite soft and easy skiing and not too bumpy underneath, Of course the final run was Skydive which as before was big bumps in the top, smoothing out in the mid section and then bumping up again in the lower section. I'm still having to take a break half way down Skydive so things aren't quite back to normal yet. The forecast shows snow in the next 24 hours and a warm up - we could certainly do with it.