Saturday, March 22, 2014

Day 24 not as ugly busy as we had feared - in fact quite good.

Today was the day when we feared that the hill would resemble an ant hill but in fact it was pretty ok. We were slightly delayed as the new skis had to be picked up from Straight Line and  they weren't ready until 9 o'clock. It was pretty crowded and we had to park in Lot 3 but considering that we were a bit late (for us) this was not unexpected. The combination of a weekend, loads of new snow and spring break starting in parts of Alberta meant that we expected huge crowds and whilst it was busy things were no way as ugly as we had anticipated.
There was no new snow over night but temps kept low and it was -12 on the way to the hill. During the day we had a cloud sun mix but temps stayed well below zero all over the hill with only a little softening in the direct sunlight which set up with a slight crust by the close. There were a few very light flurries during the day but no accumulation and the cold temps kept the snow from the past few days in pretty good shape. As we drove away from the hill it was -3 and starting to snow and the snow has continued into the evening so tomorrow may be rather good.
Having got the new DPS Wailers I couldn't wait to try them but arriving late I just felt the scrum to go to the New Side would be too much so we went to the Old Side instead. We found that Snake Ridge was open and we had an awesome rip in lightly tracked snow all the way down Snake before cutting right into KC chutes which had been skied a bit more but were still full of soft deep snow. The return to Boom was via Kangaroo which I wanted to try as the icy bumps were about the worst conditions that I could think of to test the new skis. They are no bump skis but performed as well as you would expect some 184 cm long skis with 112 under foot to do - actually quite well.
We returned to Bear via Boom which was super soft bumps and then took another loop through Steep and Deep (soft deep and lightly tracked) and then Kangaroo again which was still skiing ok. We then took a couple of loops on Boom Ridge to avoid the huge line up at Haul Back and the bumps on Boom Ridge were skiing soft and very easy for straight line bump skiing.
People have asked me how Lynda is doing after her chemo. Well, she has complained of lacking energy and having taken yesterday off because she was so tired she swore to take things a bit easier. Up to this point in the day she had skied all the above runs with me which are a collection of single and double black diamonds which is not most peoples idea of taking things easy but she is determined to get back on her game - she is doing great. We went across to the New Side via the Bear Chutes only to find that Timber Chair had broken down for an hour so we took a lunch break.
In the afternoon we went up the New Side and just like yesterday Big Bang was soft and deep and the low traverse in was not too gnarly. Polar Peak had been open in the morning but had not been skied too hard because of the Timber break down. We had 4 runs through the chutes, Papa Bear, Grand Papa twice and Mama Bear. They were all great soft bumped up chutes with easy (if steep) skiing all the way down - even managed to get few face shots. After Mama Bear I ran to base through Corner Pocket which skied ok with no tires showing. Under the Saddles there was a lot of debris from blasting but there were still a few untracked lines in between the avi trails.
Next time up Polar it was three more loops of Grand Papa Bear and then having got the very last chair it was a rip down Papa Bear (still soft and deep) and Currie Powder (groomed but covered in soft) to get back to White Pass via Trespass Trail - the only trail on the hill that is uphill in both directions. This gave us just the right amount of time to work our way back to Skydive for the last run of the day. We managed a subdued top to bottom non stop run with Skydive proving to be soft bumps of various size all the way down.
It was super busy weekend so there was no chance of getting in the Griz without lining up and I never line up to have a drink. We went the Kelseys and had a couple of beers which were ok and then headed home for an early night. It has been puking snow ever since we got in and I am actually getting quite optimistic about tomorrow - lets see.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day 23 what is better than awesome ?

The reason I ask the question is that having described yesterday's skiing as awesome where do I go today in terms of descriptive pros. We had another 30 cms in 24 hours pushing the base to 398 cms which I am willing to bet will be the peak for this season - pity to miss the 4 metre party by 2 cms but there you go. It was -6 on the deck this morning and up the hill it was about -10 and we had light snow all the way through to lunchtime but after that it started to clear up and was so bluebird by the end of the day that we were able to watch the heli bombing of Lizard Ridge from the Griz Bar as we necked down some well deserved beers. Even though the sun came out and there was some softening in the direct sunlight there was no atmospheric warming so temps up the mountain stayed below -4 and even at the base it was -2 as we drove away from the hill.
I was demoing some DPS Wailer 112 RPs today provided by Straight Line and as a result I went to the New Side with the intention of skiing everything I skied yesterday but on the new skis so as to get some kind of comparison with my old Shoguns. I don't intend to dwell on the subject but I have never fell in love with a pair of skis so quickly, they were just awesome in every condition I could find today from deep powder to scratchy chokes. To be fair in the morning you could have skied with two planks strapped to your feet and had a good time but as the day wore on the conditions proved more testing and the skis showed that they were up to anything I wanted to do. Proof of the pudding is that I bought a pair tonight from the excellent Straight Line who have pulled out all the stops to have the skis ready for me tomorrow morning - kudos guys.
Today was a replay of yesterday except that the new snow fell on the soft snow base of yesterday and not the hard snow base of the day before. The result was awesome soft powder skiing at it's best. The New Side opening was just like yesterday  with a Heartland core first then a Knot/chute /Surprise Trees phase. During this time we tracked all over the open areas with some really deep powder. For whatever reason not too many people seemed to be going in the Knot chutes and we had some super deep loops in all the chutes. Surprise Tress had loads of good untracked lines.
When they opened Anaconda I happened to be on top of the Knot chutes and saw that they had opened Gotta Go. Due to blasting this was a little scratchy in the choke but above and below it was just awesome deep untracked powder. The exit through an untracked Bootleg Glades didn't suck either.
After that they opened Currie bowl just below the low traverse so you could get to everything if you were prepared to work. Yesterday I skied 9-4 with no break and was determined not to do the same again today but as my granny said "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" mind you she was barmy and we had to have her locked up. Today I skied 9-4 with no break. the rest of the day was just loops out to the big three with Cougar Glades (untracked lines and awesome) The Brain (ditto) Stag Leap (getting tracked but good) Decline (good soft tracked snow with face shots) Decline/Window Chutes (great skiing in the top trees and soft in the chute, scratchy down below) Secret chutes/Spinal Tap (surprisingly deep and untracked) the trees between Skydive and Stag Leap ( tracked but very deep snow) Easter Bowl (really nice soft tracked snow all the way down)
As the end of the day approached we took a loop in White Pass to burn off the time and came back through Tight Knot and Surprise Trees which were both in very good shape considering the traffic of the day. On the subject of traffic things had started slowly this morning but picked up during the day, I think this was due in part to the usual Friday crowd from Calgary being delayed by a traffic advisory in Southern Alberta last night and them only getting to Fernie around lunch time.
Last run was a rip down Skydive as usual in soft tracked snow from top to bottom. Considering this was my second day in a row 9-4 skiing I was pretty please to make Skydive in one with no breaks - I think the legs are coming back. A great days's skiing and beers in the bar.
Tomorrow promises to be ugly busy with weekend crowds fired up by reports of new snow plus the start of spring break in Calgary. For my part I will be out trying the new skis and waiting for a quieter time next week.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 22 Awesome

Not much point in expanding on the title - today was awesome, end of story. Ok, I will expand on the day just a bit.
Yesterday it snowed all day and by the end of the day we had great new coverage. Last night it snowed all night so that the hill reported 38 cms of fresh snow overnight on top of yesterday's snow. Today it snowed all day all over the hill - do I need to paint a picture. The snow was super deep everywhere and provided a powder day well up in the top 20 of all time.
On the way to the hill which was about half an hour earlier than normal to get in the line up early, it was about -2 and during the day it stayed at -4 or so up the hill and about zero at the base, oh, and did I mention , it snowed hard all the time. It was even snowing as we drove away although in the valley it was pretty wet snow. Actually it was lucky that the Patrol were blasting from 7 o'clock as we had a power outage in town and my alarm didn't go off - thanks to the Patrol early morning call.
We went to the New Side and stayed there all day. Some buddies of mine who skied the Old side tell me that there was restricted opening with only the Old Side Triangle but what was there was very good deep powder and very few people around. We lined up and got an early chair up Timber and had a magnificent rip down Puff Trees to White Pass Base.
It was a totally predictable opening pattern although I was quite touched by a couple who pointed out to me that as the sign board at Timber Base showed everything open then that is what we would find - bless. We got a Heartland Core opening followed by a Zig Zag drop which included Knot Chutes, the I bowl and Surprise Trees. All of these were awesome ( a word which you might find rather over used today) with deep powder and the base firm but only coming through in rare patches. The entrances in to Knot Chutes were cut high enough for you to be able to get all the way across if you aired it over a couple of rock bands. About 2 hours of the morning were taken up poking around getting great fresh lines and occasionally getting stuck in thigh deep snow which surprised even us. Best sight was a couple of boarders who decided to drop into the Toilet Bowl not realising that the reason the way in was untracked was because there was a big trek out - they may still be there for all I know.
We then got an Anaconda opening which was another spectacular rip through the chutes trying to beat out your own slough in thigh deep powder and a drop through Bootleg Glades which were similarly deep and soft. So good that we did it again although in the lower sections of Bootleg the new snow was on a very hard base which sometimes came through.
Around Lunch time they opened Currie Bowl which was a 250 person or more Chinese Downhill from the fence drop. We hit out along the low traverse (the Reverse Traverse was closed as were the Saddles) and got to the Big Three. After that it was Skydive, The Brain, Stag Leap and Toms Run in Currie loops for the rest of the afternoon. Just like with the earlier runs the upper hill stuff was just soft and awesome but lower down you had to be wary of the hard base even through what was now getting on towards 50 cms of fresh snow.
Last run of the day was through Skydive which we did in three sections. The first two were beautiful soft undulating tracked up powder and the last was deep soft snow on a hard base. I was getting a bit tired but then I had skied hard all day from first chair without a break of any kind all day so I guess that's allowed.
Lot's of beer in the Griz of course but tonight got downtown in time to get to Straight Line and fix up some demos of the DPS's 184 hybrids for tomorrow. Who knows if I like them I could be in there negotiating for a new pair tomorrow night. Still snowing !

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 21 new powder and new openings

Yes, today we had snow all day which unsurprisingly improved skiing everywhere but more importantly a number of areas that had previous been closed for a couple of weeks were open. The result was some very good untracked skiing.
There hadn't been any significant snow overnight or if there had what was laying around on the cars in the neighbourhood suggested dust on crust at best. On the way to the hill it was -1 and started to snow with wetish snow. It snowed all day on the hill from top to bottom with temps of +1 at the base and -4 up the mountain and as we drove away the snow was really starting to get heavy with valley temps of -1/zero. The up shot was that snow accumulated everywhere ( a bit wet and heavy down low and lighter on top) and the skiing improved exactly as you would have expected.
I went to the New Side and had a few White Pass loops just to get the legs in place and found Gun bowl, Heartland and Highline all good but particularly Lift Line was very mellow in the top getting a little crunchy low down. I had heard that the Saddles were open and went to check. Corner Pocket was closed but High Saddle was open and I got what appeared to be first tracks through the chute which was good deep powder skiing. The viz was pretty bad but the skiing under the chutes was wonderful deep powder between the avi debris trails.
Next loop I was amazed to see that Polar Peak was open in the poor viz and even more amazed when I got up there to find that the Coaster side was closed but the Chutes were open for the first time in two weeks. The viz was about the worst I have every seen and we groped a run down Papa Bear and back to the chair in zero viz but awesome deep, soft and most importantly flat snow. We looped Papa again ( for some strange reason no one else was doing this) and then headed out the High Saddle for another good run through the chute which was still filled with soft snow and then untracked powder on the slopes below.
After that it was two more Polar Loops doing Mamma Bear and then Low Saddle (the chutes to skiers right were spectacular untracked powder) and the Baby Bear and the Lone Fir. The Polar chutes were all deep untracked flat snow in very poor viz. Lone Fir was the site of my avi experience a couple of days ago and I was surprised to see how much snow was still left under the fan to give some great soft snow skiing into the lower part of Easter bowl. Lunch.
After lunch I went back to the New Side but things weren't quite so good - for a start they had closed Polar Peak. I had to smile at lunch to hear the usual day lodge crowd holding forth about how bad things were on Polar Peak when they hadn't been up there - true to form they were not interested in the opinion of someone like me who had skied it four times - funny or what?
I went to High Saddle and what a difference from the morning, the chute was a strip of blue ice scraped bare by not very good skiers and boarders who had side slipped it. Underneath it was still pretty good powder. I did a few White Pass loops which were ok but made a mistake when after Knot Chutes (which were ok) I tried Surprise Trees and was greeted by ugly breakable crust. This was the only place on the hill I experience breakable crust all day and I can't work out why it was there and no where else but it was ugly. I ran another loop to the base through Low Saddle which was also badly scraped out but again with great skiing in the chutes to skiers right.
As we got to the end of the day we looped White Pass through the Gun Bowl and the Pillows and the new snow was really starting to build up. Last run was Skydive which skied beautifully in the top part in deep soft snow. From about half way down things got worse with the new snow only partially cushioning the hard bumpy under surface. It was, on balance, better than yesterday but then that is setting the bar pretty low.
After a few beers with loads of buddies I went down town to try and get a demo pair of DPS hybrids but Straight Line was closed - their loss. The snow started to come down very heavy in just minus temps and has been hosing down ever since. Forecast is for about 30 cms overnight but if the current fall rate on my deck keeps up that looks like a low estimate. looks like an early night tonight and an early start tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Day 20 a bit of a variable day

Yes, after all the excitement of yesterday today was bit of a step down in terms of excitement both in what we did and the skiing conditions. One thing that slowed today down a bit was being stopped every few minutes by people wanting to hear about yesterday's avi, I guess that sort of thing is pretty close to the heart of every real skier on the hill. An update is that my lost ski hasn't turned up so I am on my old sally Shoguns unless I take advantage of the end of season bargains to look at something like a new pair of DPS's. In any event the guys in Patrol reckon they will find the old ski some time in May so let's see how things pan out.
Today dawned bluebird and although the official reports suggested 10 cms in the last 24 hours I reckon most of this fell during the day yesterday and we probably only got 2 cms overnight, if that. The base was up at 348 cms but as anyone will tell you the base figure is good for judging coverage and long term potential for the season but tells you nothing about the ski conditions. The temps on the way to the hill was -5 and a few degrees colder up top. The day was one of those where things warmed up in the direct sunlight but as there was no real atmospheric warming then anywhere out of the sunlight remained cold and in terms of a skiing surface bullet hard and icy.
We went to the Old Side for a poke round and found all the main runs in Lizard groomed as were those in Cedar bowl but the sign line was down at Snake Ridge so skiing ended at around Trilliam. In terms of surface it was soft powder snow from the Lizard high traverse but anything below Tower 6 trail was pretty ugly crud. This was true all across Boomerang and in the trees in Cedar Centre. After a few loops around Bow and Cedar Centre ( the return to Boom was always via lower North Ridge as Kangaroo is too ugly to open) we decided to go to the New Side.
Initially we were restricted just to White Pass and had several good loops through Knot Chutes which were getting a bit chunky but quite soft and Surprise Trees which were ok on top but tricky crust in the shadows. After several loops of Knot Chutes and even a few of the I Bowl, Gun Bowl, Pillows etc all of which were soft tracked snow they opened Currie Bowl but with Polar Peak closed.
We did three loops of Currie keeping an eye on Polar all the time and had good runs through Currie Glades and Anaconda Glades which were both soft and lightly tracked before heading out to Concussion for the lunch time run to base. Concussion just about typified today with great soft skiing on top, spring skiing through the chute and just after and hard bumpy skiing low down.
After lunch I took a loop of White Pass while deciding what to do and I had just decided to give Skydive a lash when they opened Polar Peak. They only opened the Polar Coaster side which was all ungroomed and had a sign line to keep everyone out of Grand Papa Bear but the soft snow windrows on top and the untracked runs were good fun. Of course things got tracked up pretty quick and after two runs Shale Slope was living up to it's name. We just spent the afternoon doing Polar loops and having a great time in soft snow. Best moment was when a visitor skied up to a Patroller buddy who was guarding a sign line which the poachers were trying to crash. He was standing in front of three signs saying "Closed" and the visitor asked - is this closed ? Sometimes I don't know where the patrol get their patience from.
As we neared closing we cut across into lower Papa Bear and had a very nice run down the soft avi debris which was there from the early morning control slides. The run to base was via Diamond Back and the final pitch was super slick ice and very off putting. Last run had to be Skydive despite all signs that it would be ugly. Only 4 of us were stupid enough to turn up and try it. I have to say it was the most ugly that it has ever been with a few turns of soft bumps then hard refrozen crud and ruts all the way down just getting worse the further you went in. A big hand for Dan, Kevin and Rod who joined me and survived.
A nice sunny evening to make the beers slip down well and then a quiet night in. Snow in the forecast but how much and when is bit more problematic.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 19 the luck of the irish on Paddy's day

So, why am I saying that I had the luck of the Irish today ? Well, the simple answer is that I was caught in a Cat 2 inbounds avalanche and got away with it with no worse than some knocks and bruises, a burial up to my armpits (thanks to avi training cutting in) and a lost ski - who gives a shit about a lost ski in these circumstances. More of all this later on at the appropriate point in today's report.
The official report was saying that we had 35cms of snow in the last 24 hours although I guess that most of this fell during the day yesterday and the snow base back to 330cms which is pretty good for this time of year. Overnight we seemed to have had some wet snow in the valley and on the way to the hill it was +1 at the base and about -3 on top, all of which suggested a cooling trend from yesterday.
Predictably I went to the New Side to get the snow up high which had been falling just about ok in White Pass as we left the hill yesterday. As I dropped Lift Line in super deep soft snow the potential problems of today emerged - just before White Pass base the surface became rather crusty which cause some problems in just letting the skis run. With Currie closed we looped Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees about five times waiting for the opening. The snow in Knot Chutes was just as good as yesterday and was deep and soft. Surprise Trees were a bit of a Surprise as about 6 turns in the surface started to go crusty and by the ski out exit it was quite ugly crud - I guess this was due to the rising rain line last night,
It snowed all morning and most of the afternoon and this did soften the crust a bit, but it was always there at a mid mountain level wherever you skied. The freeze line seemed to move up and down the hill all day so the point at which the crunch started and then changed to softer mush changed all day and was almost always a surprise.
They opened Curried Bowl and we had a good rip down Cougar Glades where the crunch band seemed to be fairly narrow in the mid section. Next time round we tried the Brain where the crunch section seemed much longer (from the cat track to the lower ski out) and our theory was that this was caused by snow/ice falling from the trees. The very last section of Skydive after the cut out was soft and fairly untracked. We then decided to hike up to Lone Fir and then ski the chutes.
We dropped Lone Fir one at a time as the snow seemed very unstable. I then took the lead on the pitch underneath and two turns in the whole slope let go and slid in a Cat 2 avi which carried me well over 100 metres down into the debris. Avi training cut in and I kicked off both skis and "swam" up all the time as hard as I could all through the slide. The result was that I ended up with my head and shoulders above the snow which was an awesome result although very scary. Patrol turned up and I was got out but with a ski missing and had to ski down to Tower 6 trail on one ski to get a snowmobile ride to base to file a full avi report at dispatch. The good news was that no one else was buried and the key learning points were that I had a helmet so my head was protected, I knew what to do from training and I was carrying a transceiver so if things had gone differently my chances of survival would still have been good. As always the Patrol were professional and highly competent in the way they handled the situation.
I grabbed my old Salomon Shoguns from the locker and headed out for the afternoon. This was a bit of a replay of the morning with loops in Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees and runs to base through Tom's and Currie Creek as the Easter side was now closed. The crunch line was just as evident as in the morning and the cloud descended so that we had some really bad viz as well as tough skiing under foot. As the adrenaline wore off and the effects of my slide cut in I decided that the only thing to do was to finish at 4 with a Skydive ripper. Of course we couldn't take the usual route in but by traversing hard after the last sign in Currie Creek we managed to get in half way down the first pitch and then rip it from there. We all thought the bottom section would be ugly but it had softened so we stayed on top of the slightly soft crunch and had a great rip.
In the bar tonight everyone was keen to buy me beer to celebrate my escape and I was in no mood to discourage them so I had a great Paddy's Day even if no one else did. Fine day forecast for tomorrow but then more snow in the outlook - can't wait.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Day 18 an awesome day despite all signs to the contrary

Ok, so what were the signs to the contrary ? When we woke this morning it started raining and I don't mean light rain, it was coming down in stair rods which is not a good omen for a days skiing. On the way to the hill things were a little encouraging in that the temp was +2 going down to +1 as we arrived which suggested to us that we wouldn't have to go too far up the hill before the rain turned to snow. We were right and although we were kitted out in full rain gear by the time we got to White Pass (well, we were only going to go up the New Side and get high and stay high) the rain had turned to heavy snow.
It snowed all day in White Pass with a heavy sort of graupel which gave a great skiing base and with so much body to the snow that we floated on top all the time in powder which just got deeper as the day went on. My guess is that at least 20 cms of snow fell today up top and adding that to yesterday's tally gave us great powder skiing with no chance of touching the base at any time.
The Knot Chutes were open for the first time in a week which was a bit surprising as the snow that was sliding out of them was huge, with thigh deep sloughs being there to surf on every descent. We had decided to stay in White Pass with no runs to the base due to rain below so just like a week or so ago we looped through Knot Chutes all morning. We tracked from the Cheese Grater to Simons Crack and beyond and back again several times as we hit the chutes over and over again all morning. It was awesome with super deep soft snow rolling down with you so much that on our first three loops we tried to stop on the Idiot Traverse but were push way below by our own slough and had to run down the I bowl which was still good untracked powder.
We completed our loops through Surprise Trees or Triple Trees, always working out to get untracked snow although the fall rate was so much that even where we had skied our tracks were filled in. Add in the fact that most people had seen the conditions at the base and gone home and we had the conditions to give us all day untracked skiing in deep powder with not many people around. Things were so good that we stayed in White Pass until well gone 1:30 and then headed down for a late lunch. Just before we headed down they closed Currie bowl due to avi risks in the Currie Chutes so we took Anaconda which was spectacular deep powder and Bootleg Glades which were good deep untracked snow in the top but getting a bit chunky lower down.
In the afternoon I headed back to White Pass and found the rain line was higher so that the lower part of White Pass was now a bit heavy. I got back in the Knot Chute/Surprise Trees cycle and had increasingly deep good powder all afternoon. Just before close I decided that there are only so many ways you can ski Knot Chutes (double black diamond or not) and so I hit the Gun bowl and the pillows a couple of times and had some epic deep snow runs as everyone else seemed to be going off the hill.
My last run was Knot Chutes (still super deep and sliding on me) Triple Trees which were good but getting heavy so that I only did the first two sections. Final run out was Diamond Back (well, with Currie Closed Skydive wasn't an option) which was tracked up heavy mush but ok. The Griz Bar was good fun particularly as a couple of beers had been put in for me by a buddy who had left his transceiver and car keys in the locker room this morning and I had handed them in to guest services - thanks Richard,
Forecast is for a cooling trend and precip so I am feeling pretty optimistic.