Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day 31 over 4 metres of snow and a mixed day

So how is it that with 28 cms of snow over night and probably about another 20 during the morning I am not raving about a totally awesome day. The reasons are -
Crowds - the weekend crowds were ugly big so big line ups and all the snow tracked up fast.
Limited Terrain - on the New Side we only got the White Pass core to begin with and then Knot Chutes out to Surprise Trees and that was it for the day.
Changing Conditions - the snow got heavy and hard very quickly and stayed that way for most of the day.
Still, it was a pretty good day and the base rose to 410 cms which means that the 4 metre party is on for tonight.
There is not much to say about where we skied all today as we skied Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees all day. We worked our way across the Knot Chutes from the Cheese Grater to Simon's Crack and back again several times. In Surprise Trees we went from the near chutes to Diamond Back ridge and all lines in between looping back down Trespass Trail to White Pass chair. It is worth talking about the changing conditions.
Last night as we left the restaurant it was raining hard in the valley but the deck temp was zero. We figured that it would be snowing quite low down on the hill and as we drove to the hill this was confirmed with the temp dropping to -1 and the precip coming down white but wet. Obviously the best skiing was going to be high so we went to White Pass and although quite a lot was closed we grabbed the rolling openings and had some awesome skiing. The snow was super knee deep powder and although it was a little heavy it was great skiing.
As the morning developed we went into the newly opened areas and had awesome untracked powder. This was some of the best skiing of the season so far. As the snow became more tracked up the skiing remained good as the heavy snow was almost as good to ski as when it was untracked. Later in the morning the snow which had been hosing down stopped and the sun came out. The snow immediately became heavy and within two runs everything had become hard and chunked up.
That was the story for the rest of the day. The Knot Chutes remained in ok shape with tufted snow on a firm base. The Surprise Trees area was very tough hard chunky skiing and just got harder all afternoon. We lurked around hoping for Anaconda Glades to open but we were out of luck.
With only so many ways to ski Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees we had enough by about 3:30 and headed for the bar to celebrate the 4 metre party.
In summary we had a load of wet snow, awesome morning skiing on limited terrain and then tougher skiing on the same terrain as the day wore on. As we left the hill we were still getting mixed precip in temps of +3 so it looks like we could be getting even more snow tomorrow. What we get open is another matter as there are reports of significant slides all over hill from patrollers who were caught when trying to ski cut the terrain for us. Lets see.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Day 30 more good stuff

No time today to get involved in my usual jokes or rants against people commenting on my skiing or my pet hate of skiers/riders who treat cat tracks like terrain parks. I am out tonight for a meal with my good buddies Ruth and Dan so I have to get this blog done pretty fast which means keeping it short and to the point.
It was cold overnight and -6 on the way to the hill. It had snowed overnight and just looked like dust on crust although the official figure was 7 cms of fresh. Interestingly they claimed 14 cms in the last 48 hours which considering that they had claimed zero in the previous 24 hours has to leave the mathematicians among you scratching your heads.
We arrived at the hill and found that maybe the 7 cm figure was if anything an understatement. Better still it snowed quite hard all over the hill all morning and fell back to flurries in the afternoon. The temps stayed well below zero and the result was that the crunch line which was pretty low down the hill anyway got filled in and the conditions were really winter rather than spring skiing. As we drove away from the hill temps had risen to +2 but the precip was back big time as rain but looking up at the hill the rain line stopped around the top on Elk and you have to guess that with night coming on it is going to be down to base sometime soon.
We went to the Old Side and did several loops off Cedar Ridge all of which were great soft snow getting deeper all the time with just a few crunchy turns on the exit. Kangaroo was ok in the first section and rather hard on the second - we used it each time to drop from Haul Back top to Boom base. We also had a couple of runs through Boom which were always soft down to the Goat Trail and probably below that - great skiing. Eventually we decided to go to the New Side and I struggled through Lift Line and Big Bang on the way to White Pass base although it felt more like high speed rips under control to me.
Polar Peak was closed so I hit out to High Saddle which like yesterday was skiing perfectly with edge to edge jumps and was virtually untracked in the face below. The exit through lower Easter Bowl was great soft lightly tracked snow. This was so good that I repeated it and found it just as good the second lap as the first. Last lap before lunch I used logic to work out that if lower Easter was pretty good the Easter from the top would be fantastic - I was right. Lynda joined me for a great deep powder rip all the way down Easter Bowl.
In the afternoon I traded in my old Shoguns that I had been skiing on all morning for the DPS Wailers and things moved up a gear - also met some bad characters who I ski with and things started to get really good. We drifted out to the Decline/Secret chutes area and had great rips all afternoon in there and Spinal Tap and Window Chutes, and other assorted areas off the north facing shoulder which by now were starting to get pretty deep with face shots on every turn.
We managed a White Pass rip to kill time before heading out to the top of Skydive for the traditional last blast non stop from top to bottom.  There were 8 of us up there which was a record for this year and we had a great rip through soft bumps at the top, awesome powder in the mid section and some soft snow on firm crud for the final pitch. A great final rip which I managed to struggle down just ahead of the other guys although I must make it clear, this is not a race.
Rain in the valley at the moment which I hope is snow on the hill and good sign for tomorrow.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 29 a pretty good day

First of all a message to everyone who seems to think that because I am skiing on my new "banana" skis this gives them a right to comment on my skiing. The fact that the skis perform very differently from the old ones means that I ski them differently. In the more marginal conditions of the past couple of days (when I probably should have skied on the old skis but wanted to experiment with just what these new ones would be like in those conditions) they tend to slide out of the turn rather than carve like my old skis. This doesn't mean that I have got it wrong, or have forgotten how to ski or as has been suggested in one place that I am "struggling". It means that these skis work differently and I am sliding around on them faster than I have ever skied while remaining in control - I haven't fallen on them since I have had them. So I suggest that those offering comments (none of whom have ever skied on full rocker skis) should pull their collective necks in until they know what they are talking about - rant over.
Today was a bit strange in that the official web site said that there had been no new snow in the last 24 hours while we know that we were skiing in some pretty heavy graupel showers for most of yesterday. We arrived at the hill in temps of -3 at the base a few degrees colder on top. It was overcast and became more so during the day until we got some pretty consistent light snow by the end of the day. Temps stayed low all day and at the end as we drove away from the hill it was -1. What all this meant was that where things had softened low down yesterday they refroze hard and didn't soften today but where things had been soft and unsoftened yesterday they remained in great shape.
We went to the Old Side and had a run or two in the Bear area which confirmed that on top things were in good shape but lower down we had hard refrozen surfaces. On the Bear itself I discovered something which instinctively I already knew and that was that the new skis really suck on a hard icy groomer. We had decided to go over to the New Side and on the way decided to take a trip down Boomerang on the grounds that it would probably be good in the top and ugly lower down. In the event it was great soft snow all the way down and the only thing that spoilt the run was the fact that we skied the whole thing half way cautiously always anticipating that the next turn would put us below the crunch line.
The moral of this story was that the crunch line where the soft snow of yesterday became ugly refrozen crud was really much lower down the hill than anyone expected. On the Old Side it started about half way down the final pitch of Freeway and on the New Side it was just below the start of the final pitch of Skydive. This meant that everything above which included the Polar Chutes, the Saddles, Lower Easter bowl and all of White Pass was good soft tracked up powder from yesterday.
On the New Side Polar Peak was open and we decided to do a loop through Papa Bear. We changed our plans when we found the upper parts of the chute a bit scratchy and things only got really good and soft lower down which would have been when we had to traverse back to the chair. We changed plans and ran out to High Saddle which skied beautiful with edge to edge jumps and the pitch underneath deep snow with untracked lines. Even the cut out into Easter was soft tracked powder. Next time round we took Mama Bear which was also scratchy in the top and soft below - the run to base through High Saddle was just as good as before. Our next loop was Baby Bear which was just like all the other Polar chutes. This time we took Low Saddle which was a bit icy in the first two turns of the top but the right cut out got us to some great untracked powder chutes and then a run into lower Easter. Final run before a late lunch was another Papa Bear and then a hike up to Lone Fir. The snow was in ok shape through the Lone Fir chute but the fan below was spectacular deep untracked snow although it was funny to be skiing over where I was avied out with no sign of any avi trail, or come to think of it my lost ski.
After a late lunch I went back up the New Side and met up with some buddies while I looped Grand Papa Bear off Polar which was surprisingly untracked. We then hit Barely Legal which had more snow in it than most of the chutes before dropping High Saddle and Easter which were in just as good shape as the morning. We just had time for a Papa Bear chute then back to White Pass base along Currie Powder and Trespass Trail (running pretty fast) before doing a White Pass ripper top to bottom to kill time.
The last run was of course Skydive which skied great in the bumps at the top and had super soft snow until about three quarters of the way down. After that it was just ugly refrozen crud which we had to crash through at high speed and suck it up as the price to be paid for a great upper section. As we left the hill it was snowing and there is certainly more precip of some kind in the forecast - I am optimistic.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day 28 Shusss don't tell anyone how good today was

Yup, today was so unpromising that there was almost no one on the hill and yet it was some of the best untracked skiing that we have had. It was unpromising because it rained overnight and was raining this morning as we headed for the hill. The official web site for the hill only claimed 5 cms overnight without one of the usual hyped up banners about awesome powder - they must be losing their touch.
One encouraging sign was that it was only +1 on my deck and as we drove to the hill it dropped to -1 at the base of Timber load. The precip was wet snow and continued on and off all day ranging from rain at the base and wet snow on top to wet snow at the base and graupel on top and most conditions in between - we even had some sun albeit briefly in the afternoon. Overall the precip came down white over most of the hill giving us a load of new snow during the day (maybe 10 cms) which filled in tracks and improved skiing everywhere on the hill. By the end of the afternoon there was some pretty deep powder in top which became a bit mushy lower down but still ok skiing.
The most amazing thing was the total lack of people considering that this is spring break in BC. I think the locals stayed away because the conditions down in town were pretty ugly in the rain. The Non-Stop groups were around but I think most of these are working on instructor qualifications so they stay on the groomers or the easy ungroomed. Apart from that we just have a few vacation skiers who don't have a clue where the good skiing is leaving the good skiing to the rest of us, best described as the unemployed and the unemployable plus a few mining folk on their days off.
We went to the New Side as on a day like this that is the only thing that made sense. I am always surprised by the number of regular skiers who seem to be genetically programmed to go to the Old Side first on a day like this. I bumped into a couple who told me that the skiing was pretty crap which was the least surprising thing I heard all day. Actually later in the day I heard the skiing out on Snake Ridge got pretty good but the smart move straight off the bat was always going to be the New Side.
We dropped to White Pass off Timber via Lift Line which was well filled in and all subsequent loops were either Lift Line or the low traverse into Big Bang which both got better and deeper filled in heavy powder all day. It was then a few loops in White Pass to enjoy the untracked powder and then we headed out into Currie Bowl. I was worried that a run to base would take us below the rain line but actually things down below stayed pretty dry all day. The loops were sensational -
Skydive - I had to cut the traverse out and had first tracks all the way down. it was great powder on a firm base for the first two thirds and then some fairly heavy untracked snow in the lower section.
Cougar Glades - first tracks again all the way down. There was a slightly crusty base in the open sections but for the most part it was good snow getting heavier lower down.
Stag Leap - there were two tracks in before me but plenty of room to find untracked powder in the top sections. Again the lower third was heavy.
The Brain - a return to form with untracked skiing all the way through - do I need to say it was heavy at the bottom
Decline - There were two tracks in front of me which disappeared off left pretty quick giving me the main run untracked all the way down as the last run before lunch. It was hard to believe that there was no one skiing in the good places but that was the case.
After lunch I linked up with a few buddies and just went for more of the same.
Currie Creek - no one had gone in there off the traverse so we just had to. We met a few tracks lower down but the upper sections were deep untracked powder.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - yesterday this run had been pretty deep and untracked so that by this afternoon it was really deep and untracked. The lower part of Spinal Tap got a bit heavy but it was good soft snow that you could float around on top as long as you held your speed.
High Saddle/Easter bowl - the run through the saddle was easy edge to edge jumping and the run underneath was just sensational. The new snow had filled in on top of the good stuff from yesterday and it was just maximum speed GS turns in untracked powder all the way into Easter where you had to jump around a bit in soft bumps.
We had some time on our hands at the end of the day in White Pass and proved that a run from the top to the load does take less than two minutes. The final run down Skydive was pretty stellar. The top bumps were soft and the rest of the mid sections were new soft snow that you could rip as maximum speed GS turns. The final section was a bit more technical in the heavier snow but it was a great top to bottom non stop rip to finish the day.
Great beers and chat with buddies in the bar - more new snow in the outlook but don't tell anyone.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 27 Deja vu

As an English sports commentator famous for his misuse of the English once said, today was deja vu all over again. Put in simpler terms today was a rerun of yesterday with a few significant variations in the temps later in the day.
It was bluebird as we drove to the hill in temps of -8 so we knew things would be pretty hard and tough skiing compared with yesterday and we were right. Lynda took the day off to build her energy for the next couple of days which might provide fresh snow and she may have made a pretty good call. I went to the New Side to continue to try the new skis in the tougher conditions although the Sally Shoguns might have been a better bet given that we had no new snow overnight and all we were looking at was yesterday's stuff refrozen overnight. My comments of yesterday were that nothing really softened up by the close which was right but my feeling was that things had got warmer and softer for some time after the hill closed which would explain why everything was so hard and hard work straight off the bat today.
I did a White Pass Loop which was Lift Line (hard bumps) the Gun bowl (refrozen crud) and Highline Trees (heavy refrozen crud) - get the picture ? So I went to Polar Peak which was open and as expected offering the most stunning 360 degree views for many miles in all directions. I then did several loops off Polar through Grand Papa Bear, a couple of Clown chutes, Barely Legal and Papa Bear before heading to base through my steep Papa/Mama Bear rock chute. The were all ok in the sense that they were taking an edge but were all hard and unforgiving bumps which required maximum concentration to avoid a top to bottom slide. I ran to base through High Saddle which was still skiing ok with edge to edge jumps and the slope underneath and lower Easter bowl just tracked powder with some soft snow to be found in places.
Next time up was a repeat of the Polar Chutes which remained hard and unforgiving. I linked up with my buddy Dan and we ran to base through Skydive as he was skiing his split shift from the mine so he couldn't be there for last run of the day. It was actually ok with big bumps in the top, some soft stuff in the middle and the bottom section surprisingly good even if you skied the left or middle which was a first since the last snow cycle. Last runs before a late lunch found the Polar chutes as before and actually taking a soft edge in each of the ones I skied and almost spring skiing. I ran to base through Stag Leap which skied much like Skydive although it was a bit challenging through the trees at the top.
After lunch it was back up Polar Peak but via Mitchy Chutes which were less tracked and skiing soft. The sun had gone in and things were starting to haze over even if the temps were rising so we had +4 at the Polar load. The lack of direct sunlight meant that we had conditions where the surface was starting to set up in Grand Papa and Mama Bear chutes. We ran to base through Secret Chutes and Spinal Tap which continue to have a surprisingly large amount of soft and lightly tracked snow in them. This time we were prepared for the blue ice landing off the log drop in Spinal Tap and made a rather better job of it than yesterday.
We did another Polar loop which was a straight drop of Baby Bear which confirmed things were really setting up and getting a bit technical. We dropped High Saddle again and found the beginnings of an ice track for the last two turns but as before the soft snow underneath was ok although the light was getting a bit white in the haze by this time. So we just had time to head out to Skydive for the last rip and found the snow in surprisingly good shape all the way down even if things were a bit bumpy in top. At least we have got the energy to go top to bottom without a break which a couple of weeks ago was a no no.
We drank beer with friends in the Griz Bar and had a good time talking about the day's skiing. Best of all the mountain forecast is calling for white precip of up to 15 cms. My own view is that with a temp of +6 as we drove away from the hill we are more likely to get a rain at the base with good skiing at White Pass base and above day, but I hope I am proved wrong - I doubt it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Day 26 Learning to ski

Well.I am not exactly going back to the bunny slopes and learning how to snowplough but I am having to rethink how I ski on the new DPS Wailers with maximum rocker. What I have to get in my head is that there is about 20 cms of ski at the front and 10 cms of ski at the back that are not in touch with the ground which gives me a ski of 154 cms length if I just let things sit flat. If I drive the tips in they ski like a long ski and come out of turns fast as if they are in rails which does tend to push me in to the back seat. As an alternative, if I stand centrally and pivot the skis they really ski like short skis and allow me to spin short turns on and edge and effectively ski slow and straight in tight situations. Not a very technical description but the best a poor amateur like me can do to explain the situation that I was working with today.
We had a pure bluebird day all day today despite the forecast that it would cloud over in the afternoon. It was -10 on the deck this morning and remained cold all day, or rather much colder than you would have expected for a bluebird day at the end of March. By close the base temps were only about +1 and as an example the snow at the Timber load which on a day like this would normally have been mush was still quite icy. The good news from this was that nothing much got soft except on the direct south facing slopes, so nothing much will be refrozen crud tomorrow morning. The bad news is that nothing much softened up particularly in the morning. As we drove away from the hill tonight the temp was +4 and I guess that was the warmest it has been today by a margin.

We went to the Old Side and found that Lizard Bowl had been groomed all the way across from Bear to Freeway. There were still tracks of ungroomed stuff to play with between Arrow, Bow, Cascade and Dancer and we made a few laps skiing the tracked up powder in those areas. Next stop was Cedar bowl which didn't seem to have been groomed at all and we had some good loops through New Lift Line, Cedar Ridge and King Fir. All the north facing stuff was in pretty good shape with soft bumps in tracked up powder and we even had a couple of runs back through Kangaroo which was predictably hard icy bumps but great fun. We decided to go the New Side and I made my only bad decision of the day by dropping into Boomerang - ok in the top, but the second part was hard refrozen crud with death cookies all over the place. My guess was that it would have softened but as I have already said softening took much longer to happen today, if at all.
When we got to the New Side we just had time for two complete Polar circuits before lunch. The view from Polar Peak was as stunning as I have ever seen it and the drop through Papa Bear was good skiing in crisp snow taking  a good edge in small bumps. We ran to base through Decline/Window Chutes and found Decline pretty bumpy but soft snow in the top of Window Chutes becoming a bit scratchy lower down. Final loop before lunch was the Mama Bear chute off Polar taking the tight right chute which was untracked and then Secret Chutes and Spinal Tap which both had big deposits of soft snow and a few icy patches to keep you on your toes.
After lunch we had six or seven loops of Polar Peak trying Grand Papa Bear and Barley Legal in the main chutes and a variety of the Clown Chutes which still had lots of fresh snow. We eventually did a repeat of the untracked chute off Mama Bear and ran to base via High Saddle (surprisingly still skiable in good snow) and the runs underneath which were tracked but ok powder. Time was getting short so we did a White Pass to Base loop through Anaconda Glades and Bootleg Glades both of which showed plenty of deep snow lines to be had.
Final run of the day was the traverse out and rip down Skydive which was a bit bumpy in the top but after that it was soft snow on a scratchy base. A great bluebird evening on the deck waiting for the next round of precip which may come as snow, rain or something in between, lets see.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 25 another pretty good day

The overnight figures gave us 14 cms of new snow and a base rising to 397 cms which is getting tantalisingly close to the 4 metre party but not quite - lets see what this week brings. On the way to the hill it was -3 and with mix of sun and cloud. There was a kind of cloud base at mid mountain and some kind of temperature inversion, but not much of one. By the end of the day the snow had softened in the direct sunlight but started to set up again as the sun went down. For the rest of the hill the snow stayed in ok shape but got a little heavier lower down. In summary the new snow got skied in and stayed ok with a few sun affected exceptions. It was +3 as we drove away from the hill.
We went to the New Side and had a good White Pass loop through the Gun Bowl and back under the lift in the new snow which was mostly untracked and gave face shots all the way down. We then looped Currie via Tom's run and again found soft new snow all untracked. Next time up, Polar Peak was opened so it was two Grand Papa Bears and a Barely Legal back to Polar Peak base which were all great skiing in viz that came and went and some nice wind sift as well as the new snow that had come down. We then hit out to Mamma Bear which just as soft and deep before taking a run to base,
We ran to base through Stag Leap which was full of soft tracked snow all the way through. The next Currie loop was a Papa Bear off Polar Peak which was still soft bumps and improving viz and then a straight rip down Skydive which was bumpy in the top but soft in the mid section and only scratchy in places low down.
Last loop before lunch was a couple of Polar Peaks with Grand Papa Bear and the Spirit Bear where the entrance seems to be a bit easier this year. I dropped to base through Decline/Window Chutes which skied ok in the top, deep through the trees and a bit scratchy on the ski out. We had lunch.
After Lunch I headed back up the New Side and found Currie Head Wall open. I passed on this as there seemed to be some very good free riders up there taking some amazing lines over the cliffs. I know my limitations and I know that I can ski the Wimp Chutes and Up Right off the head wall and everything else is to extreme for me - maybe I'll test myself to my personal limits tomorrow.
We did several loops off Polar in Grand Papa and Barely Legal before hitting Mama Bear and then looking for a route down. We elected to take Corner Pocket which was ok in the top but a bit icy from half way down but the face underneath was pretty nice lightly tracked snow. next time up was another couple of Polar Loops through Grand Papa and Spirit Bear ending in a drop via Secret Chutes and Spinal Tap. The snow in the chutes and ST was surprisingly good with pockets of untracked and quite deep powder, this face is always a good bet a couple of days after a big storm.
We found ourselves with time on our hands for the final White Pass loop so we hiked into Mitchy chutes and found loads of soft. It was then a case of a loop from White Pass top via the third Knot Chute which was also soft and deep and Surprise trees which were pretty crappy. The snow had been sun affected and was reforming as crust which was not a lot of fun but we just had to suck it up.
Last lap was Skydive which like before was big soft bumps in the top then ok tracked snow most of the way down with a few scratchy turns in the final section. This was good end to an ok day. Sundays are my favourite days in the Griz with the crowds gone and all the locals drinking beer and exchanging stories of the weekend. More snow in the long term outlook so fingers crossed.