Thursday, February 12, 2015

Day 70 are these the worst ski conditions in living memory

Now, before I put anything down on todays blog I want to make it absolutely clear that nothing I write here is any negative reflection of the guys and girls (Patrol, Trail Crew, Cat Drivers etc.) who are doing a fantastic job in just keeping the hill open in the current dreadful conditions. That having been said, you have to accept that the conditions are dreadful and as my granny used to say " you can't make bricks without straw" - mind you she was barmy and we had to have her locked up.

Skiers and riders are great ones for debating how current conditions compare with the past. Yes, I do include riders as despite appearances to the contrary I am not one of these old time skiers who have a problem with boarders - as far as I am concerned we are all free to enjoy the snow any way that works for us as long as we respect the hill and each other. Usually our debates are around how good things are, I remember a few years back when we had 100 cms overnight at -22 and having debates as to whether that was the best or second best day in 25 years - quite frankly who gives a s--t when it is that good. Well now the boot is on the other foot and the debate is whether or not this is the worst year anyone can remember.

With a snow base that has never exceeded 2 metres, 5 pineapple expresses hitting us and bring rain, temps so warm that I have been skiing in my fleece and the lower mountain looking more like a mountain bike park than a ski hill this certainly has to be by far the worst I have experience in the 10 years that I have skied all season and the previous 6 when I was a vacation skier. To help me I consulted two long term skiers both of whom have runs named after them so they certainly have right to an opinion - Richard and Linda. The general consensus is that this is the worst winter since 1975 and even there it has been suggested that 1975 only seemed worse because we didn't have groomers back then. So there you have it, certainly the worst conditions in 40 years and maybe longer.

On the way to the way to the hill the temp was +6 and during the day I noticed temps of +10 at the base and as we drove away tonight things were still +7. Up the mountain things were a little cooler but only by a degree or two and this gave us the seventh day in a row where temps at the base never dropped below zero at any time of the day or night. The effect on the hill was predictable, the lower mountain runs are all significantly bare with any run to base requiring and exercise in navigation through grass, rocks, twigs and other spring like features. Even up the mountain in high traffic areas we are through to the bare hill and things got steadily worse as the warm day progressed. The only good news was that we had overcast conditions so there was no direct sunlight which would have made things worse.

We went to the New Side as the Old Side was closed due to active heli bombing and found that in White Pass we had soft mush in the lower parts but set up hard chunky crud in the upper parts. The melt line move further up the hill all day. We poked around a few challenging runs in Highline, Milky Way Trees, Quite Right etc. and had a couple of runs to base via Curried Powder which was firm and icy in the top but softened on the way down and actually was skiing quite well by Gilmar Trail. The trail was just plain ugly bare patches and needed careful navigation and the lower mountain was as described very bare. We went to try the Old Side.

There was a little more open on the Old Side with Lizard Bowl open below Tower 6 Trail and Cedar open but only as far as the far side of Cruiser. Unfortunately Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's and all those areas were closed but for the first time in several days we had the untracked Cedar Ridge and King Fir open. We hit Cruiser and ran the ungroomed gully on the far side which was deep lightly crusted snow in the top turning a bit mushy lower down. We did loops via Haul Back and Boom Chair and just ran down the mostly untracked Cedar Ridge which was crust covered powder until about half way down where it became quite soft. We went to lunch.

After lunch it was back to the Old Side for more Loops of the Cruiser ungroomed against the sign line and Cedar Ridge/King Fir which remained lightly tracked but by this stage had become soft in the top and seriously mushy low down. This was probably the best skiing on the hill as it was the only untracked off piste to be had as far as we could make out. The runs to Boom like Lower North Ridge and Lower Linda's were getting very bare by the end of the day. We went back to the New Side for the finish.

Puff still skied as soft mushy snow on top of hard bumps and was very good. The melt line was right up to the top so Gun Bowl was just about ok and even the avi debris could be traversed if not actively skied. We finished with a run through Currie Glades from the Polar Peak load - needless to say Polar was closed all day today and the sign line along side Currie Powder excluded any chance of traversing out into Currie Chutes. The cat debris by the load was super ugly but after we had side stepped through it the glades skied very soft and mellow. On the ski out we hit lower Barracuda rather than the top of Gilmar trail and it skied very mellow and soft. Lower Gilmar Trail and the lower mountain was as anticipated an ugly mess.

As we were skiing off we saw the helicopter heading up which was good hurry up for us and before we reached the bottom the heli bombing had started again. The results were even more huge wet snow avalanches all along the Head Walls from Currie to Cedar, a very entertaining sight from the bar. We have to hope that the bombing allows more terrain to be opened but a combination of avi debris and refrozen crud or mush may mean that we still don't get much good skiing as a result - might be interesting to try Skydive if they get it open.

So there you have it ugly conditions on top and huge bare patches down below. Tomorrow will be a half day as I have to drive to Calgary to pick up Lynda who is flying back from the UK and as it was raining light drizzle as I left the hill I don't think I will be missing much. My DPS Wailers are in for repair and a tune so I am on my rock skis for a few days and I think that will be a good call - says all that needs saying about the conditions. There is a hint of snow in the forecast for the next few days but given what we have had so far I will believe it when I see it, on the other hand I did stop yesterday and help a lady get her skis back on at the bottom of Down Right and what goes round tends to come round.

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