Saturday, February 7, 2015

Day 65 and today's conditions sucked a bit less than yesterday

Now, let me make this clear, I am not talking about how much I enjoyed the skiing, I actually enjoyed both days very much but for different reasons, I am talking about the underlying conditions that really sucked yesterday (poor viz and rain all over the hill) and sucked rather less today. The reason today sucked less was threefold - firstly the slightly lower temps meant that the skiing surface was a bit better, secondly the snow line was lower so we actually had some snow (ok, very wet) but it definitely came down as white, and thirdly we had more terrain in the form of the New Side open, more of which later.

As an aside, sometime around now we will be passing the half way mark of the season, possibly on Monday.  I don't think this will have any significance other than the fact that we are now on the down hill run to the end of the season. Thinking about it a bit more, it may mean that Patrol will have to replace all the signs warning us of early season hazards with signs warning us about late season hazards but I am not sure that is going to happen.

Last night the rain eased up but it came back with a vengeance in the morning and rained all day in the valley and over the lower hill. On the way to the hill the temp was +3 as it was on the way back home which was a bit cooler than yesterday. Up the mountain I noticed that temps were just about at plus figures at the White Pass load and maybe a degree or two cooler at White Pass top. Conditions were overcast and raining for the most part with cloud descending on the New Side late afternoon to give pretty poor viz and flat light by the end of the day.

We got to the hill in rain and found that there were limited openings on both the Old and New Side. We went to the Old Side and found the openings were just like yesterday, Bear, Kodiak, North Ridge, Emily's, Lower Linda's and Lower North Ridge. Everything else was closed so no Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Cedar Ridge, Cedar bowl, Lizard bowl, etc. One improvement on yesterday was that we had the precip that was rain at the base coming down as very wet snow from all points above about half way up the Bear which of course benefitted almost none of the Old Side. After a few loops it was obvious that if there was any snow it would be up in White Pass so that is where we headed.

Puff was soft very heavy mushy new snow but skied ok, if in slow motion. White Pass had very limited openings with the Gun Bowl and the Zig Zag closed which of course meant no Knot Chutes or Surprise Trees. In fact the only things open were the drop offs from Falling Star after the Heartland split, Milky Way Trees, Highline, Puff and Puff Trees on both sides. We looped these in poor viz and found deep soft mushy snow which when chopped up skied like heavy elephant snot. We loop several times using various permutations of runs but always finding the wet snow just before the White Pass load particularly heavy and hard work.

We ran to base for lunch via Highline, Silver Lining and Summer Road which were all just about passable in the rapidly deteriorating conditions below the snow line. I exited via the Meadow and found huge areas of melted snow and uncovered ground - there can't be may days of skiing in this kind of weather left in that area.

In the afternoon we went back up the New Side and just looped White Pass in very wet snowy conditions which turned to rain just about a the White Pass load giving super sticky conditions for the last few turns. The runs were Milky Way Trees, Puff, Puff Trees, Highline, Heartland, and Highline Trees. The majority of the area remained closed just like the morning. The areas we skied were deep soft mushy spring snow which was very wet and had some very deep areas where the skier traffic had pushed snow into berms. The skiing was very tough and technical in poor light and rain/ wet snow but to be fair we enjoyed it even if most folks would not have.

By 3:40 we had had enough of wet snow and rain and ran to base as before through Silver Lining and Summer Road which were deteriorating in the rain. The ski out in the Meadow was worse than the morning and we had to jump a couple of streams just to get out. Overall it was a tough day in heavy ACL snapping snow where you had to watch what you were doing all the time just to avoid injury. If you stayed on your game there was good fun to be had as long as you were not fazed by super heavy chopped up elephant snot.

It's still raining in the valley and temps are still above zero so tomorrow looks like it could be even more challenging.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Day 64 a bit of a mess by any definition

I don't usually include pictures but I thought this one taken by my buddy Simon in the locker room this morning serves to illustrate the rain gear that was necessary in order to be able to enjoy a day's skiing today and why, if you didn't have the right gear today would be the worst day's skiing of your life. In case it isn't clear I am wearing a plastic rain suit ($19.99 from Canadian Tire), neoprene boot covers and rubber inner gloves. As a result I remained toastie and dry all day and had an enjoyable day's skiing while most people I encountered only had a run or two and retired to dry out.

Before I start I must send my best wishes to my ski buddy Rod who skis many days with me and yesterday broke his ankle when we dropped Triple Trees on to the Trespass Trail and he failed to brake in time before crashing over the trail into the trees below. Sorry you got hurt and all the best for a swift recovery. The only consolation is that we are in the middle of one of the worst seasons in the last 10 years and there are no signs that things are likely to improve any time soon. Hope the treatment in Calgary works out ok and you are back on the hill with us soon.

All my fears of yesterday regarding conditions came true overnight. The rain continued and temps rose steadily so that by morning it was +5 on the deck and +4 when we got to the hill. It was apparent that there was no snow line and we had rain all the way to the top of the hill. During the day temps all over the hill stayed well above zero and as we drove away tonight it was still showing +5 on the truck's thermometer. The rain poured down all day and is still coming down hard as I sit here typing this.

The result was that the New Side was closed due to unstable snow conditions and we were restricted to the Old Side. Actually that doesn't tell the half of it as all we had was the Bear, Kodiak, North Ridge, Emily's and Lower Linda's - that was it, the rest was closed including all of Lizard bowl to skiers right of Bear, Boomerang, Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge, in fact everything in the Old Side Triangle except the above named runs.

It was difficult to find any ungroomed skiing although the right side of Bear was soft bumps and a mixture of heavy elephant snot which was challenging skiing. Elsewhere it was a nominally groomed surface but under the constant rain it came across as a very varied surface with a mixture of wet hard pack which was slick and wet ungroomed which was slow - very challenging. Just to make things interesting towards the end of the day the cloud began to descend to add poor light and poor viz to the challenges.

I spent the day looping Bear, North Ridge/ Emily's to Haul Back, lower Linda's to Boom Chair and then back to Bear. From time to time to add variety I dropped Kodiak which was getting a bit twiggy back to Boom Chair but all in all there was very little to be done to expand the skiing horizons today. As the day wore on the skiing surface steadily deteriorated so that by the end of the day significant areas of brown had appeared in all runs and worse still some cracks and gullies were also starting to appear. In some areas (particularly the loads) huge puddles had formed and just got bigger as the day went on.

And that is how the day was spent. Most early skiers didn't stay ( why would you turn up just to do a run or two ? If you like it ski it for some time and if you don't why turn up at all ?) and the rest turned up for a relatively short time . By the end of the day there were only a couple of us still skiing and even I have to admit that the last chair up Bear was at 3:40 and I didn't push to get in one final run as I would usually do.

So in summary I had an ok day considering the dreadful conditions. This comes with a health warning which is that I guess most people would have had a really bad day today and wouldn't even consider skiing tomorrow. Me - I'll just keep plugging away enjoying myself in my own peculiar and to some people's thinking incomprehensible way. The rain is forecast to continue for a day or two yet and there has to be some question as to whether or not all of the hill can survive. The New Side may prove a saviour but getting that open is going to be a challenge in the circumstances.

Tonight's movie on TCM is Gone With the Wind and in the word's of the final line of that movie "tomorrow is another day".

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Day 63 a great day's skiing - for me

The reason I added the "for me" in the title is that today was a day where if you skied in the right places it could have been one of the best days skiing of the season and if you skied in the wrong places it could have been one of the worst - we skied in the right places.

It snowed over night and on the web site this morning the hill were claiming a 10 cm fall of fresh snow and this seemed to be born out but the evidence of our own eyes. It was snowing on the way to hill and the temps were +1 in the valley and zero at the base of the hill. Up the hill temps were lower, probably around -3 at the White Pass top.

It was forecast to precipitate in some form all day which indeed it did. To start with we had wet snow at the base and slightly drier snow on top. During the day temps rose and the rain line moved up the hill until it was just below the White Pass load and we had wet snow all day up in White Pass and rain on the lower mountain. We probably had about another 5 cms of snow up top during the day and although it did get a bit heavier it was always powder in some form.

The obvious tactic to me was to get high and stay high - no, this is not some 60's flashback but the way to stay up above the rain line. The result was that we were on the third chair up Timber this morning, skied in White Pass for 7 hours without a break of any kind and only ran to base at the very end of the day for the final run.

Straight off the top of Timber we dropped Puff Trees and had first tracks down in heavy but ok powder. I took the Idiot Traverse out to Surprise but was called back by Patrol who were still cutting above the Knot Chutes and they asked me to ride guard on the traverse and hold any skiers and boarders back. I did this and got my reward in the form of first tracks in Surprise Tress which were good deep powder.

After that the rest of the morning was spent dropping the Gun Bowl in increasing but increasingly heavy powder and then skiing Surprise Trees from the near chutes to Triple Trees and back again, a dozen or more times I would guess, and always finding some untracked lines if you were prepared to cut it tight in the wooded areas.

We had been hoping for Currie bowl to open but it didn't as a result of the rising rain line and temps - by this stage the snow was getting very wet and the temps at the White Pass load had drifted just above zero. Mid afternoon we did get Anaconda and as by that time most people who don't have 7 hour legs had gone home we had it pretty much to ourselves. First time into the untracked chute over the hump there was a massive slab release which I just managed to stay above. There is always the debate of when does a slough become an avalanche and I have to say this this must have got very close to crossing that line, however I was able to ski the soft debris that I had created and it was good.

No way was I going to base in all that rain so it was a hard push round Trespass Trail to the White Pass load. The rest of the afternoon was spent working our way across the Anaconda Chutes which ranged from awesome powder to scraped out avi trail with intermittent trips through Surprise Trees or Triple Trees (still untracked lines to be found) when the push back along the trail just became too much.

Last run we dropped a very far Anaconda Chute which was still untracked and then into Bootleg Glades. By the bottom of the Glades it was raining and the snow was pure elephant snot which confirmed what a great decision it had been to stay up in White Pass all day. The trail out was even worse with some very slow mushy stuff all the way to base.

As I am typing this it is raining in the valley with temps of +3. We have to hope for an overnight cooling that will bring the rain line back to base but my fear is that with this Pineapple Express just starting things will be getting even warmer and tomorrow there will be no hiding place from the mushy conditions.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Day 62 not a bad day considering the conditions

The heading says it all, with no real overnight snow nothing much changed with the conditions, but we had a just about acceptable day skiing on ungroomed surfaces. A bit of wind sift had move some of the snow into the dips between the ice bumps but it was not great deep snow and in fact was rather slabby. We spent the day poking around looking for some good stuff but in truth the conditions were only a little better than dust on crust and very tough skiing - none the less we seemed to manage to enjoy ourselves and have fun in the tricky conditions.

It was about -5 on the way to the hill and warmed up a bit during the day so that we just about had plus temps at the base. White Pass load showed a high of -2 and Polar load (Polar Peak wasn't open but we skied by it on the way to Currie Glades several times) showed about -5. Conditions were overcast with a couple of very light flurries which we hope will be forerunners of a pretty major precip event that is on it's way, but more of that later.

We went to the Old Side determined to ski off groomers most of the day and after a quick rip down Bear we managed to achieve that. New Lift Line was hard and bumpy with a bit of dust on top but mostly ice. Cedar Ridge looked like it should be smooth soft snow but this was quite deceptive. What we actually had was slabby blow in which gave a smooth surface but you were so quickly through to the rough ice base it was a challenge. Linda's was very similar to Cedar Ridge but did ski a bit better in the lower section where there were smooth bumps.

We did two runs down Boomerang. The first was through the guts and very hard icy bumps but with some soft snow in the final gully which skied ok. Next time I pushed skiers right into the trees and found much more deep snow sifted in and had some great soft snow untracked turns (probably the best skiing on the hill today) all the way down to the Goat Trail. So late morning we headed for the New Side and stayed there for the rest of the day.

All drops from Timber to White Pass was via Puff which skied ok to begin with but by the end of the day was getting very scratchy and icy bump skiing. We alternated runs to base with runs back to the White Pass load. The White Pass loops were always Gun Bowl (soft tracked snow on an ice base) and Highline (a rather higher ice to soft snow ratio than Gun Bowl) but just about ok.

We did about 6 runs to base through Currie Bowl alternating Currie Glades and 1-2-3s but always exiting on the Gilmar Trail which was skiing ok to begin with but getting decidedly slick by the end of the day. Currie Glades was like yesterday with tracked up soft snow on a hard ice base - challenging but enjoyable skiing. 1-2-3s was very variable with about every permutation of conditions in one or other of the chutes. They ranged from ice bumps, through untracked powder on crunchy ice, to soft snow avi debris which actually skied best of all.

Still no chance off getting out to Skydive as the traverse remained closed. Knot chutes did open but the conditions looked just plain ugly and we didn't feel tempted. The forecast is for snow which should help. Actually the forecast is for a lot of precip over the next few days with it's form depending on the temps. Detailed forecasts vary and we could get anything from a snow bomb to rain and everything in between. My best guess is that we will get a day of snow, a day when we get rain at the base and snow on top and a day of rain top to bottom, but lets hope I am wrong. Watch this space.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Day 61 a bit of new snow but not a lot to get excited about

First off apologies for the late report due to drinking far too much at wings night (don't worry we got a taxi down and back) and the obvious short comings in the report as a result of alcohol consumption.

We had some snow over night and the hill called 7 in the last 24 hours which when you allowed for the fall yesterday came out at about 4 cms overnight. On the way to the hill it was +2 and about the same on the way back. Up the hill temps hung around at just below zero from mid mountain so all in all the snow stayed in reasonable shape. During the day we had overcast conditions which became a sun/cloud mix during the day before dropping back to light snow late afternoon and then becoming just overcast in the evening. We had no measurable accumulation during the day - again.

We went to the New Side and stayed there all day for no real good reason that I could articulate. Things tend to merge into one at this hour of night (not to mention after this much Kokanee) so I won't do a run by run account of the day but rather talk about the runs in general with a few highlights.

The drop from Timber top was mostly through Puff which with the new snow skied ok in the places where you could find soft snow berms but where you just ran out of soft it remained hard icy bumps.
A couple of times we ran Puff trees which were pretty hard and unforgiving but with some nice soft snow between the bumps.

White Pass back to the load was always Gun Bowl which was soft in the bottom but quite hard bumps on top and High Line which was also hard bumps. The run to base was mostly through Currie Glades which were untracked about the first 4 times through but became more tracked up during the day. Untracked they were good soft powder on an icy base and even later when tracked provided good tracked up soft snow as a cushion on the ice base. Lower down the end of Concussion chute and Gilmar Trail were skiing fast and smooth in the new snow.

We went up Polar Peak several times and each time was interesting. The initial ski down was subject to big snow berms blown across the track which in zero light I managed to get airborne on one and stack it with the back of my skull crashing against the ice track - score one more for helmet saving my life ! The Clown chutes had some chopped up soft which we skied most times although by late afternoon there was about a 5 ft drop in to it which made things interesting in bad light. Just once we traversed the shale slope to get to the Polar Chutes under the chair and this was big mistake. The traverse was tough ice and the ski down was even tougher in hard ice. We only went there to get to the Reverse Traverse which appeared to be open but when we got there we found that it was just a case of poachers tracking out beyond the closed signs.

That was about it - can't remember the order in which all this happened but do remember the last run was down Currie Glades as the traverse out to the big 3 remained closed and it was ok tracked up powder on hard crust.

On the way back from the pub I noticed temps had dropped to -4 so again who knows what tomorrow holds.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Day 60 and on Groundhog day things start to change - isn't that ironic

Yes, today was Groundhog day. For those who don't know this is the day when a number of small rodents are dragged out of their holes (or wherever they live), stood up and if the see their shadow then winter will continue for 6 more weeks and if not we are due an early spring. Of course this is all a bit academic this year as talking about winter ending is hardly relevant when the real problem is that winter hasn't really started. I think the consensus was that winter would continue but it was pointed out that the best performing animal only had a success rate of 42% when just flipping a coin would deliver a result of 50%. All this suggests to me that rodent based weather forecasting is a science that is still somewhat in it's infancy.

At day 60 the average cost of skiing is getting down to around 15 bucks a day which given the conditions still doesn't look that cheap. The essence of the movie Groundhog day was that the same day repeated over and over again and in a delicious twist of fate, after days when things have been the same, today things just started to change. Part of the change came from the fact that I was skiing with buddies Brad and Thomas who are bad guys who encourage me to go to places that are not always a good idea - not that I need much encouraging. In an unspoken agreement we kicked skiing groomers into touch (where we have been stuck for days now) and hit lots of  ungroomed off piste no matter how ugly or hard work it was. The result was some very tired legs at the end of the day.

It was only about -2 on the way to the hill and the base areas warmed to about +2 during the day. Up the hill it stayed at minus temps all day and I guess the average was about -4. It was overcast and in the afternoon we started to get snow which has continued into the evening. Overnight we had a light dusting which gave 1 or 2 cms of dry dust which sifted in between the bumps so you could get a couple of turns in soft snow almost anywhere before hitting rock hard ice. The new snow hadn't accumulated enough to make any real difference by closing time but we have high hopes for tomorrow.

We went to the Old Side but Bear Chair broke down so we doubled back to the New. The first drop from Timber top to White Pass load was via Puff as Lift Line remained closed. It was hard icy bumps with some slabby sift in between the bumps and remained that way all day on the next 4 time we skied it while looping. White Pass top was socked in so our run down 1-2-3s in no light on ungroomed icy bumps with sift was not without it's challenges. Next loop we hit the Reverse Traverse for the short distance available and had about 6 really good powder turns back to Currie Powder. The run itself and Gilmar trail were skiing very easy crispy snow with some sift.

Back to the Old Side and a very hard and crunchy New Lift Line. While in there we found two garbage bins (presumably blown off Bear top) which we collected and then filled with the spilled garbage on the way down and delivered to the Haul Back load. This has to give us maximum brownie points with the Griz and so we are all confident of getting some good skiing from now on. Having been on the lift over Boom bowl it looked pretty ugly but the only way to prove it was for a couple of us to ski it so we did - super ugly and very challenging but fun, probably the only ones to ski it today.

Next time up Bear we hit out to Easter bowl and skied past some pretty ok looking sift before trying to ski the far side of the bowl in ugly crust with some sift in between giving two good turns at a time. After that it was time for lunch.

The afternoon was a steady New Side loop pattern of Puff (see above) Gun Bowl (poor viz and icy with some sift) Highline (just hard icy bumps) back up White Pass and then down to the Polar load where we entered Currie Glades. The glades had a hard crunchy ice base but were not too bumpy and the sift did mean a few good turns before the ice ambushed you from time to time. We did this loop 3 times and then finished with a 4th run down Currie Glades to end. The good news about this is that there are so many routes through the glades you can ski them all day and not take the same route twice.

So in summary we had a skiff of new snow which didn't do much to improve conditions but due to stupidity and bloody mindedness we had good day skiing ungroomed runs from first to last bell. The result was that we are very beaten up but happy.

Maybe 8 cms tonight which would go a long way to repairing the hill but we have been promised this before, let's see in the morning.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Day 59 Super Sunday

No, I am not referring to the skiing conditions (I wish), it is just that today things got quieter on the hill as that strange piece of Americana known as Super Bowl kicked off at 4 o'clock and as far as I can make out isn't likely to finish for several hours. It seems to me a game where the entertainment is much improved by drinking beer to the point that even a total lack of understanding of the game doesn't seem to be spoiling our enjoyment.

On the way to the hill it was -6 and on the way back -3. It was overcast and from late morning onwards we had snow which was light and pretty dry but was at least adding to the base and making things look prettier. Unfortunately given the brutally icy underlying conditions it will take a lot more snow of this kind to actually make things better. They are currently calling for 3-6 cms over night and more snow later in the week but as I said last night, let's just take one day at a time.

We went to the Old Side for our usual roll round Bear, North Ridge, Lower Linda's, Cruiser, Cedar Centre etc. The light was rather flat but the groomed surfaces were taking and edge in most places although in the usual previously sun affected areas we were down to boiler plate pretty quick. With everything off the groomers not even remotely skiable we headed to the New Side to see if we could find anything to ski.

Our arrival at the New Side coincided with the snow starting but as I said it didn't amount to enough to improve any of the skiing surfaces. We looped White Pass which was very socked in and we took a line down the Gun bowl which was just ugly invisible bumps. We ran to base through Currie Powder which was slick but with some new snow and Gilmar Trail which seems to have acquired more snow and is actually skiing really nicely on the left shoulder.

Next loop we tried Puff for the first time in days and found more hard tracked up icy bumps. We had noticed on the previous lap that Polar Peak had been open so last run before lunch we gave it a go. We discovered three golden rules that should warn you off Polar Peak - firstly if you can't see the load from White Pass top that is a bad sign, secondly if the lifty says just as you load "the winch cat broke down last night so everything up there is ungroomed" then you probably are in for a bad time and finally, if on the ride up you are passed by a member of staff and a Patroller down loading on the chair then things are really ugly. At the top there was no viz and ugly ungroomed ice all the way down the Coaster but hey - what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The run through Currie Powder and Gilmar Trail to lunch just seemed like a stroll in the park after that.

After lunch we had a few more trips round the Old Side to see if it had changed (it hadn't) and then we headed back to the New Side. All afternoon drops to White Pass were through Puff although I can't imagine why we did it as it was just as ugly as before. We found Polar Peak had been closed, no surprise there as it had been on the edge of dangerous when we had skied it and I doubt more than half a dozen of us had been up there all day. We just looped Currie Powder/Gilmar twice but this time took a slight detour down the Reverse Traverse to the sign line (very close in) before dropping to Currie Powder giving about 6 untracked dust on crust turns.

Last run was a quick White Pass loop through Highline which was just as icy and bumpy as before and then a run to base through Reverse Traverse/Currie Powder/Gilmar Trail. Whether of not it was actually skiing better or we were becoming better at these conditions after a few days practice I am not sure but it skied very mellow all the way to the bottom. In summary not a bad day's skiing considering the conditions but we really need the snow which is still falling off and on this evening - fingers still crossed.