Saturday, February 21, 2015

Day 78 and change is in the air

First off the usual apologies for the late appearance of the blog - just like on all the other occasions it is due to drinking too much beer with my Irish buddies after skiing and then moving on to drinking even more with friends at their house during the evening. The long and short of it is that once again I have to try and cobble together my memories of the day with far more beer having been drunk than should make this a reasonable possibility, but here goes.

No new snow over night but some very light flurry activity during the morning and afternoon but not enough to add up to any kind of accumulation. It was overcast most of the day but did brighten a little around lunch time. Temps on the way to the hill were -2 and rose during the day to around +5 at the base during the day. Up the mountain we just about had plus temps maybe 1 or 2 degrees. max during the course of the day.

The result of the weather was that down low things started to soften but as the only parts of the lower mountain we were skiing were cat tracks and ski outs this didn't help at all, in fact it made things worse. On the upper mountain the groomers were all hard and ranged from crud taking an edge to wind swept ice depending on where you were skiing. Off the groomers things remainder bullet hard ugly ice bumps, and as before, smooth where they hadn't been skied and ugly and rutted where they had.

Someone said to me today that I hadn't mentioned the snow base recently which is true - for what it is worth it is at 138 cms today at a time when we might normally be looking towards celebrating the 3 metre party. You also have to bear in mind that the base reading is taken at the weather plot and so represents untouched snow which has been left to accumulate all year and as a result has little or no relevance to the thin scraped out surfaces that we are skiing every day. It should also be born in mind that the snow plot is three quarters of the way up Bear and as such has benefited from snow that has accumulated in periods of precip when most of the mountain had rain - in other words, it's an interesting figure, but not that interesting.

We went to the Old Side and had our usual poke round on groomers and found that Cedar bowl was ok but Bear and Arrow had some very wind swept icy patches. Lower North Ridge and Lower Linda's were very soft and getting sparse with warning signs that they were not the best way down to Boom Chair. All the Old Side Triangle in fill runs like Boom, Boom Ridge, North Ridge, Linda's etc remained closed due to ugly icy conditions. We went to the New Side.

Polar Peak was closed in the cloud which was socking in. We tried a loop in White Pass through Highline ( which I understand a number of people now call Quite Right) and found hard icy bumps so a big mistake whatever it was called. We did two loops to base via Currie Powder (first time) and Down Right (second time) and then Trespass Trail, Diamond Back, Summer Road and Lower Siberia Ridge which were all skiing ok but a bit slick in places.

After lunch we did s few more Old Side loops and found no more terrain open and the skiing just about as varied, slick and scratchy as in the morning. Back on the New Side I dropped Puff as I had been wound up by buddies to try it and it was hard big ugly icy bumps with all the forgiveness of stainless steel and very uneven. I managed three more loops through Currie to base via Down Right, Currie Powder and Down Right again and I was so carried away that I even took another drop through Puff which if anything was worse than before, still quite good fun to my mind.

The last loop of the day we took the Summer Road ski out all the way as we had seen Ski Patrol doing work on it and hoped it might be in ok shape. Our conclusion was that earlier in the day it might have been ok but by the time we tried it we had some pretty brown conditions and some very sketchy stuff on the ski out.

As I explained we had lots of beer to revitalise the legs. The reason I am saying there is change in the air is that we had snow falling as we were sitting drinking and it has continued into the evening. So far we only have 4 cms. it's very wet and temps are at around zero in the valley so we are not talking awesome powder here. That having been said it's the first snow of any kind we have had in the valley for days and it may be a lot better up the hill. Let's hope so.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Day 77 still no change but a little warmer

Just like the last few days I really don't know what to say. Another day with no precip (can anybody remember the last time it snowed in the valley) but on the deck this morning we had -6 as the temp. The radio said that it was +2 but quickly revised this down and we were obviously on the edge of two weather systems as on the way to the hill things warmed up to -2.

On the way home it was +3 and that is a good indication of how things warmed up during the day although up the higher parts of the hill it remained at minus temps (just) all day. Conditions were bluebird (again) with a bit of cloud cover drifting in late afternoon. Despite the direct sunlight and warming temps at the base everything off the groomers on the upper mountain remained obstinately frozen rock hard with no sign of softening of any kind.

We went to the Old Side as usual and found Bear to be particularly ugly wind swept ice. Arrow, Bow, Dancer and all runs below in Lizard skied a bit better but with some very hard icy patches. Cedar Centre was ok firm and groomed as was the rest of Cedar and North Ridge. All the intervening off piste such as Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's, North Ridge and all associated areas remained closed due to ugly icy conditions. So we left the Old Side late morning on the grounds that there was no off piste to be had and even the groomer were significantly worse than yesterday.

On the New Side we tried the bumps in Highline and found that they were hard and icy and showing no signs of softening. We just had time for two trips up Polar peak before lunch where on the Coaster was open and it skied hard sheet ice with some tufted blow in to soften the skiing. Final ski out from the Peak was always a cut across to under the lift and then ski the hard icy bumps under there which were a challenge but at least were more interesting than skiing groomers. Ski off for lunch was Currie Powder (more ice and less sift than yesterday) Trespass Trail (ok) Diamond Back ( ok but very slick in places) Summer Road (ok but becoming worn in the mid section) Lower Sib Ridge (actually skiing pretty well if a little twiggy in places and rather better than yesterday) Falling Star ski out (ok early but getting very soft and brown later on).

Afternoon we went back up the New Side and did a couple more loops of Polar Peak and the icy bumps under the chair before running to base just as before and in identical conditions. Next it was up for four more loops of Polar Peak which deteriorated steadily in the Coaster as the day went on but remained unchanged under the chair - to be fair the conditions there were not really capable of deteriorating any more than they already had. When the Peak closed it was yet another run to base as before and if anything Currie Powder had got a bit worse as the day went on.

Last run off White Pass was down Down Right which skied very mellow and was probably the best run on the hill by that time. The run off from Trespass Trail was just the same as before with conditions getting just a little harder as temps fell towards evening. Beers in the Griz and then home for a quiet night. Some snow may be in the forecast but the outlook has many conflicting aspects. Most important is that my buddy Dan has just taken a set off from working in the mine and usually when he does this we get snow so go Dan go. Let's see how tomorrow turns out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Day 76 what the hell else is there to say

Just like yesterday (and the day before, and the day before ad nauseam) today was just the same conditions and as the heading implies I am running out of things to say which as anyone who knows me will tell you is all but an impossibility. I must apologise for the lack of Irish input into the blog as was promised yesterday. One of my buddies didn't ski today, he went for a hike instead and the other doesn't feel sufficiently moved to make a contribution so you are all just stuck with me, perhaps we will have better luck tomorrow.

As I said it was same old, same old. The temps were -5 on the way to the hill and a couple of degrees cooler up top. During the day things warmed up to a couple of degrees above zero at the base but remained firmly rooted below zero on top so nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) softened during the day. It was not quite as bluebird as yesterday with a haze in the morning turning to clear skis in the afternoon and then reverting to cloud cover by the close of play. Needless to say there was no new snow so what we had remained bullet hard, and quite honestly not much better on the groomers which had been scoured by a fairly strong wind/

We went to the Old Side where like all of yesterday the off piste runs in the Old Side Triangle were closed due to the hard icy conditions. On the way up we noted that the colder weather had allowed for some snow making low down so that the ski outs (particularly on the New Side) were better but way short of anything that could be called good. We ran around Lizard and Cedar Bowls all morning which were fully open across as far as Snake Ridge and provided some ok skiing on all of the groomers but no off piste opportunities. We went to the New Side/

On the New Side everything in White Pass was hard and icy and slick where it had been groomed and ugly where it hadn't. Polar Peak was open but with Shale Slope closed so the only way down was the Coaster which was a mix of hard groomed ice and rocks. We did a couple of not very inspiring laps before heading for lunch via Currie Powder (super slick with some blow in to turn on) Trespass Trail (ok) Diamond Back (getting a bit slick and scraped out) Summer Road (ok as long as you turned on the edges) Lower Sib Ridge (skiing very well but a bit twiggy in places) and the Falling Star ski out which was rather brown but skiing very mellow.

In the afternoon we went back to the Old Side and just had a repeat of the morning with the groomers hard and icy but ok in places. With no off piste available we headed back to the New Side. We just had time for two Currie Loops (Polar was simply a case of the juice not being worth the squeeze) where it was much as before with the exception that Currie Powder was getting much slicker and with less blow in as the day went on -  still loads of challenging fun if you don't mind going sideways about as fast as you are going forward. Just time for a slick White Pass loop and then another Currie bowl run to base (exactly like before but slicker) and then beers.

A quiet night in after last night's partying at the pub and particularly as it looks like we may be getting some minor precip in the next couple of days - as they say this season, 2cms is the new 10. Let's see, and who knows we might be getting the Irish perspective tomorrow. Sorry the report is so brief but as I said at the outset there are only so many ways you can say"hard icy slick ugly conditions with no new snow".

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Day 75 just like yesterday but a bit colder

Actually if I was feeling particularly lazy I could just leave it at the title of today's post as this describes very well what we had today. As it is things should be a bit brief as I am just about to grab a taxi down to the Park Place Pub for their excellent wings night and I don't want to be late.

Things did cool down overnight and it was -8 on the deck this morning and -6 when we arrived at the hill. This allowed quite a bit of snow making and as a result all of the ski outs on the lower mountain were much improved over yesterday. As had been the case for a couple of weeks we had no precip over night and in the lower temps things jus got harder and uglier everywhere we went. It was a bluebird day but because of the cold overnight temps nothing really softened up during the day, at least not on the New Side where I spent the afternoon. Temps at the base may have got above zero but at the Polar load it was -5 all day.

We went to the Old Side to try things out and found that Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Cedar Ridge and all associated runs remained close presumably due to the boiler plate conditions. The hard refrozen crud had groomed up really nice and we ran around the groomers on Bear, Bow, Arrow, Cedar Bowl, North Ridge, Lower North Ridge, Lower Linda's etc. As I have made the point so often, all this skied really easily and smoothly, how could it do anything else when it has been smashed into submission by a 3 ton snow cat but this is not my thing. After demonstrating to ourselves than no matter how mellow the groomers were on the Old Side there was nothing challenging there we hit the New Side.

We took a White Pass loop and found that Quite Right had been groomed and skied easily as a result. Polar Peak was open and as we arrived the Shale Slope entrance was opened so in we went. In windy bluebird conditions which was sifting in snow the result was inevitable. Add to this the sign which said that there was no grooming anywhere in Currie Bowl and this included Polar Peak and you had conditions way more challenging than yesterday with slick areas all down the Coaster and very hard big bumps just taking an edge and rocks all over the place in Shale Slope. Under the lift it was hard icy crust skiing. The good news was that hardly anyone else seemed interested in skiing it.

We did two challenging loops of Polar and headed to lunch via the ungroomed Currie Powder, Trespass Trail, Diamond Back, Summer Road, Lower Sib Ridge and the Falling Star ski out. Some great work had been done there particularly on the lower section with the new made snow and as a result the ski out was just tricky, rather than near impossible like yesterday.

In the afternoon it was back up White Pass where we put a loop in through the Gun Bowl and then Highline, both of which were ungroomed bumps and as a result pretty well shook the fillings out of our teeth on the way down. After that it was two Polar loops and then  a run to base in conditions which were getting even harder in Shale Slope and really very slick in Currie Powder - otherwise it was the morning's route. Back up for 4 more loops of Polar through Shale Slope and the lift line which just continued to get more testing with every run - great fun. A quick run back to White Pass along a very fast Trespass Trail and there was just time for another very icy Gun Bowl/Highline loop (much harder than in the early afternoon) before a run to base as described above in still hard icy conditions but at least with ok coverage.

Beers in the Griz and now off to the pub for wings night. The skiing was actually very enjoyable on the New Side when we got away from the groomers and very, very tough which I know from a number of people's point of view would disqualify the skiing from being fun, whilst in my view it is exactly that which makes it so.

Tomorrow my Irish guest have asked if they can do the blog and if this comes off I wash my hands of anything posted just for the day.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Day 74 another good day squeezed out - just

Of course we had no precip over night and the official snow base fell to 138 cms which is as low as I have ever seen it at this time of year. On the way to the hill we had -5 temps but still no sign of any snow making on the lower mountain. It was another bluebird day and even more than yesterday things stayed cold out of the sun and only softened in the direct sunlight. During the day all over the hill it was colder with temps of -1 at the White Pass load and -2 at Polar load so unsurprisingly things stayed much harder and even in the sun the softening was much reduced.

We actually came up with three things that tell us when, on the hill, it is just about as bad as it can get and here they are - when you arrive on Alberta Family day a 9 o'clock and still get parked in line 3 - when you see Ski Patrol working on the hill and they don't have their jackets or skis on - when on the way to the hill the radio advert for the hill mentions the dining and the massage at the spa but doesn't mention the skiing. We also came up with another rule having looped Polar Peak numerous times today - if you see someone being photographed along side a sign saying "Expert Skiers Only" it means they aren't one.

We went to the Old Side and found that Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's and Cedar Ridge were all closed but Lizard Bowl and Cedar Bowl were both open most of the way across (Snake Ridge closed of course) at the high traverse level. With everything off the groomers bullet hard we tried Bear, Arrow, Bow, Cedar Centre, North Ridge and Lower Linda's which were all ok hard icy grooming but not really what we were looking for. After most of the morning looking (and not finding) some good off piste skiing we headed to the New Side.

On the New Side things still looked ugly and icy just like yesterday and this was confirmed by the temps which as stated were even lower than yesterday. Polar Peak was open and once again we did about 6 loops of Shale Slope which amazingly was still holding up ok even if the bumps were getting big but staying quite soft. This took us to a late lunch and in view of the ski off yesterday we played safe with Currie Powder, Trespass Trail, Upper Diamond Back. Summer Road, Lower Siberia Ridge and the Falling Star ski out. By moving around this much we found good coverage with just bit of ice and twigs in the Lower Sib Ridge section.

In the afternoon I was deserted by my guests who didn't fancy a full day in tough conditions. I linked up with buddies and just looped Polar Peak (Shale Slope) and then a run down under the chair in some hard crunchy icy conditions - a good mix of challenging condition s each time. I guess I must have skied this loop 10/12 time in the afternoon and by close at 3:30 the Shale Slope was starting to show signs of wear and I doubt it will last another day although for most of today it had been big soft snow bumps and very nice skiing as a result. I ran back round Trespass Trail to do a couple of final loops on White Pass.

White Pass was hard and icy where ever you went and the only ungroomed stuff I tried was in the mid section of Highline which was just about as tough skiing as you could wish to find. Last run of the day was back into Currie Powder and the run to base as described at lunch time. This time it skied even better as the traffic in Lower Sib Ridge had improved the surface - can't understand why anyone would down load on Timber Chair (and there were plenty who did) when you have such a mellow line to take off the hill.

Still no snow in the forecast so beers at home and fingers crossed for something to happen. We have dodged the bullet over the past few days using Shale Slope off Polar Peak repeatedly to provide good skiing but from tomorrow we will be lucky if we can continue to get away with this and I can't see where the next life saving opening might take place. Who knows.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Day 73 and I'm feeling dizzy

The reason I am feeling dizzy is the number of times I looped Polar Peak today and I have to be honest I lost count. The reason is that this is the best, and by my definition the only, skiing to be had on the hill in the continuing dreadful conditions - now confirmed as the worst for at least 40 years.

After my comments last night about warm temps we at last had a bit of a break and the temp on the deck this morning was -4 and -5 on the way to the hill. It was bluebird conditions all day so whilst things warmed up in the direct sunlight there was no atmospheric warming and anywhere out of the sun stayed cold. The temp at the White Pass load and the Polar peak load was zero all day so unless the surfaces were in the sunlight everything remained bullet hard and the tracked up stuff remained particularly ugly. Needless to say there was no precip of any description.

We decided to hit the New Side and that is where we stayed all day. On arriving in White Pass we looped around several times waiting for Polar Peak to open and every where we went we found hard chunky icy ugly conditions. We dropped down Currie Powder and found that Gilmar Trail was now a hard closure so we just tracked back along Trespass Trail which at least was an easy call as the hard icy conditions made skating back to White Pass load as easy as it ever gets.

Next time up White Pass we found Polar Peak had just opened and so we were straight there. As I arrived at the top I skied over to a Patroller buddy to ask what was happening as only the Coaster appeared to be open and he responded by flipping the sign on Shale Slope. For those who don't know Shale Slope is as near to the Polar chutes as you can get without actually skiing them. I had first tracks in on the slope which had been closed for several weeks and was smooth hard pack but taking and edge in the warming sunshine. We cut across the traverse under the lift and found the skiing good and soft in the top but a bit ribby lower down where it had melted and refrozen on the way back to the lift.

That was it for the rest of the morning as we just looped Polar Peak numerous times always finding a different line down Shale Slope and trying various permutations of the pitches under the lift some of which were soft and good and some less slow. For lunch we ran off down Currie Powder (groomed but icy) Upper Diamond Back (easy if a bit full of ice pellets) Summer Road (easy cat track skiing) Lower Timber (ugly sheet ice and in some parts all but unskiable) and then the Falling Star ski out which had many bare patches but was ok.

In the afternoon I was back up White Pass and looped around again and found very little soft - the shoulder in Gun Bowl was softening but no stroll in the park. A buddy told me that the newly opened Knot Chutes were very good but with the I bowl just tracked up crud the hiking to turning ratio in there just looked wrong to me - I went back to Polar Peak.

Now, usually when Shale Slope is open and in the direct sunlight it lasts for a couple of hours at most and then reverts (as it's name implies) to an ugly rocky pitch. Today for some reason (maybe because it has hardly been opened all season) it skied fine all day and even though it became quite bumped up and soft we still didn't find any significant areas where we broke through to the rock base. As the afternoon wore on we abandoned skiing under the chair as the surface started to set up very hard and full of death cookies and just ran down into the lower part of the Coaster under Shale Slope.

It was time to run off when the Polar lift closed at 3:30 and so we ripped back round Trespass Trail to White Pass and got a couple of runs through White Pass core which just tended to confirm that everything was ugly and icy before heading off the hill. We dropped Deep Sea which was very icy track skiing before cutting out to Lower Siberia Ridge which was icy and ungroomed but compared with some of the ski out options was actually quite ok.

We had a few beers in the bar and I got reports from the Old Side which tended to confirm that we hadn't missed much there with Boom, Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge etc closed. Today we suffered the problem that whilst cooler temps can preserve the hill, they do make skiing almost impossible in areas that were skied recently in warm mush - what we need to sort this is snow, and lots of it.

A final foot note is that the Kokanee advert that was being filmed a few weeks ago is now out and anyone interested can watch it here, particularly the handsome guy in the patrol cap who appears a couple of times. Lets see what tomorrow holds.