Saturday, March 7, 2015

Day 93 one day at a time - and today was pretty good

First of all I kind of overlooked the fact that yesterday my average cost of skiing dropped below 10 bucks a day so this evening we had a belated celebration in the Griz Bar. As I said before, maybe not that much to celebrate this year where 10 bucks a day seems all that the skiing has been worth for the most part.

Today was full on spring skiing and although it made for great skiing we are still wondering just how long the hill can take major plus temps which give us such good spring conditions. That is why we are having to take it one day at a time.

On the way to the hill today it was +3 and the forecasters were calling for flurries. How surprising is it that we had bluebird conditions most of the day and no sign of any flurries. Naturally there was no new snow and the base is down at around 136 cms. During the day things got really warm (+7 at the White Pass load) and even warmer in the direct sunlight. Up Polar Peak things were kept a little cooler and were only +2 at the load but on the sun facing slopes things softened and stayed that way all day.

I went to the Old side and had two runs down the Sunny Side shoulder which was softening right off the bat. The surface was chopped up but taking an edge and made for some good skiing. Next time up Bear I got word from some patroller buddies that they were just about to drop the sign line on Boomerang so I followed them. The result was three excellent loops through Boom (always staying on skiers left in the sun) with the surface becoming soft on a firm ice base - real corn snow.

I finally managed to get out to Snake Ridge which had been reported as so good yesterday and I found the reports to be true. Great skiing on soft melt on a smooth firm base. So good I did two loops always running to Boom Chair via Lower Linda's which was ok as long as you straight lined it on the skiers right. On a whim I dropped Boom Ridge and found the surface particularly good because of the oblique angle of the sun giving a firm surface that took a nice edge. Only problem was some very significant wood and grass in the lower section but easy to avoid if you paid attention - good skiing.

I had word that something was happening on the New Side and went out to investigate. Sure enough things were opening up in the softening snow and I put three loops through the Knot Chutes which were skiing so easy with corn snow that it was almost embarrassing. Soon it became apparent that Polar Peak had opened to include the Grand Papa Bear chute from the cut in on Shale Slope and we did this a couple of times in some awesome soft snow before we realised that the sign line this side of Concussion had been lifted and we could go in.

We did two more loops of Grand Papa Bear ( great soft skiing particularly on the steeper section skiers right) the lower Polar Chutes (first time into Mama Bear just above the avi crown and then jumped it back into the chute and second time all the way across to an untracked Spirit Bear chute) and then Concussion which skied just sensationally not having been open for about 4 weeks - soft melted snow on a smooth base. There was a fence line half way down Concussion which pulled us back to the usual Trespass Trail Sib Ridge ski out which was super soft as you would expect in the spring conditions. So after two New Side runs to base it was a very late lunch just after 2 o'clock.

In the (short) afternoon we were back up Polar Peak for some Shale Slope loops as Grand Papa Bear had been closed. We tracked across for another Concussion run which was just as good as the time before and for me was run of the day with spring corn snow on a smooth base - the kind of skiing that is so easy there is a danger that we will start to think that we are actually pretty good skiers.  We got back up White Pass for a high speed loop and then it was time for a run off the hill. We decided to hit out on the Reverse Traverse to see if we could get to Skydive as all the signs were that we might be able to. In the event there was a closure on the Barracuda shoulder so we had no choice but to take a few great untracked turns and then work our way back to Trespass Trail along the closure fence. I doubt Skydive would have been much good but if there is any way we can get in there we must try for one more run before the season ends.

Good beers with buddies and lots of discussion of just how many more days like this the hill can deliver given the deteriorating cover we saw today - as I said, one day at a time.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Day 92 much better skiing but for how long

My question is prompted by the fact that the much better skiing came as a result of a return to spring skiing with everything becoming soft in the afternoon. The problem is that this has the effect of tearing up the remaining ski surface very badly which in a normal year doesn't matter but this year with a base of 138 cms you have to wonder just how many days of spring skiing the hill can take. Even today after just on day of warmth all the ski outs were getting very brown and mushy, and put simply won't be able to take much more of the same.

On the deck this morning it was only -3 and by the time we headed to the hill it was +2. This trend continued all day and I saw temps of +6 at the White Pass load and even +2 at the Polar load during the day. Of course there was no new snow and things were bluebird but that tends to go without saying this year. Up on Polar Peak there was a strong cold wind gusting 70 kts in the morning which threatened to close the chair but by the afternoon things had settled a little and even with a fairly strong wind the direct sunlight was having some softening effect.

For whatever reason I went to the New Side and stayed there all day. This may not have been a great idea as in the bar tonight more than one buddy said that Snake Ridge was skiing very well on the Old Side but then that's just how things go. First thing it was cold hard icy conditions everywhere you went and most of the groomers were still wind scoured from yesterday. We found Polar Peak open and went straight there - well, actually the Polar Chutes were closed as were the Clown Chutes and Shale slope so I effect all we had was the Coaster and everything below the cat track. We looped the Coaster which was slick ice and the run under the chair which was hard crunchy crud 3 times before heading to base the usual way. We got the first sign that things were changing in the top of Diamond Back where the surface was actually getting quite soft.

We got back to White Pass and put in several loops always through the Gun Bowl which was crunchy first time through but after that just got softer all the time and was great skiing for about 6 loops. Lower down we did a couple of Quite Right groomers fast but the best fun was in the I bowl were we found several good ways down in ugly crunch that was just beginning to soften. It's always amusing to see that loop after loop yours are the only new tracks showing. We did do one big push out to the sign line just this side of Surprise Trees which was just about acceptable crunch starting to turn to mush so not all that bad.

It was back up Polar Peak for three more loops where we noticed the Coaster was getting much softer as was the skiing surface under the chair - almost mellow in places. Time for lunch.

After lunch I went back to the New Side and put in several White Pass loops through the Gun Bowl and the I bowl which were becoming super soft easy skiing but for some reason no one was going in there. That soon changed and when I found ski school groups starting to appear in these areas I felt it was time to move on. I went to Polar and did about 10 loops of the very soft Coaster and then the under lift run with many variations all of which were getting softer to a greater or lesser (particularly by the left sign line) degree. I did intend to vary things a bit but the skiing was so good I just kept on looping.

Having made my last Polar chair with 30 seconds to spare I ran back round Trespass Trail to White Pass and had time for just one more run to base. As it has been since forever (or so it seems) it was Down Right (poor light but nice skiing) Trespass Trail (still quite slick on the corner but otherwise ok) Diamond Back (getting rather soft in the top) Summer Road (very soft and melted with patches starting to show) Lower Sib Ridge (still in pretty good shape and straight lineable for me after two turns).

Beers and good ski banter in the bar afterwards with several buddies. I expect tomorrow will be spring skiing - today's stuff boiler plate first thing becoming soft later in the dayand as I said, I am not sure how much of that the hill can take.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Day 91 slightly different conditions but wxactly the same result

Over the past month my blog has  had over 15,000 hits which averages out at over 500 per day. Over the past few days that number has been down in the 300/400 range and I can only conclude that my followers are as bored as I am with the conditions and want to read something other than - same old, same old. Well listen up guys no one wants to be able to write about change more than me but I am afraid that we are just getting one day after another exactly the same and Shakespeare himself would have had difficulty in breathing new life into the posts I have had to make over the past few days - to be or not to be (fresh snow) that is the question - is this a sheet of ice I see before me - friends romans countrymen lend me your carving skis - see what I mean.

No new snow overnight. Temps on the way to the hill were a balmy -8 but still cold enough to make sure everything remained bullet hard. The conditions were overcast high cloud which meant that today the light was flat even in the direct sunlight but it did clear a bit to give bluebird conditions by the end of the day. Up the mountain temps stayed well below zero and nothing softened. On the lower hill we had some plus temps but as the only things we were skiing there were the ski outs it didn't make much difference.

We went to the Old Side and found Boom, Cedar Ridge and Linda's closed due to conditions as they have been for some days. In the locker room we had been told that everything was icy and wind swept and there were signs to that effect on the hill. In practice we found things to be no worse than usual and in some places (such as lower Cedar Centre) quite a lot better. The signs were somewhat prophetic as during the day with a combination of skier traffic and wind scour most of the groomers became very slick and icy with large exposed areas of blue ice.

We did our usual poke round Bear, Arrow, Bow, North Ridge, Cruiser. Cedar Centre, Lower North Ridge and Lower Linda's. Things were slick but just about ok and the off piste options were limited - my speak for non existent. We did think about trying Fish bowl again but my guess was that it would be rather tracked up and sketchy - a buddy who went out there to try it confirmed this was a 100% accurate call. Very late in the morning we headed to the New Side.

Polar Peak was closed due to wind and most of the runs in White Pass were wind scoured hard ice. We looped White Pass three times, always dropping the Gun Bowl which was firm but ok ice skiing if you paid attention. Runs back were either through Quite Right (rather hard and slick) or the I bowl which was pretty ugly with the drop off from the traverse more or less pure refrozen crud. We ran to base the usual way (check last 10 days reports) but did ski out under the Polar Chutes to see where the snow had been blown from/to. Rather ambiguous results as we couldn't make head nor tail of what was happening to the snow and we will have to wait for a Polar opening to work it out for ourselves.

After lunch I linked up with some buddies for some high speed groomer skiing on the Old Side but soon realised that on my full rocker powder skis trying to keep up with guys who are 30 years younger than me could only have one result so I bailed to the New Side. I linked up with another buddy and we did many White Pass loops usually through Gun bowl (still hard icy crud skiing) and the I bowl (ditto) with the odd high speed run to base. We were genuinely surprise how many people seemed to prefer the slick groomers where control was real issue to the cruddy ungroomed where it was no place for the faint hearted but at least you were in control all the time if you were good enough.

Final run of the day we hit Currie Glades off the Polar Load and had a very pleasant surprise. The first few turns were very sketchy and you had to pick your way through cat debris but after that there was some blow in which was nice skiing. Lower down in the left cut gully the snow had really blown in deep (well a few cms but in a year like this you take what you can) and was untracked sift although I was told people had been in there before us but there were no signs..

Beers in the Griz with buddies and home for a quiet night. We are told that things should warm up tomorrow to the point where we will get softening, I will believe that when I see it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Day 90 and this really is copy and paste

Yesterday I posed the question "How many days have we had where the conditions have been bluebird (great viz in the direct sunlight and pretty poor every where else) no snow ( we had no snow over night) temps super cold ( well down into double figures) and everything staying bullet hard (nothing even began to soften today) well the answer to that somewhat rhetorical question was - at least one more after today.

Yes, today we just had more of the same.  It was -16 on the deck when I woke up and -14 on the drive to the hill. No new snow and the conditions were totally bluebird. Everything was rock hard all over the hill and even in the direct sunlight nothing showed the slightest inclination to soften. During the day temps rose but remained at well below zero all over the hill and even in the direct sunlight we were still looking at about zero. A wind sprung up later in the day particularly on the New Side and although this was good for giving us a little (very little) wind sift it did mean that with wind chill temps had to be at around -10 all over the hill.

We went to the Old Side and had our usual poke round Bear, Bow, Arrow and North Ridge. We were a little slow off the mark today due to the excellent party in the Kodiak Lounge last night with the lefties and ticket checkers who were celebrating something but I am not sure what - perhaps it was just the fact that it was Tuesday. We tried a couple of runs through Cedar Centre to try the ungroomed stuff in the trees which was rather chunky and not much good. Finally we went out to Fish Bowl again where it had been so good yesterday and found it was still ok but no more than dust on crust although it didn't look like anyone else had been out there and the ski out through Red Tree remained good. We decamped to the New Side.

Nothing much was happening on the New Side although it looked like Polar Peak was about to open. I was told later in the day that it had been open first thing and what we saw was it shutting down, but there you go. Several White Pass loops helped to while the time away and each time we dropped the Gun Bowl which was hard ugly tracked up ice and as such good fun challenging skiing. High Line and Quite Right were slick and fast but ok. We ran to base for lunch via the usual Currie Powder, Trespass Trail, Diamond Back, Summer Road and Lower Sib Ridge route. lunch was at the excellent Big Bang Bagels which is fast becoming my favourite lunch stop when we don't have sandwiches.

After lunch it was more New Side loops always via Gun Bowl in the run back to White Pass and alternating Currie Powder and Down Right in the run to base which were both very fast but interesting in the dreadful light you get in shaded areas on a bluebird day.

For last run my buddy Brad had an inspiration and we went back to the Old Side and hit Fish Bowl one last time. We stayed hard left and got fresh tracks in dust on crust even at that late stage of the day. The final Fish pitch and lower Red Tree were both really nice soft snow with some untracked lines to be found. We got to Bear with 35 seconds left on the clock and took a final run out to the Easter sign line which had a couple of good turns and quite a few not so good. The Freeway gully had some blow in on an icy base but you had to bail before the final pitch and finding an exit wasn't easy.

Beers in the Griz and an early night. Anyone want to bet that I am not going to copy and paste again tomorrow ?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Day 89 a few thoughts and a lot of time in the Fish Bowl

More of the Fish Bowl later. How many days have we had where the conditions have been bluebird (great viz in the direct sunlight and pretty poor every where else) no snow ( we had no snow over night) temps super cold ( well down into double figures) and everything staying bullet hard (nothing even began to soften today) - well. I guess I could check but it seems like most of February was like that and after brief hiccup yesterday when unaccountably we had some new snow, it looks like March is heading the same way if today is anything to go by. Actually the hill were only claiming 2 cms from yesterday's new snow which seems a little light to me and the base remains at 140 cms.

First of all a few thoughts. In 3 days time (Friday) we pass the point where my average cost of a day's skiing drops below 10 bucks a day - allowing for the price of my early bird pass plus tax. Normally this is an occasion for unconfined joy but this year I am not so sure. Given the conditions perhaps 10 bucks a day is no great bargain, come to think of it, if I get it below 8 a day by the end of the season it will represent no better than fair value as far as I am concerned and anyone on a higher average cost will have to make their own decision as to the value they have extracted this season.

Everyone loves to say how we always get the same amount of snow it's just when it comes that varies. Well. the next 7 days are forecast to give us just about zip by way of new snow. If you look at the remainder of the season and the average snowfall then we will need to get 20 cms per night every night for the rest of the season to give us to something like average. Anyone thinking this is even remotely likely please get in touch as I want to buy a bottle of whatever you are drinking.

It was very cold overnight and -14 on the way to the hill in bluebird conditions. Obviously it warmed up in the sun but nowhere up the mountain did I see anything warmer than -6 at any time and even as we drove back down the valley tonight it was -5. In the conditions light was good in the sun but in shadow (and on a North East facing hill there is plenty of that) it was very poor with some very flat conditions.

We ran around Lizard bowl looking for good stuff and just finding hard, icy but fast groomers. After a while we headed out the Red Tree which was very hard push in the cold conditions and not really that good. Just like yesterday it was sketchy and icy in the top but better lower down with some blow in. This gave me an idea of which more later. We went to the New Side and had the usual rips through the groomed areas of Puff, Quite Right and Heartland. Later I did try a run through Gun Bowl (it actually skied way better than I thought it would and there were some almost acceptable turns to be had in the blow in snow between the icy outcrops) and the I bowl (ugly ice with dust on crust even in the far end of the bowl which looked pretty good from the lift) before heading for lunch. Currie Powder/Trespass/Diamond Back/Summer Road/Sib Ridge were just as they have been - fast and testing but ok.

After lunch I had an idea. If the left of Red Tree was good through blow in the Fish Bowl would be even better plus, the cut back into Red Tree would be just about at the point where the snow softened and the skiing got good - I went off to test my theory. It isn't often a plan works out that well. First run into Fish on the near chutes was on a firm base covered with some good blow in and totally untracked. The creek bed half way down was full of soft snow and the traverse out onto the final pitch was easy. Last pitch down was untracked through the alders and the ski back into Red Tree could have been a lot worse. I laid fresh tracks in there over and over all afternoon Lower Red Tree was of course soft and easy.

I did 4 fish bowl loops never having to cross my tracks or anyone else's, in he circumstances a very good afternoon skiing. Just time at the end of the day for high speed rip to the New Side where Puff Trees and the cut right into Lift Line proved to be very challenging before an easy rip through Down Right and a ski off the hill non stop at high speed.

No chance of any new snow so we will have to be even more inventive tomorrow. As it is it's time for wings at the pub - good night.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Day 88 some new snow at least

Let's not get too carried away, we didn't have any new snow overnight but as forecast eventually it came first thing in the morning and then with few light flurries off and on all day falling away in the evening. The result was a very minor accumulation of maybe 4 cms (I think rather less) which got blown around as wind sift as the wind increased later in the day.

It was pretty cold on the way to the hill with temps of about -5 and overcast and snowing lightly. During today the temps fell so that during the day it was around -7 at most of the loads and a lot colder up the hill particularly in the increasing winds. Driving away from the hill it was still -5 so all in all it was a cold day with some new snow and not particularly good light. Forecasts are for things to get way colder tonight and maybe even a little more snow.

We went to the Old Side where the snow had only just started to fall but already had supplied a thin cushion between skis and surface. We skied round Bear, Arrow, Bow and Cascade in Lizard which all had newly softened surfaces. Later we pushed out into Cedar a couple of times and found the light very flat but the skiing ok on Trillium and Cedar Centre. We even skied lower Cedar Centre a couple  and found it very mellow despite the ice warnings - Runs down were by straight lining Lower Linda's and somewhere in there we had a rip down a very easy and soft North Ridge in the new snow.

We went to the New Side and after a couple of White Pass loops through Quite Right in the soft snow and an experiment with the off piste under the lift (still very hard) we did two Currie loops. One was through Down Right and the other was crossing the County Line then a cut back through Currie Powder which both skied better in the new snow. The run off via Diamond Back an Lower Sib Ridge was as good as it has been and super fast in the more friendly conditions. Lunch.

After lunch we decided that the new snow accumulating had to have made some improvement to the off piste and we headed to the Old Side to test the point. After a fairly scratchy run down Bascade we went out the Cedar bowl and had much better luck. The new snow was settling on the old hard but smooth ungroomed surface. We had three runs through Cedar Centre off the groomers and in the trees and gullies where the new snow appeared to have been blown in and made for some good soft skiing in between the hard ice outcrops. Not great free riding but totally awesome compared with what we have been getting.

We then took a risk and decided to go out to Redtree. It was generally decided that this would either be the best or worst decision of the day depending on whether the snow had been blown into, or blown out of that area. It turned out to be risk worth taking and the blow in was good (fantastic by this season's low benchmark) and we had first tracks even at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. This was the best run of the day by a big margin.

Just time to rip back to the New Side for a final loop and for the first time in ages I stuck my nose in Puff Trees and they skied just about ok with some hard icy patches but also areas of soft blown in snow where several good turns could be strung together. Our last run was down Currie Glades (again for about the first time in a week) and the hard base while still there was covered with some good blown in soft snow which allowed several turns to be strung together. The run off was just as usual and just as fast.

Beers in the Griz afterwards and a hint from a few people who should know that we may a centimetre  or more tonight. Perhaps tomorrow will be quite good as well.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Day 87 a metre of snow in 24 hours

Now of course we haven't had a metre of snow in 24 hours, nor are we going to get it but I just thought I would stick this in as a title to see if anyone was paying attention.

Over night we had no new snow and it was cold. Reports suggested it got as low as -16 at one time or another but all I know as a fact is that it was -13 on the deck when we got up, -11 on the drive to the hill and obviously it must have got way colder than that up the hill during the night. There was a light cloud covering first thing with a forecast it would become more cloudy during the day - it will come as no surprise to anyone that in this year when the forecasters having been getting it very wrong even by their own none too high standards. that the cloud cleared and we had a bluebird day for the afternoon. Temps stayed low up the hill with -5 at the various loads and a lot colder allowing for the wind chill (some said as low as -20) up Polar Peak As we drove away tonight it was zero in the valley and as a result nothing got even close to softening during the day. For what it is worth the base is back at 139 cms, any bets on the fact that this could be the first year in living memory when the base never exceeds 2 metres ?

We went to the New Side because I had heard that Puff had been groomed and I wanted to see that. The grooming was a little erratic and the light flattened half way down and as a result I skied at speed into icy bumps, stacked it big time and came away with some really big grazes and bruises on the inside of my right leg. As a matter of interest my buddy Miles stacked it in exactly the same spot in the afternoon but got away with a 3/4 yard sale and no major injuries.

We looped White Pass several times through Quite Right and Highline and even once through Hot Chocolate which allowed us to ski Puff again and get it right this time. After a while we went to Polar Peak where we found it to be clear and very cold with everything hard and the Coaster particularly slick and uninviting. We did two loops but were frozen and ran to base via the usual route - Currie Powder ( pretty slick) Trespass Trail (ok) Diamond Back ( much improved with some soft snow groomed in) Summer Road (now getting a little icy so we are just straight lining it) Lower Sib Ridge (now reduced to just three turns and some very high speed skiing)  and then over to Elk to ski the Old Side.

On the Old Side we poked around Bear, Arrow, Bascade etc and found everything hard and groomed with no chance of off piste skiing. In Cedar Bowl we had two loops of Cedar Centre and Cruiser finding that despite warning signs Lower Cedar Centre was not as bad and icy as official signs would have you believe. Lower North Ridge and Lower Linda's we all slightly better than they have been and were good fast skiing - we headed for a late lunch.

In the afternoon it was back up the New Side in cold but sunny conditions with nothing softening. Drops to White Pass load were always via the semi groomed Puff if only to make sure that there was no hang over from the mornings stack. We did more fast loops back through White Pass before heading up Polar Peak for two loops, (always traversing and running back under the chair) and finding the Coaster getting slicker than ever. After the usual run to base we were back up Polar for 4 more loops, this time majoring on the soft (well not that soft actually) snow to the skiers left of the Polar Chair.

We just had time for a high speed run to base (usual route) a high speed White Pass loop via a very slick Heartland before running off the hill through Down Right which skied ok but where the light flattened out it really sucked.

After last nights celebrations it is good just to have a couple of beers with friends in the Griz and a quiet night in. Of course we are supposed to be getting snow tonight but having seen to sky at sunset  I am not optimistic, let's hope I am wrong. Fingers crossed.