Thursday, January 28, 2016

Day 49 a real day for appropriate equipment

Apologies for the late report but I had to drive to Cranbrook (I'm sorry Rocky Mountain International) airport to pick up an Irish sailing buddy who is coming out to stay. Skiing with an Irish sailing buddy, what could possibly go wrong there.

The reference in today's heading is to one of my often quoted sayings - There is no such thing as bad conditions, only inappropriate equipment and inadequate skill levels. Well, I will leave judgements on skill levels to others (and I have no doubt there will be plenty of those) but today was really a day when you needed the right equipment or you would have a most miserable day.

Overnight it rained in the valley and was +2 and light rain as we drove to the hill. During the day temps rose to +3 before falling away to +2 as we drove away this evening. The only change to the rain was that it just got harder as the day went on soaking everything in the base area and anyone who ran to base or skied on the lower mountain.

These conditions seem to put people off but personally I don't see it. When it's cold we dress to stay warm so why is it so difficult to grasp the concept that when it is wet we should dress to stay dry. Today I had my boot gloves to keep my feet dry, my heavy duty rubber fishing pants to keep my lower body dry and a plastic poncho under my yellow plastic rain jacket to keep my upper body dry. Most importantly (because I hate wet hands) were my heavy duty lined rubber gloves all of which kept me warm and dry all day despite skiing 6 hours in rain/snow conditions. As an aside my complete set of rain gear cost me about 120 bucks from Canadian Tire which is a fraction of the cost of some expensive ski jacket which would let in water after an hour or two.

I went up the New Side as it was a day to get as high as possible and found that the rain line was just below the White Pass load. Above this it was snow which became heavier as the day went on and by the end of the day I imagine we must have had at least 10 cms. The snow itself was heavy and wet and tended to ball when skied so one skier would trash a run in a single line. The only good thing was that the runs were repairing very fast in the new snow. A strange phenomenon was that there was an under crunch at the top of the hill and as we clearly hadn't had any sun I can only assume that the rain had gone to the top of the hill during the night and then the snow line had moved down giving a covering on the crust - at least that's the only explanation I could come up with.

A lot of the hill was closed - all of Currie Bowl beyond the County Line, Lift Line and Sib Ridge, Anaconda Glades, Knot Chutes to mention only a few. The real problem was the viz which was even worse than yesterday, something I would not have thought possible. This meant that if you stayed in White Pass you could not see for most of your run and if you ran to base for better viz you got soaked. With my wet gear I chose a mixture. I didn't try the Old Side as this is lower and would have been in the rain all day. Reports I received suggested that at the very top it was ok but deteriorated quickly as you skied down.

I spent all morning looping White Pass and Surprise Trees which were good heavy mushy snow and then running to base via Currie Glades and Bootleg Glades which were heavy at the top and got way heavier as you went down. Below the run outs were slushy in pouring rain. By lunch time the snow line had dropped to about the top of Gilmar Trail.

In the afternoon I went back up the New Side and this time stayed in White Pass looping in what was quite heavy snow (in every sense of the word) through Quite Right, Pillow Talk, Surprise Trees etc. An example of the poor viz was when I had to try and get to the washrooms at Timber Top from White Pass top. My rubber pants are great at keeping you dry but not the most convenient clothing if you need to answer a call of nature - it's a full derigging job. On the way I skied right off the trail and stacked it down a slope I never saw, furthermore the only way I found what I was looking for was by listening to the winding engine at Timber and following the sound, yes, it was that socked in.

After some great loops in the White Pass area in very wet heavy snow we decided on a last run to base through Triple Trees. This became heavy and wet just above Trespass trail and super heavy elephant snot just above Summer Road. We bailed on doing the final pitch as the snow was real ACL ripping stuff and took the cat track down.

A beer before heading off to Cranbrook in pouring rain. The hill now sits with very heavy mushy snow on the upper part and rain affected elephant snot on the lower sections. The forecast is for a cooling trend with more precip. If things work out in our favour this could mean a firm base with some new snow covering, if things go differently the outcome could be altogether less fun. Only thing to do is to go to the hill tomorrow and see what happens.

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