Friday, March 25, 2016

Day 106 a pretty good friday

So, today is a first for this season in that I am sitting out on my front deck at 18:40 drinking a beer and eating chips (crisps to the European readers) and enjoying the evening sunshine. That should tell you all you need to know about the conditions here late afternoon. On the way to the hill it was + 2 and promised to be overcast which gave us a real problem. Did we go low and wait for atmospheric warming to soften the overnight freeze, or go high and hope that yesterday's upper mountain conditions (zero temps most of the day ) meant that the snow up there would have stayed in reasonable shape. After consulting some patroller buddies we went for the latter option which in the event turned out to be an excellent decision.

During the day the base temps got up to about +9 and it was +8 as we drove away from the hill. I noticed mid afternoon that temps at the White Pass Load were +4 and even further up the mountain things remained warm and even warmer in any direct sunlight. The day gave us some bluebird conditions but from time to time graupel storms which ran all the way to the base came through and at those time the viz dropped to almost zero and the surface was topped up by the graupel which seemed to start melting almost as soon as it had fallen.

We went to the New Side and found great new snow on yesterday's soft base which had not yet started to soften in the warming conditions. We ran several loops through Knot Chutes and the I Bowl which had untracked lines and very soft snow on a firm base lower down. After our White Pass loops we got the word that the Saddles and more particularly the fans underneath the Saddles were in awesome shape as they had been closed for two days and had very deep untracked powder as a result.

We dropped Corner Pocket and were rewarded with a very mellow drop through the chute once that stupid rope had been removed and had awesome deep untracked lines all the way down to Dancer. The Dancer run hadn't been groomed and the snow got chunkier as we dropped down and was quite tough skiing in the last few turns. Next loop Polar Peak had opened but with a huge line up so guessing that the Polar Chute skiing would be no more than ok we dropped Corner Pocket again and found things just as awesome as before but this time the lower section of Dancer was staring to soften.

Next time up the Polar crowds had subsided but we went up and this coincided with a graupel storm with socked in viz which made the ski down the chutes tough work but even in the poor light it was easy to detect that the skiing was nowhere near as good as it was in the Saddles. I looked into Corner Pocket again but saw that the rope was now lying down the chute which meant that the side slippers had been in. I am always annoyed when I hear people bragging about how they have skied the Saddles and then say "of course we side slipped the chutes". Reality check guys, if you side slip the chutes you haven't skied them in any meaningful sense of the word and you should stay out of the chutes until you can ski or ride them properly without ruining them for everyone else. We dropped High Saddle which was skiing beautifully and we had soft edge to edge jumps all the way down and the fan underneath was just as good as before with many untracked lines.

Last run before a very very late lunch was up Polar Peak where the light had improved but a drop down Papa Bear just showed that the skiing was ok but no better. Knowing that the Saddles would be better we dropped High Saddle again and again got awesome skiing in the fans. The lower sections of Dancer were now really soft and very mellow skiing.

After lunch there was very little of the afternoon left so we tried a rerun on Knot Chutes and I bowl which proved to be very soft but ok skiing with the surface sliding out from under us. We decided that Polar would not have improved and was not worth the effort so we hit High Saddle one more time and unsurprisingly it was just as good as before and as far as I was concerned the best skiing on the hill by a big margin. We just had time for a quick loop and tried 1-2-3's which was good winter snow and skied almost as well as the Saddles but not quite. Bootleg Glades were a little more challenging but didn't ski all that badly although a bit chunky before the Gilmar Trail.

Last run we dropped off Timber Top into some permutation of Lift Line/Big Bang which we had been skiing all day and which was soft and steep skiing and as good as it had been all day. Skydive as a finale was a piece of work. We had bumps, soft snow, crust, ice and almost every condition except powder. The strange thing was that the surface was chopped up soft crud in the top which got harder and icier as we went down softening only in the last few turns - how that came about was beyond all of us but it was a very tough end to the day.

Beers as usual while the head wall was heli bombed in fairly spectacular fashion. Tomorrow looks like spring going on Summer skiing - maybe time to dig out the shorts. It's not often we get 5 drops in a daythrough the Saddles at this time of year with everything skiing so well.

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