Friday, March 4, 2016

Day 85 Summer skiing

Yes, this wasn't spring skiing today like you might expect late in March (you certainly wouldn't expect it this early in the month) this was full on summer skiing of the type we might expect up on the Hintertux Glacier in August. We all knew this was going to be an El Nino year but nothing could have prepared us for the continuing warm temps and particularly the nights when it never gets below zero which is something we have never really experienced before. Unsurprisingly the effect on the hill is not good but all things considered there are areas which are hanging on way better than you might have expected.

On the way to the hill this morning it was +3 and they were calling 6 cms of fresh snow. That 6 cms was the grauppel storms that hit us just as we finished skiing yesterday and they gave a fresh covering but not awesome deep snow or anything like. During the day the sun came out and we had temps of +10 at the base and even +4 at the Polar Peak load. These measurements were taken well in the shade so in the direct sunlight (which affected much of the hill and our skiing) the temps had to be a good 5 degrees or more above those in the shade.

The effect on the hill was swift and predictable. Low down everything started to soften very quickly and everywhere in the direct sunlight it turned to thick elephant snot. Away from the direct sunlight things just got soft but north facing slopes held together ok and we good soft skiing on a previously firm base.

First off we went to the Old Side and poked around looking for some good untracked skiing which had not got too soft. Cedar Ridge, New Lift Line, Boomerang and similar places were just about ok but softening fast. Kangaroo was good soft surfaces on a hard ice base although lower down it became very mushy and slow motion skiing. After a while of poking around looking for good stuff we realised that things were just turning to mushy rubbish and we would be best served by hitting the New Side.

On the New Side Lift line was soft and fairly smooth and skiing about as well as I can remember. The Saddles were open so we hit them. Corner Pocket was easy skiing after the tires with only a few edge to edge jumps to get out of the chute. High Saddle had a really icy section in the middle but was soft skiing and good jump turns above and below that section. Low Saddle has softened so even though the final turn before cutting right was little icy it was way better than it has been all year as you could actually get an edge to hold in the chute.

All our runs under the Saddles were in untracked deep snow which was just awesome. We then cut right into the lower parts of Easter which skied very nicely in the top but was starting to get mushy lower down. By our final loop it was getting very sticky indeed. We intended to go to lunch but it looked like Polar Peak was going to open as the viz had improved, After lining up for a while we were told that there was a technical problem so we dropped Currie Glades which were easy mellow soft snow skiing in order to have a rather late lunch.

After lunch we went back up the New Side and spent all afternoon looping Polar Peak which had by then opened. Everything skied very easily in soft chunky snow and we not only looped (on a number of occasions) Papa Bear but also Grand Papa Bear and Shale Slope which we have avoided for a few weeks because they were so icy but in the melting conditions even they were taking an ok edge. Just before the close on Polar we ran to base through Concussion which was a bit soft but nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.

After a very mellow hike up to Mitchy Chutes last run was Skydive and special mention has to go to the group of snow boarders who thought it was good idea to sit around on the traverse just round a blind corner just hanging out - I would have said something but who was it said, you can't fix stupid. Lots of beers to celebrate a day when despite the conditions we managed to ski the Saddles and Polar Chutes most of the time which are great places to ski.

I am seriously worried about the forecast which calls for continuing warm temps (the freeze line above Polar Peak) and significant precip - this could get messy.

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