Saturday, March 12, 2016

Day 93 more wet and soggy skiing

Overnight we had rain in the valley. On the way to the hill it was +3 and only raining lightly. I was not sure whether or not to go to full rain gear but by the time I had got my boots on it was full on rain day so I had my long green garbage sack, yellow Canadian Tire plastic jacket and red rubber gloves. As a result I remained dry and toastie all morning despite the heavy precip.

Of course we had the usual reports that the conditions up in White Pass were "awesome" and as usual these proved to be a complete load of bollocks - the conditions up in White Pass were marginal at best. I am not sure of the temps up top as the thermometer at the White Pass load was broken, or if it wasn't then it was -30 up there which personally I serious doubt. It had to be plus temps all the way to the top of Timber and maybe just about zero at the top of White Pass as a best guess.

We went to the New Side and found that it was snowing very wet snow up in White Pass. We had what has become the usual White Pass problem this year. The only good snow was right at the very top and this is in the clouds with viz socked in and skiing all but impossible away from any features to give some depth perception. Below the cloud which was around the bottom of the Gun Bowl the snow was heavy elephant snot on a scratchy refrozen base left over from yesterday.

I spent all morning looping White Pass in the very wet snow and never thought of running to base as obviously it would be pouring with rain down there. For the same reasons I never thought of going to the Old Side or expected Polar Peak to open. My loops were usually across the Gun Bowl and then dropping the fence line (both sides) by Knot Chutes as being the only visible reference points available. Runs down were the I Bowl, Surprise Chutes, Quite Right and Pillow Talk which I ran many times in the various tight chutes just above the chair lift. I did consider Surprise Trees but rejected them on the grounds that the slush line was so high I would have had over half the run in elephant snot and for some reason that didn't appeal.

Last run before lunch we hit Alpha Centauri which skied ok of the traverse for the first few turns before coming a real glue pot on the way down. It says something when Gilmar Trail is the highlight of a Currie Bowl loop. Over lunch it stopped raining at the base so I changed to more normal ski gear which kept me warm and dry in the afternoon.

In the afternoon I went back up the New Side in the now rainless conditions and just continued with what I had done all morning. the only additions were a few Knot Chute laps which were just mushy crud on a scratchy base and at the end of the day the light finally lifted enough to ski Gun Bowl under the lift. It wasn't really worth it as just like the Knot Chutes it was soft crud on a scratchy basis - not quite the "awesome" of the official reports.

Last run of course was Skydive and whilst we hoped that the Reverse Traverse had been closed, it hadn't so we had no choice but to go and ski it in the name of tradition despite the fact that we all knew it was going to suck, In the event it sucked far less than yesterday just being soft elephant snot and not the hard crust of yesterday, I think the improved conditions were probably due to the fact that the rain had stopped at lunch and the snow had been drying a bit during the afternoon. The drop proved a major cardio work out so we were ready for beers.

We only had a quick beer in the Griz due to the volume of the band. Now I don't want to sound like an old fart and if I am going to listen to music then it can be as loud as you want - but - in an apres ski bar the main entertainment is talking about the day's skiing and if the music is so loud that you can only just hear what someone says if they are less than a foot from you and shouting then to my mind the music is way too loud. We went to the Kodiak lounge where we could hear what we all wanted to say about the day's skiing and drink some very cheap beer.

They are calling for a cooling trend but as we drove away from the hill tonight it was +5 and raining and I doubt that the sow/rain line was anywhere below the White Pass load. I am not optimistic.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Day 92 and the cost of skiing drops below 10 bucks a day

Yes, this is the day that my average cost of skiing drops below 10 bucks a day and as such is a cause for great celebration. This season it has to be debatable as to whether or not all the days were worth 10 bucks, some undoubtedly have been and others, well, they should have paid me 10 bucks for skiing them. Today was a day when we got our moneys worth just about. Of course it is an interesting observation that my average beer bill each evening is 20 bucks or there about so as we stand today my drinking is costing me about twice as much as my skiing - not sure what this proves but it must mean something.

They were calling some snow last night but it was really what fell during yesterday afternoon and there was little or no evidence of anything new today. The forecast was for bluebird conditions in the morning and clouding over a bit in the afternoon and for once the the forecasters got it dead right. It had frozen overnight so that everything had set up hard from yesterday and although temps rose to +7 at the base and +4 at Timber Top most of the softening we got was as result of direst sunlight. On the lower slopes where we had rain yesterday it remained crusty (breakable crust) and very nasty skiing.

We went to the Old Side and found that everything off the groomers was hard breakable rain crust and very unpleasant skiing. At the very top the first couple of turns were ok but below that it was very technical crust skiing. After a few tries at finding some good ungroomed skiing (unsuccessfully) we went to the New Side. I understand from buddies who tried the Old Side later in the day that it didn't really get any better.

On the New Side Puff was a lovely firm bump run as long as you stayed away from he groomed track in the middle. We ran several runs back through White Pass and found good soft snow in the Gun Bowl, under the Lift, Pillow Talk and many other lines which were soft snow with what looked like a bit of wind sift from yesterday. We decided to start looping Currie as Polar peak was not yet open.

Alpha Centauri was soft and smooth in the top and quite soft all the way down. Concussion was getting very soft very quick and as such was mellow slush skiing in the direct sun light. The final run before lunch was 1-2-3s and we were amazed to find it as soft snow all the way through with maybe a couple of crusty turns at the end of 3s - the best snow on the hill up to that point. We had run off the hill through Gilmar Trail which was a bit slick but skiing ok but last run before lunch we dropped Diamond Back which we thought might be quite soft. We were wrong it was hard icy crud with frozen hard chicken heads all over the place. It didn't soften at all and was our second worse call of the day.

After lunch we were back to the New Side and found that Lift line didn't suck quite so much as the morning but it was still pretty tough. Polar Peak was open but we had unfinished business with 1-2-3s. While our group skied these we hit the Crutch which looked great untracked skiing when I jumped in. I found the reason that it looked untracked was that it was boiler plate and I was suspended tip and tail going through the choke in some very technical skiing - it softened out underneath into some good edge to edge jumping down into 2s which were good and soft as before.

We continued to loop 1-2-3s but I took the high IT out to Gotta Go and I managed to get into Google Earth which only had one track in front and was excellent deep powder into the top of 3's which didn't exactly suck as a piece of skiing.

It was getting late so we went to Polar Peak and found that the top few turns in the Polar Chutes were closed and the way to access the good stuff was to drop Shale Slope and then cut into the Polar Chutes on the high traverse, the good news was that they were keeping the lift running to 3:55 so we had several runs in Grand Papa and Papa Bear back to the lift which were all excellent soft snow skiing with a few technical sections to keep it a bit interesting. We also witnessed the noisiest slide from a lady who lost it in the top of Grand Papa but luckily all she suffer was the loss of a cell phone.

All this meant that we could run straight from Polar to Skydive for the final run. We had speculated that Skydive would really suck and we were right - the worst call of the day. The top few turns were ok then it was crust all the way down until about half way down the final pitch when it turned soft and if anything this was even worse than the crust. In the bar some buddies who had skied Decline as a last run tried to claim that it sucked more than Skydive but for my part I was skeptical - perhaps we should call it a draw.

More precip on the way and the forecasters are calling it in mils, and not cms which is never a good sign. Who knows how it will turn out.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Day 91 wet and windy

First of all apologies for last night it was a very good party. Tonight's report may be a bit brief as we have more friends round but I am taking the precaution of typing this before any significant quantities of alcohol get consumed.

Overnight it snowed and we all got very excited because of the 20+cms of snow that everyone had been talking about. In the event they called 11 cms overnight which was probably right at the snow plot but the description of it as a "power alert" this morning was probably stretching reality a bit more than was credible. The snow on top was very heavy and wet and at the White Pass load it was pure elephant snot right from the start. The lower mountain was rain affected mush until later in the day when it became refrozen crud where it had been skied and crust where it hadn't.

On the way to the hill it was raining in a zero temp which clearly meant that the precip had to be coming out of a warm air mass. We obviously went to the New Side to get height but the rain line was almost up to the White Pass load and got higher during the day. I haven't spoken to anyone who tried the Old Side but I imagine it would have been low and wet. It would appear that my view was shared in official quarters as despite me being on a very early chair there were loads of tracks in White Pass which suggests to me that the pay for powder groups had been there rather than in their usual haunts on the Old Side presumably because the conditions over there were just too crap. Let's hope this isn't the start of a trend - don't get me started.

Lift Line was very heavy in the top and pure elephant snot in the last two  turns. Currie was closed so we spent the morning looping Knot Chutes, Gun Bowl, Pillow Talk, Surprise Trees (several times) and other area in White Pass. The viz was poor in the top and the snow was heavy on a hard base but just about ok skiing. Temps hung in at around zero on the upper mountain and warmed to +4 at the base. It was wet snow on top all morning which I guess would have been rain below but we didn't think it was a good idea to drop and find out.

Mid morning they opened Curried bowl but we hung back and had three loops in Anaconda which was soft but very mushy with some huge self created wet snow sloughs. We got tired of looping back down Trespass trail and as the rain appeared to have slackened we hit Diamond Back which was ok on a firm base in tracked up mush. Last run before lunch we went out and found only the low traverse open in Currie so we took Alpha Centauri which was soft and untracked in the top and rather mushy after the trees.

After lunch we started dropping Puff every loop on the New Side as it was soft chopped up crud on a not too firm base. Our afternoon loops were -
1-2-3s/Gilmar Trail - very good wind sift in the top (the wind start blowing very seriously in White Pass from early after noon) and a bit heavy low down. The ski out was smooth and soft.
Concussion - as the rain had stopped the surface was starting to set up a little in the chute but mostly ok,
Easter Bowl - a very weird experience in that we had untracked snow which skied like powder but was clearly some kind of heavy melted snow, good GS turns all the way down
1-2-3s - like before it was good wind sift in the top but setting up as hard crunch in 3s.
Skydive - last run which was crust down to about half way and very technical as a result. Below that it softened an by the final turns we were getting good old fashioned ACL ripping mush.

All in all an ok day in very testing conditions dominated by the warm temps and heavy mushy snow. We had new snow but no way could it be described as powder. Everywhere was heavy snow on a firm base, There is more precip on the way. let's see what it comes down as.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Day 90 no new snow but who knows what the future holds

A brief late report because I have been drinking, hot tubbing and then drinking some more with buddies, not to mention some skiing as well.

The forecasters said today would be overcast first thing with base temps up to +7 and then sunny this afternoon. That was complete rubbish as we got overcast conditions all day which even gave us some very light flurrie activity in the afternoon. Base temps never got above +2 and the temps at the White Pass load mid afternoon was -2 and at Polar Load it was -4. In other words things were way colder than called for which may be good news in the light of the precip that is supposed to heading our way tonight.

We went to the Old Side and had great loops down Cedar Ridge (many times and in many ways) in untracked soft snow on a firm base. Boom Ridge, Boom Guts and Linda's were also soft and untracked on a firm base. Kangaroo was had ugly ice bumps and as such was the only run that skied just as good as it always did - we hit it four or five times on the way back from Cedar and it was just as tough every time.

After lunch we went to the New Side which seemed to ski a bit harder on a more icy base with temps dropping to well below zero. Lynda wanted to try Alpha Centari so we did and it was good as long as you kept up the speed to stay on top, Next loop we went up Polar Peak where we encountered the classic Papa Bear problem in that the really good wind sift only began at the point where you needed to loop out to get back to the chair. We looped it once and then got seduced by the lower section of wind sift which was sensational. Our run to base was through Easter bowl which was soft and deep and untracked most of the way down.

We only had time for a Siberia Ridge loop which skied way better than you would have expected in some blown in untracked snow. It was then time for Skydive although I seem to have left out some really good White Pass loops through Pillow Talk and at least one other loop into Currie which seems to escape me for all the reasons previously explored.

Skydive was good as were the beers afterwards. As I said apologies for this alcohol affected report - normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Day 89 way better than I expected

Yes, today I had no great expectations of good skiing and although things were still a long way short of being awesome or anything like there was some pretty good skiing to be had in the overnight snow.

Overnight they were calling 5 cms of fresh which seemed about right and during the day off and on we had flurries which gave us grauppel all over the hill. This was particularly amazing as base temps during the day got to +4 but the precip still came down white - just about. It was strange as with plus temps over most of the hill the new snow was soft but the underbase was quite hard high up and becoming mushy lower down. I am not doing a very good job of describing the conditions but they were so varied and strange that it is hard to find any normal parameters to describe what we had. Let us say it was soft fresh snow with a very varied under layer and leave it at that.

Temps on the way to the hill were +1 and it warmed slightly during the day. Even on top we had just about plus temps but with no direct sunlight the snow stayed in good condition. It was overcast with the odd break in the clouds but for the most part were were getting flurries. Even as we drove away it was +3 with a rain snow mix and obviously some wintery showers up the hill. On the downside it does look as if all precip has stopped for the moment.

We went to the Old Side and found good untracked skiing on a firm base in New Lift Line although by the lower sections the under surface was becoming soft. Kangaroo only had one track in and was firm bumps with a soft covering. We put first tracks in Boom Ridge which was also soft on top and getting softer lower down. Boomerang was also very lightly tracked.

Next loop we went all the way out to Snake Ridge where there was just one track in front of us and the skiing was fine as the new snow provided a bridge on the breakable crust underneath but it was touch and go as to whether this bridge would hold on every turn. We the hit Cedar Ridge (lightly tracked and soft mellow skiing) Linda's (ditto) and Cedar Ridge Left (also ditto). I even dropped an untracked chute into the Gulch which was just about ok soft snow on crust and totally trashed after just one run through.

All exits were through Kangaroo which got softer as the morning wore on and was ok if rather unusual skiing. Our final run before lunch was through Bear Chutes which were unracked but with a bit of debris in them and skiing ok. We went for lunch and afterwards went to the New Side on the grounds that the flurries were likely to turn to rain low down so going high for the afternoon was a good plan - by and large it worked.

Lift Line was ok soft snow on a very firm base as were all the variations of drops from Timber Top to White Pass load. Polar Peak was closed so our first loop out was Easter Bowl which was mostly untracked and great soft snow as long as you kept your speed up to stay on top. We next dropped Decline which was tracked but with lots of untracked lines to be found in the trees along side. Window Chutes  only had two tracks in front of us and skied very mellow even to the point of the base softening as we got to the chokes to make for about the easiest transit of the year.

We decided to try Cougar Glades and as always found that the few tracks in the top soon disappeared and we found great untracked lines down to the cat track. Just as things were getting soft and tree skiing didn't seem like such a good idea we cut out into the lower parts of Stag Leap which skied very soft and mellow.

With some time to kill I looped White Pass and had my only disappointment of the day in Knot Chutes which I found a bit chunky on top and scratchy underneath. Surprise Trees skied ok with a rather firmer base than was ideal.

Last run was Skydive which skied much better than any of us anticipated. The top two sections were very soft and smooth and you could rip fast GS turns all the way through. The final pitch was still soft snow but the base was a bit firm and lumpy and hard work for the end of the day. Good job there was plenty of beer to revive us in the Griz afterwards. Who knows what we will see tomorrow as no one predicted what we actually got today.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Day 88 not a bad day all things considered

Yes, we can put away the crapiness tables to assess today's skiing but let's not get carried away, we are a long way away from breaking out the awesomeness tables. All in all it was pretty good days skiing and way better than the last two days although to be fair that is setting the bar pretty low.

Overnight they were calling for about 5 cms of new snow but that was the wintery grauppel that was falling as we left the hill yesterday and didn't extend much below the snow plot where the measurement was taken. It was just about minus temps in the valley as we set out to the hill and that gave us the expectation that we would be getting hard refrozen crud away from the groomers. In the event the ungroomed snow was very mixed in quality and as days go this was about one of the most varied I have ever skied and trying to guess what would be good was very difficult.

During the day we had sunshine in the morning clouding over in the afternoon and eventually getting snow/ice pellets late in the day which extended even down to the base for our final run. Temps rose and in some places we had soft sun affected snow, in other atmospheric warming softened to a lesser degree and still in others we didn't have any softening at all, as I said it was strange day and very difficult to work out what any run might be like at any particular time. Generally temps rose so that it was about +2 at the Polar load by mid afternoon but they cooled a bit later in the day as the conditions changed to more wintery conditions.

We went to the New Side to pick up what remains of last nights storm we could and found some untracked grauppel around but nothing giving what you might describe as powder skiing. We looped White Pass several times and found great skiing in the Gun Bowl but some very varied surfaces below which ranged from soft fresh snow to hard refrozen crud. Polar Peak was open so we went up for three loops of Papa Bear which skied as a firm but smooth base taking a good edge but with the usual severe penalty for getting it wrong.

We ran to base through Alpha Centauri which was crusty on top but soon mellowed out to great soft fresh snow. The lower parts remained tough and icy skiing. Next time up we dropped Lift Line off Timber which was hard ugly and icy crud and remained that way all day, every time we dropped it no matter what happened on the rest of the hill. We went back up Polar and had more great loops through Papa Bear (steep smooth and mellow) Shale Slope (ok but a few rocks in the bottom and cut under the lift was hard and icy) and Barely legal which was good to start with and a little icy in the exit chutes.We ran to lunch through Concussion which was softening in the sun so quickly that it was actually mush in the lower pitches.

After lunch we were back up Polar Peak to try Grand Papa Bear which we had been told was ugly and icy - in the event it was ok with some icy patches but with the surface softening a little. Next drop we got diverted by a slider in Barely Legal and by the time my buddy had taken the ski down to her we were below the loop back line. We tracked out to Easter bowl which had softened away from the sun and was variable soft skiing on a firm base with some avi debris.

We went back and tried a few More Polar loops of Grand Papa ( slightly worse than before in terms of ice) Barely Legal (much more icy in the exit chutes) and Papa Bear (staring to get a bit firm and bare) so so tougher skiing in the Polar chutes and as a result much more fun. We did a run through Concussion which was just starting to set up as was everything below and the slightly firmer surface made for some of the best skiing of the day with soft under surface.

Last run of course was Skydive which was hardly tracked (I think I could still see my last track from last night) but mostly breakable crust although the general consensus was that it was nowhere near as bad as we all thought it would be. So not a bad finish.

Every time up Polar Peak we had seen a lot of  "weather" out to the west and we expected to be hit by it during the day. As it was we didn't get anything until last run but we have to hope that we get something overnight. That having been said with temps on the deck of +4 any precip may be a two edged sword - lets see.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Day 87 a very crappy day

Yes folks on the crappiness scale we have moved up (or down depending on how you look at it) from pretty crappy to very crappy in the space of 24 hours. I hope things are going to improve as was suggested by conditions at the end of the day in White Pass as I am not quite sure where the scale would go after "very" I hope we don't have to find out.

On my deck this morning it was +1 and raining hard. These conditions continued all the way to the hill and it was just wet and ugly when we got there. Two things were obvious to me, firstly that the full wet gear including rubber gloves and pants and my plastic jacket were going to be needed to keep dry - not very trendy ski gear but warm and dry and that's all that counts to me. Secondly the only place to go was White Pass to try and get high and get the winter conditions. As it turned out we could have gone anywhere as long as we were water proof as everything was in the rain line.

Despite the rain below we had been told that conditions in White Pass were awesome, ha-ha-ha. The rain line was already well above White Pass load when I got there and the conditions were chopped up heavy mush on a scratchy base except where there had been no skier traffic and there is was mushy on soft Elephant Snot. In fact the conditions everywhere I went all morning were chopped up mush on a scratchy base so can we just take that as read.

I looped White Pass many times as it was obvious that Polar Peak wasn't going to open in the poor viz. Everywhere I went conditions were as described but just to make things more interesting the poor viz line drifted steadily down the hill until just before lunch it was socked in almost all the way down to base.

Having exhausted the joys of a mushy wet socked in White Pass I started running to base. Alpha Centauri was heavy in the top but skied better in the bowl under the trees. Concussion was very marginal in poor light and a heavy surface that had no adhesion to the under layer. Both exits were via Gilmar Trail and the Meadow which actually skiied not too badly although the light was poor until the lower Meadow. After a few more loops of White Pass where by now rain was pretty much to the top and viz was more or less non existent I ran out to Easter Bowl and had a very heavy mushy run in pure elephant snot down to a late lunch.

After lunch I did more White Pass loops and things started to change as the freeze line started coming down the hill. The rain which had been evident all the way to the top of the hill started to turn to snow and things started to get a bit wintery in lower temps. One of the problems with my full rain gear is that my rubber fishing pants don't have a zipper so if I am in need I have to find a washroom to pretty well get undressed for what would normally just be a quick yellow snow break. I was in need so I ran to base through Deep Sea as a short cut and it actually skied really well with mush on a firm base.

By the time I got back up to White Pass things had really changed and the temps at the White Pass Load which had been about +2 all day in the rain was now down to zero and full winter conditions with puking snow were evident in the whole of White Pass. I did a few more loops on the new soft snow which skied soft and fast as for some reason the under surface did not appear to have set up. After some great loops in the fresh snow it was time for the last run - actually I was about 15 minutes early but who was counting.

Skydive as last run skied great with soft snow on a firm base for the first few turns but then just got heavier all the way down and by the time you were making your final turns well below the rain line it was almost like water skiing. Once again the beers were well deserved.

A couple of further points - run of the day was Puff as it was large soft bumps on a firm base but with a slippery surface and was the favoured drop from Timber Top to White Pass load all day - the usual Lift Line was just some rather uninteresting mush.

Finally, a number of people have asked the question, "if conditions are so crappy why am I still skiing them ?" the answer is pretty simple, the alternative to skiing them is not skiing at all and any skiing (no matter how crappy) is better than no skiing at all. Let's hope for a better day tomorrow.