Thursday, December 8, 2016

Days 4-7 Life in the Freezer

So we continue with my attempts to write up several days at a time and as far as that goes conditions have been pretty  cooperative in that the last 4 days have been rather similar. This has allowed me to get into my new winter regime which involves going to the gym on any morning that isn't a powder day or a Saturday and run 12 klicks on the treadmill before clocking in to the hill about half an hour late. This together with cutting out the booze (nothing drunk in the past 16 days since I landed in Canada) should keep me in ok shape for next summers running season. But I digress.....

Returning to the main theme of this evening's symposium, those who follow the blog closely will remember that Sunday night we were all excited as it was puking snow with more in the forecast and looking good for a powder Monday. Well, our hopes were fulfilled, we had just over 25 cms of fresh deep powder which came down at about -5 and pushed the base to a little over 1 metre where it stayed, only dropping to 98cms today. This gave us great coverage on the upper hill and much improved the situation on the lower hill.

Monday evening temps started falling as an Arctic high moved in and we thought things were cold on Tuesday when daytime highs only reached -12. We didn't know we were born as for Wednesday and Thursday the Arctic high persisted which of course gave us perfect bluebird conditions without a cloud in the sky but very cold. In fact a better description of conditions over the past couple of days could best be described a fricking freezing with daytime highs at the White Pass load never getting above -20 and starting temps even at the base were about -24. All of this kept the snow in great shape but did mean that we were so wrapped up that skiing was tough.

The openings on the hill continued. The Old Side opened Lizard bowl across as far a Freeway and Cedar bowl to about half way across. I can't make much comment on the Old Side as for reasons I will leave others to speculate upon neither Boomerang Chair nor the Haul Back T bar were running. This meant that if you dropped into Cedar the only way back was along traverse round the Cedar Trail which was bad enough but then the only way back into the circuit was via Elk Chair which is so slow that people could die of old age waiting to get to the top. This only left Lizard bowl for quick loops and as I always feel there is better skiing to be had than Lizard I only skied the Old Side a couple of times when Timber Chair went down. Apart from that it has been a New Side opening week where things have been much better.

The New Side story was one of continuing rolling openings as work continued in the newly covered areas. In Timber bowl everything opened up to Timber Lift Line all the way across to Anaconda including all the Knot Chutes and the drop in to Gotta Go. I think Surprise Tress may still have a conditions closure but as I haven't been there for a couple of days I can't be sure. The Reverse traverse was steadily extended giving us the Currie Chutes, then Easter Bowl, Lone Fir and the Big Three (note to new readers don't call them the fingers) including the Window Chutes. Finally the Saddles opened yesterday so we have it all. My only confusion is that for the past two days the lower parts of Skydive and Decline have been open and they have been fine if a bit twiggy in the bottom. Today they were closed which makes no sense to me as conditions certainly have not deteriorated.

The skiing in the newly opened areas has of course been sensational in deep untracked snow where we were laying down first tracks of the season in many places. Particularly good were Corner Pocket (easy in the chute with no tires showing), High Saddle, Low Saddle (amazingly not icy) Lone Fir, Anaconda Glades Easter (many untracked lines in the trees to skiers right) Cougar Glades (sensational and first tracks but a bit twiggy low down) Skydive, Stag Leap, Decline, Window Chutes (almost taken out in the choke by my own slough) and Spinal Tap (first tracks and awesome but a bit technical crossing the creek bed low down) and of course all the Currie Chutes. Even by pre Christmas standards there have been very few people on the hill due to the cold so every day has been a powder day with loads of untracked deep lines to be had.

In case I get accused of painting too rosy a picture it has to be acknowledged that where the snow has ben tracked the skiing is pretty tough and you can end up feeling very beat up. The cold temps have dried out the snow and made it hard and chunky always trying to throw you off balance. Add to this the fact that early season hazards (rocks and twigs) mean that you can't always take the line you want and when you do twigs catch you edges and tails and your pole gets hooked up dragging you into the back seat then the skiing is difficult in places. The cold takes it's toll on the muscles and being in about 6 layers of clothing adds to the workload. In other words it isn't all beer and skittles.

In summary we have had a great opening week as long as you are not an aspiring princess when it comes to cold temps. The outlook for the next week is continuing cold with no daytime high getting above -14 and quite a few lower than that. On the precip front we are promised some flurries over the next three days which should give measurable accumulations although at these temps the snow density will be very low indeed. So I am fairly optimistic although I have to accept that for some the continuing cold means that their season start will be delayed even further.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Days 2-3 Opening Weekend

Ok, this is something new for me as well, trying to write about more than one day at a time so please bear with me. I will try and cover the topics in a kind of logical order but I can't promise anything.

Lets start with the crowds first. I had anticipated that Saturday would be even busier than opening day but I was wrong. We got to the hill about half past 8 and parked in line 2 of lot 2. It was more like a weekday than a weekend. As the day wore on more people turned up so there were a few short line ups but nothing to get excited about and by afternoon the hill was quiet as was the Griz Bar for a Saturday night. Sunday was just as quiet with no crowds at any time and the Griz was busy but this was due to the happy hour offers to staff which are going to be a feature of Sundays, my guess is that there were about half a dozen non staff in there tonight. So a pretty quiet opening weekend Some people said they thought it may be down to folks doing their Christmas shopping but as it isn't Christmas Eve yet that doesn't make sense to me.

Now terrain. On the New Side we got Falling Star on Saturday as an additional way off the hill but apart from that things stayed the same and very limited for both days. The White Pass core was open between Puff and Surprise Trees (both closed)  although the Knot chutes were open. In Currie it was open as far as Concussion but with a sign line half way down that didn't allow skiing to base and the only way back was round Trespass Trail - not my favourite piece of polling. The Old Side opened Saturday but I didn't ski it and understand it was really just Bear and some of the lower hill. On Sunday we got Boomerang to the cut out by the Goat Trail and North Ridge and Cedar Ridge but with no Haul Back or Boom Chair the only way back was a long slow run along Cedar Trail all the way to base. Later we got Arrow down to Tower 6 trail and all of Lizard below Tower 6. In summary still very limited opening.

The weather for both days was very similar to Friday until the end of Sunday. We had 10 cms of fresh snow overnight Friday and 7 on Saturday with a bit more both days in on/off showers that blew through during the day. Temps on the upper mountain stayed at about -5 both days keeping the snow in good condition and even at the base things never got much above zero, Viz was poorer up high meaning that we never got Polar peak despite all the pre opening publicity. Conditions were overcast with some brighter periods and on Saturday like Friday the viz closed in later in the day and the viz line moved down the hill. Late on Sunday afternoon everything changed as the first major storm of the winter came in bringing high winds and heavy snowfall which is continuing as I type this. Conditions driving back from the hill were so bad that even in the truck in 4x4 with winter tires it was still a challenge. On the road back to town I kept getting one wheel on the rumble strip but couldn't tell whether it was the centre or side strip I was on - it was that bad. There is about 20 cms of snow on the top of my hot tube already and this are forecast to continue like this all night.

Skiing on the hill was just like Friday, limited but where you found it then it was very good. On both days on the New Side Anaconda was always sifted in, 1-2-3s were soft and deep as were Currie Glades and Alpha Centauri and the Gun Bowl had deep soft snow. Everywhere else was good and deep and with the crowds staying away you could find fresh tracks both days quite late in the day. The only disappointment was Tight Knot which looked good from a distance but close up had some very marginal conditions with twigs, rocks, etc which were only apparent once you were committed. Last run Sunday I ran through the Nick, or the Niche, or the Crotch, or whatever you want to call it (it seems to have a number of names) just above 2 in 1-2-3. It was a bit icy in the choke but otherwise super deep and soft untracked snow, a great way to finish.

The Old Side was also very good, Bear was soft and relatively untracked early on. Runs into Cedar Ridge gave us loads of untracked deep lines but with a bit of bushwhacking to do just at the end to get out onto Cedar Trail Boomerang was also good but twiggy however there were enough open lines for everyone to get good untracked skiing. The only downside was the long push round Cedar Trail which did thin down the number of runs possible. Arrow and Lizard were also good soft lightly tracked snow when they opened late on Sunday morning.

So in summary the weekend was one of limited terrain but what there was gave us us some very good powder lines lots of which were untracked. In most places there were "early season hazards", rocks, stumps, and alders to you and me and I was pleased to get the first major stack of the season out of the way by hitting something under the snow and blowing a ski off with no major injury. 

Even if it stopped snowing now (and it shows no signs of that) we would be in for a spectacular powder day tomorrow and with the forecast saying snow all night things could be very good indeed. I anticipate that a lot of the upper mountain will be closed for avi control as normal (although we don't seem to have the usual November ice layer that causes so much trouble each year) but I hope this will be compensated by a lot of the lower mountain which has been closed due to poor coverage and is not in an avi risk area becoming available, I am very optimistic about the rest of this week with temps forecast to fall to -15 keeping the snow in good shape. Next blog will be Thursday evening with a report on the week and the outlook for the weekend.