Saturday, December 31, 2016

Day 30 Thank goodness for wind sift

Last night we didn't have any new snow and as the snow fall from the last cycle started to settle the base came down to 188 cms. Up the hill apparently there was quite a wind event which didn't really get to us down in the valley but did move the recently fallen powder around to the extent that when we got to the hill today there was a lot of areas where we had untracked wind sift to play with.

On the way to the hill it was -4 and things cooled a bit during the day so that at the White Pass load in the afternoon it was around -10 and driving back from the hill we had -6. We started with a sun cloud mix which soon clouded over and by the end of the day we were back in another full on snow cycle which is continuing as I type. Viz was surprising ok except up Polar Peak which looked very socked in and was not open at all today.

 As I expected the crowds seemed way less than yesterday despite this being a Saturday and as Lynda decided to take a break she dropped me off so parking wasn't an issue. During the day I never waited more than half a dozen chairs at a line and from midday on wards I was skiing straight on to the chairs with no line ups. The day lodge and the base areas seemed pretty busy but on the hill I would say it was no busier than an average Saturday.

I went to the Old Side which in the event seems to have been a good idea given the reports of cold strong winds on the New Side. There was no chance for me to get cold as I skated out along the Cedar High Traverse and hit Snake Ridge which was soft untracked windsift most of the way down with really nice bump skiing on the right shoulder exit and then really deep sift in the left gully. The return was via Kangaroo which was soft and mellow as long as you remembered to drop on to the cat track on the left hand side and Boomerang which was flat soft wind grooming that you could just rip with long GS turns.

That was my morning, six loops out along the traverse - three Snake Ridges which were as above and hardly skied. There were two Steep and Deeps where I avoided the newly cleared area on the grounds that there would be more untracked lines away from this, and I  was right. One exit through the cleared right chute was very mellow and one through the left chute which was a bit bushy but very untracked although I was ambushed rather by a fallen tree across the chute. I dipped into the Fish Bowl once but only as far as the Red Tree cut out and got some deep totally untracked lines as a reward.

After a late lunch there was time to visit the New Side where things were a bit colder and windier and the light was not quite so good. Decline and Siberia Ridge were both full of soft wind sift and could best be described as soft tracked powder. The final rip was of course Skydive that was full of blown in snow and after a few bumps at the top you could really pull the trigger in the lower sections. A great way to finish the year.

It was snowing by the end of the day and still is. Patrol were calling for 10-18 cms over night but as every cycle so far this season has produced more than forecast I am pretty optimistic. Fingers crossed for yet another dump over night and we should be in for a very happy new year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Day 29 The crowds really showed up

Today was the busiest day so far in this winter holiday cycle and I am told that we had 6700 skiers (or boarders) on the hill today which is getting close to a record. Even though we anticipated getting to the hill before 8:30 the line up on Highway 3 was all the way back past the Stanford and I understand that mid morning it was all the way back into town.

The driver for the crowds of course was the 24 cms of new snow in the last 24 hours and the anticipated sun cloud mix which would make today a really nice skiing day - the base was just a few cms short of the magic 200 cm mark. The forecasts for the conditions were right so although we had no new snow during the day we did have the overnight dump to trash and we certainly gave it out best shot. Temps on the way to the were -9 and during the day up the mountain they warmed to -7 before cooling so that as I swung the truck into my garage tonight the temps on the truck was showing -6.

We went to the New Side for all the reasons previously explored and found that the line ups were bigger than the past few days but not totally excessive. Mid morning they dropped the fence on Currie and we were in the charge out to the Big 3 and were in the first wave down Skydive getting untracked lines particularly on skiers left. Totally awesome face shots all the way down.

After that we looped off the end of the Reverse Traverse and found the best untracked deep snow in Touque Chutes and Spinal Tap although all of the other runs were good. Mid morning Polar Peak opened and we looped it about 10 times alternating Grand Papa, Papa Bear, Barely Legal (just ignore the cliff signs and track right) and Crusty chutes which were all good and deep. Late morning the wind started to get up and viz deteriorated on Polar so we ran off through Mamma Bear which was also soft and deep.

On a day like today there was no point in trying to lunch in the Day Lodge at anything like normal time so we continued to loop the New Side with Lone Fir being good and The Brain being the run of the day particularly in the lower section where the deadfall was mostly covered by deep snow and it was actually better to drop into the creek bed to avoid the deadfall than to look for the usual right hand side chutes. Lunch didn't come until 2:15.

The late afternoon was spent looping Decline and similar lightly tracked runs before the inevitable Skydive finish. I was actually impressed by just how well Skydive had held up and how much untracked skiing there was - so impressed I one stepped it all the way down.

The Griz bar was really jumping tonight for the first time this season although this may have something to do with me being so pumped I was drinking beer. It was great to see all my ski buddies in there just as pumped as I was after a day like this. As sign of the times we had our first (but I am sure not last) nude table slide of the season, Well we are a small town and have to make our own entertainment.

Looks like we are due another snow event starting late tomorrow and spreading into the next day but how much that will bring is an open question. After that they are calling for an Arctic airmass to move in and stick with us through to next weekend giving daytime highs in the high teens. No problem for me compared with the pre Christmas freeze up but I dare say there will be those who struggle. At least the hill should get very quiet very quick.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Day 28 Normal service has been resumed

Yes, we woke up this morning and it was snowing although from the ground cover it hadn't been snowing long. The hill reported 4 cms overnight which held the base up at 182 cms. The good news is that it continued to snow all day and is still snowing now as I type this. I guess we may have had as much as 15 cms out of the cycle so far with another 15 due tonight - who knows tomorrow may be the day for the 2 metre party.

On the way to the hill temps were -4, as they were on the way back and during the day the up the mountain temps held at about -7 but there was a strong wind chill particularly on the New Side. The main feature of the day was the overcast conditions which gave very poor viz the higher you went but this was off set by the new powder which grew all day on the base of the old powder once again giving some spectacular skiing.

The crowds showed up again but like yesterday they seemed to be confined to the parking lot, the day lodge and the lower mountain. We skied all morning on the Old Side and didn't wait in line once. After a late lunch we skied the New Side and while this was a bit busier waits were never more than 1 or 2 minutes - Europe eat your heart out.

As promised yesterday we went to the Old Side but found the Cedar High Traverse closed for avi risk already. This meant that Snake Ridge could only be accessed by a hard side step traverse and with so much good skiing to be had with little or no effort it just didn't seem worth while. We made numerous loops of Cedar Ridge (several different routes) King Fir, Linda's, Bear Cave Chutes Boom Ridge, Boom and even a bit of Buck Shot. Everything was deep, soft, lightly tracked or totally untracked and generally awesome skiing. A special mention has to go to Kangaroo which we must have dropped 6 times on our loops back and it just got better each time - I don't ever think the Roo has skied so mellow.

In the afternoon we hit the New Side and sure enough (those of you who read last nights report will remember that the reason for skiing the Old Side was to take one for the team as they always open Polar Peak when I do that) Polar Peak was open for the first time in over a week. The light was totally socked in so we only did one drop down Papa Bear but the snow was sensational and if we can keep the peak open and get better viz tomorrow we should be in for a good day.

Other notable runs of the afternoon were Lone Fir (still good in the chute and awesome deep powder in the fan) Touque Chutes (getting really deep towards the end of the day) Spinal Tap (still super deep in the creek bed) all of which could have been run of the day on a normal day. That honour went to Skydive which we hit on the last rip and with a full days snowfall in it. We had a blast with face shots all the way through the top section.

If the snow holds up all night, and it certainly looks like that now, we could be in for an even better day tomorrow. I am told that they have 80 people signed up for first tracks tomorrow (don't get me on the subject of pay for powder groups) so it will be a New Side day with an eye to Polar Peak.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Day 27 It didn't snow

It's not often that something not happening is worthy of comment but the snow has been coming so thick and fast just lately that a snow free day is something of a novelty. There was no real snow overnight and nothing during the day so that we could take a final count of the snow falls of the past few days and establish that the base is now 185 cms which is very healthy for this point in the season.

Once again we made an early start to beat the holiday crowds and got to the hill just before 8:30. The crowds must have been greater today than yesterday as we had to some way back in parking lot 2 or perhaps the visitors were just a bit quicker out of their blocks this morning. During the morning I noticed massive crowds lining up to buy tickets (I was told by a visitor that they had to wait well over an hour to get their ticket) which suggests that today was busier than yesterday. It was therefore strange that the line ups on the New Side , where I was (honest I promise to ski the Old Side tomorrow) were much shorter and we didn't really have to wait at all to get loaded. I understand that there were big lines on the Old Side so perhaps that's where everyone went.

On the way to the hill temps were -4 and during the day they started at -7 at the White Pass load but got up to about -5 and in the valley on the way home it was a balmy -2. Things should stay this warm for a day or two before we drop back to minus teens at the weekend. The conditions were as forecast cloudy with sunny breaks and the flat light came and went as you skied various parts of the hill. Polar Peak remained closed due to wind but mid morning we got the Saddles opened (the reason I was hanging out on the New Side) and they were spectacular.

There had obviously been a wind event last night and the surface had a lunar landscape appearance which I expected to be quite crunchy. To everyone's surprise is was super soft wind sift so that even in places that had been skied hard yesterday the snow had filled in (deep in places) and was very mellow skiing. Where we had new openings on untracked snow it was just knee deep soft powder and totally awesome.

I just looped all day off various parts along the Reverse Traverse and repeated all of the drops through the Saddles and chutes several times. High Saddle went from easy edge to edge jumps in the morning to an icy trough in the afternoon although the skiing underneath stayed good deep powder. Low Saddle was always a bit icy in the top but became more so as the day went on but again the chutes to the skiers right remained deep and lightly tracked. Lone Fir and Easter Meadow (only ski patrol would name one of the tightest and steepest chutes on the hill a "meadow") remained in great shape all day as did the fan underneath partly because people won't make the effort to boot pack up to them and partly because they can be  quite tricky. Special mention has to go to Spinal Tap where we got first tracks in the wind sift and the snow seems to have become a little more dense making it real hero snow as it holds you up well and makes skiing so easy.

The Reverse Traverse also warrants a special mention as it is staring to get very chopped up with many exposed rocks around Low Saddle. The corner just before the bridge is also a bit tricky and should be taken a little slower than usual to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Snow should start again tomorrow afternoon and give us a reasonable dump tomorrow night. I am going to take one for the team. Whenever I ski the Old Side in circumstances like this Polar gets opened and I miss the first few turns. The only way I can think of guaranteeing a Polar opening tomorrow is to hit the Old Side so when you guys get Polar do remember who you need to thank.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Day 26 lost for words

And people who know me know that I am not often lost for words but after a day like today that is pretty well how I feel - after all what can you say about a day like today.

Last night we were promised 15 cms of snow overnight but in the event that turned into nearer 25 by the morning. It was snowing when we woke up and snowed all day sometimes quite hard. I don't have the figure but I imaging that we had at least  another 15 cms during the day. The snow is much lighter now but they are calling for at least another 12 cms overnight tonight and more during the day tomorrow. All in all we got totally hosed with snow and it's still coming, the 2 meter snow base could be broken any day now.

On the way to the hill temps were -5 and during the day I noticed they were about -7 at the White Pass load. On the way home the valley had warmed to -3 and it looks like we may enjoy a day or two of these warmer temps before we drop back in the freezer later this week. Conditions of course were overcast and viz poor at the very top of the hill but you didn't have to drop much before the viz improved to just about ok.

The crowds turned up as anticipated and we got to the hill before 8:30 to guarantee a space in parking lot 2. More importantly I wanted to avoid the gong show as a bunch of drivers in two wheel drive cars on all weather tires tried to get up Ski Hill Road and either crashed off the road or polished the surface with wheel spin to sheet ice. I understand today was remarkably incident free considering it was the busiest day of the year so far.

On the hill we went to the New Side and found a longish line up at Timber. That set the pattern for the morning although the crowds were there the line ups were never more than a few minutes and if you were prepared to ride solo they were even shorter. Polar Peak remained closed but other than that the whole of the New Side was open (excluding the Saddles) and it was super deep snow with many untracked lines that repaired as fast as you skied them. The Old Side apparently was only really open on the triangle from Cedar Center to Arrow but what was there was pretty good.

By lunch time the crowds had faded (vacation skiers don't have 7 hour legs) and we just got to enjoy and afternoon which was only a little busier than a usual Saturday. As usual on days like this I skied through without any kind of a break and with a nice symmetry both started and finished with spectacular rips down Skydive - totally awesome.

It's not really possible to describe how good the skiing was and there is no point in giving separate accounts of the runs as they were all totally awesome. Two runs deserve special mention - Lone Fir and Touque Chutes/Spinal Tap. Lone Fir was hardly tracked in the chute and the fan underneath was some of the best and deepest skiing I have ever had. Simlarly Touque Chutes were great in the trees and Spinal Tap had filled in the creek bed super deep and was real hero snow.

In summary today was up there as one of the best and the only place the crowds impacted on the skiing was on the Reverse Traverse where there were always bodies in the way and some folk struggling with the bumpy traverse. Tomorrow should be just as good and the overnight 12 cms should go a long way to repairing the hill. Special mention has to go to Patrol for getting Currie bowl open so quickly and keeping it open all day - great work. Bring on tomorrow.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Day 25 A nice surprise

No new snow was forecast until this evening but we woke to find 9 cms of fresh on the hill and a continuing snow fall which probably added another 3 or 4 before it petered out in the afternoon. The forecast was for sun and clouds but actually it was overcast and very windy in poor viz and snow flurries off and on most of the day.

The starting temp was -14 which accounts for why the snow was such low density but during the day the temps got up tp -9 at the White Pass load. On the way back from the hill tonight it was -5 and the outlook is for a fairly warm (just sub zero) period for a few days before we drop back in the freezer in the new year.

The effect of the new snow on the skiing was predictably good but you had to be careful. The snow was such low density that it didn't fill in the bumps or hold you up in quite the way you would expect. On the first drop down Lift Line I found myself travelling way faster than I intended as the snow was not slowing me and the bumps came through with full force but when you got used to it and adjusted you could relax and just enjoy the new powder snow.

I thought the crowds might show up today and although things were a bit busier than they have been it was not that crowded and we didn't have to wait in line at any stage. My guess is that people were busy clearing up after Christmas and getting themselves to Fernie today. I think tomorrow will now be the busy day and then it will be ugly busy through to next Monday then back to normal - hopefully.

It was yet another New Side day although Polar Peak was not opened and given the howling winds and white conditions going across the base of the Polar Chutes on the Reverse Traverse this should surprise no one. Of course the winds meant that on top of the new snow we also had some wind sift giving even better fresh snow in some places. Over all there was great skiing to be had in untracked snow and as long as you were prepared to work for it there were always first tracks to be had.

Notable runs today were- Skydive (first tracks awesome), Decline (soft deep snow), Cougar Glades (many untracked lines) Stag Leap ( a big improvement in the twiggyness) The Brain (top section only had many untracked lines) Window Chutes ( soft and deep) Touque Chutes ( untracked) Spinal Tap (the creek bed is getting well filled in) Concussion (good as ever) Lone Fir (good in the chute and totally awesome in the fan underneath, run of the day) Anaconda (untracked wind sift) Bootleg Glades (very deep in the trees) etc, and many other runs I can't remember.

Final rip was down Skydive which we hit without stopping for the first time this season and although more tracked up than when we got first tracks in the morning it was still great skiing.

The outlook is now for a 36 hour weather cycle which they say should bring another ton of snow. After that there are two more Pacific weather systems lining to hit us and a cold weather cycle due to come in just after new year. Looks like things could get better and better.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Day 24 Merry Christmas

Yes, we are having a very merry Christmas and I hope so is everyone else. In keeping with our Christmas tradition we celebrate Christmas in the UK fashion with Christmas dinner at lunch time and not in the evening. This means that we only ski the morning on Christmas Day and then it's more of a tour round the hill than the usual full on trashing of the hill that takes place daily. That having been said we had a pretty full on session today and didn't get off the hill until gone 2 so it looks like "dinner" will be near 4 or 5 o'clock allowing for some serious soaking and drinking in the hot tub.

The promised snow didn't really materialise overnight and we started today with only 7 cms of fresh in the last 12 hours and the base was only just over 160 cms. What did happen was that an arctic high pushed in so temps dropped to a starting figure of -18 and we had another bluebird day, cold but with not a cloud in the sky. The effect on the snow was to dry it out and give good tracked and packed powder all over the upper mountain.

We went to the Old Side and toured around Boom, Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge, Bear and of course Kangaroo. Everywhere was soft tracked snow although there were some scrapped down high traffic areas. After a while we went to the New Side.

On the New Side we looped White Pass a few times as the snow had not been trashed yesterday in the poor light and although the conditions were a bit brisk (around -20) the skiing was good in a fair amount of untracked snow. Then they opened Polar Peak and things got really good. The conditions up the Peak were a little patchy moving from really deep soft snow to hard ice/snow pack to avi debris and back again in all runs. The view from the top was of course fantastic and in the great viz the mixed conditions did not really present much of a problem.

Early afternoon we had a great drop down Baby Bear in very deep soft snow and then came off the hill with a real ripper down Skydive. We had a couple of drinks with friends and are now just getting ready for our hot tub before Christmas "dinner" which is now looking more an more like a 5 o'clock event.

The outlook is for remaining cold before moving into yet another snow event Monday night going into Tuesday and then another Pacific system moving in later in the week. The crowds will start to turn up tomorrow and be with us for a week but if we just hunker down and wait then by next week things will be back to normal.