Thursday, January 19, 2017

Day 49 rather challenging conditions

First a quick recap of yesterday. When I got in at 2 in the morning when they finally cleared the highway I was not in much of a mood to go on line. My brief report was done over morning coffee and although light on detail it did capture the main points of the day.

We did have about 15 cms of new snow on the hill and as it snowed all day off and on it turned to rain for the lower hill by the end of the day. They opened Polar Peak and despite very poor viz we had some good skiing particularly in Mama Bear where we were need to break up the slab that was forming and help keep the runs open. The whole of the upper mountain was good and we hit the glue line just about at the top of the final pitch in Skydive which was very heavy going.

Today was +2 on the way to the hill and +1 on the way back. During the day it may have got a degree or two warmer at the base but I noticed at the White Pass load late afternoon it was showing -1. Things at the top of the hill were way more socked in than yesterday, so much so that Polar Peak never opened and the highest point on the hill was White Pass top.

They reported 19 cms of snow overnight but from the fact that the base had hardly moved at 174 cms it was easy to work out that what had come down was very heavy indeed and could not in any proper sense of the word be described as powder. This was confirmed by looking up the hill where the rain line started just about at the  White Pass load on the New Side and pretty well went all the way to the top on the Old. The precip held off for most of the day which is just as well as I suspect it would have come down as rain and just before we skied off the hill it started as graupel and stayed white just about all the way to the base - it seems to have stopped now.

It was obvious to us that the highest parts of the New Side would be the only places with any chances of good snow although the thick fog which hung on the hill made skiing in these areas tough. We did not have the earliest of starts due to the events of last night but it was still a full day - very full by the standards of some. By the time we were skiing Currie Bowl had been opened and on the second loop the high Reverse Traverse was also available. That is how we spent out days, looping out along the traverse and running to base by various routes.

The hill could be divided into roughly three equal parts on any descent. The top where there was fresh untracked snow but very heavy, best described as Jersey Cream if you are being generous. The middle where it was rain crust and you were doing long turns on hard breakable crust and the conditions totally sucked. The bottom where temps were so warm that the crust seemed to have melted and we effectively had mushy spring skiing. This was true to a greater or lesser degree with all runs.

We did of course get many first tracks with the official recommendation of the hill being to stick to the groomers - Sykydive, Decline and Cougar Glades to name just a few Particularly good skiing was in Concussion where the chutes below the soft snow had been broken up by skier traffic so they were ok and Lone Fir where the fan was awesome as always. Particularly bad skiing was Cougar Glades where falling snow from the trees made the crust worse and the need to avoid trees made skiing more tricky and Easter Bowl where the ugly breakable crust mid section seemed to go on forever.

Last run of course was Skydive where the falling grauppel made the bumps at the top easy and the soft snow on the top section could be hit at real speed. The crusty mid section was not too bad as the terrain allowed you to jump most of the turns and the final spring skiing section was actually rather better than usual. That brought to an end a very hard and tiring day which would have been tough even in normal circumstances.

Where we go from here is an open question. If the hill just freezes as one forecast says we will have nightmare conditions as the soft snow hardens. If we get a little precip as other forecasts say we may be able to salvage something out of the current weather cycle.

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