Friday, February 17, 2017

Day 72 Thank God for Polar Peak

Keen readers will remember that last night I was really worried how today's conditions would work out particularly if we had a cooling trend. Well today despite the cooling trend things turned out much better than expected. Firstly the cooling did not produce breakable crust as I feared but instead just formed hard refrozen crud. This may not sound like great news but trust me, ugly as refrozen crud is, it is way better than breakable crust. Secondly around lunch time they opened Polar Peak which had stayed above the rain line in the last prcip cycle and as a result was excellent skiing, but more of that later.

The rain which had been falling for over 24 hours stopped overnight so this morning dawned overcast with no new snow. During the day the clouds cleared and so by the end of the day we had cloudy conditions with fairly extended sunny periods. On the way to the hill the temp was +3 and up the mountain it hung in at around freezing all day with maybe a degree or two warmer in the direct sunlight. Driving away it was +2 and looking out on the deck as I am typing this I see it is -2 which tends to confirm the forecast cooling trend.

The effect of the cooler temps up the hill was to freeze all of the rain soaked snow from yesterday to hard refrozen crud. The best that could be said about it was that in places that weren't open yesterday it was at least rain flattened ice whereas in places where it had been skied it was rather like a frozen ploughed field. I am told that the Old Side was particularly ugly but as I had worked this out for myself I avoided it and stayed on the New Side.

Initially only the White Pass core was open and we found Puff the first of many ugly icy descents. In the core itself the Gun Bowl was actually ok if a bit scratchy but everywhere else it was just refrozen crud. Highline, Heartland, Quiteright and the I bowl were all tested and found to be the same. A special mention has to go to Surprise Trees which was particularly ugly and chopped up and undoubtedly the worse run of the day.

They then dropped the fence on Currie Bowl and I hit out on the Reverse Traverse which I was quite surprised to find open. Here I have a confession to make - I accidentally poached Concussion. The problem was that there was a sign line on the first shoulder of the traverse and having found the traverse open I just wasn't paying attention as I skied across and missed the signs. Actually Concussion was ok with hard smooth surface all the way down which was very slick and I can well see why they didn't want skier traffic in there. Gilmar Gully and the trail out were slick but ok. We just had time for another Currie loop (this time staying the right side of the sign line, apologies for the unintentional cock up before) which was firm and smooth but with some fairly random grooming in the lower part of Currie Powder down to Gilmar Trail.

After lunch Polar Peak was open and I went up. The conditions were just about as good as I can remember them with soft snow in all the chutes that was firm enough to hold up well and give great skiing all afternoon. The new snow that had fallen as rain lower down had done a great job to repair the wind affected areas and the previous wind groomed areas had improved out of all proportion. I looped many times, Crusty (nice drop in off the cornice) Grand Papa (either accessed from Shale Slope/Tower 8 or directly from the top both of which were superb)  Papa Bear (very easy mellow soft skiing) and Barley Legal (great skiing and the exit chutes now repaired so they are tight but good).

Just to mix things up I ran to base through Spirit Bear which only had a couple of tracks in it and was very good skiing. I figured I just had time for another Polar loop but they extended to lift closing to 4 o'clock so I could just continue my loops to last bell. Final run was Spirit Bear which was just about as untracked as before and excellent.

The longer term forecast is for a steadily cooling trend over the next 14 days with pricip arriving off and on during that time. Saturday looks like we might get some very wet snow but after that we are back to full winter conditions with a good. if not substantial (220 cms) base to build on. Tomorrow will be ugly busy with limited terrain and Alberta Family weekend (not to mention a couple of other provinces) throwing big crowds on the hill. As I lay in the hot tub tonight looking at the stars it occurred to me that this could be the start of a very challenging weekend.

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