Friday, March 31, 2017

Day 114 summer skiing

Yes, we appear to have bypassed spring and gone straight to summer skiing just like we used to do on the glacier at Hintertux. Of course the difference there was that the summer temps warmed a frozen glacier to give good even summer skiing and today what was warmed was a mix of avi debris, refrozen crud and previously untracked deep snow. The result was to give us variable conditions to put it mildly.

The day started with thick fog in the valley and a temp on my deck of +2 with a claim of 5 cms of new snow overnight which quite frankly I failed to detect at any point on the hill. By the time I had run my 10 km at the gym the temp had risen to +4 on the way to the hill and the fog line had risen to about one third of the way up the hill.

I decided to try the Old Side and found that the fog went up to the top of the Bear Chair at which point it was showing signs of thinning. There was also an inversion so that at mid mountain in the fog it had cooled to about zero but at the top it was back to +4. We had a word with a patrol buddy who confirmed that the inversion continued, at the top of White Pass you were above the fog there and that Polar Peak was about to open. With this information we ran down Arrow which was ungroomed and seemed to be both soft and crusty at the same time and then took the cat track to the New Side. The viz in fog was very poor indeed.

Lift Line was ugly refrozen death cookies with some new snow which was turning to mush already. It was also on the top line of the fog so the viz was very poor. We went up White Pass and sure enough found ourselves in bluebird conditions with the fog as a carpet below us in the valley - better still Polar Peak had just opened so up we went.

That was it for the morning, we just kept looping Polar Peak as it was obviously the best snow on the hill. We looped from the Clown Chutes on one side to Papa Bear on the other and all the chutes in between - Shale Slope, Grand Papa Bear and Barely Legal. The snow was soft and getting quite fluid in places but great skiing with great coverage. In the bluebird conditions the valley fog slowly dissipated until it was just a normal sunny day with the odd patch of cloud. Temps were rising fast and at the base it got up to +9 and at the Polar Load it was +8 with the temp in the direct sunlight way hotter than that.

We dropped for lunch through Spirit Bear and then High Saddle which was ok in the chute and excellent soft deep skiing in the fan below. The ski out was a different story with the ungroomed snow being a mix of mush and crust and very testing skiing. Over lunch we heard that the Polar Chutes had closed but after lunch we went back up to check things out. We discovered that the chutes had closed for a time but were reopened and ready for business.

The afternoon was just like the morning with repeated loops of the various Polar Chutes and the skiing surface remaining soft and lively. Once again we dropped High Saddle which was a bit tougher in the chute than the morning but still excellent in the fan. The ski out was just as ugly as it had been in the morning. We had time for a White Pass loop and found that Surprise Trees had more or less turned totally to mush as had most of the rest of the hill in the hot summer temps.

Last run of course was Skydive which looked in much the same as yesterday which was not surprising as I doubt that anyone had been dumb enough to ski it in today's conditions. The upper section was slightly reforming mush and was slightly better than yesterday, the mid section was largely untracked and very tough going, slightly worse than yesterday. The bottom pitch was actually skiing ok but getting very soft towards the last two turns.

We sat out on the deck of the Griz and had drinks (OJ and soda for me) and enjoyed the evening sunshine for the first time this year. The forecasts look rather uncertain for the next few days so I guess we are just going to have to make the best of whatever we get.

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