Saturday, January 28, 2017

Day 58 welcome to the windy city

No new snow overnight but with strong winds which blew all day some wind sift was available but by the same token there were many places that the snow had been scoured from to provide that sift. It warmed up and was -3 on the way to the hill and as I sit here typing this it is +1 on my deck. During the day it stayed at just about minus temps all over the hill and I noticed last time through it was still -4 at the White Pass load. It was a hazy overcast day with just a bit of hazy sunshine but never enough to soften the snow on any part of the hill that I skied on. White Pass top and above were very socked in and as a result Polar Peak never opened or even looked like opening.

As I said the big feature of the day was the wind that was ripping across the upper hill and sifting snow both up and down on several slopes. To illustrate what I mean we cut first tracks out to Snake Ridge four times today with the sift having filled in the tracks each time. Light was pretty flat and with the blowing snow viz was a problem in some places more or less all day.

We went to the Old Side looking foe sift and put in four loops out along the Cedar High Traverse. They were -
Gorby/Steep and Deep - some good sift in the top of Gorby but Steep and deep was scoured and very scratchy all the way down.
Snake Main/ Gorby Gap - again good snow in the top but it change pretty quickly into crust and the lower parts were pretty icy but with some soft sift having accumulated in the gullies.
Poppa Chutes/Red Tree - for a change the Fish Bowl didn't really deliver and the snow was a bit slabby and wind affected. Lower Redtree was icy bumps which actually skied ok.
Snake Ridge - this time we hit the ridge just before the main run and found where most of the snow had blown to, it was great sift down to where we had to cut into the Gorby Gap for the exit where it was just as described above.

All exits were through Kanagroo which of course was hard ugly bumps and so really business as usual. Boomerang completed the loops and we were starting to see the wind grooming in skiers right of the guts which gave easy smooth skiing. Somewhere in there we did a couple of drops of Boom Ridge which were hard icy bumps with death cookies and a great place to improve your technical skiing.

After lunch we hit the New Side and found that Anaconda second chute and Bootleg Glades where both places where the wind sift had accumulated. Cougar Glades with the cut into Stag Leap was ok with the glades a bit crusty and the final pitch of Stag Leap hard and icy but surprisingly good skiing. We tried a good old fashioned drop of Decline which skied very nicely in the top but was fairly hard on the lower pitch.

Just before Skydive we hike Mitchy's Chutes and found a good soft line of blow in just to the skiers right of Big Bang which was mostly untracked. Skydive of course was bumps followed by ok soft followed by crust followed by refrozen crud, a fun challenging end to the day.

As usual there was a line up to get in the Griz Bar it being Saturday and as I never line up to give people my money we headed down town to the excellent Kodiak Bar at the Raging Elk which was an ideal quiet place to talk about the days skiing and have an orange juice and soda.

Looks like more of the same tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Day 57 A New Side Day

Do I need to say it - there was no new snow overnight in this continuing snow drought. On the way to the hill temps were -7 and while driving home -2 so a considerable warm up. I noticed at the White Pass load it was -5 last time round so things stayed cold and firm up the hill. It was overcast when we arrived, in fact there were a few snow flakes which came and went during the day but never gave us an accumulation. Everything above White Pass top was socked in and by the end of the day the cloud was down to just below the top. Winds were blowing in some sift mainly in the Currie Chutes but apart from that things were much the same as yesterday.

I had intended to try the Old Side but was voted down and we headed for the New Side where we stayed all day. We were amazed to find Polar Peak open in the socked in conditions but when we got up there the Polar Chutes and the Clown Chutes were closed so the only way down was the Coaster in more or less zero viz - makes you wonder why they bothered to open it at all. That was our last visit to the Peak today and after that it was just New Side loops as in -

Concussion - Very nice windsift in the chutes all the way down but Gilmar Trail was slick and icy.
Lone Fir - Soft in the chute and ok on the left of the fan but the exit through Freeway was hard icy bumps.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - Variable but overall ok in the glades and Stag Leap was a bit crunchy but the final pitch was hard but surprisingly good.
The Brain/Window Chutes - Top of the Brain is still good in the trees and Window Chute is ok but crunchy most of the way down, the final choke is a bit technical.
Touque Chutes/Spinal Tap - Good becoming crunchy in the chutes and Spinal Tap was getting very hard and icy in the final part of the creek bed. Lunch
Decline - Just a good old fashioned drop of Decline with no whistles or strings and as expected it went soft to crunchy to rock hard as you went down.
Nameless Trees/Skydive - These are the trees between Skydive and Stag Leap which everyone tells me have no name, so I have named them. Crunchy tree skiing to the Megasauraus Trail and then the usual Skydive ribby lower sections.
Stag Leap - A quick drop through the trees which was quite soft to begin the usual three phases of soft, crunch and ice as you went down.

Of course Skydive was the final run and it skied just as all of the Big 3 had skied all day. There was a good gathering in the bar and things seemed a bit busy to me for a Friday but maybe that was just me.

Looking ahead the snow we were promised for next week has now been pushed back to the following weekend so it looks like at least another week of the snow drought. To make matters worse they are now calling for an inversion over this weekend giving plus temps at the top of the hill. This means that when the inversion clears we are likely to have refrozen crud ant the top of the hill to go with the refrozen crud we already have at the bottom - happy days.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Day 56 A short report

The reason tonight's report is going to be short is that we are about to go out to watch the Ghostriders play local rivals Kimberly in the good old hockey game which happens to be the best game you can name and by a strange coincidence the best game you can name is the good old hockey game. Fortunately the conditions were more or less the same as yesterday and we skied most of the same runs so this can be quick.

There was no over night snow and on the way to the hill things were much colder at -15. The reported inversion did not in fact exist and although temps at the base got up to -7 it remained at about -14 on Polar Peak all day and as we drove away from the hill it was -9. All temps are mercury figures and there was a breeze in places today which would have pushed the wind chill lower. It was sunny at times but later clouded over and the Peak was in the clouds off and on for most of the afternoon

As a result of the temps everything remained as it was - ok up high with the snow staying in good shape and bullet hard lower down. Polar Peak was hard big bumps which took and edge and because of the wind there was some sift filling in between the bumps particularly on Papa Bear.

We went to the Old Side and found Snake Ridge still good on top and hard death cookies in the Gorby Gap and below. Kangaroo was ugly hard icy bumps as was Boom Ridge. Boomerang skied ok in the top but was refrozen crud for the last few turns before the Goat Trail. The one variation from yesterday was that we hit the Poppa chutes in Fish Bowl where the snow was soft and mostly untracked. These chutes are often skied on days of high avalanche risk on the grounds that they will not slide because of the trees. Well, today we saw that the final face before the Redtree cut out had slid pretty significantly and we were skiing old avi debris. This should be a warning to anyone thinking of crossing the boundary fence without at least carrying and avi transceiver, this can be a dangerous playground.

On the New Side Polar Peak was good with some wind sift (Papa, Grand Papa and Mama Bear as well as Spirt Bear and Crusty Clown) as was Lone Fir and the Currie Chutes. As with yesterday Touque Chutes were good and Spinal Tap was almost ok, if a bit crunchy. The one variation on yesterday's skiing was that we took the high IT out across the Knot Chutes (still very rocky) and hit Cobra Rock for the first time. The chute itself was ok but the exit chutes were very sketchy and even the easy way out to the left wasn't that easy. Nice to tick the box for Cobra for the first time this season.

Final run was Skydive which  was as it has been for about a week - ok on top turning to ugly refrozen crud in the final pitch. There was nothing particularly difficult about the final pitch it was just a bit hard on the legs as it was a straight forward test of strength to hold each turn.

That's all folks. Off to the game - go Riders go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Day 55 Groundhog Day

Well of course it isn't Groundhog Day today (that well known triumph for rodent weather forecasting) that isn't for about a weeks time. I am of course referring to the movie where Bill Murray lives the same day over and over again. With the unchanging conditions here on the hill I think I know how he felt.

For the record, there was no new snow overnight. Starting temps were a bit colder at -13 and leaving temps a bit warmer at-5 but overall everything remained frozen and hard everywhere on the hill. It was a mainly cloudy day but with some sun in the morning. By afternoon it was overcast and getting socked in at the top of Polar Peak and later in the day we even had some very light flurry activity which didn't give us any accumulation. The base remains a very sketchy 174 cms.

With conditions much the same it seemed appropriate to do much the same as yesterday and we headed out to the Old Side. Snake Ridge skied nice and soft in the top and rather harder half way down but in the final pitch it was mass of quite big death cookies. I have no explanation as to where these came from as they looked like the result of a spring melt/freeze and yet temps yesterday never even got close to melting level. Whatever the reason they were there the skiing was tough but good fun.

Next loop out was Gorby/Steep and Deep which is getting a bit tracked up in Gorby top but still with some untracked lines. Steep and Deep just became harder and more crunchy as you went down but no sign of the death cookies that were on Snake. Returns were through Kangaroo which as normal was ugly icy bumps and Boomerang which was ok in the top and very ribby in the lower parts - still good skiing if you have the necessary skill levels. We went to the New Side.

Polar Peak was open so we did a few Shale Slope/Grand Papa/Papa Bear loops.  Just like yesterday the skiing was steep, very firm but taking an edge and with big bumps in the top. really nice skiing but your first mistake was going to be your last in those conditions. Again like yesterday we ran off through Spirt Bear (tight but still the best skiing) and hiked up to Lone Fir which was still good in the chute and very good on the fan on the left side.

Next loop up Polar we did more variations of the chutes before running to base through Cougar Glades which were softer and better than I expected and then cutting into Stag Leap which seemed very lightly tracked and the last pitch was almost ok. It was time for a late lunch.

In the afternoon it was socked in up Polar Peak so I was pretty cautious in my loops and then ran off through Mama Bear which seemed to be softer and flatter than most of the other chutes. I decided to try Touque chutes which were actually rather good and then cut into Spinal Tap which was very crunchy but actually sucked way less than I thought it would. Next we tried the high IT across the Knot Chutes and found a way across although we did have to take quite a lot of air both into the Tight Knot and the Fraid Knot but worked our way across the Gotta Go. It looked a bit worn out in the choke and so we jumped the shoulder into Google Earth and had what might have been the first run by anyone of the season down there in awesome deep snow - beyond doubt run of the day. The ski to base through Bootleg Glades was a bit crusty but ok.

Last time up White Pass and we just had time for a loop through Surprise Trees which were surprisingly good. Then it was time for our final rip down Skydive where we were joined for the first time by snowboarder friends. Skydive was about the same as yesterday, good on top and hard going in the final pitch.

After a few orange and sodas in the Griz it was home for a quiet evening and an early night. Skiing in these tough conditions is really good fun but it is tiring, an early night seems like a very good idea.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Day 54 more of the same

Yup, last night we had no new snow and starting temps on the way to the hill were -11. Driving home tonight they were -7 and during the day while they rose a little they stayed well below zero so things stayed hard and icy lower down and in good shape on top. It was a sun/cloud mix today and it gave layered cloud in the valley. From the top of Polar Peak you could see the cloud banks to the west pushing up against the Lizard Range with just the odd peak poking out of the cloud tops looking like islands in a sea of grey. Where the cloud did spill over the ridge line into the Elk Valley we did have patches of fog but this seemed to dissipate quite quickly once it go into the stable air mass (there was almost no wind) in the valley.

We went to the New Side and straight up Polar Peak and found that the surface had become much harder but was still taking an edge. The groomers had pushed a lot of debris in to the top of the chutes to cover the rocks in the entrance which will be great when it is skied in but in the meanwhile we had to negotiate a field of death cookies before we could start skiing. The bumps were very big, particularly in the top but fairly regular in shape and therefore pretty easy to ski. In summary Polar was steep, hard with big bumps and an almost certainty of a long slide if you fell but with no particular vices and so in my opinion rather enjoyable skiing.

We looped the Chutes staying mainly in Shale Slope/Grand Papa Bear, Papa Bear and Crusty the Clown - the place was almost totally deserted. After a while we tracked out to Spirit Bear which is the narrowest and therefore the least skied of the chutes and it was great skiing. The hike up to Lone Fir was well worth it with soft snow in the chute and awesome deep slough on the skiers left of the sign line below. After lower Easter and Freeway it was time to cut across to the Bear Chair and try the Old Side.

We looped Gorby/Steep and Deep (still super soft deep snow in the top of Gorby) and Snake Main which were good soft skiing in the top and crunchy breakable crust lower down which whilst a bit tough was certainly skiable. Returns were through Kangaroo which was hard ugly icy bumps and Boomerang which after a few good turns in the top got very hard and chunky down in the guts. We did one quick run back through Boom Ridge which was icy bumps just to test ourselves and found that we could ski it in one but didn't get too many points for style. Lunch time.

In the afternoon we were back up Polar Peak for more loops just like the morning and unsurprisingly conditions were more or less the same. We ran off through Mama Bear which was not too lumpy and then traversed out and hit the top of The Brain (still good skiing with not many tracks) and then cut into Window Chutes which were very good but crunchy all the way down and did get a bit technical in the final choke. Back up Polar for another Spirit Bear (still very good) and run down Concussion which was firm but took an edge all the way down. A note to the unsuspecting - Gilmar trail is really slick and icy so stay on the left shoulder.

There was just time for quick hike up Mitch Chutes which had lots of soft line before hitting Skydive for the final run. Skydive was as expected good in the top getting worse and scratchier the lower you went. Opinions were divided among the group that skied it as to whether or not it was better or worse than yesterday. In the interests of keeping the peace lets say it was about the same.

No snow forecast overnight and cold temps tomorrow so maybe still more of the same.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Day 53 A good day for technical skiing

 It's a funny thing but everyone agrees that the most difficult conditions to ski in are either icy bumps or breakable crust and they all say that they would like to ski them better. On a day like today when those conditions are available everyone I asked told me that they had avoided them like the plague. It puzzles me how they expect to hit their target of improving their skiing in these conditions if they don't go and practice when they can. There is no mystery to getting better at anything, you go out and practice hard and eventually you get better. Today I took the opportunity to spend the morning doing all I could to improve my technique in these tough conditions.

Overnight we had 2 cms of fresh snow which didn't even stick to the trees and made no real difference to the skiing surface. On the way to the hill it was -8 and -5 when we drove away in the evening. During the day temps rose a bit but everywhere was well below zero so the surfaces stayed hard and icy. It was a sun/cloud day but with the sun winning most of the time so viz was pretty good with just the odd flash of flat light in shaded areas. The snow base remains in the mid 170s cms range which is way below last years figure for this day of 233 cms.

I had been told that the whole Snake Ridge area had been ugly breakable crust from about one third of the way down a couple of days ago and I figured that the new snow from yesterday would have improved the lower parts to "skiable" but still leaving them tough and challenging. The skate out along the Cedar High Traverse was nice and slick so not too much hard work and I noticed I was laying first tracks out there. I did 4 loops out, Steep and Deep, Snake Ridge and twice through upper Gorby Bowl and these provided exactly the tricky skiing conditions I was looking for.

Steep and Deep was about 5 good turns then covered breakable crust all the way down. Snake Ridge was much the same but the exit on Gorby Gap was more skied and therefore tended towards icy bumps. The top of Gorby was super soft untracked powder down to the closed sign where I cut left into Steep and Deep. Next time round the only tracks in front of me were my own which says it all about how few people were prepared to try their luck out that way and it skied just as good as before - most certainly the best snow of the day.

All returns were through Kangaroo which was hard ugly icy bumps with a tricky drop on to the cat track half way down. Boomerang completed each loop and that was ok in the top but just got harder and more rutted as you went down with some crust in the mid section just to make it more interesting. I did a couple of run backs down Boom Ridge which was hard bumps all the way down and very unforgiving. All in all it was tough morning of skiing a few good powder turns followed but breakable crust and/or icy bumps - a great way to improve your skiing and to my way of thinking a very enjoyable morning.

In the afternoon I headed up Polar Peak and put in a number of laps of Shale Slope/Grand Papa Bear and Papa Bear. The under surface was getting hard and some of the bumps were quite big although the skiing was pretty mellow by Polar standards. I cut across to Spirt Bear and as anticipated found it the least skied on account of it's narrowness and had a great run down. Lone Fir was next which was a bit chopped up in the chute but good in the fan and even low down it wasn't too hard and icy, or perhaps it was and I was just getting used to it.

I just had time for another Polar loop before dropping Baby Bear (the only chute still in the sun) and then a variation on Concussion which skied really well all things considered. We just had time for a quick hike up Mitchy Chutes which were ok but firm before getting the last chair up for Skydive. General consensus was that Skydive skied a little better than yesterday with the mid section not quite so crunchy and the lower part of refrozen crud being a bit more skied in.

After such a hard day a hot tub was needed hence the rather later report than usual. Looking at the forecasts we don't seem to be getting any new snow for at least a week and with things staying cold it rather looks like the next 7 days could be a repeat of today - who knows.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Day 52 What a difference 4 cms makes

And before we have any school boy jokes about todays heading I am of course referring to the 4 cms of new snow that the hill reported this morning as having fallen over night.

It was a mixture of sun and cloud today with maybe a bit more sun in the middle of the day going back to more overcast conditions by the end. We had no snow during the day but as I said 4 cms over night. On the way to the hill it was -4 and also -4 driving home but in between times there were some significant variances. The temps at the base rose to a little over freezing and then fell later in the day with not much damage being done to the snow. Up the hill the temps came in layers accompanied by some valley cloud/fog which occasionally affected viz. I don't think it ever got above freezing right at the top of Polar Peak but elsewhere we saw plus temps of a couple of degrees which came and went as the layers rolled in. By the end of the day things had cooled down and the White Pass load for the final lift was showing -5. The snow base remains at a rather thin 176 cms.

The new snow provided a nice soft skiing surface up high but importantly lower down it covered the crust and gave and ok skiing surface with a bit of crusty give. I think the warming temps helped the new snow to blend with the underlying crust as the resulting surface was really surprisingly good. Low down of course we had dust on crust but even then the new snow seemed to have enough substance to at least provide a cushion and an edge to work with. Overall it was a massive improvement on what we have seen for the past two days.

We had a new Side day and first run was up Polar Peak which seemed to have firmed up under the new snow and whilst the bumps in the chutes were taking an edge it was way firmer than I was expecting. We spent all morning skiing permutations of Crusty, Grand Papa, Shale Slope, Papa, Mama, Baby and Spirit Bear. They were all pretty good but with the further out chutes being way less skied they were the place to be with the run of the day in Spirit Bear. The Polar Chutes were interspersed with drops all the way to the bottom via Concussion (still excellent and soft skiing holding up very well) Lone Fir (skiing amazingly well in the chute and really well in the fan and below) Easter Bowl (nice and soft and giving the first indication that the crust had now softened) Decline ( great in the top and ok for the rest of the run in the new snow) and then it was time for a late lunch.

After lunch we found that the Polar Chair was temporarily down so we did another Concussion loop before finding the chair reopened. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the Polar Chutes just as the morning. For my final Polar run I decided to put my theory of things getting better to the test and hit Spirit Bear (still run of the day) The Brain (top section only but untracked) and a cut into Window Chutes (good crisp untracked skiing if a bit sketchy in the chutes) I had been right, things had got a lot better.

Final run of course was back up for Skydive which skied ok all the way down and was rather crusty in the mid section and crunchy in the bottom but over all good in my opinion. Looks like we may get some more snow tonight and if that is the case maybe the Old Side will be worth a go tomorrow. Fingers crossed.