Friday, February 3, 2017

Day 64 here comes the snow

I seem to be making a habit of apologising for late posts recently but this one come with a very good excuse. I am flying back to the UK tomorrow to attend Lynda's mum's funeral so I have had to spend this evening packing and getting my act together. Of course this means that I won't be back until Thursday with my first day on the hill Friday and the first blog that evening so everyone will just have to make the most of tonight's effort.

There was no new snow overnight and it was a nippy -21 on the way to the hill. Conditions were overcast so that by the time we started skiing we were getting light snow flurries and by the end of the day quite steady light snow which had probably accumulated about 5 cms by last lift. Temps up the hill were -12 at the base and -14 at the White Pass load. With the much higher moisture content of the air it seemed much colder and around the middle of the day we had some freezing mist (how the hell do you get that at these temps) which coated the goggles but fortunately didn't last long. I don't want to appear ungrateful but it would be nice if just once this season the snow came down as good old Sierra cement to give us the solid base we need and not blower powder which gets taken away so quickly by wind and skier traffic.

We went to the Old Side and did a couple of loops of Steep and Deep which was hard ugly crust with death cookies as the new snow had not had much effect. Returns were through a very hard icy bumpy Kangaroo and a firm Boomerang with a bit of sift. We even had time for a quick run back through Boom Ridge which was testing ice bumps which as that was what we were trying to practice on was ideal. We went to the New Side to try our luck.

Polar Peak was open but socked in with cloud and we were informed that the Polar Chutes were closed. We decided the best thing to do were New Side loops and so hit Decline which skied really very nicely even in the lower section and Cougar Glades/Stag leap which was still crusty in the glades and hard bumps in the lower pitch. As I skied across the Meadow for a late lunch for the first time in many weeks I actually felt the cushioning effect of soft snow under my skis.

After lunch I went back up the New Side with friends and on my recommendation from the morning we went back to Decline which skied even better with the snow starting to accumulate. Next loop we decided to go up Polar Peak on the grounds that as it was open we should at least make the effort. The Polar Chutes were closed so we dropped into Crusty Clown Chute which was quite soft but with about zero light. For example at the bottom I decided to ski the next pitch by pushing over the edge of the cat track only to find I wasn't standing anywhere near the edge - yes, the light was that bad. We hit Touque Chutes which were really starting to ski nicely and the then cut into Spinal Tap where the  crust and the ice had a bit of a new covering and skied way better than of late.

We just had time for a White Pass loop and went out into Surprise Trees that were filling in nicely and didn't show any tracks in the new snow on skiers right. Last run of course was Skydive which was showing steady improvement in all sections  from the new snow although the final pitch is still fairly scratchy.

I had farewell OJ and soda in the bar before coming home to pack. The forecast looks very promising and if I am any judge the whole of the next week could be pretty good. Watch this space next Friday for my collected thoughts.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Day 63 Happy Groundhog Day

Yes, today is the day when across a number of small towns in North America they go to their local groundhog, drag the poor little brute out of it's burrow (or where ever they live) and stand it up to see if it can see it's shadow. If it can we are in for more winter and if not we are in for an early spring - actually that might be the other way round, I am never too sure. You don't have to be a genius to work out that based on just random chance ( assuming a 50/50 chance of it seeing it's shadow and a similar chance of spring coming early) the groundhog should be right about half of the time. Most Groundhogs seem to have a rather worse track record than being right 50% of the time which suggests to me that the science of using rodents in long range weather forecasting may need a little refining.

The reason I am rambling on about Groundhogs is that I really have nothing much new to say about skiing on the hill. I had thought of heading today's report "colder and harder" which was yesterday's heading as that is exactly what happened. It was a bluebird day without a cloud in the sky all day (typical arctic high conditions) and on the way to the hill it was -22. Driving back tonight it was -16 and up the hill during the day I didn't see anything warmer that -12 although in the direct sunlight it may have been a degree or two warmer.

Just like yesterday the result was that the skiing surfaces got even harder with many areas now refusing to take an edge and the surface was breaking up into large ugly death cookies. I did pretty well a rerun of yesterday looping out on the Old Side to Steep and Deep and Snake Ridge both of which were ugly hard crust on top and icy bumps covered in death cookies lower down, even tougher skiing than yesterday. Returns were through Kangaroo which I suppose had the merit at least of skiing no worse than usual, it's always hard icy bumps and Boomerang which was hard and smooth on the right but very scratchy on the left. I even found time for a Boom Ridge loop on the hard icy bumps there which were just about ok although no one who watched me from the lift appeared tempted to give it a go.

I went to the New Side and went up Polar Peak only to find that the chutes were closed at the top. I checked with patrol to make sure they were cool about me skiing Shale Slope at the top and cutting the shoulder by tower 8 into Grand Papa Bear and they were as they said it was a conditions closure to try and stop a few "top to bottom bowling balls". What they actually said was that I could ski it if I was dumb enough which I took to be a rhetorical question - of course I am. I looped that route alternating with Crusty Chute (always dropping the steep face on the far side) both of which skied ok but hard with a big penalty for any error of judgement. The drop to lunch was through Cougar Glades (very crusty) and Stag Leap ( crusty followed by very hard bumps) but both quite skiable with care.

After a very late lunch we went back up Polar and played in the Crusty Chute going further to lookers left each time to get a bigger drop on the way in until we ended up over the rocks and had to quit - it was actually very good fun. We looped Decline which actually skied ok in the top before the inevitable sketchy final pitch. We just had time for a quick White Pass loop before having the final run down Skydive where like yesterday I just tried some new lines which actually proved to be quite good, just for something to do.

Time now for an early night with overnight temps forecast to drop to below -20 and the possibility of at least some snow tomorrow.

Day 62 Colder and harder

First of all apologies for the late report, I had some buddies round for a hot tub and few drinks (cranberry juice in my case) so I am late starting. That having been said it is not great problem as there are only so many ways to say that it was hard ugly icy skiing just like it has been for the past week. As all of you can see looking at the heading, today was the coldest so far in the current cooling cycle and the skiing was harder both in the sense of the surface becoming more frozen and hard and the conditions just getting more difficult if that can be believed.

No new snow overnight of course and on the way to the hill the temps was -20 on my truck on the way there and -12 on the way back. It was supposed to warm up during the day but I saw no real signs of it with temps at the White Pass load showing - 12 at what should have been the warmest time of the day. Conditions were sunny but not quite bluebird with the odd cloud around and in the defused light there were patches of very flat light away from the direct sunlight. The base is now down at 154 cms which is a good 100 cms lower than we would expect at this time of year.

The resulting conditions were totally predictable. The ungroomed surfaces which had been pretty hard and ugly yesterday became full on ice bumps or hard icy crud. There was no soft snow or sift to be had anywhere and we had to up our game considerably to ski our usual areas in a safe manner.

We went to the Old Side and tried Snake Ridge although I can't think why. It was ugly and crusty in the top and hard bumps covered with death cookies from Gorby Gap and below. As Steep and Deep was in the sun we thought it might be better but we were wrong, it was even crustier with bigger death cookies although to be fair we did improve our technical skiing by holding it together for those two runs. Returns were through Kangaroo which had now become bullet proof ice bumps that wouldn't take an edge particularly in the top section and Boomerang which although very hard was quite smooth and by comparison skied ok.

We went to the New Side and after a quick White Pass loop in the crunch under the lift we went up Polar Peak where we found the bumps bigger and harder than ever and for the first time holding an edge of any kind was a challenge. We did numerous loops through Papa, Grand Papa Mamma Bear and Crusty the Clown all of which needed careful skiing. We ran to lunch through Baby Bear which was a bit smoother than the rest but still very hard then cutting in to Cougar Glades which was very crusty in the trees. Final drop to lunch was through Stag Leap which remains very icy bumps in the final pitch but which for some reason seems to ski ok.

After lunch we just ran up Polar Peak and ran off again as part of our loops either through Spirit Bear of Goldilocks. The loops were through Decline which is still ok in the top but which has got appreciably cruddier in the final pitch and Touque Chutes/Easter bowl which was good to about half way down the hard and frozen.

By the time we got to Skydive for the final run we were feeling totally beaten up by the tough skiing and in no mood for a full on rip. Instead we each chose lines that we wouldn't usually take and skied them at moderate speed trying to find different ways down. It was actually good fun and a pleasant change on day when the hill had given us a good kicking from the outset.

In the bar we recovered a bit and reflected that we were all better skiers after a day like this and in our own rather perverted way we had enjoyed ourselves although I can see how what we did today would have pretty well been some peoples idea of hell. More snow called for at the weekend to coincide with my return to the UK for 5 days to attend Lynd's mum's funeral. If my departure helps everyone else to some good powder I guess I can take on for the team this time.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Day 61 Another short report

I'm afraid it's Tuesday wings night down at the pub so it will have to be another short report. Fortunately nothing really changed from yesterday so there is not much to add.

There was no new snow overnight of course extending the snow drought to three weeks without a significant fall and the base is now down to a skinny 155 cms. Temps on the way to the hill were -12 and it was -7 driving home. Up the hill all day temps stayed around -7/8 and bit colder up on Polar Peak. For the most part it was bluebird day but with cloudy patches later on. When you looked out from Polar Peak you could see weather cells that looked like they might be snow all round us but none actually got to us and there wasn't even a single snow flake during the day.

We went to the New Side which proved fortunate as the Bear Chair broke down during the morning and stayed that way for most of the day. We did numerous loops up Polar Peak which was generally hard and bumpy but taking an edge. The best run was Crusty which was still soft sift and the worst Grand Papa Bear which was hard bumps followed by wind affected crud. All the others (Papa, Mamma, Baby and Spirt Bear) were all ok but challenging.

We did a drop down Decline which actually skied nicely in the top taking a good edge but in the last pitch was refrozen crud. We went back up Polar for some more loops just as before then dropped to lunch with a hike up through Lone Fir which was ok in the upper chute but pretty firm all the way down after that. The exit through Freeway was very icy where the groomer had been and hard bumps where it hadn't.

After lunch we went back and did New Side loops that involved a couple of runs down Polar peak then a drop to the base. The drops were -

Stag Leap - nice in the trees and the top section getting very hard icy bumps in the final pitch.
The Brain/Window Chutes - the top of the Brain skied well as did the first pitch of window chutes with soft crust taking and edge. The final part of Window Chutes was icy and the final choke just an ugly mess of rocks and wood, an interesting challenge.
Concussion - we started this from the top of Papa Bear and skied non stop to the Timber load, our first Peak to Pint of the season. It was getting a bit firm and icy in the Concussion chutes but lower down it was taking an ok edge. Gilmar Trail was of course slick ice and the only practical way to ski it was to straight line it so we did.

Final run or course was Skydive which was firm bumps, rather crusty both in the top and mid sections and hard ugly refrozen crud in the final pitch. I know people think we are mad but it was really good fun to rip this in one from the White Pass top as has become our habit and great fun as we crisscrossed each other in the final pitch going way faster than was sensible in the conditions - very silly but boys will be boys.

Overall a very tough day in difficult conditions. If you were looking for easy skiing this would have been a bad day for you, if you were looking for a challenge and wanted to improve your technical skills (like most of my buddies do) then this was a good day with great fun skiing.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Day 60 a hard day

It wasn't that the conditions were so much harder today than they have been although they were a bit tougher, it was that we decided to push ourselves hard from the outset covering a lot of ground and seeking out the most challenging lines we could in order to put ourselves to the test. The result was two (myself and buddy Steve) very tired but very happy skiers ended the day in the Griz bar.

No new snow overnight of course and what with the high winds the base was down to 155 cms which is desperately low. The temp on the way to the hill was +1 and about the same on the way back but with a cooling trend it has dropped to -2 on the front deck as I am typing this and is forecast to go to -12 over night. Conditions were overcast all day with even a slight flurrie in the afternoon which did not give any accumulation. Temps up the hill stayed low and I noticed at the Polar load at around noon it was -6 although with the increasing moisture in the air and some wind (although way less than the howling conditions of the last few days) the wind chill had to be more like -10.

We went to the Old Side and looped out the Snake Ridge which we hoped might have some fresh wind sift. As it turned out the wind had scoured the Ridge and Gorby Gap below down to an ugly crust and icy bumps. We worked our way down avoiding as many of the death cookies as we could in the final pitch. Next loop we tried Steep and Deep which against all odds was even worse than Snake with deeper crust and even more death cookies. Loops back were through Kangaroo which was just about taking an edge on the hard icy bumps with lots of twigs and wind debris evident. We did one drop of Boom ridge which if anything was icier and bumpier than yesterday before completing our loops through Boomerang. The wind grooming in Boomerang had been scoured out but at least it was flat and taking an edge even down in the guts. We went to the New Side.

Lift Line was full of soft wind grooming and stayed that way all day making it about the most mellow I can ever remember. We took a few runs off Polar Peak in the chutes which were all very hard and bumpy, just like yesterday they were ok tough technical skiing but if you made a mistake there weren't going to be any second chances. We dropped to base through Barracuda which was fairly well scoured but was flat and taking an edge. Gilmar Trail was a little better than it has been due to the groomers cutting further to the left to bring in some more snow.

We went back up Polar Peak and tried a few more chutes. We found the best snow of the day had sifted deeply in Crusty the Clown - it is somewhat ironical that the only run on the hill today that wasn't crusty was the one called Crusty, how strange is that ? We ran off through Spirit Bear which was firm and taking and edge before hiking up Lone Fir which was soft in the chute and hard below. Final run off was through Spinal Tap which was way harder, crustier and icier than it has been and a real piece of work all the way through the creek bed.

After a late lunch we hit Siberia Ridge for the first time in many days and found that against all odds the choke wasn't all that much worse than it usually is, I just think there hasn't been any traffic in there. The lower run was a bit crusty but ok. We then did a Polar loop through Spirit Bear before dropping through Decline which skied surprisingly well down to the final pitch. Our next loop was up Polar where we ran off through a flat but hard Baby Bear and then Cougar Glades (crusty but consistent) and Stag Leap which was ok in the mid section and hard icy bumps low down.

We just had time for a quick hike up to Mitchy's which was ok before hitting a non stop run from the top of White Pass through Skydive. It was as it has been with perhaps the bumps in the top and the final cruddy pitch skiing a little bit better than of late.

That was one tough day and tonight will be yet another early night after a quiet evening in.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Day 59 the snow drought continues

As tonight's title implies there was no new snow overnight making it a little under three weeks since we saw any significant accumulation. The base is down to 168 cms which places us only 30 cms ahead of two years ago which was the worst year for over 40 years. Put another way we desperately need new snow and to a certain extent it is pretty amazing that the skiing is as good as it is which is just about on the right side of ok.

We got to the hill in temps of -3 and bluebird conditions. As the day wore on things clouded over but temps up the mountain stayed quite low (I noted -2 at the White Pass load quite late in the day) although at the base it just about reached into plus territory. I don't know if things warmed up after we finished or if has always been warm in the valley but as I am typing this it is +3 on our front deck. Whatever the case at no time did the temps soften the skiing base so all day it ok on top and hard and icy low down.

Once again the feature of the weather was the wind which was strong. When we got to the hill we were told that Boomerang Chair wasn't running although I am not sure if this was just the wind, or mechanical or something else, there were reports of two trees down in Boomerang. We went to the New Side and found it was windy from half way up Timber to the top and above. It was so windy that the Polar Peak chair which was open at first was closed for about an hour mid morning before being opened for the rest of the day. I was on one of the last chairs up before it closed and the wind was the strongest I have ever seen up there, it seemed to be a real possibility that the chair would hit one of the towers up around towers 7 and 8.

I managed to get two runs in the Polar Chutes (one Papa Bear, one Spirit Bear) before the lift closed. I had hoped that the wind would have sifted some snow into the chutes. I was out of luck, the chutes were scoured out although during the day some soft sift found it's way into Mama and Baby Bear. The conditions were challenging with the bumps proving to be big and hard although you could get an edge but any mistake would have had very severe consequences.

I ran to base through Concussion which did seem to be of the receiving end of the sift so the skiing was soft and smooth. The exit through Gilmar Trail was very hard and icy and you could point your skis in pretty well any direction and you slid down the fall line. With Polar closed the next loop was Lone Fir which was interesting. The sift had blown in to the chute so where it was normally a bit scratchy it was soft, deep and untracked. In the fan which is normally good the wind had scoured out all the soft snow leaving it hard and icy and in the trees below which are normally hard and tracked out the soft sift had blown in - in other words everything was the opposite of usual.

Polar Peak reopened and I did all possible variations of Shale Slope, Crusty Chute, Grand Papa and Papa Bear before running down to a late lunch through Spirit Bear which was hard but taking an edge. Cougar Glades were a bit crusty but the crust was consistent so it skied ok. Stag Leap was firm but ok in the top becoming hard icy bumps in the lower section but like yesterday these skied surprisingly well.

After lunch we went back up Polar for more loops before dropping Mama Bear (now full of soft sift) Decline (crunchy but taking and edge all the way down to the Megasauraus) and Window Chutes which were still in remarkably good shape but got a bit technical in both of the chokes.  We killed time in White Pass with a couple of loops, one through Surprise Trees (nice soft crunch) and one through Pillow Talk which was good fun dropping out under the lift. Last run of course was Skydive which showed no sign of softening in the slightly warmer temps and just like all of the last week or so it was good in the top turning to refrozen crud low down.

Sunday's are may favourite night in the Griz Bar. The weekend crowds have gone and been replaced by the staff enjoying a discounted staff night plus a few of us every day skiers. There is live music but not so loud you can't have a conversation and all in all it is a great place to share skiing experiences and ideas with like minded folk.

The Weather Network is scaling back it's forecast for snow over the next few days but looking at the sky and wind from Polar Peak it definitely feels like there is something on it's way - here's hoping.