Saturday, February 18, 2017

Day 73 the cost of skiing drops below 10 bucks a day

Yes, today my average cost of skiing for the season dropped below 10 bucks a day. This is much sooner than usual due to the simple fact that this year I am a senior and my seasons pass was over 200 bucks cheaper than the full adult pass. Even with the 7 days lost last week I am still optimistic that I will be able to get my average cost of skiing down to about 5 and a half bucks a day by the end of the season. Before everyone starts to tell me what a bad customer this make me just bear this in mind - it costs the hill the same whether I ski one day or 130 days. The only difference is how much I spend over and above the cost of my lift pass and obviously the more days I ski the more I spend. It follows that those of us who get the most days out of our passes are in fact the best customers the hill can have as they make more money out of us for no extra cost.

There was no new snow overnight although things had cooled down so it was -4 on the way to the hill. It was overcast and started with light snow late morning which just got heavier as the day went on. Driving back from the hill it was zero and as I look out on to my front deck it is puking snow. There wasn't much accumulation during the day but they are calling for perhaps 10 cms overnight and if this comes down at or around zero with a high moisture content it will make all the difference to hill.

We stayed on the New Side all day as I expected huge crowds (this being Alberta family weekend) and I wanted to get to Polar Peak before the rush. As it was there were crowds, but not as large as I expected so I was able to comfortably park in Lot 2 despite only arriving at about 5 to 9. Polar was a little disappointing as the light was very flat and the viz was deteriorating. The snow had firmed up and although it was taking an edge conditions were way tougher than yesterday as demonstrated by there being no line ups at the load. All this proved a bit academic as Lynda stacked it half way down Papa Bear on our first run and took a long slide down to the traverse. I had to ski down with her ski over my shoulder and although she was not hurt it kind of put Polar Peak off the menu for the rest of the morning.

We spent the rest of out time looping back the through White Pass which was all a bit scratchy after dropping Puff which was hard ugly refrozen crud all day. Loops into Currie were through 1-2-3s which skied ok up to the refrozen wet avi debris in 3's although this was ok as long as you picked your route carefully. Bootleg Glades was crusty but skiable with care and I guess the easiest route down was Currie Glades which were smooth with a thin surface accumulation of new snow. Gilmar Trail and Gully were hard and slick but not as bad as I have seen them. On my final run before lunch I went back up Polar only to find the light totally socked in to the point where the only way to turn was to check, set off a slough, look at where your slough ran and then turn into it as it gave you some idea of where the skiing surface was. After my run they closed Polar for the rest of the day which was probably no bad thing.

In the afternoon we just continued Currie loops of 1-2-3s, Currie Glades, Bootleg Glades and Gilmar Trail. Once or twice I ran back through White Pass which was scratchy everywhere but particularly in Pillow Talk. The viz line continued to descend so that by the end of the afternoon even the Gun Bowl was not an easy ski in refrozen conditions and poor viz. The only run that was consistent throughout the day was Puff which we always used to get to White Pass as Lift Line remained closed and this was hard ugly refrozen crud every run.

There was no final run on Skydive as the sign line remained down on the far side of Currie Powder although I suspect that the colder overnight temps may well have firmed up the crust on the lower sections improving things quite a lot. Lets hope that with this new snow everything will be open tomorrow.

As usual on a Saturday I gave the Griz Bar a miss as I am not prepared to line up to go drinking. In any event we have dinner tonight with friends so I needed and early departure to do the blog. Traffic off the hill was busy but I have seen worse so maybe this family weekend isn't going to be the gong show I had feared. That having been said we may have fresh snow tomorrow so lets not count our chickens.

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.

Day 71 a horrible ugly mess

Today after the all night and all day rain the only possible description of the hill was as above - a horrible ugly mess. I got to the hill a little late today as I had to drop the truck off at Fernie Ford for a couple of small jobs to be done. I was in no great hurry as it had rained all night and was still raining as I got to the hill. The temp was +4 and as I looked up the hill hoping to see a snow line all I could see through the mist was rain affected terrain.

Overnight the hill was claiming 7 cms of new snow but to be quite honest even at the snow plot which is quite near the top of the hill it must have been heavy elephant snot and by the time we got to the hill the precip was coming down as rain all the way to the top so any new snow would have been washed away. It rained all day with plus temps all the way to the top of the hill and even by late afternoon we only saw one ore two flurries of ice storms which were short lived before going back to solid rain.

We went to the New Side in the hope that the higher we went the more chance we had of getting some good snow but we were disappointed. Currie bowl was closed and stayed that way all day as was Anaconda and Big Bang so all we really had was the White Pass core. At the very top of White Pass and for the first couple of turns in to the Gun Bowl the snow was just about acceptable but very heavy although this didn't matter as the viz was so poor that you couldn't ski it to any great effect. Below that is was just heavy elephant snot away from the groomers.

We looped White Pass several times and just about had an ok run down Surprise Trees with the rest of the runs slow motion slush. Late morning White Pass chair broke down so we headed across to the Old Side. I spent the rest of the morning looping Cruiser (ungroomed slush) Cedar Centre ( slush on a firm base) Kangaroo (actually the best run of day with the bumps soft and taking an edge) Boom Ridge (soft mushy slow bumps) and Boomerang which was pure elephant snot.

After a late lunch it was more Old Side stuff as with Currie closed Skydive was never going to be an option. Nothing had changed and as the rain just got harder the snow got softer and slushier It became super slow motion ACL ripping skiing anywhere away from the groomers which were still firm enough to support skier traffic.

I was off the hill slightly early to pick up the truck from Fernie Ford but to be quite honest I wasn't that sorry. The hill had become a soggy mess with no good ungroomed skiing and with the threat that if the temps drop we will have a crust situation that will make last weeks crust look like a stroll in the park. There is also the promise of the rain turning to snow so perhaps we may see improving conditions, as it is things couldn't get much uglier or wetter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Day 70 here comes the rain

Yesterday's bluebird conditions have now given way to the threatened rain which is falling on my back deck as I am typing this. But lets go back to the beginning and tell my story in some kind of order.

No new snow over night and on the way to the hill the temp was +1. During the day temps rose at the base to +4 and up the hill at the White Pass load I noticed it was +1 mid afternoon. As I drove away it was +3 and that's where it looks like it's going to remain over night. It was overcast to start with and became more cloudy as the day wore on and the wind was pretty gusty off and on. By the end of the day the precip had started a graupel at the top of Skydive but by the base is was light rain and there doesn't seems to be anything that is going to change that any time soon.

We decided to have a New Side day for no particular reason although the Polar Peak chair was closed due to the wind - for a short time around mid day it did go to standby but that was a false alarm and all we really had to play with were New Side loops. As I predicted yesterday all the south facing slopes which had melted in yesterday's sun were set up as hard ugly icy crud and didn't soften that much today in the absence of direct sunlight. The atmospheric warming today did have an effect on the rain crust which started to soften in the afternoon but only at the very lower parts of the hill - where it softened it got very mushy and sticky and quite slow motion skiing.

The Gun bowl was fairly scratchy but we dropped it on the way to Anaconda Glades which skied nice and soft taking an edge and Bootleg Glades which were a bit chopped up and crusty. Next loop we had intended to ski Lone Fir but due to a lack of concentration ended up on Barracuda which was scratchy and icy all the way down to the Gilmar trail. Lone Fir when we got there was great soft chute skiing and the fan below was much improved by a light covering of sift which improve skiing enormously and showed how little snow would be needed to really make things good. The exit through Easter was still crusty at that time.

On a whim we decided to try Siberia Ridge with no great expectation that it would be any good, Actually it skied well down to the choke which was no worse than usual. The rest of the run went from scratchy ice under trees to crust which was ok to ski because of the terrain which assisted the crusty turns. Final run before lunch we got tempted to try Cougar Glades which we have skied past untracked for the past four days on the grounds that the trees would be just too ugly. In the event it skied better than expected although the crusty lines in trees were a bit challenging. The cut into Stag Leap was ok and the lower part of Stag leap was starting to soften and was actually quite mushy by the last couple of turns.

After lunch at the excellent Rusty Edge it was more New Side loops. We hit Touque Chutes (starting to soften ok) and Spinal Tap (crust to mush and back again) which we had intended to do before lunch. I don't think anyone had been in there since I skied it a couple of days ago and given the conditions I am not entirely surprised. Then it was Decline (crusty) and Window Chutes (crusty and mush) although the icy chokes actually skied quite well. The traverse just before the bridge on the way to Skydive is now getting very sketchy and anyone thinking of trying it should be prepared for a bit of a shock.

Final run was Skydive which skied so much better that it has of late. The bumps in top took a nice edge and most of the rest of the run was easy soft skiing. The lower final pitch was slow and heavy and hard work. Bear in mind that by this time the light rain had started low down making the going very sticky the conditions were to be expected.

Another quiet night in to gather ourselves for what could be a rather testing and wet day tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Day 69 Spring Skiing

Yes, today was the first time we had what could be called spring skiing this season but unfortunately the effect was that the hill far from improving did in fact get rather worse. Yesterday the upper mountain was soft tracked powder and the mid mountain and below were breakable rain crust. The warming conditions today meant that the upper mountain in the direct sunlight softened and then as the sun went down reformed as fairly ugly refrozen crud. The sun was not warm enough to have much effect on the crust so the conditions as we sit here are refrozen crud on top and rain crust all the way down. The only exceptions are north facing upper slopes, and Polar Peak which were not sun affected today and so remain firm but taking a nice edge.

There was no new snow over night and the base is now down to under 220 cms which is very skinny for this time of year and particularly so when you consider the huge amount of snow (over 100 cms) which fell last week. It was cold overnight and it was -12 on the way to the hill but warming fast in the bluebird conditions. By the end of the day we had +5 at the base and even up at the Polar load during the day I noticed it was +2. It did take some time for things to start warming up so most of the morning not much softened even in the direct sun light until just before lunch.

We went to the Old Side and I spent the morning looping out into Cedar bowl skiing rain crust all the time. There were a number of near loops through Bear Cave Chutes, Cedar Ridge (different ways)  and far loops through Snake Ridge and Steep and Deep. There were no tracks out to Snake so the runs were untracked although untracked crust and as such were really tough but fun. All returns (five times) were through Kangaroo which was actually nicely broken up crust and Boomerang which was also broken crust but starting to get sun softened on the skiers left lower down. I did have time for a couple of drops down Boom Ridge which was hard icy crusty bumps but a bit more broken up than before by some light skier traffic.

After a late lunch we went to the New Side and straight up Polar Peak which was firm but skiing ok. We looped Papa Bear, Grand Papa Bear, Crusty and Mama Bear all of which were firm but taking and edge with a bit of sift blown in. The view from the top of the Peak was just stunning, I can't remember a clearer or sunnier day. We dropped through Decline which was crusty and Window Chutes where we got first tracks (again crust in the chute and ice in the chokes) and some great skiing down to the cat track. I guess no one had been dumb enough to try Window Chutes, any time in the last four days.

We then made our big mistake. We hiked up Knot Chutes (that wasn't the mistake) and then skied across to the top of the Tight Knot and dropped it. An hour or two earlier and we would have had great sun softened snow but by the time we dropped in it had set up and we skied the ugliest refrozen crud I have experienced for some time all the way down the Tight Knot. We got down but in no great style but survived. A good side effect was that when we looped Surprise Trees next time round it seems easy skiing whereas without the Knot Chute experience we would have said it was ugly and icy - there is always an up side to be found.

Last run of course was Skydive which was crusty just as it has been since Thursday's rain but getting slightly easier to ski every day, or perhaps we are just getting better at it.

Plenty of time for a few OJ and sodas in the Griz and then back to the house for the first on time blog in ages - enjoy.

Day 68 a New Side day

So, today is the last time I shall have to be apologising for a late report as this evening I picked Lynda up from Cranbrook Airport and now she is back it will be business as usual for the rest of the season.

No new snow again overnight and on the way to the hill this morning the temps were -5. It was hazy sunshine all day and the temps rose steadily at the base so that it got to about +4 by the mid afternoon high. Up the mountain things were cooler with temps holding on to zero or a couple of degrees cooler in the shade although in the direct sunlight things were warmer. On the New Side at least it never got warm enough for things to soften and just as in the previous days things were firm but with some sift up high and breakable rain crust below that all the way to the base. Tonight on the deck it is -5 so it looks like a chilly night

For no particular reason we went to the New Side and stayed there all day. Polar Peak was open so after a quick warm up loop in White Pass we went up and set the pattern for the day. That pattern was to loop Polar several times taking different lines and then run to base to complete the loop. Papa Bear was firm on top but with increasing wind sift lower down as the day went on. Grand Papa Bear was a mixture of ugly lunar landscape wind crust with the odd patch of firm wind grooming, the trick was to hop from one patch of hard pack to the next without getting too hung up on the ugly crust in between. It was challenging fun and there was an interesting variation by hitting Shale Slope for the first few turns then crossing over the shoulder by tower 8 and dropping into the Grand Papa chute that way. Mama Bear was also very smooth and firm and very mellow skiing but as always on Polar your first mistake was likely to be your last.

The runs to base were through Concussion twice which was nicely broken up crust, Lone Fir which was nice in the chute, a bit scratchy in the fan and ugly icy crust on the Easter exit, Barracuda which was like Concussion but not so broken up and Touque Chutes which skied surprising well and soft in the top but just got  crustier as you went down.

Final run of the day of course was Skydive which was rain crust all the way although it did seem to ski a little easier than the past couple of days particularly in the top of the final pitch. Sooner or later it's either got to get warmer and the crust will soften or we will have new snow, or someone other than me and a couple of buddies will ski it and break it up but until then we are stuck with an end of day crust event for the foreseeable future.

No drinks as I had an airport run to make but from now on as I said normal service will be resumed.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Day 67 Breakable Crust Bill

First of all sorry for the late report but today I have a genuine reason, I had to run to Cranbrook Airport after skiing to pick up one of my Irish buddies who was flying in tonight. Of course there also was a little delay while I had a look at the work done so far to repair the leak in roof which has involved pulling sections of the wall out to see what is happening.

The title tonight relates to the fact that I think I deserve a nick name. We see this all the time in skiing (such as Mogul Mike, Powder Matt etc) where people give themselves names to reflect what they think defines their skiing. Well, after today I think I ought to be called Breakable Crust Bill, it has a nice ring to it.

There was no new snow overnight and on the way to the hill temps were -2. It was overcast at first but became more sunny as the day went on and by close it was almost bluebird. There was a strong wind all day higher up which kept Polar Peak closed and even blew a bit of sift around low down. It remained at just sub zero temps up the mountain all day and on the deck as I am typing this it is -1. Interestingly on the drive over to Cranbrook it got down to -6 but as soon as you came through the tunnel and into the Elk Valley it was up to +1, not sure what that means but there it is.

We went to the Old Side to check things out and as anticipated it was hard breakable rain crust everywhere off the groomers. I did 5 loops out into Cedar Bowl trying a lot of different lines ranging from Cedar Ridge to the fence line by Snake Ridge (closed) all of which were very challenging crust and in many places it was untracked. All returns were through Kangaroo which was breaking up a bit by the fifth time through and actually was not skiing too badly and Boomerang which was hard crust all the way down through the guts. I even found time for a couple of loops back on Boom Ridge which was just as crusty as every where else although the bumps did help to get a bit of air for breaking through the crust.

After a late lunch I went up the New Side to see if the crust up there was any different and actually the skiing was a bit better over all. With Polar closed it was New Side loops, the first being High Saddle which was a few good turns in the top and bottom and a deep trench that you had to rail ride in the middle. The skiing underneath wasn't bad at all and didn't get crusty until quite low down. I cut into Spinal Tap and had first tracks (ok it was rain crust but first tracks are first tracks) all the way down the creek bed and on to the final shoulder. Next loop was Decline which was just ugly crust all the way down. Next I hiked Lone Fir where the side step up was bit technical around Shaun's Chute but the snow in the chute itself was soft and deep. The fan was disappointingly crusty as was Easter Bowl on the way out.

A special mention has to go to Lift Line which was closed most of the day due to the junior free ski competition in Big Bang so that when it opened late afternoon it was soft untracked snow particularly in the top. The final run was Skydive which just like last night was rain crust all the way down although I thought I detected about 4 turns at the top of the final pitch which skied something like normal skiing. No one joined me perhaps unsurprisingly so I had the run all to myself and I suspect no one had been in there since we skied it in the same conditions last night.

Reviewing this post I realise that a reader could be mistaken and think that I had a bad day because of all the crust - quite the opposite. Skiing crust is a skill I developed on old skinny skis many years ago so on the new equipment if it isn't exactly easy it certainly isn't hard. I would estimate that 99% of skiers quite simply can't ski crust so they avoid it like the plague. They can't understand how the 1% of us who can ski it pretty easily get so much enjoyment out of these conditions but we do. Before all the amateur shrinks come up with a whole range of opinions as to why I ski this stuff when clearly no one could enjoy it let me simplify things for you, I ski this stuff because it's fun and I enjoy it - simples.

Tomorrows report will be late as well because I am back to Cranbrook for another pick up but this time it is Lynda. Can't wait for her to get back so expect another late one tomorrow.