Saturday, March 18, 2017

Day 101 hero to zero

Yesterday I was eulogising (look it up) about the ability of the hill to repair itself so quickly after a disastrous weather event like last weeks rain. Unfortunately as we saw today the hill has an equal and opposite ability to go from pretty good skiing like yesterday to the horrible wet soggy mess that we had today.

Last night the temp on the deck was +1 and we had a rain snow mix falling so things looked like they might not be too bad. By morning the temp had risen to +3 and it was raining hard. When we arrived at the hill it was confirmed that it was raining all the way to the top, ridge line winds were forecast, viz in White Pass was very poor and very little was open. I don't think anyone was too enthusiastic as parking lot 2 was pretty deserted even for a week day and this was a Saturday. As a matter of record the base has dropped to a soggy 290 cms having only briefly been over 3 meters.

We went to the New Side and found only the White Pass core open and poor viz on top. Yesterday's powdery graupel had been turned to pure elephant snot by the heavy rain and we looped the Gun Bowl and various runs below all of which were soggy, heavy and slow. I never got out as far as Surprise Trees as the I Bowl was bad enough and I didn't really think the juice would be worth the squeeze.

After quite a few slow motion slushy White Pass loops we decided to try our luck on the Old Side. On the way there I had a pleasant surprise in that I dropped into Triple Trees off the Summer Road and found them untracked and nowhere near as slushy as I expected, perhaps it was the snow dropping off the trees that gave a rather firmer base. The Old Side was even more closed down than the New Side and all we had was The Bear, North Ridge, Emily's and Kangaroo. North Ridge and Emily's were just about holding up as slushy trashed up groomers but Kangaroo was run of the day with soft slow motion bumps and we looped them several times before lunch.

After lunch it was raining even harder so I went to the Old Side again which was where the best skiing of the morning had been in my opinion. I had worked out that I could do a loop by drooping North Ridge, then cutting left under the last closed sign into King Fir and dropping all the way to Haul Back. Kangaroo completed the loop back to Boomerang and that seemed to be the only good skiing to be had on the hill. Even then the snow in King Fir was very heavy, slow and slushy and I am sure that as I skied out one time I hear big avi let go in the top of Cedar Bowl. Five loops and it was all over with a run down Bear to base and the rain getting even harder.

Driving away from the hill tonight it was +6 and raining hard. Rather worryingly almost all the forecasts agree that temps tonight will fall to something like -5 with no new snow. If they are right then we could be in for some very challenging conditions tomorrow.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 100 happy Paddy's Day

Yes, we did have a very happy Paddy's Day and not because it was my 100th day skiing this season or because of all of the music, green beer and general paddywhackery but because we had some very good fresh snow on the hill and apparently no one was interested in skiing it.

Overnight they were reporting 10 cms of fresh although most of that was the graupel that fell during the course of yesterday. In normal circumstances this would have been trashed before we left the hill but with so much closed yesterday it meant that most of the hill had 10 cms of fresh graupel which for reasons I explored yesterday skis more like 20 cms of ordinary snow. It was -2 on the way to the hill which meant everything had frozen hard so the new snow was needed to provide a cushion on what was a pretty hard base. During the day things warmed up to +6 at the base and just above zero higher up so the snow was softening low down but for most of the mountain you still needed the graupel cushion.

We didn't get any new snow during the day and for the most part it was a kind of hazy sunshine. In the direct sunlight the surface softened so we had sun balling of the snow and even some pinwheels in places. As the sun moved round and things clouded over a little the softened snow set up a bit but not all that bad and even where it was chopped up it was still ok skiing. As we drove away from the hill it was +4 and at the moment it is showing no signs of cooling down.

We didn't make an early start partly because we could hear a lot of heli bombing going on and figured that it would be a while before everything would be open and partly because I had some grown up stuff to sort out with the insurance regarding the recent roof leak. What with one thing and another it was 9:30 before we got to the hill and had no hope of getting any first tracks, boy were we wrong.

We went to the New Side and tested Lift Line to find out more about the conditions and found the soft deep graupel made a great skiing surface. Currie was open and as we tracked out on the Reverse Traverse they were opening the Saddles. We resisted the temptation and went out the Skydive where we actually had to break trail on the Skydive Traverse and therefore had Skydive (or any other run we wanted) totally untracked all the way down which was very good indeed. Next loop round we went out to Skydive again and were amazed to find only one or two tracks since we had been there before. Even better Decline was totally untracked so we got first tracks all the way down there which were awesome.

Deciding to chance our luck we went out again and this time dropped Cougar Glades where the two tracks ahead of us quickly disappeared and we had untracked lines all the way down and through the left hand exit chutes. We couldn't believe we were still getting first tracks. Next loop we hadn't really formed a plan but as we crossed Currie Creek there was only one track in there so we dropped it and had an awesome rip down in untracked snow. Last run before lunch we decided to try our luck in Stag Leap expecting it to be rather tracked up. We were staggered as we dropped into the trees and found them  untracked. Even when we got to the top of the run there was only one track on the right hand side so we helped ourselves to first tracks all the way down the left.

After a late lunch we went back to the New Side and had the only disappointment of the day. We dropped Touque Chutes which were rather tracked of and Spinal Tap where there was a chunky frozen under surface presumable from a slide when it was closed over he past couple of days. Still ok skiing but not great. Next loop I hit the Brain and couldn't believe that at around three in the afternoon the whole of the top section down to the Megasauraus was still totally untracked and great powder skiing. Even in the lower part I could see tracks off to the right but held the creek bed shoulder and had untracked snow until I bailed on to Skydive just before the bottom.

Last run of course was Skydive and although it was tracked you could still find fresh snow if you stayed hard to the trees on either side. It was good snow until the final pitch when it had softened and the started to set up. All things considered it was more than ok.

So we went to the Griz Bar and joined in the Paddy's Day celebrations. We were all pumped by what had been a day which was much better than expected and made even better by the fact that no one appeared to want to ski the untracked good stuff around the Big Three. They are calling for some pretty dodgy precip over the next 24 hours but personally I will take whatever we get.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Day 99 graupel to the rescue

Before we start lets make clear what is meant by "graupel" often incorrectly referred to as grapple. Graupel is a soft form of ice balls that falls when the temp is zero or slightly above and can sometimes be quite large - up to 1 cm across. The advantage of graupel is that it can accumulate very quickly indeed (as it did today) and because of the high moisture content it quickly forms a cushion between the skis and  an icy under surface as it also did today. The downside is that it is relatively hard compared with snow and can really sting the face if you try and ski through a fall at speed.

It was + 2 on the way to the hill and also +2 as we drove away tonight. temps may have risen a little at the base during the day but for the most part this was the lower hill temp all day. I noticed that at the White Pass load it was zero all day so maybe a little colder at the top. Conditions were overcast with a poor viz line which worked it's way down from White Pass top to the Idiot Traverse by mid afternoon before rising again to the top by the close.

Overnight they called 5 cms of fresh which seemed a bit generous to me but what was there was being blown around in a strong wind particularly in the morning. The effect of the skiing surface was that for the top half of White Pass we had dust on crust while lower down the under surface softened and tended to blend in more with the new snow. The big feature of the day was graupel showers which continued off and on (more on than off) all day and created a significant accumulation of graupel (I would estimate at least 5 cms) which obliterated tracks and gave a supportive top skiing surface. For a short time around mid day the precip did turn to snow (wet at the base) but for most of the time it was graupel which was giving very good, soft, untracked skiing conditions.

We went to the New Side and found even more closed than yesterday. Around 9 this morning there was a huge slide out of Hells Gate which brought down trees and spread all the way across Falling Star - unsurprisingly this area was closed all day. It's easier to say what was open than what was closed. We had the White Pass core and the Idiot Traverse open to just before Surprise Trees and that was it. We looped around Gun Bowl, Pillow Talk, the Silver Lining sign line and all bits in between but in truth it was very limited. The skiing was actually pretty good with the graupel giving good soft coverage and in places untracked lines.

I decided that the Old Side would be a better bet because as it was lower the under surface would be softer. My reasoning was good but what I failed to allow for was that the Old Side had even less open than the New. Put simply we had Bear and North Ridge with all other areas (including those in between like Linda's and Boom Ridge) closed. We went for an early lunch to replan the day.

In the afternoon we went back up the New Side and ran loops from White Pass top through the Gun Bowl, taking the Idiot Traverse as far as we were allowed and then dropping either Black Cloud or Lower Surprise and exiting off Summer Road on that little pitch under Timber Chair. This was pretty nice skiing on the new snow and the soft surfaces lower down. We then tried the lower two pitches of Triple Trees off Summer Road and they were just fantastic. The runs were untracked (or at least filled in by the graupel) and skiing like a dream. That was it for the rest of the afternoon where we kept putting down fresh tracks in lines we knew we had skied before - sensational.

While sitting in the Griz Bar the snow continued to fall outside and if things stay cold as they are forecast to do (-5 over night) we could actually have a pretty good day tomorrow. Today was a good example of just how quickly the hill can repair itself after a cruddy day like yesterday.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Day 98 a wet soggy mess

Great not to have to be apologising for a late post tonight as I have got home from the hill early with nothing to do. Keen readers will remember that last night it was pouring with rain. Well, the rain continued all night in the valley and up the hill as well. It continued all day all the way up the hill and is still raining now. Once or twice during the day the precip got a little white at the very top of the hill but for the most part it was good old fashioned rain.

On the way to the hill it was +2 and raining and on the way back it was +3 and still raining. During the day, which I spent in White Pass, I checked the temp at the load and it was a solid +3 every time I looked which explains why we had rain all the way to the top of the hill all day.

Most of the hill was closed and stayed that way all day. This was partly because of the off the scale avalanche danger and partly because ski patrol wanted to preserve areas against the time it is going to freeze (soon we hope) to keep it smooth so very little new snow will make it quite skiable. On the Old Side only the Old Side Triangle was open so I headed to the New Side. Things weren't much better there with Currie Bowl, Polar Peak, Big Bang, Siberia Ridge and Knot Chutes all closed. Initially all we had was the Gun Bowl and Quite Right and beyond open. They then opened the Zig Zag and had a sign line giving a low start to the Idiot Traverse.

At the top of White Pass there was a sign saying that nothing else was open today so that was it. We checked with the Patrol to make sure they were happy with us taking a slightly low Idiot Traverse out to Surprise and they confirmed they were. Later a sign appeared near the start saying that the conditions beyond the sign were "terrible" and that skiers were advised to return to the groomer. This worked great as it kept most people away from the Surprise area and gave us untracked runs in there all day.

The day was simple, we dropped the left shoulder of the Gun Bowl near the fence line each time which was wet mushy snow and got more so as the day went on. I cut the traverse out to Surprise Trees and looped that area from the far chutes to Fiery Hornet and back over and over. The skiing surface was flattened mush with a reasonable under base which meant that it was slow motion stuff but just like wet powder. We dropped to lunch through Triple Trees which skied just like Surprise all the way down and was great fun,

After lunch I went back up and did exactly the same loops as this morning with the snow getting a bit heavier but still skiing soft deep untracked mush all over Surprise Trees. Last run was Triple Trees again which skied just like in the morning but by then in the final pitch some of the deadfall was starting get uncovered and I had a moment of high excitement stacking it while trying to avoid some of the lumber - no harm done except to pride.

The Griz Bar was surprisingly busy considering I only saw about 20 people on the hill all day. As usual during the day I was asked how I could ski all day in these conditions and my answer as always was with my rubber fishing pants, Canadian Tire plastic jacket and heavy duty rubber gloves I stayed warm and dry all day - there is no such thing as bad conditions, only inappropriate clothing.

It's been three days of rain now without a break, it has to stop sometime - please.

Day 97 even wetter if that's possible

Once again apologies for the late report, another night out at friends, what it is to be popular. On the way to the hill it was +3 having rained all night in the valley. We hoped that this would mean snow up higher and they were in fact calling for 7 cms on the web site. At the White Pass load temps were down to zero but during the day they rose to about +2 and this evening in the valley we are back to +3.

It rained or snowed all day with everything around the White Pass top or above totally socked in with fog or cloud. The rain line drifted up and down the hill so that some time we had wet snow at the base and at other times we had rain all the way to the top. The result was heavy creamy wet snow to about half way down White Pass or the Currie Chutes and then super deep heavy elephant snot below that.

At first only White Pass was open on the New Side so we did some loops through Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees which were all smooth but wet and heavy. We decided to drop Anaconda which was very mellow in the top but had become mush in the bottom and slough management was a real issue.

When we got up White Pass again we were pleased to see that Currie Bowl had opened but amazed to find Polar Peak was also open considering the very poor viz. We stuck to Papa Bear chute in Polar because of the poor viz and is was super deep and soft all the way down. We did a series of New Side loops which incorporated Polar chutes followed by Concussion, then Tom's, then Barracuda all of which were soft and untracked in the top becoming very heavy and wet lower down. By lunch it was raining hard all over the hill and the mush line was moving up fast.

After lunch Timber Chair broke down (again) so we headed to the Old Side (most of which was now closed) and found that Cedar Ridge was very slow and pure elephant snot in the last few turns. Kangaroo skied nicely as soft bumps although it was a bit slow and the ski back to Boom Chair was a real piece of work. Hearing that Bear Chair had now broken down I dropped Boom Ridge which actually sked ok in the steep pitch but was super slow deep mush lower down. I heard that Timber had reopened so I went there to catch the last few runs of the day.

Unfortunately Currie Bowl was now closed so we had three loops back through the Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees which had all become very mushy and slow motion skiing. With our route to Skydive closed we thought the next best thing would be Gotta Go and so finished with that which was ok skiing in the chute and soft mush down to the trail.

After the hill closed it rained and has been raining ever since. All forecasts suggest that tomorrow will be even wetter with the rain line at the top of the hill. This could be a messy few days.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Day 96 a wet disjointed day

First apologies for late post, we were out with friends and have only just got back. The day was wet because we had a continual rain/snow mix all day and disjointed because, well, let the day's events speak for themselves.

It remained warm all night and on the way to the hill it was +3 which I guess would have been the average over night temp. They were claiming 3 cms of new snow and there certainly seemed to be a dusting of about this amount as we rode the first chair.

For reasons that are hard to explain we went to the Old Side to see what it was like. There was a minor accumulation of new snow up high but for the most part it was soft mush which was doing it's best to reform. We had a couple of loops of New Lift Line Cedar Ridge and Boomerang all of which skied ok with soft snow. Kangaroo was actually skiing very nicely with mushy bumps which were easy to ski. About then it started to rain on the lower hill with some wet snow higher up. This prompted two decisions, firstly to go high on the New Side and secondly to go in and put on my full plastic/rubber rain gear. This was the first disruption to the day.

On the New Side we found it was snowing hard above the White Pass load which gave great soft jersey cream snow. The snow was accumulation very quickly although it was rather wet and heavy and with hardly anyone on the hill we were getting fresh tracks pretty well every where we went. We took a decision to stay in White Pass rather than run to base where the precip was solid and hard rain. Our loops tended to be Knot Chutes (super soft and deep) followed by Surprise Trees or associated chutes which were similarly great skiing. After dropping the Tight Knot I waited to get out on the Idiot Traverse and as I jumped my turn to start my ski flew off while it was in the air and ran down the bowl. After a long slide to recover it I discovered my toe binding was broken and skied to base down the cat tracks in very gentle style to check the situation. Disruption number two.

An examination of the skies showed that both toe bindings had parts of the jaws broken away so I changed back to my DPS Hybrids and headed back up. I continued to loop Knot Chutes and the Surprise area until it was time for a very late lunch. It was still snowing hard on top and raining at the base. Soon it was time for a very late lunch and I ran to base through Corner Pocket which was about as soft and mellow as I have ever seen it with no tires showing. The light wasn't great but the skiing below the chute was just awesome untracked powder which was getting just a bit heavy as I bailed on to Dancer. Lunch was disruption number three.

After lunch there was very little time left so it was back to the New Side once again. It seemed to me that the rain line was getting a bit higher up the hill which was strange as the temps at White Pass loan remained at about zero as it had done all day. The snow up in White Pass also seemed a bit wetter to me although that may have been my imagination. More awesome Knot Chute/Surprise loops getting untracked lines as the heavy snow filled in areas which I know I had tracked up several times before.

Final run of course was Skydive which took a huge act of will power too get to as we skied past the Currie Chutes all of which looked awesome and untouched. Skydive was well filled in and soft and was fantastic for the first pitch, ok for the second, tolerable for the first half of the final pitch and pure elephant snot for the final few turns. It was a good work out to end a very good, if wet, day's skiing.

Driving home it was +3 and has remained that way all evening. I had to drop in to Straight Line to sort out my bindings and as I expected they replaced them on the spot with no problems - awesome customer service guys. Looks like we might be getting more of the same weather tomorrow so keep the rubber fishing pants handy and stay high.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Day 95 way better than In expected

It rained in the valley overnight and the deck temps of +1 which we saw last night rose to +3 by the morning as we drove to the hill. When we looked up the hill it had a rain line (official reports call this a snow line) just below the White Pass load. it was obvious to us that the place to go was the New Side and to get as high as possible which was limited by the fact tat Polar Peak stayed closed all day. During the day we almost had a sunny period (narrowly avoided thank goodness) and apart from that it was overcast with the odd flurry of grauppel with no real accumulation..

The temps on the hill set in at about +4 at the base and +2 up the hill. In the absence of any direct sunlight this meant that the snow stayed in ok shape from last night (about 8 cms of heavy Jersey Cream) but became more like soft spring skiing as the day went on.

We had expected to find good snow on top and frozen rain crust below but that was not the case. The snow on top was certainly good soft Jersey Cream but the lower mountain was soft snow taking and edge and becoming pretty mushy the lower you went particularly earlier in the day. Overall we had good skiing up top and ok skiing on the lower mountain which as I said I way better than expected,

Sunday is my drinking night so with a lot of beers under my belt the memory of the day is a bit hazy from this late perspective - here goes -
Knot Chute/Anaconda/ Bootleg glades - a good way to start in deep snow when we fully expected the crud line to hit us in Anaconda but it was the bottom of Bootleg before we felt anything at all. A great soft deep snow run with few tracks,
Skydive - the fence on Currie had just dropped so we hit across to Skydive and got 3rd and 4th tracks in which were just deep and awesome. The transition was about half way down the final pitch and was only to soft snow, and not crud as we had feared.
Cougar Glades - great skiing with many untracked lines only getting heavy towards the bottom of the left hand exit chute.
Decline - good all the way down getting a little heavy in the final pitch and an ugly surprise from the groomers on the left hand side where the groomers had dug out a deep pit to catch the unwary.
Gotta Go/ Diamond Leg Trees - a little scratchy in the choke and the just awesome heavy snow all the way down. the trees stayed good way below where we though things should have got ugly.
Lone Fir - last run before a late lunch and the snow in the chute was about as good as I have seen it. The fan underneath was very soft and mellow against the sign line on the left.
Knot Chute hike/Google Earth/ Bootleg - after lunch for reasons that are beyond me I hiked the Knot Chutes and skied the ridge line before dropping in to the top of the Tight Knot which was tight but good and soft. I cut across and hit Google earth (just above Gotta Go) from the top and it was just awesome, the ski out in Bootleg Glades was pretty good.
Stag Leap - which was a very mellow ski down most of the way getting a bit claggy  in the final pitch.
Skydive - the final run which was ok in the top and heavy low down.

Over all a very good day in conditions that held well even low down the mountain and was way better than I expected. I noticed temps at the base of +4 and at the White Pass load of + 2 which explained the good spring skiing conditions wherever we went. I have no idea what tomorrow will hold.