Saturday, April 8, 2017

Day 122 an excellent day's spring skiing

As we skied the Currie Head Wall today I thought I would start with a nice pic of the Head Wall and the Wimp Chutes, which is the line we skied, slightly to the right of centre of the pic. The more observant of you will notice that the pic is dated a few days ago and was in fact taken on Tuesday which was the day the Head Wall opened for the first time and when I skied the Wimp Chutes three times but as conditions today were more or less the same today I have taken liberties in the name of art.

The reason for this explanation is that the trolls are out and about again. A number of these pathetic little individuals are putting it about that I don't actually ski what I say I do in my blog and an inconsistency like the pic would be just what they need to "prove" their point. I have a huge number of witnesses who ski with me and also read the blog (Rob, Rod, Kevin, Brad, Lynda, Dan etc) who know I only print the truth but that doesn't matter to the pathetic little trolls. I repeat my offer made before to them - select any day from the archive where you think I couldn't ski what I say I did and join me (as long as the conditions are similar) and I will ski everything all over again. I am also prepared to take a bet on it with no upper limit as it just depends on how much they want to lose. Of course they won't take me up because that would take balls which seem to be sadly lacking in these people.

Today the hill were reporting about 5cms of new snow overnight on the upper hill. The temp on the deck as I drank my coffee was -1 so we decided it wasn't worth rushing to the hill until things softened up a bit and even though it was a Saturday the parking lot was only about half full as we rolled up just before 10. It was +4 at the base and mostly sunny with the odd cloud. We decided that the surfaces should softening in the direct sunlight so we went to the New Side to test this. During the day temps rose steadily until it was +9 as we drove away from the hill.

As anticipated the skiing surfaces softened but mid morning some cloud and haze came in which stayed until late afternoon when things cleared again but the high haze did persist. The result was that south facing surfaces softened but didn't get super soft or mushy and didn't start to set up late in the day. The north facing slopes took longer to soften even a bit but by the end of the day they too were an ok skiing surface taking an edge.

We spent the first part of the morning looping White Pass and found great spring skiing conditions everywhere with particularly good skiing in the Knot Chutes ( we dropped several different chutes) Pillow Talk and the I bowl. Polar Peak had opened so we went up and had great soft skiing in the Papa and Grand Papa Bear chutes. Currie Head Wall had also opened so I hiked out the Wimp Chutes and found that like before you had to drop air to get in, land in a steep icy surface and bang out one icy turn and then it all skied very easily. I went back to looping the Polar Chutes which were all getting a bit soft but were skiing very easily. We dropped to an early lunch through Concussion which actually was smooth and soft and untracked in the parts where we were.

After lunch we went back up Polar and ran through Barely Legal and then Mama Bear which were getting less soft in the hazy sunshine but still took a good edge. This time we ran to base through High Saddle which was good edge to edge jumping in the chutes and firm but taking an edge in the fan. Easter and Freeway were patchy at first but got softer the lower you went and in the end were very mellow spring skiing. Next loop after a few runs through the Knot Chutes which were soft I hiked Lone Fir and found the chute a little firm but again good edge to edge jumping all the way through. The fan was just bit too hard on top to be easy but as you got down in to Easter and Freeway it was as described before getting softer and easier.

As the north facing stuff seemed to be softening I went to Gotta Go and found it a little firm in the chute and choke but taking a nice edge and great skiing. Lower down things got a bit tougher with a mass of avi debris and huge death cookies which had to be carefully navigated and the surface was more like soft breakable crust - it was tough skiing.

Last run was of course Skydive where we met up with a bunch of buddies, and their daughters, and some girls from FAST - probably the lowest average age of any group of Skydive skiers this season. The surface was a bit crusty in the top but it just got better and softer in the mid section before becoming firm with a soft surface in the final pitch. A really good run to finish a good day.

So overall it was great day where the overnight freeze was softened by the sun but not so greatly that it turned to the ugly elephant snot that we have been experiencing lately. This to my mind was spring skiing at it's best with no horrible sticky surfaces to catch you out. They are calling for snow tonight, who knows ?

Day 121 be careful of what you wish for

After a rather damp day yesterday I dropped in at Marks Work Warehouse on the way home and upgraded my waterproof gear with a heavy duty plastic jacket to match my green fishing pants and some rubber over gloves with plenty of room for a warm pair of fleece gloves underneath. At least part of me was hoping for a chance to try them out today but there was no way I could have anticipated the deluge that hit us and which tested (successfully) the new water proof gear.

Today was a gym day so it was another 10 km on the treadmill before heading out to the hill. They were calling no new snow overnight but when we got to the hill with a temp of +2 it was raining hard and the top was covered in cloud. The first chair up was very wet and things only started to turn to snow at about the White Pass load and even then it was very wet snow and very poor viz. Things stayed that way most of the morning before the snow/rain stopped just before lunch and the viz improved.

As has been the case so often over the past few days we had a choice of staying low and getting good viz but also staying in the rain or going high into the wet snow and suffering the poor viz - we chose the latter. We made a number of White Pass loops which comprised the Gun Bowl which was flat white light and Surprise Trees which was ok wet snow on a crunchy base. The temp at White Pass load hung in at around zero for some time before climbing to about +1 in the afternoon.

We decided to try a run to base through Concussion which skied surprisingly well but with the wet snow one skier was enough to trash a whole slope and we left things looking pretty messy. The lower part of Concussion had some avi debris and death cookies to avoid but Gilmar Trail and below skied surprisingly well and not as sticky as anticipated.

We went back into White Pass and had several more loops as the light improved and found good lines in Knot Chutes and Pillow Talk although the latter was really trashed after just one run. As a final run before lunch we headed out to Skydive and found just one set of tracks ahead of us on the traverse which disappeared into Touque Chutes leaving us Skydive untracked just before 1 o'clock. Skydive started very heavy and mushy but just got better as you went down so that by the final pitch it was a nice firm base taking an easy edge in the soft top surface.

After lunch the rain came back with a vengeance and it poured until about 3 when the sun made and attempt to come out before the rain returned and finally developed into thunder showers at the end of the day - up top the precip came down as very wet snow.

We looped White Pass again finding the best snow in the Knot Chutes before dropping Corner Pocket which was ok in the chute and very good soft snow in the fan although in the lower parts this turned to heavy wet mush and we had to bail into Dancer which was still pretty sticky. On our next loop we tried Barracuda which was a rather irregular soft skiing surface on a firm base but which actually skied about ok. The exit was on Gilmar Trail and through the Meadow which had all by then in the changing conditions become very grippy and ugly stop/start skiing.

I just had time for another White Pass loop and once again the Knot Chutes proved to be good. the lower parts of White Pass were getting very mushy and grippy and were real ACL ripping conditions. Last run was Skydive which skied just like the morning, getting better all the way down so that the final pitch was pretty well run of the day.

In summary today was wet tricky conditions but if you dressed for it (which I did) it was an ok day although rather hard on the legs.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Day 120 a very quiet day

Things are always rather subdued on Hot Dog Boxing Day and today was no exception. Parking lot 2 was very full of cars but closer examination revealed that most of them had been left overnight and a steady flow of taxis bringing yesterday's revellers up the hill meant the number of parked cars actually went down during the day and not up.

There was no new snow overnight and the temp as we made our leisurely start was +4. It was overcast with some slight dampness in the air and the whole impression was one of rather a dull and grey day. We were advised to stay low to take advantage of the rising warming line and we had already decided to make our start on the Old Side.

As we dropped in to Bear Cave Chutes we were surprised at how soft the snow was and progress was very slow in the deep mushy snow. It didn't take us long to work out what was happening. Where the snow had been soft and deep over the past few days the warm temps had turned the snow to elephant snot. Where it had been icy and scratchy the surface had softened so it was taking a nice edge and provided great spring skiing. So we had a complete reversal of the previous few days and we had to avoid what had been the soft untracked snow and make for the high traffic icy areas.

We spent most of the morning poking around the Old Side and found an awful lot of deep mush but found the best skiing to be Kangaroo which was great soft bumps but a few cracks in the final pitch and Boom Ridge which was so good we dropped it three times. While we were doing all this it started to rain quite hard and temps suggested to us (correctly) that this rain was going all the way to the top. We went for an early lunch which gave us a chance to put on an extra layer of plastic and rubber water proof gear.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and found the skiing surface conditions much the same as on the Old Side - this being demonstrated by the mushy heavy conditions in Lift Line. We played around in White Pass for a while and found that the only good skiing off the groomers was either in the Gun Bowl or the I bowl. The rain intensified so that we were getting a good soaking and the cloud came down so the viz became really socked in.

Incredible though it may sound Polar Peak was open and so with the deteriorating viz we decided to give it a try before things got too bad. The skiing surface in the Polar Chutes was just about ok if a bit crunchy but in the poor light you couldn't really do anything but ski defensively. We completed our loop through Concussion where the viz was much better and the skiing just about ok.

After a few more White Pass loops we decided on an early finish and so hit Skydive. In the anticipated exact reversal of the last time we skied it the lightly tracked upper part was soft and ugly and the lower section which was previously hard and icy was really good skiing with a firm base taking a nice soft edge. It was in fact so good that we went back for one more loop making our last run at more like the usual time. Having  already hit Skydive I tried something different and dropped Low Saddle. It wasn't great, the surface in the chute just about held although some big death cookies did let go but in the fan it was ugly soft mush and I bailed at the bottom on to Dancer.

It was still raining when we left and the forecast is for more rain to come. With this in mind I dropped in at the Work Warehouse to get some more and better waterproof gear. I think the next few days could be testing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Day 119 Hot Dog Day

Don't blame me I warned everyone about today. We got to the hill late after I had run 10 kms on the treadmill at the gym today.

It was cold (below zero up top) and everything in White Pass was rock solid hard refrozen ice. As it was Hot Dog Day we went to the Lost Boys CafĂ© and had several beers before heading over to the Old Side. Things lower down on the Old Side were getting soft so after couple of loops we dropped down to base for lunch.

After lunch we went to Wallaby for the Hot Dog celebrations and after finding the beer that had been buried yesterday we went down to Wallaby and drank more beer all afternoon while watching the big jumps off the kickers in Wallaby.

When we ran out of beer mid afternoon we went to the Griz Bar and drank more beer and danced to the 80s music. It was a great Hot Dog Day and now it's over.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day 118 Currie headwall for the first time this season

Yes, today they opened Currie headwall today for the first time this season and that kind of set the tone for the day, but more of that later.

There was no new snow overnight and the temps on the front deck as I was drinking my morning coffee was -7. It was a bluebird day so temps were going to warm up quickly but obviously things were going to be rock hard and frozen at first so I headed off to the gym for my 10 kms on the treadmill. On the way to the hill it was already -2 and things just got warmer all day all over the hill so that by the end of the day it was +10 as we drove away in the truck.

The effect on the skiing surface was predictable. In the direct sunlight low down things got soft quickly but anywhere in the shade things stayed hard for much longer and didn't soften at all until the late afternoon. Higher up and particularly on Polar Peak even in the direct sunlight it remained quite cool and a cold wind kept the skiing surface rather chunky on a scratchy base although by late afternoon there was some signs of softening.

Tomorrow is Hotdog Day when we honour the truly dreadful 80's movie Hotdog (a mixture of skiing and soft porn) by dressing up in 80's ski gear and getting unbelievably drunk. So today is Hotdog Eve when by tradition the white bearded Father Hotdog gets out his naughty and nice list and see which of us boys and girls have been good on the ski hill - helping the pick up lost skis, not side slipping the chutes, not over trashing the powder etc. He rewards the good ones by leaving presents for them in the form of buried beer all over the hill and tomorrow we will go up there and open up our presents and enjoy them. The next day (Hotdog Boxing Day) we have a late start all with hangovers and clear up the previous day's mess. Of course some people don't believe in Father Hotdog and think that the beer is left by the skiers themselves to avoid the security checks at the lifts on Hotdog Day but I know he really exists.

So first run of the day with a fairly late start I had to go up the Old Side and have a little tour round to perform a certain vital task in preparation for tomorrow. After that it was ski down to base to dump the ruck sack and head up to the New Side to see what was happening.

Last run yesterday we had been tipped off that the Currie Head Wall would be opening today and in fact we were delayed in our final run while they blasted three charges in the Wimp Chutes in preparation. I didn't mention this as things could have gone wrong and in any event we didn't want all the head wall skiers in town heading for the hill today. When I got to the top of White Pass the Currie Head Wall was open and a few tracks were evident all the way along.

Before I ski the head wall I like to get a bit of steep practice under my belt so I looped Polar Peak three times always dropping Barely Legal which I reckon to be as steep in the chutes as most of the head wall. The skiing in the chutes was bit varied on a scratchy base and so was probably more challenging that the head wall and so was good preparation. Next I hit the Clown Chutes (Bozo) to take me under the head wall so I could have a look at the best lines.

My preparation coincided with bumping into my buddy Brad who had already had several head wall loops so up we went for the main event. I dropped Wimp Chutes which were a little air on the way in on to an icy steep surface which was pretty interesting. After a couple of turns things improved and the snow was reasonably soft with some untracked lines although you did have to be careful to navigate the rock band just above the cat track near the bottom. Brad had to leave but I managed two more loops where the skiing was about the same every time. I had intended to go on to ski the Up Right chute but didn't as that would have meant one more boot pack (it was already a side step and a boot pack to get to the Wimp Chutes) and in any event Up Right is really only a couple of turns before you are on an open mellow slope. I went to lunch on a high.

After a very late lunch we went back up Polar Peak but the shadows were now on the head wall making it not a very good idea to go back there. Grand Papa Bear was not much better as the surface was setting up in the cold wind and one run was enough to decide us that Polar was not going to be much fun. Corner Pocket had got a bit slick in the chute and the tires were almost showing through but the skiing underneath was soft and deep. Easter bowl was soft skiing although the Freeway exit was so crusty that we bailed onto Dancer.

We had time for a White Pass loop which was a Knot Chute which had obviously been very soft and was setting up and then the I Bowl which was also good and soft. Last run was Skydive which was nice deep snow in the top but just got progressively crusty and scratchy all the way down.

Beers on the deck (OJ and soda in my case) completed a very good day of some very tough and very steep skiing. Tomorrow is Hotdog Day and my report may be a bit disjointed, late or non existant or possibly all three - be warned.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Day 117 a full on winter start

Yesterday as we left the hill it was puking snow and continued into the evening. When we woke up this morning it was -1 on the deck and the hill were reporting 8 cms of fresh snow overnight and it had been snowing all morning since the early snow readings.

I skipped the morning run and headed straight for the hill for an early morning powder start by which time the temp at the base had risen to zero and it was still snowing. I was very surprised to see how few cars and trucks there were in the parking lot but I guess for some folk the season is all but over. We headed up the New Side where the temp at White Pass load was about -2 and conditions at the very top were socked in with snow continuing.

We headed out towards the top of the Big Three and had to cut the trail for the Skydive Traverse which was quite hard going given how much snow had fallen. We took Skydive untracked which was a bit variable with some of yesterdays crust not fully covered by the new snow making one or two turns mid run rather challenging - overall it was good full on winter powder skiing. Next loops we hit the Saddles in turn. Corner Pocket was easy mellow skiing and the fan was super deep soft untracked snow. High Saddle was easy skiing and the fan just as with Corner Pocket. Low saddle was so mellow that I jumped the right had shoulder after only one turn and was able to drop the chutes below from most of the way up into Shaun's Chute - awesome deep soft untracked snow. In between a couple of the Saddles we went up Polar Peak which had opened as the snow had stopped and the sky was clearing and to be honest were disappointed. Shale Slope, Grand Papa Bear and Papa Bear were all ok soft snow but on top of a rock hard uneven icy base which you were through to most of the time - that is why after a couple of loops we just went back to the saddles where the snow in the fans was still just awesome.

All our exits except one were through Easter Bowl which was good untracked skiing on the left side trees and Freeway which was becoming rather sticky on an ice base. Just once we tried to go out to Spinal Tap and found the creek bed full of breakable crust and avi debris and it was a very tough ski down. By the last run of the morning the snow had stopped and it was clearing towards a bluebird day. We had been told that 1-2-3s were skiing well and that Anaconda Glades were good so putting two and two together we figured that Gotta Go would be good and we were right. There were only a couple of tracks in the chute and underneath the snow was deep with untracked lines as long as you avoided the avi debris on the left. Exit through Bootleg Glades was ok and untracked in the trees on the left but got a bit heavy in the last couple of turns before the Gilmar Trail.

After lunch we were back up the New Side and Straight into Corner Pocket which skied exactly as it had done in the morning. Next we went out to Easter Bowl and found lots of untracked lines on skiers right and it was starting to get pretty soft. By this time the sun had come out and we were into a full on spring skiing day with temps at the base of +7, White Pass load +5 and way hotter than that in the direct sunshine. We just had time for a couple of loops of White Pass and found that Knot Chutes were super mushy and Surprise Trees ranged from mush to crust under the trees depending on the shadows - very tough skiing.

Last run of course was Skydive which was only lightly tracked and perversely skied rather better than it had when untracked first thing. The snow was deep at the top and the atmospheric warming appeared to have softened the base so that with the exception of a couple of turns mid run which were a little crusty it was great powder skiing all the way down. The forecast is for cold temps tonight and warm day tomorrow so maybe a morning run might be the order of the day tomorrow.

Day 116 Spring - winter - spring - winter

Sorry, tonight's report is going to be very brief because as I have said before Sunday is my drinking night and we went straight from the hill to the Currie Bowl with our good friends Dan and Ruth so it is very late before I even start todays report.

Overnight there was no new snow to speak of and it was warm on the way to the hill at +4 degrees. Our plan was to stay low on the Old Side and benefit from the rising warming line. It mostly worked with ok skiing in Sun Up, China Wall, Bear Cave Chutes, Cedar Centre Trees, Boom Ridge and Boomerang. It was soft snow on top with some crusty stuff low down. All exits were through Kangaroo which was soft bumps but a bit ribby in the last few turns in the shade.

Just after noon we went to the New Side and things changed from nice warm sunny spring skiing to a full on winter blizzard which set in from top to bottom of the hill. It had been about +1 at White Pass load but as the winter storm swept through (and every time after that) the temp dropped to -1. We skied lift line in the rapidly deepening snow and then Corner Pocket which skied about as soft and easy as I can remember. The fan underneath was super soft and untracked but in poor light.

After lunch we went back up the New Side and found that the winter conditions had gone so we skied Corner Pocket and Easter in the sun which were just awesome deep new snow. Next loop we did Low Saddle but by this time full on winter conditions were back and whilst the viz wasn't great the skiing was just awesome.

We had time for a Knot Chute drop which was good and soft in the conditions which had now switched back to sun and blue skies and it was good. We tracked out to Anaconda which was untracked soft deep new snow and maybe run of the day. The push back round Trespass Trail was another story.

Last run of course was Skydive with full on winter conditions starting up again. It was ok in the top but soft breakable crust most of the way down and only a few good soft turns just at the end. Tough skiing but not a bad end to a very good day, particularly in the afternoon.

As we sat in the Griz and later as we went about our business down town it just puked snow in valley with temps of +1 which I imagine would have been cooler up the hill. It snowed so hard that it might well have accumulated 5 cms even in the brief time it was snowing tonight. Who knows ? We will find out tomorrow.