Friday, April 14, 2017

Day 128 two hills for the price of one

Yes, today we skied on the New Side which was more or less full on winter and the Old Side which was mellow spring skiing. At first I thought it was just a matter of timing and the conditions changed as I moved from one side to the other but talking to buddies after skiing it seems that the conditions didn't change much and it was a case of winter skiing on the New and spring skiing on the Old all day.

There was no new snow overnight and it was +3 as we drove to the hill. Conditions were overcast at the top of the hill covering the New Side and sun/cloud on the Old Side. We went up the New Side and it started to snow (mostly graupel) and was blowing hard with temps at the White Pass load of about zero so everything was frozen rock solid.

Currie Bowl wasn't open so we did a few White Pass loops and found all the groomers slick and icy and rock hard. We did try a couple of forays away from the groomers but what we found was yesterday's chopped up crud which was hard and pretty well unskiable. We decided to cross to the Old Side and found that very shortly after we got below the White Pass load things started to soften and this promised better skiing low down.

We spent the rest of the morning on the Old Side where the snow fall stopped although we did have the odd graupel shower. Temps also rose to plus figs although I am not quite sure what and surfaces below the very top of Bear started to soften ok. We started with loops of Sunny Side and China Wall and then moved on to Dancer and the Dancer gully into Freeway and these were all soft easy smooth skiing. Next we moved on into Cedar Bowl and did a couple of loops of Cruiser and Cedar Centre which were ungroomed and although the top couple of turns were rather crusty the rest was great soft skiing untracked in places.

All exits were through Kangroo which was soft on a firm base and very easy bump skiing all the way down. We also exited through Boomerang which had hardly been tracked and by the time we got to it the snow had become a sort of deep soft sugar which skied way better than we expected - almost like real powder. For the final exit before lunch we dropped Boom Ridge which had softened to the point that it was ok bump skiing but the ski out along Cedar Trail was mushy and slow.

After a late lunch we decided to try the New Side and found that just like before it was snowing hard with a graupel storm and it was still only one degree or so above zero. Puff had not exactly softened but the new snow did at least make it skiable if a bit sketchy. I went out to Concussion as Currie Bowl was now open and found that it was untracked but some really ugly breakable crust. I moved around the chutes to fine better skiing surfaces and about half way down things did soften enough to be ok  ungroomed skiing.

Next loop White Pass Chair stopped three times, once for a long time. I figured that it might get shut down so I went to Skydive straight away. The Reverse Traverse was icy and ugly and in at least three spots covered with rock hard avi debris. When I got to the top of Skydive it was very ugly crust until about half way down the top pitch when it started to improve so that by the Megasauraus Trail it was soft snow on a firm base and excellent skiing all the way down. I came up Timber Chair and sure enough White Pass Chair was down so I ran to base expecting that would be it for the day via Puff, Deep Sea, Summer Road and the lower Lift Line all of which got better and softer as I went down.

At the Timber load I got word that White Pass was back running so I just had time to go up for one final run down Skydive. About this time a particularly heavy graupel shower came through very quickly giving us an accumulation of ice pellets. When we got to Skydive the graupel had changed things for the better. This time the skiing was soft and taking a nice edge on the new snow on top right from the start and just got better and softer all the way down - it is always great to finish with what turns out to be run of the day by a big margin.

As it was a holiday the bar was busy for a Friday and there was great atmosphere. I was pumped as I had just put my entry in for the Slope Soaker on Sunday and everyone was having a good time. Lets see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Day 127 I should know better

They were reporting 15 cms of snow overnight on the hill's web site and by now I really should know that at this time of year and in the temps we are having when they say that what they really mean is 15 cms of ugly mushy elephant snot. Unfortunately encouraged by a few recent experiences when the snow has come down pretty wintery I let my enthusiasm cloud my judgement and thought that we might be in for a really good day. With this in mind I ditched the early morning run in the gym and headed for the hill.

The first danger signs were obvious - it was raining and the temp in the valley was +5. Next as we were just about to go up the hill we met our buddy Kevin who was coming down having been caught in a large wet slide on Big Bang and knocked about a bit in the process - he was quitting for the day but it doesn't look like any long term damage was done.

When we got up to the top of Timber Chair we understood the problem as everything was deep, mushy, heavy and wet and very very unstable. The drop down Lift Line was a slow motion adventure. It was still snowing wet snow with the rain line just about at the White Pass load although the rain stopped late morning but came back strongly later in the afternoon with the rain line rising to about half way up White Pass. Viz was a bit strange as it was layers of cloud in White Pass so the viz came and went all morning at various levels . In  the afternoon it went back to good old fashioned upper mountain fog which started about half way up White Pass and socked in everything above that.

I didn't go to the Old Side as I thought everything over there would be even worse than the New. A buddy of mine who went over there confirmed this with the exception of Kangaroo which he said skied just about ok.

On the New Side not much was open as Currie Bowl and Anaconda Glades were closed with signs saying they would stay that way all day. So all we had was the White Pass core mostly ungroomed and all of it covered in thick heavy elephant snot to a depth of about 15 cms. All morning we looped Gun Bowl, I bowl, Surprise Trees, Pillow Talk, Highline. Heartland etc. all of which were much the same and very slow and heavy. There was a particular line just above the White Pass load where the skis just about stopped dead in the mush. Unsurprisingly we went for an early lunch.

After lunch we went back up the New Side and unbelievable as it sounds it was even mushier and slower than the morning. This may have had something to do with the temps which had risen to +5 at the White Pass load and the fact that the rain/snow mix had stopped. With nothing else to do I continued to loop as before but this time tried a few runs through Knot Chutes which were very unstable and sliding out on me all the time. By late afternoon the viz was socked in totally, it was raining again all the way up and the skiing was awful. We looked around and could only see two other people in White Pass so we quit and were off the hill by 3:30, a record for this season.

We had a good time in the bar starting to say goodbye to friends who are leaving for the season and I guess that is the start of a process that will go on for the next few days. All we can hope is that conditions improve from today.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Day 126 it got better as the day went on

There was no new snow overnight and as we headed to the hill it was overcast and the temp was a mild +4. We had no great expectation of really good skiing and at first it looks as though we were right although as the day progressed things did get better.

We went to the Old Side and poked around all morning not really finding anything very good all along Cedar Ridge. Probably the best snow was just in Bear Cave Chutes which was deep soft winter powder but it was only a few turns down to Alpine Way and below that it was a bit crusty and mushy. Kangaroo was actually ok soft bumps although lower down it was slow grippy snow. We decided to head to the New Side and went via Sun Up which was a bit variable and China Wall which was soft and mellow skiing.

As we arrived on the New Side at about noon it was starting to snow quite hard on top and continued all afternoon, sometimes rather spring like but at times full on winter conditions with some reasonable accumulations.  Temps at the White Pass load got up to about +2 but the precip came down as white all the time and even at the base it either petered out all together or was at least wet snow - only at the very end of the day did we get rain at the base.

The warning signs on the New Side told us that all of yesterdays south facing sun affected snow was ugly refrozen crud (they didn't use exactly those words but that's what the meant) and we should either stick to the groomers or look for north facing slopes. We tried some runs in White Pass but as that was predominantly south facing everything was hard ugly and icy. We ran to lunch by hiking up Lone Fir and found the Reverse Traverse really hard and rutted and we were not tempted by any of the south facing Currie Chutes. Lone Fir was a bit crusty in the top but got softer lower down and the fan was just great deep lightly tracked powder. The exit was through Easter Bowl which skied ok with lots of untracked snow and Freeway which was groomed for the first time in ages and soft.

After lunch we were back up the New Side and decided to try some big three loops. We hit Decline (really good untracked lines although rather slow in the final pitch) Cougar Glades (run of the day with excellent soft untracked lines all the way down and great skiing) and Stag Leap (sort of like Cougar but with no trees) and so had a much improved afternoon. The snow was accumulating although not enough to improve the traverse but the surface in the Big Three was starting to get quite wintery in the new snow.

Last run of course was Skydive which still had untracked lines in the top section and was soft and deep although the lower you went the more marginal it got until half way down the final pitch where it was very slow and grippy on a firm scratchy base.

So overall it was an ok day which got better. Any afternoon where you hit all of the Big Three plus Cougar Glades and they all ski well has to be good. Overnight they are calling for more snow and tomorrow is a mixed precip day so maybe the rubber gear will get one more outing this year.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Day 125 and the good skiing continues

Normally in the second week in April you are grateful just to be sliding around on snow and are quite prepared to accept some pretty poor conditions as being par for the course. Today we had a day that gave us skiing as good as many we get during the winter and indeed better than some. This season is continuing to hang on in there for us.

Overnight there had been about 5 cms of fresh snow but as we were going to the New Side which was closed for filming yesterday the new snow added to the fall in the previous 24 hours meant that we had a fairly good covering of deep powder to play with. It had frozen over night but on the way to the hill it was +2 and warming fast. The day was sunny with a few clouds coming and going so eventually the temps at the base rose to +7 and even at the White Pass load it rose to +4. As we drove away tonight it was +6 on the hill and had warmed to +9 by the time we got down town.

The effect on the skiing was that things started to soften pretty quickly on the south facing slopes in the sun. Later in the day it set up a little and the clouds as they came and went prevented the surfaces from getting anything like super mushy. On the north facing slopes the snow stayed in good winter conditions most of the day and with the two days accumulation it was soft deep powder.

Initially we went up into White Pass and did White Pass loops through the Gun Bowl, Knot Chutes, Pillow Talk, I bowl etc all of which were good soft skiing and  as they are mostly south facing we wanted to ski them in the morning before they got too soft. After a while and with the White Pass loops starting to get too soft we headed out along the Reverse Traverse to find some north facing slopes.

Our first drop was Corner Pocket which was a bit icy in the chute but ok once we got the rope out of the way.  Below the skiing was as good as anything we have had all year in good deep winter powder and the lack of skier traffic meant that there were many untracked lines. Easter Bowl was also soft, hardly tracked and deep and even Freeway was ok although getting a bit soft an a scratchy base. We had noticed that Decline appeared to be untracked as we skied under it so we gave it a go. There were a couple of tracks in front of us by the time we got there but the skiing was ok and mostly untracked although lower down it got soft on a scratchy base but pretty good all in all.

Last run before lunch we struck out to Gotta Go and although the snow was a bit mushy on the ridge line it was soft and very lightly tracked in the run itself. It was in fact so soft and deep that there was a lot of snow in the choke which is quite unusual and so the skiing all the way down was soft deep and untracked and this was definitely the run of the day. Bootleg Glades in the trees on skiers right were untracked and deep. Lower down it got a bit soft but was good skiing all the way down to Gilmar Trail.

After lunch we went back to the New Side and did Saddle loops of Low Saddle, High Saddle and Low Saddle again. Just like the morning the snow under the chutes was soft deep and mostly untracked and therefore great winter powder skiing. Just once we struck out to Spinal Tap for an exit and found it was nice and deep with just one track in front of us. There was debris in the creek bed but as long as you stayed on the right shoulder the skiing was good and soft although a bit scratchy for the last few turns.

Last run of course was Skydive which was good. In the top section the snow was fresh and deep with far fewer tracks than I expected. Things got a little crusty for a couple of turns in the mid section before settling down to good soft spring skiing on a hard base for the final pitch.

We sat out on the deck after skiing and watched a few head wall skiers who had boot packed up the Lizard Head Wall (Polar Peak had been closed all day) have what might be the last run of the season off the head wall. Just off now to the Pub for wings night and then an early night as it looks like we might be getting some more new snow over night. Surely we can't have another great days skiing tomorrow

Monday, April 10, 2017

Day 124 an enforced Old Side day

Today we only had the Old Side available to us as the New Side was closed for a days filming of the new Liam Neeson movie Hard Powder. The hill was packed out with trailers and support vehicles and it all looked very exciting but for those of us who were not involved it was just another ski day. The hill compensated the day ticket skiers by only charging them half price for their skiing as less than half the hill was available. We season pass holders are still waiting to see what we will be given for giving up half the hill for a day but I am sure it will be something generous.

The temp on the deck first thing was -5 and on the way to the hill it had warmed up to -1. Conditions were bluebird to start with before going to hazy sunshine for most of the morning before going back to bluebird mid afternoon and finally overcast and snowing for the last couple of runs - all in all a very mixed day. Temps did rise during the day but not that much so that by the end of the day it was only +2 at the Boomerang load and +3 as we drove through downtown on the way home.

They were only calling about a couple of cms of snow overnight on top of about 8 cms yesterday but when we got to the top of Bear the north facing slopes seemed to have a lot more and not heavily tracked. We spent most of the morning looping Cedar Ridge from Boogie to King Fir and found lots of deep soft powder. Lower down there appeared to be some ugly avi debris but when you hit it the lumps were soft and mellow and very easy skiing although the sight of the debris did play tricks with your head. We grabbed first tracks in Boom Ridge which was soft and a bit mushy on a scratchy base.

Returns on our loops were always through Kangaroo which was soft and mostly untracked and to my mind skiing about as well as it has all season. We also returned through Boomerang which was soft chopped up mush on an ice base and made for some very variable skiing. We went for a late lunch at the ever excellent Big Bang Bagels .

At lunch I bumped into my buddy Brad who told me that all morning he had been skiing by the fence on the Blueberry sign line  (Snake Ridge was closed so that was as near to it as we could get) and that it was very good. So I spent the rest of the afternoon looping just inside the sign line, Kangaroo and Boomerang. Kangaroo and Boomerang was just as in the morning but the sign line was good. Of course things were a little more tracked up later in the day but there were still untracked lines to be had near the Blueberry fence and chutes lower down were good tight skiing although a bit icy in places.

In the absence of Skydive we had time to finish on Boom Ridge which was still soft on a scratchy base and then back up Boomerang Chair to Bear Chutes which were ok but full of soft avi debris. It wasn't Skydive but then it wasn't a bad way to finish. Tonight they are calling for another 10 cms of fresh and as I am typing this I can hear graupel rattling down on the deck, lets see what happens.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Day 123 full on winter skiing

Just to confirm what I said in the heading this was the top of Skydive a 4 o'clock tonight after a very full on winters day of snow.
We got a slow start today because our summer lives are starting to impinge on our winter lives. I had to go to the gym to run 10 kms on the treadmill and there was work to do in connection with some sailing events that I am judging in the summer. What with one thing and another I didn't get to the hill until just before 11 which was a pity as we had about 8 cms of fresh snow. In the event I needn't have worried as there was no one at the hill and despite our late arrival we parked in line 1 of lot 2, that was how few people were here.

When we arrived it was snowing with wet snow at the base and you could see the snow line starting just a couple of towers up the hill at about half way down the Meadow. It was +2 on the truck as I drove in and a similar temp as I drove out tonight. At the White Pass load it was -1 and stayed that way all day although my impression was that it warmed up a little on top later on giving a softening surface. It snowed all day so we had a significant accumulation in White Pass (I would estimate at least 10 cms) and even after we had finished a large graupel storm hit the base while we were in the Griz looking out.

The result was that up in White Pass the snow was soft full on winter conditions. On the lower parts of the hill it became soft snow on a crust base which skied ok and full on grippy elephant snot at the very lowest ski outs.

We went to the New Side and hit out to the Big Three where we found two tracks in front of us, both of which dropped Skydive so we hit Decline untracked. It was good powder skiing on a firm base with the lower sections starting to soften to take an edge on the surface under the new powder - great easy skiing, particularly as first tracks. Next we dropped Cougar Glades which was also untracked and very deep and soft on a firm crust base.

It was obvious that the best winter skiing was the full on winter conditions in White Pass and that is where we looped for the next few times. All the Knot Chutes were deep and soft as was Surprise Trees with many untracked line still available. Last run before lunch we hit Stag Leap which only had one track in front of us where the skier had stayed tight on the left hand trees so we had untracked skiing for the two of us all the way down.

After lunch we were back up White Pass doing loops of Knot Chutes (Slim, Jim and Tight as I remember) and Surprise Trees all the way across all of which had become deep and untracked in the snow which just continued to pile up during the day - the biggest problem as it had been in many places today was trying to avoid being taken out by my own slough. We ran to base through Easter Bowl which was great soft deep snow on a firm base but the viz was deteriorating fast. By this time all the Saddles had closed although they had only been open for a short time in the morning and Polar was closed as it had been all day.

We went back up White Pass where the temp remained at -1 and the snow was still coming down and did more Knot Chute/Surprise Tree loops. Last loop I went all the way out to the top of Triple Trees and found that it was totally untracked in what by that time had become quite deep snow all the way down to Trespass Trail. Last run was Skydive which was still remarkably untracked at the end of the day and although it was a bit heavy in the top it became easy soft skiing in fresh snow from about half way down. The ski out was ugly sticky crap as it had been all day.

It was a nice quiet drinking night in the Griz as we celebrated a full on winters day skiing. Tomorrow they are shooting the movie Hard Powder on the hill so lets see how much fun that provides.