Monday, February 19, 2018

Day 80 Polar Peak is back in town

Yes, as the heading says Polar Peak opened today for the first time this season (awesome work by the guys and girls on the hill to defy the elements and the "experts" who said it couldn't be done) and although it was only a partial opening and conditions were not that good the views from the top in total bluebird conditions were awesome and we will have better to come, but more of all that later.

Overnight the hill reported no new snow and for a change I agreed totally with their report. Starting temps on the way to the hill were -24 in bluebird conditions which meant a high pressure system and so mercifully no wind to speak of. Things did warm up a little particularly in the direct sunlight but on the way home it was showing -16 in the Jeep so all day was a good day to stay layered up with skin covered.

I had intended to head to the Old Side where I heard the snow was good yesterday but two things prevented me. Firstly the snow was super grippy and with the best skiing going to be out on Snake Ridge the push out was going to be very hard work and secondly Polar Peak was on standby so I needed to lurk on the New Side to catch the opening. As it was a buddy of mine did go out to Snake and confirmed it was a long hard slow push for chunky, not very good conditions.

First drop of Lift Line confirmed that things were going to be much tougher today as the grippy snow on the first turn almost caused me to take a header down the fall line. Further down it was hard chunky very dry snow pulling hard at the skies and in other places slick ice. This was something of a cypher for the rest of the day where these conditions predominated on most runs.

I did several loops back through White Pass and it became apparent that a significant wind event had taken place with everywhere off the groomers being a lunar landscape of windrows and icy ridges. After a while I decided to take a run to base and went for Decline. The Reverse Traverse was easier in the improved light but the bridge was as ugly as I have ever seen it with an icy lip that would give you air if you hit it at any speed and the landing would be well beyond the K point of the dip below - I was cautious through there all day. Decline was interesting with hard windslab on the rolls from the updraft wind but ok snow in the more sheltered areas. It was a case that it would improve with skier traffic but the problem being that I was the only skier traffic with most skiers on a holiday Monday opting to do Franz Klammer (blimey that's showing my age) impressions by ripping up the groomers.

When I got back up White Pass Polar Peak had opened. The chutes were closed but the Coaster, Cat track and just one clown chute (Crusty) was open. Below you could take the very hard and sketchy traverse across Shale Slope at tower 6 and either drop back to the chair in some very wind affected surfaces or go on to under the chutes where the snow was a bit slabby but much better and ski all the way down to base. I just looped the chair all morning trying the Coaster once (icy and rock) and then Crusty every time after that which was crusty but improved with skier traffic and me working out a good way in at the top after about the third time. The snow under the chair was very firm and wind affected but after a lot of morning traffic the Crusty/Chair line had improved to ok but no better than that. The view from the top was of course awesome.

I went to lunch via Lone Fir (surprisingly good in the chute and good but chunky in the fan) and Spinal Tap which was also pretty hard dry chunks. After lunch it was more of the same on Polar interspersed with runs to base through Stag Leap and later Decline/Window Chutes. All the runs down were hard work in hard snow and as anticipated the choke at the bottom of Window Chute was very ribby.

Lynda had decided to take the day off so I was surprised as I pulled in to White Pass for my final ride up to Skydive to have her pull in along side me. She had heard about Polar and could not resist coming up for the afternoon. Skydive actually skied very nicely in the top and was some of the best snow on the hill. The final pitch got harder and icier but no worse than anywhere else.

So ended a good day and our first Polar Peak of the season. To be fair the skiing wasn't great but there will be better to come and if someone gets in and breaks up the windslab in the Polar Chutes we may actually get some nice skiing out of them. More of the same forecast until the next weather system hits us later this week.

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