Thursday, March 15, 2018

Day 104 Grooming, what grooming ?

I can hear everyone saying "what the hell is he talking about groomers for, he never skis them anyway" which of course is true. My attention has been drawn to the state of grooming on the hill by an animated discussion taking place on the FAR Facebook page where a high level of dissatisfaction is being expressed. Of course I ski groomers on the way to a run or on the way down to a lift but with the exception of the odd rip down Bear to get the legs in place in the morning I never intentionally ski groomers unless forced to by closures. That having been said I am not blind to the fact that many people enjoy skiing groomers and for some it is the only skiing that they can actually handle and so grooming should be a matter of major importance to the hill.

What is infuriating everybody is the official response to complaints of the lack of grooming which can be summed up as "we are two cats down". This seems to imply that the lack of cats is due to an act of God or some force of nature over which the hill has no control and they are the victims. If they are two cats down it either means that there are two cats which have broken down and not been repaired or there are two useable cats which can't be brought into service due to the lack of trained drivers. Neither of these cases is an unavoidable accident, it is a case of good old fashioned incompetence and someone needs to be held accountable. This is no criticism of those who are driving the cats and doing a good job in impossible circumstances.

While I am on the subject I have heard a lot of complaints about inaccuracies in the grooming reports. From time to time I draw attention here to frequent inaccuracies in the snow reports but it seems that this problem exists with the grooming report which is much more serious. Only yesterday a group of vacation groomer skiers found themselves at the top of Dancer which was showing as groomed when it wasn't and had to make their way down in ugly icy conditions. No problem to those of us who like that sort of stuff but for vacation groomer skiers it is an accident waiting to happen. I suggest anyone with strong feelings on these subjects joins in the discussion on the FAR Facebook page.

There was no new snow overnight but on the way to the hill it was +1 and light rain. I looked up the hill for the snow line but it was so socked in (and stayed that way all day) that I couldn't make out where the snow might start. In the event it started just about at the Deer top and moved up the hill a little during the day before moving back down just before close. It snowed/rained all day so that above the snow line there was a reasonable (5 cm maybe) accumulation of jersey cream which had the effect of filling in most of the crud and flattening out the skiing surface.

I made a decision which may seem strange to some to stay low on the Old Side this morning to ski what had been the hard icy surfaces softened by the rain. The upside was that it worked and the skiing surface was a slick slightly slushy top layer on a very firm surface which made for good skiing, particularly bumps. The downside was that you were skiing in rain or very wet snow but as I have said so often, there are no bad conditions, only inappropriate clothing - I remained warm and dry in my Canadian Tire plastic jacket and thick rubber gloves.

The bumps that had been left on Bear were great fun and we hit them straight down the fall line several times. For the rest of the morning we made the usual Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line, Cedar Ridge, King Fir, Boom Ridge and Linda's. All of these were as described a slick mushy rain affected surface on a firm base and fun skiing. The returns through Kangaroo were much improved particularly in the lower section which was soft. Third time through we encountered a patrol buddy attending a casualty who had stacked it on the drop to the cat track ( it was always a mistake to put that cat track in) and so we had to take careful avoiding action and move on, after offering help of course.

After a quick lunch we layered up and went up the New Side to see if we could find winter which by and large we did with fresh high moisture snow accumulating all afternoon. The trees on lookers left of Lift Line were still in good condition and as has been the case for a week my only way down to White Pass load. We decided to take good old New Side loops which we did as follows:-
Easter Bowl - soft untracked jersey cream snow all the way down to Freeway which got a little heavy in the lower section but was ok.
Decline - smooth in the top and soft bumps in the final section which only got mushy in the last few turns and had us looking for an early arrival on the groomed area at the bottom.
Stag Leap - much like Decline but softer all the way down. Not sure why it should have been that much softer, could it be some retained heat from the past few days? Last few turns were more or less elephant snot
Lone Fir/Spinal Tap - so much soft snow in the chute that where you used to have to do hard edge to edge jumps you now just sweep through with GS turns. The fan was soft and deep as always. Spinal Tap was ok most of the way and I have now abandoned any thoughts of getting under the log, its a case of going over high on the left. It just got a bit too slushy in the final turns as you came out of the creek bed.
Skydive - usual final rip with 4 of us. The top bumps had flattened bit in the new snow and the run below that was easy jersey cream. Everything turned to mush about half way down the final pitch and that made for some pretty hard work turns at the end of the day.

Overall it wasn't a bad day considering we had rain in the valley all day and the snow even up top was only just about winter snow. It was +3 and light rain as we drove away from the hill but the forecast for tonight is for falling temps and some quite reasonable accumulations. I am still nervous and am hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

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