Saturday, March 31, 2018

Day 120 A record month - almost

I have just got the figures in for hits on the blog for the month of March and it shows three years steady growth for my second highest recorded monthly figure of all time which isn't bad considering the number of people who have only just recently realised that the blog is back in business. Of course nothing matches March 2015 which was during the worst snow year for the last 40 years and I was swamped by enquiries as to what was going on with conditions on the hill. For some reason people didn't trust the official reports which is hardly surprising as you may recall that the cam at the Bear load was reangled so that it looked up the mountain and didn't show the conditions around the load which were awful. So thanks for the support.

By way of public service I think I need to draw to everyone's attention the planned closing of the hill. Much has been made on the Facebook page of the hill that they are now staying open all the way through to closing day on the 15th. What has not been made clear is that the New Side closes next Sunday (the 8th) and for the final week we will only be getting the Deer, Elk and Bear chairs with maybe the Boom but don't hold your breath. A full Old Side opening is planned for the final weekend. This information is available on the official site although you have to scratch around to find it (look under lift operating hours) so in the spirit of helpfulness and cooperation for which I am so well known I thought I would just make sure everyone understands what's on offer.

Yet again the promised overnight snow failed to materialise and we got 1 cm according to the official site. The cool down did happen with the temp as we pulled into Lot 2 just before 9 a chilly -9. The forecast was for it to be "partially cloudy" with snow showers this afternoon so it will come to no surprise to anyone that it was a bluebird day without a cloud in the sky all day. Despite the direct sunlight everything stayed cool and it was still zero as we drove away from the hill and several degrees cooler at the top. Even Gun Bowl which was hit by direct sunlight all day only became soft for the last two runs of the day and even then it was only just softening.

As pretty well everywhere softened yesterday I forecast the hill would be hard and icy all over today if we didn't get any fresh snow. I'm afraid I can't confirm this as so much of the New Side was closed all day (the whole of the Reverse Traverse and the High IT) that I was only able to experience a limited area. I have fairly strong feelings on condition closures and today did nothing to make me feel more well disposed towards them. I always accept avi closures as someone with far more knowledge than me makes a judgement call. With a conditions closure someone is making an assessment of my skiing ability and quite frankly no one knows this better than me. In the old days a warning sign would be posted and we would then make our own decisions but now it seems to be that if the conditions are not such that they can be skied by a low intermediate family on vacation then the area concerned is closed which is just crazy.

We had a few runs back in White Pass which confirmed that the sun affected surfaces were hard and icy and the other slopes were firm and tough but quite skiable which is what we expected. We ran out expecting to ski the Reverse Traverse but found it closed due to the conditions in Concussion. Now the dogs in the street knew that the conditions in Concussion would be as ugly as a bears ass but there was whole lot of North facing stuff out there that may have skied at least ok and we should have been allowed to find this out for ourselves. I ran down through a firm Currie Glades and hit Diamond Leg Trees which were a bit scratchy but had soft snow.

The rest of the morning we spent dropping the Gun Bowl (hard ugly and icy) Anaconda ( ok firm snow in all the chutes) and Bootleg Glades or Diamond Leg Trees both of which were ok soft snow on a scratchy base. At lunch Lynda decided to head for the gym because as she said "there are only so many ways you can ski Anaconda Glades".

In the afternoon I kept looking across from White Pass top to see if the Reverse Traverse was going to be opened but no such luck. I continued with my Anaconda/ Diamond Leg/ Bootleg loops interspersed with Fraser Tooth loops off the top of Timber all of which were way tougher and firmer than of late but ok skiing if you applied yourself. With Skydive cut off we did one last Anaconda drop (having skied chutes 1-5 and back again) and went to the Griz Bar. It is quite possible that Skydive would have proved to be ugly and icy but if that had been the case we would have just sucked it up and skied it - that's what skiing is all about.

They are calling for even colder temps tonight than last night and with these clear skies I don't doubt that for a minute. They are also calling for snow in the next 24 hour just like they (incorrectly) have for the past three days. To be fair the last set of systems were approaching from the East which make forecasting very difficult while the next one is coming from the West where prediction does seem to be a bit easier - we will see.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Day 119 A weather report

The weather today was so strange and varied that pretty well all of tonight's blog may be taken up describing the weather and the effect it had on the ski conditions.

Despite promises from the weather forecasters of a major snow event over night we woke to find no new snow and a temp on the deck of +3. It was overcast and on the way to the hill the temp had risen to +4 and we were getting some light rain. By the time we were riding the first lift the precip had changed to some very hard graupel showers in which the ice pellets were the size of small ball bearings and really hurt when they hit you.

Throughout the morning the showers continued on and off giving a fairly good covering of about 3 or 4 cms of graulpel which of course was good skiing surface on top of what was already there. The rain line didn't get that far up the hill although the lower mountain groomers were very sticky as the surface softened with a high moisture content. Yesterday the south facing slopes had softened but as things hadn't frozen hard over night they were still just about ok as a skiing surface. The North facing slopes had just about held as winter conditions and so were still smooth flat winter snow.

Around lunch time things cleared up and we had significant sun in the afternoon although this was intersperse with a the odd bit of cloud cover which also gave a few showers of graupel. The most significant effect was on the temperature which got up to +10 at the White Pass load, the warnest temp so far this season. With things that hot the snow started to soften everywhere, even on the North facing slopes. While this didn't cause a problem today and in fact gave us spring skiing everywhere the danger is that if we get the forecast overnight freeze (they are calling for -13) the whole hill is going to be very hard and chunky tomorrow.

Right at the end of the day the arctic air mass that had been forecast moved in with ridge line winds and some blowing snow. When Lynda drove away from the hill after lunch it was +8 and as we drove away this evening it was -3, and that change happened in about an hour at the end of the day. As you would expect everything set up in the cold weather but there was still some soft snow to be found so maybe we will be able to find some good skiing tomorrow if we look hard enough.

We went to the New Side and had a few loops in White Pass to enjoy the untracked graupel which as always skied much better than it's thin depth would suggest. Eventually we went out to Decline where we had first tracks in the new snow which was nice skiing in the top and only got a bit too soft in the last few turns. Next was Touque Chutes which was also untracked and very good skiing indeed. We exited through Spinal Tap which skied well with a couple of tracks in front of us and the icy creek bed at the bottom actually improved what otherwise would be soft mush.

We had to try Skydive which had a few tracks in but skied just like Decline including the too soft stuff at the bottom. Last run before lunch we tried Cougar Glades which was good soft snow although it got a bit sun bally in the final exit.

After lunch I tried High Saddle which skied pretty easily and the snow below was taking a nice edge. The exit through Easter was mellow soft bump skiing. Gotta Go has become a go to run for me and once again it was soft and lightly tracked through the chute. Diamond Leg Trees seemed to be untracked but as I have been skiing then every day that just can't be the case but the snow was soft and good. High Saddle had been so good that I just did a straight repeat of the run and if anything it was even more mellow than the time before.

I decided to hike up to Lone Fir and it was while I was doing this that the cooling started so that the chute was setting up as I dropped in but it skied ok as did Easter on the way out below. Last run of course was Skydive and today there were 9 of us which is a good crowd. The Reverse Traverse had set up on the way and was very scratchy making us wonder what Skydive would be like. We needn't have worried as it was bumpy in the top and ok soft skiing for the first pitch. After that it got progressively more frozen but still skiing ok if a bit scratchy all the way down to the final turn.

So what will tomorrow hold ? The drop in temp forecast seems to be right as it is -4 and falling on my deck now. Unfortunately there does not seem to be much sign of the heavy snowfall that is supposed to hit us tonight. If the snow comes it should provide a sufficient cushion on the base to give us good skiing, if it doesn't we will be faced with a very hard refrozen hill with good skiing difficult to find. Only time will tell.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Day 118 Still pretty ok

As I said last night we keep going to the hill expecting this great run of winter skiing to come to an end and everyday we find that the conditions are still ok. Well, with warm temps yesterday afternoon and a starting temp this morning of -7 with no new snow we had every reason to suppose that today the hill would be pretty ugly but once again conditions were well on the right side of ok as long as you went to the right place.

The forecasters got it dead right in that it was a bluebird start but about mid day it started to cloud over until we had 100% cloud cover by the end of the day. It was quite windy and the cold wind did have the effect of keeping the south facing areas even in the direct sunlight in a not too soft a state although they did get soft. The north facing slopes stayed in good winter conditions with smooth soft snow even in the afternoon temps which got up to +7 in the valley as we drove away.

We saw that the Cedar High Traverse was open for the first time in a few days so we headed up the Old Side to take the trip out to Snake Ridge. We actually cut first tracks out to Steep and Deep but found it a bit crusty from yesterday's sun so we turned left on the shoulder into Redtree which was much better soft wind sift down to the last few turns which were very crusty. After that we just had a few loops on the North facing parts of Cedar Ridge and King Fir which were great winter snow and were smooth and soft taking a nice edge. First lap I exited all the way down Kangaroo which was very icy but after that I bailed after the first pitch - the second pitch was that bad.

We went to the New Side and found that Lift Line to Mitchy Chutes were awesome flat winter skiing and we took them every time on the way down to White Pass Load. High Saddle looked ok so we dropped in and found soft snow all the way through the chute and good winter snow below that. Easter bowl was flat and taking a nice edge but a little firmer than yesterday. Last run before lunch we hiked up Lone Fir and found the chute full of soft snow and as easy to ski as I can remember. We exited through Easter.

After lunch at the excellent Big Bang Bagels (great food and great value) we went back to the New Side planning an afternoon very similar to yesterday's majoring on the North facing slopes. Low Saddle had a couple of rocks to hop round in the top but was easy skiing after that and Perch Chutes seemed untouched all the way down to Easter. Gotta Go was calling and now I have found a route round the choke through the trees on the right it is steep but very mellow and the snow underneath very soft, deep and lightly tracked. Diamond Leg Trees didn't seem to have been touched since we skied it yesterday and was great soft deep skiing.

Next we hiked Easter Meadow which was only lightly tracked and the chute into Easter which is normally very tight was full of soft snow. Easter itself remained in great condition. To vary things we headed out to Cobra Rock and found the High IT just getting a bit mushy. Cobra Rock skied just like Gotta Go and our run down was just the same and just as good including Diamond Leg Trees.

We just had time for a White Pass rip in under 3 minutes before getting the last chair up to ski Skydive. Today the numbers were back to 5 of us and the run skied well with bumps in the top, the rest of the run skiing very soft and even the final few turns were not as crunchy as yesterday. We had a good time in the bar with Sid the Squid and Air Bentley (there guys told you that you would get a mention) before heading home. The forecast seems to be calling for significant amounts of snow over the next few days during the holiday - I guess it just goes to show that God is a Calgarian.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Day 117 Flat smooth soft untracked powder

Actually I could just leave tonight's report at the heading as that is what we got today everywhere we went.

The start was delayed today as after the gym I had to go and see the dentist about my toothache. I have to say that they did a great job and after an x-ray and two fillings I was back at the house at 10 o'clock to pick Lynda up and head for the hill. The temp on the way to the hill was +2 and as forecast we had a sun/cloud mix all day but with the sun part winning out most of the time. We fully expected a mushy spring warm up but for whatever reason that didn't happen much and the wind seemed to keep even the south facing skiing surfaces in ok condition right through to the end of the day. This was surprising as driving home the valley temp was +7 although I imagine it was about 5 degrees cooler up top.

We decided to go to the New Side which may not have been the best plan as a buddy who arrived about the same time as us went to the Old Side and got a couple of awesome untracked Steep and Deep loops although it was only the Hut Traverse that was open so it involved a fair bit of side stepping. The official report only gave 1 cm in the last 24 hours and all of that overnight so I guess we just imagined the snow that puked down all of yesterday. In all seriousness the issue was the wind which obviously blew the new snow off the snow plot before it could be measured - Island Lake Cat Skiing were showing about 17 cms and that seems about on the mark to me. The other great effect of the wind was to wind groom pretty well all of the hill so everywhere was soft smooth jersey cream powder and filled in so well that it was as flat as a pancake.

The hill wasn't busy with mainly Non Stop groups and vacation skiers not many of whom were interested in skiing the places that interested me. The whole Big Bang area from Mitchy Chutes to Lift line was one big flat soft powder bowl and we dropped that every time on our way to the White Pass load. We started our New Side loops by dropping High Saddle which had been closed for a couple of days. The chute was about as mellow as I can remember and full of soft snow but below the chute it was soft deep snow with untracked areas all the way down to Easter which was similarly soft smooth wind grooming.

High Saddle had been so good that we did a straight repeat which is something I only rarely do. Next was Low Saddle which had a couple of technical turns in top and then was easy soft snow. Perch Chutes were untracked and Easter was just as good as before. Last run before lunch we hike Lone Fir which only had about half a dozen tracks in it so we came down in a series of GS turns which we just continued into the awesomely deep fan underneath. We tracked across to Spinal Tap which only had a couple of tracks and was soft down to the last few turns which were a bit crunchy.

After lunch the New Side loops continued and I hit Gotta Go and then Cobra Rock which were both very lightly tracked and exited each time through Diamond Leg Trees which were also very lightly tracked. The problem with today was that everything was so easy in these conditions even when you took what were usually tough lines. With this in mind I hike up to Lone Fir and went one chute on to Easter Meadow which skied the easiest I can ever remember and the fan below into Easter was just like the Lone Fir fan.

I decided to try a quick loop into White Rabbit and was not disappointed. After the Sib Ridge choke that had so much snow in it I could take the skiers left side I cut right into the trees. It was totally untracked although I did occasionally see a track off to my right. It was awesome powder down to the deadfall band where it started to get a little crusty so I moved right to shorten up the run and came out at the bottom of Fall Out - run of the day.

Last run was Skydive and I made the final chair with a minute to spare. For the first time in months I was on my own in Skydive but that didn't matter as it was just like everywhere else smooth soft powder with not too many tracks. It got a bit crunchy in the final few turns but that was price well worth paying.

We sat out on the deck at the Griz and enjoyed the evening sunshine although it was rather nippy. When we got home we enjoyed what will probably be our final hot tub of the season as the guys are shutting it down at the end of the month. It seems every day we go to the hill not expecting much and every day we have a pleasant surprise - let's hope this continues tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Day 116 If you don't go you don't know

I have said so often that you should never rely on conditions in the valley and it is always worth going to the hill just to see what it's like. Today was perfect example of this where indifferent conditions in the valley persuaded quite a number of people to stay at home and as a result they missed out on an excellent days skiing in wild winter weather.

The snow we were promised last night never materialised and the snow report showed no new snow overnight. It was +1 driving back from the gym and +2 as we drove to the hill. We had light precipitation in the form of rain/sleet in the valley and you could see that the top of the hill was well socked in. I guess you couldn't blame people for thinking that it wasn't going to be a very good days skiing.

As we drove up to the hill the precip changed to icy snow and graupel. Further up the mountain it was full on winter snow although rather icy and stayed that way all day. The precip at the base did get wet by mid afternoon but just about stayed white all day and you didn't have to go very far up the hill for it to turn to winter snow. The temp at the base hung around the +2 mark most of the day only getting warmer late in the day to about +4 in the valley. Up the hill the temps stayed just below zero but the main feature was the wind that was howling particularly at Timber Top and was blowing the new snow into smooth creamy wind groomed powder which made for the best ever skiing surface. The result of the wind and the new snow all day was that we got untracked snow everywhere we went even though we knew that several of the runs had already been skied, sometimes by us.

Because if the conditions there were very few people on the hill and the Non Stop groups and the vacation skiers were not really interesting in the places we were going so all in all it was a very quiet day. I was trying my new DPS Wailer Alchemists which are a carbon fibre structure, perhaps with a couple of gold bars thrown in if the price is anything to go by. They actually skied more or less the same as my old Wailers which is great as I loved those skis with the only difference being they seemed a little stiffer in the tails. That's me set with my one pair of skis for the next two years.

We decided to go for New Side loops on the basis that if it did turn wet down low we could always shorten up the loops later. As it was we never needed to change out plans and the day was just one New Side loop after another. Our initial drop from Timber was Lift Line which set the tone by having all the bumps filled in by windsift and the run being creamy powder all the way. A ski patrol buddy saw us at the White Pass load and advised Alpha Centauri/Concussion "even though it is not on your regular beat". It was a good call and was smooth untracked powder all the way down.

The order of service for the rest of the morning was to get to Timber Top and then get off it as quick as possible because the wind made it just a wild winter storm up there. We then headed out in Currie on the low traverse where the wind was also howling and viz was very poor in the blowing snow - each loop our tracks had been filled in from the time before. We did Decline, Stag Leap, Cougar Glades, Skydive and The Brain. There is no point in reporting these runs individually as they were all the same soft deep flat untracked powder. By the end of the morning the final couple of turns were a little heavy but still skiing well. Somewhere in there I took a hock of Hollywood Rock (bringing my success rate this season to 14/18) just to show the new skis what is expected of them.

After lunch we went back up and hit Decline/Window chutes which were just as described above and slough management was the main problem in the chute. For a change we hit out along the High IT in almost no viz and dropped Gotta Go and Cobra Rock both of which were soft smooth and deep and exited both time through Diamond Leg Trees which were just as good as the rest of the hill.

Skydive was not an option for last run as Currie Bowl had been closed. We went out a dropped an untracked Tight Knot which was full of soft snow and totally awesome. We then traversed to the top of Triple Trees and had untracked lines all the way down through all the sections, even below the Timber Chair. Not our usual finish but still a great way to end the day.

There was good crowd in the bar and we met up with buddies in the pub for wings night so it was a good evening as well. The moral of today was no matter how scabby it looks in the valley go and try the hill, it might just be awesome - in fact it was. Tomorrow will be a late start as I have been having trouble with a tooth and I am at the dentists at 9 to get it fixed which I will be able to do between the gym and going to the hill. The outlook promises some more winter weather and I say bring it on.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Day 115 Another great day of winter skiing

On the way to the gym this morning for my daily 10 km run (ok I won't mention it again) it was -2 and stayed that way as we drove to the hill after my morning coffee. I was worried because it did look like we were in for a sunny morning and at this time of year it doesn't take long for the sun to work it's destructive magic on a skiing surface. I needn't have worried as it clouded over soon after we got to the hill and stayed that way all day.

Actually we had light flurries from mid morning onwards which didn't really give any accumulation but by the end of the day what we had qualified as light snow and some minor accumulation was taking place. Temps stayed wonderfully cool all day and a patroller buddy said that the daytime high up the mountain was -3. Even the valley temp was zero as we drove away from the hill and the snow was proper winter snow from top to bottom all day. The other feature of the weather was the wind that was particularly strong on the New Side and had the effect of sifting the snow around and providing some surprisingly deep pockets of wind groomed snow in places.

We went to the Old Side to check things out as we hadn't been there for a few days. I don't know if Bear Cave Chutes had been closed yesterday but I dropped into deep untracked powder and although it was only a few turns it was very good. After that we looped Cedar Ridge from the Boom Top entrance to King Fir and back and it was all excellent tracked powder.

We got word that Snake Ridge had opened but only from the Hut Traverse so we could access that from the Boom Top without having to run back to Bear. We did  3 Snake Ridge loops which involved some serious side stepping to get out there on the traverse. It was hard work (on top of the gym this morning) but worth it as there were very deep untracked lines to be had over the whole Snake area. We had 7 exits through Kangaroo this morning and it was skiing well after we discovered that the best snow was on the hard right protected by the trees from yesterday morning's sun. We went for a fairly late lunch.

After lunch we went up the New Side and found that the traverse just below the Reverse Traverse was open and the ski down on Currie Powder was an easy groomed run. Obviously we hadn't had enough climbing so we went up to Lone Fir and found the chute to be soft deep and mellow. The fan was super deep and with Lizard closed there were no tracks coming in from that side to spoil the fun. Easter bowl was soft easy bumps.

Next I hit the Fraser Tooth and as expected it was soft and deep and some of the best and steepest tree skiing on the hill if you stayed in the fall line. Next loop I tried Gotta Go and for the first time dropped into the early tight chute which skied well. I avoided the choke by dropping into the trees to the right (The Fangs ?) and found a soft snow bye pass of the choke although it was steep and tight. Diamond Leg Trees were predictably soft and deep. I just had time for a loop through Cobra Rock which was lightly tracked and every bit as good as I expected although there had been a bit of side slipping traffic in the steep chutes to the right. Diamond Leg Trees were just as good as before.

As I was tight for time I didn't drop Hollywood Rock last run as I had done yesterday but forgot to mention it in last night's blog - current score in my favour 13/17 with 4 stacks when it was really big. Last run of course was Skydive but tonight with only Kyle and me to enjoy it. That was everyone else's loss as it skied very soft and mellow all the way down and even after a long tough day like today we could really rip it.

I only had time for a quick juice in the Griz tonight as I was due at Straight Line to get my new skis mounted. They did a great job and I now am the proud owner of a new pair of the DPS Wailer Alchemists (they don't seem much different from my old skis which is great as I just love them) and a pair of Marker Jester bindings which everyone tells me are indestructible, we will see.

Forecasters are calling for some good amounts of snow tonight and another cool day tomorrow so we can hope that winter will continue for a while yet.

Day 114 A day of two halves

The two halves we had today were the morning where we got sun and it looked like spring skiing and this afternoon where we had yet another day of full on winter conditions.

Overnight we had 23 cms of fresh snow so a very good powder day looked like it was on the cards. It was -5 as we drove to the hill confirming that the snow was good winter powder. The forecast was for a sun/cloud mix in the morning with snow showers in the afternoon. As it turned out the emphasis in the morning was very much on the sun but at lunch time it clouded over and we had heavy snow all afternoon. As we drove away from the hill tonight it was -1 which brought to an end a full on winters day.

Unsurprisingly the deep overnight powder was just awesome skiing. During the morning the sun started to have some effect on the south facing surfaces and we got worried that the fantastic overnight powder would be destroyed by lunch time. Luckily the lunch/afternoon snow not only stopped the deterioration but actually repaired the skiing surface so that by the end of the day things were pretty well back in the state that they were in the morning with maybe a few more tracks.

We went to the New Side in the knowledge that most areas were still on yellow and found that Currie Bowl was closed but all of the White Pass area was open, out to and including Surprise Trees. Polar Peak Chair was not running but that was due to yet another mechanical failure and nothing to do with current conditions. With nothing else to do we spent the morning looping the Knot Chutes all the way from Tight to Jim and then dropping Surprise Trees. These were all deep powder and great skiing.

Late morning Currie Bowl open with a good old Currie 500 start and I was in the first wave down Currie Powder to the low traverse and then Skydive. Lynda was in the first wave into Decline and when we compared notes we found that we had both had awesome untracked skiing. Next I tried Cougar Glades and had to cut very hard left into tight trees before I found untracked snow but it was worth it all the way down and I even grabbed first tracks into the old logging trail that spat me out in the base of Stag Leap.

With the sun starting to take effect we went to the north facing slopes and had Touque Chutes which as always were super deep and only lightly tracked and Spinal Tap which was much the same. Last run before a late lunch was Cobra Rock which was very deep in the right hand chutes and then Diamond Leg Trees which was tracked but deep.

We came out after lunch in a full on winter snow storm which continued to a greater or lesser extent all afternoon. We went out to Stag Leap where the snow was building on top of what was already there and had a great powder rip. After White Rabbit had been so good yesterday I went back and although there were a few more tracks the snow line on my jacket by the time I emerged was half way up my chest.

I decided to try the Brain and although there were a few tracks in there the huge number of lines to the right of the creek bed meant that I had untracked skiing most of the way down in awesome deep powder. We just had time for a quick loop of Tight Knot which was as good as the first run of the day and Surprise Trees where I skied untracked lines that I know I had already skied earlier in the day.

Last run was Skydive with just 4 of us today but it skied beautifully with soft bumps in the top and then powder all the way down. A great way to finish a great day and indeed a great winters weekend skiing. As Sunday is my drinking day we had beers in the bar with everyone pumped at such a good weekends skiing this late in the season. Looking forward to tomorrow.