Sunday, 28 December 2008

Ski Day 4: Powder Pigging!

Day 4: Dec 28
Vert: 7,420 m YTD Vert: 35,810 m
Runs: 11 YTD Runs:60

We awoke to puking snow and crappy roads. It normally takes 30 min to get from the West Wing to the Sunshine parking lot; today, it took 50 min. We were in the back parking lot, meaning we were about midway down Lot A with a 9:10 AM arrival, and were on the Goat's Eye lift at 9:50 AM. The first three runs were EPIC powder. Boot top to knee deep, light & fluffy and not too fast. Viz wasn't great, but who cared? Here's a taste of the upper part of Rolling Thunder.

It took a mere 4 runs to turn our legs to jello. Now, this could have something to do with skiing over 66,000 vertical feet in the previous 2 days, but still, the snow was intense and a blast.

We had to be back in Calgary for a Dinos Women's Basketball game this evening, so couldn't ski long. We opted to ski straight through to lunch, and depart the hill after lunch. So we pulled into lunch at 1:30 PM, having managed 11 runs in just over 3 1/2 hours. 11 epic runs of tree shots, monster steeps, and one whole heck of a lot of fun. We fell just short of 100,000 vertical feet in the three days, and now feel every vertical foot of it in our quads.

It was fairly busy on the hill, with cars parked 4.5 km past the gate.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Ski Days 2 & 3: What a Difference 24 Hours Makes

Ski Day 2: Dec 26
Vert: 11,035. YTD Vert: 19,200
Runs: 17. YTD Runs: 34

The Boxing Day Sales and the cold weather (-18° on the hills) kept the people away; probably no more than 2,000 folks were at Sunshine. Lot A wasn't even full and there was no one parked in Lot B.

They all missed a nice day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, there was no wind to speak of, and the snow was very, very nice, faster than last weekend. The photos say a lot. Notice the lack of folks on the chairlift, or anywhere else for that matter.

We chalked up over 8,100 m (25,000 vertical feet) before lunch and never saw a lift line all day. We could have done more but bailed at 3 PM.

Ski Day 3: Dec 27
Vert: 9,190 m YTD Vert: 28,390 m
Runs: 15 YTD Runs: 49

We left Dead Man's on time, but I realized at Canmore that I had left my pass a home. This put us to the parking lot at 9:20 instead of 8:55. I have a rule of thumb that as long as you hit the parking lot before 9, you're OK.

So our late arrival meant we ended up in row 52, right at the back of Lot A. So far back that we caught the bus to get to the Gondola line. When we got to it, the Gondola line went past the Creekside, curled back past the bus drop off area, and snaked around the unloading zone. By the time we got to the Gondola -- and we "cheated" by using the single line -- it completed surrounding the loading zone, and and headed down the road about 8 rows of cars. I have nbever seen the line that long, and neither had any of the Sunshine staff. By the end of the day, cars were parked 3.5 km past the gates at the end of Lot B. It was a zoo, with over 6,000 people on the by noon.

Still, by sticking to Goat's Eye in the morning, heading down to the Creekside at the parking lot for lunch, and only heading up to the village at 2 PM, we saw virtually no lift lines. So the lost vert was the result of getting our first lift ride yesterday at 9:20 vs today at 10:15.

Yesterday was sun; today was the opposite. It was windy & cloudy with light snow all day, though not enough to accumulate anywhere. Though it hit -12°, the wind made it feel colder than yesterday. In addition, the wind away blew the nice snow that we skied yesterday, so there was a lot of very hard pack and scraped areas, far more than yesterday. The weather sucked so much that I didn't even try to take any pictures of the gray.

Amazing the difference 24 hrs makes. Welcome to the mountains.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

2008/2009 Ski Season: Day 1

Vert: 8,160. YTD Vert: 8,160
Runs: 17. YTD Runs: 17

It was a darn cold -30° this morning in Canmore, but the forecast said a high of -15° up at Sunshine, and we believed it. In fact, it was -24.5° in the parking lot at 9 AM, but only -16° in the village at 9:20. After -30°, -15° feels downright balmy, and it was actually quite nice. The clouds were broken and the sun kept poking through.

But I nearly froze my fingers off taking that photo, and it meant hiding inside for a warm up at 9:45.

There was no one at Sunshine today. The 11 AM count was 800. You can see how quiet it was in this shot taken from the warm confines of the Chimny Corner Lounge at lunch, where we were one of only about a dozen busy tables.

So it stayed -15° most of the day, with some nice sun later in the afternoon. There hasn't been snow in 8 days, but the blow in powder was nice, and what was open was great -- even Goat's Eye. Normally, we start there, but had heard nothing was open, so started up at the village. But our late afternoon runs there were great; there's lots open, basically from Gladerunner across on the lower section below the traverse. The best run of the day was the World Cup Downhill up top; groomed with a beautiful 3-5" of blow in sift that was like skiing silk. This is late in the day from the top of Barner's Bowl.

In the end, the vert was low because of the cold, but all in all, it was a nice day, and more people should have been on the hill.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

We're Baaaaack...

Back from Maui, and back to the land of keeping stuff updated via the blog.

We did 24 days on Maui, and had new experiences. You would think that after so many times there, there are no new experiences to have, but we hiked three trails we had never been on before, saw spinner dolphins actually spinning from our favourite beach, saw an endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal, saw huge waves on our beach (which gets nice waves, not monster killer boogie-board eating death waves), and sat through not one but two Kona storms that included a full day of puking rain each.

Most days were spent beaching. We saw lots of turtles, octopus & eels, plus added a few nudibranches to our growing list of underwater stuff we have seen. This was the first year I didn't bother to get an underwater camera, and it's probably just as well because I have many, many underwater shots from Maui, and all but one or two would be the same.

We caught Luke Harngoody (#44) and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame play the University of Illinois in the EA Sports Maui Invitational basketball championship. Luke is apparently the 2nd ranked player in the country, and ND is 7th ranked. The tournament was won by North Caroline and Tyler Hainsborough, the top team and player in the country.

The spinning dolphins were a highlight. A pod of about 20 Spinner Dolphins were playing about 100 yards off the beach. They looked like they might have been fishing. Periodically, one would leap, followed sometimes by a second or third, always spinning while leaping. Very cool, but tough to photograph.

The monster killer death waves were cool. Take a look at this photo, and consider that the boogie board is 42" long, and the guy at the crest is just under 6' tall. This is a wave with an 8' face, and this was a small one.

So imagine facing this -- a 10 footer.

Or this 15 footer.

By now, the smart people were out of the water. And they stood and watched.

Or they went surfing (this is over at Ho'okeepa, not my beach)

The three new hikes we did were Twin Falls (not worth it, really), Waihee Ridge and Waihee Valley. The ridge trail runs up a mountain some 1,500' on the very precipice of a valley, into which runs the valley trail. The valley trail is much like the 7 Pools hike at Hana without the drive. The ridge trail is just like climbing mountains at home, but hotter and it rains more. The views from the ridge trail start off with Haleakela and the entire ithsmus in view, all the way to Kihei, where we stay. Now we know where the trail is, we know you can actually see it from Kihei.

The trail skirts the edge of the ridge with great views into the valley as it switchbacks upwards. That's the valley trail in the depths.

On the way up, there are waterfalls to be seen, and at the top, one of the wettest places in Hawaii is in view. They helicopters even fly tours up this canyon.

This is really one amazing valley.

Down in the valley, the valley trail follows the river. Well, there really isn't a river. This river is a main water supply for Maui, so in typical Maui fashion, the river flow is harnessed by a series of dams and diverted into ditches (we would call them small irrigation canals, but in Maui, it's a ditch). The trail simply follows an access to the main ditch diversions. The ditches were built in the late 1800's and early 1900's and literally bore through the lava rock walls.

This hike is referred to as the Swinging Bridges hike, on account of the two bridges that span the river. And boy, do they swing, being made only of cable and 2 x 8's. And they're long.

The river is diverted twice. Once at the end of the trail, at a small dam, about 80% of the flow is taken.

Then lower down, an ingenious grated trough picks up the entire flow. More water does make it into the river, so it isn't bone dry.

In between, the remaining river is very pretty.

And obviously, if you can look down from the ridge trail and see the valley trail, you can look up and see the ridge from the valley. There is actually a person standing just to the left of the lone tall tree on the ridge.

Other than that, we watched sunsets...

...watched the rain...

...sat on our very crowded beach (note: this was taken at 3 PM)...

... chased the geckos (or more precisely, a green anole) off the car...

...and the crabs on the beach...

...and the parasailers in the sky...

...and left +28° C to land in -28° C. There's a degree of irony in that.

Glad to be back. Thanks to Brittany for the great housesitting.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Grotto Canyon

Amazingly, we had never been up this short hike in a canyon directly across the valley from our new place. We had a few hours to kill, so opted to go exploring.

The narrow canyon is hone to a raging creek for about 1 week of the year. The rest of the time it's just a spring fed trickle. The "hike" is actually mostly in the creekbed itself, since it's so narrow.

The sheer canyon walls are popular with climbers, and if you look carefully, you can find lots of permanent protection points bolted to the rock face.

The creek narrowly twists and turns then reaches a T junction. Most of the water in the creek comes from a short fork to the right, leaving to the left more narrow canyon, only with virtually no water in it. Soon, the canyon widens, and there's piles of material trying to turn into hoodoos -- or caves.

This is about as far as we went, but you can wander another km or so up the creek bed. I think where we stopped was a popular lunch spot, as we found balancing rock sculpture here.

The other attraction in this hike is aboriginal rock paintings. They're hard to find, partially vandalized, shellacked over to protect them, but still neat to see.

All in all, an interest, fairly effortless short hike that crowded with people.

Friday, 1 August 2008

FINALLY The Canmore Condo (& Wolves)

About time I got to posting about it, since it's been occupying pretty much every weekend for us since mid June.

After much thought and consideration, we finally bit the bullet and bought a condo in the mountains. We call it "The West Wing." It's in Canmore, or more precisely, about 3 km from Canmore in Dead Man's Flats.

We took possession on July 3rd, and have been prepping & moving ever since. So far, we have had the place painted from top to bottom, removed the bad window coverings, ripped up the old carpet in preparation of getting new carpet, moved in a sofa bed, the majority of the kitchen and some food. This coming weekend is dining room, then we'll do master bedroom, guest room and living room. We figure it should be fully equipped by September (just in time for us to head to France...).

The condo complex was built in 1991, and to be frank, before our real estate agent showed us a place in there in February, we didn't even know the condos existed. You can see that they're just off the Trans Canada, but you can't tell by us. It's only an 850 sq. ft. 2 bedroom, but the living/dining space is great. That, and the neighborhood is wonderful. Dead Man's Flats is a town of 150 people and 3 streets. It has 2 gas stations, 2 old small hotels, one B&B, one restaurant (aside from the greasy spoon in the Husky), a provincial campground and a new hotel complex being built.

And great views, like these from our balcony & windows:

To the west are the peaks over Canmore, including the Three Sisters, Mt. Grassi & Ha Ling Peak.

The neighborhood is great. We back onto Pigeon Creek, a small babbling brook that runs into the Bow River, which is only abut 300 m from our place.

Dominating the eastern view is Pigeon Mountain, here towering over the symbol of DMF: The Giant Husky Flag.

To the west is Mt. Lougheed. Everyone thinks this big peak is the top, but in fact, it's peak just to the left.

There's a beautiful campground in town, and a big grassy field where it turns out my neighbour likes to fire off his rockets.

All About The Wolves

Immediately east of our condo across Pigeon Creek is nothing but wilderness. Well, they plan on building some houses, but for the time being, there's just the sewage treatment plant, and a closed road running to an old garbage dump. Down these two roads we see lots of wildlife. The first time down we saw deer, the second time elk. On our first night in the condo (sleeping in sleeping bags and eating off of disposable dishes), we were out exploring the neighborhood after dinner, and ended up way down by the garbage dump at about 10:45 pm. It was still dusky, and we had binoculars and my camera. We turned to head back home, and two wolves came onto the road about 200 m in front of us.

One was a big lanky boy, black with silver, the second smaller, probably female, with more brown but still dark. They stood and watched us a bit; we did the same to them. One loped down the road toward us to check out something in the road. Finding it uninteresting, (s)he went back to the other, who had stayed still watching us the whole time. They decided they didn't like us, and darted into the bush towards the Trans Canada. Tragically, it was just too dark to get pictures, but we were able to use binoculars the whole time.

That was the first time I have ever seen wolves in the wild, and there they were, 100 m from our new place. What a nice welcome present.