Sunday, 24 January 2010

Ski Day 11: Better than Nothing

Vert: 10,540 m YTD Cum Vert: 112,695 m
Runs: 18 YTD Cum runs: 185

We were in town again to watch basketball (the #5 nationally ranked Dinos were playing the #1 nationally ranked UBC Thunderbirds; we lost, but not by much). The games were good; my girls in particular toughed out an incredible win on the back of fabulous play by Ashley Hill after losing to UVic on Friday. But that means we skipped skiing Saturday.

Not much snow in the last week anyway; all of 4 cm on Friday. So we're back to hardpack again, meaning eminently carveable but firm snow everywhere. The day started with fog down low below the base of Goat's Eye and overcast above. AM viz was OK with splashes of near sunshine...

...but it deteriorated in the PM as the cloud deck got thicker and blacker and it tried to snow.

We played a bit in some trees today, and there were huge bumps in there no matter where we went. All in all, it was a pretty low key day.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Ski Day 10: 2 Days After A Dump

Vert: 10,475 m YTD Cum Vert: 102,155
Runs: 17 YTD Cum Runs: 167

We are in basketball season, and KC and I hate to miss our Dinos. Going into this weekend, our girls were ranked 12th in the country, and the men 4th, and we were playing our arch-enemies, the University of Alberta. So with games on both Friday & Saturday night that we did not want to miss, we stayed in town Saturday, and did not ski. We stayed to watch the games.

We lost. Mostly. The men had a blowout win on Friday (80-54). But that was it. My girls tragically lost both games. My guys lost on Saturday (82-80). After the games, we headed out to the West Wing.

And in the process, missed another powder day. Sunshine had 30 cm on Friday, and Saturday was apparently great for 4 reasons. First, there was the snow. Second, the crowd was low (reports of not-filled parking lots and 3,900 people). Third, it was sunny most of the day. And fourth, it was Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s annual Waterkeeper's Alliance Fundraiser, and Banff was full of celebs, including James Gandolfini, Kelsey Grammer, Alec Baldwin, Marcia Gay Harden, William Shatner, Natasha Beddingfield, Kevin Lowe, George Stroumboulopoulos, and a bunch of Trudeaus.

We saw none of them. They all went home Sunday. It was an OK day. The hardpack of last weekend is gone, replaced by soft turns basically everywhere (though the obvious and constant wind scoured and high traffic areas like the top of Red 90 remain), and the rocks are also basically gone. Anything in the trees got wind loaded, so there were still plenty of near fresh tracks in glades especially on Goat's Eye. Here's a couple of shots of KC taking breaks in the Gold Scapegoat trees.

The viz was on and off, especially on the Divide side, with pretty flat light...

...and things and got decidedly worse in the afternoon when the top of Divide socked in down to below the top of Angel. We were there for a while till it turned ultra foggy. As usual, only the very top of Goat's Eye was affected.

Temps were good at -11° in the AM and -3° in the PM, but the wind was gusting and it felt much colder. A moderate crowd today and no lineups anywhere except Wawa and Wolverine; exactly 7 cars parked past the gate.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Ski Day 9: More of the Same

Vert: 10,430 m YTD Cum Vert: 91,680 m
Runs: 16 YTD Cum Runs: 150

There were a lot of similarities to yesterday. OK to good vis in the AM...

...and a cloud hanging on the top of Divide providing pretty flat light and marginal viz for the top third of the chair.

In the afternoon, sun even broke out on Wawa for a while -- but we weren't on Wawa.

The snow was even more scraped, as expected, and there are even more rocks showing, but otherwise conditions remain fine. It was Avalanche Awareness Day 2, and I learned how to do a search with an avi transceiver, while KC looked at snow profiling, and we watched a few kids get rescued by avi puppies.

Vert wise, at 91,000 m, we are now where we were last year on Feb 14 -- a month ahead of sched.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Ski Day 8: Avalanche Awareness Day

Vert: 12,240 m YTD Cum Vert: 81,250 m
Runs: 20 YTD Cum Runs: 134

The day dawned OK weatherwise...

...but it didn't last too long. By 11 it was pretty solidly overcast. The lack of snow over the last week was noticeable. The best word to describe the snow is "hardpack", as everything has become pretty firm (though there are very few icy bits). I did some exploring to try and find softness, and had very little success. The glades of Ewe First and Mother In Law on Goat's Eye were full of firm but carveable bumps... were the TP Main Chutes and OS Pitch. Bye Bye Bowl was pretty heavily wind crusted; the snow was OK but challenging. In the afternoon, it socked in pretty well, with clouds at the top of Divide, and very flat light.

It was Avalanche Awareness Day. To start off with a bang, they did just that, bombing the North Cornice just to the right of the entrance to Delirium Dive. The cornice didn't go, but the avalanche was good anyway. Here's a series of shots; note the smoke on the ridge, which is the bomb going off, and the resulting waterfalls of snow.

There were snow plots with carved out sections showing the strong & weak layers, beacon demos, and a very interesting demo of the "new and improved" team shoveling technique to dig someone out. And there were puppies.

The dog in the photos is not only an avi rescue dog, he also is trained to sniff out 6 kinds of drugs and has a part time job with the RCMP. And he's a sweetie.

I was by myself today; KC was off on some kind of management retreat thingee. So the vert was high. So high, in fact, that it's the 4th highest vert day I have had since keeping records. I still don't know how I managed 15,430 m on April 1, 2001. That's a record I suspect will never be broken.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Ski Day 7: Dead in the Clouds

Vert: 9,250 m YTD Cum Vert: 69,000 m
Runs: 14 YTD Cum Runs: 114

A minor dusting overnight relative to the last 2 powder days; they said 7 cm and I would agree. Trouble is, 7 cm wasn't enough to do much. So I didn't find any powder stashes, but then due to my tired legs, I didn't look hard. And we had very tired legs. For instance, we wanted to do something easy on the first run. The board said Rolling Thunder was groomed, so we tried it. Not groomed. Not easy. By the end of just the first run, things hurt.

The weather kinda sucked all day, too.

It was mostly overcast with low to moderate wind, -4° to -8°, with light snow on and off, and from Goat's Eye, it looked like cloudbase was around the top of Angel, with the top of Standish shrouded, too.

Certainly the top of the Dive was cloudy most of the day, and they launched more than a half dozen avi bombs into it before opening it. There's something inherently disconcerting about having an avi bomb go off "nearby". Scares the heck out of me each time.

Due to what looked like patchy viz up in the Village and on Divide, we decided to stay on Goat's Eye for the day, where the viz stayed generally OK. Crowd was way down from yesterday; neither the A nor B lots were full, so there was never a line at Goat's Eye all day. The net result of this was that our legs were totally jello by 1 PM, so we decided to head down for lunch then head home.

Point of interest: We had 34 ski days and over 1,000,000 vertical feet last year for the whole season. At this point in this season, we have more vert than we had last season in mid February. We have skied 20% of the total number of days, and already covered 225,000 vertical feet. Methinks we will break last season's numbers handily.


Saturday, 2 January 2010

Ski Day 6: POW-DER!

Vert: 10,065 m YTD Cum Vert: 59,750 m
Runs: 17 YTD Cum Runs: 100

And the snow just kept on coming, with another 11 cm overnight. We were up early enough to catch first tracks on a bunch of runs, including Silver Scapegoat-Bronze Freefall, Gladerunner, Wildfire & the Goat Chicken Glades...

There was boot top or better on the groomed stuff, and knee deep stashes were to be had in the Glades on Upper Goat's Eye near Gold Scapegoat, which KC liked so much she did twice. There were warm temps (-4° or so for most of the day) but a moderate breeze made it feel much colder. The viz was fine for the morning...

...but it started socking in after lunch with cloudbases down to below the top of Angel and light snow. Skiing anything off Divide in the PM was an exercise in braille.

And it was busy, with cars parked 5.6 km past the gate.

This probably explains why anything that was easily accessed was skied out by noon -- including us. After 8 deep powder runs, we were almost toast.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Ski Day 5: Another Happy New Year

Vert: 9,320 m YTD Cum Vert: 49,685 m
Runs: 16 YTD Cum Runs: 83

Sunshine reported 7 cm overnight and 14 cm in 2 days, and we had pretty good expectations, but the amount of fresh snow was a function of where you were. On Goat's Eye, there was probably only 5 cm fresh overnight, and another 5 the previous day. Still, some of our favourite conditions are fresh snow on groomed stuff, and we found that on Scapegoat and even Gladerunner, which we did from top to bottom.

We also had fun in the Goat Chicken Glades. It always impresses KC that she can ski this type of stuff (big moguls in the trees).

But the deepest snow we found was in the Paris Basin where it was easily boot top to knee deep (pardon the gloved finger in front of the lens).

However, in the AM, on a run down Gladerunner, suddenly my pole felt funny. About 15 cm of it had snapped off, including the basket. So the first problem was doing a mogul run without poles (at one point, I planted and the pole sank almost to the grip). The second was getting a replacement. Did you know it costs $9 a day to rent a $25 pole? Highway robbery. I know where there's one sitting in a tree, too.

The temp was fine, at -8° to start the day and -4° in mid afternoon. The morning was actually fairly good light with splashes of sun, though the top of Divide looked socked in. But the clouds got thicker in the PM, and the viz deteriorated. By 1:30, even the top of Standish was a white out, and the wind picked up, too, making it kinda chilly. The afternoon saw light snow everywhere, though as usual, the viz was better and snow lighter on the Goat's Eye side.

What was strange was our inability to find the crowd that was there. Cars were 0.5 km past the gate, but we rarely ran into lift lines. No one was skiing Divide's fog in the afternoon, and all the village chair lines were short or nonexistent. I thought everyone would be over at the Goat for the better viz, but while it was busy, no lines there, either. Go figure.

However, the lousy viz and the frequent big wind caused us to bail early. We were on our way out and noticed the good viz on Goat's Eye, so grabbed a couple of runs, but found it too busy for our tastes. We admit it. We're spoiled, and season's passes will do that to you.

PS: We spent the day singing "Another Happy New Year" by Spirit of the West". If you don't have the track, get it.