Thursday, 31 March 2011

Ski day 35: Pow, pow and more pow

Vert: 10,860 m;   YTD cum vert: 294,860 m
Runs: 18;   YTD cum runs: 562

And the powder just keeps on coming. The hill reported 18 cm overnight, and it was generally deeper than that. I think I peaked out at 40 cm on the flats of Assiniboine Trail, where I got stuck because it was too deep for the gentle slope.

It was busy and I got to the base of Goat's Eye at 9:45, but was still able to get first tracks for almost two hours.
Virtually no tracks entering Thunder or Scapegoat
Deep snow lets you get places that are normally off limits, like the lower Goat Glades.
Lower Goat Glades looking into Freefall
It was overcast most of the day and snowing on and off all day. The viz was generally OK, but I lucked out a few times and caught sun for rides up Divide...
Approaching the top of South 205
North Pockets. Tracks below the fences are mine
...and runs in Bye Bye Bowl.
Untracked powder in the centre of Bye Bye Bowl
Here's some proof as to snow depth. It's 47 cm from my pole basket to the bottom of the graphic on the pole. I was careful to just plant the pole into today's snow.
Gladerunner, looking into the glades

Bye Bye Bowl
That's about 30 cm in each picture.

While it was mostly overcast the whole day, it was warm (-4° to start the day, and all the thermometers I saw were above freezing by 11 AM), and this was bad. I stayed on Divide all afternoon, but could feel the snow getting heavier starting around the base of the Angel Traverse as the day progressed. On my way out to the ski out, I took OS Pitch (in beautiful fresh tracks) but by the bottom of the pitch the snow felt heavier. In Barner's Bowl, it was very wet and heavy. Cottontail to Jackrabbit chair was nearly icy, and the ski out was very hardpacked and almost icy indeed. It seemed to get better below the base of B-Line. So I suspect while it will still be sweet tomorrow up high (with more fresh for sure as it was snowing when I left), down "low" will be crusty in the AM. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Ski Day 34: The powder never gets boring

Vert: 9,560 m;   YTD cum vert: 284,000 m (not a typo)
Runs: 19;   YTD cum runs: 544

Just like yesterday, it started with fresh powder and some sunshine, then clouded up in the PM and started snowing. However, there wasn't as much powder (only 5-15 cm) and it wasn't as blizzarding in the PM.

This morning also featured a bit of wind that was transporting the snow. So in addition to the fresh, you also got some really nice blow in. Thus the morning started with acres of untracked powder...
Powder field at the top of Goat's Head Soup
...that had a huge degree of awesomeness and was being enjoyed by a few folks.
From the middle of Upper Gold Scapegoat to the glades under Cleavage
The powder from yesterday and today continued to bury the crusty bits from last week, but the one space that disappointed me was the Farside and Wildside chutes. While the rest of the hill has powder on powder, there's a lot of nasty rutted hardpack hiding under the powder on those two runs. However, I did have two incredible first track runs in knee deep drifts on the sides of Upper Gold Scapegoat.

I headed up Divide as usual after lunch but quickly got fogged out. There was just a scad of untracked powder up there, but skiing it was pretty ugly due to the viz. So continuing my quest to get to places I don't normally get, I spent most of the afternoon on Standish and Wawa. On Standish, I got a handful of runs in the Virgins (hey, I don't name the runs) and the Bunkers.
Upper Standish

On the left is the entrance to the Virgins
Looking down the Virgins run
I found huge expanses of untracked powder in the Paris Basin off Wawa; I suspect the reason it was untracked is that you had to access it from the Paris Traverse, which is a bit of an uphill trudge from the top of Wawa. Both times I came out the Birdcage, which provides this unique perspective on the Angel Chair and the village.
From the last pitch on Birdcage
Met a lot of folks from Manitoba today. Apparently, it's their reading week too.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Ski Day 33: Crowder

Vert: 7,185 m;   YTD cum vert: 274,440 m
Runs: 12;   YTD cum runs: 525

Crowder: What you get when fresh powder attracts the crowds
The hill said there was only 7 cm fresh today. They missed it by over 100%. Several times I tested the snow depth with my pole and got between 10 cm and 30 cm, and it was deeper than that in protected spots like trees. In fact, the deepest I tested all day was at 2:30 PM in Barner's Bowl, where it was over 30 cm. 

The morning looked poor at home but as is so often the case it was nice and mostly sunny up at Sunshine. I took my time getting to the hill; mistake. It's Spring Break here, and at 10 AM I was parked farther back today than we were on Saturday. There was at least 8-10 cm in the parking lot. This was what was waiting up on the hill.
There were lots of first tracks to be had, but the crowds had most of the easy lines skied out by noon. To get freshies, I played in my favourite trees, got first tracks on the traverse between Gold Gladerunner and Gold Scapegoat to more first tracks, took the Cleavage traverse to more first tracks, and got to the lower section of the Farside chutes before I found the "crowds" (okay, 2 guys) over here (actually, the Wildside chute had about a dozen people in it, was very tracked up and had huge bumps, so I crossed it).
The sun stuck around till around 1 PM or so, but was never strong enough to affect the snow quality. Even at 1 PM, while the busy sections were chopped up pretty quick...
...less travelled places like the North Pocket still had fresh lines.
Around 1:30 a cloud deck showed up and got lower and lower. I was turning laps in Bye Bye Bowl and got socked into a whiteout, so I couldn't see the exit points. I waited a few minutes for the cloud to break as it had done the previous 2 runs, but it didn't so I had to guess my way out. By 2 PM it was socked in to treeline and it had started snowing. By 2:30 PM it was just dumping and the viz had gone to near zero so I decided to bail (it's laundry day). Here's Barner's Bowl on the way out. You can barely make out the Tee Pee Town chair at the bottom of the Bowl.
The lower left corner of this picture was where I tested a fresh snow depth in excess of 35 cm.

As I was driving away, everybody coming in was flashing their lights. They were trying to warn people that on a blind corner, a herd of bighorn sheep were standing in the middle of the road licking up the gravel and salt, and you had to drive gingerly past them.
Since getting home at 3:45, there have been at least 5 snow showers in Canmore.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Ski Day 32: Busted Again

Vert: 8,840 m;   YTD Cum Vert: 267,255 m
Runs: 16;   YTD Cum runs: 513

I got to Sunshine today to see that a looseness in my binding I noticed a few weeks back was far worse. We went into the repair shop and I found that two the the screws holding my front binding on were sheared off at the ski, and my binding was hanging on by one screw. Heaven only knows how long its been like this. They couldn't fix it on the hill, so I had to rent skis for the day. I rented a pair of Saloman Shoguns, and didn't like them very much. So I spent an hour at the start of the day in the repair shack, and had to leave early to take my skis in for repair to Canmore (hence the low vert). There I was told the problem was unfixable, and my bindings had to be removed and remounted. Maybe it's time for new skis; these have 88 pretty hard ski days on them...

Anyway, it was a mixed bag today, with 5-10 cm of pretty fresh powder in the morning...

...pretty good viz despite the overcast, the odd sunny break, and nice temps (-5° or so to start).
Equal parts of sun and low cloud was the rule for the afternoon, and the sun was indeed warm, and while it only raised temps to the +3° or so range up at Divide base, the snow started to get heavy around 1:30.

When I used to fly gliders, the view from cloudbase was always impressive, dark and wispy above with light underneath. We got some of that today up on Divide.
You can still see fresh powder patches in that picture, and it was taken at 2 PM.
Indeed the traffic was light today and there were freshies most of the day (if you knew where to look).

Friday, 25 March 2011

Snowshoeing, for a change

I like snowshoeing, but in the past have gone skiing on my precious free days. Now that every one of my days is free, I wanted to get in more winter hiking, so today took my snowshoes and went up to Chester Lake.

I haven't heard anything about road conditions, so went in via Hwy 40, and came out via the Spray Lakes Road and Canmore. It was overcast and not nice to about the Fortress Junction this morning, then the sun came out and while there was some high scud clouds, the light was very good.

While I like Chester as a destination, in the summer I generally avoid it as I described here. I've never been up here in the winter, but figured mid week I would have the place mostly to myself, and I was correct. There were some skiers getting ready in the parking lot (with their very sweet but chicken, 120 lb Bernese puppy Max), and I ran into a solo snowshoer on my way up, and two more on my way down.

The snowshoe trail showed obvious freeze thaw conditions. It was quite crusty in the morning's -3° temps, and the snow to the sides of the trail had  2-4 cm sun crust on it anywhere the sun could have hit it.
The trail is steeper than I thought, with a peak of a 14° slope. I was way overdressed for the climb up, and ended up doing it in a t-shirt, light fleece lined shell, no gloves and no hat (and a sweatband would have been helpful). Once you get up to the meadow level, you finally get views, both towards Chester...
...and back, toward Mt. French & Mt. Robertson.
There were a few avis, but not as many as I expected, the biggest coming off the flanks of Mt. Chester itself (probably a 2.5).
There's no visible lake...
...and the creek itself only shows up once or twice.
There is a LOT of snow up here. I have passed this "No Camping" sign in the summer. It's at least 4' tall.
I got to the lake at 1 PM, just in time for it to start socking in.
It flurried a bit in the afternoon on the way down. The snow conditions changed from powder and ice crust in the AM to packing snow on the trail on the way down. This packed up in the metal claws of my snowshoes, necessitating endless stops to get it out, else it was like walking with a softball tied to the ball of my foot. By the time I hit the parking lot at 3:30, it was +5°.

The drive home up the Spray Lakes road was a muddy somewhat rutted mess, and my car got filthy. For that reason alone, I suggest using the Hwy 40 access and spending the least amount of time on Hwy 742 as you can.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Ski Day 31: Has Spring Sprung?

Vert: 6,400 m;   YTD: 258,415 m
Runs: 12;   YTD Cum Runs: 497

A late posting for Thursday's conditions, as I spent the day riding with my friend Steve, and had to run back to Calgary for the evening.

Thursday started off almost sunny, and the viz just got better and better all day as the clouds broke and the sky turned blue by noon. It was a little chilly in the AM (-9° in the parking lot, -12° at Goat's Eye base) but there was an inversion and it was only about -3° at the top first thing.

No new snow fell overnight; this disappointed Steve, who likes riding the pow. Fortunately, I still know where to find some stashes, and he seemed to like them.
There was obviously some sun after I left yesterday, as I found evidence in the morning of sun crust on places with no crust yesterday, like Wildfire.

As I mentioned, the sun came out in earnest in the afternoon.
This was good and bad. The sun and the viz were great. However, the sun was quite warm, and the temp quickly rose, and hit +5° at the base of Divide by 2 PM. This temp plus the direct sunshine turned the snow in fully exposed places like Bye Bye Bowl...
...Hill 205, Viking Ridge and others kinda soupy. This does not bode well for tomorrow, as if the temp doesn't rise or the sun doesn't come out in force, it will be kinda tough sledding. Welcome to the the first blasts of spring skiing.

By the way, you may have noticed from the photos that Steve's a boarder. The stats on my blog tell me the number one most popular post I have ever written (with over 800 hits, compared to about 100 for the next most popular) is from 2008 called I Hate Snowboarders. I reminded him as I remind you that boarders individually are fine; I've never ridden with a solo on a chair who wasn't a nice person. Collectively, they ignore the Alpine Responsibility Code far more often than skiers. In this context, I think Steve agreed.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Ski Day 30: Powder on Crust

Vert: 10,125 m;   YTD cum vert: 252,015
Runs: 18;   YTD cum runs: 485

Back to Sunshine after an 18 day absence.

It looked pretty cruddy this morning with low overcast, but it turned out to be a thin cloud layer topping out below treeline with mostly sun up top.
Sunshine was reporting only a couple of cm's overnight, but I found some nice boot top stuff at higher elevations.
Folks were climbing up to get to the Farside chutes.
I was curious as to appeal, so took the Cleavage traverse all the way across to Think Again. There were indeed tracks on Renegade & Stampede.
However, while there was boot top-ish fluff (and it was indeed fluffy, much lighter than Big White's powder), it was sitting on a rutted sun crust. Having not been here for a while, I can only hazard a guess that there was a bright blue sunny day in the last 3 or so that melted some stuff and re-froze it, so it looked a lot nicer than it was. Accordingly, I didn't spend a whole lot of time seeking tracks in my favourite glades, knowing they would be crusty, too. But they looked nice...

The sun was out the most early in the morning; clouds, first high overcast then mid level dense stuff, moved in as the day progressed. By 1 PM it was snowing and the viz was pretty poor for most of the PM, as this 2 PM shot looking down Red 90 onto the terrain park shows. 
Still, the best snow I found on the hill today was in Bye Bye Bowl, where there were lots of freshies and the underpinnings were not crusty at all, but rather soft stuff indeed. I only got in 3 runs before being chased away by that vertigo sensation one gets in a white out.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Big White: The Trip Home

We had a really nice blue sky trip back from Big White. Leaving the hill you could see the top of Gem...
...and passing along Hwy 97 next to Lake Kalamalka, you could catch a glimpse of Silver Star.
There were lots of avis on the mountains at the Rodger's Pass
We got stuck with road closures twice, once for 10 min while they cleaned up an avi on the west entrance to Glacier National Park, and once for 20 min while they cleaned up a mudslide on the east entrance. These build interesting traffic jams full of bored drivers and kids.
We had beautiful views of Kicking Horse resort at Golden...

...and really nice views of the mountains towering over Field, BC.
We normally see bald eagles on this trip, and today was no exception. This monster was sitting in a tree about 300 m from a place we have seen baldies before just outside of Grindrod, which is south of Mara Lake and north of Vernon on the Shushwap River.
The blue sky ended (literally) at The West Wing, where an east wind was pushing clouds off the prairie and into the mountains. Other than that it was a perfect day to drive home.