Sunday, 24 April 2011

Ski day 53: The final blast

Vert for the day: 10,265 m
Vert for the year: 461,100 m or 1,512,408 vertical feet
   (doing the math, an average day on the slopes for me is 8,700 m)
Runs for the day: 17
Runs for the year: 850
Season length for me: 140 days

Today was our last day of skiing for the year, as I am about to go off gallivanting around. Sunshine will stay open for 30 more days, and they have the coverage to do it with ease. In fact, yesterday they announced Goat's Eye will stay open to the bitter end (they normally shut it a few weeks early).

And it was a glorious way to end a season, with AM cord and bluebird skies...
Lower Rolling Thunder
...warm enough temps to soften stuff by 11 AM, sweet soft turns all afternoon...
Bye Bye Bowl
Top of OS Pitch
...and practically no one here (especially compared to yesterday).
Virtually no one between me and Divide base, and no one there either
It was better than yesterday because the crusts started to melt out earlier, and the lack of crowds was pretty sweet.

I saw some interesting avis today. This time of year we get the nastiest avalanches of all: virtually unpredictable ones. The sun warms the top layers of the snow pack and what was once stable ceases to be stable very, very fast. Like here in Eagle Basin.
Avis in Eagle Basin
Looking closer. Note the ski tracks below and traverses across
The trail crew guy I spoke with seemed to think the avalanches went off a few days ago, but I was in this spot and saw nothing yesterday, so I suspect they actually fell yesterday afternoon. Note that Eagle Basin is in fact out of bounds, and is treated like all the backcountry of Banff National Park. I have often considered crossing the boundary fence at the entrance to Tobacco Road (the left side of the upper photo), but don't due to avalanche risk. The above show that risk to be very, very real, especially at this time of year.

So this is the last ski post for me this year. I am about to switch gears to "other stuff". Stay tuned, as I have some interesting news coming shortly.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Ski day 52: Skiing my age

Vert: 11,500 m;   YTD cum vert: 450,835 m
Runs: 18;   YTD cum runs: 833

Sunshine has gone from winter on Wednesday to spring on Saturday. Gone is the fresh powder in my powder fields, replaced with a 4-6 cm thick sun crust on what looked like powder, which until it softened (which took until 2 PM high up) was tough sledding. Gone are the super soft bits, replaced by the freeze/thaw crunchies of spring skiing.

So it was a day to cruise the groomers...
Fresh cord on Old Chute least until things started to get soft. Despite this, we ventured into the south side chutes as the powder looked inviting. "Looked" is the operative word here. Control blasted off the cornices above Saddledome yesterday morning and loosed a 1.0 avi, seen here in the distance...
Avalanche on Saddledome in centre
...and here from right below it.
TV-sized avi debris
The high stuff in the chutes was kinda nice, firm but carvable, with little evidence of sun effects, for the first 50 turns anyway.
Manageable snow in the chutes
It was down lower that it got less lovely.
Looks nice. Not nice, at least not at 11 AM
It was chilly up top; I was told it only got to -8° yesterday, and it prbably only got to 0° today, though at one point, the thermometer at Divide base said +34° C. Right.
Assiniboine from the top of South 205
In typical Sunshine fashion, it was busy today, with cars parked 2.7 km down the road, but lift lines never exceeded 5 min.

Today marked ski day 52 for me this season, and given that I'm 52 years old, I think that's pretty decent.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Ski day 51: Some surprise powder

Vert: 10,750 m;   YTD cum vert: 439,335 m
Runs: 20;   YTD cum runs: 815

The forecast said it would be a carbon copy of Monday and Tuesday, and they were correct. Sunny AM...
The backside of Goat's Eye from the base of Wildside
...and cloudy PM. But there were some twists thrown in. I found 5-10 cm of fresh powder in Bye Bye Bowl in the afternoon.
Just missed the pole going into the snow

I know it wasn't there yesterday at 2:30 PM. I know it didn't snow in there today. But uniquely, it was only in Bye Bye Bowl. There was a touch on Green Run leading to Peyto Pass, and again on Assiniboine Trail, but there sure wasn't any in Boundary Bowl, on South 205 or South Pockets. So it looks like it either blew in or fell in an isolated snow shower late yesterday. Either way, it was sure nice. There were traces/dustings of snow elsewhere, too, but nothing as deep as in the Bowl.

Yesterday, I ran into an interesting guy from the British Army in for a few days on vacation from the UK. I took him for a single touring run through the south side chutes to show him some good stuff and the access routes, and lo and behold ran into him today playing in my powder stashes down there. In fact, a bunch of people have been using that traverse to access the nice powder, so many so that you can now see the traverse from Tee Pee Town chair. He and I did a few laps of the chutes together.

Lots of people continue to go in through Wildside and continue to Farside, as you can see by the tracks in the photo below.
Top of Wildside, and the Farside access
I think a new avi went off in the Dive over by Milky Way. There was a big debris field in Sugar Bowl that I'm sure wasn't there yesterday.

I post a lot of similar pictures (from obvious stopping spots and places I go regularly). Here's a new perspective on the day, from the Tee Pee Town chair at noon.
Fresh tracks in the powder dust field
There were two avi puppies up on the hill today, and it looked like they were doing training in Eagle Basin with them. I got to watch first thing this morning as the handler tried to load one of them onto a snowmobile. Apparently, the puppy was a rookie at this, as the puppy tried 5 times to get on, then finally his handler just grabbed him by the carrying handle on his harness and hauled him up. It was pretty silly to watch.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Ski day 50: Fifty!!!

Vert: 9,975 m;   YTD cum vert: 428,585 m
Runs: 18;   YTD cum runs: 795

Today was just like yesterday with slightly better PM viz. It started sunny, and I started in the South Side Chutes.
Looking back to Jackrabbit from the Wildside entrance

The gully access to the Wildside

The other side of the gully, looking towards the entrance of Tobacco Road

Looking up from the entrance to Tobacco Road
You can see from the 3rd shot above that there had been more traffic in here yesterday afternoon resulting in fewer fresh lines for me. Ah well. The snow was still really nice though.

I've been spending so much time in the chutes that I decided to check out some lines that more accessible to folks. For instance, I played around under Cleavage and Gold Scapegoat a bit.
Fat Boy from beside the Cleavage rocks
The moguls in there were real but fairly soft and not offensive, and there were some bits of powder, but generally it's really heavily tracked.

Like yesterday, there was the odd cloudy/foggy/snowy period in the morning, and in the afternoon (around 2 PM) they became more frequent, and it frequently socked in.
A very black squall coming in from the Mt. Borgeau side
Nothing really serious passed through, however. All that happened was the viz got poor for 10-20 minutes, then it would get better for a while till the next cloud arrived. It stayed cold all day and the sun didn't seem to have an effect on the conditions. This isn't supposed to continue; the weather forecast is calling for a warming trend, and I suspect we will shift from winter to spring by Saturday.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Ski day 49: Good, followed by bad

Vert: 7,635 m;   YTD cum vert: 418,610 m
Runs: 15;   YTD cum runs: 777

At least the day started off great. Nice sunshine, cold temps, a trace to 5 cm of fresh snow, soft stuff with little trace of ice all over. Very pretty indeed.
Rolling Thunder. Pardon my finger in front of the lens
I did one warm up and headed straight to the South Side chutes.
The best entrance to the chutes. Right of Wildside
They were in very good shape, with really nice powder on top of very soft moguls on top of an ice crust that wasn't significant enough or exposed enough to be a bother. Okay, Wildside proper is full of unpleasant icy moguls the size of small cars but all I did was traverse it. Like the last few times I've been in the chutes, the farther left you go the better it gets. The bottom part is sweet, lightly tracked boot top powder.
Looking back from about Think Again

Tons of powder below

The pretty S turns in the middle are mine
I hung out here till lunch, and guided three groups around in here who had never been here before.

The forecast called for increasing cloudiness during the day turning to flurries. The PM started OK, but very quickly started to sock in...
The boundary fence along Bye Bye bowl
...and by 2 PM, it was a super flat light yeuch fest.
No contrast from the top of Red 90. Invisible moguls below.
I had two incidents of dropping into things I wasn't expecting because I couldn't see them coming. The light was still OK over on Wawa, but I decided to head out early as I have "things to do" tonight.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Ski day 48, A little pow, a little viz

Vert: 9,165 m;   YTD cum vert: 410,975 m
Runs: 15;   YTD cum runs: 762

It snowed basically all day yesterday in Canmore and the forecast called for more of the same today, so I was expecting at least some fluff up at Sunshine, and I was not disappointed. There was between 5 and 15 cm depending on where you went, and it was nice and light and fluffy.
Beside Gold Scapegoat

Boot top deep stuff in the trees
The morning viz wasn't the best, and it was snowing pretty steadily for the first few hours. For fun I took KC to a space I refer to as the Powder Triangle and we practiced a few runs of skiing untracked powder in basically a white out (it's a kind of important skill on foggy days, and it's good to practice when conditions are benign). We also did a few laps in the South Side chutes, and got almost to the boundary fence past Saddledome and really enjoyed the wide open powder field over there. The chutes themselves were a little crunchy under the powder, and Wildside itself remains full of megabumps that are pretty crusty. However, I went over there looking for deep stuff and still only found 10-15 cm (I was hoping for some wind transported drifts).

The viz improved and the snow stopped in the PM enabling several laps in Bye Bye Bowl, which while nice, offered few fresh tracks by the time I got there...
Bye Bye from the top
...and the best stuff I found was in fact on Viking Ridge and the edge of Boundary Bowl...
One guy enjoying the sides of Boundary Bowl
...and of course the Assiniboine Flats offered lots of low slope sliding in nice pow.

I kept hearing the comment today that people don't believe it's mid April by the weather conditions. My notes from April 17, 2010 said "Serious spring. +10 by 10, +19 in parking lot at 3 PM. Took until 11 to soften, then everything went to slow sticky mush." April 19, 2009, was a spring day with hard AM conditions and no softening. Mid April 2008 featured 60 cm of snow in the week. April 28, 2007 featured 15 cm of dusty powder, and April 27 2002 was 35 cm of fluff (that went to mush by 2 PM). So I have learned that mid April can be your choice of winter or spring, or sometimes even both in the same day.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ski day 47: It won't stop snowing

Vert: 5,980 m;   YTD cum vert: 401,810 m
Runs: 11;   YTD cum runs: 747

They threatened a heavy snowfall warning in Canmore last night but all we got was about 3"; looks like Calgary got hit the hardest. But it snowed up at Sunshine, and it kept it up all day, giving 8-15 cm from the parking lot to the peak at the start of the day.
15 cm on Scapegoat
The challenge was the rotten viz, strong wind and generally driving blizzard that let up a bit late morning and over the lunch hour.
Intersection of Scapegoat, Rolling Thunder & Sunshine Coast
There was hardly anyone here, so finding freshies was easy, and at the times when the viz improved, you could explore pretty nicely and get some really nice snow curling over your knees. However, it was not a day to get up Divide, which as far as we could tell was a fog bowl all day.

The weather respite at lunch didn't last, and by 1:30 it was back to heavy snow and windy conditions. We ran a few laps on Standish in some nice fresh tracks on Upper Standish after lunch before my friend Norm's legs ran out, hence the low vert for the day.
The village from the Parks cabin in early PM snow

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Ski day 46: Cruzin' in the Sun

Vert: 8,650 m;   YTD cum vert: 395,830 m
Runs: 16;   YTD cum runs: 736

I was joined today by my friend Norm for a day of cruzin' the blues (and blacks) on a day of pretty sunshine.
The village from Goat's Eye

Mt. Assiniboine from the top of Divide
It remained cool with fairly light winds, and the snow was generally soft most of the day. I didn't spend much time off the beaten path, but it would have been pretty lonely had I done so, given this kinda crowd on South Divide at 1:30 (yes, there is exactly one skier in this photo).
One guy on South Divide
It was a good day to be a tourist, so we walked up to the Delirium Dive overlook to have the wits scared out of us (well, out of me, because I'm afraid of heights).
The Delirium access stairs

Top of Delirium Main, Galaxy Chutes and Milky Way in the distance

Not an entrance to Starbucks or Bre-X, but next to one
Every time I stand up there I get the willies.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Ski day 45: Surprisingly great

Vert: 10,520 m;   YTD cum vert: 387,180 m
Runs: 18;   YTD cum runs: 720

I took yesterday off to do "work" and turns out that was a really good decision. It was an OK morning, but suddenly around lunch a wall of a blizzard blasted through Canmore for a few hours, featuring rain-ish stuff, ice pellets, snow and 50 mph winds, leaving behind about 10 cm of snow that melted by 7 PM. Same thing happened up at Sunshine, apparently. The difference? It was a blinding snowstorm up there, and it closed all but Wolverine, Strawberry and the Gondola. And it left behind what the hill reported to be 8 cm of snow.

I really didn't really have high expectations for today, but if I thought about it, I would have remembered that we got a dusting of snow down in Canmore on Sunday night, too. I should have realized that a whack of snow would have fallen up high, and the winds would have done a good job of blowing it around, covering up the ice crusts of Sunday. Would it be enough?

And that's what I found on a bluebird morning: at least 5 cm...
9:45 AM tracks on Gold Gladerunner

10:00 tracks heading towards Gold Scapegoat

10:30 tracks on Rolling Thunder
...and in some places a whole lot more -- like knee deep in the lee of any windbreak like snow fences (which rocked) or better still, the bowls of the South Side Chutes, where I spent over half my day basically all alone to enjoy the pow that was boot top or better, making the ice crusts present but easily ignored.
Acres of fresh in No Man's Land

My tracks coming out of Wildside Right
In fact, I happened to arrive at the top of Goat's Eye just as the Ski Patrol were changing over the signs and opening the chutes, and I was the second person along the traverse (and there was no line up). I stayed out of the Wildside proper figuring the bumps in there would not have been made better by the powder (they weren't), and instead ran the skier's right lip into the gully -- smack dab into 30 turns in knee deep powder. The slot had basically filled in with snow, and best of all, only me and two others skied it all day (I counted the tracks), so I had knee deep shots in there at 3 PM. You can see the chute I was in below, which is a shot taken from way over at the bottom of Saddledome.
Between the first and second rocks on the left was awesome
I traversed WAY over to the boundary fence, and found the sweetest snow of the day; light and fluffy stuff in the shade of the Eagles at the base of Renegade, Stampede and Saddledome.
A super sweet powder field at the base of Stampede/Saddledome
Looking back up Stampede
Looking straight up Renegade. Think Again to the left, Stampede to the right

I guess I was continuing my exploration of places I rarely get to. Directly behind me in the last shot is the place where folks cross the boundary fence into Eagle Basin and the base of Fat Boy.
Trail sign in the middle of nowhere, with fab powder all around. Eagle Basin to the left.
I don't poach fence lines, and besides, the proper way out here is sweet. It's called Tobacco Road (signed in the photo above). It's a meandering cat track that heads back to the top of Eagle Creek, and the snow was fantastic.

I played in this space for 2 hrs in the morning, rarely seeing another soul. Many of the tracks in the above photos are mine. Finally I headed up to the village due to hunger. It was OK but not nearly as nice up there. Bye Bye Bowl was blown clear of powder, and the only really nice stuff I found was on Assiniboine Flats and down in the trees between Angel Flight and Green Run near Piccadilly Circus. In the afternoon, it socked in on Divide but not on Goat's Eye, so after 4 runs I headed back to the Goat and continued to play in the chutes, still by myself, still making mostly freshies. The snow, however, had changed and by 3 PM was showing temperature and sun effects up high, and was getting noticeably wetter and heavier. Down low in the shadow of the Eagles it stayed fine. I suspect tomorrow it will be a might bit crusty up high.

So it was an unexpectedly wicked day.