With the skis put away and the first warm days of spring, finally, it's time to start getting prepared for the summer activities. I pulled together clips from some easy windsurfing days last summer to get mentally prepared. Bring it on...
Another year done. Time to move on to activities that don't rely on snow and cold. Looking forward to the summer's adventures and maybe some warm, dry weather (hoping...).
A season video summary.
Finally, spring has sprung. At least for one day, anyway. Warmest, sunniest, and softest snow of what has been traditionally called, spring skiing. We’d paid our dues and deserved one last hurrah. And it was a blast. Horizon to horizon clear blue sky with views of all the volcanos from Hood to Baker. White snow blazing in the sun and the bluest blue contrast of the sky. It took the sting out of the off-piste being unskiable when the day started.
It warmed quickly, coats were dropped in favor of Hawaii shirts, and the fun really began. Most of the off-groomed areas remained no go zones as they quickly went from frozen lumps to unconsolidated slop. Powder Bowl had large slide areas leaving smooth soft corn behind. A quick zig (or was it zag) through the bowling ball avie debris and then follow the soft zipper line down the lower bumps. Showtime, the only Frontside area with enough skier grooming, stayed in the perfect zone between soft enough to carve and not quite too soft/deep to ski. We were first to try it and by afternoon the 50 foot wide swath was crowded with slush skiers. Top-2-Bottom out The Gap was the Un-Crowd run of the day. Soft slush, smooth deep slush, huge bump slush, and fast smooth transitions. Whoohooo!
Why do I tell you this? Probably just to rub it in that I finally got the spring day we deserved many weeks ago. Unfortunately, this one day high pressure system will move east tonight, and the weekend, the last weekend, will again be cool unskiable crunch till the wet snow or rain comes down. Therefore, I’m throwing in the odd-weather-year towel and calling it a good ski season. Long underwear in the wash, skis in the rack, and looking towards the strong winds and tasty waves of summer.
Spring was supposed to spring into action today. We raced towards Crystal this morning expecting blue skies and warm sun. Somewhere along the forecast lines, wires were crossed. The supposed warmest spring day of the year turned cloudy with a stiff east breeze, our nemesis this year, and nearly everything was a frozen wasteland throughout the day.
Valley Bowl was pretty good in a relative sort of way and Iceberg was quite Bergery in a very firm, but carvable kinda way. The east wind was scouring the ridge top and our faces with 30-40mph ice crystals. Lower Bull was soft on the groomed half and frozen moguls from hell on the ungroomed side. It only took one mogul turn to cross 80% of the mountain off today’s run list. I forgot this lesson later.
So, we Valley Berged around - actually there was no around, it was just Valley Berg Valley Berg, Valley Berg…. - with one random Luckyshot thrown in. It took a good tuck to get across the flats into the headwind. By 10:00 our hope was to stick it out till noon. So we took a poke at Powder Bowl.
The Main Chute that isn’t a chute was a weird-but-fun tangle of wind drifts, and the middle was OK. The further down you got, the worse it got. This is where my brain faded. Ski Amigo was pointing towards Bear Pits. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, and since he pointed again, I thought he wanted to give it a try. Actually he was saying “don’t go to Bear Pits”, which I realized after arriving solo through the gate. I’ve skied The Pits in a lot of bad conditions. One of our sayings, for any run, is “I’ve skied it worse” in a effort to make it seem not so bad and make us feel better. I can say after today, I’ve never skied it worse. In fact, I can only think of one other day anywhere that conditions were worse.
Valley Bowl to C-3 Chairline and Elk Snort then put me in One-More-Run Mode. There was just barely enough stoke on Elk Snort, 15 best turns on the mountain, to last through the groomer and most of the way up the chair. Making you forget how cold you were and how the wind driven ice chucks hurt your face. OK, one more. OK, one more. OK….. Um that’s it. Thirty minutes past our original noon goal. Yea!
But you take what you get and make some fun out of it. Mission Accomplished.
The “good” weather has ended and the weather will return to, “more or less, what it has typically been thus far this season”. It’s kinda fun watching the NWS guys try to make a prediction out of this year’s chaos. Roll with the punches. Those punches looks like frozen with occasion wet snow on top and rain at the bottom for a couple days. Cloudy but dry wednesday, another punch, then dry and sunnyish on friday. Doesn’t look good after that and as “the models disagree” and all bets are off. Actually, after throwing in the 2017 weather randomizer, all bets are off sounds like a pretty accurate forecast.
Not sure I made a return on my investment today. Beautiful weather. The snow, not so much.
I was wary of the forecasted sunny day as there were some hints of clouds and/or the temperature staying cool. So, the early wake up decision. It was obvious that temps had dropped overnight as the open bedroom window coolness made getting out of bed way down the priority list. But I did. The weather check out the window showed clear starry skies. The computer check showed the temperature 10 degrees warmer than sunday. With clear skies, it looked like a sun-warmed soft snow day. Ready, set, load and go. But…… there was that pesky east wind at 30mph.
A beautiful morning on the mountain. Cloudless sky, lots of snow, blasting ridgetop wind. Valley Bowl skied nice. And then your choice was one of two icy groomers. Iceberg. Luckyshot. Iceberg. Luckyshot. Iceberg, Iceberg, Luckyshot. That got boring quickly. One turn in Memorial was enough. One run down Grubstake - enough. On Bear Pits you could see the possibility of another 10 degrees. ElkSnort was OK, Mr. Toad’s Ride - yikes. Hoping a T2B would find some 10:30 softening I committed. Sluiceway, Berry Patch, Lower E were a disaster. So Valley Bowl to C-3 Chairline to mind numbing repetition.
And so, as clouds moved in cancelling any softening even more, I thought one more T2B. Give it a last chance, or go home. Quarter to 12, Rex was down. Fifteen minutes in, the electricians were still scrambling. I took it as a sign to head homeward. Three hours and twenty minutes of driving for 3 hours of battling lumpy ice. Not sure I made a positive influence on the fun-o-meter. But my heart monitor watch said I got double my exercise goal for the day. WooHoo!
Looks like wet snow on top, rain at the base through friday and them freeze it up for some light snow showers through saturday. Clearing on sunday, but that’s a long ways out in tough-to-forecast land. Next week Crystal shuts down all but the Gondy and Green Valley. Good weather/snow will mean slow Gondy lines for T2Bs and limited terrain in Green Valley. All could change with the flip or flop of a frontal passage - for better or worse. We’re nearing the end.
I felt strong today, which is surprising given the snow condition. It’s unfortunate that when you are skiing your strongest, best of the year, the weather, snow, and lift season are winding down. And fortunate that even in the odd conditions today, my skiing felt effortless, fast, and it was a hell of a fun day.
As the odd spring weather pattern continues, today’s conditions are no guarantee of future performance. Just like stocks, it’s a crapshoot of warm rainy days, cold frozen days, and only the occasional sunny spring days. The snow was just about the same everywhere this morning. Four to 10 inches of lightish new snow over a crunchy frozen rain crust. Full of lumps and bumps, it looked terrible. And skied great if you came at it with authority. Once I learned that the head sized lumps were crunchy, but not frozen down, I could throw down any line with ease. The faster you went, the better it skied.
From the steep and narrow, to the trees and glades, nothing but grins. In the morning we sought out untracked and worked our way left to right in Bear Pits till it was tracked. A 5 minute line on Six kept us to only 2 Campbell Basin runs, as our ski-time brains balked at the wait. Powder Bowl’s Main Chute is so full of snow it’s chuteless but leads to perfect snow for skiing the Mid-PB Nose. North-facing aspects held up well to skier tracking, and while testing those, ended up with a few more big untracked lines.
My most excellent cadre of ski amigos kept throwing out prospects that sounded like horrible ideas any other day, and as we felt so strong, everyone dove right in. Banana Chute’s sketchy entry didn’t deter us. Nether did Employee Housing’s lower elevation thickening. Or Secret Trees, or Lower E’s huge bumps. Or Mr Toad’s Wild Ride off Snorting Elk, or C-3 Chairline’s off-angle ice turning to pow turns. Skied close to my bud – sometimes he knows where I’ll turn before I do, and I never ran into anyone. CD threw down the Sketchy Line of the day through the Rinky Dink cliff band. Well done as I watched from below.
I wish I felt this way in December. Strong enough to never feel tired legs, never out of breath. It seems the only thing that gets me in shape for skiing is skiing. A most wonderful day. Unfortunately, with the expected weather and coming lift closures, the days are numbered.
We need snow - something happening monday - or sun and heat -maybe tuesday. Back to the crapshoot wednesday with rain at the base and wet snow up top. Showers of the wet sort through friday, and I quote the National Weather Service for saturday, “so a glimmer of hope exists for a respite from the cloudiness and showers”. Not the best forecast, but wax up, get ready, and when it looks good, go. And ski like it’s your last day - it might be.
You know how hard it is to get your house painted these days? The weather lately has been odd for spring. Not that spring around here is great, but you usually get 3-4 nice sunny days alternating with 3-4 cloudy rainy days. Not this spring. Only a smattering of occasional dry days and only some of them are sunny. Spring skiing needs the same conditions needed for getting your house painted. A few days to dry out and then some warm sunny days for paint to dry. Or for the snow to soften. And then when we have a clear day forecast, the hope is dashed at the last minute, unnoticed by the forecast, when your clear weather suddenly turns cloudy and wet.
As much as Crystal ballyhoos each overnight snowfall, it has been exactly what we do not need. Cold temps continue to firm up - note, firm means rock hard - the latest wet snow or rain soak for the mornings. Each new snowfall means a few runs of smooth butter, then unconsolidated slop. Not trusting the forecast, I checked at 5:00am verifying it would be a clear day in the mountains. Unfortunately, a 15° morning temp meant that softening would be slow. I left as late as my traffic-avoidance squirrel brain allows and missed the first icy groomer of the morning. I did arrive for enough groomer action to do me for awhile.
So, Iceberg scraped down after one run and it was Luckyshot or Luckyshot for our fast morning laps. First to soften was the T2B - Snorting Elk Bowl, Sluiceway, Berry Patch, and best-of-the-day, all day, Lower E. The only Frontside run that had the right combo of consolidation, skier grooming, and soft snow was Showtime. It was a flurry of fast T2Bs and Showtimes for the Amigos. As the ski legs are in winter shape, there was no stopping. Three strong skiers finished off the last of the smooth untracked on Exterminator 😃 and left it an unconsolidated, lumpy mess. And four grinning faces looked up at the huge, perfect, bumps of Lower E to finish our day.
My house still isn’t painted.
It might be sunny tomorrow morning, it might be cloudy, it’ll be warm, and there might be some light rain in the afternoon *throws up hands - throws in the proverbial towel*. The rest of the week looks warm and rainy. Next sunday, monday, tuesday is the next forecast teaser of good ski weather, or house painting. Temper with the accuracy of the long range forecast lately and you’re back in one-day-ahead-get-up-early weather verification. Get it if you can.
Tomorrow is April Fools Day. Normally I’m a good fool, but there was no fooling around in picking today as the best weather of the week. It was tough watching the rain, wet snow turned to rain, and wet rained on snow turn to ice as the weekly weather coaster rolled along. The one bright spot, literally, was today, so we nabbed it. Clear blue sky and the snow blazed white in the morning sun. Icy rain crust was waiting for heat, so we blasted the obligatory hard, fast groomers for an hour. That was enough as the surface thawed quickly on the sunny aspects.
The non-sunny slopes remained breakable rain crust scattered with chicken, and cow heads. And remained that way all day. But once the sunny stuff softened, the game was “look for smoothness and drop in”. Gondy Line, Exterminator, and Valley/Valley/Sluiceway/Berry Patch/Lower E. Subtle variations kept us in untracked all day. For the most part. I’ve never seen so many slush-ball rollers as littered some slopes today. Every little cliff, steep, and tree was dropping plops of snow that rolled downhill and froze in place becoming chicken, goat, and the occasional cow head. Having done extensive research on these runs the last couple months, it took just a slight alteration of your line in the right direction to get back into the untracked. In one area, a secret stash hiding in plain sight, the sound of slicing the smooth, untracked, now-soft rain crust, made a noise I’ve never heard. Somewhere in the combination of breaking crushed glass and water skiing on a wind chime. And so we skied the deep boot-top slop over and over.
Lower Exterminator was in prime shape all day. All 3 of out T2B runs ended on Lower E. As easy and smooth as thigh deep moguls get. That was how the Frontside should have been instead of crunchy lumps that turned instantly to too-soft slop. Kids these days. Not a mogul skier among them, but it was nice they left these perfect bumps just for us old ones.
Temperatures will remain warm overnight, but radiation cooling will refreeze the hill. Probably some light precip/rain as well. If it thaws, and you can see (overcast predicted), there will be some more consolidation for your skiing pleasure. Temps drop on sunday bringing frozen mayhem again. Monday looks clear-ish, however temperatures may not rise quickly enough to thaw the slop. Only one way to find out…..
It’s spring in the northwest. That means lots of snow. And it’ll turn heavy shortly after the sun hits it. For us early risers, it was perfect.
I’ve mentioned many times how learning to ski at Crystal makes you a good, strong skier. Probably better than you think you are. Reference years ago on a cat skiing trip in Colorado powder with a cat full of pro patrollers and Aspen instructors. In the light Colorado snow, we were always the first down and took the steepest, tightest line. So today, we skied a morning of boot-top new that would send most skiers to the bar in their furry après ski boots. And it was great.
Especially Campbell Basin. Get it before the blazing sun bakes it. We worked our way skier’s right of the chair, dropping in when the untracked called. Chutes .5, 1.9, 3, Hamburger Chutes, Ropeline Chutes all succumbed. I’d already dropped a layer of warmth and by the time we got to Upper K2 it was really warm again. Ski with NW Authority in the untracked and it was great. Try to ski someone else’s track and it was work. Three of us down Old School Cisco was a hoot.
In typical Spring at Crystal fashion, there’s no spring corn snow. The continuing morning refreshers turn to glop after awhile. And then pack down hard. We compensated with momentum and power for a few runs and then turned to the long, fast realms of T2Bs. Berry Patch Right earned groomer of the day and Lower E won bump run of the day.
I had to pull the plug early as the unconsolidated mush took control of every run and the groomers turned hard as the soft, wet snow packed in. But early is relative when you’ve got more vertical before noon than most skiers get all day.
Go early (just not in front of me, please) and go often.
It’s spring and the weather is a tough call. Tuesday through thursday will have some precip. With snow levels either just above or just below Crystal, the type of precip could go either way. Friday looks warm and sunny. I was going to say the weekend looks sunny, but the updates say warm and light rain. Look one day out and be ready to go. There’s not much time left.
It was an early weather check. Based on amigo-reported conditions yesterday, the criteria was 2” of new or more, otherwise back to bed. Eight inches of new clinched to deal. But with the bottom temp at 32, the race was on to get an early start and beat the heaviness that would come as the snow level rose even higher.
An anxious crowd awaited Crystal’s much ballyhooed early opening. Note: Opening early means Chinook. All other chairs are off the table, as Rex, Six, and Northway were on hold while shoveling the heavy new snow took awhile. You’d think the operators would get up early on a powder day. So, we got a run down Downhill (down, that’s in its name) while waiting for Rex. The snow was so heavy it required near straightlining to get down the low angle slope. Rex opened, but Green Valley Chair was broken, Six still on hold, and Northway on hold unless you were Big Cliff Jumping competitor.
The condensed crowd tore up the new snow pretty quickly. Our assignment was Memorial, Valley Bowl, and Doors 1/2/3. Got the word Six was online finally and headed up. CD and I got Chute .5 tracks 1,2,3, and 4. And Chutes 2.5 and 3.5. Six was high enough that the new snow was really nice for strong Northwest Skiers. By industry standards it would be off limits to Colorado and Utah skiers. Powder Bowl was for dodging hidden, frozen, Cow Heads, and Bear Pits was too steep to hold the new snow and slid, or scraped down to the ice layer. Feeling our NW Pow Oats, we headed for Northway, now finally opened to Non-Cliff-Jumpers.
We got Paradise Trees, Horseshoe Cliffs, and Penny Dawg Trees before…. But most importantly, our first two runs of the year down Sphincterville. Ah, good to be home again. Before the cut up new snow got so heavy it quickly shut down the fun-o-meter.
Heavy lumpy cut up junk that was packing sporadically into spine tingling (not in a good spine tingly way) bumps was the only thing we found on our back-in-main-area trials. Any untracked was now boot-top goo. And we called it an early day shortly after noon. Remember the great parts, trash the bad memories, and ski again next time the snow warrants.
Today was day one on my new wider boards. The feet, legs, and muscle memory quickly absorbed their newness and they skied just like skis. They did make the heavy “powder” easier and I quickly trusted them to go to 11 and blast though the junky snow. Nice.
If you got this far, you’ve read six paragraphs that will have nothing to do with upcoming conditions. When today’s wet snow freezes overnight, it will be ugly. However, the groomers tomorrow will smooth out the lumpy wet packed…. “stuff”, and likely be OK. Some new snow expected through sunday and I hope the weekenders smooth things out and mix in the new. This late in the season, however, they haven’t been completing their assignments very well. We need new snow and/or lots of skier grooming and heat. We’ll see.
It was fast. Scary fast. And frozen hard. I haven’t had a 100% icy groomer day in a long time, but today I got my fill, and then some.
Filtered sun and hopes of softening were kept at bay by a persistent east wind. It wasn’t even a cold wind, just enough to cancel the sun’s effect. Since we never ventured more than 1-2 turns off piste before turning back due to the nastiness, there was only one thing to do. Go fast. I’ve never tucked from the top of Green Valley all the way through and including Sluiceway. Some scary moments as the compressions maxed out my leg control.
Luckily there were some Amigos to chase. If alone, I would have spent a lot more time analyzing whether or not I was having fun. But it was fun, even the scary parts. Jittering eyeballs on chattery ice, high pressure carving turns at speed, holding a tuck because the wind would lift your skis, and laughing at the absurdity of having fun in such poor conditions.
Since the high pressure moved east, the next precipitationable weather is moving in. The mountain is in horrible shape and it doesn’t look like there is enough snow in this system to fix the problem. And the fact that some of it will come as rain tuesday - First day of spring my ass.
I thought I’d made a horrible decision. Wringing some fun out of today required heat from the sun, check, and smoothing of yesterday’s now-frozen rain, no check. The groomers were icy and hard. It only took getting one ski onto the off-piste to realize the no-go zone was gonna be huge. As far as you could see - it was cloudless blue skies - the ungroomed parts of the mountain were cut-up now frozen glob. Or, full of avalanche debris and rolling slush frozen chicken, goat, and cow heads.
After a couple too-fast, too-icy, edgeless groomers I was wishing I’d stayed in bed. Luckily, I rode up the chair with a ski patroller. She suggested heading to Northway. In my head I told myself that sounded like a really bad idea. Until, I realized Northway had been closed yesterday during the big rain. Paradise Bowl Trees was untracked over a supportive (non-breakable) and carvable rain crust. 4-8” of buttery new just for the taking. Same on Penny Dawg Trees, Bruce’s Bowl to Paradise, Puckers, and Penny Dawgs proper. Wow, the best snow on the mountain hiding in plain sight as the weekend masses skidded down Luckyshot. I’ll let some video tell the rest of the story.
Who knows? Tomorrow is the first day of spring and the snow feels like it. Frozen mornings lead to either frozen glop afternoons or soft bumps of fun depending on the temps and skier smoothing. We’ll see if tomorrow morning remains clear and turns to fun, or clouds cancel the warming and it’s an icy groomer day.
This season has devolved into another rain delay, waiting for conditions to recover from very warm temps and many inches of rain to mountaintop. Needing either lots of snow or sunny heat, neither of which has been on the weather delivery truck, I sat at the computer and put together the video clips from last year. A year very similar to this year with excellent snow, powder days, and the every-couple-weeks waiting for recovery from a rain event. Take a peek.
It was snowy today. Snow in the air, all day. Deep snow on the slopes, all day. Best of all, snow on my grinning face.
Today was another sampler of new untracked. No need for a cold groomer “warm-up”, as diving right into (onto? I’ll stick with into as we were shin deep into… ) Sunnyside was deep-snow-brain satisfying. Although my legs complained some from the harsh wake up call, it was one of those runs that tells you it’s going to be a great day.
My brain was worn out this morning trying to decide where to ski or which runs might be best. So…. Let the universe decide as the fog and visibility set our course to Door 4, LS Trees, Bear Pits, Door Zero. Hey, you can see the top of Exterminator. OK, I’ll go. Woohoos of deep untracked ensued all the way through Lower E. A green NW light sent us past a crowd dropping left as we dropped right into/onto Employee Housing. The Housing Effect had turned 4” of new overnight into 18-24”. Thank you Universe. It’s great to have a guide that takes on the stress of finding the best snow. And takes the blame (off me) for a loser.
We found a new way onto Upper Bull that is softer and more untrackeder - perfect. And somehow, the universe vortex kept calling us back to Exterminator variations. No bad ideas there.
We did make one mistake. Right Angle. The most skied out area and the most scrappy little trees. It woulda been fine any other non-deep-pow day, but I couldn’t figure out how, or why, so many people had gone there. Somewhere between NW Gate 9 and Rex is a Top-to-Bottom run that at mid day was not only still deep untracked, but the best snow/run of the day. Go exploring. We had to repeat it as a closer, and still, only our tracks.
Very nice to have JD with a day-pass from the injured reserve list. Unfortunately, still missing my main girl, Amigoette. Going in for an MRI tomorrow.
Quote of the day - “All I need is some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine” Jeff Spicoli
If you go skiing tomorrow, go early. If the timing changes much, the day may be short as the next storm rolls in. Things look wild thursday evening and friday. Lots of snow that with rising snow levels will probably turn to rain at some point. How much rain, how long? Could be a huge wet dump of snow or hell to pay on saturday as it cools down. Stay tuned.
Inadvertently did something new today. Cold and clear, we decided to ski the open areas of The Frontside while visibility was good. And so started the cycles. Opening with Sunnyside, boot-top and deeper fluff covered a findable-but-avoidable crust. 15 different runs later the only difference we found was some deeper, some bigger bumps under, and some steeper.
About halfway through the day I realized that we hadn’t found a run that said “ski here next run”. And we hadn’t found a run that said “stay away” either. Meaning we hadn’t repeated a run, and since every run so far was good, it became a thing to ski the whole day without a repeat. And just to line them up in order: Bear Pits, Outer Ferk’s, Doors Four, Three, Two, One, Showtime, Breakover, Sunnyside, Gully-Gully, Memorial, Gondy Line Right, Exterminator, Eagles Drop, Employee Housing. Conditions weren’t Great, but were very Good. Consistency was the factor that made it Great. Once you figured out the crust level and how to read the powder covered bumps and lumps, it was haul ass fun.
Other than a half hour of visibility killing, face numbing, dumping snow, the sun was mostly out. I call that perfect. Unfortunately, the mid-day sun will likely heat damage the sunny aspects as you could feel it getting heavy - if you slowed down and wiped that grin off your face.
Here's today’s rant. Crystal has continued acting-like-a little-Podunk ski area and is closing lifts whilst charging full price. Northway is now closed on monday and tuesday again (not advertised on the 8-feet-of-new website). Heard a rumor it will be closed all mid-week soon. 74$ for a day ticket and 1/4 of the mountain was closed. I cry discrimination against monday skiers. Would have been some awesome snow out north if you could get to it.
Longing for Northway aside, we did what needed to be done today. And set a new personal record for number of different runs without a repeat. Although there were still a few runs to add, time and legs wore out, and this one headed home.
PS - Want to see some bad snow? Bad snow that was a lot of fun at the time, but puts the nice snow this season in perspective. I pulled out some video of the 14-15 rock, brush, and Green Valley season. Just for historic, hysterical, and to clean up some disk space reasons. Click Here
Tuesday should be snowy and cool adding some new, although heavy at the base. Wednesday will cool off again and precip diminishes (that’s my choice). Cool and light snow thursday. Go get it before friday, looks like another rain/wet to the top day. Then slam the temps back down to crunch it up for the weekend. Roller coaster ride this weather is.
The skiing this season has been really good - if you ignore the rain events once a month. It's taken some real weather sleuthing to hit the right days, but when it comes together, our favorite powder runs have delivered. Delivered like they didn't the previous 2 seasons - especially 2014-15. To put things in perspective, I finally pulled out video clips from those days of rocks, grass, and slushy moguls. I never stopped using my rock skis, all the big runs were bare and shut down by the end of january - and we had some fun. We took a trip to Big Sky where they had more snow, but only of the smooth, hard mogul variety. So rewind the memory banks and take a look. It'll make this year seem tremendous.
The mantra in the lodge this morning was “You shoulda been here yesterday”. I love saying that. Today I was on the receiving end, as I picked monday and wednesday to ski. I couldn’t whine because the sun was out, mostly, the leftovers were great, and Northway, which was closed yesterday, was waiting for patrol to open.
It’s been cold for so long - other than the rainy days - that I forgot how to ski when the snow warmed up into the mid/upper 20s. The cut up leftovers were soft and a little heavy. Took me awhile to apply enough momentum to blast through. And legs that had been loafing along through smoky fluff the last month felt the strain of being asked to hold tight as the thicker snow pulled and tugged.
Green light! Northway opened to a rush of those in the know heading to their favorite gate. Ours was #4. I wasn’t the first, but close enough to get untracked in the trees. Dropped off the big bulge into 2 feet of fluff. Fluff that didn’t slow me down at all as I bottomed out hard on solid rock. I started skiing my new skis 4 trips ago. New skis that sat for 2.5 years of low/crappy coverage waiting to be taken out to play. They ski great. Just like my old ones - as they’re the same ski only with new sharp edges. And now some P-Tex that needs some love.
Pucker’s Right even better. And I didn’t hold it against Pucker as high speed and a sudden thigh deep patch took me down. All’s fun in the powder game. Heading for a repeat, all the tracks turned left at Penny Dawgs. Funny how just looking at untracked pow makes my skis turn right. Best of the day. And repeat.
Hottest run, temperature wise, was Employee Housing. And I was in my best Blast Mode state. Sweaty and wearing a shit-eating grin I dumped a layer of warmth since temps were now 30ish. And went for the first hike of year to Avie Basin. Again, I saw untracked at the west end of the saddle and got sucked in. And bid farewell to DB and son who let me tag along today. One sketchy hit on bomb debris and then it was all new snow for my marking. The wow lasted until I realized I was the first and had to cut the long contour traverse to Damn Fine Forest. 10 sweaty minutes later, a few minutes to cool down, and I was at Ken’s Run. Named by/for me back in the long past when hardly anyone skied this area. Still got untracked for the most part.
So, rode up and skied my first groomer of the day. Wow, these things are a cinch. Gave me a leg rest and a cool down and I tucked my tired legs between my legs and called it a day. No we didn’t miss it, you shoulda been here today.
Today’s warm temps won’t feel so good as the snow cools down tonight and tomorrow. A big storm comes in thursday and friday. Temperatures will be cold enough for snow but wetter than the past storms. Sounds like winds could be a problem for lifts running on thursday and/or friday. I’d check your favorite forecast thursday night (or Crystal early friday morning) and see what’s up.
I took the morning shift. I was solo today, as half the crew is on injured reserve (I consider TB to be injured since he has to work) and the other half is galavanting out of state. I find myself a little slow to get motivated when solo. Greeted by unexpected sun shining on the snow made it easier as the beautiful weather helped show off slopes covered in new snow.
Green Valley Bowl was OK - smooth new covering unseen bumps - but I didn’t come for OK. I felt obligated to ski Iceberg as a warmup as it was smoothly groomed with a 4” coating of new. At 12° there was nothing warm-up about it. Memorial was more invigorating trying to navigate the occasional jarring bump mixed in with the fluffy ones, all hidden by a boot-top layer of light new.
Since it was no time to waste a sunny morning poking around, I headed right to Exterminator. Shhhhh, not a track in sight. I skied untracked shin deep new snow, over a soft fluffy base, from top to bottom. Next lap there were a few other tracks, easily avoided. Two runs and I had my money’s worth for the day (he has a pass, and didn’t pay anything). But there was still plenty of time and the sun was still shining soooo, off to my favorite, Employee Housing.
Something about both Exterminator and E-Housing. Being able to see the bottom from the top and knowing it’s 1,600-1,800 vertical feet of steep, trees if you want them, all untracked snow, and as I enjoyed the view there was not a soul in sight. Or a person, never seen a soul. Do they ski? Bouncing through shin deep new, face shots hitting knee deep fluff piles, dodging in and out to the trees, and nailing perfect turns on the steep roll-over when my brain said I’m going to fast. I wish the Amigos were there at the bottom. I always feel awkward Whohoooing when there is no-budy to hear.
When you find a good thing. Or two. Why wander. I spent the morning trying to figure out which I liked better. Exterminator or Employee Housing. In honor of the Oscars, I picked The Terminator on my third to last run. And then changed it to E- Housing which I repeated for my last two runs. Did miss my ski Amigos, however.
And then the weather moved in, the fog started collecting, snow started falling, and this well satisfied boy headed home.
Light snow showers should will provide continued refreshment tuesday and wednesday. Cold temps will keep the snow light. Late thursday through friday morning will be stormy. Lots of snow, but winds might shut things down friday. A few days for timing to change, however.
I was surprised by the crunchy sun damage on the sun facing aspects - no sun today even though it was forecast. Surprised as the temps have been cold. And discouraged as my early morning pokes all came up as no repeats. It’s hard to commit to a Top 2 Bottom poke with conditions like today as it might be: 1. Run of the day, 2. OKish, or 3. Two thousand feet of I-want-to-go-home whininess. Hoping I would pick the Goldilocks run, I headed to Exterminator.
When I arrived, early, as I’d forgotten how fast you can get out of the city on a weekend, the lodge was packed. Packed with junior hopefuls hoping they could cliff jump bigger than the other hopefuls and win a prize. But, they disappeared to compete, and when I got to Exterminator, I was alone. Well, Patrol was cleaning the rope line monitored by Foster the Dog. The Terminator was a little tough, but best of the day so far, and on the long run close to the trees I was able to get the ski juice flowing. OK, found one run, and even if I have to lap it all day, it could be a good day.
It was 13 degrees made colder by the unfortunate fog that moved around the peaks. The snow was full of crunchy chunks that alternated with soft, patchy bumps. Exterminator’s just-around-the-cornerness from yesterday’s sun made all the difference. So I repeated it. And then Northway. Paradise Bowl, Bruce’s Bowl and Low Chair Bumps. Wohoooo. Funny/odd/interesting how a subtle direction difference in which way a face faces (face faces, guess that’s their job) can make the difference from crunchy and unskiable to lumpy and fun. Similarly aspected Employee Housing demanded a repeat. Although, I wonder how the mountain can demand anything. It might be my steep adrenaline demanding brain. Found a tiny sign on a lone tree spared by the Employee House avalanches. Anyone know what KT3 means? The sign must be old as it’s barely readable (“Kick Turns? Three” it also said).
And so it went. And I went home. Satisfied by unexpected big Top-2-Bottom runs.
So, I learned something about the weekend crowd. As we skied Exterminator, Bruce’s, Paradise, and EH, there was no one there. On a weekday, that’s where many people would be. On the weekend they’re all on the groomers or in the lodge, as they were both packed. Good for me….
As I parked today it was passive aggressively suggested that my quick, performance snow tire clad, AWD, car was a mid-life crisis car because I passed a slow dawdling Lexus driver. If that’s the case, I’ve been in mid-life crisis mode since I was 19. All my cars have been the best performing, best ski car I could find. And, since I was in high school, my passion was steep, narrow, high performance skiing. And I still is. Midlife crisis is for people that gave up on their passions and dreams and then try to recreate them. I’ve never given up. Even though I’ll be joining the social security crowd soon, I’m keeping the dream alive. Don’t stop setting those goals and reaching for them. I’m gonna enjoy being a crotchety old man. An old man that doesn’t get down on others for being faster, steeper, and pushing the limits. Even as we succumb to the hazards of time.
Ski hard, ski often
Leftovers tomorrow morning will give way to sunday snow showers. Monday looks good for tracking up sunday’s new snow. Light snow continues tuesday and wednesday.
Hopefully the round trip drive is shorter than your ski day. Squeaked one into that metric under marginal conditions. Marginal conditions for me, that is. Not for the mass of humanity that swarmed to the mountain to ski icy groomers and dodge blue and red poles on even icier slopes (my first weekend day of the year). Nicely, the trip from Bumfuck City to The Claw was traffic free, only had to pass one slow pickup. On the Claw-to-Crystal segment, we fell in line behind a long line of snowplow-hindered traffic (there was no road snow) and parked in the butthole of A-Lot. A long walk to the lodge found mobs of sapling skiers taking nearly every seat, chowing down on Crystal’s best breakfast thingies, and preparing to do battle with colored poles for a top spot on the honor list. Thank you, racers, as that kept most of the crowd out of the lift lines for the day.
Crowd rant over, we loaded C-Nook at 8:30 to get an early start on tearing up what ever we found. I was wary of conditions after this week’s rain event. And it took an hour of poking to confirm (firm is in that word, did he do that on purpose?) wariness justified. Four to six inches of windblown smooth snow over ice of various shapes. Blue ice that still showed 2-day old groomer marks, hidden hard mogul ice, or crunchy chicken head ice. It was easy to find. Variable Conditions was the call of the day as each turn was different. I cancelled the tear it up part.
A few nice turns in Avalanche basin. Too few, given the long traverse in and out. In Powder Bowl, I linked 3 good turns to each bad one - an improvement. All the way from Avie Basin to Snorting Elk without much difference, I was about to give up all hope. Only untried area was Northway. Sounded like a bad idea, but it provided the best runs of the day. Paradise Bowl - Penny Dawgs, and the funnest, most unexpected - Chairline Bumps. Slaloming the Low Chair signs reminded me of the Old Days banging a line down K2 Face with a chair, people, and skis a few feet over your head. But, I guess these days skiing a nasty bump line under the chair, inches from sudden doom, doesn’t get even a slight Whoop from the chair riders. Kids these days. I’m 2 feet away from you and can hear you talking as I drop these huge moguls! Oh well. Mogul skiing is a lost, unappreciated art, I guess.
As I left Northway, the wind picked up, the fog picked up, the snow (an icy sleety snow), picked up and Luckyshot (it wasn’t so Lucky) tried to erase the fun of the Northside. As I’d crossed the threshold of ski time being greater than drive time I was in the OK to leave zone. And so we did.
Who knows? Today’s snowfall was lower/slower than expected. Tomorrow will be cool, snowy, and crowded - Sounds like a repeat of today. Tuesday - more of the same weather. I’m out with Home Improvement Projects till thursday or friday and don’t see much improvement by then. As all the good forecasters say…. We’ll see.
Crowd forecast, after tomorrow - this weekend should be the last big crowd of the season as ski schools wear off and people need to mow their lawns.