Spring?

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It looks like we may have skied the last day of spring. Finally, a sunny, warm day to soften the snow. Unfortunately, yesterday’s heavy pow day meant off-piste went quickly from frozen junk to chunky glop. But not before we perfectly timed a few Frontside blast in surprisingly skiable weirdness. Until…. Showtime went over to the Dark Side of thick, unconsolidated gunk.

In the morning ice, we searched for smooth grooming. Not to be found up high as Iceberg and Luckyshot had not been groomed. Forest Queen was smoothly groomed and softening early in a lower altitude, low slope angle way. In a Crystal Mountain saving money kinda way, the Campbell Lodge was closed up tight - even the bathrooms. So, after a couple fast low excitement runs, we went back up top.

Got a few Valley Bowl runs in during the Goldilocks soft period (it got weird thereafter) as the now full-on sun made us dump our coats, vests, gloves, goggles, and don Hawaii shirt that has not got much play time this year. We then found out where the groomers had been. Snorting Elk Bowl, Sluiceway, Berry Patch, and re-building the Kelly’s Gap Road after Rockface’s coating of wet new snow slide massively. And we found, again, the savior Run-of-the-day.

Soft and carvable, we turned the smooth grooming into ditches and bumps. Lower E was, again, the high point for the big soft mogul crowd. “The Crowd” was 3 of us. Over and over. The same crowd that was on the Frontside earlier. Where was everyone? Iceberg it turned out. The Berg was soft, in between ice patches, and like a game of Frogger dodging scared left/right skiers as we tried to go down. It’s called Downhill Skiing….  Back to Our Run (no claims of ownership involved), we ran out the day.

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This will likely end my ski season, a great ending it will be, as the next 7-day forecast doesn’t look good. I’m hanging it up. Amigoette and I are packing for a month of hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and snorkeling in Peru, Galapagos, and Ecuador. 

Kkz

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Forecast

The next 7 days are forecast to be warm and wet. If it cools off, Crystal will be ugly frozen junk. If it stays warm, rain. Maybe next week some dryer, soft days will happen. New snow will not be your friend and just turn to wet glob like today. Rain may smooth things out and consolidate the junky off-piste. Grab the next warmish sunny day and pretend it’s spring.

Rat Wheel

Rats don’t run in their wheel because they think it’s fun. They do it because that’s all that’s available in their cage. We were caged in by horrible frozen junk off-piste and hard icy groomers in every direction. After some quick poking around we found all the groomers: Iceberg, Luckyshot, Downhill, were hard ice covered in acres of ice balls. Ice so hard, the groomers didn’t even leave a mark on Iceberg (Not So Lucky Shot wasn’t groomed). It only took one ski length off the groomed to cross off any hope of skiing off piste.

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Full on sun and blue sky on our first upload gave, falsely, promise of maybe some Frontside softening we could beat into skiable submission. Not to happen, however, as a high haze and an unfortunate cloud blocked the sun and put us in no-softening mode. Our first lucky run call was a very IcyBerg to Lower Bull Run. Lower Bull was one of only two runs that softened. A couple low level runs down Bull got the ski ball rolling (that doesn’t even make sense…. ) and oddly, the next-door ungroomed Deerfly was horrible crunch. Then we decided to get on the wheel in the corner of our rat cage as it’s proven to be a good spin when the conditions are dicey.

We dove into Snorting Elk Bowl, it had been groomed, and the part that everyone wasn’t skiing, was 2” of softness for our carving pleasure over the firm base. Sluiceway was the skidded ice we left on thursday, but skiable. Berry Patch had the one line we’d smoothed out before - and one was all we needed. Lower E was the second of today’s Soft-Run awards. Huge nicely shaped bumps soft enough to go full on old-school bump skiing. Fun enough that we exited the rat wheel and rode up for another.

 Run of the day

Run of the day

At noon, we grabbed our packs and were ready to head for home, as it was obvious that nothing was going to get softer. That did the trick and the sun came back out. Berry Patch was just soft enough to get us off the one line we’d been skiing, and Lower E went off. We re-stashed the packs and kept going. They added a bunch of slalom gates, maybe people frozen in place scared of the ice, on S-Elk Bowl. Sluiceway softened enough to get into the bumps and off the ice-line. Berry Patch loosened just enough to match Amigoette’s fast line without jittering my back to complaining. Lower E became more of a hoot. An hour and a half later, after our 13th Top-to-Bottom, we called it good and stepped off the rat wheel and exited the cage. What had started as mundane T2B cycles ended with two wide smiles. More people need to learn how to ski bumps, big bumps.

Kkz

Forecast

Bad news. No dry warm weather for…… awhile. The cool down will not be pleasant for the next couple days, maybe a week. There might be a few inches of new snow by monday, but feet are needed to cover the frozen junk. There’s a lot of NWS “models disagree” going on so it’s a day-to-day check in. Only sunny and warm will work.  

One Trick

Lucky I had some good Ski Amigos today. One, I could follow them and get a slight idea of what I was approaching in some of the worst fog ever skied. Two, they made me not want to be the one who gives up and goes home, so I stayed for the 3 hours it took for the weather to clear enough to find that one good run.

Horribly foggy from midway up, it was a gray day. Gray as in pitch fucking gray. Gray as in I can’t see the edge of the cat track. Gray as in I’ve haven’t seen so many spots in my vision before. Gray as in was that ice, or did my ski fall off. Gray as in Auntie Em, there’s no place like home. Ever wonder on the way down if infrared night vision goggles worked for skiing? I could probably get some on eBay. Was that a person or a tree? Where am I? I’ll ask my buds what run we just skied, maybe they know.

From the start, it was obvious that anything off piste was a no-go danger zone of frozen breakable crust and frozen junk. (spoiler, later some of it turned into thick, gloppy mashed potatoey…. stuff.) But, maybe I make it sound worse than it was. We did have some fun trying to figure out which way the runs went and where the edge of the grooming was, and when it was safe to “tuck it” for the bottom (actually no tucking involved - usually just point in the direction you thought the lift was and hope). Since the fog was up-side-down and clearer air was on the lower mountain, we skied Lower Bull, Deerfly, and CMAC more times than in recent memory. Or long term memory.

Approaching noon, wait…. It’s a little brighter. Hey, I can see Iceberg - that’s what it looks like?. Pretty hard snow. Then….. Let’s try Snorting Elk-Sluiceway-BerryPatch-Lower E. Random clearing, some sun, quickly softened snow, and Run Of The Day. No Gondola line made for a quick return. Finally someplace that supported aggressive skiing. Two hours of late-in-the-day T2Bs saved the day. And my sanity. Especially Lower E’s bump run. Best of a weird day. Best ski buds for keeping the dream alive. Wohooo?

Kkz

PS - went with the best intentions of getting some pictures today. Picture a gray wall. There, that’s it.

Forecast

There’s gonna be warmth, cooling, rain, light snow, clouds, sun, and maybe Sharknado. That last one’s unlikely, but the rest will happen and no one seems to know when, where, or why. Look the night before, get up early, and take your chances. The perfect plan would be for some light rain over a day, a solid freeze, or two, and some sunny days. New snow will not be our friend right now.

Recovery

Took a week off to battle back from some ailments that caused me to have a horrible ski day last monday. But taking things in small bites helped work both Amigoette and me back into the game, and by the end of the day our recovery was working well.

We took a chance on a weekend crowd to get better weather today. Full on blue sky and sun greeted us as we arrived early. But, even an early chair loading found a persistent fog already starting to play hide-n-seek with the sun. The sunday crowd showed up at the base and on Luckyshot, but never built a line.

To take advantage of the good vis in the sun, we ripped a trial run down Valley-Berg, then 3 quick Sunnysides. That was the first time we’ve been on The Frontside in how many weeks? It’s skiing OK and ready for the next warm sunny day, but Valley Bowl showed once again that north facers would be the place to be. So with an early Northway opening we headed out with the good visibility in tow.

The place to be was on Northway. Best soft snow, minimal crunch in the trees, and nice smooth/soft bumps on the lower angle portions. Chairline Bumps, however, were huge and down to skidded ice from the weekend warriors. I would have been happy to ski Northway all day except that a blinding fog moved in and sank into the nooks and crannies. 

And so the game of hide and seek started. Whatever wasn’t foggy, we seeked until the next time the fog hid it - then we moved along. Bear Pits was so icy it was one and out. Same with the Doors. All the sunny aspects are finally consolidated, maybe a little too much, and in perfect condition for the next warm sunny day. Berry Patch right was good, then we paid our dues on Lower E where the bumps got too much rain - perfectly smooth, unperfectly icy.

Grubstake and C3 Chairline again showed the Jekyll and Hyde character of the sunny aspects versus the shady. My body was playing a game of ski strong and then stop to get the queasiness under control. By the end of the day, the strong part was winning. I’ll call it an excellent recovery day

Kkz

Forecast

As of now, looks like cloudy and precipitation bordering on rain at the base monday. In an hour, the forecast might change. Which way? All signs say monday night and tuesday will be stormy with lots of precip, again really wet at the base. Wednesday is a lull in the action, at least dry, maybe some broken clouds.

What's Next?

It was a day of poking around trying to find some OK snow. Most aspects didn’t even require a ski to be placed on them to put them in the No Go category. Any aspect that received sun last weekend was ugly frozen junk over hard icy bumps - disaster you could see from across the mountain. So we hunted for shady leftover packed powder.

Even the shaded snow had firmed up overnight, but our intrepid threesome left no snow unskied in our search. The Valley Bowl had thickened in the overnight cold and we put it on hold for more skier grooming. Iceberg was firm, groomed nicely, but deteriorated down to the months old rain layer in short order. Luckyshot would soon follow, but we got our groomers out of the way as morning sun that felt so good changed to thickening patches of dark clouds. Hmmm…. Any hopes of sun-softened snow fell by The Wayside.

I made my buds wait at the bottom while I tried an ill-fated-knew-it-unlikely-to-be-good run down Grubstake that proved to be…. sun-crusted junk. Elk Snort was deep and soft and the groomer to C-3 was carvable. When Six and Northway opened, a cloud hung on the top of Powder Bowl so Northway was the call. Only parts of Paradise Bowl that never see the sun were on my good side. It appears the Cat that grooms Northway is broke, and not in an out-of-money way. This has allowed the normally groomed lower run to stay small soft bumps, some of the best skiing of the day.  Bruce’s Bowl, Bruce’s Trees, and the tree bumps below the Nose were soft, energetic fun. My run of the day.

From Northway we fought our way across the frozen wasteland to Campbell Basin. You have to go all the way to the end of the Campbell Traverse for the good turns. Powder Bowl was… OK. Powder Bowl has succumbed to the fate much of the mountain has. There was a lot of snow a few weeks ago and a lot of skiers that couldn’t handle it. That’s left the cut-up underpinnings in a state of crossing constant traverse lines and bumps cut left to right - not down the hill. We did our best to straighten things out, alternating from Wohooos to Who Did THAT!

The good snow was at opposite ends of Crystal today. Campbell’s far skier’s right, Powder Bowl, and Northway Central. Back and forth using a now scraped ice Luckyshot and Iceberg for transportation. Ended the day somewhat satisfied and glad I didn’t ski Bear Pits.

Kkz

Forecast

The weekend looks to keep things frozen, a few flurries of new that will just hide the underlying pain, and maybe, just maybe, a little sun and warming on monday. It’s that time of year when skier grooming (there’s not much of that going on) a

Warm

It’s that time of year. When new snow may not be your friend and mountain temperature swings can really mess things up. It’s also that time of year when above freezing temperatures are the only thing that saves the day.

The previous day’s sun baked the slopes and we found the overnight temps had frozen it in place. And frozen in place was no place you wanted to be. There were some really ugly shapes out there. But it was already in the mid-30s and the sun was out; we expected redemption soon. A high cloudy haze quickly formed and delayed redemption. So we paid our dues by scouting around trying to find some goodness. It was a long search.

The Valley was chopped stiff junk, Iceberg was pretty good for a groomer, Luckyshot was smooth ice, Snorting Elk was OK packed pow that led to some low angle fun in the Berry Patch and Lower E. Lower E is still smooth, hard, huge bumps with here-and-there piles of soft stuff to push around. Can’t figure out why it’s so much fun. Chair Six opened early and we headed to Powder Bowl only to have our expectations of packed pow in the shade ruined by crunchy leftovers on top of firm choppy bumps. Expectations that weren’t ruined as bad as Bear Pits ruined my ability to enjoy a run. BP was a disaster of 1/3 lumpy pow over hip-high pyramidal bumps, 1/3 smooth skidded steep ice, and 1/3 frozen glop over hard oddly arranged bumps.

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Headed North sweating like an overdressed pig even after dropping a layer. Paradise Bowl had 6-12” of untracked new (closed for 2 days) that hid some surprises but skied well. In the chairline bumps the new was still untracked, very heavy, and one of the best pitches of the day. Booted up to Northway Peak for the view-of-the-day before skiing smooth new snow hiding hard bumps. Lower down the bumps were melting and more fun. As the sun came back out, we had to shed the coats and tried Valley Bowl again.

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Finally the temperature, sun, and snow hit the Goldilocks Zone. Big bumps of frozen lumps melted to just the right temperature. Tip-to-tail, Amigoette and I traded the lead lapping Valley-Bergs as fast as we could while The Zone lasted. 5-6 runs that made our day. Until the next storm moved closer, the sky darkened, and it was time to T2B it for home. A fast run that ended in scary stickiness at the bottom of Lower Bull Run.

Kkz

Forecast

Another freeze up tonight will not be kind to any of today’s snow. Tomorrow’s temperatures are unlikely to thaw things much but may be too high as the expected precip may be rain to mid-mountain. And windy. Friday looks frozen glop cold. Warm snow over frozen glop saturday, and sunny and melting glop on sunday. Lots of skier grooming is needed.

Gray

Gray sky, gray fog - even the snow looked gray. There was some nice new snow, 4-12”, covering everything. The problem was the everything.

Any aspect that got sun on friday and saturday was new snow over now-frozen sun-baked mank. Unfortunately, once committed to Memorial, we had to ski the whole run. We couldn’t see most of the run as it was foggy as shit. A wall of fog from Green Valley south obliterated all vision. North of G-Valley, it was a horizontal layer of fog that turned the world a swirling grayness down to the lower level of the GV chair.

 Trying to add a little color to a very gray day.

Trying to add a little color to a very gray day.

Blinded by the fog, we poked around trying to find a place with enough trees so you could see, and with snow that wasn’t just a disguise for icy bumps. The crunchy/icy layer was a surprise. We’d left some really nice packed pow friday, but over the weekend, between the sun and crowd, all that was left below the new snow was crunchy ice and hard bumps.

So we vertigo skied from place to place finding a few turns here and there. The new snow was really nice, it was just the underlying snow that tripped you up. Or, the whiteout fog disorientated you. We anticipated Bear Pits, nice packed pow on friday, as being a good place with trees for vis and steep for fun. Once through the no-see-um traverse, things looked promising. A soft fast entry, then….. Whoever’s been there in the last couple day has carved the whole area into big swoopy side-to-side hard bumps. Try to ski the fall line and it was banging over walls of ice. Same for Outer Ferks.

We found the best line, after much that-wasn’t-good exploration, to be long T2Bs down Snorting Elk-Sluiceway-Berry Patch-Lower E and ride the Gondola back up.

Maybe Powder Bowl held the elusive leftover packed powder under the new, but we could never see more that a few feet up the hill. People coming out of the mist said vis was non-existent. So, we took an early departure and chalked one up as An Exploration Day.

Kkz

Forecast

Tomorrow will start a clearing trend with increasing visibility, but the warming trend will be wednesday. Clear and warm on wednesday will soften the crunch and heavy-up the leftover new. I expect a transition from too frozen, to perfect, to too soft. Then re-freeze it all later in the week. Spring is coming.

One Awesome Run

I must be living right, finally. Second day in a row that a foggy, snowy morning turned to clear blue skies. 

What a difference visibility makes. The leftover snow was as expected. Thick, lumpy, and the overnight cold had increased both while firming up the underlayment. Add in the fog and snow flurry induced poor visibility and it was a tough go. From yesterday, we knew where the good snow would be, if only you could see. A test run into Bear Pits Big Chute confirmed expectations that it would be perfect packed pow.

When we got back to Rex, suddenly, the sun was out, angels were singing, and Powder Bowl glistened and beckoned. (disclaimer, actually no angels were involved, just my mental soundtrack) And, they’d opened C-6, early. So off we went to the one area we knew would be the best snow today. It was. Our new run down the blaster tube and JD’s Chute were 4” of new untracked over soft cut powder. Fast, smooth, soft, steep, and a bunch of other adjectives only skiers enjoy. Bear Pits, a little different in a perfect packed and loose pow kinda way continued the adrenalin thrills. Found our one awesome run so what else you gonna do but repeat, repeat, repeat…… Till the clouds moved back in just as fast as they had cleared.

The incoming fog and snow shower made it easier to hide our big shit-eating grins. It also hid the unfortunate multitude of traverse lines in Green Valley. Don’t do that, it’s called DOWN hill skiing. C-3 chairline was steep and deep shady stuff, but short. Elk Snort had it moments, but the rest was “meh” after the PB-BP runs. Kelly’s gap also has some good - and some tough sections - while Lower E was great if you knew which side to be on.

We tried a couple Valley Bergs in the decreasing vis and increasing firmness and pulled the plug. Closing out the best 4-day “work week” I’ve had in a long time.

Kkz

Forecast

Very slight refreshment over the next few days. Cool mornings with warming base temps and cool top temps. Most of the mountain needs some skier grooming to turn the thick lumpy got-too-much-sun areas into good packed powder. That’s the weekender crowd’s assignment. See ya monday for some sun, I hope.

Sun vs Shade

Expectations, disappointments, and surprises - sums up the day. 14” of new snow had powder expectations running high as a large opening crowd of hungry skiers waited for the lift to open. Spoiled by sunday/monday’s light new snow, I dove into Memorial and quickly lowered my expectations to windblown ice on the crest and heavy windpack the rest of the way. Memorial, along with any other open east to southeast facing runs, skied ok for the first few people through, but quickly turned to thick and cut lumps. Switched to north facers and my mood quickly improved.

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Suddenly I noticed that the sun was out and we were bathed in that perfect blue winter sky. Surprise, I don’t know of a better ski attitude improver. Expected a huge line at C-6 when its light went green. Nope, surprise. Campbell was a smooth fast ride over untracked wind crust. Powder Bowl JD’s Chute was as good as it gets.

I didn’t sleep well last night and my brain wasn’t working so good on run decisions. Luckily, my ski wingman (or am I his wingman?), threw out suggestions that sounded questionable but turned out awesome. A forgotten line on Exterminator, a gnarly entrance to Eagles Drop, and around the nose to secret trees demanded repeats. Banana Chute always makes me a little woozy when it’s suggested. But I tightened my sphincter and headed over. An easy entry if you thread the line through the rocks and then it was the best snow of the day.

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Ended the day, a little early, with a couple Powder Bowl - Bear Pits. PB’s Main Chute is skiing great and BP’s Big Chute the same. Probably where you’ll find me tomorrow.

Kkz

Forecast

Likely some light snow overnight and cooling temps lining up for scattered light snow, scattered light sun, and cool temps tomorrow. Today’s snow will turn into perfect packed pow with just a little skier grooming. A good chunk of Northway will be blocked off for Extremo Nationals tomorrow (Southback on saturday). Long term looks similar till more snow comes in monday.

Visibility

Very blue sky and tremendous visibility that put yesterday’s black and whiteout world to shame. Minimal post-closing snow gave a little refreshment to today’s cut pow pillows and we did our best to finish it off. Mission accomplished. What we couldn’t ski out, the sun turned to thick, lumpy crud after noon.

It was a fun day with a couple Amigos back from sickness reserve, and another few reappearing while Amigoette had to sit this one out.

Early morning Frontsides were fast and furious. Our stashes in Exterminator Extremities had filled in and demanded recutting. And the special side of EH was the smoothest and deepest of the morning. Chair Six had a good sized line so it was PB and out. A line I haven’t skied it for awhile in PB proved to be the run-of-the-day. Maybe the best ever upper Powder Bowl run. The lower half was top 10. 

I’ll keep it short in a “you should have been there today”… and yesterday kinda way. By noon, everything in the sun was cut clumps of heavy crud. As the sun descended, it started to turn crispy. I’m hoping for a big crowd tuesday to chop it up and smooth the crunch. (It will not happen with the light crowds.) We’ll see what wednesday brings.

Kkz

Forecast

There will be very minimal new snow til late wednesday afternoon. I don’t expect the light post-press-holiday crew to do much skier grooming. So some new for thursday, leftovers friday. Warming and sunny saturday and on. Hopefully turning into some spring skiing.

White Out

Today was all about trees and wind. Between the thick fog, dumping snow (all day), and blasting wind gusts, if you were in the open it was complete blindness. One run, we had to stop 6 times for 30-60 seconds as the wind blew tons of snow out of the trees. To avoid the face scouring snow blast I put my face down. I couldn’t see my knees. Other than that, it was one of the best snow days of the year.

Anything in the open was not on the list. Trees were a requirement, although we had to take some open traverses to get around. Memorial started the day as Forest is in its name. Very good. Six and Northway opened early. There was a Junior Extremo contest on Six/The King so we headed north. The goods lay waiting in our favorite places. Two blind traverses, two long knee deep tree runs of special new snow. As the NW line was forming, it was time for Employee Housing. Another No-See-Um tuck to gate 7 then a special entry to Amigoette’s favorite tree line. We had to stop at the end of the trees and wait for the air to clear before heading to the next set of trees. I-5 was not bad - sorry to the snowboarders that have to walk the whole way out.

Another blind traverse to Exterminator, then E-Trees and my version of CD’s stash. Amigoette liked it so much we did it over, and over. As it was snowing about 2” per hour, tracks filled in fast. Finally succumbing to the face scouring wind-blown snow, we called it a day when our coats were encrusted in ice from too many face shots. I mean, no officer, I didn’t have too many face shots. This smile is just frozen in place.

Now we have a basement full of wet drying gear. Hoping it dries by morning for a repeat session tomorrow.

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I usually avoid weekends from the first week in january, and 8 plus presidents day weekends later. But sometimes duty calls and it’s necessary to take a crowded weekend for the team. Which team, I don’t know, but I’m taking a hit for someone I think. Expecting crowds, we left home really early. I didn’t expect how many others would be early as well. And, I didn’t expect how many early people don’t have snow cars or know how to drive in the snow. A slow uphill commute. BUT, not as slow as the downward drive. 15mph, come on. On the flat 30, maybe 25? 100 cars behind you but you can’t pull over? Amazing that some people want to try skiing, that’s great but haven’t thought out the Maybe we’ll have to drive in the snow question. Hope the people in the minivan with bald tires stuck in the family load zone made it down….

Kkz

Forecast

It’s still dumping snow for a while and will taper off overnight. Temps are dropping and it’ll be cold, around 10° in the morning. The cut up pow and tracks will be covered. But don’t worry, I’ll go inspect so you can sleep in. Oh, looks like sun also.

Surprise!

Three things not to do. Get your annual cold plus a cough, schedule one of the biggest snow dumps of the year with President’s Day weekend crowds, and give up on that sneaker big day.

After 2 weeks off due to some crappy snow conditions, Amigoette getting a nasty head cold, and said head cold traversing to me for a week and a half, today was the planned comeback. I was a little hesitant thinking what 6° air would do to my recovering lungs, and recent snow reports haven’t been stellar. So… plugged in the “don’t give up” program and headed to Crystal, hoping to exceed my low expectations. After an early drive (more later) and a big clothing bundle-up, wow! Even my best expectations were exceeded.

There was a little snow overnight, an inch here, 2 inches there, and 4-6 inches right where it needed to be. And luckily, the Winter Break Crowd didn’t make much a showing, and what they skied were groomers. So, we skied nice new snow over chopped pow over occasional ice patches - surprise! Since no one was skiing the off-piste, we could ski the silky new snow on one run, and then move left or right and do it again, missing crunch exposed on the previous run. And so it went. We started with Showtime and moved north a little each run, ending with Exterminator. Surprised every run how smooth the new snow felt, how little the crunch layer impacted, and how fast we skied down. There was no need to hunt too far.

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Main Chute in Powder Bowl ended up with 6 tracks. Ours. One of the fastest, straightest, scariest lines I’ve ever skied in the hundreds of Main Chute adventures over the years. Be careful dropping into Bear Pits on an adrenaline overdose. It might give you an awesome ski day hangover.

Sidebar - There’s going to be river erosion repair on 410 5.5 miles west of Crystal Blvd. They started today and expect traffic impacts for 2.5 weeks. One lane traffic with up to 30 minute complete closures 7-4:30 weekdays. On the way down today the delay did a good job of bunching traffic up behind the slowest link in the chain. Lots of dump trucks coming up, loaded with rocks and dirt. Hope the asshat passing on a corner understood how close he came to dying and killing a couple carloads of skiers when that dump trunk pulled round the corner just as he moved back in line. 

Hope the rest of the ski amigos get well for next week’s sunny days.

Kkz

Forecast

It looks like the now-exposed icy crunch (Valley Bowl and lower Powder Bowl excluded) will hang around till friday night. New snow for the weekenders. This should be the last weekend of big crowds - my prediction. Next week is supposed to be sunny with no precip. But, we’ve heard that tune before.

No See Um

You win some, you lose some. Today was firmly in the latter category.

Two things made it tough. Even though the temperature on top was pushing 40°, everything that wasn’t groomed was unskiable frozen junk. Second, fog precipitated out of the west wind burying everything inside Crystal in a blinding blanket of no see um the run fog. A fog that coated your goggles after just a few turns. Luckily, the groomed snow was soft and buttery and turns were easy. Unfortunately, with the beyond limited vision, you couldn’t even tell which direction was downhill at times.

So we skied Valley (groomed side) Berg blindly. Luckyshot even blinder, and Valley Valley where you could see the side of the run, usually, at least. A break at 10:30 for pizza and a beer didn’t help with the clearing as planned. Another round of blind leading the blind on Rex convinced me I’d had enough (it helped to follow someone - you could see when they hit invisible bumps you needed to avoid). Skiing the groomers fast was impossible, skiing them slowly was boring, skiing them blind was getting dangerous.

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Knowing that at whatever time we left, it would clear up, I pulled the plug. Sure enough, when I got home and looked at the cameras, it was bright and sunny. Too little, too late. The drive up was nice due to the lack of participation by people smarter than me, and I got to stretch the Turboru’s legs (it really doesn’t have legs) when no one was looking.

Did I mention there’s a lot of brown snow working it’s way up and some gravel popping to the surface? No? Well, there is. A lot of the last 2 week’s snow is missing.

Kkz

Forecast

I see nothing good for the next 4 days. Tomorrow will continue warm with the frozen off-piste and likely some misty, wet precip. Saturday continues frozen off-piste with increasing brown and icy-patch groomers. Sunday joins in with a repeat.

Hard to Believe

I was pretty cocky this morning in the lodge with the “you shoulda been here yesterday” comments. Hard to believe that today was just as good, maybe better. One thing that was better was Amigoette and DB were added to The Gang. More is merrier.

As unexpected as yesterday’s deep new snow was, today’s unexpected was lots of knee-deep new snow. And some unexpected exploring that really paid off. It was amazing that some of our secret spots were untouched, or lightly touched yesterday and still full of deep, untracked amazing powder. It will all come crashing down by friday (or mid-day thursday) as the weather warms, and it was well tracked out by day’s end.

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Quickly, today was deep leftovers with 5-6” of new added overnight. Hitting some runs we didn’t hit yesterday found lots of untracked. My message is, go exploring. And watch your timing. Two early runs on Secret Exterminator Place set the untracked bar early. Knowing when Northway opened, we got our 2 favs with over the knee smooth goodness before the horde built a line. Northway raised the bar for the day and the season. Will be hard to beat. Just under the bar were old school Snake Pit and haven’t-skied-for-awhile new Secret Stash #14. Amigoette picked a winner out E-Housing/Niagara way - Not telling, but everyone missed it yesterday and this morning. 1,600’ vert of incredibleness in the one sunny spot of the day. The vis was mostly black and white and allowed me to easily follow Amigoette’s green coat. 

I thought last week was the best yet this year. Quickly surpassed by the last 2 days.

Kkz

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Forecast

Tomorrow will be a good cut and packed powder in the morning. Timing of the next front is anywhere between mid-day and early evening. If tomorrow’s your day, go early and ski hard as it may end in wet sloppy snow or rain. Friday looks really like a no-go day with, at best, firm packing wet snow before it turns to rain. Sorry for you weekenders, as high freezing levels and lots of precip is not good news. Holy crap, next week will be REALLY warm, and mostly dry. Goodbye fluffy pow, hello mountain bike. 

Sneaker Day

It was an unexpected sneaker powder day. Well, unexpected, but not so sneaky to someone watching the weather develop hour by hour. Monday’s rain event missed Crystal by a few miles all morning, only delivering rain for an hour or so. It then turned into lots of snow as the cold front collided with the precipitation. And brought lots of snow. Boot top new in the exposed areas and 18-24” in the trees.

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Ski along looking over the edge and turn in when you saw deep untracked was The Plan. The Plan worked well and trees improved the visibility as it was puking snow mixed with fog. I’ll skip the list and say I never found a bad run. Steep was your friend as the deep snow on the flats was a tough slog until it was tracked up.

For a day that I wasn’t even planning on going, it turned out awesome in every respect. Run-of-the-Day? It was the run, or the 5 runs, with continuous face shots. In the ski blur I can’t remember which they were. The difference between the best and worst runs today was only about 5%. Crowds? None other than the glut of people waiting in the snow for Chinook to open and then waiting for Rex to open. We took three runs on Weenie Queen to get warmed up, hit Rex just as it opened and the glut was gone. Missed half a run of “Big Skier Frenzy”. And then they moved on, leaving run after run of deep untracked for the Knowledgeable Crystal Skier, aka Old Guys. First Rule of Windsurfing applies to skiing as well. Never leave great pow to look for more pow.

The second rule of windsurfing applies as well. Bring all your gear since whatever you don’t bring, you’ll need. I say this in honor of CD not having his powder skis. New to the multiple ski group, I never wanted to be the guy that says “I brought the wrong skis”. Luckily, CD can still do the narrow ski club proud - even in thick knee-deep unexpected new snow.

And, today’s rant. Three snowboarders, thinking they were faster than us skiers….. The first one flying in above my bud started a sluffing slide that knocked him over, he lost a ski, and poured a couple feet of sliding snow over the Bear Pits traverse. His two accomplices, running out of control high on the traverse slid more snow on said Bud and his lost ski. 15 minutes later, we finally dug out and located his ski 4 feet down in the slide. No, you’re not faster, cooler, or even a good boarder - you’re just jerks.

After the ski recovery, tearing it up continued. Unexpected deepness till the end of the day.

Kkz

Forecast

It was dumping, capital D, when I left. But, that will slow down overnight with a good filling in over today’s cut-up pow. Tomorrow will be good, but bussed up crowds will slow things down. Thursday will be the transition day. Slow moving fronts mean cut and packed powder. Fast moving fronts bring rain. We’ll see.

It's Still All Good

What a day! I think we all got our fill of steep and deep today. At least my legs say so.

I was a little scared as we parked at 8:00 way down on the road just above C Lot. People that arrived shortly after 7:00 parked in the 4th row. Most of the space was reserved for the rich and late coming (625$ for a parking pass) and busses that didn’t arrive till after noon. Relegated to not-parking worthy, we hoofed it uphill for miles, well it seemed like miles, to the lodge and suited up. The news turned more positive as the line was gone in minutes and up we went. Up to be greeted by cold, crisp air (15°) and deep fluffy powder.

Memorial opened the morning and showed promise with boot-top new over another foot of packed pow. In hindsight, turned out to be one of the worst runs of the day as from there it progressed to bigger, steeper, narrower, and deeper. Door One, Door Zero, Door 4, Bear Pits….. With no lines they were fast laps. Listening to the Ski Patrol chatter, we saw the head fake as Six opened and we took off to Northway just as the gates opened. My favorite line in Paradise Trees upped the bar for run-of-the-year till we switched sides and got another knee-deep first down Puckers Right. I coulda quit there and had an excellent day. But, the only way down was E-Housing (not really, but I wasn’t going anywhere else). Huge puff piles of new, lots of stumps on the rollovers - challenging and rewarding. I-5 is another story best told after I forget the ice, rocks, sticks, and wet creeks.

Back to “reality”, we went into blur mode. We skied the Doors (especially Four), Showtime, The Pits, LS Trees, in Fast and Furious fashion - four skiers at the top, four at the bottom, and a criss crossing of different personal favorite lines. We took a short foray to Powder Bowl, skiing some excellent snow that you couldn’t see in the flat light. Back to the trees.

I wound down as the snow tracked out and thickened down lower. And, it might have been me that suggested a T2B out The Gap that finished everyone’s legs as the lower snow was….. weird. Sorry.

I said it above, but what a day. Deep new snow. First runs of the year - Sphincterville, Pucker’s, Employee Housing. A 62 year old guy got whoops from the Northway Chair, skiing between the caution signs down thigh deep bumps a foot from possible decapitation from chair rider’s skis. A flash of color in my periphery and I knew one of my Amigos would slink in behind me, then duck between some trees and pass me on the other side. Whew!

Kkz

Forecast

Go tomorrow if you can. Get an early start in front of the crowd as a dump of snow is expected tonight. BUT, watch the morning report as winds might be fierce, shutting down the top. And Crystal is nowhere you want to be on a weekend with only 2 chairs open. The snow level will go WAY up sunday and monday. With the new snow being unconsolidated it will be deep slop off the groomed. And raining. Tuesday will bring the whole shebang down for light snow over ugly ice.

It's All Good

A wonderful day with the Amigos. And beautiful weather for starting what’s finally more normal winter conditions. Northwest winter and snow conditions that is. It was raining at the base all day, or as Crystal’s marketing department said, “we are now seeing snow fall across the entire mountain!” Well, I’d call it 2-second snow. It looked white in the air, but 2 seconds after landing on your coat, it was rain. Luckily, from the base of Rex up, it was cold enough the snow didn’t even stick to your goggles. Deterred by the long line for Chinook, we sat in the lodge instead of joining the first chair seekers for the hour they stood in the light rain. Getting in line when the loading started, we were 10 minutes behind, but dry.

I said excellent Northwest snow and weather. That means 25° on top, a stiff southwest wind, a couple turns of wind scoured ice at the top of each run, and then turn after turn of wind smoothed heavy new snow. Unless a gust of wind served up a blinding cloud of snow that was heading towards quieter air on the other side of the trees. Note for the next run, other side of the trees. When Chair Six opened, there was no one left to fill the chair or finish skiing up The Frontside. We avoided the 15 minute C-6 line and lapped Memorial to Door One with a few distractions to Green Valley or Bear Pits. All good.

Sometimes I couldn’t tell if it was snowing or just blowing snow moving around. It made each run a little different, a little better, and the fun-o-meters kept going up. By noon, it was definitely snowing, hard. The wind picked up, then began to diminish. Or maybe I just got used to it. The next “system” was moving in as views of the surrounding peaks got lost in the grayness and puking snow. We went into One-more-run mode using Grubstake (best it’s been this year) and Elk Snort-Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to wear us out. Most of the small after-Six-opened crowd disappeared at 11:00. Lunch? They never came back. Succumbing to the cold wind and increasing snowfall, we skied one more Bear Pits - awarded Most Improved for the day - and headed down.

Dropping 50 feet below the snowstorm at Rex, Stumpfarm was warm slush and it quickly turned to rain approaching the base. I applaud the beginners skiing Discovery in the sloppy slush and wet (zero seconds) snow. Our next crop of strong Crystal skiers in the making.

Kkz

Forecast

Temperatures will drop and it will keep on snowing. Until sunday when it will definitely be rain at the base, most likely rain to the top. Continue that plan on monday.

Ski Where You Want

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Finally, snow conditions and coverage that allowed skiing any run you wanted. From Campbell Basin to Snorting Elk (Northway was closed - more later) you could ski anywhere. Only limited by your aversion to a here-and-there underlying crunch. With a sharp eye, you could keep the ice aversion well at bay. Also by paying attention, you could ski a lot of untracked pow. And, the first day of the year I didn’t have to ski a groomer.

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The squirrel juices were in full effect as a drive-up snow-dump added 5” of light new to the mix. For first chair, the sky began breaking up for soon-to-be sun breaks. I opened with Valley Bowl and Memorial joining the gang back at Rex with everyone smiling. And the game was on. On previous days, we skied the mountain looking for good snow. Today we skied the mountain wondering where the bad snow was, pausing on the best runs for a few repeats. The worst I found were some icy lumps on lower Frontside and too-firm bumps on Bear Pits. Topping the list was Powder Bowl which was in prime shape. Fighting for second were Door 1 and Exterminator-Eagles Drop-Etc which both had many repeats.

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The only rocks we found were the top of Six trying to enter the Campbell side - please learn to ski, not sideslip. And the only chairline was on Six, so it was one Campbell Basin Chute 2 and out to Powder Bowl. With the whole mountain in good shape, there was no need to stand in line. So we didn’t. A big day, lots of smiles. Most fun day of the season.

Here’s where I usually would put in a watch for elk warning. You should still watch for elk on the highway, but also put trees on your watch list. There were two trees down on 410 today, one midway through this morning’s commute. Our bud, JD, couldn’t see a 10”er across the road and hit it at 40mph. Not good for his SUV.

Today’s Rant - Crystal will never be a destination resort if they don’t open all their chairs every day. Northway is closed mondays and tuesdays. And Chair Six doesn’t open till 10 even though the Marketing Report says open 9-3. 

Kkz

Forecast
Although most of the powder is cut up, there will still be lots of cut pow over crunchy spots for tuesday - But watch for strong winds coming in that will probably shut down the top. A LOT of precip starts late tuesday with snow levels about the base to midway. As temps drop tuesday night, wednesday will again be very snowy and hopefully diminishing winds will allow everything to open. This looks like the big storm we’ve needed. It might be friday till it all gets sorted out, however.

Good, Great, and Bad

I felt like a real skier today. This winter of weird weather and mostly mediocre snow has made me feel weak at times. Not today. There was some very nice snow, boot top to calf deep where unskied. However, in most places it was over a lumpy base of now frozen cut-up wet snow. It took a sturdy quadricep to hold on when you hit the lumps, but well worth it when you skied into a powder area.

As usual, the south side (north facing) area of Green Valley Bowl was great and stayed great all day. Anything below 6,000 feet was marginal to ugly. Iceberg and Luckyshot started out as good groomers, then succumbed to the light crowd’s ski edges by 10:30, becoming large areas of unedgeable brown ice. The ice did have one redeeming quality as it locked the rocks down, and the only areas of watch-your-edges were on the transitions and easily avoided.

We hit Chair Six minutes after it opened. The traverse is in great shape other than being completely clogged by Team No Wax. No pushing required unless you’re behind them. Nice we could get a couple laps in before they pushed out to the powder. And powder there was. The only thing wrong with a completely untracked A-Basin rope line was I couldn’t see half the time as CD hoovered up plumes of pow.

I considered it my duty to sample as much as I could for the safety of humankind. Memorial was a no-go, Breakover interspersed nice new snow and hidden ice blocks. Bear Pits was 25% untracked bliss and 75% get-me-out-of-these frozen lumps. Door 6 had 3 of the nastiest icy moguls before reaching today’s standard pow over crunch. Powder Bowl should have been awesome, but was carved up while it was mush and is now frozen in those odd shapes. Grubstake almost hurt me, Elksnort was nice and soft, but skied out after just two of us.

So, as the day wore on and our skiable terrain got smaller, Valley Bowl and Valley Trees, kept the smiles going. Until someone suggested a Top-2-Bottom. More for the warm Gondy ride than the snow. Valley was great, but Sluiceway, Berry Patch, and Upper Lower E (figure that out) are the reason I have so much soreness in my old age. Lower Lower E was good, but not worth the pain of getting there. 

It’s a fine balance between causing pain and seeking smiles. I was lucky with body and brain finally, this year, able to ski the junk underneath and not hurt myself. And to reflect after a mind numbing slow drive home, what a fun day.

Kkz

Forecast

Conditions will repeat tomorrow although with a little less new snow and a lot more people. Earlybirds will get the best-snow worm. Sunday will be nasty with a lot of snow and high winds. I hope it’s windy enough to shut down the mountaintop and save the snow for monday (me). Continued daily precip and coolish temperatures for the next 10 days. Might finally be winter. 

Heavy New

Snow only a mother, I mean Crystal Skier, could love. Chairs only Crystal could mess up so badly. Hordes of people only a good marketing department (and clueless weather watchers) could deliver. To call today’s snow powder was a travesty and an insult to powder snow. Longtime local knowledge and a great gang of ski buds turned it into a day of fun.

Yesterday dumped 10-16 inches (3” at the rainy base) of new very wet, very heavy snow across the mountain. The base mostly rain, the top only a couple hours of rainish precipitation. At its best it was heavy untracked. At its worst, mashed potatoes that would make a Thanksgiving dinner proud. We Crystal Skiers expected this, but there were thousands of people that listened to the TV weather guy and the Crystal marketing report and came up to ski “over a foot of fresh snow this morning and the gettin’ was good!”. Only to wait in the Chinook line and take an hour to get to the top of the mountain. Chinook was running at 1/4 speed and stopping after every second chair load. By the time we got to the mountain top, the people that had waited hours for the first Gondy buckets had tracked up most of the new snow. The gettin’ was good for the first 50 skiers.

But, we sucked up the slow line, slow chair, and frozen butt and dove in. Low expectations were exceeded on Breakover into Sunnyside. Down to about 5500 feet, that is, where you hit the rain line. A couple untracked turns up top then into Door 8 turned into more goodness. LS Trees should have been bypassed. We tried this and that with some winners - Valley Bowl, and some losers - Bear Pits. When we realized we had perfect timing for the Northway opening it was game on. It turns out you can get two awesome untracked runs in before the hordes of shouldn’t-be-out-on-Northway-in-deep-heavy-snow skiers make it to the bottom forming a huge line. Never seen so many newbies stuck in the deep heaviness, climbing out of the creek, or hoping that saying “there’s no place like home” will get them a balloon ride out of the ungroomed backcountry. 

Since everyone had gone to slog out of Northway or wait in line on C-6, we lapped Rex and Green Valley until the hard packing wet snow beat us down. Valley Bowl continued to deliver, Grubstake needs hundreds of skier-groomers, and both Iceberg and Luckyshot ground down to last week’s ice and brown spots.

What had started off as a frustrating day of bad mountain operations turned into a fun day. Knowing when and were to go was the key. I had my expected this-ain’t-gonna-be-good spots as well as surprises of secret-spot greatness. Sometimes one or two runs can make your day. Make those runs with your best ski buds and life is really good.

Kkz

Forecast

The snow was packing really hard everywhere. Won’t be a pretty sight after tonight’s freeze. Tomorrow freezing levels will rise, softening the snow, but light precip will be rain. Sunday and monday bring really high freezing levels for some deep slop till skier grooming smooths and packs the off-groomed. Tuesday the freezing level drops. Or does it? Really warm temps in the lowlands mean more mountain rain. Mountain forecast say ice. Check the late monday updates.