By Bill Handley
Since I last shared my thoughts on the ski conditions, this winter has continued with the crazy variation in weather (even by Elk Valley standards) that has been the hallmark of this ski season.
Very shortly after my last report we had the first day of spring. It should come as a surprise to no one that for the days just before and just after this landmark we had pretty full on winter conditions with snow accumulations of around 10 cm falling on most days.
The result of the unseasonal winter snow was that we actually passed two milestones for the season on the same day – the 4 m base and the 10 m total snowfall for the season. By any definition these figures alone confirm the current season as one of the best in recent years. During this time thanks to the great work by ski patrol, much of the hill was kept open, or at least opened very quickly after the snowfall so we had a week of excellent powder skiing which would be considered as very good even in mid winter. For this period the Polar Peak chair was able to run of several occasions giving some spectacular skiing in the chutes which thoroughly justified the much over used adjective of “awesome.”
Just when we thought things had settled, Mother Nature (in the way she has) decided to call for a change. In a single day, conditions went from winter to summer without bothering to go through the bit in the middle called spring. Good fun to ski at first but the snow everywhere soon turned to that mush which is known so descriptively as elephant snot. Just as you would expect in clear ski conditions, night time temps fell like a stone and we were left with a hill that was a frozen tracked up mess.
Once again Mother Nature or the Griz or (insert Deity of choice) took a hand and we were treated to a rain event which would not have disgraced one of the west coast cities. The problem here is that the official statistics for the hill don’t really give the true picture when this happens, not because they are trying to distort the picture but just because of the way precipitation is measured.
We have just gone through a week of significant (official) snowfall which had pushed the base up to around 440 cm which must be something of a record for this time of year. In fact we have had very heavy high moisture snow on the upper mountain overnight with wet rain affected surfaces at the base. The rain line has crept up the hill during the day leaving the best skiing up in the White Pass area and runs to the base a decidedly mixed experience of great skiing at first and heavy wet hard work in the final stages.
Of course the effect of all of this has been to destabilize the snow pack to a frightening extent. Small/medium avalanches can be seen everywhere and anyone doubting the closure policy of the hill should take a look at the class 4 avi that has taken out most of Cedar bowl – for that you don’t even need to go to the hill as it can be seen from town. Despite this some visitors are still ignoring the closure signs -presumably they are intent on winning a Darwin award.
Just a couple of weeks to go in this crazy season. For daily reports read Bill’s Blog on www.billhandley.com