These are the days. Those we dreamed of, and will look back on with nostalgia. A substantial solid early season base covering and adhering to every obstacle, blanketed with a well bonded consistent cushion of soft stable medium density snow, then topped by a succession of cold storms. With more terrain at Red than anemic pre-Christmas crowds could track, a never before seen extent and quality of summer clean-up and brush clearing, and a sunny windless Christmas day to top it off, it’s been a wonderful time to be healthy and skiing.
A quick couple of laps, dropping pillowed ridge-lines on Robby.
I don’t actually recall each and every opening day from the past 25 years. There were almost certainly some days of deep trenching, but many more and most in recent years were spent ducking ropes and poking around in marginal conditions. So to have the entire mountain open on day one, with a confidence inspiring solid base covering every rock, is an incredible start to the season. Kudos to Red Mountain and their summer grooming program, as apart from some recent windfall much of the terrain is as brush free as it’s ever been, and Grey feels like an entirely new mountain with fields of easy angled powder to explore rather than a mine-field of slash piles. Waking to 27cm of new snow on Sunday morning capped it off. Apologies if I’m gushing, but charging my favourite lines on Granite in backcountry like conditions really is as good as it gets.
After recent rain into the alpine, conditions could have been a lot worse today at Kootenay Pass. Trail breaking was as easy as it gets, and with 5cm of new snow accumulating atop a deteriorating crust, turns were a little challenging in the flat light, though predictable and still fun. Jordy and I have long realized that if we wait for perfect conditions we won’t get much done in the mountains, so we almost always just go, and deal with whatever we find.
26cm of new snow overnight at the Pass, and dumping periodically through the day. Just a couple of cars in the lot. We trenched in and lapped our up-track, each run better than the last.
With nothing but clear skies in the alpine and persistent valley fog under an inversion this past week, claiming 5cm of new snow seemed at first just typical marketing BS by Red Mountain Resort, or perhaps a new policy to count the results of snow-making into their results. But the weird thing is, there actually is that much new snow all around the base area. I did some research into what might might be going on, and the closest I tell is that we’re experiencing unusually heavy pogonip. The word pogonip is a meteorological term used to describe an uncommon occurrence: frozen fog. The word was coined by Native Americans to describe the frozen fogs of fine ice needles that occur in the mountain valleys of the western United States in December. Interestingly researchers in the UK found that most cases of the frozen fog were linked to some sort of human activity, like a local factory or plant–that released moisture into the freezing sky and that became snow. Given that Red’s snow making guns have been running 24/7 of late, it’s not that much of a stretch to conclude that in these atmospheric conditions, Red’s snow making is seeding the fog and actually producing snowfall across a much wider area than ever intended.
While we’re still another significant snowfall away from being able to open, I’ve been finding places to wiggle around in the sunshine.
One week we’re enduring apocalyptic smoke and heat, then suddenly a deluge washes it all away, the temperature drops, leaves start falling, and thoughts turn to the coming winter. Any skier paying attention to the mainstream media couldn’t help but be depressed by endless talk of a strong El Nino and predictions of a warmer and drier winter. After such a mediocre snow season last year, it’s almost enough to consider taking up fat biking. We are going to experience an El Nino winter, but as an obsessive weather geek it seems all this doom and gloom forecasting is misdirected. The American NOAA provides detailed modelling http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/ENSO/enso.anal.shtml of El Nino’s historic impact on our (actually 10km to the South) weather, which leads to very different conclusions.
Jan – Mar precipitation anomaly records from 1950 – 2002 clearly show that while the Seattle area averages less precipitation in El Nino years, there is no consistent variation from normal for North Eastern Washington. The same applies for moderate to strong El Ninos. For temperature there is on average no change in El Nino years, while an average of approximately one degree centigrade increase in temperature in moderate to strong El Ninos. Compared to the two to four degree warming we experienced last year due to the Blob http://cliffmass.blogspot.ca/2015/09/godzilla-el-nino-versus-blob-who-will.html this isn’t a significant cause for concern.
I’m expecting a normal snowy winter, with as good a chance as not of an above average winter at Red mountain as per the last two strong El Ninos in 1982/83 and 1997/98 http://bestsnow.net/summ98.htm .