Tuesday, March 17, 2015

hard to plan for

It looks like we're going to be in spring skiing mode from here on out, although we are hoping desperately for a few more snowstorms before all is said and done.  It's still early enough that this makes for challenging layering (for me, anyway): what is warm enough for the mornings will be far too hot for the afternoons, but dressing for the warm afternoons means shivering in the mornings before the sun is up high enough.  Case in point: Saturday's weather report was for sunny skies and record-high warm temperatures in the 50s up at Alta's base.  I wore non-insulated running knickers, a non-cotton long sleeve t-shirt, light middle layer and my shell.  I was therefore cold all the way through the morning because those sunny skies were hidden behind high, thin clouds which kept the temperature down.  Those clouds kept the snow hard too until after lunch when the temperature jumped up (even with the persistent clouds).  Then conditions got soft very quickly.

We did several runs on Collins first, where we were treated to frozen corduroy.  I was warm enough while skiing but found it chilly on the lifts.  We moved to Sugarloaf for a couple of runs where it was sunnier for the chairlift but the conditions were still pretty firm.  We next moved to Supreme and found that Big Dipper and Rock N Roll were skiing pretty well and didn't seem to be frozen quite so hard.  We didn't dare go into Catherine's Area, however, because we could hear people clattering across the frozen snow through Supreme Bowl and the Catherine's Area run-out - it didn't sound good.  The crowds weren't too bad either, with seemingly very few locals in attendance: although we rode the singles line a fair amount, it was never longer than the corral and moved quickly.

After lunch, we did a run down Sugarloaf - on Extrovert, which was smooth and slippery but better than last weekend - then up the chair again for a run through Devil's Castle.  I liked it in there, beaten down into slight bumps but not hard, although H thought he didn't ski it very well.  We certainly got warm after the traverse/off-piste skiing.  When we went back to Supreme, things were definitely warming up there as well: Challenger, skier's right on No. 9 Express, Big Dipper and especially Sleepy Hollow were all getting soft and fun to ski.  We finally ventured into Catherine's Area just before it closed at 3 p.m.; we'd been waiting for the conditions in there to soften up and it ended up being good enough that we maybe should have gone in sooner.  A couple of 20 year-olds followed us in, asking us for recommendations on where to go.  We went to the middle meadow (Snowshoe Hill), which was much like Devil's Castle conditions-wise; the lower half of Catherine's Area was very soft, including the huge corn snow bumps on the run-out.  It was fun.

We ended up closing the Supreme chair at 3:30, nabbing the third-to-last chair, then rode out on Sugarloaf just fifteen minutes before that chair closed.  By the time we got back to Wildcat base to de-boot and drink our spring skiing PBRs, I had almost skied the whole day.  Clearly my legs are stronger, now that we're on the tail end of the season.  That bodes well for early season hiking once the lifts stop turning - and if we don't get some late season storms, hiking season is going to come early this year.

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