Shocking turn in conditions

Sunday, February 9, 2014

It seems I’ve been better at predicting snow amounts than snow quality these last 3 days! Yesterday and the day before most of where I skied was very wind-affected and inconsistent. We received similar snow amounts today as compared to those days, and I guessed the conditions would be similar, but the wind did not do the damage today that it did in the previous two days.

And in the case of the Sundown lifline, the wind burnished the powder into a soft and creamy surface that was a joy to ski. It seemed like lots of people had given up on the skiing today as there were fresh lines in all of the usual places, like Shadows, Lower Shadows, Twilight and the Rolex trees.  Not waist-deep snow by any means, but a soft pliable surface that was bouncy and easy to spread. Even the heavier but still untracked snow over in the Why Not trees of the lower mountain skied great.

Today was, by far, the the best day of this storm cycle and it’s still snowing as the penultimate wave moves by. With some cool air moving in for tomorrow, I have high hopes that tomorrow will be even better, my current guesses about snow quality for this storm cycle notwithstanding!

Lots of soft wind-affected snow

Friday, February 7, 2014

By early this afternoon, winds had impacted both the upper and lower mountains where I skied today. Lifts were running slowly due to the high wind speeds, especially at the top of the mountain where whiteout conditions would briefly appear.

It was clear the open runs were wind-scoured, but I hoped to find some undisturbed snow in the more protected areas. The wind had gotten into the trees and there was drifting which made the skiing a fair bit on the inconsistent side. The snow within the drift was soft and deep, but my skis immediately accelerated when leaving the drift. I found this to be true in Shadows, Sideburn, Twilight trees, Rolex trees and finally Typhoon. The open area just off the Why Not trees skied well, but that is relatively limited vertical.

I expect a fair bit of snow over the next 3 days, but am concerned about the wind, especially tomorrow as it is forecast to stay westerly and increase. This mountain fairs poorly in due westerly flow since a lot of it faces west, so it is difficult to find protected areas. Lift holds and slowdowns are also most common with westerly winds.

Super light and dry powder caps off this storm cycle

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A 3” mid and 6” top report this morning kept me in bed, but some Steamboat magic this morning made both 10” by the 1pm report. In fact, I measured anywhere between 13” and 18” of what I’m guessing was 3 or 4% powder in the favored locations. Or make that very favored! The snow was more typical of our usual dump, unlike the 15” the previous 2 days which was likely closer to 15%!

Shadows was deep where it hadn’t been skied by the powderhounds. Lower Shadows is not as expansive as Shadows, so that area was more tracked than I was hoping. Good deep snow in the trees around Twilight, and the trees next to Rolex hid the 18” in some pockets. The Sundown lifline was skied-in very nicely by the afternoon, and it was fast, soft, bouncy and consistent.

Even the lower mountain measured 13” in the trees off of Why Not, and the snow was deep enough to partially fill in the summer mountain bike trail a bit and make the berms less jarring.

Enjoy a beautiful day tomorrow (that will start quite chilly) as light snow is likely to start as soon as late Monday as we have another interaction between the moist polar jet from the Pacific and another arctic surge from a wave rotating around the Hudson Bay low. More details to follow in tomorrow’s forecast discussion as this will be another complex storm, and it will be followed by a possibly huge event for the end of the workweek as cross polar flow is still forecast to transport brutally cold Siberian air into the entire US.

Good skiing today - but required substantial effort

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Steamboat ski area reported 8” at mid this morning, with 9” up top, and ski patrol updated the gondola line with a 10” report just before 8am. There was some wind affected snow in most places, but not nearly as bad as I had feared. Any groomer skied bouncy and creamy, unless the pitch steepened enough to put you in contact with the frozen subsurface. Off-piste was a bit inconsistent as even the 13” I measured in Shadows was not enough to completely separate the skier from the surface on every turn. Some sequences of turns were smooth, deep, consistent and bottomless in the untracked but heavy and dry powder, but certainly not all.

Even though the temperature was 13F up top, the snow crystals were small and very heavily rimed, which means they were covered with enough frozen water to obscure their original shape. This is not surprising considering the very wet flow off the Pacific with a moisture tap back to the Hawaiian Islands. The end result was that the dry snow packed together fairly efficiently as it fell, creating snow to liquid water ratios that I’m guessing were around 10:1 or slightly less, which is heavy for us.

Untracked and heavily tracked areas skied the best as they were the most consistent. Lightly tracked was inconsistent as you would alternately accelerate when skiing though a track, and then decelerate when re-entering the untracked. There was not substantially more snow at the top of the hike on Morningside, but the run down North St. Pats was great since I was able to find mostly untracked snow alongside the cliff bands.

I had not planned on skiing until exhaustion, but the turns today required lots of energy in the heavy, but dry snow. I’m guessing they received about 4” of snow up there during the day, so I would expect the report tomorrow to be on the light side of my 8-16” forecast, and more likely closer to 6-12” It also currently appears the wave for Friday may be just far enough south to produce only light snow Friday night, so the original and optimistic 6-12” may have to be scaled back as well.

Crowds thin, bases firm

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Another beautiful bluebird day lured me out for my afternoon ski. The visitors for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend have left, leaving a mostly empty mountain. The first run on Shadows threw me around a little as the snow covering the terrain features was stiff and unforgiving. I opted for a cruiser below Duster and into Moonlight, which was very carevable. Then, up Sundown to ski the left side of Westside, which always has soft snow at the end of the day.

Up Sundown again and over to Typhoon to find pockets of soft snow, which continued in the recently thinned trees on Drop Out. The final run up top was upper Closet to Twister, which was firmer than I would have liked. The southern aspects of the trail near the bottom were beginning to soften from the sun, but it did not last long before the trail tilted away from south.

Why Not trees also had stiff tracked powder on the lower mountain, and the left side of Vertigo was a bit softer than most of the turns today. The longer range models do have a pattern change advertised starting in about a week, but details are evolving.

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9 June 2021

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