Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Pow

Especially in a season that has seen a drought since the new year began, spring pow is a very welcome sight.  Once the sun death star starts getting high up in that sky powder does not stick around for long.  With a little luck, the air stays cold and the clouds stay thick and it takes more than a few hours to turn the blower into slushies.  But it never last around for long once the snow stops falling, but that is better than no snow falling at all.  Sure, I know, a lot of folks get all excited about corn season to start up, and the fresh snow does little more than screw up the cycle.  But I say corn can wait, and sooner or later the storms will stop rolling in, so let's enjoy that spring pow while it is around.

Chris gets an early morning jib while the snow was still soft and wintery.

The east wind was blowing snow while I headed toward my chosen line.  So many options out there.  Including Bear Valley.

Beta shot for a zone I'd like to have more intimate knowledge of.

Plenty of gnar out there to sink your teeth into.

And all you need to do is shift your view a little bit to find some mellower terrain if that is your preference.

Some of my favorite zones to ski drop down below 8000 feet.  That seems to be the line around this time of year.  Below that things really take a turn for the worse once the sun comes out.  Especially anything that is not completely north facing and shadowed.  But that becomes less and less each passing day.  So, you need to get on it early.  No longer do you have a week or so get on it before the crust starts to thicken.  Hours are more like it.  Lucky for me, the three days this month I actually was able to get out on the snow turned out to be more wintery than spring like.  But things sure did turn quickly down low, and I had to find some lines that kept me up a bit higher.

Seriously, this stuff looks like fun forever.

Life on the Edge looking well filled in.

Court gets his spring time hike on.

Sometime the hike is just worth the beauty of it all.

Back inbounds things are pretty tracked up by 11AM.

Luckily, that was just a short hike, followed by a few lift rides, followed by a short hike away.  And luckily the northeast breeze started to blow a bit.  Usually, these are thought of as demon winds, but they do keep the upper elevations cold.  So come spring, I tend to find them to be more of a friendly wind, allowing some of those upper slopes to stay soft and chalky.  Even better if you are out touring a bit.  See, once you put tracks in this spring stuff, it tends to get rutted and firm.  Inbounds things get gnarly pretty quickly.  A short hike away from the lifts will net you smooth turns.

Court and Nacho dropping start a good morning spring run.  Still pretty fresh over here.

The March sun bakes the snow, so you got to move quickly.

You can usually tell if the powder is still powdery if it is clinging to the trees and rocks.

Court hits a small drop down below as Nacho locks in his sights.

So my plan was simple.  Meet up for a morning run in the fun zone down low with a friend for an early lap through the trees and over a few cliffs.  See, this spring pow is actually fantastic for landing hits, and it tends to be spongy and grippy.  Then, as they fled to work or Oregon, I worked my way through the resort finding partners to head out and hit a few lines in the basin along its eastern edge.  It worked out well, as my morning runs got baked in the mid March sun, my afternoon runs were smooth wind buffed wintery goodness.

Teeing off the edge of a spine as the sun really gets some work done on the snow.

While turning becomes more work, the landings tend to feel a bit plush.

Showing off the pristine bases of the PM Gear Kusala Pow.

So, once spring shows up, the game plan is simple.  Watch for a storm.  If it drops more than a few inches, get on it early.  The underlying crust will soften up just a bit after sunrise, providing soft cushions.  As the day wears on, head up high into the east and north facing slopes.  And if you have more than just a day to ski, start poking finding stuff that is more due north facing and in a steep chute if you can.  Sure, the goods can stick around for more than just a day in March, but you will need to do some work to find them.  It is good practice, because it becomes an even greater challenge come April. And May.  And June.

Court allowed me to take the bush huck, one of my favorites.

And the landing was like the perfect sponge cake.  Alone worth the drive up.

The bottom of the morning run finished, well, warm.  Time to move to higher ground.

Headwall was looking pretty well filled in, and with Tony on his way out there, I thought it would fit the bill.

The steep section provide to be perfect chalk goodness.  Notice the two tracks coming out of the chute lookers left.  Props for hitting that sketch line.

The apron proved to be perfect for arcing some larger radius turns.  All in all, good stuff.

So get out there and make some turns.  More spring pow is falling up high as I type these words.  A decent rain is pitter pattering on my roof.  The next few days should be fun, and with some luck we have another round on its way for next week as well.  Powder season is not over yet.  Corn season will always show up sooner or later.  Have fun.