Monday, January 17, 2011

Confusing weather, but more powder.

Just when you thought I couldn't make this any more boring, I'm going to talk about the weather a bit.  It's been really weird this week.  For pretty much most of the working week, the mercury sat at or around -20ºC - which wasn't too unusual or unpleasant.  I managed to get one enjoyable XC ski in at the Nordic Center, where I was surprised to find I wasn't really all that cold.  Then come Friday, it was still just as cold but a whole lot of moisture actually made it this far (from the Pacific) & dumped a whole heap of snow in the valley.  We don't get a lot of snow (in Canadian terms, not NZ terms) here in town & it doesn't usually snow when it's really cold - somehow we ended up with twenty centimetres on Friday.  I was glad - not least because I finally had cause to wear my winter boots when walking around town (shoes have been fine all winter).  They got a lot up at Sunshine too - I think it took quite a lot of work for Alex to free his car after work, looking at the photo I'm not surprised.

Of course, I was back at Sunshine on Saturday for the second powder-Saturday in a row.  This one was even better than the last.  I joined Megan, Alex & Finn for a morning camped at Goat's Eye enjoying the powder.  Well, it was me & whoever wasn't watching Finn at the time.  Here's everyone waiting for the gondola & looking either happy or unaware & confused at the prospect of all that nice powder.
Alex managed to get quite a nice little break from work, so Megan & I got quite a few good runs in.  My powder skiing is slowly improving - at least this week it was a little denser so one didn't sink quite as easily (visibility was much better too).  With such good skiing conditions(& it was warm, around 0ºC - the temperature inversion had it much warmer than in town for the second day running), there were more people on the hill than I'd seen all season; consequently, the runs became rather scoured out & bumpy by the end of the morning.  Naturally, I had a few more little falls as Megan merrily lead me through trees & down some new runs (for me).  Can you tell she was excited to be out skiing on such a great day?

With a baby-sitter change, I got in a couple of runs in with Alex and then Megan before we skied out (I enjoyed it again, what's going on?) around lunch time.  A great morning's skiing & I was pretty tired out - all that turning in all that powder & the heat really took it out of me.

After a lunch & shower stop at home I was walking around to entertain Finn while Megan finished off her rather elaborate rendition of the Settlers board in cupcakes for Alex's almost-birthday dinner.  Here's the creek just out side our backdoor, the ducks seem to have come back now that it's not -20ºC.
It seems now that Finn has a much better idea than he did six weeks ago of who Mum & Dad are - I no longer cut it as an agreeable person to be holding him for extended periods.  Still Megan finished her masterpiece & cooked a casserole before Joel & Kristy got in from skiing Lake Louise.  The cupcakes looked fantastic & tasted pretty damn good too.

With all the snow in the last few days & the warming of the temperatures, the avalanche risk was high all weekend at & above the tree line.  I wasn't keen to head out back-country, so decided to go to the hill again with Kurt, whom I'd met before Christmas at an Alpine Club event - I mention that only to show that I do actually know a Canadian here & not just Aussies.  Beside, when you wake up & see this, how can you stay at home?
Sunshine conditions have definitely improved a lot in the last few weeks!  The crazy temperature variations were in full swing today - so much so that even though I stood outside for quite a while waiting to be picked up, I didn't even notice I had forgotten to put my soft-shell on.  It wasn't until we were in the parking lot that I realised that I didn't have my jacket.  I survived the day with my down jacket on the outside, I was a little concerned that the high temperature would have all the snow that was landing on me melting  - this turned out not to be the case.

Kurt, it turned out, had been skiing for most of his life - he comprehensively left me behind on many occasions.  At least I was able to entertain him with two big crashes on some more of those really bumpy runs off Goat's Eye.  By lunchtime I was keen to head up to the village to try out some different runs.  We managed to meet up with Joel & Kristy (in Trappers of course) for the afternoon.  By now the clouds had really come in & it was snowing quite heavily again.  We split up shortly after - I figured Joel could give Kurt a better run for his money & I was happy mucking around on some blue runs with Kristy & Ryan.  It was a good afternoon as we stayed away from the white-out on Standish & kept to some of the lower lifts.  By the time we got back to the gondola base, it was fair puking down - as it was so warm, the flakes were huge & pretty wet.   It snowed all the way back to Banff & then strangely turned to rain - I haven't seen rain for months.  Near the park gates the temperature had dropped slightly to -1ºC, a few kilometres later nearing home it had plunged to -11ºC.  That was pretty crazy - all the rain water had instantly frozen to the side of the car.  I haven't mentioned the freezing rain yet either.  Alas, it seems all is back to normal now - it's touching -20ºC again, in time to go back to work.

Going to local news for a while: I'm now extra pleased that we didn't go back-country this weekend.  Two skiers got buried in an avalanche up Burstall Pass way yesterday - Adele, you may remember we were up there a few-days-shy-of-a-year ago.  They didn't survive & weren't easy to find as they were up there with out avalanche transceivers.  I don't know a lot about avalanches, but that doesn't seem particularly smart on many counts.  Interestingly, emergency services were alerted by others in the area activating the SOS function on their SPOT - nice to know it works.

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