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Whistler, BC, Canada 3/10/2017 -- "No friend on powder day!"

abc

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I had always been skeptical of the "no friend on powder day" saying. And never in my wildest imagination that I would be practicing the same one day!

The group I was with had been skiing at Whistler since Sunday (some since Saturday), during the time we've had 2-4 inches "refresher" daily. While condition was considered by us east coasters as "good", the western skiers among us were only mildly entertained. During those few days, we've also sorted ourselves out to the group we felt comfortable hanging with. I sadly, did not find a group that suits me. Those who do the terrain I want to do, were way faster than me. (in actuality, there were a few others skiing at my pace, but they prefer to hang out with the faster group and beat themselves up, which I decided not to bother)

On Wednesday/Thursday, the trickle of snow had halted briefly so we all got to get a glimpse of the fantastic terrain Whistler had (that we've been skiing, mostly blindly). See my TR thread on my week long stay at Whistler (http://forums.alpinezone.com/showthread.php/139143-Whistler-BC-Canada-3-5).

More importantly though, we all knew substantial accumulation was expected for the night of Thursday, so Friday would likely be a powder day. Several in our group had taken Thursday off, or only skiing groomer for half a day to "save legs for the dump to come"!

What I worried most was the dump would be the heavy wet cement often seen in coastal storm. After all, the forecast temperature was very close to 0C (freezing point), and rising.

But like all skiers, we're all optimist. So I went to bed early Thursday and set an early alarm.

6 o'clock on Friday morning, I woke up and check the mountain web site: 8"!!!

I knew I would NOT go join the group at Whistler at 8:15. "No friend on powder day"! I'm afraid I've decided to do exactly that!

Instead, I joined the line at the Wizard chair at Blackcomb base. After all, I rented a condo at slope side of Blackcomb. No sense riding a bus to Whistler when I can simply ski down to Blackcomb base. Not to mention having to wait around for the group to decide where to go etc. (I found out later in the day very few showed up for the "official" meetup at Whistler at 8:15 anyway)

The line was long. Even at the single's lane, it took nearly 15 min before I got on a chair.

As I rode the chair up, I could see a few of the "1st chair people" started coming down, laying their 1st track on the 9" of powder on top of the nicely groomed run under the chair. But not that many of them! I quickly figured out the majority of them probably kept going up mountain instead of coming back down to the bottom. Not surprisingly, when I got to the top of the Wizard chair, all I saw was basically the same crowd now all lined up for the Solar Coaster chair to go further up!

My choice was simple: join the line for the next 15 minutes (the same time it took me to get through the bottom chair), or enjoy the largely untouched powder below me by ski back down to the bottom (and THEN wait for another 15 minutes to get back up to the same spot).

The largely untracked bottom run beckons. So I opted to ski first. Let it be damned however long the 2nd wait on the bottom chair!

That, proved to be a good move. Since the majority of the people were still waiting in line in mid-mountain, the powder on the lower mountain run were ALL MINE! So I got my choice of fresh track all the way down! The powder were light and sweet.

Mind you, I just had a day 2 weeks ago in Park City, Utah skiing a foot of powder. And this one is "only" 8! But this one is special thanks to the long vertical Whistler offers: 600 meter works out to be about 1800' of non-stop cruise on untouched powder! One of my most enjoyable powder run.

The best part was by the time I got back to the bottom, the line had shortened considerably. The wait was less than 10 minutes. So by the time I got back up again, the run were still only lightly tracked. Needless to say, I came down on it again and put down my 2nd track on still largely untracked powder, another 1800' of it!!!

By now, it's approaching 10am. I've only done 2 runs (+ 3 chair ride). Part of the problem, is only half of the chairs were running. So the lines were long. Finally around that time, 2 more chairs open, which made available a much bigger part of the mountain, except the wait on those 2 upper mountain chairs were long. While waiting on one of them, I ran into the rest of the group I didn't bother to meet in the morning.

We did a lap on the Jersey Cream chair. But strangely, the snow quality wasn't as good as the run on the lower mountain. Probably due to the strong wind? The group I met decided they're breaking for early lunch! Normally, that would have made sense to avoid the crowd at lunch time. But on a powder day? I said "see ya later" as they got out of their ski bindings, intending to catch up with them when they finish lunch.

Since Jersey Cream didn't ski all that well, I headed to Seven Heaven area. That involves a LOOONG traverse to the 7-Heaven chair, which I waited another 15-20 minutes even in the single's line. But I made a strategic mistake of NOT eating pocket food while waiting in line for the chairs as many others standing in line were doing. I would come to regret that later in the day.

Standing at the bottom section of 7th-Heaven waiting for the chair, we could see blue sky. But as the chair approaches the top, it was in pea soup! I could barely able to make out the poles lining the edge of the groomer. My plan to head way off the groomer into the less travelled part wasn't going to work in this condition. I had to stick to the groomer until we emerge below the cloud. Fortunately, the 7th-Heaven area were so big, even half of the vertical still provided plenty of area to play. The snow was plenty good, though strangely no deeper than on the groomer in lower mountain.

In the mean time, a good portion of the group went up the Glacier chair. What they later report, the snow was similar to 7th-Heaven. So they decided they'd give 7th-Heaven a try. That's when we met up again on my 3rd lap. Now, no more single's line express, but more social chitchat in the lift line. I kept forgetting to eat my pocket food.


It is now well past 12 o'clock, the temperature had risen considerably since the morning. By now, the snow got chopped up, and became quite heavy too. It's starting to feel like work to ski the stuff. And I can distinctly felt I'm bonking from my lack of food. So I told the group I was leaving to have my late lunch.

Somehow, several others decided the same (I didn't ask, perhaps they too skipped lunch as I did). So we formed a small group that's TRYING to head back to the front of the mountain. Except the lead guy who claim he had skied Whistler many days got disoriented in the pea soup and headed down mountain the wrong direction! When we emerged from the cloud, we were way off course. He still wanted to "go check this out". But my legs were pretty spend, so I said "I'd rather just go down to the chair and take the cat track out". My comment were echoed by 2 others in the group so our "volunteer guide" abandoned his plan to "check out" another unknown direction. In a way, it's a shame because the snow were actually in slightly better condition than the side we did earlier. But our legs, from pushing heavy powder for the last couple runs, were in no condition to enjoy the snow no more.

We left at the right time. The 7th-Heaven chair broke down shortly after we left. Several hundred of people tried to thread their way on one narrow cat track back to the front of the mountain was quite a mad house. That is, those who were lucky not getting stuck ON the chair! Our group got a head start so the cat track was not too terribly crowded (we didn't hear about the lift trouble till later though)

By the time we got back to the front of the mountain, my stomach was in full force revolt. Two others from the group opted to call it a day and ski all the way to the bottom. Mind you, we were still a good 3000 feet above the base. I thought I prefer to get to the nearest lodge for a bit of sit down and some hot soup, in the hope of reviving my now near death legs. Unfortunately, I made one more mistake of listening to our self-proclaimed "local" on how to get to the lodge. I realized my mistake too late as I passed BELOW the closest chair that would have take me there!

Next thing, we skied into the thickest pea soup fog I've ever seen (or rather, NOT seen)! I couldn't even make out the poles marking the edge of the cat track. Unsurprisingly, dropped down into a trail I didn't intend to take. It was the heaviest wet cement I ever had to push through. Or perhaps it's just my tired legs make it felt that way.

Now, totally missing the chair that would take me back up to the mid-mountain lodge, and my legs turning into jelly from the nearly 1000' descend in wet cement (with another 2000' more to go to the bottom), I resigned myself to just staying up right to ski back to my condo.

I ended up doing even less than that. When I saw the sign for gondola download, my legs had a mind of their own and I found my self standing next to the gondola download entrance.

No entirely surprising to found 2 others in my group also standing in the short line waiting to download on the gondola.

It was a very good morning powder hunt (and getting the goods)! But the snow quality deteriorated so quickly we all suffered in the afternoon.

The Whistler locals all kept telling us that's very much typical of Whistler!

(Oh yea, picture... what picture? Of the thick pea soup? -- sorry, I didn't stop to take picture of my own track, unlike some of you who're more resistant to "powder fever" disease. Maybe some day, if I ever had so much powder that I don't care about getting in another run as quickly as possible, I will remember to stop to take pictures)

All in all, it was the most amazing and enjoyable powder day I've ever had. AND the most miserable and scary "braille skiing" I've ever had to do just to get back down. All in one single day!
 
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jimk

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It was great to ski with you! Glad you made it back to your condo on the 10th. Felt bad about losing you in the lower mtn fog. I have some photos of you from from the 7th Heaven trail pod on that memorable day (3/10/17) of incredibly variable conditions at Whistler. Let me know if you prefer that I un-post them.




 

abc

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It was great to ski with you! Glad you made it back to your condo on the 10th. Felt bad about losing you in the lower mtn fog.
It was fun skiing together with you too! Thanks for the photos.

Funny I ran into Kevin only a few minutes later after we parted ways. I guess I dropped into one of the trails going down by mistake in the fog. So we skied together for a bit until we lost each other in the fog again, only to ran into Robin and Dave at the gondola download area! We went to Marlins for drinks afterward. "Skiing the liquid powder" so to speak.

Did you two manage to get to Crystal chair area? How was the condition (and visibility) there? Thing is, our group was standing not too far from the Catskiner chair as we discussed our plans. That chair would have taken us up to Rendezvous and you guys would have been able to beeline for Crystal area without having to hunt down Solar Coaster in the soup. I only realized it 30 seconds later as I followed you two on the traverse going UNDER it!
 

jimk

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Never got to Crystal Glide. Skied Jersey Cream Chair for a while. Also downloaded on gondi to avoid last run in the fog. Maybe the saying should be "no friends on a foggy day"? That, however, is NOT what I would do on purpose, just hard to keep track of people when you can't see them.:razz:


A couple more pics






BTW, congrats on finding and skiing Spanky's. I never got to that one.
 
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abc

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BTW, congrats on finding and skiing Spanky's. I never got to that one.
The hike up Spanky's is really the problem for me, especially in next to zero visibility as we did the first time. The path was worn and slick. Once out of skis, it felt really insecure (since I don't have edges on my boot sole). I also worry about fumbling and dropping my skis all the way down to the bottom of the slope during the transition. That would really suck!

The skiing in comparison is much easier. :D Or rather, there are routes that are not that difficult, and routes that are, for people to choose to their own liking. The snow condition was quite good on the 2 trips I went up. I was very much tempted on Friday after all that powder. But the line on Glacier chair was HUGE, and the visibility was tenuous (changing). I was glad I didn't go. From what I heard by those who did, it was difficult when caught with no visibility.
 

mishka

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unfortunately we didn't get to ski together looking at the pictures I think I saw you somewhere.
Friday indeed was interesting day. After powder day on Wednesday I had big expectations for even better powder day with greater accumulation..you know what's happened with high expectations lol...I start the day for the first time joining the group but shortly after realized it's not gonna work. After crossing over on peak to peak gondola to blackcombe I went on on my own...to discover such a long lift lines which I never saw before even single was not really a solution. By time I got to the top of glacier express only steepest left lightly trucked everything else was chopped up to pieces already. Also for the first time I experienced cement like snow. Two runs prove to be enough to question my strategy for the day. I went back to Jersey cream and from there to 7 heaven goal was to find my way in steep drops into jersey cream bowl because at that time only STEEP stuff left relatively untouched. But standing in line to seven heaven more than once .... no way. By far probably longest lift line I ever saw. From there with local snowboarder we found some nice woods mid mountain while still about the clouds. from there I went back up and to the Whistler side. by time I got to harmony and then Symphony bowls it was about two o'clock. That's where I realized total mistake on plan for the day. Snow on Whistler side was soft just like on Wednesday ....but I had very little time left before those lifts close at 2:30 and 3. Only have time enough for couple drops from Harmony Ridge traverse. steep drop from Harmony into Symphony probably one run through Symphony Woods in bottomless snow. back to Harmony probably couple more runs from Harmony Ridge where my legs simply give up at around three o'clock.
 

abc

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There were so many people in the gathering it was hard to ski with everyone.

Friday's condition change was the most extreme I've ever experienced. I did ok strategy-wise by going where the hardcore skiers don't go in the morning. By staying in the lower mountain, I basically only had to wait for one lift line rather than 2 or 3.

But after I moved higher up the mountain, I realized there's no avoiding the awfully long lift lines. The "light board" Whistler has actually helps a lot. I could see from the board just about all the mid/upper mountain lifts have 15+ min wait. Looking at the line I happened to be in, 7-Heaven/Jersey Cream, I could tell the other lifts were no shorter. So I resigned myself to stay put rather than wasting time going all over the place hunting in vain.

In the previous days, the line disappeared around noon. But not on Friday. It didn't dissipate till 12:30, and build back up rapidly by 1:30. Shortly after that, my legs started to turn into jelly... At the time, I thought it was me getting tired due to skipping lunch and got no rest. In retrospect, the snow were setting up heavy so fast it's simply hard work to ski by mid-afternoon. So I made the right decision to quit just about the right time (~2pm). It was only the last run down in the soup and heavy snow that I truly struggled.
 
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