Opening Day

CairnGorm Mountain kicked of the 2009/10 Scottish Snowsports Season on Saturday with great early season conditions in the Top Basin for warming up those ski legs with the first turns of winter.

All Top Basin Runs are complete and opened on Saturday with the Ptarmigan Tow available from the start and the Coire Na Ciste Tow opening up about lunchtime. The Ciste Fairway is loaded, really good cover and full width between the fences and was the pick of the day on Saturday.

Ptarmigan Tow

Alas at time of writing the weather in a combination of wind, low cloud and snow shower has prevented the top tows running on Sunday due to appalling visibility. However it’s helping fill the runs in more and more snow is forecast for the coming days.

The upper 2/3rds of the middle slopes on CairnGorm are filling in quite nicely, but the snow level was a couple of hundred feet too high last week. However I managed to post the first full length descent of the M1 on Saturday on a visit to the Timing Hut, a bit of precision rock slalom required right at the top, then a pleasant full width stretch of wind packed snow before the surface turned into ego sapping breakable crust. Some classic Scottish Combat Skiing down the final fenced narrow into the queuing area took me to the foot of the M1 Poma (I haven’t yet looked at the bottom of the skis…). However for those who stick to the prepared area up top, no need to worry about rocks or bringing the old planks.

There is a pisted track from the upper Zig Zags up the 105 and Traverse to the top which provides a easy way up for those touring. You can ski back down this way, but it’s not patrolled and you’ll need to walkout to the Daylodge until there is enough snow to formally open the middle mountain.

The Sortie back down the mountain included a check on the weather stations and webcams and all were functioning correctly with no icing problems on the anemometers. If wind speed at one AWS is consistently 0mph with changing wind direction, and temps have recently fallen below 0c with either wet snow/sleet for a time or thick mist, be suspicious that icing may be an issue. In such conditions take all the AWS’s together and consider what’s happening on the short webcam video clips such as for the SSC balcony to get an idea of whether the calm conditions being reported by the wind vane is factual or not!

It was fantastic to be back on the planks again and the pisted snow was just perfect for making those first turns on, at present Wednesday is looking like the day for a mid-week slide, mostly sunny and winds going Southerly which shouldn’t affect the tows, but provides a great tail wind to spice up the Top Basin. Here’s to a hopefully snowy 2010.

Snow greets new WH Glencoe Webcams

A blustery and snowy Autumn day at Glencoe on Friday, which wasn’t the best for lugging computer equipment to 2800ft on a Scottish Mountain. www.winterhighland.info/cams/glencoe .

Snow starting to lie to the top of the Access.

Snow starting to lie to the top of the Access.

Thanks to  the Scottish Ski Club (for their support and hosting the kit ),  the staff at Glencoe for their assistance today and to those who have generously contributed to the Winterhighland cause this autumn, we now have two new Winterhighland Webcams up and running at the Glencoe Scottish Ski Club Hut on Meall a’ Bhuiridh.

For now this is a very temporary installation that will be made more permanent in due course. With snow on the ground and more forecast the mission was to get some webcams to let people see the weather and snow asap. So with the wind forecast markedly improving for Friday with Thursday’s updated forecasts, after a couple of phone calls, a computer system was hurriedly set up  and a Vodafone usb dongle bought shortly before 7pm, once some frantic googling appeared to confirm ways existed to get it to fire up under Xubuntu linux on a ancient P3 with 256mb of RAM!

Here comes the computer

Here comes the computer on it's way up the Cliffhanger Chairlift on Friday afternoon.

The equipment and that necessary to set-up the gear up and get it on-line were carried up on the Access and Cliffhanger Chair, and lugged over the Plateau. The views currently on offer are dictated by proximity to power and the need to keep the cameras close to the computer, a new power supply and usb extender cables will be used when the system is permanently installed, this will provide an improved view up to the Top Tows, plus allow a camera to be higher up looking down over the Canyon to the Wall. There is also the  possibility of sitting the cameras at the other side of the hut, looking down the Cliffy line and over the upper part of Mugs Alley (or indeed an additional camera for this), so let us know what view you’d prefer and this will guide the final placement.

Webcam looking out the gable end of the SSC Hut.

Webcam looking out the gable end of the SSC Hut.

Heavenly Snowmaking = Go?

A few days ago I posted up a video from Heavenly Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe California as their snow making team started up their snow making operations ahead of the 2010 season. With opening day less than 48hours away on Friday 20th November, have the Heavenly snow making crew worked enough magic ?

Check out episode 2 below:

Loch Morlich Cam & AWS

Currently at Loch Morlich Water Sports to complete the re-installation of the AWS and level the webcam, so fortunately we can see not the mountains this lunchtime!

The thermometer and hydrometer are now housed in a radiation screen which should solve the issue of sudden and unrealistic spikes in temperature when the sun comes out at certain times of day.

The webcam has been levelled (easier when there is something to see!) and is now also uploading a short video clip every 15minutes. This clip will be useful for gauging the conditions on the Loch as well as over the mountain tops, where scudding clouds give a clear indication of very high wind speeds.

If you find the existing Winterhighland webcams useful and can afford to do so, perhaps  you would like to consider a donation or voluntary  subscription to help secure continued expansion  and operation of Winterhighland’s  webcam and weather station network?

www.winterhighland.info/support

Loch Morlich AWS & Cam

Brrr, canoeists brave a chilly autumn morning on Loch Morlich.

Brrr, canoeists brave a chilly autumn morning on Loch Morlich.

A chilly, damp and misty Wednesday morning was spent reinstalling the Automatic Weather Station at Loch Morlich Water Sports which was off-line due to renovations on the outside of the Boathouse during late October. The anemometer and rain gauge have been mounted above the roof-line to improve exposure.

The temperature sensor is currently un-screened and will read several degrees too high mid-morning in sunny weather , this will be rectified asap (awaiting parts for the radiation screen).

Where? The visibility worsened while installing the webcam!

Where? The visibility worsened while installing the webcam!

This will be the first full winter for this AWS being on-line and it will be fascinating to see how night time temperatures differ from both the mountain and Aviemore in the sheltered location of Glenmore which is surrounded by higher ground on all sides with only a couple of relatively narrow openings – helping to pool cold air.

Also installed was the new Loch Morlich Web Cam which provides a view of CairnGorm Mountain from the Boathouse. Looking over the Beach and Eastern end of the Loch this cam gives a wide view over the Windy Ridge, Coire Cas, Coire an t-Sneachda and Coire an Lochain.

This webcam is infra red sensitive which means it is able to pick up the very first hint of light as dawn approaches and as such will start updating 1 hour before sunrise so will prove useful in the depths of winter when the days are shortest for getting an earlier sneak preview of what the weather’s doing / done overnight. The camera can’t ‘see’ in the dark, thus does need a bit of light, so on particularly gloomy overcast mornings it may take a little bit longer for scenery to become visible.

Loch Morlich AWS and Webcam.

Loch Morlich AWS and Webcam.

Our Loch Morlich webcam updates every minute, so will be great for storm watching as the clouds and hopefully snow roll in over the mountains.

There is one unintended consequence of the cam’s IR sensitivity, in certain lighting conditions the Scots Pines appear purple!

The webcam and current weather can be viewed on the Loch Morlich Cam page at www.winterhighland.info/cams/cairngorm-mountain/morlich.php . As well as current weather, 5 minute reports for the last hour & hourly for the past 24 hours are provided in tabular format along with graphs showing air temperature and the 5 minute mean and gust wind speed over the past 48 hours.

Live Cam Image:

Live view from Loch Morlich (Daylight hours)