Mission almost accomplished…

On Thursday I hit the slopes at Glenshee with the intention of riding all five Scottish Snowsport Areas within five days as the start of half term loomed. Originally my plan had been to get both the Lecht and CairnGorm Mountain in on the Friday and move to the West on Saturday and Nevis Range!

Had I stuck to the original plan I’d have got the five areas done in four days, however having managed to bag B&B in the Caledonian Hotel in Fort William for £19 for Sunday night – I spent a day at the Lecht on Friday and took in CairnGorm Mountain on the Saturday.

A day practicing ‘Jedi Skiing’ at Glencoe on Sunday in incessant snow fall saw four areas in four days. But Nevis was StormBound, the SE wind that was blowing the snow around Glencoe was howling at Nevis and with the same windspeed forecast for Monday, left me with a bit of concern!

Alas the wind beat me, with Nevis Range again afflicted by a substantially stronger wind than generally in the Western Mountains due to local topography. However, it turned out to be a superb day at Glencoe on the slopes of Meall a’ Bhuiridh and five good if varied consecutive days sliding in Scotland. Also repeated trips up ladders deicing cams and weather stations at Glencoe!

On Tuesday it’s back to CairnGorm, may not be much sliding – wee project in hand! ;)

Oh and WordPress is patched up and talking to the server again.

Glencoe Access Run on Sunday afternoon.

Glencoe Access Run on Sunday afternoon.

Fire + Ice = Slush

At dawn a layer or inviting looking fresh blanketed everything in view from the window in South Lake Tahoe, but it soon turned soggy at Lake level, but up at the top of Heavenly around 8 to 10 inches had fallen with more coming down through the day.

^Top of Sky Express during a brighter spell on Monday.

^Looking out from the top of the Sky Express.

Snowed on the upper mountain all day, but turned to rain lower down. Snow stayed good high up, started good at most levels, but lower elevations the fresh snow turned to sloppy glue like sludge with the rain. That heavy potentially knee wrenching stuff you get when a reasonable depth of fresh thaws or gets rained on for the first time.

^The impressive newly opened Tamarack Lodge at the Top of the Gondola, opened during this season.

An excursion into the trees near the Powderbowl Express at the close of play wasn’t the best choice of the day, though marginally less endangering to one’s wellbeing then skiers left of the Gunbarrel Chair! Perhaps it was an afternoon for staying high up and retreating gracefully down the Gondola…

Standing in the rain outside California Lodge this afternoon I got a text telling me gleefully that CairnGorm Mountain was the snowiest resort in the world today.

Sierra at Tahoe

A largely overcast day with some blustery snow showers coming through on Sunday. Weekends inevitably bring crowds to Sierra, being the first ski area reached for those heading from the Bay Area on highway 50, but apart from the Grandview Express and despite Sierra being a fairly compact Snowsports Area queues were pretty short and non existent on the older duplicate lifts and over the back.

Mix of slightly firm grippy snow to loose chalky mid winter corduroy on the groomers. More snow expected overnight.

Grandview Express - not so grand a view today

Sierra in Snow

Highway 50: Meyers Grade

Heading down the Meyers Grade on highway 50 at the end of the day, far below highway 89 follows the valley floor before climbing over the Luther Pass, to join highway 88 to Kirkwood. With high snow levels over the next day or so, Kirkwood should be catching fresh at all levels with a 7800ft base vs 6500ft at Heavenly and Sierra. A break in the weather forecast later in the week, so hopefully Kirkwood will come good with a bluebird powder day!

2010: Year of the Endless Winter

2010 was quite literally the year of CairnGorm Mountain’s Endless Winter, with a number of skiers notching up not just 12 consecutive months sliding on CairnGorm itself, but completing the full Calendar Year with sliding every month. The count as of Hogmanay is 14 consecutive months, the New Year and new month will be the 15th.

Here is the year that was 2010 on CairnGorm Mountain, in pictures, month by month.

^JANUARY: Sunday 24th, the final run of the day back through the trees to the Glenmore Gates.

^FEBRUARY: No filters, no doctoring – it really was that blue. West Wall Poma and Chairlift on Sunday 21st.

^MARCH: A sign of the times on Loch Morlich, Wednesday 3rd.

^APRIL: Friday 16th, the Funicular passes an absolutely loaded and full width White Lady with superb spring riding on offer.

^MAY: Beautiful spring snow under blue skies, Coire Cas T-bar, Saturday 15th May.

^JUNE: The lift served season officially ended on Monday 21st. Boarder rides a rope tow in the Ptarmigan Bowl on Sunday 20th. Rope Tows in the Top Basin and lift assisted descents of the Ciste Gully, by walking back over to the Funicular for the Solstice. Ptarmigan Tow run 5th and 6th June.

^JULY: H11lly and Jamie grab some final turns in the Ptarmigan Bowl after a visit to the Ciste Mhearaidh.

^AUGUST: H11lly skiing the Coire Cas Headwall, photographed by George Paton from the Fiacaill Ridge.

^SEPTEMBER: H11lly sets off for some September turns on CairnGorm. My last turns on winter 2010’s snow in the Ciste Mhearaidh, Thursday 2nd September.

^OCTOBER: A beautiful crisp autumn day for the first turns of winter 2011 on Monday 25th Oct. Hiked to the Summit and skied the Marquis Well, and onwards down the Traverse, 105 and upper Cas to just short of the Zig Zags.

^NOVEMBER: Skiers and boarders head out of the Ptarmigan on the first lift served day of the new season, Saturday 13th November.

^DECEMBER: Fresh tracks above the Ciste Bowl on the day of the Winter Solstice. Photo by H11lly.

Winterhighland Mid Summer Slide

The now traditional Winterhighland mid-summer slide (planned for the weekend closest to the Summer Solstice) was slightly un-traditional on Sunday 20th June, no trudging up from the Daylodge skis strapped to back and no repeated runs down a solidarity and lonely patch of snow!

Instead a fitting way to wind down an epic season, a summer carnival of snow with the Funicular providing uplift to the Top Basin (and indirectly for the Ciste Gully) and a couple of Rope Tows in the Ptarmigan Bowl, over a 100 skiers and boarders took to the ‘Gorms remaining Summer snowfields.

A very short and hurriedly stuck together video from clips from a small compact camera (it’s time for bed after all that excitement and the first train is only 9 hours away on Monday morning)….

Gorm Still Top to Middle on 31st May

Just some short clips of spring snow fun on the middle slopes of CairnGorm Mountain on the final day of spring, a scorcher as summer arrived a day early! Despite it being warm in shorts and t-shirt, the spring snow mid-mountain was near perfect, loose crunchy granular spring snow, Coire Cas was just a delight to cruise down creating your own pleasently cooling breeze.

A 4 1/2 minute video of the full top to middle run via the Traverse and Coire Cas is also available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ksyIq6DeRU .

Sheiling AWS Anemometer Replacement

Sheiling AWS down to remove sticking wind vane.

Sheiling AWS down to remove sticking wind vane.

Recently the Sheiling Tow AWS had been reporting an unusually high frequency of suspected anemometer icing when the SSC Hut and Loch Morlich weather stations were not. An inspection of the weather station on my last visit to the mountain showed that the anemometer cups were no longer spinning freely and was sometimes snagging the wind vane housing – giving the anemometer an abnormally high resistance to be overcome before the cups would spin, greatly increasing the threshold wind at which an actual wind speed would be reported.

Two wind vanes sitting in the snow

Two wind vanes sitting in the snow

The anemometer was swapped out on Saturday (13th March) and replaced by a brand new one. This is not permanently installed until it’s determined if the old one is fixable, reason being not wanting to cut the long wind vane cable to the length needed for this installation unnecessarily as it could render the vane useless for other sites.

Unfortunately the long cable being bundled up is picking up electrical interference, which has been giving some nonsense wind speed readings  on Saturday evening. If gust speed or current wind speed is reported far in excess of other recent speeds or those from other AWS’s on the mountain, it is likely to be false. Will try and fix the Sheilings own anemometer and if this is not possible will shorten the cable and permanently install the new one.

Sheiling AWS back in place as skiers head for home on the Carpark Run late Saturday afternoon.

Sheiling AWS back in place as skiers head for home on the Carpark Run late Saturday afternoon.

Reverse Zonality?

OK, this is just one distant chart from a suite of some 20 ensemble members from the GFS model, but it’s something pretty special none the less. Complete reversal of the mid latitude zonal winds, Easterly from one side of the chart to the other screaming across the UK.

If such a scenario were to happen it wouldn’t so much be weather, more a complete breakdown of the fundamental laws of physics! Did the Earth’s direction of rotation change?

Reverse Zonality?

Not a bluebird Sunday…

Having been spoilt by perfect weather and fantastic cover and surface conditions for so early in the season on Friday it was a bit more Scottish on Sunday at CairnGorm Mountain for my 3rd day of the season , with the wind ratcheting up during the day. However the visibility was often better than it was on Saturday by all accounts with some brighter spells. Drifting of what loose snow there was meant every changing stashes and surface conditions.

Top to middle riding on offer, that’s just a shade less than 1300ft of vertical from the top of the Ptarmigan Tow, pretty good for early Dec and having a base on the mid-mountain. While we did have top to Daylodge skiing on the first day open in Dec 08 after the maintainence shutdown, it was quite short lived with most of the early Dec days in the past few seasons restricted to the Ptarmigan Tow.