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.
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.
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.