Heading down the Grouse Grind just before sunset on a snowy day. The following morning Metro Vancouver announced that it was closing for the year due to treacherous winter conditions.
Day three was actually a week or so ago now. I went for a clean sweep of the North Shore and headed up to Grouse on a beautiful, freezing morning. I also made a clean sweep of terrible snow conditions: boilerplate at Seymour, wet cement at Cypress, and bomber ice at Grouse. At this point I’m still too happy to be back to care much, but it would be nice to test my legs on a slightly more forgiving surface at some point soon. For a La Nina winter, there hasn’t been a whole lot of new snow flying recently.
Between the icy conditions and lingering muscle weakness I was skidding my turns for most of the morning. J’s teenage cousins joined me for a few runs shortly before lunch, and as the snow finally started to soften under a cloudless winter sky I stayed with them on The Cut and started to get some real carving in and work on my form. I know without looking that my body’s too rigid, I’m not getting enough hip movement into my turns and I’m still slipping into the back seat more often than I should. It’s like starting out the season with a brand-new left leg.
A day or two later K text messaged me and asked when I’m going back to Whistler. There’s still progress to make before I’ll be ready, but it’s time to set a date and give myself something to work towards. I’ve been away far too long.
Due to an administrative oversight, I happened to have a free Grouse pass kicking around. With a few hours to spare on Monday afternoon, it seemed like a good time to use it up. It wasn’t.
Conditions at Grouse had taken a serious nosedive since the previous week, and they were pretty marginal then. The Cut wasn’t skiable – the warm snow was so grabby that I could barely keep my momentum going, and the ski out to the lift tore chunks out of my bases. The top third of Expo was about the best area on the hill, but degenerated into rock-hopping on the approach to the lift. Even the Peak had large rocks hidden below dips in the terrain. And with the Peak chair closed, I spent more time poling up the slope between the Peak and Expo than I did on the runs. Even the terrain park was a bust; it was impossible to get enough speed in the slushy snow to get any air on the kickers.
I lasted about two hours, then inspected my bases and decided to head down before doing something irreparable. I’m a bit frustrated that I wasted my free ticket on such poor conditions, and really surprised they’re still charging full price for skiing and boarding. I’ve heard that Seymour is in slightly better condition, so I might check that out at Girls Ride Free on Monday. And Cypress is reopening to the public next week, which seems both ambitious and unrealistic. I think the North Shore season is pretty much done.
That world-famous lack of snow that we’ve all been reading about? Found it!
On Monday we hit up Grouse for the day. J was trying a few more turns on the snowboard (she’s getting pretty good) and we also took our friend A along for the ride. The mountain was basking in what felt like balmy spring sunshine, which made for a pleasant lunch break but somewhat marginal skiing conditions. The photo above was taken at the foot of what remains of the Cut, which is essentially a strip of slushy snow that turns to mud as you approach the lift. Expo had a bit more coverage but unfortunately ice rather than snow, and even the peak was pretty slushy with large bald patches. I owe my skis an apology, and a fresh coat of wax.
While J practiced her turns and A coaxed her leg muscles through their first day on snow this season, I worked on my switch skiing (it’s improving slightly, though I don’t think it will ever be elegant) and spent some time goofing off on jumps in the terrain park. In the brilliant sunshine it felt like late May rather than February. It was my first time on Grouse, and in spite of the conditions I’d definitely ski there again. At the very least, I need to go back when there’s some snow on the black runs.