Worst day was last season.
About 30" of new snow down.
Snow came in upside down. Blower was laid down first, followed by progressively heavier snow until you got to a thick, heavy upper layer.
Untracked snow on anything under a 30* pitch was unskiable. You would be pushed to the bottom of the snowpack and grind down to a halt- the heavy snow adds weight but no support, so you just keep getting pushed under- no float for you. Because this is Wolf Creek, you have nothing with a continuous pitch. You have 300-800 vert of steep, followed by green pitch, followed by steeps again. The only workable method is to follow tracks that you can jump in and luge run through the green pitch areas.
If you want to open up a new trail, ski with about ten buddies to open the trail- One person skis down till they get stuck, the next person skis in their tracks until they reach the person that is stuck, then passes them, then the next person, leapfrogging down the hill.
I do the first few runs with my wife, skiing "tracked up" stuff where the 30" has been kicked around to 20" fluff. She takes a headfirst fall and ends up head downhill in an untouched 30" drift, unable to clear her airway and in a panic under the snow. I dig her out, she is shaken up and no longer has any enthusiasm to ski. I tell her I will "take a few more runs" and head off by myself.
I decide I am smarter than everybody else that day, and that I will break trail into the slide path that is 1 to the right of the Alberta lift line (Tsunami). I am sure that all I have to do is maintain speed off the steeps and I can jump back into the tracked up trail under the lift. I have this idea that I can do this, and then lap my first set of tracks to harvest as much as I want before I go home.
First problem- there are flats just under the traverse track at the entrance. I come to a stop in the flats chest deep in the snow. Lots of wind loading on this side of the mountain. It takes me 15 minutes to make it to where the run pitches in properly. The snow is too deep to kick the skis forward, and too heavy to lift the ski- I have to clear snow out down to my knees to lift the ski up and kick it forward to make any forward progress.
Alarm bells are really going off by now, but at this point, I am committed. No way I can climb back uphill without a rope.
I finally get to the 35*+ pitch section of this run. I point them and go. Skis straight downhill, and I'm picking up speed like a 1987 Yugo with two bad plug wires. I need to get about 600 vert down before the run converges with the lift line. I get 200 feet. When the 35* section flattens to a mere 30*, I am stopped, in much deeper than 30" snow.
I need to go about 700 linear feet to hit the lift line. I am on a solid black pitch, skis pointed straight down the hill, going NOWHERE. This is on 118 waist skis. There is never such a thing as too much powder, but there can be such a thing as snow that is too upside down.
Thus begins the next two and 1/2 hours of my life. Clear snow away down to my knees, lift one ski and kick forward, lift the other and kick forward, rinse and repeat. I am moving about 100 lbs of snow to move 1 foot forward, all while down in snow up to my shoulders. I am breaking in new boot liners, and circulation is not great. My feet go cold, then numb, then I don't even want to think about it. It takes me about 45 second for every full step, with a few minutes rest about every 20 steps. Imagine being neck deep in quicksand, and having to move forward standing on the hard ground underneath. That is my experience.
When I finally get out, I am wrecked. One of my shoulders is seperated from the constant snow moving strain. Every part of me that I can feel hurts. My legs are done.
To make things worse, I need to ride the lift back up and do a 1 mile traverse to get back to the base. I am soaked through. I take the 15 minute lift back up. As this is a powder day, the traverse is really a cross-country trail, and I get to do a lighter version of what I just did in the snowpack.
When I got back to the base, I was trying to keep from throwing up from exertion. I was freezing, and one of my big toes had a quarter-sized piece of frostbite. I can't remember ever feeling worse after a day of skiing.
Edited by anachronism - 6/27/14 at 9:08pm