Sleeper Days

By:  Greg
March 29, 2010

Sometimes the temperature is below zero, the wind is howling, the skin track is icy, and the forecast is grim. Nonetheless if there is one thing in this world which I know to be true, it’s that you will never find good skiing in bed. Sometimes you just need to wake up and expect the worst, but hope that you get blessed with one of those “sleeper days.” On Saturday we headed out for “The Rockpile” (AKA Mount Washington, NH) despite temperatures in the lower tens, and stiff winds out of the north west. We got an alpine start at the crack of 11 AM. Above timber line the snow was covered in a beautiful veneer of water ice just firm enough to support your weight and prevent your skins from being able to grip. It was delightful. After a 2 hour “all-arms” ascent, we hunkered down at the summit behind equipment coated in ice. “Please let the other side of this hill be in a little better shape,” I muttered pretending to be enjoying myself.

Fearing the worst KC got her gap ready to go.

We crested the east side, and a visual inspection of the snow quality was inconclusive. We would have to do a manual inspection to ascertain whether the slope was horrible ice, or soft snow. Christian went first….


We continued our descent/traverse, and went hunting for places where the sun and the wind were doing some magic. I had a spot on my GPS that I thought would be good in these conditions so we headed for that one. We arrived, and ice went right up to the lip of the slope. In a moment of depression we were about to turn back and scratch our way to the car when I thought I saw some fresh snow at the very edge of the slope. I crept out and took a look. Fresh snow!! But was it stable enough to be skied? I agreed to do the preliminary analysis and ski cut. As I crept out I shouted back to my comrades what I saw: “Looks like a few inches of soft slab. Looks manageable. No terrain traps. It looks good.”


*In real life we were much more careful than this approaching the slope. Always approach every slope with caution until you have evaluated the hazard of avalanche, and understand and accept the risks inherent with the slope.

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Read about the author:   Greg
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  1. Adrian
    wrote on March 29th, 2010 at 5:33 pm  

    Looks like a really nice day out there. Can’t wait for the weekend to come so that I can finally get out and hit some lines in the NE. Might even make my way to Katahdin, depending on what’s what with the snow. ;)

    Btw, the link to go back from whence we came doesn’t work if we came from TGR… Not to get too technical, but it’s because they open a new window on external links using target=”_blank” and I’m pretty sure there’s no way to get back if a new window is opened up that way…

    • Greg
      wrote on March 29th, 2010 at 5:35 pm  

      Just installed a “back-hack” :P

      thanks for the good call though dude… and let’s ride together soon. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be around at all this weekend :(

  2. powhounddd
    wrote on March 29th, 2010 at 5:37 pm  

    OOh lala! sometimes the best snow is closer to home than one thinks, eh?! Ripgnar AWESOME!

  3. skimohr
    wrote on March 29th, 2010 at 10:10 pm  

    Looks like you guys had some fun. You almost had me hitching a ride with you guys. We bailed on all other plans, and spent most of the day touring atop the powder coated peaks of the central Greens, where a few inches of snow had fallen Thurs pm/Fri am… Loving the deep base coverage for its ability to open up so much terrain! We were thinking of you guys while skiing a little sunny-side corn, too, at about 4pm, along a wind scoured ridge that was simply baking in the windless sun. Thanks for sharing.

    • Greg
      wrote on March 30th, 2010 at 11:16 am  

      Sounds like you had a terrible day :P

      I couldn’t believe how many different indescribable snow conditions we encountered out there though. Off the summit–especially right at the top–some but not all of the fresh snow had been scoured away and left these strange little fingers of powder snow surrounded by ice that you could ride. You could sort of hop from finger to finger, and when you got on one sometimes it would fracture in a mini-avalanche and you could descend with it as gravity took hold of both you.

      Down lower the stuff was so varied in some of the chutes that you would be making one turn on wind load, another boot deep in powder, the next on chalk, and then finally end up on hard pack before getting to the bottom. Finally on the last run we found one smooth homogeneous slope that was loaded evenly and that we could finally open up the throttle and rip on (the multi shot of Austin filling our “excitement quota” is from that pitch). You and E. were definitely with us in spirit after our conversation about such things Friday night!

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