Spring has sprung, and most people are thinking this is the end of the winter but strange things are happening up in those there hills! Yesterday was the first glimmer of a transformation happening to the snow pack. As the day time weather warms up but the night time temps keep low the snow starts to change from ethereal shards of “flake” into melted, refrozen, melted again and refrozen again balls of mini sweetcorn and the spring season starts.
The first hint we had was when I was cycling out on a variation of the Perfect Day trail and it looked as if the east facing slopes of Pirin had been turned into polished marble. This is normally a good sign that the snow is changing into something fun! I have had a couple of runs off the side of the pistes recently and on south facing slopes the transformation has already happened, with bucket loads of wet corn to play in, a sort of powder like experience but a slower and more relaxed version!
So why are we not seeing a influx of mad mountain hounds to ski what is one of my favourite types of snow?
Firstly and as always Ulen are really not very good at marketing what they have, so even though the on piste conditions are good and the back country is having a final fling of fun Ulen are pretending we are still in February! Errr no, we’re not we are in spring now! So people are getting mixed messages, is there 2m of snow on the hill? If so why are there no tourists? Is the ski road open? It looks grassy to me! But my feeling about Ulens inability to run a ski resort professionally have already been voiced over and over again. So no need to go there now!
Secondly, “THE SLOG” there is the small matter of earning your turns. And spring corn is a premium product, none of this leaping off the lift into chest deep powder February style, oh no Corn demands a little up front payment and god do you have to pay. I reckon I am about twice as fast in the summer as I am in the winter so what is a lazy trot up Bez Bog in July about 90 mins at a gentle potter. In March, April and May becomes 2 hours if not 3 hours of ball ache! O.K. it’s pretty cool playing at being Scott of the Antarctic but I’m sure Scott wasn’t carrying 20kg of fat!
Thirdly safety, spring skiing can be a little fickle. The snow pack is changing not weekly not daily but hour by hour. What was rock hard concrete welded to mother earth at 9am soon turns into a surly pile of sludge that is thinking more about heading down to warmer climes than sitting still. Add to this migratory inclination 100kg of tired fat bloke jumping up and down on it and you get some truly splendid spring avalanche action, slow rumbly numbers that are going to tear you to pieces or grind you to pulp. These aren’t the fast fluffy avalanches of ski movies these beasts move super slow, weigh mega tons and really don’t notice what is in front of them.
So this is how it goes, crack of dawn (probably before that) up you hop 1/2 a kg of salty porridge down your neck as much water as you can drink and off we go. Drive drive drive walk walk walk, Hopefully by lunch time you’ve got to the top of something fun and the snow is still feeling docile. Eat and drink everything you’ve got, skins off skis on, weeeeeeee down to the pub for beer! 6 hours of graft for one little run! Heaven!
and the best people to do it with … www.freemountains.com