The 2017 crust season got an early first-wave start this past Tuesday (Feb 13), courtesy of a week of mind-bogglingly warm temperatures that brought slush and a rapidly shrinking snowpack to the Fraser Valley. Overnight temperatures for the last 2 nights have been in the single digits, allowing for even the lightest of skiing equipment to support travel across meadows and fields. Open areas that are exposed to the winds, unfortunately have a bit of wind-effect irregularity, with only pockets of the creamy-smooth satin that calm conditions can create for sublime glissading over the top of the snowpack.

Low elevation areas in the trees may not be as supportive, as the shade often prevents moisture levels from rising enough for the cold to create a sufficiently firm crust to keep skating pole baskets from punching deeply into the snowpack. Wider skis and larger pole baskets have stayed aloft even on north-facing trees past the mid-day sun. With an inch of loose snow on the surface, protected areas at higher elevations are skiing well, though a little ‘catchy’ if you don’t mind your edges.

Cold clear nights and warm days, projected for the foreseeable future, will continue to permit skiing over open meadow surfaces, which in many cases will prove more pleasant than being on a frozen, uneven trail, at least during the hours before the sun has a chance to warm up more than just the top layer of snow. Packed trails are starting to widen with the lack of any significant new snow, and bare patches are already beginning to make their way up valley in areas where the sun and wind leave the snowpack shallow. Winter will most likely make its return before all is said and done, but in the meantime, there is still good fun to be had on skis for those who know how, when and where to seek it.