Why Whales?
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TomH
January 27, 2009
Member since 07/6/2005 🔗
375 posts
Maybe someone can explain "Whales" to me. I've skied all over the US and Europe and until I starting skiing Timberline 2 years ago had never experienced whales. Sure I had seen resorts blow temporary whales, but never semi-permanent whales like T-Line has. If they are new and the snow is good they are fun, but once the snow gets hard I don't see the benefit. Right now T-Line could have awesome skiing on Off the Wall and the The Drop, the snow is great on all the other slopes. Instead, they have huge, icy steep whales blocking the middle of the slope. Essentially taking away a third of the terrain. I say either groom the slopes or let the bumps form up naturally and you would have a much better situation. As it stands now those two slopes are essentially lost to the resort. Could someone please explain the idea to me?
comprex
January 27, 2009
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
The benefit is that the snow -in- them gets better and better (smaller and rounder crystals) through vapor sublimation and condensation, because the vapor has time to cycle through the whale and deposit on all sides of the existing crystal. This makes snow crystals that play well with others, and with any free water that might exist as it gets warm. The snow sticks to the slope and we get fun spring corn snow.

Spreading a whale out immediately makes a large temperature gradient, meaning that vapor will move upwards fast and coat the bottom side of the snow crystal as it hits the colder crystals near the surface. Faceted crystals like this do not bond well to others, and tend to be pushed off the hill fast. They also do not hold very well if it gets warm, meaning they make downwards-going soup before they make a sit-in place corny slush.

Whales are therefore like little blanketed Certificates of Deposit for snowmakers. Nicely protected savings with a penalty for early withdrawal.

TomH
January 27, 2009
Member since 07/6/2005 🔗
375 posts
Your pulling my leg right? So Timberline is the only ski area in the world that has discovered this phenomenon. I've skied great corn snow at many resorts that don't have whales. I doubt anyone knows more about snowmaking then Killington and I've never seen them build Whales on those couple of slopes they build snow up on so they can stay open until Memorial Day. The snow on WL hold up fine without Whales. Even if this is true, why sacrifice both those slope for January and February.
comprex
January 27, 2009
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
Originally Posted By: TomH
Your pulling my leg right? So Timberline is the only ski area in the world that has discovered this phenomenon. I've skied great corn snow at many resorts that don't have whales. I doubt anyone knows more about snowmaking then Killington and I've never seen them build Whales on those couple of slopes they build snow up on so they can stay open until Memorial Day. The snow on WL hold up fine without Whales. Even if this is true, why sacrifice both those slope for January and February.


I thought that was rather obvious?

Killington and those other resorts have a lot more bux to spend on snowmaking during non-primo conditions to replace what is sloughed off.

Timberline plays thrifty and makes the most during the best.

Just because T-line doesn't have the money to make the entire slope a thick glacier so the whole thing acts as a snow whale is not really a reason to get huffy with -me-.

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fishnski
January 27, 2009
Member since 03/27/2005 🔗
3,530 posts
He is a very Comprex-a-cated comedian TomH...I thought it was amusing!....We have talked these Whales to death & he was just trying to "keep it fresh"!
yellowsnow
January 27, 2009
Member since 12/15/2005 🔗
268 posts
He's not pulling you're leg at all.
TomH
January 27, 2009
Member since 07/6/2005 🔗
375 posts
Glad to amuse. I'll try not to be "huffy". Now that is funny.
JohnL
January 27, 2009
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
I personally think the whales on OTW are the best thing Timberline has done in the past several years (well second best after an increased commitment to snow making.) Without the whales, the slope would be boring. With the exception of one day where all of OTW froze in place, I've been skiing right over the tops of 'em every day. Great lines, and a great way to emulate some of the tougher stuff you'll get out West or up in Vermont.

Lock down your heel, and maybe they'll ski better. wink

The Drop is a bit different. Still not sure about what they've done to it. I personally prefer Diane Lane to Pam Anderson ..., but hey, I'm sure there are others that think the opposite.
TomH
January 27, 2009
Member since 07/6/2005 🔗
375 posts
I can see that JohnL, I've had great days over there when the snow was good, which it wasn't last weekend. Personally I think they would be more interesting and challenging if they let them bump naturally and then blew on them. But what do I know?

By the way, free your heel and the rest of that hill will become your playground wink wink.

I also prefer Diane Lane.
therusty
January 27, 2009
Member since 01/17/2005 🔗
422 posts
Save the Whales!

Whitetail makes them.
David
January 27, 2009
Member since 06/28/2004 🔗
2,444 posts
Great!! Just great!! Timberline must have read this thread, as OTW was flat today. Wasn't too great skiing though as there were Death Cookies EVERYWHERE!!
skier219
January 27, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
No kiddin, they knocked down the whales?? Damn.
David
January 27, 2009
Member since 06/28/2004 🔗
2,444 posts
Originally Posted By: skier219
No kiddin, they knocked down the whales?? Damn.


The Drop is still golden if it is the whales you seek grin grin
The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
January 27, 2009
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,107 posts
Sometimes the whales are fun to ski, but for me, more often I find them confining, especially when rock hard. As for TLine keeping them to use late in the season to patch melting spots, I think during the last couple of years the whales have outlasted the closing of the resort. So I sort of agree...why the whales. If one must have them, then maybe put them to one side of the trail, not the middle. Sort of like those that pine for the powder not to be groomed all over WL and other slopes. When the slopes are wide enough, why not have both types of conditions?
The Colonel smile
KeithT
January 27, 2009
Member since 11/17/2008 🔗
383 posts
Col., I thought the same thing when I first read the post--save the whales but to the side of the trail. But is not the location of the whale a function of the where the majority of the snow lands from the gun?? So if you can't readily move the gun across the slope, I suppose you do not have much control over where the whale forms.
JohnL
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:
Great!! Just great!! Timberline must have read this thread, as OTW was flat today. Wasn't too great skiing though as there were Death Cookies EVERYWHERE!!


mad mad mad

Well, there is always Extrovert.
Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter
January 28, 2009
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
1,857 posts
Lower Extrovert was groomed last week but don't fear, two cat passes down the middle left a bank on either side but there are whales when you drop in on skiers left and new whales when you drop over the last headwall. The run out is flat but that's ok 'cause the fun is done by then. Ex was sweet yesterday and Upper was roped, don't know why. I took a half dozen runs down Lower Ex before I noticed the small sign staked in the middle proclaiming the trail was closed.
TomH
January 28, 2009
Member since 07/6/2005 🔗
375 posts
Here is what I learned yesterday. Due to the molecular characteristics of snow, whales are thrifty ways of storing snow for spring skiing, whales provide advanced skiers with interesting terrain, people would like to see a bump run at T-Line.

So, if I ran T-Line and read this forum I would do the following: let a third of WL bump up (lift chair bump runs are the best), leave the whales on OTW all season for the John L's of the world and leave the whales on the Drop until spring and then groom.

If I ran T-Line and knew the W-L idea is impractical and OTW would make the best bump run I would have groomed OTW and left the drop and dropped a line to this forum saying we value your opinions and have groomed OTW so we can let it bump up for your skiing pleasure.

Otherwise, building whales on OTW and plowing them under at the end of January seems to be at odds with what I learned yesterday. The Snow CD's were spent too early on OTW and the Whale Lovers are bummed.
Norsk
January 28, 2009
Member since 05/13/2003 🔗
315 posts
Harpoon the whales! Bring back real bump skiing!

(just one Tline homeowner's opinion. I know there's lots of disagreement.)

Seriously, though, one thing I don't fully understand is the notion that skiing over the top of the whales emulates tougher terrian out west or in the northeast. Skiing over the tops of whales does create VERY short, steep (and usually rock hard) pitches, but the lack of need to make quick turns makes those lines much easier than what's required to ski steep bumpers out west or steep narrow twisters in NE. Right?
KeithT
January 28, 2009
Member since 11/17/2008 🔗
383 posts
Norsk, I agree. Why not just visit the snow jumps in the terrain park for the same effect.
jimmy
January 28, 2009
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
2,650 posts
Should be able to have both Norsk. OffTheWall is lame when it is groomed, I'd think either OTW or the Drop could be groomed and left to bump up. They'd need to make more snow, but Timberline REALLY needs some BUMPS, not just the random junk, barnacles or whatever we call them that fall off the sides of the whales. A few of us got to ski the Drop the day it opened it was a Friday iirc, they had big i mean BIG ten foot high ridges across the entrance. Ski to the top, retract u legs and ski down the back. They were fun to ski and we skied them all afternoon. They also were kind of a warning of what lied ahead and kept the traffic down. Next morning the first three were groomed out because they were too "dangerous". Umm, isn't this supposed to be "expert" terrain?
TomH
January 28, 2009
Member since 07/6/2005 🔗
375 posts
Whales aside, not having a bump run is just plain ridiculous. People love bumps - period. Why not give people what they want? Go ski Exhibition at Whitetail on a weekend and tell me if bump runs are a good idea for a resort. That is the gist of my beef, why have two runs with whales on them for the whole month of January and no bump runs? Anyone know why?
TGV
January 28, 2009
Member since 11/13/2008 🔗
337 posts
A smart business move for ski resorts may be:
BAN snowboarding and remove all bumps too then?!
Oups... I take that back. I teach snowboarding once in a while.

NEVER MIND!
JohnL
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:
Seriously, though, one thing I don't fully understand is the notion that skiing over the top of the whales emulates tougher terrian out west or in the northeast. Skiing over the tops of whales does create VERY short, steep (and usually rock hard) pitches, but the lack of need to make quick turns makes those lines much easier than what's required to ski steep bumpers out west or steep narrow twisters in NE. Right?


If the whales return this winter, let's hook up for some turns at T-Line. Short answer, there is a set of skills and tactics that you're not thinking about.

One of the keys to handling tough advanced terrain is the ability to gracefully handle cruxes. A crux is an area where a trail or tree run funnels into a very tight steep section. The crux is much more challenging and steeper than the rest of the trail. There may be only one or two lines through a crux (can be narrower than the length of your skis), and often a crux may require mandatory air (since they are often at the top of a mini rock ledge.) Examples of cruxes that I'm talking about: the top of Paradise at Mad River (at the 8 foot waterfall and some of the other entrances at that section), Rumble at Sugarbush, the rock ledge near the top of Upper Lift Line (Castlerock) at Sugarbush, numerous sections of Upper Goat at Stowe, and possibly the very top of Stein's Run at Sugarbush (but this is pretty wide for a crux.) With the exception of the entrance to D-Trail at Blue Knob and possibly Upper Gunbarrel at Roundtop, there aren't any cruxes on *trails* in the Mid Atlantic (though some sections may seem tough.)

Skiing cruxes requires the ability to make very quick controlled turns, but there is much more than that.

First, there are the fear and injury factors. If you choose a bad line on a crux, you are more likely to suffer a bad fall and hurt yourself. (Twisted knees and ankles are common.) If you fall making quick turns down a bump run, the risk of injury is a lot less.

How do the whales on OTW at Timberline help you ski a crux? You are skiing up to whale, you can't see down the back side of the whale, and you know there is a significant drop off. Further, if you ski OTW a bit, you realize that the back sides of the whales are likely to be icy and even more important, there may or may not be a serious trench carved across the hill at the bottom of the whale. (Most skiers/boarders tend to turn around the bottom of the whale instead of going over the tops.) Because of these trenches, you can't ski in every direction over the top of the whale, cuz you'll plow your ski tips into the trenches.

What is the most common tactic when you reach the top of a crux, tough whale or a steep drop off in a narrow trail? You perform a check turn at the top of the feature. A check turn is a speed scrubbing turn, with your skis completely across the fall line. You'll also have a significant amount of retraction of your legs at the top. As you are making the check turn at the top of the feature, you can now see down the backside of the feature and detect the hazards. *Without stopping*, you must immediately determine your line across the bottom of the feature. (If you find out there are no lines or a gaper is lying at the bottom, you have to quickly finish your check turn into a complete stop. To do this, you must be in complete control and balance.)

Depending upon the size of the whale and how bad the trenches are at the bottom, I'll execute 1-2 turns *on the back face* of the whale (sometimes not needed), regardless of how icy the back of the whale is. Generally, I'm not simply skiing over the top of the whale and turning five feet later; I'm turning on the back of the whale. At the top of the whale, I may have to make a radical direction change to choose the set of bumps I want to hit after the whale, or I may have to angle my skis into the bottom trough to avoid plowing my tips into the trough.

These turns are much tighter and quicker than normal bump turns.

Another core skiing skill that the whales exercise: the ability to quickly adjust your upper body position to be ~perpendicular to the slope. With the rapid drop off at the back of the whale, you need to get forward on your skis to maintain this angle, then rapidly readjust back as the slope flattens at the bottom of the whale.

The whales on The Drop are basically terrain park rolls (no where near as challenging as those on OTW), and I generally just ski straight over them without turning. Completely different set of mammals.

Very long winded answer, but there is a lot of going on there with the whales that I think most people are missing.
zooman
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/21/2008 🔗
24 posts
Speaking for myself,I appreciated the lesson in snowology.Thanks.
JohnL
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:
Whales aside, not having a bump run is just plain ridiculous. People love bumps - period. Why not give people what they want? Go ski Exhibition at Whitetail on a weekend and tell me if bump runs are a good idea for a resort. That is the gist of my beef, why have two runs with whales on them for the whole month of January and no bump runs? Anyone know why?


I've always advocated bumps on The Drop, whales on Off The Wall, groom at least half of White Lightning (but not on powder days!)
fishnski
January 28, 2009
Member since 03/27/2005 🔗
3,530 posts
Reading your post JohnL on whaling & Cruxes to crutches & the fact that I don't live close to the slopes anymore & my age is increasing while my practice is decreasing has shooken me into a new reality that I'm just not as good as I was & probably was never as good as I thought I was sick cry....I'm still having as much fun as I ever have..& my love of Snowy mtn's will keep me coming back till I just can't make it anymore....I'm oficially a Whale watcher!..(do folks swim with whales?)
skier219
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Ah, crux, schmux. I never see them as anything more than piles of manmade snow. Sure, you can ski them technically, but it seems contrived to me (especially since the snow quality is never good when that happens). Now, if they alternated whales side to side so that they were more interesting, and let them accumulate a natural topcoat, that might appeal to me more.

What bugged me about the whales the first time I saw them after a 16-20" powder dump is that they ruined the trail for that snow condition. Floating down a steep trail in natural powder is one of the top experiences in skiing, and it was not possible on that day because of these big stupid piles of hard manmade snow. I am not exaggerating when I say the presence of the whales totally wasted all that wonderful powder. David was with me that day, and I am sure I had WTF??? written all over my face.
JohnL
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:
Ah, crux, schmux. I never see them as anything more than piles of manmade snow. Sure, you can ski them technically, but it seems contrived to me (especially since the snow quality is never good when that happens).


That's the entire point of the whales, they add challenges to the tame Mid Atlantic terrain. If we were blessed with teh terrain variation found at Mad River, we wouldn't need them in the Mid Atlantic.

Quote:
What bugged me about the whales the first time I saw them after a 16-20" powder dump is that they ruined the trail for that snow condition. Floating down a steep trail in natural powder is one of the top experiences in skiing, and it was not possible on that day because of these big stupid piles of hard manmade snow. I am not exaggerating when I say the presence of the whales totally wasted all that wonderful powder. David was with me that day, and I am sure I had WTF??? written all over my face.


Well, if you can't enjoy OTW with 16-20" of fresh ... Stick to something easier. If you could handle OTW technically, there's a lot more lines at Alta that you could take on.
TomH
January 28, 2009
Member since 07/6/2005 🔗
375 posts
JohnL,

I enjoyed and agree with your discourse on skiing Whales. Without, imagination in skiing terrain it would be impossible for really good skiers to come from small hills. Some of the best racers in the world have come from the dinkiest of hills.

T-Line is my home hill and I really like the place. But it is beyond me why they can't groom 90% of the runs, let one run bump, have one whale run and leave parts of the place ungroomed when it snows. It seems irrational from a business standpoint. Is there any explanation for this?
JohnL
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:
Is there any explanation for this?


Tom,

I've never understood most of the decisions that T-Line management makes. Beyond boy scouts, I'm not certain if they really understand their clientele. Maybe they've got too much of a captive audience.
TomH
January 28, 2009
Member since 07/6/2005 🔗
375 posts
John,

I guess it is what it is. Thread was worthwhile for me as I have an increased appreciation for whale skiing. Did you really go over an 8 foot drop at MRG. I'll have to head over to OTW if the whales reappear and give the backsides a shot, although I'm quite sure I'm not quite up to the challenge yet. Maybe you can tow me along for a run and show me some of the finer points.
fishnski
January 28, 2009
Member since 03/27/2005 🔗
3,530 posts


That's the entire point of the whales, they add challenges to the tame Mid Atlantic terrain. If we were blessed with teh terrain variation found at Mad River, we wouldn't need them in the Mid Atlantic.


"To the Tame MA terrain" that is available you mean...There's plenty of awsome terrain..its over in the Valley of the Alpps..The next valley south of Canaan..under & all around my statue...Comments like that are what got me started on DCski in the 1st place many moons ago...we got it..it just ain't being used!
kwillg6
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/18/2005 🔗
2,034 posts
Yo, Tom and John.... I love the whales, want to save the whales, and hope they keep the whales. smile Some of the best runs I've ever had at t-line is on a pow-pow day in the whales. There is so much more to skiing when doing it with whales. grin A groomed drop or OTW is nothing more than a more advanced blue.
As for t-lines mountain management.... I don't think they know what they are doing from day to day. I know that last year they groomed out the whales cuz they said they became dangerous or so that was the reason. But what's wrong with a good bump run then? In the olden days, they let the drop bump up and it was a truly expert run. Let's just hope they do it again.
David
January 28, 2009
Member since 06/28/2004 🔗
2,444 posts
A bumpy Drop makes a happy David......
skier219
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
Originally Posted By: JohnL
Quote:
Ah, crux, schmux. I never see them as anything more than piles of manmade snow. Sure, you can ski them technically, but it seems contrived to me (especially since the snow quality is never good when that happens).


That's the entire point of the whales, they add challenges to the tame Mid Atlantic terrain. If we were blessed with teh terrain variation found at Mad River, we wouldn't need them in the Mid Atlantic.

Quote:
What bugged me about the whales the first time I saw them after a 16-20" powder dump is that they ruined the trail for that snow condition. Floating down a steep trail in natural powder is one of the top experiences in skiing, and it was not possible on that day because of these big stupid piles of hard manmade snow. I am not exaggerating when I say the presence of the whales totally wasted all that wonderful powder. David was with me that day, and I am sure I had WTF??? written all over my face.


Well, if you can't enjoy OTW with 16-20" of fresh ... Stick to something easier. If you could handle OTW technically, there's a lot more lines at Alta that you could take on.



The point is that big mounds of hard snow are of no benefit on a powder day. I'd feel the same way if I was blasting down any trail at Alta and came across bus-sized chunks of ice disrupting the fall-line and natural snow (or even actual buses parked there). Unless the whales have changed, we're not talking about drops / cliffs / chutes or terrain features that fit into the natural character of the trail. They stick out like a sore thumb and don't hold or embrace powder like real terrain does, and skiing across them doesn't flow or feel like real terrain to me. I feel the same way when I see snow guns running on a powder day.
comprex
January 28, 2009
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
Originally Posted By: skier219
Unless the whales have changed, we're not talking about drops / cliffs / chutes or terrain features that fit into the natural character of the trail. They stick out like a sore thumb and don't hold or embrace powder like real terrain does, and skiing across them doesn't flow or feel like real terrain to me. I feel the same way when I see snow guns running on a powder day.


Filed in the grumpy box under T for "'Tain'tnachrl" smile
JohnL
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Quote:
Unless the whales have changed, we're not talking about drops / cliffs / chutes or terrain features that fit into the natural character of the trail. They stick out like a sore thumb and don't hold or embrace powder like real terrain does, and skiing across them doesn't flow or feel like real terrain to me.


We've either skied different whales on OTW (I've pretty much skied them every year the past several years) or we ski completely different terrain out West or in Vermont. With the exception of the rollers at the very flat section at the top of OTW, the whales remind me a lot of the mini ledge drops you get in Vermont (often filled in.) Castlerock at Sugarbush is filled with them. Depending upon the snow year and how recently it has snowed, Alta has a bunch in the trees. Shoot, the moguls at Alta can get to be so big, they are basically the size of the whales. (Alf's High Rustler in particular, and there are some steep drops on the back side of those bad boys.)
skier219
January 28, 2009
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
I think the difference with ledges is that they tend to drop off in step fashion, and they are random, whereas the whales are more like evenly spaced rounded humps, so you get a sine wave pattern going. They just don't feel natural to me.

One of the things I like about god-honest ledges, waterfalls, etc like you find in Vermont is that rocks, giant icicles, and trees are a big part of the feature, so you have to plan and pick a line (or a jump trajectory). There may be only ONE way through. I noticed the same thing at Alta last week -- because of low snow levels (80" is low for them) there were a lot of rocks showing and picking lines and forming a strategy was a big deal. I spent more time skiing slow short skid turns and darting between rocks/trees than I ever remember, and it was fun.

Now, if they could get some honest ledges, drops, and chutes going at TL somehow, I would be all in favor of that. This would take some specific grooming rather than just letting the snow pile up, almost like seating up terrain park features or drops on a super-G course.
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