One Word Photo Challenge: Cloud 9 in 7th Heaven

Cloud 9 in 7th Heaven
Fabian and I broke away from the pack, all of whom wanted to ski an area of Blackcomb Mountain known as Crystal Ridge. We wanted powder, and figured the best place to find that was higher, into the grey storm shrouding the Glacier Express as it ascended above the tree line. Snow had been falling sporadically, heavily at times, but for the moment it had abated. There even seemed to be some potentials for breaks in the dense morning cloud cloaking the entire mountain.

So up we went.

In the clouds, rising above the last vegetation, the world often seems monochromatic, with snow white and grey shadows and the blackened rock poking through. The density of moisture in the air obscures even the most garishly coloured jackets, pants and helmets of skiers making their way down hill. As the bowl opens up a bit over the glacier, our chair gets buffeted by the wind.

I love the stormy weather. It chases the casual skiers, the weekend warriors and destination tourists, back into the lodge, where they can do no damage to pristine powder. I especially love when the snow falls so hard you can keep coming back to the same run and find fresh powder on the same line you’d shredded just 20 minutes ago.

But it hasn’t been that kind of season in 2015. There’s been very little fresh snow, making Fabian and I eager to seek out the 10 or 15 centimeters reported to have fallen overnight in the alpine.

We find five great runs of untracked, hiding in plain sight as it were, off the Showcase T-Bar. We weave through a field of cornice debris which had fallen from the ridge above it, but the snow between is boot-top deep and with a little powder-wisdom and some luck, we mostly avoid the smaller chunks lying covered by he night’s snowfall. We’re amazed we have these tracks to ourselves. No one else seems to notice… or care. No one follows us in. But it’s sweet. Really sweet.

Perfect. The morning has already been worth it.

At the end of the fifth run, I notice there seems to be a break in the cloud cover forming on the other side of that ridge, an area named “7th Heaven” for the fact that Blackcomb’s 7th chairlift was built there to service the entire South Side of the mountain. So, up Horstman T-bar we go, the quickest access to it.

We unload at the top, with a lot of promising blue overhead. There’s the push through the unload area tunnel and we emerge into this: the photograph above.

Freakin’ spectacular.

There’s a slight rainbow ring around the sun, which is cool enough on its own. But below the sun is a patch of light refracting off the clouds. That’s not a lens flare, but essentially a water vapour sun refractor, creating a second sun in the clouds. This photograph nearly captures it, at least as it appeared in my eye.

Fabian — on the far left — and I bolt off for Cloud 9, where we ski the hits of powder along the trail’s edges, illuminated by the two suns, one above and one still slightly below. By the time we veer off onto Panorama, the clouds — with a bit of Mother Nature irony — envelop us again. I’m intent on the sweet sweet snow, so I don’t really care.

Even the speedy 7th Heaven Express couldn’t get us back up to the sun before the clouds had closed in on the mountaintop. Still, we did get that one spectacular run. And then three more in the 7th Heaven clouds.

After that, my under-prepared quads and tender knee were baked. So, into the village for a “last run” at the Dubh Linn Gate Irish pub. Sweetness.

At 3:30, Ruckus Deluxe showed up. Perfectomundo.

7th Heaven
Blackcomb Mountain
British Columbia, Canada, 2015

Inspired by this week’s One Word Photo Challenge: Cloudy.

And, hey, I guess it works as a Forces of Nature, too! 🙂

Here’s a link to the full image file… you can click on it, or download it, for your viewing pleasure. It’s rather big. 9408 X 2800 pixels 🙂