Wednesday, November 26, 2014

T minus 9 and counting


Apologies to all those of you who weren't brought up on the space jargon of NASA in the 1960's (by the way the Americans did land on the moon, really), what the heading means is that we are only 9 days away from opening day. So lets start with the story of how we got here.

We left Cornwall about lunch time on Saturday. I had debated long and hard with myself how to get to Heathrow on a one way journey. I rejected flying from Newquay to Gatwick (very inconvenient), getting a taxi (very expensive) and catching the train (very inconvenient and very expensive). There is some truth in the old joke that Cornwall is a county cut off on three sides by the sea and the other side by Great Western Trains. In the end we got a one way car rental from Budget which at 62 quid for two and a half days was by a margin the cheapest and easiest way of doing things.

After spending the weekend visiting various parts of Lynda's family to say happy Christmas we spent Sunday night with her cousin Dave and his wife Ellen who have been out to Fernie to stay and with a bit of luck should be out again in March. Lynda is now fully recovered from her chemo and was given the all clear at a check up last week which means she has passed the one year landmark making a return of her lymphoma much less likely. Unfortunately she is pretty much back to her old self in terms of keeping me in line as if I don't have enough problems. On Sunday night we were joined by Steve and Liz some more Fernie guests who indicated that they didn't think they could make it out this winter but by the end of the evening and quite a lot of wine they were showing signs of weakness.

Monday lunch time we dropped the car at Heathrow and got a transfer to Terminal 5where we had coffee with another ski buddy Dave who is working there. The reason we were at T5 was that we were flying BA and the reason for this was that this flight is the first leg of a round the world trip which continues next April via Seattle, San Fran, LA, Fiji. North Queensland, Gt Barrier Reef, KL and Dubai. I usually try and avoid BA after they lost a brand new pair of ski boots for me on a flight to San Fran some years ago and were less than helpful when I complained. This time things went without a hitch and I have to admit that T5 is a real cut above the rest at Heathrow. We also had our first taste of flying on one of the 787 dream liners which was interesting. The seats seemed a bit more comfortable and there was a much wider selection of movies and TV shows that you didn't bother to watch first time round available, but most importantly the flight departed on time and arrived half an hour early at around 5 in the afternoon.

I had expected hassle at immigration as I was staying 144 days (not going back to the UK mid season this year) but the officials seemed much more interested in whether or not I had contacted anyone with ebola recently and when they found I hadn't they lost interest and just waved me through. I also think that one of the few advantages of getting old is that you are seen as respectable although Lynda claims that it is her presence that lends me this aura of respectability. Another reason I don't fly BA to Calgary is that the flight arrives so late that you really have to spend the night there and travel the next day. I had done one of those super cheap deals with Expedia where they book you a hotel and you don't know where you are staying until the booking is complete. This found us staying in the Clarion which was ok, clean and convenient with quiet rooms. The only problem was that the draft beer pumps in the bar were broken and we had to drink bottles - the only major problem on our journey.

Tuesday (yesterday) a buddy Andrew picked us up from the hotel around midday and gave us a lift to Fernie.  A big snow storm was forecast but we made it in by late afternoon and the snow held off until evening so we rather dodged the bullet on that. Rather worryingly everything went smoothly and the house was in good shape but perhaps that was because we were only here 5 weeks ago. The phone, wifi and cable TV were reconnected by Shaw although it took a phone call to get the TV working. The truck was insured for 5 months without hassle (usually ICBC can find some problem) and fired up first time. By the early evening when we were ready for bed we had gone out and got the food basics and some beer and of course Jamesons Irish Whiskey.

So what are the conditions like ? Well there is snow on the ground in the valley and it looks like there are ok, but early season conditions on the hill. It snowed overnight and we have probably got another 10 cms since yesterday's snow readings. Temp on the deck is a mild -3. Looks like some odd stuff coming up with a sharp temperature rise to +5 tomorrow bring mixed pecip to the valley floor at least. After that they are calling for a cooling trend into the weekend bringing around 40cms of snow by Saturday and temps on Saturday night dropping to -28. There is more snow in the forecast for next week with opening still scheduled for a week on Friday.

What this means to me is that we are unlikely to get a bonus weekend this weekend even with limited opening but I will keep my ear to the ground. Unless things go pear shaped opening on the 5th looks like a slam dunk although the conditions will be decidedly "early season". I am worried about this temp rise and precip tomorrow. If we are lucky it will make for a good solid heavy snow base for the season which would be great. If we are unlucky it will form an ice freeze line just above the snow base and we will have slides down to that layer all season with real avalanche problems - lets keep our fingers crossed.

Today's first job will be to shovel the snow from the decks and check out the wild life. We saw a big moose by the road on the drive from the airport and there are deer tracks in the snow outside the house so wildlife is about although I assume the bears are tucked up in bed now until the spring. We have to get the ski's serviced (probably Straight Line) pick up credit cards from the bank (yes, they have agreed we can have some as long as they are cash covered) and get Alpine Spa to fire up the hot tub ready for the season.

Look for my next report which will be more about how the season is shaping up and less like a travel guide in the next few days - good to be back in Fernie.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fall Report 2014

As usual I will start with an apology to my UK and European followers for the title of this post which I am sure you will tell me should more correctly read "Autumn Report 2014" but when in Canada do as the Canadians.

First off an update for all of you who have been kind enough to enquire after Lynda's health this year. The good news is that the chemo she received appears to have been effective and she continues to recover, mainly for the side effects of the drugs she had to take. All summer she has been getting stronger and although not quite back to full strength is well on the way to a full recovery. With this in mind we both are set for a full on ski season.

I should also apologise for the lateness of this report which I usually make a good month earlier than this. The reason for this is that our fall visit to the house in Canada is later this year than usual. In part this is due to me wanting to run the Fernie Half Marathon which I did last weekend in a time of 1:56 which was not great but ok considering I was the oldest guy in the race, and an overall position of 62/168 was not too bad either. The other and main reason was that we had booked a Grizzly Bear watching trip for early October to coincide with the main kokanee run (the fish not the beer) which meant a later than usual visit.

I am actually typing this report sitting in my log cabin up in the Selkirks having had a couple of awesome bear watching, hiking and rafting days with a couple more to go. Anyone contemplating such a vacation should check out www.grizzlybearranch.ca

Really when it comes to the outlook for skiing this winter there isn't really very much to report. There has been some snow on the ground even down to the valley floor but for the time being  it has all melted right up to the top of the Three Sisters. Days are getting cooler and the leaves are turning yellow and falling but as yet there are no signs of the first real snow base of the winter but of course that could change in a matter of days,

No significant work appears to have been done on the hill although I am told there has been a bit of alder tidying which is always a good thing. I am also told that some work has been done creating an open area to the skiers right of Emily's to help the junior racers, but even if it's true it won't affect the rest of us much.

On a personal note the hill have found my ski that was lost when I was caught in an inbound avi on Paddy's Day this year and it is awaiting my collection at some point - thanks to all concerned in the recovery and great work guys. Much to my surprise when I went to the hill last week I found Guest Services open and so we went in and picked up our passes which got the adrenaline starting to flow in anticipation of a new ski season.

There is still no official word on opening dates but the smart money is that it will be first weekend in December conditions permitting. There is always the possibility of a bonus opening the weekend before perhaps just for two days, again if conditions allow. Hills always like to get some skiing in during November no matter how poor or limited just to give them the bragging rights to say that we ski from November.

So what is the outlook for the season - well, in truth that is anybody's guess. On a positive note the Farmers Almanac, which has a slightly better record of long range forecasting than most (not saying much I know) is calling for a wetter and colder winter in the Pacific North West. This has to be taken with a large pinch of salt but looked at together with the subsiding of the El Nino effect now evident it could point to a pretty good ski season

Final analysis is that any ski season is a good ski season so I hope to be out on day 1 and then all day every day throughout the season so watch this space for reports. Hope to see many of you out on the hill or in the Griz Bar afterwards so have a great ski season and remember - keep your stick on the ice