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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Season Summary 2013-14

This has been a strange season for us and compared with most a very short one. I got 46 days which compared with my usual 120-130 days is low although I have to appreciate that it is way better than most vacation skiers and weekenders, and our timing was such that there were some pretty spectacular days in there. The reason for the short season was having to stay in the UK while Lynda received chemotherapy for her lymphoma and she was not given the all clear until mid February. The good news on that front is that she remains clear and getting stronger every day, eventually getting in 35 days and even skiing whole days by the end of the season. Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes we have had for Lynda's health - these things do make a difference.
It follows that I don't have much input on the early season stuff although I have had a number of conversations with my buddies on the subject. It seems that the season started really well with good coverage and up to the end of December we were getting loads of fresh snow and looked on course for a stellar season. In January things suddenly changed and we had a snow drought through until mid Feb with virtually no snow falling in that period. To make matter worse there were repeated cold periods where daytime temps peaked in the mid 20s and although this kept the coverage good it did nothing to encourage anyone to go skiing.
Just before we arrived in early Feb the snow machine turned back on and there was a spectacular week of deep powder. We arrived just on the back of this cycle and then enjoyed the conditions through to the end of the season. What we had was good but also fairly mixed.
Through late Feb and March we got some big snow cycles and the base that had only been just over 2 metres when we got here went to over 4 and a half metres by the end of March. In true Fernie fashion these cycles came always with the threat of warm temps and therefore rain although with the exception of a couple of days we managed to dodge the bullet. We had several days when it was raining at the base but stayed snowing up in White Pass and I love these as no one comes to the hill and although the terrain is limited you have your own private powder ski hill. Just before the end of March we had a butt ugly top to bottom rain event which closed everything and when it reopened it was destroyed icy crud and we thought the season was over. Of course Fernie isn't like that and two weeks later we were skiing around all over the hill in deep powder with everything repaired.
April was mostly good spring skiing waiting for the slopes to soften and then skiing them as they did but before they turned to mush. Closing day just about summed it up where we spent the day skiing the Polar Peak Chutes in bluebird conditions as they just got softer and then retiring to the deck of the Grizz to drink beer in the sun.
So overall a fantastic season with the highlights for me -
Getting caught in a cat 2 avi and only getting buried up to my neck and getting away with just a lost ski, hopefully to be found in the spring melt.
Seeing the Monster Enemy Lines event actually run from the Lizard Head Wall.
Skiing something new (Sean's Chute) only to be tried with a 4 metre plus base to mellow the choke.
Getting my new pair of DPS 112 Wailers (my first full rocker skis) and having to learn new skiing techniques to get the best from them.
The hill staying in such great shape even though the season snowfall of just over 10 metres was no more than average.
Just being here when we thought we wouldn't be.
Lowlights were few and far between but -
More people than ever throwing garbage (particularly beer cans) on the hill. I guess it won't stop until they start pulling the passes from these morons.
The new habit of people skiing round with music blaring out of their clothing. I have no problem if they listen to their I players but why should the rest of us be forced to listen to their music. Here I use the term music in it's widest sense as it usually seems to be rap, a music form where I think in the name the C is silent.
So as always it's a big thanks to everyone on the hill who works to make my time so enjoyable but a particular thanks to Patrol for risking your lives to keep us safe and all the girls serving in the Griz bar who look after us so well.
Finally I have received a number of emails telling me that my site is often used as a reference point by European skiers (particularly British) thinking of skiing Canada/Fernie for the first time. A word of warning - if you are looking to have a European ski experience in Canada Fernie isn't really the place for you, Whistler as an international resort is a much better bet but if you are looking for a uniquely Canadian skiing experience you might just have the time of your life. Fernie isn't a ski resort, it's a mining town with real people doing real jobs but it has a great ski hill which in the right conditions produces the best skiing (particularly steep tree skiing) in the world. The reason we get fantastic snow is that we are on the edge of two weather systems, the cold Arctic highs of the north and the warm wet winds from the Pacific, when they bump into each other over the East Kootenays the results can be spectacular. Equally it is quite possible for one or other of the systems to dominate giving us either cold days when the high barely gets above -30 or rain which can got all the way to the top of the hill at any time of the season. You could have the best week skiing of your life at Fernie or the worst. Also they don't groom powder here so if you can't ski deep powder and you are here in a snow cycle you will be spending a pretty miserable time floundering around on your back - good groomer skiing doesn't count for much in Fernie.
Anyone wanting further information please email me and I will be more than happy to exchange it for a pitcher of Kokanee in the Griz bar when you get here.
Have a great summer and watch for the fall update late September.