Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day 56 Groundhog day come early

For the benefit of my non North American followers Groundhog Day is a real event which takes place on the 2nd of Feb each year so it not due until Monday but you could be forgiven for thinking it was today. For my younger followers Ground Hog Day was a movie where Bill Murray featured as a weather man who went to cover the Ground Hog Day celebrations (more about these on Monday) and had to live the same day over and over again - since then it has become a synonym for any day which just seems to be like the last - lecture over.

For today's report just read yesterday's - end of story. Ok, I guess I had better put a bit of flesh on the bones but there isn't really that much to add. As forecast things were a bit colder over night (-6 on the way to the hill) and stayed a bit colder all day, it was -2 as we drove away and I noticed that nothing got above -1 at the White Pass load all day. I suspect in the direct sunlight we may have had plus temps but there was a little more cloud cover so not so much direct warming sunlight and yet no good cloud cover so no atmospheric warming. The result was that not much (in a practical sense read nothing) warmed up and softened during the day. so what we had was a re run of yesterday but just a bit colder and with no softening surfaces.

We went to the Old Side and poked around although the terrain was limited as Haul Back T Bar was broken down and stayed that way all day. We were on hard packed groomers on Bear, North Ridge, Lower Lynda's and all the associated linked runs. The under surface was still hard blue ice in places. Late in the morning we decided to go over to the New Side and I decided to try Boomerang as it looked like it might have softened in the sun on the skiers left - big mistake, It was hard tracked up bumps all the way down and as ugly as a bear's ass. We even stopped for a hot choccy in the excellent Lost Boys Café as there was so little to tempt us out on the hill.

We dropped to base through Currie Powder which was still slick and hard and eventually through Gilmar Trail which skied marginally better than yesterday (not saying much) because it seemed to me that the grooming had taken place at rather lower temps but then I am no expert in this area. Next loop through White Pass I made my next big mistake by going in to the Gun Bowl which turned out to be boiler plate bumps with tracked up crud and just to make matters more fun the cloud rolled in as I went in and cut the viz to zero - not one of my better runs but ok tough skiing.

Just before lunch we ran to base via Currie Powder and Gilmar which in a vision of things to come were skiing rather worse than the first time round with some very slick blue ice patches. After lunch it was another few rounds of the Old Side still avoiding the Haul Back T Bar which remained "temporarily" out of surface.

I cut back to the New Side where the viz had improved so I looped White Pass and to base through Currie several times. Just for the record Lift Line and everything to skiers left of Currie powder were closed but to be fair I don't think even I would have given them a go today even if they had been open. The drop through Heartland to White Pass base got slicker each time until it was pretty well all blue ice. The run back through the Gun Bowl was tough icy bumps but with good viz it was pretty ok skiing. the drop down Curie and Gilmar just got worse each time so that by the last run it was more or less blue ice all the way down but as this was the stuff I learned to ski on it was no big deal - just not worth getting really excited about.

And so to the bar for beers with buddies and long discussion about the conditions, the hill and what glading was needed and the future price of oil - in fact a fairly normal evening. The bad news is that we still think things will get worse before they get better. We must have snow for things to improve and ahead of that things must get colder, or at least stay as cold as it is with no softening. Maybe we have to take one for the team over the next couple of days until things improve - not that we have much choice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Day 55 and I thought yesterday was ugly

I was reminded by Lynda half way through today that I had forecast that things were going to get much worse because we would be getting the overnight freezes between now and the new snow forecast for the weekend but with colder overnight temps and lower daytime temps the conditions would just become ugly ice. She pointed out that I was dead right - sometimes I wish I wasn't always right in calling the conditions.

Now to be fair, if you are a groomer skier then things are not quite as black as I am painting them. The grooming is working better now we have colder temps over night but even there the base is groomed ice which comes through as slick blue ice surface in many places not to mention the numerous places on the lower hill where the snow has gone and we have large brown patches or a forest of chopped off alders at best. Of course if you are not a groomer skier (like me) today must rate as one of the worst days ever.

No new snow over night and the snow base is down to 120 cms. Just for the record this compares with 220 cms 2 years ago and 280 cms 3 years ago so that gives you an idea of just how far behind the 8 ball we are. On the way to the hill it was -5 and was -1 as we drove away tonight. During the day temps rose to plus figures right at the base but at the White Pass load it stayed at about zero all day. With no atmospheric warming the snow softened only in the direct sunlight and even then only for a short time. For the most part the hill remained hard boiler plate all day on the upper mountain.

It was a bluebird day with cloud on the peaks in ridge line wind. The cloud dissipated during the day and by the end we had bluebird conditions. I am not a fan of clear blue skies because of the effect they have on the light. Ok - in the direct sunlight viz is great but on a North facing hill like Fernie at least half the runs are in shadow which because of the defused white light become very poor viz as you ski into them and as this is usually accompanied by a dramatic change in surface it makes for very difficult light conditions - can't imagine why so many people seem to love bluebird days.

We went to the Old Side and poke around on Groomers in Bear, North Ridge, Emily's, Lower Lynda's, Cruiser etc. These were mostly ok but still with some very slick areas. We did try a few runs down the Sunny Side shoulder but found it not to be softening very much and for the most part it ugly icy bumps. We went to the New Side late morning.

First drop from Timber was  down Puff which unbelievably skied worse than yesterday. Really hard icy tracked up bumps which we didn't try a second time. The several White Pass loops were through the Gun bowl where things had softened a bit but nowhere near as much as yesterday and through Highline which was hard icy bumps. We ran to base through Currie Powder which in the interests of accuracy should perhaps be renamed Currie Refrozen Crud. We had the idea of drifting out to Concussion to see if it had softened but the sign line was down all the way down to the bottom of the Concussion chutel. This was a conditions closure and probably no bad call - even if it had been open I doubt I would have pushed out into the Currie Chutes or Skydive today - at least not more than once.

We did another Currie Powder loop before a late lunch mainly because we couldn't believe how ugly the ski out through Gilmar Trail had been. We should have believed it because it remained just as ugly with ice, some random grooming of mush and lots of chopped off twigs.

After lunch we went back to the Old Side and were unable to find anything off the groomers that had softened. My buddy Kevin did take a run down Boom Ridge and reported it as slow ugly piece of work. Sunny Side shoulder had reformed as crud so we went back to the New Side to try out luck.

No real luck on the New Side as the Currie Powder loops were no better and the chutes remained closed - thank goodness. We did have a couple of loops back to White Pass and found the Gun Bowl was setting up but just about acceptable but Highline had become bullet proof bumps. It was 3:30 and we skied off for a final work out through Currie and Gilmar which if anything skied a little worse than they had done during the day perhaps because it was getting colder.

Beers and hot tub to get rid of the pain which was only partially successful. Looking ahead I think things will get worse before they get better. The skiing will only improve with new snow which is forecast for the weekend, between now we will have cooling conditions making the bumps and the base harder and icier with nothing to mitigate the ever toughening conditions.