Friday, November 20, 2015

T minus 14 and counting

Oh, yes things are getting very exciting as we move towards the opening of the ski hill scheduled for just 14 days from today. The question everyone is asking is will things open on time and what will conditions be like? Here I have to put in a warning and say everything I have learned comes second hand from friends based in Fernie plus what I can glean from the internet. My conclusion is that we will get an on time opening but it probably won't be one of the awesome openings like some of those in the past.

Things were looking pretty good until about a week ago when we were hit with a rain event which went right to the top of the hill. The severity of the event was apparent from the Mountain Cams which showed all the trees as snow free ( all the snow washed off by the rain) and the rain runnels in the snow at the top of the Bear Chair which were visible even on cam.

Since then things have got better with some more snow covering the rain affected areas and things generally looking a bit more wintery although we may come to regret the layer that will have been created later in the season. The Bear load cam is up and running (having been down during the worst of the conditions) and showing ok conditions in the upper Lizard are but still rather sparse lower down. Significantly there is a large white cloud in the lower left cam which means that snow is being made on the lower hill and with good sub zero temps forecast between now and opening day snow making should continue and the ski offs will be covered even if it is only by artificial snow.

The current conditions show a base of 61 cms which would be at the snow plot just above Tower 6 by the Bear with a lot less snow as you move down the hill. As I said this would make for an ok, but not spectacular opening on the upper hill with the lower hill covered on the ski offs by artificial snow. There is a bit of snow in the forecast over the next 7days. Beyond that time frame the forecast shows a cloud/snow/sun mix which experienced readers of the forecast know means that they have no idea whatsoever what is going to happen and the forecasters are just coving their bets. For us that means that the final 7 days before opening are still up in the air and depending on how the Griz treats us we could be getting a significant change from the current position for the better (hopefully) or worse.

From my point of view none of this is going to matter too much. We will be flying out and arrive at Cranbrook on the 8th as this is the earliest the docs will let Lynda fly after her hip op. I figure it will take a couple of days to sort out our winter lives such a stock up the house, fire up the hot tub, get the truck insured and on the road etc. So my first day on the hill should be exactly one week after opening assuming everything goes to plan.

So lets keep our fingers crossed that the next 14 days do bring some heavy natural snow and we get a spectacular opening on time with a1 metre plus base - we can always hope. At the moment last weeks rain scores things 1-0 to El Nino and we want to even to score and get ahead if we can.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Day T minus ?? and counting

And of course the question marks in the heading are because no one really knows when the hill will be open no matter what may be planned. The whole thing of course is weather dependent and this means that in some seasons we have been open before the end of November and in others we have been struggling to get open for Christmas. The truth of the matter is that the Griz will decide when opening day is but that doesn't mean we can't speculate and start to get excited about the season before us.
In some ways the starting date is of less interest to me this year than it usually is. In September Lynda went in for a replacement hip op - thanks to everyone who has send their get well soon messages. The op has gone way better than we could have hoped for and she is already walking all round the village with no sticks and is back into her swimming training. The docs get very twitchy about long haul flights after an op so we can't fly out quite as early as usual but are now scheduled to land in Cranbrook on the evening of the 8th Dec. Whether or not this eats into our ski season, as I have already said, very much depends on the mood of the Griz
What we can do is have a look at the early signs in the knowledge that a heavy snow storm or a heavy rain storm can change things overnight. In this respect a picture (or in this case two) is worth a thousand words

The top picture was taken a couple of days ago and shows the current state of Bear which is quite encouraging. It looks like a fair bit if work has been done on it and the whole thing looks just about skiable although I don't think you would want to be on your brand new DPS Lotus Pures when you tried it. To put things in perspective the second picture is a screen grab I took from the mountain web cams yesterday - the white patch in the top right hand side of the pic is Bear. This shows that a lot of snow is needed to make the lower parts of Lizard bowl skiable although with careful farming of the snow and snow making on the lower hill anything is possible.
So there you have it the snow has started but more is need if we are going to have one of those epic November openings. My long term fears remain in that the El Nino conditions show no sign of subsiding and water temps in the Pacific remain at historic highs. That having been said we have had good El Nino years in the past just not that often.
Just a tailpiece on the Air Canada flights from the UK. The best price I could get was £890 for Heathrow/Calgary/Cranbrook return. I noticed that the Frankfurt/Calgary/Cranbrook flight which was slightly longer cost £650. In the end I opted to spend a couple of days with my buddies in Ireland and fly out from Dublin as the Dublin/Heathrow/Calgary/Cranbrook flight (yes, that is exactly the same as the London flight but with a return leg to Dublin added) was £530. If you attach a notional cost of £50 for the Dublin return flights (and you won't find any going for anything like that price) it means that Air Canada are charging their UK customers and extra £410 to fly to Canada over and above what they charge their Irish customers. I wonder if anyone from Air Canada would like to comment on this price structure ?
See you all soon - watch this space