Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Day 76 more snow

Overnight we had another 23 cms of fresh bringing the three day total to around 60 cms. Whilst some of the big dumps my grab the headlines, this steady accumulation is actually what gives us a good ski base and day after day of good powder skiing with pretty well all of the hill open.

We got to the hill to find the holiday crowds had been swelled by the 20 centimeter crowd (in Fernie if it snows more than 20 cms overnight no one is expected to go into work - they go skiing instead) so things were a bit of a gong show. We though yesterday was the warmest point of the current weather cycle but we were wrong, today was. It was zero on the way to the hill and +1 driving back. During the day the base temps rose to +4 and even at the Polar load early afternoon I noticed it was about +1. Luckily it was overcast so with no direct sun light the snow was not badly affected and stayed in pretty good shape higher up and even lower down it was a bit mashed potato but nothing too serious. There was also some low cloud/fog which came and went although for the most part viz was a bit flat but ok.

Just like the last few days we went to the New Side with a view to getting as high as possible where we thought the snow would be best. Currie bowl wasn't open but Anaconda was so we dropped in and found only one track in front and it was very good. Bootleg Glades were also good so I hit the near side chutes and also found only one track in there as well. It was all great powder skiing.

Next loop up we lined up for the fence drop on the Currie bowl in full Chinese Downhill style. I had word that the Reverse Traverse wasn't open so I dropped 1-2-3s and got untracked lines. Actually I drooped 1, traversed 2 and dropped the far side of 3 which was all good powder. The run to base was via the trees to the right of Bootleg and the left Diamond Back which I don't think have a name. There was a bit of cat debris in the top but once through that there was seriously steep untracked tree skiing all the way down to Gilmar Trail.

Next loop Timber Chair broke down with us on it. We were slowly run to the top and then looking back we could see the chair had stopped. I was told at the top of White Pass it was only going to be a 15 minute problem so I ran to base through Skydive which was tracked but deep soft snow. Actually the break down lasted for over 2 hours with regular updates telling us it was only going to be 30 minutes - not good customer communications. I went to the Old Side and did a couple of Boomerang/Boom Ridge loops which were all soft deep tracked snow. Having been told that Timber was running I went back only to find it wasn't - I went for an early lunch.

As I came out after lunch I was told that Timber would be down for at least another half hour but when I got to the lift they opened the gate and I was on the first chair up. I headed to Polar Peak which I knew had been opened and had been looped by about a dozen lucky bunnies who had been "stuck" up there when the Timber Chair had broken down. Actually things worked out ok as the snow on Polar had been pretty slabby and wind affected so the little skier traffic that had taken place had broken it up into soft deep snow rather nicely.

The afternoon was spent looping Polar Peak (Shale Slope, Grand Papa Bear and Papa Bear several times) and all the chutes were soft deep broken up wind slab higher up and some interesting and rather slabby powder lower down. I had intended to run to base through Mama Bear and Lone Fir but when I got to the top of Cornice Chute it was totally untracked and I couldn't resist but to drop it and track out to the Big 3. I ran down the Brian which had huge untracked areas and although a bit heavy lower down took it all the way to the cat track.

I went back up Polar for a few more loops and it was still skiing soft and deep so I did one more drop through Spirit Bear which was hardly tracked and Concussion which was tracked up but soft. Last run of course was Skydive which was nice and soft down to the last pitch where it got quite heavy but nothing too bad.

So in summary a pretty good day with temps just a bit higher than ideal and of course a load of unwelcome lift issues. The forecast is for cooling temps and a few flurries over the next day or two. looking out a bit further it looks like we will get some serious snow next week with temps staying well below zero so all in all I am pretty optimistic.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Day 75 things just keep getting better

We were a bit confused when we woke this morning as the hill was claiming 17 cms of fresh snow in the last 24 hours but looking at our drive we didn't seem to have anything like that much. When we got to the hill we were delighted to find that the hill had got a lot more snow than the town and during the day it continued. The result was another good powder day with the hard ice and crust really getting a good covering.

On the way to the hill it was around zero and at the base day time highs got to around +3 before falling back to zero as we drove away in the evening. Up the hill I noticed it was -2 at the White Pass load even at the warmest part of the day. It was overcast and snowing most of the day and I guess we got at least another 5 cms while the lifts were turning. This was supposed to be the warmest part of the current weather cycle and there was very real danger that the precip would be coming down as rain at the base for at least some of the day. In the event we just about dodged the bullet and although the snow got very wet by mid afternoon it did come down white (just) all over the hill all day. Things are now on a cooling trend and the forecast snow (of which there is a fair bit over the next week) should be more like the usual Fernie powder.

Just like yesterday I went straight to the New Side on the basis that the snow would be best at the highest point in the system. In fact today played out very much like yesterday even down to me skiing through lunch to avoid the crowds for Alberta Family day/week which should be somewhat reduced from now on. Polar Peak wasn't open due to the poor viz and as the day wore on the cloud line descended until it was well below White Pass top and skiing was very white indeed until things lifted a bit towards the end of the day.

Everywhere was good with new snow on yesterdays new snow and a steady accumulation during the day. This is a summary of how my day played out -
Decline - we grabbed first tracks as there were already a couple in Skydive. Great soft untracked powder all the way down getting a little heavy at the base.
Cougar Glades - plenty of untracked lines and for only the second time this year there was enough snow to go past the Megasauraus and pick up the old disused logging trail that spits you out at the base of Stag Leap. Great untracked skiing.
Touque Chutes/Spinal Tap - a bit disappointing due to the number of tracks already in there. The snow was soft and deep.
High Saddle - it was still ok but with a couple of icy jump turns in the mid chute area. Below the chute it was soft deep powder with plenty on untracked lines. The exit through Easter and Freeway was soft snow on a firm base
Lone Fir - I had to cut trail across the top of Cornice Chute and Lone Fir was lightly tracked and soft. The fan below was awesome with really deep untracked lines and the exit through Easter and Freeway was as before.
Triple Trees - like yesterday I had taken the high IT to Gotta Go only to find it still closed, apparently it's still pretty ugly lower down. As a consolation I dropped on to the Idiot Traverse in super deep untracked snow and then hit all 4 sections of Triple Trees (no, I don't understand either) right down to where you drop on to Summer Road under the Timber Chair. It was really great and mostly untracked, the only issue was bit of dead fall in the final pitch but it was way better than the only other time I skied it early season.
The Brain - there were a few tracks in the top section but plenty of untracked lines. Most of the tracks disappeared when I cut right into the lower section which had soft snow on a firm base and was so good I could stay in the trees all the way down to the cat track at the bottom of Skydive.
Nameless Trees - these are the trees to the right of Skydive that you enter as if you are dropping into Stag Leap but stay a bit left. Great mostly untracked skiing which I took all the way down to the clearing and creek bed. The bed was chopped up where the traffic had funneled and after a few turns I cut right with the intention of bailing. When I looked below me the tree skiing just looked so good and untracked that I had to take it and ended up coming out on to Stag Leap almost at the bottom, a new line and very good indeed.
Decline/Window Chutes - as the Window Chutes were about the only part of that whole area I hadn't skied I gave it a go. Decline was getting quite soft and chunky so you could keep your skies in the fall line for much longer than usual on the way down. The trees above Window Chutes were deep and untracked and the chute itself had a few tracks in but skied ok although getting very heavy in the final few turns.
Skydive - of course last run had to be Skydive and for most of the run it was easy tracked powder where you could just let things rip. The final pitch had got very heavy and was quite hard work to push around the wet snow, particularly for last run of the day.

After a few OJ and sodas in the Griz we have come home for a quiet night. The good news is that we should now be on a cooling trend so the risk of the R word is going away. The even better news is that it has been puking snow all evening and doesn't show any signs of stopping so tomorrow could be better still - fingers crossed.