Saturday, February 24, 2018

Day 85 A somewhat eventful day

Yesterday I trailed the change in the weather and today it arrived. They were reporting 18 cms of snow overnight but I was sceptical as we didn't have anything like that in our drive. In the event when we got to the hill there was more snow and as we went higher there was certainly 18 cms and possibly more in places.

It was -11 on the deck this morning and -3 as we drove away from the hill tonight so it would appear that the forecast warming trend is continuing. The day was a mix of sun and cloud becoming more sun and less cloud as the day went on. I was worried about the sun affecting the skiing surface but a cold wind sprung up keeping everything in proper winter conditions. The new snow  was light low moisture snow which is great blower pow to give you face shots but not so good at holding you up and you very easily went right through to base which was hard and bumpy. Still it was great to have new deep untracked powder and as the day went on the snow actually became heavier and as a result skied a bit better.

We went to the New Side as on a busy weekend (I am optimistic this will be the last busy day for a few weeks) as the Old Side is always trashed by the pay for powder groups who are given access to the hill ahead of us mere peasants just because they are prepared to pay the extra - don't get me started. The drop down Lift Line was deep with a firm base and only lightly tracked. Currie wasn't open so we had a few loops of White Pass where the light powder gave continuous face shots and there was plenty of untracked snow to be had.

The fence dropped on Currie and we headed out to Decline where the top was untracked and awesome. At the Megasaurus a funny thing happened in that 4 tracks came in from the left and we had to thread a fine line between them in the bottom section to get untracked snow. Next time round we hit Stag Leap which was tracked a bit but had some great deep untracked lines all the way down the left hand side. At Lynda's suggestion we went to Touque Chutes where she said the snow was always deeper and as the last 35 years have taught me she was right, it was great. We exited through Spinal Tap where the snow had folded in so it was deep all the way down through the creek bed and you had to duck to get under the fallen tree.

When we got up to the top of White Pass we saw that Polar Peak had opened and when we got to the Polar load we found that the chutes, and only the chutes were open. We looped Polar several times mainly in Papa Bear where the snow was deep and soft and cut back to the lift each time. We had decided to take Mamma Bear and run to base for lunch but were stopped from traversing in by Ski Patrol. When we got down and looked to see what had happened we were shocked to see that the whole of Mamma Bear had let go with a Class 3 avi that had taken out 2 trees, had a crown all the way across the chute almost a metre high and taken out 3 skiers on the Reverse Traverse. Luckily the skiers were dug out very fast and no one was hurt despite the death cookies being almost a cubic metre in size in some places. Everything was closed down for a while quite understandably with everyone shaken and thinking about what might have happened if it had been Papa Bear that had slide as that was full of skier traffic all of the time. I got a good first hand report of the incident from my buddy Steve who had triggered the avi in first place as he entered the chute.

We went to lunch to gather our thoughts as if we had been a few minutes later we could have been taken out ourselves. We ran down Concussion which was a bit wind affected but soft snow and Gilmar Gully which skied just like the skier cross track that I described yesterday. Lunch was quite late because of the events of the morning so we were faced with a short afternoon.

I decided to treat myself to some tree skiing so we hit -
Cougar Glades - this was tracked on the right but if you pushed left into the tight trees there was a lot of untracked lines. I got so far left that it was straight drop into the left exit chute and that was steep and untracked as well.
The Brain - Super soft deep snow so far down that the exit into Skydive was only two turns above the cat track
Namless Trees - A little tracked up at the top but untracked lower down. The creek bed below Megasaurus was very deep and I tried first the trees on the left and then the right before cutting out on to the lower section of Stag Leap. It was all good tight tree skiing.

After that we had time to hike up the Mitchy Chutes and take the tight tree lines between Mitchy's and Big Bang which seemed to have been left alone for the most part. We finished on Skydive where the group today was 9 strong with 3 first timers this season. It was very mellow tracked powder. There was line up to get in the Griz so we came straight home for an early night. Tomorrow is my drinking night and I am optimistic that the crowds will be gone and we will be back to normal. Looking forward to another powder day.


Friday, February 23, 2018

Day 84 Getting a bit fed up with this

What I am actually getting fed up with is the lack of new snow, the unseasonably cold temps and the resulting steady deterioration of the skiing conditions. Now, I know that 6 days without snow would not be considered much of a snow drought in most places but this is Fernie and we do set the bar rather higher here. In any event I am starting to feel a bit beaten up going to the hill every day only to encounter tougher skiing conditions than the day before which in truth are leaving me feeling rather sore.

Of course we had no new snow over night and the warm up that was promised yesterday failed to materialise so the temp on the deck as we had our morning coffee was -23. It looked like it could have been a blue bird day but as the morning wore on it clouded over and became rather socked in at the higher elevations although the temp was rising. By early afternoon the wind had come up and we were getting a lot of blowing wind sift in very poor viz. Before the end of the day we had a full on winter storm on our hands with the snow coming down hard and the temp on the drive home -7. Unfortunately the snow seems to have tapered off at the moment but I am optimistic that we are now entering the next snow cycle.

We went to the Old Side and decided to bite the bullet and push out to Snake Ridge. This was no easy task as the cat track out there is now cut with a lot of uphill in it and the snow in these cold conditions was super dry and grippy - if you were pushing you were moving but when you stopped pushing you stopped moving. After a long slog I arrived at the top of Gorby Bowl and hit the Curved Ball shoulder into Steep and Deep and exited that on the skiers right chute. This was the best snow I have skied in days being soft deep chopped up powder but worth the effort, not so sure.

After that we did a series of Old Side loops through Cedar Ridge, Boomerang, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line and Bear Chutes. The were all rather tough chunky dry snow on a firm base with bumps and icy patches, in fact the kind of tough skiing that makes for such hard work. Every loop was returned through Kangaroo which we hit 4 times and was it's usual tough icy bumpy self. On every occasion in Kangaroo we seemed to encounter a group of people who wished that they weren't there but I thought the Roo was skiing just as well as ever.

After lunch we headed to the New Side and found that Lift Line had some nice sift blown in at the top but it was best to cut right into Big Bang half way down to avoid the icy scrapy section at the bottom. When we got to the top of White Pass the Polar Chair was turning but not loading and soon it shut down altogether so no Polar today. There seemed to be evidence of a big blast up in the Grand Papa Bear chute so maybe we will get something there tomorrow.

We did a series of loops in the wind affected and later fresh snow conditions which were all dogged by the very poor viz which really got worse as the afternoon wore on. The loops were -
Concussion - ok skiing if you picked the sift in between the wind exposed chunks. The gully on skiers left of Gilmar was a lot of fun and the viz was pretty good considering. You could hold the creek bed all the way down and it was great skiing.
Stag Leap - the bridge was a bit improved from yesterday and the conditions in the trees at the top rather scratchy. After that it was ok mixed conditions all the way down the run with some soft snow.
Decline - rather like Stag it was a mixed bag with some nice easy skiing and some hard icy bumps particularly in the mid section.
Lone Fir/Spinal Tap - the light in the chute was a little flat but it skied ok and a the fan underneath was great as always but a bit firmer than usual. We traversed across to Spinal Tap and found the snow chunky but ok and the creek bed good all the way down.

We just got back up in time for the final Skydive rip and by this time we had a full on winter storm. There were only three of us tonight but we had a good non stop drop of Skydive to finish the day. As I am sitting here have light snow on the deck and have to keep our fingers crossed that it holds up.