Saturday, January 21, 2017

Day 51 I was right all along

For the past couple of days I have been saying that I have been ignoring the Old Side on the grounds that the skiing over there sucked although because I wasn't skiing it then this was an assumption on my part. Well, today we went over to try it and I am pleased (well not that pleased) to say I was right, it sucked, but more of that later.

There was no new snow and on the way to the hill it was -10 and sunny but with a slight high misty cloud. The cloud cover continued all day and increased so that as we drove away in temps of -5 we were actually getting some light snow which is continuing this evening but without much evidence of accumulation. The cloud remained high enough for us to have good viz for the most part but with some patches of flat light away from the direct sunlight. During the day temps rose a little but at every point on the hill it was several degrees sub zero so everything stayed bullet hard and frozen.

As I said in the interests of journalistic accuracy we went to the Old Side to see what conditions were like. The first few turns in Cedar Ridge were actually ok but then it became breakable crust all the way down. Kangaroo was ugly even by Kangaroo's own standards with hard icy bumps in the top, about a 1 metre drop on to the cat track due to some random grooming and the lower section refrozen tracked crud which was mixture of a rock hard ploughed field and rail road tracks. Boomerang was only a bit better and this was enough to convince me that my conclusions had been correct and it was time to head to the New Side.

Polar Peak was open and this time we had both sides, the Chutes and the Coaster side. This opened up Shale Slope and the Clown Chutes to add to yesterday options not to mention the mixture of cutting from Shale towards Grand Papa, skiing the shoulder and then dropping into the Grand Papa Chute - run of the day for me. With so many options I had no trouble in amusing myself all the way through to a late lunch just looping the Peak. Unfortunately a lot of people had the same idea and it wasn't long before the poor old generator on the chair started to overheat and we had to go to only loading every other chair - not a problem if you were riding single as I was but a pain otherwise. Final run before a late lunch was to hit the near untracked chute between Papa Bear and Mama Bear and then traverse across almost into the top of Spirit Bear which was the first time I had hit that line this season and it was great. The run to base was through Concussion which was still skiing very nicely in the chutes.

After lunch I intended to continue on Polar Peak but found the chair broken down for the rest of the day with people on the chair - as I didn't hear about an evac I assume they at least managed to run those stuck through to the top. I spent the afternoon looping the Currie Chutes from Concussion to Barracuda all of which skied well taking and edge even if they were a bit crusty low down. Gilmar Trail had turned to sheet ice where no matter how you pointed your skies you just slid down the fall line and this seemed to disconcert quite a few people.

Last run was Skydive where I had no great expectations and fully expected it to be just as bad as yesterday and perhaps because of this only two of us turned up to ski it. Actually it was good in the top and the mid section of crust seemed easier than of late although this may just be us getting used to the conditions. The final pitch was hard refrozen crud so overall the run was marginally better today but that may just have been our perception.

It was Kokanee Snow Dreams Party this weekend which in my opinion is an event well worth missing unless you enjoy crowds of strangers, a long line up to get in the bar and music too loud to allow conversation. We went to the Kodiak Lounge (cheapest beer in Fernie) for a quiet drink and then on to the pub to eat - a much better option in my opinion. The good news is that it is still snowing, not hard but anything is better than nothing and we must keep our fingers crossed for an accumulation by morning.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Day 50 I had a good day

Why I specifically place the heading of today's post in the first person is because in my personal (and some might say quite narrow) world of skiing I skied in good conditions most of today. That is not to say that conditions on the hill were good, in fact I would say that ignoring the groomers (which we do) 80% of the skiing was pretty crappy. The moral of this for me is not to whine about the conditions and possibly quit the hill early but to actually ski on the 20% of the hill that is really good and have a good day. Seems rather obvious to me but apparently less so to others.

They were calling about 4 cms of new snow on the hill overnight which I guess was last nights graupel and which only really fell to about half way down the hill. Temps on the way to the hill were -1 and -2 while driving back tonight, and I even noticed it was about -4 on the deck a moment ago - we do seem to be getting the promised cooling trend. On the hill temps at the base may have just about got above zero during the day but not enough to soften the snow very far up the hill. With a sun/cloud mix tending towards the cloud the surfaces were generally colder than yesterday and the conditions reflected it. For 5/10 minutes we did get some ok snow but that was our ration for today.

We went to the New Side concluding that everything on the Old Side was so low it would suck. Currie Bowl was closed so we did a few loops of White Pass where the snow was in a slightly better state than yesterday and the viz was way better. We managed to get all the way across the High IT for the first time this season although we still had to air it over some rocks and the Knot Chutes were skiing ok. Currie opened and we kicked out to Concussion which just like yesterday was about the best way down the hill with soft snow on top and skier trashed crust lower down which skied ok.

On our next loop we tried Decline which was a big mistake. It was actually really nice down to just above the Megasauraus Trail but the rest of the run was breakable crust which the thin covering of new snow did nothing to improve. It was super hard work with every turn having to be jumped and unsurprisingly we were the first (and I suspect possibly the last) tracks in there today.

Then they opened Polar Peak and we were in the right place at the right time to get first tracks. For the rest of the morning we just looped Grand Papa Bear and Papa Bear (only the chute side of the Peak was open) as the rest of the skiers discovered the opening. Actually I predicted (and was proved right) that a bit of skier traffic improved the surface which did have slight crust on it although by late afternoon all the runs showed signs of having had too much of a good thing. We ran to lunch through Baby Bear which was very good and Concussion which was just as good as before.

The afternoon was spent just looping the Polar Chutes, particularly Grand Papa and Papa Bear and just one foray into Barely Legal which showed that we need a bit more snow yet to repair the rock surfaces in the exit chutes. We just had time for a run to base via Mama Bear (still in pretty good shape) and Concussion (holding up surprisingly well) before heading out for the final rip down Skydive.

We all knew in or heart of hearts what it was going to be like given the Decline experience but we hoped that things had changed a little during the day - we were out of luck. It skied ok to just above the Megasauraus Trail and then turned to very ugly breakable crust. So far it was skiing just like yesterday but you may recall that then the lower section softened to spring skiing. Well, today it didn't, it was hard refrozen crud of the worst kind and showed no signs of softening. We all felt that we had earned our beers (and OJ and sodas) after dragging our asses down that.

Time for one more early night to try and shake this cold and to be ready for the early start to beat the weekend crowds tomorrow. Forecasts are holding out the prospect a little precip over the next few days and I will take whatever we can get.