Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 29 and when I say awesome I mean awesome

Well last nights snow sort of fizzled out during the night but as soon as we woke up it started again and just like yesterday it snowed all day. By 10 o'clock the patrol were reporting 5cms of fresh since opening and it kept on coming. Temps started at -12 and got up to about -7 so it was perfect hero snow which just got better as the day went on.

We started on the Old side and just like yesterday did loops off Cedar ridge in the new snow, which as I said got better all the time. King Fir was particularly nice and very deep around the fir itself. Having grabbed fresh tracks for a couple of hours and got a couple of runs through Kangaroo, in my view very nice but I realise I am a minority, we headed for the new side.

On the New side we hiked up to try Mitchy chutes which were deep and pretty well untracked. After that the day just became a series of loops out along the County Line to ski Cougar Glades, Stag Leap, Skydive, Decline and all other runs off the front side. The tops were deep fluffy terrain parks with over the head face shots and the lower sections had repaired to something pretty ok although you needed to be able to take alders like sprung gates.

Half way through the afternoon the higher traverse on the County Line was closed due to loadings up in Polar Peak but you could still get out to the Skydive traverse via the lower line so we did. Started at 9, no lunch, no break and finished at 4 with a mega rip down Skydive by which time we had over the head face shots all the way down.

Considering this is usually the busiest day of the year things weren't so bad. There were some line ups but by going into single lines we never had to wait more than a minute or two all day. If you moved away from the main stream runs as always you tended to find yourself on your own and in any event in a few days time we will have the hill back for ourselves. Seems to have stopped snowing now but it is still -7 with more snow called for so could be another good day tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Day 28 and the powder starts again

This morning dawned overcast with some very light snow and a couple of centimetres accumulation over night. The temp had warmed up to about -8 where it stayed all day. The best news was that as we got to the hill the snow started to fall, light at first but getting heavier all day and is still falling this evening.

With the viz socked in we decided to hit the old side today and ski in the trees taking the risk that the new snow would have gone some way towards repairing the lower hill which was so damaged by the rain last week.

We tried an early run or two on the Sunny side shoulder which were good with a dusting of cover but poor light. In view of the light we headed over the Cedar ridge and spent the rest of the morning working our way down the ridge in many of the hundred or so variations through the trees and gullys in ever increasing snow deposits which by lunch time started to amount to what you would call powder ( about 10cms of new).

It got so good that we ( or rather I) decided that it was about time to give Kangaroo a proper try out. Two runs through the roo proved interesting with tough icey bumps at the top, alder growth lower down, a big icey drop off on to Cedar trail and then mixed conditions in the bottom section with two stream beds ( could have been fallen trees, you couldn't tell) on the ski out. On the second run watched a boarder try and straight line off the drop off onto the trail and do a double tomahawk on the way down. Having seen me take a half way cautious line you might have thought he would have done the same but not so. Not too much blood and he seemed about able to get himself down to Boom so I let him get on with it.

In the afternoon did much the same looping the old side into Cedar bowl off various bits of Cedar ridge and got in two more Kangaroos. Some years ago I rember reading an article in a UK ski magazine where a reviewer said that he had visited Fernie and "skied the resort out in a day and a half". I ski pretty hard and reckon I could spend two days just skiing Cedar ridge and not ski all of the possibilities so I would just love to meet the guy who wrote the article.

Back at the house for a hot tub and beer which was great. As I type this it is -6 on the deck and snowing so tommorrow could be a really big powder day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 27 and a little more sober today

After last nights excesses we still made the hill by about 9 and found a much warmer day starting at -18 and getting up to -10 by the mid day highs. The conditions were overcast but the very light snow had added a few cms of snow and continued to do so all day. We took the view that the lower old side would not be repaired by the light snow so we decided to hit the new side.

Light wasn't good at the top, in fact it was non existant and it was about an hour before anyone was stupid enough to follow us into the white no mans land of the Gun bowl. We had good skiing in Surprise Trees, and the chutes just before you get there. For a change we hit out to Milky Way trees a couple of times and went straight into Puff trees left which were all nice firm bumps with some dust on top.

Loops to the bottom were via Anaconda and then Bootleg which are both skiing surprising well despite the holiday skier traffic and lack of snow. We also tried Skydive which to no ones surprise was great free riding at the top and very hard work ice crust ( a little less hard work with the new snow) at the bottom. Final run before lunch was through Cougar Glades which were quite heavy but still some quite fresh stuff in the trees. Lower down the ice crust had to be bossed to make for good skiing but subject to that it was ok.

Afternoon was spent looping Surprise, then Anaconda, then up Timber and back to White Pass via lift line. Managed it about 4 times before close each time finding different ways through Surprise and Anaconda where you could still find snow that was soft if not untracked.

Good few beers inthe bar and pased on wing night in view of last nights partying. A quiet night in watching Hockey on TV. As I write this it is -10 on the deck and light snow which the patrol thought wouldn't give up much fresh but who knows.

Day 26 and a short report

The reasons for a short report are twofold. The main one is that the conditions haven't changed. No new snow, a cold bluebird day (-16) the base hard at 167 cms, the lower mountain still icey from last weeks rain and the upper mountain in ok condition but well skied over by the holiday crowds.

The old side was just the same with Boom and Sunny side nice, Boom ridge hard icey bumps and Linda's good at the top and very scratchy at the bottom. The new side was sunny with great packed powder in 1-2-3's, Highline Trees, Gun bowl etc. Anaconda which we looped several times is still in remarkably good shape with some untracked snow to be found if you are prepared to shave the trees pretty close. End of day down Skydive was just like yesterday, awesome at the top and what the patrol describes as "marginal" at the bottom.

The second reason for a short report is that it is Katie's birthday today ( happy 25th Katie) and to celebrate we drank a lot of beer in the Griz, followed by more beer in the pub plus a meal and and then more beer at the Hockey game, Riders beat the Nitros 5-2, go Riders go. End result we are all too wrecked to remember what we did on the hill - better luck tomorrow.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 25 and it's still a bit nippy

The weather forecasters can't seem to get this quite right. They keep calling for about -12 overnight with day time highs of -5 and what actually happens is over nights of about -24 and daytime highs of about -12. This is all a bit fresh and at the moment is certainly keeping the crowds off the hill. Today we didn't really have to line up at any time, in fact I have never seen fewer people on the hill during the Christmas holidays.

Today was another bluebird day starting at -24 and just for the fun of it the Timber Chair broke down and stayed broken down until after 2 this afternoon thus making none of the New Side available for most of the day. Was the RCR response to reduce the price of the day ticket, not exactly, they not only charged full price but also charged the high season premium. Next week they will be debating why visitor numbers are down, any ideas ?

Hit the old side and stayed on the sides of Bear ( now working, hooray), Sunny side shoulder and Boom, only because we needed bumps to keep us warm. Skied Boom ridge 3 times which with icey tight bumps is now skiing much more like the double black rating that it has on trail maps. Went out to Snake ridge that was ok but the ski out along side KC chutes was very scratchy.

In the mid day session we tried Boom and Sunny side which seemed to have some of the best snow. Took the long hike out to the area fence to test Redtree and Steep and Deep but which were rather chunky and not really worth the effort.

After a late lunch we found Timber chair running ( a real wonder) so we hit the new side. Looped Anaconda and then dropped Bootleg glades which were both in surprisingly good condition - well perhaps not that surprising in the case of Anaconda which does seem to frighten off quite a few people.

Last run of the day was down Skydive which was great. A very significant hoare frost seems to have softened up the surface at the top and even at the bottom the conditions were now almost skiable in most peoples terms.

Loads to drink in the Griz afterwards and now back at home drinking wine and watching the Sound Of Music on TV, perfect.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day 24 a bit of a nippy start

Well today was a little slow getting underway. This was partly due to all the port we drank last night while watching snow porn DVDs ( ski movies to the uninitiated) and partly due to a starting temp on the deck of -24. As it was we got to the hill at about 9 and put on full cold weather kit (no exposed skin) ready for the day.

We had been told that there was a massive inversion with temps of about -10 and sun at the top which proved to be right. Unfortunately we couldn't test this a Timber chair went down for half an hour so we hit the Old Side. Even there things weren't great as the Bear Chair was down and stayed down all day. I'm afraid my fears of a complete shambles in the lift system over the holiday period is starting to be justified.

It was quite warm at the top of Boom but as soon as you dropped down you were well into the -20's. Not often I ski with hotshots in my mits but today was one of those days. The snow in Boom was good and soft but Boom ridge was a bit scratchy. By 11 we got the word that Timber was running so we headed over the New Side.

Up top it had warmed to about -8 so we skied around White Pass droping the Gun bowl, I bowl, Surprise Trees, Highline trees, all of which were well skied but good fun. The Knot Chutes opened and we hiked to the top with a view to skiing the near shoulder which looked like untracked powder. We were wrong big time, it turned out to be pretty ugly windslab with a few soft turns about half way down. No all that bad but certainly not worth hiking for.

Took a couple of loops down the County Line which is in ok shape all things considered. First time we dropped Cougar Glades which was a bit chunky but we found some soft stuff in the trees on skiers right. As expected it was a bit icey at the bottom but skiable. Next time we tried Decline for the first time this year. Loads of soft snow at the top which you could free ride ok. Ice crust at the bottom was hard work but with fewer alders than on Sykdive it is probably the best of the three main front runs on the hill.

Very very later lunch so that afterwards we only just had time to head up the New Side, have a couple of runs through White Pass then ski off the hill through Currie. I expected the Griz to be ugly busy tonight but it wasn't, there were free tables and about half the numbers I would have expected. Perhaps this is a sign of the times.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 23 and a very happy Christmas Day

Do we ski on Christmas Day - you bet, but only until lunch time when we hit the bar for a few beers with ski buddies then head home for a full on Christmas with much too much to eat and drink.

Starting temps were -16 and it looked overcast but actually it was just low cloud that gave up some valley snow with a temperature inversion so that it was warmer (-10) on top and a bluebird day above the cloud. The great thing about these conditions is that as you pass through the tops of the clouds the moisture in the air is frozen into ice crystals so you see things like Sun dogs, Angel dust and a rainbow round the sun. If you have never been in the high mountains in cold weather you have never seen these amazing sights - ask me about them.

Great skiing up in White Pass in bluebird skies with a carpet of cloud below us. The snow was strange, it looked like chopped up crud but when you skied it it was real light and skied like powder. Dropped back to the base a couple of times via Easter bowl and Cougar Glades which were pretty good but the snow up there was surprisingly heavy and quite hard work to bang out the turns.

One long stop on Timber Chair convinces me that they haven't sorted the reliability problems on the New Side and with the busiest few days of the year coming up I fear a disaster but I hope I am wrong. The good news about the stop was that we pulled up along side a Piliated Woodpecker who was having his Christmas dinner of termites only a few feet from us. Watched for the 5 mins of the stop and in a way it really made our day.

Now back at the house with a temp of -13 on the deck with all the cloud burned off and beautiful sunshine. About to start the hot tub, food, drink, fall asleep in front of the TV cycle. Tomorrow will be ugly busy on the hill.

Day 22 what a great way to spend Christmas Eve

As forecast it started cold at -26 and didn't get much above -16 at the top all day. There was light cloud which gave up very light snow on and off all day but only about enough to screw up the light and not really to add to the base.

We started on the old side where some grooming had taken place to try and groom in the avi debris from yesterday. As it was so cold we were grateful that so much was ungroomed and therefore starting to turn to bumps. A morning of bump skiing on Bear, Lizard, Cedar and Boom Ridge kept us warm. One run through the newly opened Kangaroo proved it to be ugly ice bumps with twigs and a big ice crust drop off on to Cedar Trail, and that's from one of thr few fans of the run. Just as we headed in for a hot choccy break I saw two people dropping through Corner Pocket into Lizard and that set the agenda for the rest of the day.

After the break, went up the new side and hit out on the County Line, dropped through Corner Pocket which was well covered and a nice ski despite the double black diamond rating. Only problem was just at the bottom of the chute where we lost the light but a couple of turns in and it came back and then all you had to do was to pick the tracks between the avi debris and you had good deep powder all the way down to Dancer. The next couple of hours or so were taken up lapping through Corner Pocket, High Saddle ( a bit tougher) Low Saddle ( a bit steeper) and always tracking into Easter for the ski out.

Last run before a very late lunch I took a hard right hook into Spinal Tap for the first time this season and it proved to be a bit of a mistake. Ok at the top but it got icey with death cookies underneath half way down. a bit further down a tree had fallen across the stream bed which may be a problem as the snow builds later on ( you won't be able to duck it) but it probably will allow you to jump the tree to the right but let's see how that goes. Very tight on the ski out with an icey base and/or ice crust so not the place to go until the next weather cycle.

In the short afternoon went out to Corner Pocket to find that it had been scraped out by boards but the snow below was still good. Last run decided to try Cougar Glades on the grounds that the top should be as good as the top of Skydive and the bottom nowhere near as bad due to less traffic. For once got the call dead right and had a great run top to bottom with only a little toughness in the lower sections.

Great evening visiting friends, having drinks and opening Christmas presents at home. Looking forward to a short day tomorrow followed by Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Day 21 and a day of not very good guesses

Today dawned clear with temps at a cool -12 and these actually fell during the day to about -16 by evening. When we hadn't heard any bombing by 7:30 it was easy to figure what was going to happen. When we got to the hill our suspicions were confirmed and the helicopter was up and they were heli bombing all the ridge lines from one end of the hill to the other.

This was good news in that it meant that everything was clear to be opened subject to a bit of extra work as most of the ridge lines had fractured for most of their length. It was bad news in that everywhere was covered with avi debris in fact a long term local told me in the bar in the evening that this was the most avi debris he had seen in the bowls ever.

We hung out on the new side to await the opening of Currie that didn't happen during the morning. All that did happen was that White Pass chair broke down for another 30 mins ( they had better sort this problem before the holidays start) and we skied ever more difficult conditions as the powder firmed up in the cold and the base became hard and quite slick. Loops through Surprise, I bowl, Highline etc were all ok but no more than that.

At lunch we discovered that the old side had opened up a bit and Cedar bowl had been pretty good so we had been in the wrong place all morning. After lunch we headed up the Old Side only to see that Snake Ridge was not open despite what we had been told but there was a sign saying that Currie was open so we headed back to the New Side. Dropped down Arrow expecting it to be a quick groomed way back only to find it was avi debris all the way down to China Wall - that's one amazing slide.

By the time we got back to the New Side there was only time for two loops. In the first we tried 1-2-3's and found loads of avi debris, so much so that we skied about half the time on powder and the other half on 2 week old rain crust which is how far down the avi had slid to.

Final run was out to to Skydive along the County Line. All the way across we saw how the hill had slid pretty well all the way. Doesn't look like the skiing out that way will be much fun until the next fall of snow with the possible exceptions of Currie Creek and Cornice chute where the snow looked like it might have held. Skydive was good at the top but the rain crust started to form about half way down and the lower third was just ugly hard work but the pow at the top made it just about worthwhile.

Looks like more of the same for the next few days.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 20 and pretty awesome in places

The rain that was heaving down in town last night turned to wet snow eventually and we woke to fine a fresh covering and conditions of around zero. The situation when we got to the hill was that we had 30 cms over night and the base was now a solid ( in every sense of the word) 185 cms. Given yesterdays rain at low level the only way to go was to go high on the New Side to White Pass and loop up there in the combination of yesterdays snowfall plus what we had over night.

Most of the New side was closed so the first few runs were through the Gun bowl, Highline, Heartland etc all of which were good. About third loop through some buddies from the Patrol tipped me the wink that they were about to drop the fence on the I bowl so we were able to ski over with them and duck the fence to get first tracks as soon as they lifted it. An awesome run down a totally untracked bowl - how good was that.

White Pass Chair then broke down for 20 minutes so we looped to the bottom through Black Cloud which was a bit too chunky at the bottom to be fun. As soon as normal service was resumed we went back to looping Surprise Trees where there were many different lines to be taken providing fresh snow as long as you were prepared to cut it close to the trees. We also took a few drops through Anaconda and then on to Bootleg Glades all of which was very nice untracked powder and kept on going until they closed the Glades around luch due to an increased avi risk on the back of rising temps - they had just had a class 3 natural in Lizard bowl.

In the afternoon we had a quick trip through Mitchy's on the way to White Pass which was nice and deep in all the chutes. We then looped Surprise Trees all afternoon. Each loop we went further into the trees skiing an area that I haven't really skiied that much in the past. We ended up dropping onto Trespass Trail not that far beyond Bootleg and had some just awesome skiing through the trees which in that part of the world are tight, but not too much, and quite steep but well able to be skiied in nice linked turns as long as you put your mind to it.

Had a few beers in the Griz afterwards and then on the the Pub for wings night. Forecast looks like it will cool over the next couple of days with more snow then a few days of much colder dry weather - the jury is out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 19 and today we have Elephant Snot

Of course the polite terms for what we got today are words such as Jersey Cream or Sierra Cement but Elephant Snot seems to cover it well enough for me.

The snow came last night but towards dawn as the temps rose the moisture content of the snow rose until it was high, very high, 100% actually ie rain. When we got to the hill the temp was +1 at the base and we were told it was much the same at the top. In what proved to be a pretty average idea we decided to do an old fashioned powder chase to the old side triangle.

We got first tracks in Boom but it was heavy. All over the hill you could see people stacking it as they tried to ski the rain affected snow and we were tempted to think that maybe today would be a short one. Spent all morning getting fresh tracks on the old side in Linda's, Cedar Ridge, Boom Ridge, Gully and Gulch etc but the rain line crept up the hill and the snow was heavy.

Tried the new side which was a bit better as we went higher and it was snowing in White Pass if raining pretty well up to the White Pass base station. Most of the new side was closed but by late morning they had managed to open all of Timber bowl and Anaconda down into the top of the Gilmar Trail. We looped several times through Surprise Trees which were awesome but heavy. Seeing Anaconda was open we started looping Anaconda and Bootleg then back up Timber Chair. First time through Anaconda we witnessed a huged avi in the bottom of 1-2-3's which the Patrol told us was the smallest of three in Currie bowl although it looked pretty big to me.

In the afternoon we headed up the new side in pouring rain and by White Pass this had turned to wet snow. Spent all afternoon looping towards Surprise Trees in poor viz and full on winter storm conditions. Snow was filling in and a last run through Surprise was pretty much fresh tracks. Finished by dropping Anaconda in the far chutes which we thought probably didn't have enough snow but were happy to find there was loads and most of it untracked then out through Bootleg which seemed to be reparing quite well in the snow and cooling temps.

A few beers in the Griz bar followed by Christmas shopping down town then back to the house to eat and have an early night. Forecast is for flurries and cooling which we will need to cover the soft snow low down which will go to boiler plate when the temps drop later this week. The future is very uncertain - welcome to the Legendary early season conditions in BC.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 18 short report

And the reason it is a short report is that after a great day's powder skiing we drank loads at the Griz Bar and got totally blitzed then went out for a meal with our buddies Rob and Katie and got even worse.

Good day on the new side with temps at or about zero and snow on and off all day. Loops through 1-2-3's and Bootleg were good. As soon as they opened the low traverse out of Currie we hit Skydive ( very rough in the lower section) Easter ( good all the way) and Secret Chutes ( untracked powder top to bottom). We also ran in some good stuff in Mitchy chutes, Big Bang and a neat little line in Puff Trees.

In the afternoon we got word that Lone Fir was opening off a side step traverse in Currie then a hike up Corniche Chute. The word was right and we had two great trips through Lone Fir which is some of the steepest tree skiing on the hill and then into the avi damaged area of Easter bowl which was over the head powder all the way down.

Finished with a rip down Skydive which was predictably awesome from the top and surprisingly not too crap at the bottom on account of the fresh snow that had fallen during the day.

Too much beer following such a good day. Puking down snow as I type this and maybe 50 cms overnight now called for - who knows. Tomorrow could be a new definition of awesome.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 17 and it was surprisingly awesome

This morning I thought I had made a mistake and we hadn't got away with it in this warm cycle. It was raining on the deck and we had +1 and the town looked pretty ugly as a result of rain and ice. Driving to the hill the rain turned to very heavy wet snow but at least it was snow.

Given yesterday's ugly conditions the only game in town was to go high to White Pass. This worked as obviously a lot of the usual powder chasers weren't around having decided that the conditions didn't warrent it. We went up Timber Chair and by the time we reached the top we were in full on winter snow conditions with low viz and snow coming down so hard that it was filling in out tracks and gave us powder albeit very heavy all over the hill.

During the day the snow line moved up the hill to about one third up the mountain and around 2 in the afternoon it petered out all together. Temps stayed at or near zero all day. The lower mountain remains a bit of a nightmare.

So we arrived in White Pass with very poor viz but about 20 cms of heavy powder all untracked. We cut the first traverse out to Surprise and after a quick debate on whether or not to drop Anaconda we ripped Surprise Trees which was truely awesome. Next time round we were amazed to find Anaconda still untouched so we dropped the near chutes in deep untracked powder. Next time round there were still hardly any tracks in Anaconda so we hike the hump and dropped the next set of chutes which were real tight but untracked and very deep.

The rest of the morning was spent in 1-2-3's, Anaconda, and Surprise all of which had many untracked lines even by the end of the morning. Each time we arrived in the lower part of Currie bowl we took the way out through Bootleg Glades which meant that we ripped through it about 7 times all of which were great but with some rather technical stuff through the alders to get out on to Gilmar Trail.

In the Afternoon we got the word from Patrol that the low traverse out of Currie had opened as had Mitchy chutes so we just looped thae new side going through Mitchy's each time. First time going to Sydive we got too low and ended up in Currie Creek. Not all bad as it was untracked and thigh deep all the way down. next time we made Skydive which was awesome at the top. With the snow so closely following the ground terrain it was like having your own personal terrain park which you could free ride with skis in the air more than they were on the ground. The bottom was described by the patrol on the warning signs as marginal presumably because they are not allowed to say f***ing awful. Very tough ski out in rain crust but the top made it all worth while. Last run through Stag Leap with much the same results.

All in all an awesome day which we didn't expect. Outlook still marginal but we are hoping to avoid the R word. With luck we could get more powder high up and with the lower mountain setting up as the temps dropped it wouldn't take much to convert even the lower hill into pretty good conditions.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 16 and I think we got away with it

What we got away with was that warm front has mostly passed through and we haven't had very much rain as a result. The way the weather works here is that we get a cold mass of air sitting on us which is moved out of the way by a warm wet air mass coming in from the west and at that point we get snow or rain depending on when exactly the moisture belt arrives. We then get a few days of warm weather which if there is moisture results in rain. The warm air then moves out, things cool down and with any luck we get moisture on the back of the system which almost always falls as snow. Warm air is moving out although it is almost +1 on the deck at the moment and colder conditions are called for with snow in all of the next 4 days so things are looking good.

The hill today was typical mid December warm front conditions. The top of the hill was socked in although the snow was good, mid mountain had OK light but was mostly wind slab and the lower mountain was all re frozen crud - not quite the picture the publicity machine pproduces but none the less true.

Started the morning on the old side through the newly opened Sunny Side shoulder which was untracked but with hard wind slab on the ridge lines but ok blow in in the dips. Having gone low on Boomerang and found re frozen conditions we hit the new side to try our luck.

Light was socked in at the top of the New side but we had some quite good runs off White Pass as Currie bowl remained closed - Surprise trees remain remarkably good. Late morning we got the word from Patrol that Anaconda was open and cycled 3 times through the Glades each time taking a more radical line but always getting deep powder if rather tight tree skiing. Skied out every time through Bootleg Glades, once even taking the tree chute to the left which was a bit technical.

In the afternoon we intended to keep cycling Anaconda but found that Currie bowl was open ( reports say that Cedar opened as well) so we had loads more terrain. We hit left hoping for the County Line or the low traverse but as they were closed and with avi debris across the trail that was open we had to make do with Currie Powder to the bottom of Concussion. Light was bad at the top but it got better and mid mountain was nice powder becoming hard slab by the bottom.

Finished the day with some runs through 1-2-3's which just like all season were Ok in 1's, pretty good in 2's and awsome in 3's. each time ran out through Bootleg which was getting more fun each time but very technical through the alders at the bottom.

Had a good few beers in the Griz to celebrate a good days skiing then went to the Hockey game against North Okanagan which we won 5-0. Outlook for colder temps and snow over the next few days.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 15 Don't mention the R word

It seems that no one will mention the R word - on the radio this morning they told us we had light snow, it was raining - at the hill we were told it was snowing, it was raining. For the record Fernie does get the most amazing amount of snow ( Legendary Powder ) but it would be wrong to think that we spend all day rolling around up to our necks in powder, we also get lots of hail, ice, sleet, rain and fog. As I like to put it, in BC in December we get a lot of precipitation, some of it even comes down as snow.

So we hit the hill with a rain line about half way up meaning that the upper mountain was powder, if a bit heavy, and the lower mountain was like spring skiing. We met up with our buddies Rob ( the Hayling Welder) and Steve and Liz ( Steve the only guy who drags me all over the hill) so the day looked good.

Obviously we hit the new side to go high and get the best snow. The bad news was that the viz at the top wasn't great so we had to get the best out of half way down to the bottom of White Pass. All morning looping White Pass mainly through Surprise trees which now are soft in the base and awesome. Great skiing and good if heavy powder.

No Currie bowl and today even no Anaconda. In the afternoon hit the old side and saw the avi which had closed Lizard, Not a huge fracture line ( about 1 metre) but almost 200 metres across from just under Richard's which slide all the way across Tower 6 trail - all those who doubted the closure of the bowl take note.

Being lower the old side was more spring like and after a couple of laps we were pretty knackered in the very very heavy soft snow. Temps by now were up at +2 and the only thing to do was to go to the bar and in any event they were closing the lifts at the end of the day.

Outlook is interesting with a couple of warm days ( highs of +1) then back to -5/6 with another weather cycle called for over the weekend.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 14 Problem 140 + 22 = 137

The problem in the heading relates to the fact that yesterday we had a snow base of 140 cms, over night we had 22 cms of not particularly heavy snow and now we have a base of 137 cms. Now I understand how snow settles but never with figures like that so there has to be some other explanation - you go figure.

Yup the 22 cms tipped down last night and they were calling for another 5 during the day today which was probably about right and another 5 overnight tonight. When we got to the hill we found that Currie was closed, Cedar was closed from Cruiser beyond and most of Lizard was closed. With this info the only thing to do was to take the fast way up the old side ( no I'm not saying what that is) and ski the old triangle. OK for us season pass holders but not sure if I would be that happy if I had paid full price for a day ticket.

With all the fresh everything was good and we hit Boom, Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge ( several ways) and Linda's despite a closed sign. Temps were warming ( eventually reaching -1 mid mountain) so the new snow cover was getting heavier all the time but still great skiing.

After a short late morning choccy break we hit the new side to see what looked good. The answer was not a lot as it was socked in and although the snow was ok the viz was bad. Decided to hit Surprise Trees but on the way out skied past Anaconda and it just looked too good to miss. That proved a good call and Anaconda was steep and deep all the way down. From the bottom we took our first excursion into Bootleg Glades which was great fun with fallen trees providing some good rolling drop offs all the way down to Gilmar Trail.

Because of the bad light we went back to the old side and struck lucky. Going up the Bear we noticed the patrol had just opened the Sunny Side shoulder. With all the early morning powder chasers gone home and everyone else at lunch there was no one around so we jumped in. We then spent the next hour and a half putting loops down Sun Up and China Wall each time going a little further to get fresh tracks.

By that time it was late afternoon so we skipped lunch and checked out more of the old side. A couple more trips into Linda's was fun. We then tried King Fir - actually there are about half a dozen routes off to the right of Cedar Ridge which various people call King Fir. As long as a run drops through the trees to skiers right of Cedar ridge and goes somewhere near a large fir tree chopped off at about half height then I guess you can call it King Fir. Nice tight steep deep skiing until last bell.

Fingers crossed for some more tonight although they are calling for + temp highs for the next couple of days so things could get very heavy, we will see.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 13 and if you can't see it you can't ski it

And it all started so well today. Cold overnight at -23 and 7 cms of fresh pushing the base to 140 cms. Of course at that temp the snow had almost zero moisture content so whilst it gave a nice looking cover it was really to light to give good cover you could float on.

Went to the hill via Top Shelf who were doing a job on my boots overnight due to early season damage to buckles. As always they did an excellent job. Decided to try the old side partly because we hadn't been there for a couple of days and partly because with the light snow and mist visibility was going to be a problem.

The top of Cedar was closed for avi control but the face below Bear Chair down to Alpine Way (not sure it has a name) was open with untracked snow. Spent the morning looping off the top of Boomerang into Cedar using various routes which were mostly little or untracked. The trouble with the old side is that it still has the hard rain crust base. Where this is well covered no problem but there are plenty of places where it pokes through and the light dusting of snow on top means that you can never be sure whether or not you are turning on powder or ice. More that once I accelerated out of a turn in the back seat as a result and then had to bang out two more quick turns to avoid twigs before repeating again - very tough conditions.

After a late morning break we went out and found that conditions had changed. Warm air must have moved in over the top of the cold so we were getting very wet light snow that froze on contact. This wouldn't have been a problem except for goggles which iced within a few minutes. Everyone had their own way of dealing with this, I removed the goggles at the bottom of each chair and stuffed them inside my jacket to melt the ice then put them on at the top. It was a pain and even then you could only see a couple of minutes before we were totally iced again.

Things got worse and by 2:30 we had enough and called it a day and we were some of the last on the hill. General comment was that it was about time we had some days skiing that didn't involve a tough unpredictable base, temps in the minus 20's or no visability, it has been a brutal start to the season every day for a different reason. The ice was forming on the road in a temp of -12 as we drove home and once again I was glad of good winter tyres.

The outlook is for a load of snow in the next 24 hours then temps coming up to about zero for the next few days. Looks like we could get our wish about the end of brutal skiing. Off to wings night at the pub but will make it an early night as tomorrow could be a maximum powder day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 12 and it's free skiing from now on

Just to explain the heading, the season pass cost $880 (early bird) so it depends on how much value you attach to a days skiing but as RCR seem to think it's worth about 75 bucks then today I got back the value of the past and everything from now on is free.

We have very weird weather. Last night the temp droped to -23 with snow and wind so that by morning we had 10 cms of fresh pushing the base to 135cms, but at so low temps the moisture content was almost zero and although it covered what was underneath it offered no real base. The forecast was for the temp to stay the same which was right and for a wind chill of -38 with instant frost bite. In the event there was no wind on the hill ( which doesn't mean there wasn't any in the valley) and we had a beautiful blue bird day but very cold.

Afraid we just hit the new side so another day of no information on the old side. Just like yesterday hit the open faces in Gun bowl and I bowl which were so all untracked and with so few people on the hill remained so all morning. We just spent our time putting fresh tracks along side our old ones. Surprise trees were surprisingly not that good (not bad) but a lot of growth and very uneven under foot.

Went into Big Bang via the Lazy Locals traverse for the first time since opening day not because I thought it would be good but because Lynda wanted to use the wash rooms at Lost Boys and I didn't want to stand around. As before it was ok but still too much debris around to allow you to really let the skis rip.

County Line was still open so Concussion from the top was very nice indeed. Last run before lunch we dropped Corner Pocket which is now scraped out by boards with the tires showing but after a rather technical descent through the chute it was over the head face shots so much so that I had to stop because I couldn't breath all the way down to the traverse into Easter.

With Lynda in the Gym this afternoon I went adventuring on the new side. Currie Creek was a bit tree strewn all the way down but very deep and the ski out wasn't all bad. Easter bowl right was very tight in the trees but near the right sign line there was awesome powder. Technically Skydive was closed ( well actually it was just plain closed but as this was for cover and not for avi reasons it doesn't really count) but I gave it a lash. The top of Skydive was just awesome with thigh deep powder and untracked open terrain. About half way down it got a bit technical so I cut right into Stag Leap and when that didn't get much better right again into Cougar Glades where despite hitting a covered stump the skiing was good.

About 3:30 they stopped running Timber Chair which had been stopping all day ( 12 times on one trip) in order to repair it. About time as this lift breaks down every year early season and in temps of -23 it is no fun sitting out on it. Whoever is responsible for maintaining that thing should be walking around with their ass in a sling.

The forecast is even more weird, They are calling for a massive warm up by Wednesaday with a high of +4. Having been born in the UK this is hard for me to understand as in the UK you probably won't experience a 40 degree temp change in your whole life and we are going to get it in two days. Looks like two big wet storms out to the west, one currently dumping on Whistler so things looking good.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 11 and a really nice day

So we woke up this morning to a temp of -17 annd a forecast that said it would go down during the day to -22 which proved to be correct. The hill claimed 11 cms of fresh but actually that must have been the last 24 hours figure so most of it fell yesterday. There had been a dusting overnight and quite a strong wind which had filled in a lot of the tracks on the SE facing slopes.

Never got to the old side today so this is all about the new side. In White Pass the snow had filled in beautifully and we did several laps of Gun bowl/ I bowl / Surprise trees etc. There was hardly anybody around despite the fact that it was Community Appreciation day I guess due to the cold temps although the windchill didn't pick up until later in the day.

Late morning they opened Knot Chutes and I hiked to get about third tracks in there. The bad news was that as third up the track hadn't really been broken so I was sinking in down to my knees on the climb. Totally knackered when I got to the top and had to rest and let a couple of guys jump in. Didn't matter as the chute was mostly unskied and in the deep dip in the middle of the first chute it was thigh deep. Almost took one turn too many and only just managed to traverse out above the Cheese Grater which as always was there to catch the greedy.

Crossing Currie bowl on the high traverse we found that the County Line was open for the first time this season. It has been closed because there has not yet been a big avi off Polar Peak to slide to bottom and fill the sink hole under Polar Chutes - still hasn't happened and you have to keep your eyes open to avoid the hole.

Spent the rest of the day looping out into Concussion, Corner Pocket, Easter bowl etc. For variation cut back into Anaconda and was amazed to find that there were hardly any tracks in there so made the most of the steep deep powder. Best snow seemed to be in the top of Easter. Looks like it might be worth pushing further round that shoulder tomorrow as far as Secret Chutes to see how it goes. Might even be worth trying Skydive if we get a bit more snow.

Outlook is for more flurries over the next few days that might turn to snow and for it to warm up towards the end of the week. Local cable TV station from Spokane is calling for a weather event over the next few days and we normally get the weather two days after Spokane so still hoping.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 10 the first really awesome day of the season

First the important things, we won the hockey last night 3-1 against Golden who were the second team in the division and we now lead by 10 points with a game in hand. Playing Golden away tonight so if we win this things are looking pretty good.

The overnight weather event came through and didn't look too inpressive with about 3 cms of snow in the drive. On the radio the hill announce that they had 17cms of fresh snow and we thought that this was just another load of marketing b/s - wrong.

When we got to the hill we found that there actually had been 17 cms of fresh snow and better still it had come down at about -8 which is the best temp for powder snow. Any warmer and it's too heavy and any colder it doesn't hold you up and let you float so at this temp it is the legendary champagne powder. Not only that but it was deeper in places and kept on building as it snowed all day and hasn't finished yet.

Discussed with a patroller buddy how what had been called as a flurry turns into a major weather event. His take is that weather systems hold up on the other side of the Lizard range and odd ones slip through Iron Pass so that they hit the hill without ever touching the town. That at least explains why I am knee deep in powder on the hill and haven't got enough snow to shovel in the drive.

As the top of the hill was socked in we hit the old side which was awesome. After a few runs through Lizard in good powder we hit out to Cedar skiing the new lift line and getting first tracks. Also got first tracks on Boom ridge which was just the right pitch to set off a big slough and then surfed the slough to the bottom. The trees in Cedar Centre provided a deep terrain park environment which we did a few times. For the first time this season stuck our noses in Linda's run which you had to access via a closed sign but after a few twigs was steep, deep and untracked.

In the afternoon hit the new side. Looped White Pass a few times having some great skiing in Surprise Trees. Kept on hitting out across Currie bowl and hiking into Currie chutes. The new snow on top of the blow in on Concussion gave a very deep feel and was mostly untracked. After that just kept getting further across the bowl dropping Corner Pocket, Easter bowl, and High Saddle and in each one it was over the head powder shots all the way from top to bottom as you dropped into Lizard.

Loads of beers in the Griz and the bar was full of all the usual suspects. Great banter and great times after an awesome powder day.

Went to the Christmas train. CP run a train every other year through Canada just before Christmas. The train is lite up like those Coca Cola trucks from end to end with a live band playing about half way down and the whole thing to collect food for the food bank. By this time the temps had dropped to -15, the wind was blowing and it looks like some serious weather is on the way.

Went to the pub to finish off then home for a quiet night. Forecast says it might be like this for 4 days, we canonly hope.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 9 and it's same old same old

Another day and another dollar, this day much the same as every other pre Christmas day. As I mentioned last night this report will be short ( before I go to the hockey game) rather than drunk when I get back.

It was much warmer today at only -8 as we hit the hill. We were lulled into a false sense of security and all peeled off a couple of layers and exposed facial skin. This proved to be a bit of a mistake as when we got to the top of the Bear having decided to ski the old side it was -13 with some wind. Whilst this was much warmer than what we have been having it is still pretty cold and soon everyone was scrambling to get on an extra layer and cover up - I was reduced to having to borrow a sweat shirt from Lynda which as we are not the same shape ( good news for both of us) was pretty uncomfortable.

The old side was just like yesterday with enough now groomed to satisfy even the most intermediate of piste bunnies. Everywhere else the blow in had worked to good effect so that wind grooming and wind sift gave some nice soft skiing in all off piste areas. Particularly nice was the new lift line in Cedar bowl cut for the fixed triple chair due to be installed next year running from Haul back to the top of Bear. Just a rumour but you heard it here first. Also Boom ridge where they have ripped out quite a bit of ground cover so that it is still one of the nicest runs on the hill with the proviso that it is rated double black and if you slip you will go top to bottom on hard packed snow and probably hurt yourself.

In the afternoon linked up with some buddies who were on their first full day off from the mine (fours days four days off) and went for a rip round the new side. We chased down loads of blown in wind sift just like the old side. Best areas were Concussion where the top is now as good as the lower section was yesterday and Corner Pocket which is still a hard hike away but still only has one small part of a tyre showing in the top. As always CP requires about 6 good technical edge to edge jumps to get through with the downside that if you don't make one you will take the 45 or more degree pitch into oblivion.

A fairly large group gathered in the Griz to discuss stuff. Top of the agenda was the forecast and opinion was that it would stay in the minus teens and give up some serious snow early next week. As I type the temps have risen to -6 which just goes to show the worth of the collective local knowledge of the weather - in truth it's a crap shoot.

Off to the game -go Riders go.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 8 - It's powder Jim but not as we know it

As usual the radio alarm went off at 7 and announced another day of maximum wind chill. This didn't seem very likely to me as the temp had risen to -11 and whilst the tops of the mountains were a bit socked in it didn't look like a whole lot of wind to me. Add to this that the weather lady said that it was snowing - it wasn't and I didn't have a lot of confidence in the forecast. I think I will have to revive my campaign from last year to encourage weather forecasters to spend less time looking at their computer screens and more time looking out of the window.

Got to the hill and decided to try the new side as it looked a bit milder than it has done and obviously no one had been up there yesterday. At the top it was -16 with quite a fair amount of wind, blowing snow/flurries and low cloud. Despite all this the conditions were very good. There had been a load of blown in snow which at first glance looked like wind crust or lunar landscape but was actually quite soft and the further up you went the more wind sift there was.

Ok, it wasn't powder according to our definition but on the grounds that it was smooth untracked snow and after you skied it you left tracks in it then by the lights of a lot of places this would qualify as powder. Even here it was really good fun.

Spent all morning in White Pass putting different tracks down the Gun bowl then hopping the ridge line into the I bowl and spreading our tracks all across that. Got as far as Surprise Trees by choccy break time which were no better than ok compared with the rest. Came down to base through the lower part of Concussion which was also full of wind sift.

Back up the new side until lunch doing the same then back down this time via Anaconda which was a bit heavy in places. About this time had one of those amazing experiences of light and weather that you get in the mountains. We were socked in but the light then shone on a small patch of Morrisey ridge on the far side of the valley. For a couple of minutes it looked as if this was floating in front of our eyes in the mist near enough to touch. A bit like sun dogs, angel dust etc if you have never been in the high mountains in the winter you wouldn't believe it.

After a very late lunch ripped round the old side and found some, but not as much wind sift improving pretty well everything on that side. Again the wind was blowing but nothing like yesterday.

In the Griz tonight the weather guys from the patrol were saying that the weather event may be coming but not for a couple of days. Laying in the hot tub tonight I could see the stars which is not good if you are hoping for snow. Actually I was looking at the W shaped constellation of Cassiopea. To the Greeks this looked like a woman laying on a sofa - wish I had a bottle of what they were on.

Hockey tomorrow night so it will either be a short report before the game or a drunk report afterwards.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 7 - Brutal

Woken up by the radio this morning telling me that the temp was up at a balmy -21, it then spoilt it by giving a wind chill warning and as a result a frostbite warning on any skin exposed for more than 5 minutes. The reason for this is that we are expecting a weather event at the weekend and these are always preceded by some cold damp winds. As always no one knows quite how much snow we will get or where but this is a particularly strange situation in that the temps usually rise quite sharply during the weather event and this time they are forecast to stay at daytime highs of -15 or there abouts - who knows what we have in store.

Arrived at the hill and as there didn't seem to be much wind decided to take a quick run up the old side then go over to the new. My mind was changed about half way up the Bear Chair when the wind cut in with the most brutal arctic effect I have ever felt. This called for a change of plan.

A good thing about the old side is that it is low and if you stick to the Boomerang chair you are sheltered from the wind. Being low down the temps aren't so bad and you are in the trees giving more shelter and some perspective in the flat light which resulted from the blowing snow. We cycled Boomerang and Haul Back all morning just taking different routes off the ridge line.

There had been more grooming and now pretty well every run in Lizard and Cedar bowls are groomed. There had been a little blow in wind grooming (very little) but for the most part the ungroomed remained heavy and tracked. Still looking for new ways down through the alders but in the main what looks good in between the alder growth is wind crust.

After lunch consider the new side but a quick trip up the old into even colder winds knocked that on the head. Spent the afternoon just like the morning then headed to the Griz for a beer. Picked up a couple of Dutch borders hitching back from the hill, they had been up the new side once and confirmed it was super butal and they had bailed straight away.

Got an email from a buddy in the UK this morning that made me think ( you Tom). He is getting ready for the season and is off down the dry ski slope to get some practice. I thought, here we are thinking we haven't got the greatest skiing and yet we could ( if we wanted) ski mile after mile of well groomed piste through beautiful scenery and interesting terrain. Back in the the UK there are thousands of skiers having to make do with a couple of hundred metres of toothbrush skiing - perhaps we should count our blessings.

Beer in the hot tub and an early night I think.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 6 and actually quite cold

Today I woke up to hear on the radio that it was -30 on the mercury and -36 with wind chill and that was in the valley. Delayed getting to the hill for half an hour but even then it was -27 at the base and as a result the new side was't loading so the old side it was.

Just like yesterday, blue skies, even colder, even fewer people. Around the old side there had been a lot more grooming which perhaps is no bad thing. The groomers are in good shape as is the unskied ungroomed, the only stuff I have found in that category is the top of Lizard under the Saddles. All the rest is tracked ungroomed.

One of the myths of skiing is that when the temps drop like they have now the hill is preserved in great shape. What happens to tracked up ungroomed surfaces is that they become rock hard on the base with some bits soft and other bits really hard when you hit the chunks. This is very very tough skiing which if you don't stay on your game all the time will result in a season ending ACL twist. In other words the ungroomed in Fernie at the moment is no place for the inexperienced.

After a morning on the old side experiencing the above - well who is going to stay on the groomed ? Found that the new side was open and went off to try that. Much the same as the old side with the ungroomed very tough. I am sure the official publicity may tell a different story but I will go with the Pro Patrol who have posted "not recommended" signs at the top of most un groomed runs.

Lets be clear, I am not saying that things are not good, I am having a great time. What I am saying is that you either need to enjoy groomers or tough sking ( that's me) to have a good time in Fernie right now.

Ok, staying warm. A number of friends are surprised that I ski all day in -25/-30 temps. These are my tips for being able to do this and as always these are just my personal views.

Boots - Key thing is get them to fit so you don't have to over tighten them and cut off circulation leading to cold feet. Neoprene covers will slow down the cooling but not much. Hot bags don't work in boots after the first hour because of the lack of movement to allow the chemical reaction, they really warm up at the end of the day when you remove them. Electric boot warmers are much better now and may be the way to go but at $300 .... just get good fitting boots and accept that for the few days when it is really cold your feet won't be exactly warm - just suck it up.

Lower Body - I wear two pairs of thermal long johns under my ski pants. Don't waste money on the expensive ski pairs, I use Marks & Spencers which are warm, cheap and durable ( one of the pairs I was wearing today was 22 years old).

Upper body - Layer up. Today I had a Mountain Hardwear base layer with a Gill rash vest over the top. Over that was a cotton ski top ( I find the synthetic/ natural mix works well) over that a fleece then my ski jacket. As my ski pants are dungaree style there is another layer in there somewhere.

Head - No exposed skin unless you want frostbite. I wear a fleece balliclava under my helmet so only my nose is exposed and then cover that with a duck tape shield. Two key things, cut a breathing hole for the mouth or you will steam your goggles ( biggest problem on cold days) and make sure the neck seal is good - mine is tucked inside the fleece with the jacket zipped over,

Hands - Get rid of gloves and use mits and layer up. I have thin inner gloves under some thinsulate wool gloves under a pair od Auclair mits. Not great for gripping but warm.

This way you can ski warm and safe for many hours while other have to leave the hill - enjoy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 5, and a bit nippy

More of the same today but even more so. Cold overnight and the temp was -23 when we arrived at the hill but a beautiful bluebird day without a cloud in the sky, a typical Arctic high. Lynda still has to do 3 sessions a week at the gym to strengthen the leg where she broke it season before last and for some reason she decided that this morning might be a good time for a session.

Even by Fernie early season standards the place was deserted. Although a few more people rolled up during the day I guess that first thing there may have been half a dozen of us on the hill, so that's what it's like to have your own ski hill. Went up the Bear for a couple of rips down the deserted groomer throwing big GS turns at high speed. Rode up with a patroller buddy (there you are Tyler, told you that you would get a mention) who confirmed the news I got yesterday that the Saddles were open.

Considering how few people were around perhaps I was a bit paranoid yesterday not mentioning where the good skiing was going to be today but you always protect your powder stashes. Many people think that because the County Line is closed in Currie this means that the Saddles are closed - not so. If you take the low traverse and do a side step traverse for about 5 mins then a straight up side step for about 3 mins you get to Corner Pocket. The Pocket is a double black diamond chute which was is great shape with a hard but not icy ( well not very) surface covering the tyres that form the bed of the chute. After 4 quite technical turns the whole thing opens up into unlimited powder until you decided to cut right into Easter bowl which was a bit chopped up.

This was great skiing as everywhere else had been skied over and with temps in the low 20's the broken surface everywhere else was a bit uneven and firm to put it mildly. After a while we took a swing through Anaconda (Idiot traverse still in ok shape with a few jumps) and whilst not as good as Corner Pocket still provided some ok powder. That was the rest of the day until a late lunch cycling Corner Pocket and Anaconda on alternate circuits.

Just before lunch had my first major yardsale (wipe out in UK speak) in the same place as I always do - just at the bottom of Lift Line. This time hit a root/stump/rock/etc under the snow and flew a long distance head first before landing. Strange thing was that I landed on my right shoulder which has been giving me some pain from an old injury many years ago on the Hintertux Glacier. After the intitial pain and tingling in the whole arm I discovered that I suddenly had more mobility in the shooulder than I had for years and even now whist it hurts a bit it is way better than 24 hours ago.

Spent the short afternoon on the old side where it was chunky, hard and tough skiing. Looked for the mooses but only saw some tracks under Boom chair. At the top of Bear last time round the temp had dropped to -24 with clear skies. Best joke in the bar was that the official claim of the most snow for 34 years (obviously rubbish) was a mistake and what they meant to say was the most snow in 3 to 4 years.

Forecast is for a really cold night, maybe -34 on the hill. If this is the case there could be a delayed opening as lifts won't run below -30. In the hot tub tonight it was clear with the stars twinkling and steam forming ice on the outside of my beer bottle.

Quick word on the hockey, as predicted we lost to Nelson on Friday away but won at home on saturday to Kamloops Storm, wish we had gone now, next home game Friday, we will be there. If nothing much happens tomorrow watch this space for the secrets of how to ski in -30 and stay warm - ish.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 4

Today was a typical pre Christmas day at the hill in Fernie. It was deserted so much that we didn't really share a run with anyone all day. It was cold ( -16 on the mercury at the bottom and way colder up top and with the wind chill) for some reason it always seems to turn cold just after opening. There was no new snow because there never is much before Christmas and as the fresh had been skied over you had to go hunting for good lines.

I love this time of year because all the runs which might be quite easy later in the season ski tough. They are full of tree stumps, big rocks, bushes and all manner of early season hazards. The only way you can ski them is by being right on your game all the time and as long as you stay clear of the groomers ( which we do) everything is challenging. A lot of people think I am a bit odd for loving this kind of skiing (actually a lot of people think I am a bit odd for a host of reasons including this) but apart from full on powder this is my favourite skiing.

Hit the new side hoping for a repeat of yesterday and were disappointed. It had suffered massive wind damage in the night so there was no soft and everthing was lunar landscape. The wind was brutal and the wind chill had to be way down in the -20's. We figured it had all blown over the ridge into 1-2-3's but that proved to be even worse. When the mountain mist blew in giving really flat light we took it as a sign that the new side was not the place to be and headed for the old side.

The great thing about Fernie is that if the old side is bad, the new side is usually good and vice versa. When it is heavy, wet and even raining down low you can usually get good fresh snow up high on the new side. When the new side is brutal with bad light ( like today) the old side is usually warmer and skiing in the trees gives good viz.

Went all over the old side which had some good blown in snow. We were on a two break strategy as always in the cold weather - ski 2 hrs, break for a half, ski 2 hrs, break for a half and ski for 2 hrs. At the first break met up with Andy who is a ski instructor we skied with a bit last year. He skied the middle section with us and we had particularly good runs on Snake ridge and Cedar ridge.

Last section was the same all over the old side finishing with runs on Boom and Boom ridge which were challenging for all the above early season reasons. Lower Lynda's was closed and we couldn't work out why until I was told that there had been 3 mooses on there earlier that wouldn't move - didn't see them though.

Next few days is getting colder with no new snow. This means that the tough conditions will get tougher and there will be even few people so happy days. A patroller buddy I talked to on the lift made a great suggestion of where to ski tomorrow which if it comes off will be awesome. Where is that ? no chance, I don't want to see anyone else there - tell you about it tomorrow.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 3 - Awesome opening day

Of course it's a bit strange that opening day is in fact day 3 of the season but with the preview weekend that's how things are.

Last nights snow kept up all night but as it was so light there was only about 5 cms of fresh but very light powder. Starting temps were about -10 rising to -6 during the day and with flurries off and on keeping the snow base just above the 100 cm mark and the light pretty flat it was a typical early December day.

Having skied the old side last weekend and with great reports on the state of White Pass from patrol buddies we hit the new side. There was the usual opening day crowd but as the whole of the hill was open after the first two lifts there were no more lines. This is something that European skiers have trouble getting their heads round - the idea that you finish your run, ski up to the lift and get straight on. With the exception of a couple of holidays that is how it will be for the rest of the season.

The whole White Pass area was open and the hill had only groomed the main runs out of the bowls so it was wall to wall powder. They tend to do this early season and I am not sure if it is the fact that early season skiers are locals and don't like grooming or that they need a bit of skier traffic over the snow before they can groom that makes them do this but as it results in the maximum area of ungroomed snow who cares.

Great skiing by cycling White Pass chair any way you wanted from Milky Way trees to Surprise trees and all points in between meant you could find untracked snow all morning. The Idiot traverse out to Surprise trees was in better shape than it was all year but Anaconda Glades were closed at first.

As Currie bowl was open we dropped 1-2-3's and I expected it the be good at the top and rain crust at the bottom. In the event it was wind crust at the top and just got better as you went down which just goes to show how much I know. There was a warning about conditions on Gilmar Trail but all in all it was no worse than I have seen it mid season.

From Timber we tried Lazy Locals traverse and found it a bit scratchy having to jump some rocks. Sib ridge and Michy Chutes were fenced off but with signs of poaching. With no choice we dropped Big Bang which was fun but with quite a few hazards. On the next trip out to Surprise we found Anaconda had opened and dropped in. Anaconda was ,well, Anaconda - steep, tight trees, hardly skied and deep deep powder which flew back over your head on the up draft as you skied, just awesome.

Finished off the new side with an attempt to take the County Line which was frustrated as it was closed. Cut left as soon as the sign line would let us and skied Alpha Centauri / Concussion which was all deep and only lightly skied. Did think about seeing if we could get out to Skydive traverse but I am not sure we would have made it and looking back up I don't think the juice would have been worth the squeeze.

After a late lunch tried the old side with not much time left. Like last week there was very little groomed ( hooray) and hardly anyone there. Went out to Snake and found some good untracked shots. Poached the bottom of Kangaroo although technically as there were no closed signs perhaps I didn't. Tried Boom ridge to see if a little extra snow had improved it and it had but it was still a bit technical. Skied out through Boom and the goat trail which was a bit tight then finshed with a run through mid Lizard which was a nice way to finish.

All in all excellent powder for early December and a great way to start the season. Talk in the bar was of the official web site which was claiming this as the most snow for 34 years. This is nonsense as we have opened with more snow than this is the last 4 years and everyone has stories of many better years - for the record snowfall to date it about average. This is dumb as all it means is that no one will believe the official site when the snow really is at record levels. It is particularly dumb as there is no need to bend the truth - we have average snowfall and the opening day was just awesome.

On the way back from the hill encountered a police roadside check for drink driving. Looks like they are clamping down on this again this year so everyone make sure you have a designated driver in your group.

Forecast still to get cold (-25) then warm and wet with all the possibilities that brings, lets see how it works out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

One Day to Go

Another good night in the hot tub last night. So cold Lynda was wearing her red toque - she has to be the only person who doesn't see anything starnge in climbing into a hot tub wearing a red woolly hat and nothing else !!

Today dawned overcast with a forecast of flurries turning to snow and a high of -7. It pretty well worked out that way although sitting here in the evening the accumulation has only been a few cms but with more called for overnight.

Swam at lunch time and it is even cooler to swim watching snow falling outside the windows of the aquatic centre. Went down town in the afternoon to wander round the ski shops and check out the historic ( well about 100 years old) down town.

About 5 hit the pub for a few beers with various buddies and then came back home for yet another hot tub. Just sorted all the kit ready for opening tomorrow and ready to go.See tomorrow for the first report on the full season starting with the new side.

Tonight the Ghostriders are in Nelson playing the Leafs. Not that confident as the leafs were divisional winners last year and they still look pretty strong to me - we live in hopes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Well last night was the first proper hot tub. Temp down at -12 so the steam formed a sort of ice crust in your hair but it didn't matter as the water was 104F so you were plenty warm enough, a bit nippy getting in and out though.

This morning dawned as a perfect bluebird day but with the temp down at -21 on the mercury and -27 with windchill. Sat eating my breakfast eggs looking out of the window at the tree squirrels in the back yard raiding their nut store then running up the trees to sit on a branch and feed. Can't help but wonder how animals with so little body mass survive these temeratures.

Went to the aquatic centre for a swim and tried out the new snow tires in the frozen snow covered parking lot. They were awesome, I really had to try to get them to slide. Swimming looking out at the snow covered mountains was, as has already been said , very cool. A good day to make sure you dried your hair before leaving the building if you didn't want to have an ice crash helmet by the time you reached the car.

Tasks today involved returning the DVD to the library, getting some more food at Extra Foods and checking out the Art Station. This is the railway station that hasn't been used for that purpose since the last passanger train ran through Fernie in the 1960's. It's now a very good community art centre and always worth a visit if only to drop in at the excellent Blue Toque Diner - for European readers a toque is a woolly hat ! The current exibition is art priced at under $101 which seems a good way of going about art to me - may drop back and buy something before Christmas.

Afternoon was spent at the hill where they have blown loads of snow on the lower mountain so ski outs at the weekend should be ok. Bumped into a patrol buddy who had just come down from "working" and said that White Pass was pretty good but there was a lot of wind picking up and we shouild expect some windcrust.

Played with the transceivers taking it in turn to bury then find them. It was a useful exercise if only to remind you that the direction pointer on a digital beacon may point at 180 degrees from the target and you should always keep an eye on how the distance is moving as well. It always amazes me the number of people who carry beacons and never practice with them. We watch the DVD that comes with the kit at the beginning of each season as this also covers how to organise a self rescue - I know we all know this stuff but when you need to use it you want the actions to be second nature. We also have practice days like today.

While on the subject ( gets out soap box) what about the people who just turn on their transceivers in the boot room each morning, check they are flashing and head out. The fact is that just because a beacon is flashing doesn't mean it's transmitting, even if it is, it doesn't mean it's on the right frequency and it certainly doesn't mean it's receiving. Guys, just take two minutes each morning to do a walk by check with a buddy (we always do) to make sure everything is working. Who knows, the life you save by doing this may be your own.

Had a restoring beer in Kelsey's on the hill after an our of beacon recovery practice and then home for a quiet night in. Driving into town I noticed the beaver lodge by the river on the right and that there were mud tracks in the snow so it looks like the beavers are still out to play.

Forecast has shifted as usual. Environment Canada are still calling for a cold dry spell but the Elk Valley local forecast (usually a better bet) is now calling for flurries tomorrow and snow on Saturday with quite warm highs of around -6. The snow fall is only supposed to be 2-4 in town tomorrow but last year when they called something like this it dumped 30 so fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Change of Hosts

Well unsurprisingly the pub won last night but had a great time catching up with the news. When we turned out it was a clear sky with a full moon and all the mountains covered in fresh snow. There is something magic about the light in those conditions, all the mountains seem luminouse, almost as if they are lit from within. Stayed out on the deck to watch in light so bright you could read a book by it - now I know why I love the mountains in the winter.

The forecasters seem to be getting it about right so far. Last night was down to -15 on the mercury with about -20 including the wind chill. Today the high got up to -7 although beautiful bluebird conditions and for the next few days it should get colder - at least this means they should be making snow on the lower ski hill like there is no tomorrow.

While Lynda was at the gym working on her leg in the morning I spent the time trying to sort out the Christmas lights for the deck. As usual they were tangled and a load of them that had worked last year weren't working now. Went and got some replacements and strung the lights - why is it that two replacement bulbs cost $3.20 while you can get a new string of 25 including wiring and plug for $19.95 ?

Took the car to Canadian Tire at lunch for them to fit snow tires. Of course the tires I had ordered hadn't shown up ( they had been sent to Trail of all places) so I had to have my second choices of which ( surprise surprise) they had loads in stock. The bill came to $666, do you think someone is trying to tell me something? Had lunch and a couple of beers in Boston Pizza while waiting for the fitting. Now have 4 all weather tires in ok condition cluttering up the garage, don't know what to do with them , may try Ebay.

Oh yes, about the hosts as I know a number of my UK guests like using this service. For those who don't know the hill had a system whereby ski hosts act as greeters each day then offer free tours of the hill each morning and afternoon - not any more. The issues were explained to me by a senior RCR manager a few days ago.

The problem was that intermediate vacation skiers tended to use this service as a free guiding service and go out every day with the hosts which wasn't the idea. Even though the hosts were only allowed to ski blue groomed runs ( North ridge as well as long as it had been groomed in the previous 12 hours) this suited quite a lot of intermediate European skiers who weren't actually looking for anything more challenging.

From now on the hosts will just be meeters and greeters in the base area. During the day they will tour the hill offering assistance and presumably selling ski school services. The tours will continue but will be run by the ski school and cost 10 bucks a time ($9.95actually). A voucher will be issued for an amount ( possibly 100% of the cost) which will be redemable in the ski shop or maybe the day lodge - details to be finalized in the next few days and will be published here.

I have no idea whether or not this is a good idea or if it will work. Presumably people will either like it and buy more ski school product or not and vote with their feet. Doesn't affect me but I will keep my ear to the ground for guests who I know have liked sking with the hosts in the past.

Another cold day called for and we hope to go to the hill to check out the snow making and play hunt the transceiver in the snow - it's good to practice this before you get caught in an avi for real altough an amazing number of people don't seem to bother.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nice Surprise

The nice surprise in question was that it snowed over night - not much ( a little under 5 cms) but it gave everything a nice Christmassy feel and anyway I always reckon that you can double the snowfall in the town for what falls on the hill and double that for what accumulates in the bowls - not sure if it's true but it sort of works out that way. The forecasters were calling for a clear night down to -11 so a light snow night only down to -6 was a nice surprise.

This time of year light snow is good as it doesn't get cleared away and you can read the tracks in the snow to see what happened over night with the wild life. This morning you could see that tree squirrels had been all over the back deck - perhaps they wanted a go in the hot tub. Out front a coyote had headed straight up the road, would love to think it had been a timber wolf but it was a coyote. Round the front door there were deer tracks, I would say they were mule deer, three of them. No I haven't developed tracking skills equal to those of Wild Bill Peyto it was just that as I was looking at the tracks 3 mule deer came over to see what I was up to !

Put a final coat of black rust paint on the rear fender of the Explorer and whilst it isn't the greatest paint job in the world you can't see rust any more and when the usual road dirt gets over it then it will look just perfect.

Swam at the aquatic centre and by that time the sun had come out and the temp risen to the daytime high of -3. There is something so cool about swimming whilst looking out of the big windows at the end of the pool at snow covered mountains bathed in sunlight. A quick trip to library stocked us with books and a DVD. As long as you like your movies a bit "artistic" the library is the best place to rent DVDs at only one buck for two nights.

Went to the hill and spent some time talking to Brian in Top Shelf about boots as I had mine blown to account for some spread in the right foot which took place due to all the running this summer. Boot heaters seem to have come on a long way and now that Brian and Donny have found a way of mounting the toe heaters between the layers in the foot bed it's something I might think about again - those guys have to be the best boot fitters anywhere in the country.

Finished the day with a quick visit to Alpine Spa to report that the footwell light in the hot tub wasn't working. Not the end of the world but .... they will look at it.

Just checked the long range forecast which is now calling for a steady decline in day time highs until next Monday when the high should be -23. The temps are then set to rise with several days of moisture, first snow then a snow rain mix so that two weeks from now we should be at +5. Bear in mind this is a 14 day forecast from the same organisation that didn't call for snow over night and last week called for 25 cms in the afternoon when only 3 showed up. I think we can be pretty sure that we are going to get an Arctic high for a few days which will be followed by some warmer wetter weather. When, how much, how warm and how wet are anybody's guess. The good news is that warm wet fronts bumping into cold air masses can give us massive dumps.

So what to do this evening ? Either wings night at the Pub ( huge plate of wings for about $6) or tight ass Tuesday at the movie house ( two for the price of one). I guess the Pub as there will lots of buddies I haven't seen yet since getting into town.

Monday, November 30, 2009

RIP The Meat Hook

This was a really weird day. Usually once the hill is open that is it - skiing every day. This year because the hill has opened a week early just for the weekend we are now faced with 5 days of kicking our heels waiting for the next dose of white powder.

Not all bad as having only had 24 hours between arriving and skiing we had a load of jobs to do. Started by going back to Extra Foods to stock up with the stuff we forgot on Friday. I have to say that they are making a real effort selling us reusable bags so they are supplying only a fraction of the plastic bags we used to get. Of course we used to use the plastic bags as bin liners in our small kitchen garbage bin so now we don't get any we have had to buy a supply of 50 small bin bags - not sure whether the overall effect is a plus or minus for mother earth.

The weather has been really warm ( up to 6 degrees) but overcast with showers. In the breaks looking up the hill it looked as if the snow line was about half way up so White Pass still looks a good bet when we get there. The good news is that it is supposed to go down to -11 tonight and stay cold all week so the lower mountain should get some good snow making between here and opening day.

The rest of the day was spent going to Canadian Tire to order some winter tires ( that is how you spell it here guys) for the Explorer and some rust paint to cover up some patches on the rear fender. Also managed to find time for a quick beer or two with Rob who was on his split shift at the mine today.

On the way down town heard that the reason for all the heli-bombing of the headwall last week was because it was part of the new Leonardo Di Caprio movie coming out next year. What with that and the John Cusack Time Machine Hot Tub movie shot here last year ( several buddies starring as extras) Fernie really is becoming the Hollywood of the North.

Sitting here now getting high on the fumes from the spraying of the rust paint onto the fender in the garage below. Have opened the garage doors but it doesn't seemto help much - a hot tub and beer is called for.

The reason for todays title is that yesterday in the Griz bar it was confirmed to me by a patroller buddy that the Face Lift will not be opening this year. For those who don't know this is a short rope tow with hooks to the highest point in Lizard bowl hence the nick name The Meat Hook.

The reasons for closing it down are safety and cost. The Meat Hook takes you up into the avi run out areas of the Lizard head wall and a huge amount of safety work has to be done to keep the area clear. This combined with the large amount of Cat time required to profile the drag and keep the traverses open makes it very expensive. Snow Cats ( Piste Bashers to you Europeans) don't come cheap.

Whilst I never like to see the lift serviced ski area reduced I can't get very excited about this - at least not as excited as some I have heard hold forth on the subject. The lift was never open very often, it was slow and as a result when open on a good day had such a long line that it was only worth skiing once or twice at the most. I probably didn't do it more than a dozen times last year.

The terrain off the two traverses either side isn't that intersting and it is only a short run down to the lower traverses. It does mean that the long traverse to Easter isn't really worth it but then it never was. If I was going to Easter I would always go via White Pass, Currie bowl, the County Line and then step up to take Easter from the very top which is much better. Going the other way it does mean that you will have the hike a little longer to get into Fish bowl or the very top of Snake. On the other hand the lower traverse across Snake means you only miss a couple of good turns at the top and if you are heading out to Redtree/Steep and Deep etc then all you lose is a hundred metres or so of cat track skiing.

In summary, sorry to see the Meat Hook go but it is no big deal and if it frees resources to get better bits of the hill open quicker in difficult conditions it's a price worth paying.

Hot Tub here I come.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 2

As I predicted the flurries last night didn't really amount to anything and the hill was showing 3 cms in 24 hours and a mid mountain depth of 103 cms. Everyone seems to forget just how sketchy things usually are on opening day - Lynda read back in her journals and discovered this is the most snow at opening for over 5 years. Even the awsome winter of 2 years ago only opened with 90 cms and that was second week in December.

Strangest thing was the temperature which was supposed to drop to -11 overnight but on our deck barely got down to zero. At the hill it was about plus 2 at the bottom, minus 2 at the top and the freeze line at about mid mountain. The real problem was that it never got cold enough low down for them to turn on the snow cannons so the lower mountain remains in a very thin state. With a Chinook in Calgary giving about plus 10 and spreading this way it doesn't look like things are going to change short term.

Things at the hill were much the same as yesterday but with no fresh powder and far fewer poeple after the excitement of opening day had worn off. The weather was overcast with light freezing moisture ( I wouldn't call it snow) blowing in from time to time in a gusty wind. Only the old side was open again and the groomers had been out taking the advantage of having some skier compacted snow to extend the groomed areas.

The only new things we tried today were Cedar Ridge which was ok between the alders but so much growth showing it was impossible to get much of a rythm going and a bit crunchy towards the bottom. Snake ridge opened with a sign line keeping us out of Gorby bowl and a warning that KC chutes were very ugly. We had some great runs in un tracked powder off Snake cutting right above the chutes to get us back out on to Cedar centre. Took a look into Linda's and Kangaroo and decided against both due to a substantial amount of timber being evident.

So that's the opening taster for 2 days with the opening proper next Saturday. Between now and then we hope for some more snow which is called for at the end of the week or at the very least cold weather so that snow can be made on the lower mountain to improve the ski out. A summary of the current conditions -
Lower Mountain ( anything below Bears Den) - rain crust, ice and not much snow. Use only to get off the hill and even then be careful.
Lizard - Whole bowl in very good shape with tracked powder in most places. A little grooming in Arrow and Dancer but everything else un groomed. Only thing to watch is bottom of Easter where the gullies haven't yet filled in and there are many hazards.
Sunny side - Skiable with lots of alders.
Bear -groomed but with good ungroomed stuff off both sides.
Boom bowl and boom ridge both passable with caution and good sking in between the alders in the bowl
North ridge - groomed and good
Cedar ridge - passable in places with many alders but some good pitches.
Cedar bowl - a few groomed runs with good tracked powder in between the grooming.
Snake ridge - great powder now a bit tracked up. Pitches curtailed by the need to track right above KC chutes unless you are particulkarly fond on gardening.

Not a comprhensive list but I will add to my ramblings as there will be not much to report with 5 days of hanging out waiting for the hill to open proper. Hail to the Griz with a prayer for more snow.

On more important topics the hot tub worked well again tonight to get rid of early season pain and the Ghostriders 10 game winning streak came to an end last night - next home game next weekend and we will be ready.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day Zero continued and day one

When we left our heros they were getting ready to go out on Friday and finish getting ready for the season. Things continued to go well with the car insurance fixed, food and drink bought and stocked up for the season and the season passes picked up.

Best of all was a visit to Top Shelf, the ski shop in the basement of the Griz Inn as I had noticed a rivet missing from my boot. Although the boots are 3 years old, as always the guys (Brian in particular) couldn't do enough to help me and fixed the boot for free. Their custom built boots may be way more expensive than normal shop bought ones but you get what you pay for both in service and in the product which shows no signs of giving up even after about 400 days use.

By the afternoon we were flagging so we met up with Rob and Katie for a beer at the pub. While sitting there Lynda started to read the details of the vouchers we get with our season pass. The Friends and Family vouchers which used to give a 10% discount per ticket are now resricted to being valid for just one day. This means that instead of getting a discount on the whole period when my buddies are buying tickets for ( up to 10 days) I now only get it for one of those days. In a nutshell the voucher is now worth about $7 instead of $60/70, costing me over $200 per year - nice start to the season.

In the evening we had a hot tub with Rob and Katie then an early night after some snow porn (ski videos for those who don't know) followed by an early night. As an aside the Ghostriders won at Hockey beating the Creston Valley Thundercats 4-0 away and extending their winning run to 10 games - looks like we will be watching play off hockey this spring.

And so to Saturday - Day 1. The one thing that didn't go well on Friday was the weather forecast. The local forcast was calling for 25 cms of snow with a warning for the whole Elk Valley. In the event we got about 3 cms of very wet snow in Fernie although to be fair it was dumping all round with Highway 3 closed because of a jackknifed semi just east of Sparwood. Lets hope this isn't going to be like last winter when the storms slipped past us dumping their snow on towns up and down the Elk Valley that didn't have ski hills.

The crowds started to arrive at 8:30 for a 9 o'clock opening and when the lifts started to turn there must have been 50 of us waiting. Temps had dropped to -7 overnight and didn't get much above -2 all day. The hill showed real damage low down from the rain in the last week and the lower slopes were all ice and crust so we were not optimistic. The good news was that with a 100 cm mid mountain snow base even though there would be early season hazards ( hill speak for rocks, logs and alders) in between the coverage was pretty good so that the precaution of using our rock skis didn't prove to be needed.

With only the old side open we rode to the top of Bear and were amazed to see what looked like powder in Cedar bowl, and most of Lizard with Bear, Dancer and few linking runs being the only groomers on the hill. We jumped into Arrow and weren't disappointed to find fresh powder untracked all the way down getting into rain crust only a little above the Bear's Den.

Taking a tip from a Pro Patrol buddy we tracked Cedar out to the avi sign line and found more powder top to bottom. After that another tip from the patrol ( what it is to have friends) took us to Easter bowl on the Lizard traverse arriving just as the avi signs were being dropped so again good powder first tracks in powder ( almost knee deep in places) all the way back to Bear.

For the rest of the morning we tried lines off the top of Bear which were mostly good and lightly tracked powder for the most part. The only mistake was trying Boom ridge which turned out to be re frozen crud and rolling rain balls which made for just steep hard work all the way down.

After luch we cycled Cedar bowl looking for the ever fading fresh tracks, Haul Back up to North Ridge, Lower Lynda's down to Boom and then Boom bowl back to Bear via the goat track. This interspursed with the odd foray into Lizard and Easter filled up the afternoon.

In summary the upper mountain was in surprisingly good shape with powder for everyone until about half mountain height. Below that it was crunchy but very skiable and good fun on what was 80% ungroomed skiing. All in all a much better day than you might expect for late November.

As we were leaving the hill after a couple of beers in the Griz it was trying to flurry as it had done all afternon. This continued as we sat in the hot tub drinking beer but to be quite honest it didn't look very promising.

Just tomorrow then shut down until opening proper next saturday - if I am any judge Whute Pass will be awesome in these conditions.
Ghostriders playing at home tonight but as we are still jet lagged we will give it until next weekend before going to our first game since September.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Day Zero - And so it begins

Here begins the account of the Fernie ski season 2009/10.

Arrived in Calgary yesterday afternoon after a fairly uneventful trip. Thanks the Dave and Ellen (Lynda's cousin and wife) for putting us up overnight and running us to Heathrow in the morning, and a special thanks for keeping the evening fairly sensible so we weren't totally wrecked for the journey.

Air Canada must be going through a hard time as the flight was less than half full so if you wanted you could stretch across one of the 4 seat sets and sleep all the way. They have certainly sorted out the in flight movies which suck far less than they used to and actually do entertain you for the 9 hour flight. Even immigration seemed to be playing ball and just waved us through as tourists rather than bouncing us into the main office to be questioned which is what usually happens.

Rob and Katie picked us up from the airport which is a big plus - thanks guys. When you have a long flight with a 3 hour drive on the end the last thing you want is to do that drive arriving in Fernie at 8 in the evening which is UK equivilant of 3 in the morning, So tired just came straight to the house, missing the pub and got an early night. It won't happen again.

The one advantage of jet lag flying with the sun is that you are up at 6 in the morning raring to go. Rather worringly everything seems to be going smoothly - too smoothly. So far the hot tub seems to be up and running ( thanks Vic), Cable TV and high speed internet is reconnected thanks to Shaw, I have put the battery back in the Ford Explorer and it started first time, all clocks have been corrected, answer machines, phones ( landline and cell) have been connected and generally we are ready for action and it isn't yet 9 in the morning.

Tasks today include insuring the car, taking the skis to the lockers on the hill, picking up seasons passes, stocking up with food and drink and doing a few odd jobs, lets hope our luck continues.

Why all the rush when the hill doesn't open for over a week well the answer is that it opens on Saturday (tomorrow). Ok it's only the old side and it's only for the weekend then closing down until opening proper but hey it's two bonus days skiing. I think RCR have concluded that there isn't much cost in putting on the extra two days and it gives them great publicity about how the snow is so good already and that will boost bookings for later in the season. Why people think that because we have a good December means that we will have a good March I don't know but that's how some folk seem to think.

The decision must have looked a bit in the balance as after the excellent early snow we have had two days of pretty intense rain in the valley and a lot of snow has washed out of town. I guess it's still ok on the upper hill and possibly really good at White Pass but we will have to wait a week to check that out. Best news is that there is snow warning out for the Elk Valley today with 25 cms of fresh being called for although it will probably be quite wet and heavy. A temperature drop overnight may mean that we get raincrust lower down tomorrow but it looks like there will be plenty of white stuff to slide around on even if you have to stay on the groomers low down. Fingers crossed for good powder high up in the Boom/Cedar ridge area, I think that's where I will be trying my luck.

So off to do more jobs before jet lag catches up with me. Watch out for the day one report. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Well here we are again. I did say that I might do a quick up date after the fall visit to Fernie and this is it.
The summer sailing has been great but now it is time to start thinking about the winters skiing in Fernie. The autumn glacier skiing in Europe has had to be shelved due to too much on so the first chance to get some snow under the skis will be December 5th when the hill is scheduled to open. This looks a bit optimistic based on past years but as you can always put the date back but can't bring it forward full marks the RCR (now there's something you don't often hear me say) for giving it a go.
Had some awesome hiking this fall the highlight of which was hiking the highest of the Three Sisters which gave a fantastic view of the Elk Valley - it's not often you look down from 3000 ft above Polar Peak !! All the hiking this year saw more fresh bear signs than I can ever remember although no actual sightings ( a few noises in bushes were heard but they could equally have been moose) so a good job the bears will be fast asleep when the hill opens.
Work on the hill this summer has gone ahead and the main job seems to have been to cut Alpine Trail further across Cedar bowl and re profile the bottom of Cruiser to make it a bit more user friendly to intermediate skiers. The thinking has to be that when the upper bowl is closed for avi control you will still be able to use the far side trails. This was always possible with a rather technical traverse through trees to the avi control line on the far side of the bowl. Sadly this means on those days when the upper bowl is closed we will now see some more skiers near the boundry who were not in the past prepared to work for their turns - ah well I suppose that's the way the ski industry is going. I am told a lot of brush work has been done to remove young growth alders but didn't hike the areas involved enough to form any opinion on that.
So what are the prospects for this winter ? Well as an El Nino year it usually means that Fernie will either have a very good or very bad winter with not much in between. It should be warmer with more moisture all season. If this warm wet air moves slowly enough across the interior it will cool and we could have awesome snow falls, even better than two years ago. If they move too quickly it will come in as rain and we will have a disater like 5 years ago. The difference between a graet winter and a lousy one will be 2 degrees so you pay your money and take your choice. Personally I am an optimist and even on a rain day there is usually some good stuff if you go high enough and know where to look.
See you all end of November when I move to the house in fernie for the winter.