Thursday, April 16, 2009

Season 2008/9

And so it comes time to gather up my thoughts on the overall season which I would summarise as surprisingly good considering the lack of snow mid season. Of course there may be a bit more life in the season from the Furnival weekend coming up but as I have said before I expect most of the action will be in the Griz bar not on the hill so lets call it a day.
Starting with the snow it is a recorded fact that the total snowfall for this season was around 650 cms which is low particularly compared with last year which was a vintage one with 1150 cms. When you consider that we had about 5 metres less snow falling this year the hill stayed in surprisingly good shape with a mid mountain base on closing day 210 cms and the whole hill skiable with the exception of Snake Ridge.
The real problem this year was the weather which most of my buddies have best described as "weird" for the whole season. Usually we get wet heavy snow in the fall followed by a reasonable dump around Christmas then the champagne powder in January. This gives the perfect stable skiing base. What happened this year was that we had no snow in the fall, very cold dry snow following opening day, normal Christmas dump then a warm up in early January with a heavy rain/snow mix. This meant that even with opening day being postponed it was very sparse - this is being polite as I have said I have mountain biked in more snow than we had on opening day.
By January we had the worst possible conditions with an inverted snow pack so that the avi risk was off the scale - it is no coincidence that this year we had 25 avi related deaths in BC, 8 in the Elk valley. It is a tribute to the great work done by the guys and girls of the Pro Patrol that no one in the Fernie resort area was hurt even though the pack was so unstable that they had to resort to Heli bombing inbounds for control. Sure enough the pack gave way and by mid January everything had slid to ground and everywhere you could see avi debris and death cookies about the size of my truck.
Everyone agreed that we had paid the price and had a great base for the January and February snows, the problem is that they didn't come, we had a 45 day snow drought. The base meant that you could ski anywhere on the hill but the surface conditions were challenging and everywhere was skiing about the toughest I have ever seen it, this may have contributed to the record number of injuries suffer by Ski School at around that time.
Mid March was another warm up with slush skiing and for a time it looked like we would have an early end to our season. The whole year was saved as far as I was concerned by great snow late March/early April which gave us the best skiing of the season and some awesome powder days. To finish off the sun shone and after a week of summer skiing it was back to spring skiing for the last few days - as I said not a bad season.
Things that worked well this year was the new glading in Mitchy chutes and Cougar Glades. The alder clearance on Snake ridge was also good but as the high traverse across Cedar was never cut this year it was not that easy to get to so not all that many got to enjoy it. Not so good things were the lack of alder clearance in the Cedar Ridge, Boomerang area which meant that the skiing there was very restricted early season. The decision to damage Kangaroo by cutting a cat track across it spoiled an otherwise good mid section of the bump run and was just dumb. The official reason given is that without the cat track there was no easy way out of Cedar bowl but as there is no easy way in I don't see that this makes sense.
RCR continue to make strange pricing decisions such a premium pricing the latter weeks of the season just because they are holiday weeks in some province or other. This in the face of an economic down turn, a poor snow year and partial closure of the hill doesn't make any business sense and a large number of vacationers I met were vowing not to come back until the prices moderated. From a personal point of view this is excellent news as it means even less people on the hill next year but as I said from a business point of view a very strange policy.
My favourite memories are during the final snow cycle hiking the ridge above Cornice chute time after time to either jump off the cornice or drop into one of the tight steep tree lines back into Lizard. This isn't an area I have skied much before but with good snow next year I intend to be back.
It is a beautiful bluebird day today with temps of about +3. Lots of jobs to do that have been neglected during the ski season then a day skiing on Saturday to say goodbye. Sunday we head off for a cultural tour of the Okanagan wineries but will be back at the end of the week for a final tidy up before heading back to the UK. That's it for the season as I can't think anyone will be interested in reading about my summer sailing life in Cornwall so no more blogging until I get back to Fernie for skiing next winter. May post something about the mountain biking and rafting when I am here in the summer or some reports from the Hintertux glacier when I go up there for some summer skiing at the end of September.
So long and thanks for the fish - see you all end of November. Anyone wanting to get hold of me during the summer try


  1. Glad to hear you guys had a good end to the season. Hope you have a great summer and hope to see you next year. Cheers, Bobby.

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  3. Fernie looks great - when the best time come for birds & booze

  4. Booze is always good in Fernie. For birds suggest coming the weekend before Christmas which is when they have the Canadian Christmas bird count - always looking for volunteers to help log the numbers of our little feathered friends.