Saturday, March 28, 2009

28th March

And what an excellent day, day 96 turned out to be. We had 10 cms of fresh if a bit heavy snow overnight which raised the base to about 240 cms which despite the bad year is only about 60 cms below average due to this late fall of snow. Best news is that there is a heavey snowfall warning for the Elk Valley and most sources are calling for at least 20 cms overnight.
With a forecast for light snow all day we headed to the hill and found sun with a bit of cloud. For the first time in several days it was the sun which was doing the damage so south facing slopes started to soften while the north facing stayed in pretty good shape.
Learning from yesterday we went straight to the new side and found - no one !! I have never skied a powder Saturday with so few people on the hill. The reasons for this are open to debate, the None Stop ski programme are down in Whitefish and a lot of activity was concentrated around the kids racing on the old side but in part the reason must revolve around the fact that Fernie is charging high season prices for tickets when every other hill is discounting ticket prices like mad to get customers in - but what do I know.
Not only were there very few people on the hill but they seemed only to want to ski in the rather uninteresting groomed areas leaving the rest of the hill to us. As a result without really trying Lynda and I put first tracks under the lift in Whitepass then on to Anaconda where Lynda got first tracks right and me in the next chute. Next we went to Siberia ridge where we found all other tracks turning off down Mitchy chutes leaving us Sib ridge untracked. The steep gnarly section in the middle was as always steep and gnarly but nothing that couldn't be handled with half a dozen good edge to edge jumps - after that I took left, Lynda right and it was untracked all the way down.
Skydive was good and we were about third track in. Next we grabbed first tracks in Secret chutes and as always a quick trip into Spinal Tap was well worth while even though a couple of boards had been in before and we had to ski their sloughs in the lower seactions. somewhere along the line we got into 123s and Diamond back which again were good although the latter having been groomed you had to work the right hand side to stay in the powder. A final run down Decline again proved good untracked snow although at the bottom it was already starting to get rubbery.
After an excellent lunch in the excellent Corner Pocket I went back to the new side and had the inspiration to try the Brain top to bottom which got very technical in the tight trees. Cougar Glades was the only mistake of the day as it was very mushy from half way down. I tend to forget how south facing the glades are and with the amount of trees removed there is quite a bit of direct sunlight to cause damage. Final runs down Stag leap then Skydive just showed that there was still tons of fresh snow to be had but a bit heavy lower down.
Snowing on deck now with temps dropping so a beer, hot tub and early night look like the best ways to prepare for tomorrows snow.

Friday, March 27, 2009

27th March

Day 95 proved to be very entertaining.
Got a call last night from my buddy Ray living in Vermont to say that his sister Cathy and her husband Kim were in Fernie and would I mind meeting up and showing them around - of course I said yes. We met up and tried the old side which was pretty much a disaster - Cedar ridge (gully and gulch), Kangaroo, Boom Ridge and Boom bowl all proved to be very crunchy with only a bit of blow in to ease the burden. We decided to hit the new side.
Things were a bit better with at least a bit more soft snow on top although the base was still very scratchy. Runs through Gun bowl, Mitchy chutes and Highline/Heartland just confirmed this. Better snow was in Anaconda ( just over the hump), Siberia Ridge and finally before lunch a drop down Skydive.
The weather had been quite cold all morning just below zero with some valley snow first thing. As we went into the afternoon it became a more traditional spring day with sun and soft snow at the bottom although to be fair it never really got much above freezing at the upper points on the hill.
In the afternoon I hooked up with Bobby from Ski Club of GB who had no guests today and as it was his final day we had a real rip round the hill to give him something to remember Fernie by. Our only mistake was to try Stag Leap. Stag hadn't had the skier traffic of the other front runs so it was all hard broken chunks which had to be jumped edge to edge all the way down which was a real work out. Of course we finished with a rip down Skydive.
Plenty of beer in the Griz after skiing and now just a quiet night. If you can believe the forecast we have snow on the way for the next 5 days out of 7, we can only hope.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

26th March

Day 94 proved to be an ok days skiing. There was no new snow today and it was a bluebird day with no cloud in the sky from first bell to last.
From the outset the Meat Hook was open so we headed to the old side and started skiing the untracked snow in upper Lizard which was not quite up to the knees but was just about able to be counted as powder. The whole morning was spent working our way across the bowl skiing fresh snow each run and then free riding the bowl down to the Bear chair to repeat over and over again. Not great skiing but easy powder with fresh tracks has to be ok in the last week in March.
With the snow warming it was difficult to decide where to take the Thursday group. A quick trip up the Meat Hook just confirmed that we had managed to trash it all out during the morning. Given yesterdays experience we thought Snake ridge might be quite nice but it had mulched out and a run through Kangaroo didn't do much to prove the experience.
We hit the new side and found that even Lift Line was a bit scratchy. The final vote for the new side was Siberia Ridge was tough but not too bad, Anaconda Glades was ok in deep snow but the base was hard and uneven. Last run through Skydive was hard but just about skiable as a last run of the day.
In Summary the hill was skiing as hard as I can remember it for this time of year, that having been said, if you enjoy hard skiing as most of the Fernie hardcore do then this is all part of the fun and what separates this hill from those others which tend to flatter the intermediate skier into thinking they are a bit better than they actually are. Can't wait for tomorrow's fun.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

25th March

Day 93 and a pretty interesting day. The official site said 9 cms overnight but the boards by the lifts were saying 15cms of fresh which seemed about right. Temps started at -4 but got up during the day to plus temps at mid mountain but cooled down by evening so that the freeze level was almost at the base by the time we hit the bar.
With the fresh snow generally improving the hill we decided to try Snake Ridge again first thing. The viz was very bad first off but improved as the morning wore on. The new snow had made Snake untracked so we just kept cycling off that side getting nearer to the edge of the area until by lunch time we had reached Steep and Deep and Redtree. The snow was ok but with a very fragile base and of course the way out through Gorbie was always a challenge in between in avi debris lines. Two runs through Kangaroo and Boomerang both proved a bit tough but better than yesterday although the refrozen crud base still meant that skis had a mind of their own. A final run down Boom ridge before lunch just confirmed why this bit of the hill has a double black diamond rating.
At lunch some buddies confirmed that the new side had been nice and soft and a quick trip up White Pass showed that this was right in Lift Line and Gun Bowl. Encouraged by this we tried Surprise Trees which were rather unpleasant with a very bumpy base making everything very difficult. Skydive and Siberia Ridge supplied some surprisingly good skiing in not the easiest of conditions. A bit more fun up on top was finished off by a run down Stag Leap which was quite challenging including a double somersault when i hit something under the fresh snow in the trees.
At the end of the day I discovered my boots had sprung a couple of rivets so took them back to Top Shelf to be repaired. They have promised them for the morning free of charge - a very different experience from my attempt to get a warranty claim on my bindings, and so a lesson as to where you should be buying your kit.
More snow in the outlook.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

24th March

Day 92 and an amazingly good day considering the conditions. I thought I might have a short day as I wasn't feeling that great with the cold but in the event a combination of me feeling better and the conditions working out pretty well meant that I stuck it out all day and even managed a few beers in the bar afterwards.
The forecast was for sun in the morning and rain in the afternoon so no one will be surprised that it snowed all day with a fairly good accumulation by the afternoon. I headed out on the old side and tried a couple of groomers to get a feel of what the base was like at various altitudes on the hill. My first attempt off piste was in Boom bowl which was just ugly from top to bottom.
The turning point was when a buddy of mine from the patrol (thanks Marc) told me that they had just opened Snake Ridge and it was pretty good. When I checked it out I found that as Snake had been closed for three days although it had suffered all the mush damage of the past few days, as there had been no skiing there it was smooth with the fresh snow on top so you were skiing un tracked powder and just had to ski a bit quicker lower down to stay on top. Gorbie bowl had some nasty avi debris but picking a track in between the death cookies you coould still get some ok powder. Once through Kangaroo was enough to convince me that today wasn't the day to be having fun in that neck of the woods.
Spent the whole day cycling Snake Ridge in untracked powder every run - not bad considering the state of the rest of the hill. Linking up with Dan and Rob in the afternoon we carried on with Snake Ridge and then decided to try something new. I though Boom might have softened - wrong. It was crunchy and ugly. The new side didn't have much to offer and the final run down Skydive was challenging as the freeze line started to move down the hill making the whole run very interesting and a bit technical.
Wings night at the Pub found most of the tables reserved for some arty photo event from Island Lake much to the anger of the locals. Those involved might do well to calculated the value of a one off event ( where most of the tables weren't taken up anyway) against the regular weekly business that they turned away.
Still snowing - what next

Monday, March 23, 2009

23rd March

Day 91 which means my average cost of a days skiing today dropped below 11 bucks a day. The day was cut short by me having a bad cold so I only managed the morning before heading home to nurse myself with Neocitrone and whiskey.
Got to the hill early to sort out the binding issue. When we looked at the bindings on my rock skies two were also damaged so we were only just able to sort out one decent set to mount on the skis. This rendered the question of a warrently claim as irrelevant as I will have to buy a new set any way for the new skis so this time it will be down to Ski Base where I know they will keep a record of the transaction and sort out any warrenty issues that may arise.
We have had 15 cms in the last 24 hours and with the snow mushy even at first run on the lower hill the only game in town was to head high and cycle White pass where the snow was at least bearing some resemblence to powder. The problem was that the mush from yesterday gave a hard base with hidden death cookies and the socked in conditions meant that you couldn't see the surface anyway.
As the morning worn on the thaw line moved up the hill so that by 1 only the very highest snow was ok and even that was pretty heavy. The final run off the hill was in very warm sunshine and the lower hill was slushy spring conditions. During the morning some buddies came over from the old side saying it was slushy from early on so we didn't feel the need to check it out. Later in the locker room some more buddies said that some of the stuff and particularly Kangaroo so mybe it will be a good old fashioned old side start tomorrow.
More snow called for tonight but with todays high of +8 it is hard to see how tomorrow will be much better than today with the base freezing hard again. That having been said the hill plays funny tricks this time of year and a good freeze might dry out the base and give some quite acceptable skiing - lets see.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

22nd March

Day 90 and a landmark worth celebrating in a not very exciting season.
Funny old day really which started with the suggestion that it would be raining today but as with so many days it stopped raining as we got to the hill and we headed high to see if the overnight rain had turned to snow up in Whitepass. There was a little soft stuff around but it was difficult to work out whether the rough stuff underneath was death cookies or just soft stuff - in the event it turned out to be both depending on how high you were.
We cycled Whitepass a few times in the fresh but not very deep snow then encountered a host we know who asked us if we coould look after a couple of guests who were only here for one day but were looking for something a it more exicting. Alex and Larry from New England joined us in the chase to find new snow before it got too warm - later the base temps hit +15 and the untracked snow became unskiable with even the tails breaking through the snow.
We hit Surprise Trees, Mitchy Chutes, Anaconda Glades and Bootleg Glades which all were good. We then decided to give Skydive a lash although Lynda bailed on the grounds that it would be too heavy. As always Lynda was proved right and the lower section proved to be a real test even for the strongest skier.
We then headed over the old side to check things out and skied Boomerang ridge, Boom bowl, Buck shot and Boom again before deciding to call it a day.
After my ski blew off twice again in the deep stuff I took the skis to the repair shop who confirmed that it was a broken base plate and a warrenty call. At the moment they are jibbing because I can't procuce a receipt and they don't keep records - the only business where they think customers have to keep better records than the business they deal with!! I will keep everyone posted on how this works out but rest assured that if they deny my claim I will make sure it costs them 10's of thousands in dollars of lost business over the next few years.
The hill was all but deserted today which makes you wonder how they justify the 5 dollar premium they are charging on a day ticket. Can't see the sense of it myself as it just recuces the number of people on the hill and hence the income line but as long as it gives me more open hill to ski with no competition why should I worry if the hill makes dumb decions.