Saturday, April 4, 2009

4th April

Day 103 or to be more accurate half day was the start of the big spring melt down.
We got to the hill at about first lift on what turned out to be a perfect bluebird day. The starting temp was -2 but pretty soon temps were getting up to +10 at the base and not much less at the top of the hill.
The trick in these spring conditions is to stay on the groomers at first then start to move on to the off pist areas slowly as they start to soften. If you go too early you end up in a nightmare of crunchy ice, if you get there too late it has all turned to elephant snot and if you get it right then you get ok spring skiing.
We started on the old side and had a quick groomer trip round Cedar Bowl and back. First effort into Boom bowl proved good with unrefrozen snow at the top and a softening trend towards the bottom. Sunny Side shoulder lived up to it's name as the first place to really soften and the trip up on the Bear chair was enlivened by the Pro Patrol bombing the Lizard ridge line and getting some pretty spectacular releases that slid down to the low traverse in Lizard. A trip onto Boom ridge was a tad early and proved very hard work jumping edge to edge on refrozen crud. The only upside was watching all those tempted to give it a try having seen us from the lift - we couldn't have looked that bad. There were some people having a really bad day as a result so I suppose we shouldn't laugh, but we did. The one trip through Kangaroo proved to be ok if a little hard work.
The new side provided less damaged snow so it needed less sun to make it very nice skiing on several runs up a down White pass. A run down Skydive was good at the top but at the bottom was slushy snow in the lower section in the sun and crunchy in the shade - very challenging.
Having seen the patrol ski cutting Polar chutes I assumed that Polar Peak would be open so took a late lunch with the intention of hiking Polar Peak ( about a 40 minute climb for me) then ski the chutes. I was just about to head out with my back country pack ( probe, shovel, drink etc) when I got word from a buddy in the patrol that Polar Peak would not be opening today because of the size of the sloughs from the ski cutting. With everything slush and Saturday crowds I decided to call it a day early and head home.
In town I called in at Ski Base and bought a pair of bindings for my new skis and dropped off the skis and boots to have the bindings mounted. Just about to head down now and pick them up. Have to say that Ski Base are excellent people to deal with and saved $120 at sale prices as well.
Back to the hill tomorrow for more spring skiing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

3rd April

Day 102 proved to be pretty ok as well. Just as all this week we had some light snow overnight (this time only 4 cms) to repair the hill and headed off in temps of -2 and overcast conditions to go and see what we could find.
Having rather neglected the old side over the past few days I headed out over that way to check what I had been missing and renew my membership of the old Fernie club.
As expected the upper parts of Snake Ridge and Steep and Deep were in excellent condition and tracked up powder. The lower sections showed evidence of sun damage not covered all that well by new snow and were pretty chunky and hard work. Kangaroo was quite forgiving in the upper section but everything below the cat track was gnarly refrozen crud every time I went through. The north facing slopes of Cedar ridge all were in pretty good shape as was Boomerang and Boomerang ridge which were skied several times.
At lunch I hooked up with some buddies and we spent a very enjoyable afternoon rolling round the new side. By mid afternoon the temp had risen to + 10 at the base with softening snow on all slopes subject to direct sunlight. For obvious reasons we moved to the North facing slopes and found good fresh snow in Easter bowl, Secret chutes and Spinal Tap. A run down Sib ridge had mixed results and was starting to show signs of wear in the mid section.
Last run of the day was Skydive although some of the group opted for Decline and the debrief in the locker room afterwards confirmed that they were both in pretty good shape at the top but very slushy at the bottom and should be avoided tomorrow until the temps rise and the snow softens.
The last week has been a real bonus but it looks like all good things come to an end. Forecasts vary but are in general agreement that we will see a massive warm up over the next few days with temps in town getting up to +12. Looks like spring skiing where we stick on the groomers until to snow softens then have a couple of good hours skiing softening crud until it gets all too soft and we have to call it a day. Just about what we should expect in the last 10 days of the season.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

2nd April

And day 101 was just as good as I thought it might be. Another 6 cms overnight repaired the hill and soft on soft on soft meant that the skiing stayed deep and soft but you just had to look for it a bit harder than the last two days. Despite an excellent evenings entertainment at the ticket checkers party we managed to get to the hill at or about 9 o'clock.
The recent snow falls have raised the base to just over 250 cms which isn't all that short of where we should be at this time of year. The forecast for the next few days is a rapid rise in temperature to plus 15 so we have perhaps one more day of good winter skiing before we will have to content ourselves with spring skiing for the rest of the season.
Again we hit the new side and again found good skiing almost everywhere. There was even fewer people than usual on the hill so we had plenty of time to put fresh tracks where ever we wanted. Mitchy chutes, Big Bang, Anaconda, Bootleg, Knot Chutes, Stag Leap to name but a few all proved good deep snow with two foot jumping into deep powder where ever you wanted.
Having started on Cornice Chutes/ Lone Fir yesterday today was the time to try out every aspect of this part of the hill. The Lone Fir chutes were untracked probably due to the sign at the top saying - Extreme terraine for experts only, extreme hazards, mandatory cliffs and drop offs - all of which proved to be true during the course of the day. Managed to find 4 different ways down through the chutes thanks to a good guy I met called Dillon who showed me some very gnarly stuff and which I guess was the steepest and tightest stuff I have ever skied, and those that have skied with me know that is saying something. Best thing was that with a bit of work you could link up with Spinal Tap which remains pretty challenging.
As the day moved to a close I drifted back onto the easier runs of Decline and Skydive which still provided some untracked deep snow.
The day finished in the Griz then on to a hockey game between the pro patrol and ski school which the ski school looked like winning in the third period when we bailed to go to the pub for food and drink. A good fun charity event which was well attended and hopfully is the first of a long line of annual events. Minus 1 and light snow on the deck as I sit here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

1st April

Day 100 of the season (yippee) and this was no April fools day. At first it seemed like it would be the same as yesterday as we woke up to only 7 cms more overnight but heavy snow. As it was the snow died out pretty quick and we had morning sun which threatened to damage the snow but a clouding over late morning stopped the damage and gave us good snow improved by late afternoon flurries.
In the locker room there was a lot of old Fernie buddies getting ready to ski so working on the basis that they would be heading to the old side we headed to the new side. The new snow had done wonders to repair what was there and as the traffic had been low yesterday most of the new side was excellent deep snow skiing if not awesome untracked powder.
Although today was not quite as good as yesterday it was probably my best day's skiing this year and in terms of how well I was skiing perhaps the best day ever. Just to show how personal this is we were riding the lift with a guy from Manitoba and when we asked if he was having a good day he say yes, much better than yesterday when we had all that deep fresh snow that was such hard work !!! Just goes to show.
Lynda and I had great fun in all the usual runs - Anaconda, Surprise, Sib Ridge, Easter bowl and Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap. Everything was good and deep with the north facing slopes really special.
I was intending to have lunch today but just as Lynda and I were heading off the hill I hitched up with my buddy Rob and his buddy Robert, both miners on their last day off for a while. We decided to go adventuring and had an awesome time. For some reason I was skiing out of my skin right over the skis and the steeper and gnarlier the situation the easier I was finding it. We took several very tight lines in Mitchy's, the tight chutes in Anaconda, and the usual stuff off Skydive and associated runs. As a first this season we climbed Cornice Chutes with the big jump off the cornice and later even got in Lone Fir which was steep and tight but full of deep snow.
Best fun was getting near Hells Gate ( of course we couldn't ski it as it was out of bounds) but we did ski the rope line as near as possible.
Awesome day, jumping into steep deep stuff and getting great results. On the deck it is minus 1 and snowing with more called for over night.
Just off to the ticket checkers party where we have an invite not because they think we are cool guys but because the party is next door and rule one of a party is to invite the neighbours to head complaints off at the pass. Tomorrow looks good.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

31st March

Day 99 for me and the best day of the season so far - it may be strange to get weather like this so late in the season but it was just awesome.
So what happened? Well, they were calling for 2-4 cms of snow overnight. The official site gave us 7 but that would be from their early morning reading taken at about 6 o'clock. from the moment I woke up at 7 it was puking snow, and I don't men it was just snowing but it was coming down at a fall rate which must have been getting on for 5 cms per hour at times. This kept up until early afternoon when the sun came out for the rest of the afternoon. The result was that by mid day the whole hill was covered in deep, deep fresh snow. As a late season mid week day there was hardly any one on the hill so most of this awesome dump of powder was either untracked or only lightly used.
We weren't the only ones to be surprised by this sudden dump. The City of Fernie were obviously caught with their pants down as there was no ploughing or gritting this morning and the roads were like ice rinks. On the way to the hill we saw two major crashes, one truck off the road and one upside down on it's roof. Despite all the fun we still got to the hill for first tracks.
There isn't much point in describing any individual run as everything was excellent and as we skied the fresh powder our tracks were filling in from a mixture of new snow and wind sift.
The old side start offered up the unusual prospect of skiing North Ridge which had been groomed but now had knee deep untracked powder on it, GS turns all the way down. The usual runs of Cedar and Boom ridges were great and just got better as more snow arrived. The was still a scratchy base when you sunk through so we went to the new side mid morning, powder chasers are never satisfied.
The new side was just awesome. Yesterday's soft base was covered with deep fresh pow and everywhere was face shots top to bottom. The County Line traverse was closed because of the loadings up in Polar chutes but the low traverse still allowed access to the Skydive traverse and discouraged boards ( traversing sucks on a board) and non energetic skiers. Late afternoon the sign line moved down the hill so the traverse became even more hard work but all this did was guarantee the whole Currie Chutes/Skydive/Easter area remained in great shape.
All the usual runs were awesome, Skydive, Decline, The Brain, Stag Leap, Secret Chutes, Spinal Tap, Cougar Glades, Easter Bowl etc etc, some done more than once - mostly untracked or deep tracked soft snow, thigh deep in some of the dips giving great over the head face shots. This was all so good that I couldn't bring myself to break for lunch so the day ran 9-4 with no breaks and of course no line ups, you don't get much bigger days than that. A special mention for a run down Knot chutes followed by Anaconda glades ( second chute was almost waist deep in places) then the tight trees in Bootleg Glades - 3 double black diamond runs one after another !!
Loads of beer with buddies afterwards and the only low spot the Pub reserving a load of tables for outsiders so we had nowhere to sit for wings night for the second week running. Lynda and I decamped to the ever reliable Boston Pizza sorts bar where we had great pasta on their cheap pasta night. I know where I am spending my Tuesdays in future. About zero on the deck and a bit more snow called for tonight so day 100 could be pretty spectacular as well.

Monday, March 30, 2009

30th March

Day 98 was a day when, inspired by yesterdays efforts in Fish bowl, I had thought to hit out into the back country. Unfortunately some overnight snow and and a change in temperature meant that the avi risk was raised from high to extreme and with 24 deaths due to avies alone in BC so far this season I decided not to risk raising the total to 25 and skied in bounds.
The Meat Hook opened early and with no one on the hill and therefore no line ups it was worth a couple of trips up into upper Lizard bowl to ski the powder ( sort of) which was left over from the Sunday traffic. The old side seemed pretty scratchy under the base so with flurries falling (which they did off and on all day) it seemed a good bet to head over to the new side.
It felt a bit like Groundhog day with good soft snow in Skydive, Sib Ridge, Mitchy Chutes and Anaconda Glades. I was just getting ready for lunch when I got a radio call from my buddy Rob so we linked up and did the Brain - still lots of untracked snow but very technical in the trees. Last run before lunch was in Decline which again had soft semi tracked snow and was only a little crunchy in the final section.
After lunch Rob and I linked up again and started with a rip down Secret Chutes which were soft and hardly tracked followed by Spinal Tap which was well tracked out and varied from soft to an ice base. Highlights were Sib ridge which still had loads of soft snow and Surprise trees which after about a week of disappointing results actually was a lot better under the new snow. As always final run down Skydive was excellent with new snow at the top and the chunky under base at the bottom actually starting to soften.
In summary a much better day than we expected with not very much new powder doing wonders to repair the hill and despite many signs on the boards by the lifts suggesting that the best skiing was on the groomers, actually the best skiing is on the new side north facing slopes, assuming that you like steep ungroomed tree runs. More snow called for tonight which may just about be enough to tempt me back onto the old side, or even into Cougar Glades where the lower sections are still very crunchy as a result of two day old sun damage.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

29th March

Day 97 was another good day. We didn't get the 20cms we were promised over night, in fact we we only got a dusting. We did wake up and find that near blizzard conditions which just got heavier as we drove to the hill and built up snow all morning. Hitting the new side we went as high as we could in Whitepass and found it was a two chair day - that is we could only see two chairs in front of us as we reached the top.
A couple of runs down Whitepass confirmed that seeing any further than your own skis was a bit of a challenge. We then kicked out on the County Line a few times to try Skydive and Decline which were untracked, wind blown and really nice. Lynda ran through Currie Glades and found much the same. First tracks (again) in Sib Ridge was good but the wind affected snow was from ice to knee deep and back again all the way down.
We worked out the North facing slopes would be best both from the point of view of no sun damage from yesterday and wind sift from today. This led to a couple of good results in Sykdive and Easter bowl ( the traverse out is getting very easy these days) and a final run before lunch through Stag leap was good in deep snow but with the now usual header from me when the down hill ski hit a death cookie - seems to be happening quite a lot these days.
In the afternoon I was invited by some buddies to join them in Fish bowl for some out of bounds skiing. Just to get it straight there is nothing wrong with going out of bound as long as you do it properly equipped and in an experienced group who are not going to take stupid risks. Un equipped idiots who go into Fish not understanding the risks ( and there are plenty of them) are just accidents waiting to happen.
Twice through Fish with the hike in and hike out was enough to finish me but the thigh deep untracked real powder made it all worth while - perhaps the best runs of the season. Just time for a quick trip back onto the new side to try Sib Ridge and the traditional final rip down Skydive both of which were covered in deep if tracked snow.
Forecasts varie so much I don't have any clue what to expect for the next few days but who cares if we can still keep skiing the hill as we are.