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.