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.