Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 27 time to put things in perspective

This morning started with no new snow and temps of -27 at the base and much the same at the top. It was a pretty clear day so temps did rise to mid teens around early afternoon but during the morning with wind chill I would imagine that on the New side the apparent temp must have been somewhere in the low minus 30s.

When it gets this cold the effect on the snow is pretty predictable. The skied out slick patches (and there are plenty of those) become even slicker while the soft snow becomes very very heavy and grabby on the skies. The result is being bundled up with cold muscles and difficult conditions the skiing becokmes very tough. Of course if you are in to groomers this doesn't matter but as had been said before this blog is not written for groomer skiers.

In the midst of all this is the most amazing hype being put about in the media about how good the skiing is this year in Fernie - it isn't. Fact is that the base at 146 cms is very low for the time of year. This day last year (which was reckoned to be a pretty poor snow year) it was 188 with snow in the forecast that we don't have. We have had only one day of significant snowfall in the past three weeks and with the holiday skier traffic, almost everywhere is hard, scratchy and tough skiing. Icey bumps abound and most of the traverses are a challenge even to good skiers. I'm still pretty happy with what we have but then no one considers me normal and I just want to put out a reasonable counter balance to the ridiculous media hype that I see out there.

Today we rattled (quite literally) round the New side and found as described a hard scratchy base with heavy cold snow in clumps on top. All the usual places were visited with no one particularly outstanding although the Gun bowl was probably the softest snow on the whole hill.

After lunch we decided that the wind chill on the New side was just too much to bear so we went to the Old side. The snow was running so slow in the cold that the Cedar traverse looked too hard work so we just stuck in the old triangle. Cedar ridge was ok, Lindas was very scabby and in fact the best snow seemed to be on Boom ridge where at least you expected icey bumps. As it was we were up and down the ridge about 4 times and it was fun if challenging every time.

Only one trip through Kangaroo which was hard as always and a bit slower as I had to help out a couple of skiers who had got in there by mistake and were looking for a way out.

Finished about half an hour early as there is only so much cold a body can take. Had a couple of beers in the Griz watching Canada lose (yes lose) to Sweden in the hockey - ok it's only the group stages. Just about to have a hot tub under the stars in -20 to welcome in the new year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 26 getting a bit colder

First thing is news on the guy we dragged out of Fish bowl yesterday. Reports tell me that he may have broken his back which is a strike against us for letting him ski out but on the other hand if we hadn't been there he might still be lying in Fish bowl.

This morning started cold (-14) with no new overnight snow so as we headed to the hill we were happy to see a bluebird day which you might as well have if you can't have powder. The crowds were way down in the cold and even though we arrived 10 minutes later than yesterday (still well before first bell) we were further up parking lot 2 than yesterday.

We went to the New Side and stayed there all day. First run down Surprise Trees confirmed that there had been massive wind overnight so we had soft wind grooming, wind crust, wind slab, mini cornices and blow in sometimes all within about 50 metres of each other. Surprise Trees was sheltered so the snow was soft but the ski back from the far side on Trespass Trail was very sticky on the super cold snow.

We then just hit out to Window Chutes to get my buddy who refused the log drop last night to have a go - failed again. Next time round we climbed Knot chutes which were really soft in the first chute. Somewhere in there we did Stag Leap which had some good soft blow in dropped on it to generally improve things.

Just before lunch went for another drop in Window chutes but on the way my buddy got frost bite on his nose (the things some people will do to avoid a log drop). In the end I did the jump on my own which was still good even though the ski out was a bit scratchy. Final run before lunch I got tempted in to Low Saddle which I realised one turn in was pretty icy but after about 5 turns I was able to hit right into some untracked powder and had awesome turns all the way down into Easter bowl. We then went to lunch.

After lunch I hitched up with my buddy again and had an awsome drop off the near shoulder with tight powder in the trees at the top, deep powder below and just plain powder in the trees on the right of Bootleg Glades. I finally dragged my buddy into Window Chutes and got him to jump - he fell but what the hell it's a start. We then looped Cougar glades where the blow in had piled up and had given good almost untracked skiing. Finished with a rip down Skydive which was much improved but a ton or two of more blow in.

Beers, quiet night in. Temps on the way back from the hill -18 and forecast to go lower.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 25 good powder but you had to look for it

There was no new snow overnight although the hill reported 4 cms in the last 24 hrs but starting temps of -6 and cloud meant that light snow/flurries started pretty early on and persisted all day. Not very good light but minor accumulations and high winds with temps getting down to -9 by close on the New side meant that there was considerable wind sift and wind grooming to be had.

We had a bit of a frustrating morning. We guessed that Cedar high traverse would be open for the first time in a couple of days so hit out towards Snake Ridge and Redtree. We had agreed to ski with some buddies so early runs were a bit slow but plenty of untracked powder to be had out and beyond Snake Ridge.

Half way through the morning we met another buddy as we got to the edge of the Fish Bowl who was a ski instructor on his day off and decided to drop into the out of bound chutes on the shoulder of Fish Bowl. The powder was awesome and mostly untouched so that instead of taking the Red tree ski out we decided to drop the steep chutes at the bottom which were totally untouched but a bit twiggy.

Unfortunately Andy (for it was he) stacked it into a tree on the bottom drop and hurt himself really badly ( back). Lynda and I nursed him out to the climb out and then carried his skis up to Red tree road by which time it was apparent we would need help so Lynda skied on to Haul Back to get a patrol snowmobile sent to help. The whole thing took well over an hour but you can't do anything else when you encounter a casualty out of bounds and I am keeping an ear to the ground on how he is as I understand it was pretty serious.

We did one more loop out into the Fish Bowl which was even more awesome powder but this time we resisted the final drop and hooked back into Redtree at the ski out. All 3 returns through Kangaroo were fun with rather more people in there than usual and some very interesting attemps to drop onto the Cat Track.

After lunch which seemed to indicate that the crowds were down a bit from yesterday we went out for a short afternoon on the New side. It was starting to turn cold and the wind chill was severe. County Line was still closed so the low traverse was again the only option.

Cougar Glades - just awesome and mostly untracked with a mix of last nights snow and todays blow in.
Stag Leap - on the way in bumped into a buddy and his son and son's friend and decided to rip. Came second by a turn and decided that what I need are 18 year old legs to keep up with these youngsters but huge fun flying the Terrain in soft snow all the way down.
Window Chutes - Final run met up with another buddy and went to the Window chutes by way of a change. All the terrain under the Decline logging trail was untracked and deep. The log drop off was only about 6 ft but couldn't get my buddy to hit it so just had to fly it on my own - a good ski out in deep powder.

Afterwards a few beers, followed by more beer in the hot tub with outside temp of -10 then an early night. Maybe some more frsh tonight.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 24 the first awesome day for some time

Just as promised the snow arrived around midnight and reduced to light flurries during the course of the morning and in the bit in between gave up about 20 cms of snow which was good at the top and a little heavier lower down. Temps on the deck to start were only -2 and stayed that way pretty well all day on the upper mountain with just plus temps at the base.

We lined up with 10 minutes to opening at 9 and went for a good old fashioned powder chase to the Old Side triangle where we grabbed first tracks in Boom top to bottom for a great start to the day. With Cedar high traverse close due to avi risk the best snow was on Cedar ridge where it had blown over the ridge line and pretty much doubled the snow depth from elsewhere. This gave 3 returns through Kangaroo which was a little more user friendly in the softer snow conditions.

Last lime round Haul Back Lift broke down and we had to hike up to Cedar trail to get out. On a powder day on the busiest day of the year so far it is hard to imagine the bad will this generated with the skiers or that the hill did nothing to mitigate the bad will - there go another dozen or so paying customers who won't be back but then why should I care. For obvious reasons we headed for the New side where there were lift lineups but not all that bad for busiest day and stayed there for the rest of the day.

The County Line was closed due to worries about the loadings in Polar Chutes but the low traverse across Currie was open which put of a fair number of skiers and most of the boarders. There was a lot of wind about so fresh blow in was appearing throughout the day the summary of the loops was -
Cougar Glades - great untracked powder all the way down and a challenging ski out due to the need for serious slough management.
Decline - hardly tracked at all and particularly good on the left lower section which is good uneven terrain and untracked.
Stag Leap - really nice trough the trees and rather less tracked because of the tree covered entrance.
Sykdive - as always good terrain, loads of soft snow but well able to be ripped.
Window Chutes- untracked in most directions and big air off the log drop which is about six foot now.
The Brain - Mostly untracked but had to be skiied pretty fast to stay ahead of a bunch of kids looking for first tracks - probably rather reckless (me not them).
Mitchy Chutes - all good blow in.
Surprise Trees - far side mostly still untracked at the end of the day
Skydive - again just to prove how good it was and to really crank up the pace.

A great day where I skied without a break 9-4 getting more rowdy as the day went on so thay by the end I was just throwing my skis at the hill and getting away with it.

More powder in the forecast, can't wait, crowds have to die down sometime.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 23 still not that busy

Although we had been promised fresh snow overnight all we got was about 5 cms with maybe a couple more accumulating during the day. Temps had picked up to about -2 an got up to just about plus during the day. Conditions were overcast, always promising snow but never quite delivering all day.

It was near enough to a powder day for us to be lining up for 10 minutes before first turn although in truth in a good year we wouldn't have bothered. We started at Deer and tracked to Bear to give us first tracks in Boom. It was better than dust on crust but however you looked at it there was a firm base with some softer stuff on top to make it feel a bit floaty and look prettier.

Light wasn't great but we drifted around the old triangle getting first/ early tracks in Boom, Boom Ridge, Lynda's and Cedar ridge several ways - all much better with the light covering of fluff. We then started to loop out beyond Snake ridge skiing Snake/Lower Gorby, Steep and Deep and Redtree. Redtree was probably the best of the bunch as the snow had blown in from the Snake Ridge side and in the lower sections there were quite deep accumulations totally untracked - couldn't be described as anything else but powder.

The loops required 4 returns through Kangaroo which hadn't improved much with the new snow but we interesting if a bit challenging.

After a late lunch there wasn't much time for the New side but Decline was good ( left side off the big bumps best) Stag Leap ( steep pitch on the left side bottom good) and Anaconda (first shoulder untouched) and Bootleg ( near trees tight and good). Of course a finish through Skydive was a bit better than of late with the new snow.

Beer, excellent meals prepared by our guests and ready for new snow forecast for tomorrow.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 22 Boxing Day and still no crowds

Following a stunning Christmas Day when 3 out of 4 of us were suffering from the dreaded Fernie flu which simultaniously strikes the nose, the throat and the gut we made a slightly slow start to Boxing Day not getting to the hill until just after 9 am.

Still no new snow and an overnight starting temp of -12 with very overcast skies giving pretty flat light all day. There was another big inversion with temps of about -3 at the top and a noticeable chill each time you descended into the valley. We had been promised some snow but all we got was the occasional flurry with no accumulation but a bit of wind sift starting to blow in off the ridge lines by late afternoon. Some serious accumulations are now in the forecast for the next few days.

I was amazed at the lack of people when I got to the hill. I had been prepared to have to park in lot 3 but as it was I got in to lot 2 and not very far from the front at that. Because of our delicate health and hangovers we decided to have a day working on the technical aspects of skiing rather than ripping. Because of the flat light we went to the Old side for tree skiing and linked up with our buddy (english) Rob for the day.

We started in very flat light on Bear and worked our way around Sunny Side, along into Lizard Bowl and then out into Cedar. With only 6 cms of fresh snow in the last 7 days everywhere is hard packed bumps going through to slick boiler plate which makes for ideal conditions to practice the technical aspects of bumps and edge control.

After dropping Cedar Centre and the shoulder along side KC chutes which was rather scratchy we spent the rest of the morning off Boomerang on the Ridge, Linda's, Cedar Ridge several ways, Boom bowl, Buckshot etc. It was all hard bumps. All this involved 3 returns through Kangaroo which remains tough and icey but the drop onto the cat track is better now we have found a new way through with some snow on it.

In the afternoon we went to the New side and just looped Concussion, Currie Creek and Stag Leap which all seemed a bit less tracked than the old side but I could swear there was some sun crust from yesterdays direct sun light. At the end we looped back into Surprise Trees which was still taking an ok edge and then of course finished with the only rip of the day down Skydive.

Although the number of people picked up during the day it was never crowded (at least not on the parts of the mountain where we were) and there was space in the Griz bar. Everyone tells me it will get busy from tomorrow - let's see. Snow in the forecast and time for bed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 21 Merry Christmas

Predicictably a short day as it was Christmas Day and there was no new snow. It was -12 when we got to the hill and there was a massive inversion which gave us temps of about -5 at the top and a beautiful blue bird day.

Our buddies from the UK who were going to spend Christmas with us had been struck down by the same illness as I had suffered when we went to pick them up so we started a bit late on the hill.

With no new snow we decided on a quick morning and a finish. We did four loops on the New side , Currie chutes, Decline, Stag Leap and Skydive. Just after midday was time to finish with a beer in the Griz followed by a hot tub and massive Christmas dinner. Much too much to drink,

I'm out of here,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 20 the story so far

So sitting here on Christmas eve with old black and white movies on TCM and a beer in hand after a great hot tub and a good days skiing it's a good time to review the season so far. My cold abated enough today to go back on the hill but energy levels were way down and all the front runs had to be skied in two or three stages.

Today was about -12 on the way to the hill getting up to about -5 and overcast withy no new snow. The pre Christmas traffic has been more than usual this year because of the way the holidays fall and most of the hill is hard pack (what the publicity guys call packed powder) and forming into bumps. Where the traffic has been a bit higher the bumps can be quite icey but in most places they are taking an edge if a bit slick in the troughs.

Because of low energy levels I decided to have technical day concentrating on edge and balance and holding back on speed - it almost worked. We went to the Old side and worked our way across Lizard Bowl then into Cedar getting out as far as Steep and Deep. Three return trips through Kangaroo confirmed it was getting bumpier and icier. Best soft snow seemed to be anywhere off Cedar Ridge and the toughest bumps outside of Kangaroo was good old icey Boom Ridge. We had a fairly late lunch.

In the afternoon we went to the New side and just looped out along the County Line dropping Concussion, Decline and Stag Leap all of which had a bit more soft snow than the old side but nothing to get too excited about. Being strapped for time we put a couple of loops in of White Pass (Gun bowl/Highline Trees and Surprise Trees) before finishing off with the usual run down Skydive - a bit slower than usual due to fatigue levels, can't wait to get shot of this cold.

The season so far can be summed up as ok but let's not get carried away. We had all the hype about a La Nina winter but if we hadn't had one big dump pre season things would have been pretty scratchy. We did get the dump and the first 10 days were pretty awesome with good powder on 8 days. Then came the pineapple express with two of the worst days of rain I can remember. It then slid in many places and what was left became fairly icey but a good base, about 126 cms. Since then we have had a couple of weeks of no real snow, what has come down has been super light and dry so no real soft cover has formed on the base. With the high skier traffic the hill is in ok shape but no better and more snow is needed. Storms seems to be slipping by us to the south and we need a change in the jet stream if things are going to get better.

So there you have it. Looking forward to a short day tomorrow followed by too much to eat and drink. Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Report Today

As I feared the cold got worse overnight so that by this morning I had the shivers, streaming nose and just hurt all over. No new snow on the hill so I had a day indoors getting better.

Still far from better but should be able to get out on the hill tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 19 a case of perfect timing

The perfect timing was to get the mother of all colds just before Christmas. Had a little tickle in the throat yesterday evening which developed into a sore throat and chesty cough during the night. By this morning it was a full on stinking cold as we headed to the hill. I had intended hiking Polar Peak today but feeling as I do it will be a few days yet before I am up to that.

It was -12 at the hill with thick valley fog giving up some valley snow which thinned out around the top of the Bear so that the Lizard head wall was in sunshine but as soon as you descended you were back in the fog which felt particularly cold in the moist atmosphere. For the whole day it seemed colder than the mercury and I was glad of the exrata layer (4 plus the jacket) that I had put on because of my cold.

Feeling so bad I just took it easy round the old side and found it pretty well skied out with an ice base, chunky on top and mostly bump skiing. Bear bumps, Sunny side, Cedar ridge (plus gully) and of course a trip through Kangaroo (very icey bumps). After that we were mostly up and down Boomerang dipping into Linda's, Boom bowl, PS I Love You and Boom Ridge all of which were chunky on top and scratchy underneath.

The cold was getting to me and with very low energy levels we did one final run down Bear chutes (like all the rest) and went for a late morning hot choccy and cookie break. The fog had started to rise against all the expectations so after the break we went the New side where you could ski all the time off White Pass in the direct sunlight. We looped Surprise trees, Highline trees, Milky Way trees dropping the Gun bowl each time with the snow rather softer than the old side but still well skied.

We waited until the fog cleared a bit before looping into Currie bowl and taking the steep chutes into Concussion which amazingly was starting to have some surface melt in the direct sunlight. Conditions were much the same as the old side but with a bit more soft. The final run down Stag Leap convinced me that my energy levels were so low that I would hurt myself if I stayed out so at 14:00 we quit the hill.

The cold went from bad to worse during the afternoon and I am just about to head off to bed at 19:00 in the hope that this will cure me in time to ski tomorrow. Haven't felt this bad for years - might not even go to the hill tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 18 the longest shortest day on record

Today was the shortest day of the year and on the promise of fresh snow we were in line just before 9:00 at the hill and skied through to closing bell with only a short break for lunch - certainly the longest shortest day I have ever had. Sadly the promised snow didn't materialise and we had about 4 cms of light fresh over night raising the base to about 135 cms but none the less it gave the hill a nice unskied look.

We went to the New side still taking the view that last weeks rain crust was worse the lower you went and still hadn't been entirely covered. First runs through Gun bowl, Puff and Highline trees confirmed that the new cover was more apparent than real.

We linked up with a buddy, Lee, up from Calgary for three weeks and had a few good runs - there you go Lee I promised you a mention in the Blog. We drifted out to Cougar Glades and had a very good run in dust on soft (the condition of the hill for the whole day ) and took the ski out to the left, a bit better as the undercrust was starting to take a bit of an edge.

We got to the bottom and found that Timber chair was out for maintenance so we went to the Old side. On the understanding that Timber wasn't going to be long we just traversed out to Steep and Deep off the top of Bear and had an ok run down and out through the right chute. As you would expect return was through Kangaroo and I am delighted to report that Lee confirmed that it was much better than he expected - a bit cruchy but ok. Boomerang was really quite nice then we hit back to the New side on the report that Timber had re opened.

Back up high we had a run through Decline which was as always very nice and easy. After that linked up with a buddy, Nick, and hiked the Cornice ridge to get to Lone Fir which was a bit tight and hard but beautiful soft snow underneath and great powder in the ski out through the old avi track. On a whim we crossed Easter bowl and dropped into Spinal Tap which was tight with debris in the bottom and still the only way down is to jump on and off the right shoulder.

After lunch we went back to the New side and tried Stag leap which as always was interesting but the terrain on skiers left was untracked and almost powder. Next I bumped into yet another buddy who wanted to ski Lone Fir so it was yet another hike, chute ski and powder rip - life can be hard. We returned to White Pass and had good runs through Milky Way Trees and Surprise trees (far right) before deciding to finish on , you guesed it, Skydive which was better still but with a little tight in the lower section.

Wings night at the pub was good - maybe Polar peak tomorrow morning.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 17 a day to go adventuring

Today they opened Polar Peak which is the first time I can remember it being opened before Christmas so top marks to everyone on the hill for doing all the prep work. All a bit wasted on me as the viz was bad so the view wouldn't be any good, the snow looked variable to say the least and hiking 35 minutes into that just for bragging rights somehow didn't seem worth it to me. Everything else on the hill was open so there was more than enough really tough adventuring skiing to be had with no hiking.

Overnight temps had dropped lower than anticipated so that it was -20 in the Elk valley when we woke. By the time we got to the hill it was -14, over cast and snowing lightly which it did on and off all day. Given the temps the snow was coming down with almost no moisture content but firmed up a bit during the day so that by the end we had a reasonable soft covering with great prospects for tomorrow.

We decided to stay on the New side and from reports I have had from the Old side this seems to have been a pretty good plan. We looped up and down White Pass in the Gun bowl, Highline trees, Surprise trees (twice) and a few other places. It was all good soft snow still with a bit of the rain crust underneath.

With the snow getting thicker we headed out into Currie bowl and along the County Line and just like yesterday we found that the snow up top was soft and good, not many tracks and even down below the new snow had greatly improved the scratchy ski outs. We looped Cougar Glades, Decline, Currie Creek in ever improving conditions. Final run before lunch we hiked Cornice Ridge and dropped into Lone Fir which as always was tight, steep, lightly tracked with great powder underneath all the way down into Easter bowl - the first bit of the days adventuring.

In the afternoon Lynda went to the gym so even with a curtailed afternoon I started with Window Chutes and this time hit the big double log drop dead centre with loads of air and then great soft snow through the stream bed on the way out into Lizard bowl.

Next on the agenda was a hike up to the top of Knot Chutes. The first chute was great deep powder which was so easy that I jumped the shoulder into the second chute which proved to be a real bad idea as it was hard ice where it had avied to ground earlier in the week. A quick left traverse into Anaconda gave me the chance to drop the first Anaconda shoulder which was steep, deep and mostly untracked. Finally I took a right hook into into Bootleg Glades and dropped the near trees which again were untracked. A real adventure linking three double black diamond runs to get off the hill.

Riding up on the lift a guy mentioned that Corner Pocket was still in ok shape so I tried it. He was right, only one tire exposed and the new snow covering the hard pack base so that with some good edge to edge jumping it was quite enjoyable. As always finished with rip down Skydive which was in much better shape than recently and should get better still over night.

Looking for more snow overnight to add to the 135 cm base.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 16 and it was a lot better than expected

Just as I forecast yesterday we had overnight snow (7cms) but at very low temps (-14). We had flurries all day which may have increased the new snow to about 10 cms but still at very low temps. The result was that the new snow was so light that we would have needed about a metre of it to give us any coverage on the base but what the was did give a nice fluffy untracked look which allowed us all to at least feel that we were skiing fresh powder.

Lynda decided to take a break today but when I got to the hill I linked up with my buddy (English) Rob who was on day 4 of his season and headed up the new side to see what was what. Amazingly the crowds were even less than yesterday and the few people that were on the hill seemed to be content to ski on groomed runs much to the delight of the rest of us.

After a quick warm up run off White Pass back through Gun bowl and Highline trees ( both untracked) we headed out on the County Line to Ski the front side runs. There then followed a morning the like of which I have never had. We skied Cougar Glades, Stag Leap, Decline and Skydive all untracked although in Decline we did have to jump in just in front of a couple of guys to keep the record intact.

For a final run before lunch we dropped into Secret chutes then at the bottom cut right into Spinal Tap. The rain had done a fair bit of damage to Spinal Tap so that the stream bed was exposed in places so the only way down was to jump on and off the right hand shoulder all the way down. To no ones surprise Spinal Tap was also untracked and a bit technical in the lower sections but good fluff on top.

In the afternoon we went back to the New side and decided to be a bit adventurous on our route down to White Pass from Timber top going via Mitchy chutes, Big Bang, the chute beyound Hollywood rock and Lift Line. The new snow gave a really fresh powder feel to all the runs. Last trip down Lift Line resulted in some abuse from buddies from the Timber chair which made me glad that we were ripping it just at that moment.

First loop was down Currie creek followed by a trip into the Brain for the first time this season. The snow at the top was soft, untracked and quite deep. The alders took a bit of negotiation with a couple of jumps but even the lower part which was rain crust was untracked. The only problem was the lack of coverage on the fallen trees which called for a couple of back ups in order to complete the run.

Final run was down Skydive which was soft and fairly deep at the top and well covered scratchy stuff at the bottom. Great finish to a good day. Knot chutes did open but we took the view that with untracked skiing available from the lifts why hike - in any event the snow in Knot chutes looked no better than ok. The Saddles were also open but after skiing them yesterday it will take a bit more snow before I head back in. More snow in the forecast and temp -12 on the deck (as it was when we hot tubbed tonight) as I type this.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 15 Last Saturday before Christmas and still no crowds

The day started at -19 on the deck, clear blue skis and the fear of Saturday crowds. Whether it was the cold weather or the crazy prices of lift tickets puting people off I don't know but the crowds never really showed up and we never found more than one or two people in front of us in the lift line all day - Europe eat your heart out.

With extra layers and hot bags in the mitts we headed up the old side to try our luck. Even in the sun it felt much colder than the recorded temp and we had to make regular checks of exposed skin the watch for frostbite. We warmed up with a run down the immaculatly groomed Bear then spread across all of the old triangle between Bear and Boom testing the conditions.

In summary most places had enough traffic so that there was no untracked powder but not enough traffic to piste the surface. What was left was very chunky chopped up ex powder which varied from light dust to heavy refrozen crud in density. Where the base was visible you either landed on soft snow taking a good edge or boilerplate and just by looking it was hard to tell what it was before you hit it. Add to this a rolling pillow of hard ice base covered by variable depths of snow and you get the picture. It was a day when you could never relax, you were always fighting your balance and control was always trying to get away from you - I enjoyed it but it was tough.

We spent the morning heading out along Cedar High Traverse and dropping in a bit further each time ending up just before a late lunch in Steep and Deep. The whole face skied a bit tougher than yesterday as described above, but in my opinion the scratchy ski outs (particularly bottom of Snake) didn't seem so bad - as Lynda said she thought they were worse it could just be me getting used to them.

Three more runs through Kangaroo confirmed that it is back to it's ugly, stumpy, icey best (worst?) particularly on the drop off onto the cat track half way down. An extra run into King Fir found some good powder but by the time you realised it was good you were back to the chunky, hard packed norm. Final run before lunch was to take Boom ridge and come out along Cedar trail. Funnily enough Boom ridge was better than most places probably because the narrowness had pisted the centre of the ridge and it was at least consistant hard pack.

In the afternoon things began to cloud over in anticipation of tonights forecast snow, temps flattened out at about - 10 and we hit the New side. Conditions in White Pass were much the same as on the old side but with some soft stuff in the Gun bowl and Highline trees.

After a while we dropped over into Currie bowl and along the County Line only to find that the Saddles had been opened earlier in the day for the first time this season. I dropped Corner Pocket which was a hard rain crust fron the rain earlier in the week - tough edge to edge jumping but ok powder with some avi debris in the bowl below. Next time round I went in High Saddle which was the same as Corner Pocket for about three quarters of the way then became a real scraped out trench which was a bit of a slither. Talking to a patrol buddy later he mentioned that everyone had been on about opening the Saddles but he couldn't see why as he knew it would be down to hard rain crust after a couple of runs and really no fun at all. He was right but I guess there are bragging rights involved in dropping steep double black diamond chutes.

Linked up with a buddy towards the end of the day a went right out into the boonies beyond Surprise trees and did find some untracked powder but as everywhere else there was the scratchy base. Of course final run down Skydive which is a little more skied but still very nice if you like terrain park like skiing - I do.

As I am typing after a hot tub and beer (not going to tonights hockey game as we went last night and saw the Riders win 11-1) it is -12 on the deck and light snow. It would only take about 5 cms of fresh (well ok a bit more if it came down cold and hence light) to restore the hill to great conditions so here's hoping.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 14 Blue bird day and fresh snow in Cedar

Temps dropped overnight so that this morning it was -13 as we arrived at the hill on a perfect blue bird day and ready to see what we could find. The forecast was for temps to rise and they did a bit so that by close we were around -10 and the effect was to keep the base hard and such powder as there was still pretty light.

I have been asked why I never comment on the state of the groomers on the hill. The answer is in two parts - firstly don't regard skiing groomers as skiing. Skiing is about an interaction with the hill when covered in snow and after the hill has been groomed there is no interaction, it's all been smashed flat by a snow cat and there is nothing natural or interactive about that. Secondly groomers are groomers. Once a slope has been groomed it's no different from any other groomed slope except in pitch or view. When you have skied one you have skied them all. Good for getting around and having a warm up run but apart from that a rather pointless exercise.

Went to the old side and had a warm up down Bear then a nice rip down Sun Up which was dust on crust bumps and ok. Found that they had opened up the Cedar high traverse for the first time in days so took maximum advantage. The rest of the morning was taken up looping out along the high traverse and dropping in on various parts of Snake ridge, and just before lunch ending up in Steep and Deep. There was great untracked powder in the top of all the runs with some rather more crusty stuff towards the bottom. Each loop returned through Haul Back and for the most part down Kangaroo ( 4 times) which was getting more like it's usual self - icey, stumpy, bumpy and ugly. Boom bowl was the usual route back to Bear and it was ok if a bit chunky with a very firm base.

After lunch we headed over the New Side and did a re run of yesterday just looping out along the County Line to the Skydive Traverse. Given the heavy releases from the head wall from last evenings heli bombing I had hope of the Saddles but they remained closed and we remain vigilant for the first opening. The afternoon loops were Decline (twice), Stag Leap, Cougar Glades and Skydive (twice) all of which were good deep snow on rolling terrain and a bit scratchy at the bottom. Once off Timber we took Lazy Locals out to Mitchy Chutes which seemed to have benefited from some blow in but as always were a bit technical in the mid section.

The very encouraging sign this afternoon was patrol moving the padding up the lift pylons which is usually a sign that snow is on the way. Forecasts call for some snow with the local hill forecast calling for the most - ok by me. Looking forward to developments.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 13 another good day by early season standards

Temps continue to fall so that it was -8 on the deck this morning and during the day it didn't really rise much above -4. We had a fair bit of sun between the clouds and also on and off light flurries all day which weren't really enough to give any accumulation.

Tonights report is going to be real short as we have buddies round for a hot tub party with food about to be delivered by the ever reliable Boston Pizza.

It was a complete re run of yesterday. We went to the New side and stayed there all day hitting out across the County Line and dropping in. Just like yesterday it was very good at the top and a bit crispy from about quarter way from the bottom. If anything the snow had dried out a little and was a bit lighter but places such as Lift Line were still rough as a Bear's ass.

We did cross Lazy Locals all the way to Mitchy Chutes today which was in much better shape than Big Bang had been earlier in the day. Runs off the top were Decline (twice) Stag Leap (a bit scratchy at the bottom) Cougar Glades (twice) Secret Chutes, Easter bowl, several Currie chutes and Skydive twice ( last time a really good head to head race with a buddy for the beer in the bar).

Great days skiing with good blow in powder on top and a hard base at the bottom. Sorry for the short report but the pizza man has just arrived and Rob and Katie need more beer. More details tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 12 more like early season conditions

A number of people have expressed disappointment over the past couple of days over the conditions. We must bear in mind that the conditions for the first 9 days of this season have been totally exceptional in that the powder has been as good as any you will get. Certainly things have gone downhill over the past few days but however you look at it the conditions are more than ok for mid December - we can all remember seasons when we have been downloading on Timber chair due to lack of snow so at least now we have good coverage all over the hill.

Over night there had been wind and about 10cms of fresh snow with temps well below zero. On the way to the hill it was -1 and we had light flurries off and on all day. The temp didn't change much all day and tonight it is heading down to about -6.

The effect on the snow was that everything that had softened yesterday was a hard refrozen base with some soft on top but in other places the soft seemed to run much deeper. First run off the top of Timber was down Lift Line which had grabby soft on rough boiler plate with death cookies. We found that tough and thought that if that was what the day was going to be like it was going to be super tough - fortunately it was ( and remained throughout) the ugliest run of the day.

We looped White Pass a few time enjoying good fresh powder in the Gun bowl and jumping the avi fracture line which had been marked by ski patrol. Surprise Trees was mostly untracked but with the hard base coming through when you least expected it. About 11 they opened Currie bowl and also the County Line and that was it as far as we were concerned.

We spent the whole day working our way across Currie Chutes going a little further down the County Line each time to find fresh tracks. We did take a look in the Saddles but they were closed and similarly I once hiked Cornice Ridge with view to dropping Lone Fir only to find that it was also closed - second prize was to drop back into the top of Cornice Chute (untracked) so it wasn't all bad.

All the runs were pretty much the same (Concussion several ways, Toms, Tekkers, Cornice Chute, Barracuda twice, Currie Creek and Cougar Glades twice) beautiful untracked powder at the top becoming a reasonable depth of soft on boiler plate base about 2/3rds of the way down.
As always finished with a rip down Skydive which was in rather better condition than expected and made me wish we had gone out that way earlier - ah well there is always tomorrow.

Beers, hot tub and bed. Can't make any comment on the Old side not having been there but I get the impression that it was mostly like lower Currie Chutes which would make it ok. No real snow in the forecast but with disturbed conditions who knows and the wind does suggest that blow in could be a good compensation high up tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 11 why you should always hang on in there

The reason why you should always hang on in there is because things can always get better as they did today.

We woke to find a covering of something white on the trucks outside our house which turned out to be very heavy wet snow. As we drove to the hill it was a snow rain mix with a temp of +1 and at the hill it was rain at the bottom becoming wet snow as you went higher.

As yesterday we decided to go high and as yesterday the White Pass chair was shut so we returned to the base where I put on a layer of rainproof plastic ($9.99 from Canadian Tire) and headed for the old side.

The Old side was mostly closed with no chance of getting into Cedar or Lizard bowls so we skied a bit on the old side triangle. If anything had been groomed it was long buried under the rain snow mix so skiing was on pure elephant's snot becoming a bit pisted lower down. Add to this poor viz and a continuing rain snow mix and it is fair to say that an early finish looked on the cards.

We got notice that White Pass had opened and we headed over. Very little was open, the Gun bowl was closed and full of avi debris with a 1 metre fracture line in the top. The I bowl was closed and full of debris from the Knot Chutes. All that left was Highline/Heartland and similar which were all good powder in poor viz but getting a bit chunky towards the bottom. We hiked several times into Milky Way Trees which were good but heavy powder and really hero snow all things considered.

After lunch I hooked up with my buddy Dan and we went back up the New Side and he showed me Morning Glory Trees for the first time this year. By this stage the temps had dropped so that even the lower hill was setting up pretty firm and the flurries were coming in as ice pellets top to bottom. Morning Glory Trees were just great, loads of untracked so you could pick you line, wind filling in as you skied, and fresh snow just a longer traverse away.

Things were so good that we just looped Morning Glory until close always finding untracked snow. The long ski out was a bit of a pain but if that was what was putting everyone else off then it was worth it.

A couple of drinks in the bar with friends then off to wings night at the Pub. Temps continue to drop with more snow in the forecast so it looks like we may have got away with this lastest pineapple express without too much damage to the hill although not having seen the avi damage in Cedar or Currie bowls I may want to revise that opinion.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 10 the best of times and the worst of times

So far this season we have had the best of times with the most awesome opening week for many years and today we had the worst of times with the hill in horrible shape due to the pineapple express,

In the valley it rained pretty well all night and though the hill was calling for 19 cms in the last 24 hours it didn't say 19 cms of what. On the way to the hill it was +2 and raining. We decided that the best thing to do was to go high but were told that Timber wasn't going to open for half an hour and White Pass would be even longer. By force of circumstances we headed for the old side.

The rain line was just about at the top of the Bear so everything was subject to rain damage. The rain had gone higher during the night so the ridge lines were very, very unstable and as a result both Lizard and Cedar bowls were close so there was only very limited terrain. We skied around on Bear, North Ridge, and similar areas and found rain on the top of soft snow was predicably heavy elephants snot with only the groomed lower hill even half way decent but that was in heavy rain.

Eventually the New side opened and we went to investigate. The very top of Timber was wet snow which turned to rain at about White Pass base. After a couple of rounds we were told that White Pass wouldn't be opening at all today which meant that the only chance of anything like normal skiing was gone. With nothing left but the option of rain skiing on a highly restricted hill we decided there were better things to do and headed home for beers an a hot tub.

The future looks very unclear. More precip called for with falling temps so if the base freezes before the snow falls things should be great but if the snow falls wet before the freeze cuts in we will have conditions as ugly as bears ass. Only time will tell.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 9 a day of two halves

Bit of a weird day today. The morning was an awesome powder day as good as any and the afternoon was a horrible mess as the pineapple express hit us with it's full force bringing rain to all of the hill below the White Pass base.

Overnight there was 12 cms of fresh reported on the hill and as this measure was taken at about 5 am I guess that we had 20 cms of fresh by first turn and a base of well over 120 cms. On the way to the hill temps were -2, snow was falling and we were all pumped up for a maximum powder day - even had our own private snow plough in front of us all the way to the hill.

We went to the old side in continuing snow and just had an awesome morning chasing the powder all over the areas off the Boomerang chair. Cedar bowl was closed at the top but open from Alpine way downwards so we could drop into Cedar ridge pretty well anywhere from mid Alpine Way to King Fir. Actually King Fir was skiable for the first time this year and after a few turns through the bushes it was seriously deep all the way to the bottom.

Other great skiing was Boom bowl, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Buck Shot, in fact the whole Boom area. The way back from Cedar was always through Kangaroo ( 5 times making the YTD Roo count 17) and the Roo was great deep snow. In summary we had a great morning in super deep powder all over Boom and Cedar Ridge.

About 1 the snow at the base changed to rain and started to move up the hill just as was forecast. After lunch we headed up to White Pass and stayed up there all afternoon looping Surprise Trees, Highlne Trees, Milky Way Trees, the Gun bowl, and other assorted bits. Even though the snow seemed to be coming down white the surface became very heavy but with so few people around it was lots of untracked powder (?).

Finished with a rip down the third chute of Anaconda which was so heavy that when it sloughed out I had to ski real hard to miss what was an express train of snow following me down. Came off the hill down Diamond Back for the first time this year which was a good surface and clear of alders but being below the rain line it was like skiing on rice pudding.

Beer in the Griz bar where we agreed that no matter how ugly the hill looked in the rain it was going to look a lot uglier when the temps drop and the un groomed snow re freezes.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 8 No weekend crowds and still more powder

I had been worrying about today as with the well publicised best opening week for some time I imagined and invasion of weekend worriors from Calgary and the hill being ugly busy. As it was there were a few more people around but no real crowds ( not like Christmas holiday week) and if you hit out into the boundary areas of the hill it was still pretty deserted. My own view is that the premium pricing on the hill has driven a lot of people away and as a result numbers will suffer but hey, thats great news for me and my buddies.

No new snow overnight but temps of -3 as we got to the hill with a cold wind and minus temps all day. As we hadn't been to the old side for a couple of days we decided to start there and found great snow everywhere. Powder had been skied over but there were stashes and best of all there was wind grooming (soft flat fresh snow blown in by the wind) in Boomerang, Boomerang Ridge and Linda's - all excellent. An early trip in to Sun Up found soft blow in between the bumps giving great skiing.

Dropping off the chutes at the top of Bear into Cedar bowl I found a young lady minus one ski in some quite deep powder and was able to assist in finding the missing ski. It cost me a couple of good powder turns but my experience is that when you do these good deeds the Griz usually rewards you with something really nice in the next few days - here's hoping. We went out to Snake Ridge and looped Redtree and Steep and Deep which were both excellent and only lightly tracked but a bit aldery (lots of alders) on the way out. Big thumbs up to whoever cut the traverse out to the boundary as it was spot on for avoiding having to climb but still getting you there.

Trips back were through Kangaroo which is great for this time of year. I may keep a log of how many times I ski the Roo this year, 12 to date. Bear chutes are starting to get sorted out as long as you look out for the log drops. The only part of the old side which is in need of help is the Cedar ridge/King Fir part which still looks very bushy.

Things were so good we had a very late lunch and then finished on the New side. Only time for Surprise Trees, Cornice Chute, and Big bang which were all surprisingly untracked. We then divided out strength with Lynda hiking up into Easter bowl ( great she said) and me dropping Secret Chutes and then into Spinal Tap. The chutes were good and Spinal tap was great fun but still tight due to the coverage. As always a finish down Skydive which remains an extended rolling soft snow terrain park from top to bottom.

As usual the Griz was crowded on Saturday so we came home early for a hot tub. Spent the evening putting up Christmas decorations and drinking Cornish Rattler. Forecast is for tons of precip in the next few days but rising temps ( a real Pinapple express) so it could get messy or it could be awesome. I am sure it will be snow at the top and rain in town but it is the bit in between that will decide just how the next few days will turn out.

Day 7 Socrates was wrong

Socrates said that no man could ever truely experience freedom - Socrates had never skied deep powder.

This mornings snow report from the hill gave 19 cms of fresh in the last 24 and a base of about 120 cms. To be fair most of that fell yesterday afternoon but as I reported yesterday no one was around to trash it so the starting position today was deep fresh powder. Temps were still an issue with valley highs just about plus so we decided like yesterday to stick to the new side - go high and stay high.

Can't report on the old side but buddies who were over there tell me it was every bit as good with exceptional skiing in Boomerang and Lindas. We started in White Pass with a warm up back through Highline trees which was untracked. Tried to cut the traverse out to Surprise Trees but gave up and took deep first tracks down the near chutes. Next time made it to Surprise for more first tracks - awesome.

The rest of the morning was spent trying to get out to Skydive on the low traverse in Currie - the high traverse had been taken out by an avi. Typical of big powder days in Currie I made about 6 attempts to get out to Skydive but failed each time as I was tempted into one of the untracked Currie chutes - first rule of powder skiing is never ski pass good powder looking for better.

About 12:30 finally made Skydive which was slightly tracked but if you stuck close to the vegitation on the left it was very deep untracked. Just had to go back and this time did Decline which was every bit as good. Late lunch and Lynda decided to go to the gym for the afternoon so I went adventuring to test some areas of the hill not usually open this early.

First loop was actually into Stag Leap just to complete the three front runs which was a bit twiggy in the top but great deep tree skiing in the entry. Next decided to try Siberia ridge which was ok in the mid gnarly section but still too much growth in the lower part but deep and fun none the less. Next Window Chutes which was mostly untracked and excellent deep powder - the log drop was made more difficult as there had not been enough snow to fill in between the two trees that make up the drop.

Last loop was out to Surprise Trees as far out into the boonies as you could go and this was untracked all the way down to the drop off on to the cat track. Final run off the hill was the usual rip down Skydive which was still good with significant untracked sections.

An excellent powder day with more in the forecast although temps may still be a problem. A couple of beers then to the hockey where we won 7-1. Interesting that on the way back there was a road block to check for drink drive just before our house - good job Lynda was designated driver and stone cold.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 6 Some awesome powder

Last night was a worrying time. Temp on the deck was +3, forecast was a mixed precip with rain and a high today of +4 so it looked like it could all go pear shaped just like 6 years ago. Things weren't improved when I woke up in the small hours to find it raining.

Come wake up time (7 in the morning) it was snowing and deck temp was about zero. The hill were calling for another 8 cms overnight and on the drive to the hill it all looked pretty encouraging.

We decided to go high and stay high making it an exclusively new side day. The snow at the base was wet (just the right side of rain) but as we went up it got better so that at the top of Timber it was acceptable light snow which kept coming until late afternoon.

White Pass was closed for avi control so we were force to make a straight run to the bottom via Black Cloud and Summer Road. The fresh snow gave good deep powder getting a bit heavy towards the base. Next time round White Pass was open and we just spent the whole morning cycling White Pass in ever deepening snow with particularly good runs in Surprise Trees which no one seemed to be skiing.

Occasionally we took a trip to the base via Anaconda Glades and Bootleg Glades which were getting well over knee deep. On one of these trips I managed to brush a small bush and put a massive three cornered tear in my ski pants which will prove expensive. I had wanted to go to base to do some repairs but they opened Currie bowl.

The funny thing about a Currie opening is that everyone tends to jump into 1-2-3s or Currie Glades leaving the rest of the bowl untracked. We went looking for the County Line which was closed but dropped down to the low traverse and put first tracks into Concussion which had been closed since yesterday lunchtime and was beautiful untracked powder. We then worked our way across the chutes going further each time first tracking Toms, Barracuada and Currie Creek before a late lunch.

After lunch two things happened - the snow started absolutely hosing down with hard grappel at the top and everyone disappeared so we more or less had the hill to ourselves ( ok so we saw a few people but not many). The traverse across Currie had been cut higher with a side step so you could get out to the Skydive traverse with a bit of work. The two cycles through Cougar Glades were just awesome, untracked steep deep tree skiing in hero snow - how good is that.

Last run we cut across Lazy Locals into Mitchy Chutes for the first time this year and were not disappointed. It was over the head face shots all the way down. Having found Skydive a bit twiggy on opening day I was not sure about heading out there but did and was rewarded. All the new snow had built up on the largely untracked base and as a result it was thigh deep hero snow mostly covering the brush but with the terrain still well defined to make it like a powder terrain park. Awesome awesome face shot powder top to bottom make it on of the top 10 runs of all time - what a finsh.

Couple of beers and a hot tub. Temps are about zero on the deck so it looks like we have got away with it on this warm front although the snow in town suffered damage. Could be a replay tomorrow but I suspect a little less precip but still looks like go high stay high.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 5 the heavy heavy powder show

As forecast we had snow overnight which amounted to 6 cms but further snow during the day probably gave us about another 10 cms during the day. It was -4 on the way to the hill and snow continuing from the overnight. Very quickly temps rose so that at the base for most of the day it was about zero, snow turning almost to rain but colder on top with continuing snow for most of the day.

Viz was pretty bad so we went to the old side to get some skiing in below the tree line. We got first tracks in Boom bowl and Linda's and then just early tracks in Boom ridge, Cedar ridge right, Cedar ridge left with the gully. We returned three times through Kangaroo and then just found more skiing all over the Cedar ridge area. The overnight snow produced good powder on the upper mountain and although the lower hill was good old Sierra cement it was still very nice early season conditions.

As the snow on the lower hill was verging on rain we headed over to the new side in the hope that the precip higher up would remain snow. We sort of got it right and for the rest of the day the precip on the new side remained ice/wet snow off and on until the end of the day.

White Pass did become very white with viz dropping so that on the chair you could only see three chairs ahead. Rather surprised to find the County line still open so we pushed along it a couple of times and dropped right into some untracked chutes into Currie bowl.

Later the line closed so all we could do was to get into Alpha Centauri from Currie Powder and this again was all fresh powder. Eventually Currie was closed due to avi risk so we just cycled on Anaconda/Bootleg to the bottom or back through Surprise trees. Anaconda off the humps was awesome deep powder but with a couple of rock scrapes, generally Anaconda to the bottom was the deepest powder on the hill. For the first time this year we dropped the trees just before Bootleg which was again deep, deep powder and tight trees.

For a change all afternoon off the top of Timber we tried different ways to get back to White Pass involving hitting the chutes beyond Hollywood rock which was waist deep powder all the way down. A final run off the hill through Anaconda 2 which was deeper than ever and then a couple of beers.

Temps ahve risen to +3 and it makes you wonder what will happen. Some forecasts are calling for 15 cms but at these temps who knows what will hit us.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 4 A Change in the Weather

This morning started much warmer at -13 but with low lying cloud in valley which gave up some precip all day long, light snow at first then freezing moisture in the afternoon. There was an inversion so that it was only -5 at the top and a general warming during the day so that by tonight it was a balmy -7 on the deck.

We started on the old side and had some warm ups on Bear, Bear bumps, Sunny side and Bow trees. Having neglected the new side yesterday we decided to move over there early to give it a fair go. Played around in White Pass and found that the viz was surprisingly good for being so overcast. As in previous days there had been no significant accumulation but what was left was good coverage but with some tough chunky conditions.

Highline proved a nice surprise as some blown in seemed to have occured and there was soft snow in the central gully. Lift line was as before a bit technical in the middle section due to roots and stumps. For the first time took Lazy Locals traverse out to Big Bang. The traverse is well off the usual path and will need a lot more snow and work before it is up to standard. Big Bang was skiable with care but far too many early season obstructions to make it much fun.

The county line was interesting in that there was a crust ( I guess wind as there had been no rain or sun) across the top of Concussion making the chutes pretty interesting. For the first time this year we tried Anaconda (first chute) which had good coverage but was avi debris in the bottom section. Exited via Bootleg Glades which was hard to get in and out but ok in the middle section.

Last run before lunch was a trip along the county line to Cougar Glades. I have now formed the view that the new bridge at Currie Creek is a good idea as it won't encourage any more marginally able skiers out there than already go and will at least mean you won't have to negotiate the carnage of skiiers chickening out on the creek corner when you want to go out there yourself. Cougar Glades were excellent - plenty of coverage with no growth in between the trees and only marginal hazards on the way out.

After lunch linked up with a visiting buddy from the UK and showed him Cougar Glades again which were just as good second time round. Finished the day with a drop into Anaconda (second chute) which was very bushy but with hero snow so you could fall line through the small trees - ski out was deep soft powder. Another trip through Bootleg finished the day.

Beers in the Griz bar the wing night. An interesting evening in the Pub as we met loads of friends. Big topic of discussion was the up coming weather system which looks like it may give up some serious snow over the next few days.

Sitting at home tonight the doorbell rang and it was two young french ladies who had called to introduce themselves as our new neighbours - a big improvement on their Aussie male predecessors in my view. We cracked a bottle of wine and they said they had been told to ask us if they needed help by their landlord who turned out the be a ski patroller we knew - small world.

As I am typing this it is -7 on the deck and light snow.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 3 When high means low

Today we had an Arctic high set in and the result was lower temperatures well below those that had been forecast.

This morning it dawned clear - the expression "not a cloud in the sky" is much over used but today it was just that, blue from horizon to horizon all day. The down side was the temp which was -21 as we arrived at the hill, getting up to about -10 mid day and down to -16 as we turned into the garage at the house at the end of the day.

Circumstances dictated a short day skiing. I haven't been all that happy at the way the car has been starting ever since we fired it up a week ago so today I phoned Fernie Ford for a check out. They could book me in at 2 so we could only ski 9-1 which was ok as there is snow in the forecast for the rest of the week and we might as well get this stuff done before the really good skiing starts.

Just like yesterday we hit the old side as we thought the snow would be best there. Although it was cold there was a bit of an in version and I would guess the temp at the top of Bear was a good 10 degrees warmer than at the bottom. It had to be cold as there was angel dust in the air at mid mountain and the snow cannons were blowing snow straight up in the air which may not yet have landed.

The whole thing was good practice for when it gets really cold (like -35) so we tried our bulk bought hand warmers from Canadian Tire, face coverings and a 4 layer strategy under the ski jackets - everything seemed to work ok so we are set for when it gets cold.

Toured round the old side just enjoying the sun. Hit Sunny side, Bow Trees, the bumps on Bear several times and just like yesterday found that the lower temps had hardened up (previously) soft snow so the skiing was pretty tough.

We started to move out into more interesting areas and skied Boom, Linda's twice (great job of de-aldering in the summer) and some great soft bumps on Boom ridge. Managed to pop a ski in Bear chutes taking some unexpected air over a log which was the first real fall of the season. Went out into Cedar bowl and tried the newly gladed area again a great job. We then went out to Snake ridge a couple of times and found very good soft snow at the top then had some pretty challenging stuff at the very bottom on the shoulder by KC chutes which was all alders and tree stumps.

Somewhere in there we managed 3 trips through Kangaroo which is still some of the best skiing even though the drop onto the cat track was a bit technical.

Early finish, starting problems on the car sorted while we had a relaxed lunch at Boston Pizza. Went back to the hill for a few beers with buddies then home for a hot tub. Forecast looks like it could be some serious snow later this week so fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 2 The Going Gets Tough

The reason that things got a bit tougher today was a drop in temperature so that the skied over surfaces became a little harder, the untracked snow ( very little left) was good and dry but the tracked up snow (the majority) was very hard and resistant in places while soft in others - result quite testing conditions. The hill had decided to groom a little more terrain but luckily not too much so there was still plenty of interesting skiing without having to go too far.

Again we had some very slight over night flurries and mountain snow off and on all day but with no accumulation. The day started at -12 with the expectation that it would rise to about -3 but that never materialised. There was also supposed to be a temperature inversion that I didn't really notice. Much the same as yesterday it started cloudy but became more sunny as the day went on and ended the day with a clear night. Without much warming up temps had dropped to -17 by the time we got home.

On the strength of yesterday we went to the old side and were not disapponted. Grooming on Bear was good and all across Lizard bowl was good coverage but tough tracked snow. We even got across as far as lower Easter bowl which was also tracked and hard and not very good light.

As we moved towards Cedar via Boomerang things got much better, particularly Boom bowl and Boom ridge. Kangaroo was open today and to celebrate this we took a couple of rips from top to bottom in what was (in my opinion) the best snow on the hill.

After a choccy break we went to the new side to try out the runs off White Pass which we had rather neglected yesterday. Everything in White Pass was good with ok coverage but enough hidden rocks and tree stumps to make me glad I was still on rock skis. Came down for a late lunch through Currie bowl which had the warning (promise) that nothing had been groomed. Every year I comment on how nice Down Right is as a run before the first groomers get to it and this year is no exception - nice varied terrain with big soft bumps. Just for the crack I decided to drop into Bootleg Glades which were a bit exciting in the initial drop in but after that were very nice steep bumps if a bit twiggy at the end.

After a late lunch we managed a few runs on the old side confirming just how nice the bumps in Boomerang are even if the Goat track has some very interesting obstructions on the ski out. Looked into King Fir but the top looked too twiggy even for us so carried on to Linda's run which was excellent soft snow top to bottom and where it looks like they have done some alder weeding in the summer. Ended up with a final (still good) run down Kangaroo, back up Boom chair, the Bear chutes ( loads more fallen trees ) and home.

Just like yesterday we ended the day with a couple of beers in the Griz and a couple more in the hot tub at home. Had a thought tonight of what we would do if the back door locked while we were in the tub - imagine having to knock on the neighbours door with no clothes on to ask if we could phone a friend with a key. My theory on the hockey is holding up in that the Riders won last night when we didn't go against the Revelstoke Grizzlies who are probably the best team in the division - wonder how much they will pay us to stay away on Friday.

Nothing much forecast for the next couple of days except -20 temps then maybe some disturbed weather coming in from the coast - heres hoping.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 1 An Awesome Opening Day

Actually today was an awesome day's skiing full stop, the fact that it was the official opening day of the hill was just a bonus.

The day started at temps of -8 with a forecast for it to rise to about -4 before cooling down with cloud in the morning becoming a bit sunny in the afternoon. All this proved true but with light mountain snow falling for most of the day not giving any kind of coverage but creating a nice wintery feel to the day. Temps were -12 driving off the hill in the evening.

Being opening day we got to the hill just after 8 and had a lot of banter with buddies in the locker room, particularly over the 35 lb weight loss I achieved during the summer. We thought carefully about where to start and decided on the old side. Our theory was that everyone would be on the new side where we knew there were stability problems whilst the old side had been skied over on preview weekend (last weekend) and had 68 cms of fresh during the week to give some great powder to trash.

Official statistics said that the base was 107 cms which seemed about right but there were some very deep pockets in places. Having lined up at 8:20 we were one of the first up the hill and with the exeption of first lift didn't see any line ups all day - I am told there were some on the new side. As you would expect in Fernie at this time of year there had been very little grooming leaving most of the hill in it's natuaral state which is what most of us think is the right way to do things.

Spent quite some time in Lizard bowl getting the ski legs back in place and found fresh tracks most of the early morning. As things got a bit more tracked we moved across to Cedar bowl via Boomerang, Cedar ridge, Boom ridge and many places in between - again plenty of fresh tracks. Even managed to poach a couple of trips down Kangaroo which was nominally closed ( coverage not avi or I wouldn't have gone there) a first for opening day. Last run before a late lunch was to hike out beyond Snake ridge to Steep and Deep which certainly lived up to it's name with some quite tight alders on the ski out but again fresh snow most of the way.

At a late lunch we heard that Currie bowl had opened quite late so we headed up the new side to investigate. It may be my imagination or the fact that the new side snow was unskied last weekend but there seemed to be less snow and certainly less good snow on the new side. Of course it could just have been me getting tired.

Lift line had a lot of hazards, as did Surprise trees, the gun bowl, 1-2-3s with avi debris and Concussion accessable only from the low traverse. The ski out in lower Barracuda and the whole area to the left of Gilmar trail was much less rocky than is often the case mid season. The new side skiing was ok but not as good as the old side and I was glad to be on my rock skis on more than one occasion.

Despite feeling knackered after a full opening day I decided on a traditional finish by hiking out to Skydive from the lower traverse. The new "bridge" at Currie Creek has made life much easier on the traverse but I still fear it will encourage skiers who's ability isn't up to the terrain to venture out there. Skydive was very challenging with a lot of obstructions and definately not for the faint hearted but skiing it on opening day was another record.

A couple of quick beers in the Griz and then home - good to see all of the old faces. Did consider going to the hockey but after last night when the Riders played badly and lost 1-2 we decided that we were bad luck and in any case laying in the hot tub in -12 under the stars drinking beer did have it's appeal.

If today is anything to go by we are in for an awesome seasoon.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Final Countdown

Amazingly enough we woke this morning to no fresh snow (the first time since we arrived) but sunny spells and temps of around -8. Spent the morning finishing off odd jobs around the house.

Late morning went to the Aquatic Centre and had a swim and a hot tub - not as good as our own but ok.

After checking on a buddy's house (ok) and doing abit of shopping we picked up Rob, on his split from the mine, and headed up to the hill for a final check and have a beer in Kelseys. How surprised was I to bump into an old RS 400 sailing buddy from the UK who is living in Oz but has come over here for the season - what are the odds against that.

Back home now before having an early tea and then go to the Riders game against the Thunder Cats - about as near to a local derby as you get outside of playing Kimberley.

The hill looked in great shape from the bottom although we were warned that Currie Bowl had slid to ground and there could be problems getting it all opened. We will soon know so see tomorrow's report.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ready to Rumble

So the weather man said flurries, less than 1 cm overnight so we shouldn't have been surprised to wake up to about 10 cms of fresh - more shovelling, snow banks higher than me etc. We were woken by the sounds of patrol blasting on the hill and a quick check on the website confirmed a base of 111 cms at mid mountain and a fall year to date of 250 cms. Getting so excited about Saturday.

Took the Explorer to Fernie Ford who confirmed that the only problem was a blown ABS sensor on the rear traction control so it was all fixed by lunch for about $152 - good work guys.

While wandering around town bumped into some more buddies who astonded me with the news that Inghams were not running holidays this year. Came back and checked on line to find that they are so someone has got their wires crossed - maybe they mean that Mike and Liz aren't the reps - watch this space.

Spent the afternoon playing in the snow banks with the avi probe from my back country pack practicing how to probe avi debris. So now just about as prepared as you can get for a season.

Not much snow in the forecast for the next couple of days but on past performance that could well mean we are in for a dump. A couple of buddies on split shifts from the mines tomorrow so we may get out for a quick beer at lunch time. Pool is open for a swim and the Riders are at home for a hockey game so plenty to keep us amused on the last day before the hill opens.

This evening ended on ahigh laying in the hot tub under the stars in -4 drinking a cold beer - not a bad life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Good Day for Getting Things Done

And did we get a lot done today. Woke up early due to the time shift and cleared all the backlog of emails etc. Spent the morning sorting out ski gear for the season, charging up the radios, putting batteries in the avi transceivers etc. Discovered that I had bought some really good polarized goggles in a sale at the end of the season which I had forgotten about and spent some time getting them to be a snug fit with the helmet.

Headed up to the hill and put all the gear in the lockers ready for the weekend. Bumped into so many buddies that was thinking of having a T shirt printed up saying "I got into town on Monday evening" as I was asked the question so many times but it's nice to have friends.

Yesterday's snow petered out early morning having given up about 20 cms in the last 24 hours in the town and rather more on the hill. Reports suggest that the snow base is high at over 100 cms but the snow is so light ( no thaw/freeze or ice storms yet) so that it won't take much to go through and rock skis will be a good idea for a while yet.

Sounds like there has been some good glading in Cedar bowl but mostly in the higher traffic areas that we don't ski all that much. Of more interest is that they have blasted the shoulder on Skydive traverse above Currie Creek to make it a bit more user friendly. I intend to reserve judgement until I have had a look for myself but in general terms I am not in favour of making access to some areas of the hill too easy - if you can't get there you shouldn't be skiing it in the first place. We shall see.

Spent the afternoon trying on ski boots to make sure they hadn't shrunk over the summer. We then went out to Annex Park and played hunt the transceiver just to practice on the grounds that a real avalanche situation is no place to learn how to use your kit.

Got back to the house just after dark and had the first hot tub of the season with a cold beer and just laid back while the snow started again - a good end to a productive day.

So with two days to go everything is ready except for the ABS light in the car which I hope will be fixed by Fernie Ford tomorrow. Hockey game scheduled for Friday night against the Thunder Cats which should get us in the mood for opening day. Only cloud on the horizon is the new BC drink drive limits which mean that even two pints might be pushing your luck.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

And so it begins

Arrived yesterday afternoon in Calgary after an uneventful flight and got picked up by my buddy Rob in his truck and whisked back to Fernie. Even on the drive back it was apparent that snow conditions were rather better than usual across the praries and just got better still as we drove up into the mountains. A strong wind warning in Crowsnest Pass gave an early signal that disturbed weather was on the way.

The story so far is that we had a huge dump of snow about two weeks ago since when it has been snowing regularly. The hill statistics today show that we have had about 200 cms of snow so far and the snow base at mid mountain is just about 100 cms. The really cold temps of last week (day time highs of -30) have eased and we now have perfect conditions of highs of around -4. Today it has been snowing (not that hard) all day and I would guess we may have had about 10 cms in the last 24 with no sign of it stopping.

The hill opened early last weekend (old side only) and everyone tells me it was pretty good. The hill is closed now until Saturday when opening proper takes place. More snow is called for towards the end of this week so looks like it could be the best opening for about 5 years.

Today has been taken up with jobs - sort out hot water and heating, activate the bank account, get cable TV and high speed internet turned on, get the car back out of moth balls and insured, fire up the hot tub, shovel snow off the back deck, front deck and drive, go to the hill and get the passes sorted and the lockers paid for etc.

Problems were - Shaw turned on the internet but not the TV so they had to be chased, battery on the car was clapped out so had to buy a new one, when the car got going the ABS light stayed on so had to book it in for work at Fernie Ford, all decks had about 2 metres of snow to shovel, etc. On the bright side I discovered that I had paid for this seasons lockers at the end of last season to beat the HST increase and then forgotten about it so I am about $500 better off than I thought I was.

By the end of the day with the exception of the ABS light in the car all problems were solved so on with the game. Tomorrow we start with getting the ski gear to the hill, sorting through the ski equipment to see what needs replacing etc - at least we should be able to have a hot tub afterwards. With any luck by the end of the day we will be ready to go with a couple of days to spare.

Watch this space - another day of snow to come.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Autumn 2010

Or of course Fall 2010 for all my North American followers. Just like last year it has been suggested to me that I post an entry following my autumn visit to Fernie to check on the house by way of a curtain raiser to this winter's season.

Well, the visit was fine although the weather was much colder and wetter than it usually is at this time of year. As I am in training for the Dublin Marathon a lot of my time was spent running round the town where I worked out a double loop which gave me about a half marathon distance every day.

Because of the very poor summer in Fernie it has been an equally poor berry season and as a result the bears are getting into town looking for food in advance of winter hibernation. Just the week before we arrived a cinnamon black bear had to be shot for making a nuisance of itself in the trailer park/aquatic centre area. On my first run which was on my first day while jet lagged I had only gone about 200 metres when a small black bear emerged from the bushes by the Cokato Road and stood about 4 metres away from me. After a quick chat I backed slowly away and we both went about our business but it added an interesting dimension the marathon training.

In the first week we hiked the front side of the ski hill to see what had been happening and the answer was not much. With the ski industry firmly on the back foot across the whole of Canada all talk was about things that would be done (new lifts, new runs etc) over the next few years but with very little actually happening now. I was told that a bit of brush clearing had been done on the old side particularly around Boomerang and some glading in Cedar bowl but to be honest I didn't see much ( any) sign of it - saw a couple of mule deer and that was about it.

After a trip down to Montana for a couple of days in Glacier National Park it was back up the Waterton in Canada where were the last rental boat out and back on the very last day of the season. We were in a Canadian canoe and went looking for a bull moose that was supposed to be at the far end of the lake but didn't see anything. Interestingly the snow line was almost down to the lake and generally there looked to be more snow around than usual.

In our second week we had snow on the ski hill to below the Bear's Den although it did melt and I see that since we have been back temps have risen to above season norms so it will all have gone. Quite a lot of the second week was spent in various drinking holes with locals discussing the prospects for the winter ski season.

So what are the long term prospects ? Of course at this time of year you have a number of long range forecasts to choose from and generally you choose the one that tells you what you want to hear - a bit like weather forecasts in the ski season. The consensus view is that with El Nino subsiding during the summer months weather patterns should revert to those of a few years ago and we will have a colder and wetter winter than usual. December into January is looking particularly good (or bad depending on how you look at it) with heavier than usual snow falls.

After a couple of average seasons the Griz owes us agood one so I will stick my neck out and say vintage powder at least in the early part of the season. Watch this space to see if I am right when I get back to Fernie at the ends of November.

As a matter of interest driving back to Calgary Highway 22 had snow piled up either side which is more snow than I have seen in some Januarys so the signs are good.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Summary of Season 2009/2010

So with the hill closed, the snow melting fast, daytime highs reaching +26 and afternoons spent biking down to Rip'n'Richards so you can sit out on the deck drinking coolers it's time to reflect on the past ski season.

Let's start with the facts about the conditions. Whatever anyone says it was far from a stellar year as far as snow went. The total snowfall for the season was a little under 700 cms. The publicity for the hill claims an average snowfall of around 900 cms so however you look at it on official figures the snowfall was at least 200 cms light on even an average year. Two further factors need to be considered - a considerable amount of snow fell pre season prompting the early opening of the hill but in the final week before first opening there was a heavy rain storm which washed away or at least compressed a lot of the first snow. Secondly the snowfall is measured at mid mountain and with the warmer late season temps there were many days when there was measured snow at mid mountain that fell as rain at the base. All in all a very poor season in terms of snowfall which is perhaps not surprising in an El Nino year.

The season started early with a bonus opening weekend end of November prompted by the good early conditions. Unfortunately a rain storm the week before opening had been announced meant that a lot of the base got washed away and we opened with about 75 cms which was at least better than last year when it opened late and with only 35 cms.

After opening proper we had small accumulations through to Christmas but with some really cold conditions - daytime highs of around -28. The snow remained very difficult with variable conditions all over.

The Christmas break remained cold but as we moved into the New Year we had the now traditional burst of snow giving some acceptable powder days. By second week in Jan the snow base had risen to a little over 2 metres and all the talk was that we now had a great base and all we needed was fresh snow, what we got was nothing.

From mid Jan to late March there was hardly any snow at all and what we had in the warm temps mostly came down as rain with ok snow at the top. Amazingly during this period the hill stayed in good shape which wasn't all together surprising. Three things destroy a hill, sun, rain and skier traffic. During this period we had no sun ( 6 weeks without even a sight) no rain ( in fact no precipitation of any kind) and as a result hardly any skier traffic ( more of this later).

Just as the hill was wearing out and it looked like an early closing would be inevitable winter returned. Last week in March it started as a snow rain mix and as it got colder the snow line moved down the hill each day so that by the end of the first week in April we were getting -8 temps at the top and real winter snow all the way down to the valley floor. Strange when the last two weeks of the season give the best skiing and best powder of the season but then it was a strange season for weather.

It was just as well had the last burst as on Furnival weekend (bonus weekend after closing weekend) the temps were back to +20, conditions were bluebird skis and the lower hill was falling apart so quickly that there were only a few sparse tracks left open to the base with the rest bare patches.

So that was the season, ok with some good days but nothing to get too excited about. The one noticeable thing was the crowds, that is the total lack of them. I have skied this hill for 10 years, the last 6 full seasons of 120 days or more, and I have never known so few people on the hill. There were days when mid week on the hill Lynda and I would ski through one of the main bowls and not see another living soul. Even in the Christmas/ New year period when we used to get bumped into parking lot 3 we were parking halfway back in 2 even at 9 in the morning.

When RCR took the hill over they said they would push up the prices until the market pushed back and I guess that's what is happening. The trouble is that once poeple vote with their feet it takes a long time for them to come back. The outlook isn't good as with the strength of the Canadian dollar there will be far fewer Brits and Yanks around so looks like the numbers will be down for some time to come - great for me but not so good for the hill. My advice would
be to do 3 things at once.
Re intoduce the terrain park. If the kids can't have a terrain park the whole family will go elsewhere. Bonus would be to make life safer for the rest of us with all the park rats off the open hill.
Start host tours again. In mixed abilty groups the low intermediates liked to do these tours while the rest of the group ripped up the hill. Lets be sexist, we are usually talking about the mothers in a big family group and if they don't get to ski with a host neither they, nor the rest of the group will come.
Finally sort out the ticket pricing. Offer multi day discounts, stop charging premium pricing during obscure out of province holidays, make mid week passes for 5 days not 4 and stop basing pricing on what Whistler does - Whistler has about 4 times the terrain and lift capacity, it's stupid to even compare the two.

Well that's it including some free business advice. Back to the UK at the end of next week and then on with the sailing season. See everybody next year.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Days 122 &123 Furnival

So after closing day we headed off on our road trip and spent a couple of nights in Nelson (still the hippie capital of BC with all that implies) and a night in Kaslo ( just the most beautiful small lakeside town in the whole of BC) before coming back to Fernie for the "bonus" weekend which is known as Furnival. During the trip we also went to the hot spring pools at Nakusp and Ainsworth which were both great as there is nothing better than relaxing in a natural hot spring pool.

Furnival is more about hanging out with your buddies and drinking than it is about skiing which given the conditions was just as well. The weather forecasters confidently predicted that we would have a weekend of cloud and showers so given their record this season it came as no surprise to anyone that we got two days of perfect bluebird conditions. At this time of year it meant that night time temps barely got down to zero and day time highs were well over +20 for most of the day.

From the start both days were very soft on the groomers becoming super soft slush as the day went on. Off piste was all but impossible and the only stuff other than the groomers that were skiable were the old hard ice slopes which in the current condition hadn't softened too much.

The new side was closed and even on the old side the only stuff open was Lizard bowl and Cedar bowl about half way across - as I said this weekend was not really about skiing. The best runs were Easter bowl, Cedar ridge, Kangaroo and Boom ridge. This gave limited skiing but everybody was just enjoying skiing in T shirts and shorts.

Another highlight was to try and shoot the water pools at the base of each lift in which we were only partially successful as the soaking boots will testify. Great music, great drinking and great partying to finish the season. The only draw back was arriving at the the hill this morning and not finding my jacket or being able to work out what I had done with it last night. Returning home to tell the cell phone company that the phone had been stolen along with my jacket I was not best pleased to find the jacket and phone in my closet where obviously I had left it last night. Ah well, I guess this sort of thing will come to us all eventually.

Give it a couple of days and I will gather my thoughts on the season as a whole.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day 121 Closing Day

should post something but too pissed to do so - will post up to date tomorrow - sorry. Last day celebrations pretty good.

Monday morning - Feeling better. Yesterday was closing day on the hill although we will be back next weekend for the bonus Furnival weekend. As we headed to the hill temps were +2 at the base and -3 at the top. During the day the weather at best was very hazy sun but mostly overcast with the odd flurry so that even though base temps rose a little during the day the up the hill temps didn't really change much at all.

The result of the weather was that all the south facing slopes which had softened yesterday and been skied over had refrozen to hard icey rutted surfaces covered in icey death cookies. The north facing slopes still remained in pretty good shape if a little heavier than they had been - we stayed off the south facing slopes.

Started on the Old side and spent some time scratching around in Lizard bowl proving the difference between south and north facing slopes. Lower Easter bowl was the best of the bunch. After that we had a few trips off Cedar ridge which was actually pretty good. As we will be skiing the Old side on the bonus weekend we headed to the New side to say goodbye.

Lift line, Big Bang and Mitchy's chutes were all in good shape and prove great ways down from the top of Timber to the bottom of White Pass. A quick trip down Gun bowl proved just how ugly the refrozen surfaces were. We looped Anaconda (very good) 1-2-3s (ok but a bit tracked) and finally Easter from the top (excellent at the top and a little chunky at the bottom) then lunch.

In the afternoon had farewell trips through Anaconda and 1-2-3s fron the ridge line behind the Gun Tower, up and down White Pass then it was time for the final new side run of the year. In normal circumstances this would be Skydive but that would have been ugly from well over half way down. We bumped into friends who are here for the season and had not yet skied High Saddle so as a last run I led them down the Saddle (never skied that on closing day) and they ticked this final run off their list - well done Tinie and Xzavy. Nice snow below the saddle and a fine run through Easter to finish.

Huge party in the Griz bar where far too much was drunk followed by an early night. Off now for a few days in the West Kootenays for a trip round some of the hot springs for some natural hot tubbing. Will be back for the Furnival weekend but as this is mainly a drinking event with only the old side open I will probably do only one report for the two days covering days 122 and 123 to end the season.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day 120 back to spring skiing and the Powder Pedal Paddle

Only two days to go and it's all change. It was cold overnight with starting temps of -3 at the base and -8 at the top. However it was a bluebird day and temps in the direct sunlight rose quickly but the air temp never ever got really warm so that the softened south facing surfaces were always on the point of setting up again with an ice crust.

We went to the Old side and skied around Lizard bowl and Cedar bowl finding fresh tracks but with the snow becoming heavier. Kangaroo was particularly ugly even for Kangaroo and we only skied it once. The reason we were on the old side was to watch the start of the PPP.

The Powder Pedal Paddle is a relay race (although you can do it as an individual) were the first leg is a downhill ski to the base followed by a bike race into town then a canoe leg back to the base of the hill then finally a run back up to the base lodge via Timberline Drive. It started at 11 and after we had watched the start we went to the New side,

With only time for a couple of loops before lunch and started with a Knot chute, Anaconda, Bootleg glades run which was like yesterday but just a bit softer and heavier in the warming temps. I then tried Skydive hoping that the lower crunch had softened - big mistake. The upper parts were great soft snow which then slushed up a bit in the mid section but the lower hill having frozen overnight was just ugly.

After lunch back to the New side and hit out along the County line to Easter (Currie chutes on the way seemed super slushy) which was great skiing in soft snow as you would expect from a north facing slope. Next 1-2-3s and then Bootleg which were both good skiing even if Bootleg was a bit chunky. Far side of 3s was particularly nice.

Took a quick run back down White Pass via Knot chutes which was just starting to set up and wasn't the easiest line on the hill. Last run was through 1-2-3s and found a new line via the patrol hut and gun tower at the top of White Pass, amazing that even with one day to go you can still find new lines.

Beer in the Griz, hot tub then buddies round for beer. Bring on the last day which is supposed to be a return to winter.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 119 back to another full on winters day skiing

And I really mean winter. When we got to the hill today it was -2 at the base and -8 at the top with 7 cms of fresh snow - yes, yet another powder day. During the day the temps didn't change much, at the base they rose to just about plus temps but nothing really melted and even at midday the temp at the top of White Pass was -7. We had some flurries and then a little sun late in the day but all in all not a lot happemed to change conditions.

We headed to the New side and found that yesterday's wind had packed in the snow in a form of wind grooming on some slopes, swept the snow off others, deposited deep soft on others and produced wind crust and slab on others. In other words there was excellent to really crap skiing to be had depending on the choices of run you made.

Lift line was good wind blown styrofoam. First run was back through White Pass and good untracked powder. We next hit out a few loops through Anaconda which was deep, soft blown in snow and then dropped Bootleg Glades which was soft but a little chunky at the bottom. Next few trips were along the County Line. I was tempted into High Saddle and it is the first time that I have skied High Saddle in the second week in April. Skiing under the Saddle and into Easter was excellent. Lone Fir as always was steep and deep into Easter with face shots. Stag Leap was not so good as the first two thirds were untracked free riding but the last third was ugly refrozen crud - not sure the juice was worth the squeeze. Final run down 1-2-3s before lunch was tracked but soft wind blown and very nice.

In the afternoon we went to the new side again. For the first time this year I decided to access the Knot chutes by traversing the Gun bowl and ducking the fence. All year I have played it straight by hiking but by this time I figure the traverse won't damage the snow pack so all's fair. Spent the afternoon working my way across the Knot chutes dropping one furthe each time followed by dropping Anaconda going one further each time then Bootleg Glades taking a new and tougher line each time. The result was some amazing steep and deep skiing as no one else seemed to have thought of this - not that there was really many people on the hill.

By the end of the afternoon I had worked my way across to Gotta Go so dropped that which was all that could have been hoped for. Finished with a hike up Lone Fir which was rather skied but still had plently of soft and the bowl below still provided some fresh tracks.

A great day with beers with buddies afterwards. Went out for a meal to try the Picnic which has been recommended. Give it 10/10 for food quality but 0/10 for speed of service. a good place to go if you aren't in a hurry.