Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 52 a bit of a celebration

The day started with the Olympic flame coming through Fernie which was great to see and is a good curtain raiser to the main event next month.

No new snow so New side - has to be at least 14 days I have said this since the last snow that covered all of the hill and not just the upper sections. Base about 210 cms, temps about -5 all over the hill which will at least keep the snow we have in ok shape. Met up as arranged with Bobby the Ski Club of Great Britain rep who arrived yesterday and starts tomorrow so was looking for a bit of a refresher course on Fernie's more interesting pitches.

Started in Surprise a couple of times which was getting very slick in the near chutes but still some fresh way out in the boonies. Anaconda was much the same with the snow getting better the further you went and Bootleg seemed to have dried out a bit and was ok but no better.

Hiked Knot chutes and found the surface much slicker but quite forgiving, the result was a good surface but if you got it wrong you were not going to stop any time soon. Finished the morning with a hike up Cornice ridge and a drop down Lone Fir. The upper part was fine but lower sections were a bit icey where some side slipping had obviously taken place. Tracked across Easter bowl and into Spinal Tap which was predictably very nice in the top and a bit scratchy below the fallen tree.

A quick lunch then out to watch the carboard derby which took about an hour. For those who don't know this is a special Fernie event where competitors try and steer their racers down hill onto a target. The only rule is that all racing machines have to be made of carboard and duck tape. As usual there were some very elaborate entries as well as some that fell apart, some that veered off track into the crowds and of course a couple that went down at light speed with no brakes and crashed through the safety barriers - we are small town and have to make our own entertainment.

In the afternoon set off down Siberia ridge but diverted into Disease trees - big mistake. We did get a bit far left but there was a lot of new timber on the ground and the surface was ice crust, took a fair bit of jumping and sliding round to get down. Next effort down Decline and Window chutes was much better with good snow at the top but the log drop back to over 6 ft and scratchy below the drop.

Somewhere in there we tried Cougar Glades ( good at first then not so good) and Mitchy Chutes, good all the way through. Final run down Skydive which was pretty tracked up but nice soft terrain all the way down to the final third when ice crust took over.

As it was Saturday gave the Griz bar a miss ( too crowded and music too loud) and went to Corner Pocket which was fine except for the very slow service as they were getting ready for the evening sittings. Quiet night in with no significant snow in the outlook.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 51 what a difference a day makes

Still no new snow but the base remains at about 212 cms and the hill is in remarkably good shape above the rain line (about one third of the way up the hill) considering the lack of snow.

Went to the New side as usual ( until the next snow) and did a few loops on White Pass through Knot chutes and Surprise Trees which were in ok shape but starting to get a bit tracked out. Polar Peak looked ok but even with fairly clear skies there was obviously weather up there so hiking was a risk. In the event it was a risk not really worth taking. The conditions up Polar Perak were brutal with wind whipping snow into your face and causing a lot of damage to the skiing surface. A guy was hiking the boot pack about 50 metres in front of me and his tracks were washed out by the time I got to them so I was cutting a new track all the way up.

On top the wind was so strong that a couple of times I was almost blown over by the windage on the skis lashed to my back pack. Having strapped in I dropped the first chute which was pretty well wind pack all the way down. By the time I hit the County Line the wind had gone and it was a sunny but chilly day with temps sittong at about -5. Skied out through the steep chute in Concussion which like yesterday was good if not stellar skiing.

Spent the rest of the day either tracking down the County Line for Cougar Glades, Currie Creek, Skydive and Decline or looping back under White Pass for an Anaconda Glades and Bootleg Glades run to the bottom. The situation was just as you would have expected with good snow on top and not so good lower down depending on just how high each run ended.

Predictably Skydive and Decline had the longest marginal pitches as they finish the lower down the hill. To hear the long term locals talk you would think that these lower sections were hell on earth but actually they were only a bit scratchy and needed a bit of application to ski them. Anyone used to European spring skiing might have described the pitches as rather stiff powder. It all depends on what you are used to.

Still no snow in the forecast - off to the hockey, go Riders go.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 50 Polar Peak here we come ( three times)

Well overnight the temp dropped to about -8 and during the day it rose at the base to about -2. There was some debate as to whether or not there was an inversion or did we just feel hot with all the hiking at the top of the hill, but more of that later. No new snow but the official report said good skiing all over so the rain crust at the bottom of the hill has to be a figment of my imagination.

Hit the new side and took a run through Surprise Trees which was ok with the snow firming up from last night. While I think of it the days conditions were very dry so the effect was to dry out the snow all over the hill so that by the end of the day the conditions were better all over than they were at the beginning which is a bit odd on a no snow day but that's how it goes.

Noticed that the patrol were checking out Polar Peak and the Currie head wall so just kept looping White Pass waiting and was rewarded at about 10:30 when Polar Peak was opened for hiking. Being kitted out already for back country I was ready to go and was fourth in the boot pack to hike Polar. Two of the guys in front peeled off to go to Timber ridge and the Wimp chutes and the other guy for some reason dropped the second Polar Chute. This gave me the first chute untracked which had been closed for about 4 weeks - awesome. Got to the bottom to a round of applause from a group of French skiers sitting on the County Line. Fully pumped up dropped Concussion the hard way and skiied out down Gilmar Trail.

The whole thing was so good that I did it again taking the second Polar chute this time but sticking to the shoulder on the left to get untracked fairly deep snow. Time for a late lunch.

Met up with an Aussie buddy in the afternoon and after a couple of loops through White Pass managed to convince him that Polar Peak was the way to go so did it a third time. This is a new record for me - never hiked Polar Peak 3 times in a day. Every thing was just as good the third time as the first and Concussion was getting ever better as the snow dried out.

A few relaxing laps through Surprise and it was time for the final run. In full hiking mode we climbed Knot chutes ( seems like nothing now) did chute 1 and 2, traversed to Anaconda and dropped chute 4 then came out via Bootleg glades, all very nice, very fresh and improving.

Loads of beer to recover, long hot tub and now ready for an early night. My buddy Rob just phoned to say that he did Polar Peak twice today and arranged to meet tomorrow to do it again. Ghostriders won one and lost one of this strange series that are playing against Creston up in White Horse, no one seems to know why we are playing up in the frozen north. Back home in Fernie tomorrow night - go Riders, go.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 49 rather better than expected

A late post tonight due to Shaw turning off my modem as they no longer support that model without sending me the replacement or telling me they were going to do it - back on line after a very long phone call.

Yet another day with base temps at about zero, upper mountain -4 and no new snow so yet another new side day. The snow up on top seemed to have dried overnight and there was evidence of just a trace of new stuff.

Ran through Surprise and Anaconda which were very nice but not worth getting over excited about. Hiked Knot chutes ( first of 4 times) which just like yesterday had the best snow but you had to pick your moment inthe poor viz which got better as the day went on.

Drifted out along the County Line for the first time in couple of days and found the conditions much better than expected, plenty of soft tracked snow and no ice. Easter was very soft and as it finishes quite high the bottom was still ok and the same applied to Secret chutes. On the front side Cougar glades and Stage leap were both soft and fresh at the top but very scratchy low down, particularly Stag.

Spent the afternoon dropping Knot chutes and then either Surprise in a White Pass loop or to the base via Anaconda and Bootleg. Final run of the day was a hike up Knot, a very far chute in Anaconda (5 I think) and Bootleg.

In the Griz bar tonight I think I agreed to an expedition involving hiking Cedar knob and dropping Fish bowl from quite high up so it looks like full avi gear tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 48 and 12 knots

The reference isn't to the wind speed but the number of times I hiked knot chutes today but more later to explain this strange behaviour.

As I mentioned yesterday the hill had slushed to well above the half height level at the close so when this morning the deck temp was -4 it was pretty obvious that anything but really high was going to be as ugly as a bear's ass. The official report said that with no new snow but some wind blown stuff there was great skiing all over the hill. I really must find out who writes those reports and find out what they are drinking as I want a bottle of it as it clearly is good stuff.

I went high into White Pass and after a couple of looseners through Surprise Trees I hiked Knot chutes and found great deep soft snow. Spent the rest of the morning hiking Knot and then dropping some aspect of Surprise from the near chutes to the boonies.

Half way through the morning White Pass chair broke down so we had to ski to the bottom and this put my theory of the lower mountain to the test. Below White Pass I dropped the next section of Lift Line and found that the first two turns in were ok, the next two a bit scratchy and after that just hard refrozen crud all the way down to the Summer Road - the plan to say high looked like a pretty good one.

Spent the rest of the morning when White Pass got running again looping Knot Chutes and Surprise finishing by dropping Anaconda further than I had ever been in and found fresh but tight conditions.

After lunch I did a full repeat including the final run through Anaconda and Bootleg glades. The final tally was 12 hikes of Knot chutes which is far and away the most I have ever done in a day and I am/was totally knackered.

Good wings night at the pub and generally much too much to drink. Thanks to tonight's sponsors of Kokanee, Fernie Pale Ale and now at home Jamesons Irish Whiskey.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 47 another strange sort of day

I suppose like a lot of people I talk to I am just getting fed up with this sort of mulchy in between conditions that we seem to have had since forever. Today was yet another day when the base temps were just about plus and the top was just about minus and the freeze line was some point up the hill with precip as rain at the bottom and snow at the top.

It would be nice to go and ski the old side sometime but withe the prevailing conditions going high is the only answer. I have had some reports that the old side was ok but closer investigation reveals that the people telling me this were refering to the groomers and as is well known I don't ski groomers. The only reliable report from the old side today was from a buddy who had skied Redtree and said it was a waste of time.

Today was even more limited as White Pass was socked in at the top but it was snowing quite hard so you didn't want to go to the bottom as you would find that the snow down there was rain and the conditions were ugly. The result was endless loops through Surprise Trees. Don't get me wrong, the skiing was fine because the Gun bowl was so socked in no one was getting out to the idiot traverse so no one was getting to Surprise trees.

About six laps through Surprise with fresh tracks every time made a dent in the morning. Twice the conditions eased so that the top of Knot chutes came into view so I hiked them. Each time the viz went as I got to the top so it was brail skiing down the chutes in what felt like pretty good powder. The snow intensified and there were more loops through various parts of Surprise which were now untracked due to the fill in. Headed off for lunch via Cougar glades which were good and largely unracked in the top and soft in the bottom which at least was an improvement from the rain crust/ice of the last few days.

In the afternoon followed the same policy of staying high while it was snowing on top and only dropping to base when the precip stopped so a rain free lower mountain experience looked likely. This involved a lot more Surprise Trees which by this time were getting pretty deep, a run down Cornice chute which was untracked but a bit rubbery at the bottom and Siberia ridge, ditto.

Finished down Skydive which was bit more tracked up than I expected. The slush line was also higher than I thought at about the half way mark - not one of the great finishes but ok.

Forecast seems to be for more of this mulch with current deck temps of +1, hoping for some real weather that can make it's mind up.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 46 and all still pretty nice

The Riders won last night 3-2 away in overtime to the Revelstoke Grizzlies who are probable one of the best sdies in the League, great result. Forgot to mention yesterday that the price of skiing had dropped below an average of 20 bucks a day so another reason the celebrate.

Today was just like yesterday with a light dusting of snow and temps holding a few degrees below zero over the whole hill. this meant that the good snow at the top stayed good and the crunchy stuff on the bottom third of the hill remained very crunchy.

New side again as it will continue to be until fresh snow repairs the lower parts of the hill on the old side. had a nice couple of rips through Surprise Trees which seemed to have some good fresh blow in. Linked up with a couple of Aussie guys and dropped the second Anaconda Chute the hard way which still had plenty of fresh in Bootleg which was getting crunchy at the bottom.

Hiked Lone Fir on the next loop which was a little icey in the lower section but the snow below that was deep and very forgiving. Tracked hard right into Spinal Tap which was also soft at the top and hard on the ski out. One of the guys left so we just looped Skydive, Cougar Glades, Window Chutes and the Brain. All had deep untracked snow at the top as skier traffic had been deterred by what was lower down. Lower sections were hard icey rain crust which was particularly challenging specially in the Brain where you were sliding around on the ice on top in quite steep and tightly packed trees.

After lunch Paul linked up with us again and hearing fron Niel what he had missed asked if we could do a re run. We were happy to oblige finding even more fresh snow in the trees at the top of the Brain. Final run down Stag Leap was great as not many had bothered to make the trip through the trees at the top. Bottom section tough again but no pain no gain.

Some precip called for overnight -3 on the deck so with any luck it will be snow.