Friday, February 26, 2010

Report at the end of the Second Period

Thought the title was pretty appropriate as we are all psyched up about the hockey at the moment and we are about two thirds of the way through the season. Being back in the UK the timing is a bit difficult with tonights semi final not being until 2:30 in the morning local time and I guess tomorrows final against the US will be the same.

Time for reflection on the season to date in what has been very far from a stellar year as far as Fernie snow goes despite what official sources might say. I heard on the olympic report that Vancouver had experienced it's warmest February for 112 years and I guess Fernie wouldn't be that far behind.

After a promising start to the season that allowed an early opening the snow dried up until Christmas but with temps dropping the day time highs in their mid 20s for weeks at a time the base became very hard and packed in. Over Chrishmas and the New year and particularly in the first week in Jan the snow tap was back on and it looked like we could be in for a very very good year with powder on a firm base. It was around this time that we had the best conditions in so far as more of the hill opened and you could grab first tracks in the Saddles, Lone Fir etc.

After that nothing. A little warm up then a cool down but no snow to speak of and that has been pretty much the story up to date. A few systems form out to the west but don't ever seem to amount to anything and the precip we had late Jan was rain at the base and heavy at the top. I suppose it's what we should expect in an El Nino year but somehow we never do.

To be fair the hill has stayed in much better shape than we have aright to expect given the lack of snow. The base hovers over 200cms and there is coverage ( if a bit hard) everywhere on the hill and if you know where to look there is still soft semi tracked to be had. I had some buddies out last week and while I was appologising for the state of the hill, as European skiers, they thought the conditions were good, I guess it just depends on what you are used to. My theory is that as the three things that damage a hill are missing, sun (didn't see that for about 6 weeks) rain (haven't seen much precip of any kind) and people ( lack of the first two means lack of the third) then with nothing to damage it the hill remains ok.

So, would I advise a trip to Fernie - a definate maybe. BC is having it's worst winter for sometime so when they say Fernie has the best snow in BC it's the best of a bad bunch. Skiing is ok but not stellar so if you have booked a ski vacation you will still have a great time. If you are thinking of travelling to experience the "Legendary Powder" maybe next year if it is a non El Nino year might be a better bet. All that having been said in the past few years we have had some big dumps at the end of March and at the moment we are owed one. In the final analysis you pays your money and takes your choice.

Cornwall is sunny and quite spring like with a fair amount of wind. I am working my way through the odd jobs to get things sorted for the summers sailing. Meeting three buddies at Heathrow to fly out next Friday so let's hope the Griz will be kind to Fernie virgins.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 83 time for a natural break.

For all sorts of technical reasons I have to go back to the UK for a week to attend to some out standing issues, just like I do every year. The problem is that with two travelling days when heading east and one when heading west this will mean 10 days missed from the season and of course while I am away there will be no blog.

Today was much the same as yesterday, starting at -9 with a bluebird day and temps forecast to rise to plus at the bottom and stay about zero up the hill. This worked out ok but there was a pretty strong wind from the west which is a good sign as that's where the weather if any is going to come from. Once again the sun had almost no effect on softening the snow even when we tried Sunny side early afternoon which had direct sunlight all day. A patroller buddy explained this to me in the pub tonight as the problem being that because it looks and feels like April we expect the snow to have softened as if it is April and not Feb. Given that even in April the snow only softens for about 3 hours a day we shouldn't be surprised that in Feb it doesn't soften at all - makes sense.

Lynda decided that one day off was enough and joined me onthe New side. We had a few runs through the Gun bowl and back by various bump routes to White pass which were all quite crisp before trying Surprise Trees which to put it mildly were a bit varied. After that there was nothing for it but to do the Anaconda loops back through Bootleg just like yesterday. Just like yesterday the snow on the north facing slopes was deep and fresh with some very technical skiing in the tight tree chutes on the far side. Ended the morning with a trek out to Concussion which just proved that the snow hadn't melted.

In the afternoon we did laps off Boomerang either back to the chair via Boom ridge/ Boom bowl/ Bear chutes/ Buck shot etc or into Cedar bowl via Cedar ridge, Gully and gulch or King Fir. This required three runs through Kangaroo which was skiing the ugliest it has all season with boiler plate bumps and white light that meant working out what was in front of you was a challenge at all times.

A few beers in the bar then down the Pub for wings night and watch hockey where Canada stuffed Germany 8-2 to book a quarter final game against the Russians, now that's going to be some game. Last night the Ghostriders won the third game of the best of 7 series against Golden to take a 3-0 lead in the series. Nothing is certain but to win the series Golden will have to win 4 straight including 2 in our barn as all in all I am fairly confident we will be playing off for the Championship probably against the Creston Valley Thundercats.

Off to the UK, wact this space for a half time summary in the next few days when I get over the jet lag.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 82 lets call it Anaconda Monday

Today started a bit like yesterday at -11 with bluebird skies. Where it differed was that whilst the sun warmed up things down town on the hill even direct sunlight didn't really have the effect of softening upper mountain snow but more of that later. After the exertions with our recent guests Lynda decided to take a day off so I had all day on the hill to amuse myself.

Yesterday I was tipped the wink that whilst the patrol were setting up the Freeski course one of the start flags was dropped off the ridge line by mistake so someone had to ski down Polaris to get it back and then boot pack back up. My intention was to hike Polar Peak, drop off the back then hike up the boot pack a couple of times. On the way to the locker room another buddy broke the news that a bunch of slednecks (snowmobilers) had got in and trashed the snow off the back so it was time for plan B.

Went to the new side and had a couple of loops in White Pass finding that most of the snow had dried out and the conditions were crisp firm bumps. After the sun had been on Knot chutes for an hour or so I decided to give them a hike to see if the snow was soft - bad decision. Everything was refrozen crud which hadn't softened in the least since yesterday so I stuck to chute one and just came down in a series of hard jumps.

I then struck on a plan which was so simple I can't imagine why I haven't thought of it before. I hit out along the Idiot traverse to Anaconda Glades and dropped the first chute then came down through the near trees in Bootleg Glades. Next the second chute in Anaconda and back the same way, then the third, fourth, fifth and sixth. Each chute in Anaconda gets steeper and tighter as you go across so the last run just before lunch was very steep and tight. The snow was excellent. north facing, soft, and in many places untracked or at least lightly tracked. Then a late lunch.

After lunch went back to the new side and decided that the Currie chutes would have softened in the sun so dropped the far chutes in Concussion - wrong again. Concussion was also refrozen crud most of the way down and whilst not difficult it was just hard work and not a whole lot of fun. Did two more loops out on Skydive traverse which is very icey and scratchy and took Stag Leap and Decline which were bumped up but great, just like a terrain park then a little ribby at the bottom. With a little time in hand traversed all the way out along the top of Anaconda until the final chute before the closed area, didn't quite have the minerals to drop the skis straight into the fall line at the top of the last tree chute but jumped two turns before pointing down hill and that was about as exciting as I want to get.

Final rip down Skydive itself was just like the other two front runs but with the longer middle pitch the terrain park section enabled some serious ( if sometimes rather more than intended) air to be taken. Beer, hot tub and early night - great day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 81 Sun, cold and the Freeski finals

Today started with team Ireland heading back to Calgary for the long journey home. After last nights farewell session it is surprising they could find their rental car let alone drive it back to the airport, well done lads. Great to have you stay and look forward to next years adventures. On the way to the hill dropped in to Lizard Creek to see Liz from Inghams and book my ride back to Calgary on Wednesday ready for my flying visit back to the UK.

Conditions were bluebird skys with temps down at -11. During the day the temps rose to plus temps at the base in the direct sunlight but overall it was quite cold with some wind up top. For a change the cold temps overnight hadn't hardened the base but had rather tended to dry out the snow so that it was crisp and taking an edge in most places but there was still plenty of boiler plate around if you weren't careful.

We started on the old side as the finals of the Freeski were being run off Polar Peak, down Lizard head wall through Richards run. I had looked in the top of Richards yesterday when I was up Polar peak and it is one of the gnarliest entries I have ever seen with a steep pitch disappearing over a blind edge as you look down. Major respect to all competitors but mostly to the third to run female who took the chute on tele skis - awesome.

The skiing was ok. Sunny side was scratchy but as we worked our way into Cedar all the north facing stuff was crisp with some soft on top so Cedar ridge, Gully/Gulch, King Fir, new Lift line etc were nice if not exceptional skiing. Occasional loops into Lizard to check the state of the Freeski allowed for a check on the open terrain in the middle of Lizard for the first time this year which was ok but not challenging enough to be anything than rather pleasent. The big loop out to Snake ridge was interesting with soft snow in the top getting more chunky as you got lower. Inspired by the freeriders I took the ridge through KC chutes straight down through the alders which was a bit challenging and raised the pulse rate a little.

Returns from the Cedar/Snake loops were always through Boomerang/Bear chutes (nice crisp bumps) and Kangaroo ( really icey ugly bumps even by Kangaroo standards) and that completed the mornings entertainment.

In the afternoon we just hit out along the County line and Skydive traverse which is getting pretty icey and interesting. Dropped Stag Leap, Cougar Glades, and Decline which were all a bit bumpy at the top, like big terrain parks in the middle and a bit scratchy at the bottom. Last loop dropped back through White Pass which was starting to harden in the shadows and then a final blast down Skydive which showed the same three sections as all the other runs.

On the hockey front the Riders won their second play off game 6-0 (the first was 7-0) so unless Golden can turn something on at home later this week we could be on our way to a divisional final. Canada could take a lesson, currently trailing the USA 2-3 despite out shooting them 2 shots to one on the game so far - fingers crossed for the third period.