Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 106 Hot tub time machine

I refer of course to the John Cusack movie that was shot in Fernie last year and has just gone on release in the local movie house. Not a bad movie, quite funny and great fun trying to recognise various buddies playing extras.

Last night temps didn't even get down to zero so that we started this morning at about +3 at the bottom of the hill and zero at the top. The forecast was for sun with cloudy periods but what we got was solid cloud until about 2 then slowly clearing. The effect of this was that the snow softened during the day but not as a result of sun but rather as a result of atmospheric warming. This meant that the snow went to soft rather than mush and didn't start to set up as soon as it was in shadow.

We tried the Old side and found the lower groomers soft but the upper ones quite hard. Sunny side shoulder was very chunky as was most of what we tried in Lizard bowl. We moved on the Cedar ridge and found that the top was soft with blown in powder but the snow became very chunky about half way down and all turns had to be jumped. After 3 trips down the Cedar ridge we moved on to Boom ridge and then Linda's run both of which were also soft at the top , tough in the middle and soft melt down below. Kangaroo was soft bumps all the way down and we were 4 times through it on the way back to Boom chair. A last run before lunch down Boom bowl proved as before soft followed by hard followed by soft.

After lunch we went to the New side and risked heading out along the County Line to test Decline/Skydive/Stag Leap. Much to my surprise Decline was excellent, soft fresh snow at the top become soft on the atmospheric warm up as you went down - it almost felt like skiing powder. Encouraged we hit Stag Leap, Decline again and finished on Skydive. All were the same with excellent spring skiing if a little heavy in the very bottom.

In summary a day that got better as it went along and much better when we chose the New side over the Old. Rather worrying if what I was skiing this afternoon sets up over night but tomorrow is another day.

Day 105 and we get some more powder

Last night it rained and the temps were so warm that we assumed that the rain would have been almost to the top of the hill. When we woke we found that the snow/rain line was surprisingly low down the hill and the hill itself was reporting 11 cms of fresh so that it was an early start and waiting by the first lift to head up to the new side.

During the day the temps rose yet again to plus teens at the base so that by about 1 the soft snow was starting to get warm/soft on the south facing slopes and slush soft at the bottom. A little clouding over at the end of the day set up all soft surfaces on the south facing slopes. New snow amounted to 11 cms and the mid mountain snow base rose to 227 cms.

It was obviously a New side day so we started there. White Pass had a delayed opening for about 30 mins due to avi control so we just waited at the base. The first few runs were through Highline/ Heartland etc which were ok and of course untracked. Next we hit Anaconda and Bootleg, similarly untracked.

The rest of the morning was spent getting first or early tracks in Cougar Glades, Decline, Window chutes, The Brain, Skydive, Siberia ridge and Loan Fir and Easter bowl. All of these were excellent untracked skiing at the top and getting a bit chunky lower down.

Very late lunch didn't leave much time but we looped Anaconda/Bootleg 3 times taking a tougher chute in Anaconda each time and just like before getting great skiing followed by rather heavy snow. Last run of the day was down Skydive which was excellent with the snow starting to set up so that the base skied a little firmer than earlier in the day.

A good few beers then hockey watching the Ski School play the Ski atrol for charity. A good game which I have to guess that the Ski School won as they were winning when I left and I had to leave early as I had to come back and write this.

Goodnight from a highly beer affected reporter

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 104 and so much better than we expected

In the familiar pattern temps dropped to -4 overnight but the day was sunny and warming fast. As it turned out there was haze which thickened from lunch time onwards so although temps rose to + teens there was no direct sunlight so the snow reacted rather differently from the last few days.

With the overnight freeze we took a relaxed view of starting times and didn't start skiing until about an hour after first bell at around 10 o'clock. As expected everything was frozen solid but a couple of runs down Bear to get me used to the rock skis that are now back in service until the end of the season soon proved things were softening.

This was a day when we got everything ( and I do mean everything) right. In the spring you always try to hit the various slopes just as they are softening but usually get there either too early ( ice) or too late ( slush) - today we were bang on time everywhere.

First few runs through the Sunny Side shoulder and the chutes below China Wall which were all very good with the snow just starting to take an edge. Next a few runs down Boom ridge which was softening quickly but by staying on the side you were able to make nice tight turns in the soft. During one of these we dropped the trees leading down to Cedar trail for the first time this season and found that even in the shadow the snow was taking a nice edge.

We decided to loop out to Snake so hit Boomerang which was soft but not crazy soft then went out on the traverse and had a great run run down Snake main and cut into Lower Gorby bowl. This was good soft snow but starting to get a little heavy. Next time round we went all the way to Steep and Deep on the grounds that being a little more north facing it would be in better shape. We were right and had an excellent run down in soft snow before cutting left into the tighter exit chute which was also soft.

Every trip back was via Kangaroo ( 3 times ) which was it's usual soft bumps in these conditions. After all that it was almost 2 and a late lunch.

Went to the New side in the afternoon and found Lift Line in ok condition and the Gun bowl soft but not too soft and therefore a good place to wind up the speed in the slush. Surprise trees were a bit too soft but Anaconda and Bootleg were soft in the sense of being old snow not yet melted, but a bit heavy. In fact Anaconda was so good that we did an extra loop just before closing and got back to White Pass on Trespass Trail.

Yesterdays final run down Skydive had been testing and with todays conditions not much different I almost passed but decided to give it a try. It was the run of the day - soft from top to bottom with no slush but all the bumps taking a nice edge. My theory is that yesterday softening was as a result of sun whilst todays was as a result of general warming but whatever it was Skydive was the run of the day.

In summary a much better day than anticipated and one where every slope we arrived at was just getting to it's best condition.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 103 a good day for a ski test

As anticipated temps over night dropped to about -3 and there was no new snow. The day was clear and bright with the base dropping to 220 cms and there was every chance that we would have one of those days where everything turns to slush.

Lynda was only skiing half a day as she was off to the physio to get a programme of exercises put together for her leg ( broken skiing two years ago) to take her through the summer sailing season. With this in mind she decided to try her brand new Salomon Geishas so we went to look for every type of surface we could find during the morning on the Old side to test them.

During the course of quite a long morning we found pretty well everything that you are likely to want to slide skis over. Hard icey groomers ( Bear early and Cedar centre) hard icey ungroomed (Arrow) Hard icey bumps (Kangaroo early) chunky refrozen crud ( almost any way down Cedar ridge you tried) Soft groomers (Bear and North ridge later) soft ungroomed steeps ( Boom ridge) soft bumps (Kangaroo later) slush ( Boom bowl left side late) and all points in between.

We were even able to try some powder as we hiked the old Face Lift which was open following last nights heli bombing of the ridge line ( a very cool sight from the Griz bar deck) for the first time in a few days. Everyone was turning left at the top so we turned right which had only been done once by a member of ski patrol and then I laid turns just to the left of his and Lynda to the left of mine. Not all that far but untracked powder all the way into the top of Cedar.

By the end of all that it was time for a late lunch and the skis had been thoroughly tested. Lynda was very please and concluded that they skied much like her Scarlets which skied much like her Guns which skied much like her Pocket Rockets and in fact most of the development work done by Salomon over the past few years has been done by the graphics department but as she likes those skis it's ok.

On my own for the afternoon I drifted over to the New side with my hiking pack and after a run down White Pass hiked Polar peak for the 13th or 14th time this year in warm sun but a cool breeze. The new snow in the chutes had softened but hadn't really stuck to the base so it was a sort of unstable mush all the way down which was ok but you did have to pay attention.

After that it was a run down Currie chutes (mush) then Skydive which was reforming crud with small death cookies which took more than the usual effort to get down. A quick trip to Guest Services to hand in some keys that I found hooked on one of the chairs of White Pass and which appeared to belong to a Non Stop skier and Preston North End supporter then some beers in the bar.

Hot tub and early night.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 102 and not a bad day

We didn't get a repeat performance of yesterday and the snow which was falling as we left the hill must have stopped pretty quick as the morning reports only gave us 2 cms overnight with the base hanging out at about 230 cms.

The forecast was for sun with highs of +10 which was right but later in the day we got some cloud cover which tended to make the light a bit flat and surfaces which had been in the sun started to set up pretty quick.

We went to the Old side and after a few experiments in Lizard bowl which just proved that the snow was melting faster than we had thought we dropped off into Cedar bowl down new lift line and found the north facing snow soft and largely untracked although from about half way down where we encountered the rain line it suddenly became rather crusty.We looped Cedar ridge and King Fir a couple of times which seemed to confirm the picture.

Eventually we gave Boom ridge a lash and found it chunky in the top and soft easy turning in the bottom. Inspired by this we dropped Boom and found it very soft indeed. Following a pit stop at the Bears Den we headed out across Snake ridge with the intention of skiing Steep and Deep. A few turns confirmed that Redtree facing slightly more north was a better bet so we skied that and it was untracked and good soft snow all the way down the Redtree road.

All the Old side loops delivered 4 trips down Kangaroo which was, as always, icey bumps but softening nicely and actually very good skiing.

This gave us an idea and despite it being quite late we went out across Cedar high traverse and hiked into the Fish bowl. The north facing Poppa chutes were excellent deep and only lightly tracked snow. Probably should have cut out to Redtree but couldn't resist the final face into the bottom of the bowl and hike out which on reflection as it took us below the rain line from two days ago probably wasn't worth it. Last return through Boom was very hard work in the reforming chuncks of heavy snow.

Very very late lunch so we were only getting back on the new side about half past two. Managed a good run down Decline in some nice soft partially tracked snow which only became super soft in the bottom pitch. A quick loop through Anaconda which was good then a final run down across the County Line meeting friends on the way so that last trip was Decline and Window chutes to give them a chance to jump the log which they hadn't done before.

Beers then wings night at the Pub. On the way down I noticed the first Ghost Rider (shadow on Mt Hosmer) of the year if a bit deformed and unclear but a sign of spring. What next ??

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 101 just when you thought it was all over we get powder

As anticipated yesterday it snowed over night on the hill even though it fell as rain in the town all night. When we got to the hill today they were calling 13 cms of fresh and a base of 229 cms.

Now we have to understand that the powder had a very high moisture content making it a little heavy from the start. The rain line was around the base of Skydive so quite low down and the sun was out with temps rising so the powder was always going to be something to trash fast before it went to mush.

In fact it was a good old fashioned New side opening with White Pass open straight up and down with lots of fresh tracks to be had. As the morning developed Knot chutes opened as did the I bowl so more fresh tracks could be had through Surprise Trees. As always in these circumstances the final piece of the jigsaw was to open Currie Bowl with the low traverse out to Skydive.

We joined in the first goldrush down 1-2-3s which was nice and deep then dropped Bootleg which was also good to the bottom although getting a bit chunky down there. We then hit out on the low traverse doing Decline (second and third tracks in and soft going to chunky) Stag Leap ( ditto) The Brain ( ditto and very hard going in the lower trees) and Anaconda ( great soft snow hardly tracked) and Bootleg (softening) then time for lunch.

After lunch stayed on the New side ( Lift Line and Mitchy routes down to White Pass were good soft tracked all day) and hit out on the County Line and found all south facing stuff near melt point and heavy ( and I mean heavy) so going all the way round the corner out of the sun was the only game in town.

Secret Chutes were still soft and good and Spinal Tap was chunky but none the worse for that. Next attempt was Cougar Glades which was very soft all the way down and by the bottom it was very heavy and not all that much fun. Decline was still fairly untracked so I dropped into Window Chutes and found only two tracks in there neither of which had dropped the 6 ft drop off on the log (wimps). Dropped it and tracked out which was heavy at the bottom.

About this time it started to snow on the upper hill even harder than last night. Still may be going up there so who knows we may have another powder day tomorrow. Last run was down Skydive which by this stage was very good in the top but got a little crisper towards the bottom. Final run out was pure slush as was all the bottom of the hill.

Powder tomorrow ?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 100 weird weather - how appropriate this season

So we got to day 100 but looking at the base runs this afternoon maybe we won't get a whole lot further even though we are supposed to have another 21 days plus a bonus weekend left.

Weather was really non weather up to midday. Last night it didn't rain or snow and it didn't freeze - deck temps of + 3 this morning. This morning temps fluctuated from +2 to +7 on the drive to the hill. It was overcast all day so no sun softening although the snow hadn't really hardened in the overnight. All in all a bit of a non weather day until lunch.

In the morning we went to the Old side on the basis that the lower areas would have benefited from the warm overnight temps and might be quite soft. This was partially successful with Kangaroo 4 times softening most of the way. Cedar ridge several ways down was patchy as was King Fir but a bit better than yesterday. Boom ridge was icey and you had to stay skiers right to get anything that felt like real snow. Boomerang itself was hard underneath and stayed so all morning. Even the trees in Cedar centre and the Gulch didn't offer much by way of soft.

Late morning we had light snow so we went for an early lunch. By the time we finished lunch it was raining quite hard at the base but we had reports of snow up in White Pass so a New side afternoon it was.

White Pass proved an excellent choice with fresh snow falling all afternoon so that by the end we must have had 5-10 cms of fresh in places with more building up all the time. We tried several runs back through White Pass which got better each time with the deepening snow and the base still fairly soft from plus temps. On a flyer we tried Surprise trees which proved to be so good that we did 2 more loops getting fresh tracks both times.

Just before 3 we tried Anaconda and found it the best of the lot with plenty of fresh. Faced with a long pole back to White Pass down Trespass Trail or a drop to the bottom we opted for the latter despite the rain at the base and still got back up for the traditional finish down Skydive which was now pretty deep at the top and untracked. The lower sections and the ski out were rain affected slush but that's Spring skiing for you.

Fingers cossed for the rain line to come down to base during the night and the precip to continue.