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.