Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 28 Happy New Year

A particular happy new year to all those of you who emailed me to say how much you enjoyed the blog (I will reply to everyone) and to the one guy who made a comment - makes it all worth while to realise there is a real following out there. If you want to make suggestions as to content just email me - alternatively if you are coming to Fernie or have friends coming to Fernie and want to ski some interesting places ( a jug of beer is always appreciated) then let me know. Also if you enjoy the blog tell friends and friends of friends and we might just be able to start a movement towards "real" skiing.

Woke this morning feeling pretty smug that we had an early night last night rather than welcoming in (yet another) new year. Overnight there had been a light dusting of snow but at these temps the moisture content must have been about 0%. By the time we got to the hill it was about -20 and overcast although during the day things warmed up to -14 with sunny periods off and on.

We went to the Old Side and found conditions much the same as yesterday but a bit tougher. The cold had dried the snow out even more and the light covering of very dry powder plus some very dry wind pack meant that the slick was slick but the rest was very very heavy and the most grabby ( both trying to move the skis across and pick them up) that I have ever experienced on the hill. The result was a surface that was highly unpredictable and always trying to throw you out of balance.

Going out to Snake ridge and beyond was not really an option as the snow on Cedar High Traverse was so grabby that the skis wouldn't run that far so it meant a long walk. The furthest we got was near side Snake and the shoulder above KC which were pretty ribby but with some heavy soft blow in which was ok.

The rest of the morning was spent on the Old Side Triangle - Boom, Bear chutes, Cedar Ridge two ways all of which were very mixed with the wind pack always there to catch you out in between bumps. Probably best of all was once again Boom Ridge which was icey bumps with fill in which for some strange reason seemed to flow quite well so we did it three times. Two trips through Kangaroo proved that it was just as icey as always with the drop off on to the cat track getting more tricky.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and managed 5 loops before beer time which were -
Decline - Icey bumps at the top, chunky in the mid section and scratchy on the way out.
Lone Fir - Hard hike up the ridge and the base pretty firm through the chute which required edge to edge jumping to get through. The soft snow into Easter bowl was nowhere near as soft as it should have been but was good as long as you kept up speed and stayed on top.
Cougar Glades - Very chunky and variable all the way through and scratchy on the left hand ski out with tree stumps exposed.
Stag Leap - Entered from Cougar Glades so there was some untracked in trees. After that it was chunky to the bottom section then very scratchy and slick down to the top of Deer Chair.
Skydive - Final rip again, icey bumps in the top, chunky most of the way down then quite crunchy through the alders in the bottom section.

A good tough cold day with far fewer people on the hill than I would expect to see on a normal Saturday. A few beers with buddies, home, hot tub/beer and an early night.

Happy New Year

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.