Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 41 20 cms of awesome powder - maybe

Last year on day 41 I titled the blog "What a bloody mess" and for today I could have done just the same thing. Of course the 20 cms of awesome powder I refer to is what was reported on the official site this morning. Whilst I would hesitate to contradict the official site I would say that this is a travesty of what we actually got which was a mix of elephant snot and ACL ripping crud, whether or not there was 20 cms of it is not really the question.

It rained all night and starting temps were +2. We got to the hill and went high hoping that up in White Pass it would be ok - it wasn't. The snow was heavy rain affected sludge in most of the White Pass area with very difficult conditions. Initially the I bowl was closed so skiing was pretty restricted anyway. The only half decent snow was in the Gun bowl but due to restricted viz it was difficult to get much enjoyment out of that.

Late morning the I bowl opened really just giving us a bit more of the same. Final run before lunch was through Surprise Trees which was a big mistake as it was well below the acceptable skiing line so all the way down was heavy elephant snot that was impossible to get on top of - very hard work.

In the afternoon things changed a bit. Ridgeline winds increased and temps dropped to around or below zero at the top of the hill. The whole snow base in White Pass stiffened up and the snow started to come down pretty hard so that most of the White Pass area was up to a standard that was approaching acceptable. Viz didn't improve and as a result most of what we skied was a little better than the morning but still pretty dreadful. People voted with their feet and there was hardly anyone on the hill when I skied off at 3:30.

The problem is that the cold air mass has retreated east and the warm pacific air is bringing rain. The whole thing is delicately balanced as 20 mile to the east in Sparwood it is -11 and snowing hard. Depending on how things move we could have more great snow, rain top to bottom or anything in between. For the moment the lower hill is pure elephant snot and the upper hill a bit better and repairing in the falling temps.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 40 official awesomeness warning

It's hardly worth doing a report on today as the word awesome would just cover the position.

Overnight there wasn't much fresh although the hill called 11 cms of new snow. Temps had risen considerably so that as we headed towards the hill it was only -5 and the snow started. It puked snow again all day although by the evening it was a bit wet towards the base ond the temp was showing zero as we drove off the hill.

We went to the New side and as anticipated found the overnight snow plus the stuff falling on top of what was left over from the last two days was very deep (if a bit heavy low down) powder. A bit disappointed to find Currie and the I bowl closed but we made the best of it and two runs in as we were passing the ridge under White Pass chair they dropped the fence with only four of us there - and awesome rip into the I bowl.

We hit Surprise trees mainly because the Idiot Traverse had been cut so low and found loads of untracked. Next time round we found Anaconda Glades open so dropped in one of the near chutes and then hit the trees to the left of Bootleg all the way down. So deep and over the head that it was repeat four times. We were just about to go to lunch when they open Currie bowl and that was it for the rest of the day although Lynda did take a break in the afternoon for lunch - sometimes she can be such a girl.

The rest of the day was spent looping out along the low traverse in Polar sink (good as it discourages people from hitting out that way) and then taking one of the front runs. Stag Leap, Cougar Glades, Skydive, Decline/ Window chutes, the Brain (twice), Secret chutes and Spinal Tap (deepest untracked snow on the hill) and finally a rip down Skydive. No point in differentiating them as they were all deep over the head face shots in powder most of which were lightly or untracked.

Outlook very uncertain. We have warm wet air banging into cold dry air over our heads. Could be rain, could be a freeze up, could be awesome snow. Who knows, what ever it is we will ski it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 39 better and better as the day went on

It's great when the forecasters call for a great day and get it right. Snow must have started about 2 in the morning, at least that's the first time I noticed it when I got up for a pee. By morning temps were -17, snow was light dust and the hill were reporting 5 cms overnight which felt about right. The forecast was for a massive warm up which never really happened as temps got to -15 by midday and were about the same at close. To be fair things have warmed to about -8 by now (9 at night) but fingers crossed, the general warm up with the threat of rain looks like it may be overstated.

When we got to the hill it was puking snow and this continued all day and is continuing into tonight - witness huge accumulations on Lynda's touque (hat) in the hot tub which is the only piece of clothing she was wearing. The result was that things just got better and better as more snow accumulated as the day went on and runs that had been tracked became untracked and dust on crust became really deep powder. I have no figure but I guess we had 10-15 cms of new in places aided by the wind.

We went to the Old side and found Lizard closing and far side of Cedar already closed due to avi risk. We spent the morning off Boomerang Chair just enjoying the ever deepening powder on Boom bowl ( several times) Bear chutes ( a couple of times) Buckshot (ditto) Cedar Ridge ( three different ways) King Fir (untracked) Linda's (twice both good) and of course four returns through Kangaroo which was easy bumps in the top and a bit harder in the lower section. In fact the only thing we didn't do was Boom Ridge as it had been groomed and was therefore pointless. Lunch.

After lunch we headed to the New side which was double filled in by the new snow and the wind sift coming in off the ridge lines - in fact the only downside was the brutal conditions on the ridges so that you always wanted to ski off fast just to get out of the wind. The County Line had been closed so only the low traverse was open from Currie Powder. This is good as it cuts down the traffic (not that there was much) going to the front side runs - I refuse to call them "the fingers" which seems to be an annoying habit people have got in to. Boards can't make the traverse and a lot of skiers believe that you can't get to Skydive traverse from the low traverse - let's not tell them eh.

Cougar Glades - appeared untracked with deep soft snow all the way down. As usual slough management was the big issue in the lower chutes.
Stag Leap - run of the season up to that point as deep, deep and face shots all the way down.
Decline/Window chutes - great riding from side to side of the central ridge line, great log drop and then soft but heavy hero snow to hold you up in the exit.
A quick Gun bowl/Anaconda Glades/ Bootleg Glades was just as awesome as you would expect on a maximum powder day. At some stage hiked into Mitchy chutes which were full of deep hero snow.
Finally Skydive - now officially the run of the year so far. Over the head face shots top to bottom with loads of terrain jumps and soft landings - awesome.

Beers, and a hot tub which took 20 minutes to shovel the snow off and then enjoy soaking while the snow came down. Tomorrow could be better and more in the forecast but a risk of the R word.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 38 bring back the meat hook

A brief report as we just about to go out and get completely wrecked with 4 of our Welsh sailing buddies and best of all it is going to be at another buddy's house - result.

The start today was -28 and at best temps got up to mid teens at the base and quite a lot lower up the mountain. The base remained at 204 cms and whilst the low temps meant that where the snow was soft it was good it also meant that where it had been skied over it was hard and heavy.

I went to the Old side for the first time in a few days and was struck by the lack of people - it seems no one wants to ski in -28. This could be some kind of a record where more people today read my blog about skiing Fernie than actually skied Fernie - let's see.

They had opened the upper Lizard Bowl for hiking and against my better judgement I hiked the old face lift line. A couple of boarders had been there before me but they had hit off on the traverse for some reason. I just dropped to skiers right of the hike and had first tracks all the way down, it was so mellow that you didn't really need to turn much before you arrived at the cat track. Next was a hike out to Steep and Deep which took a bit longer than usual because the snow was cold and running slow. The tracked snow was pretty chunky but ok and the return through Kangaroo was surprising dry and crisp in the top but back to ugly icey bumps in the lower section.

We went to the New side and looped along the County Line dropping Cougar Glades and Stag Leap which were both ok but again chunky and heavy on top. Linking up with a buddy we then just had time for Window chutes which were a bit more challenging in the stiffer snow and we are still waiting for (English) Rob to make his first successful landing off the log drop this season.

After lunch I was on my own and just looped the old side with Cougar Glades and Stag Leap again featuring in heavy chopped up powder. We took a run off timber having met up with Rob again and this time I prevailed to run Siberia Ridge. Point proved, the ridge was great soft snow with the gnarly section hardly gnarly at all. As always a finish on Skydive which was good for two thirds of the way and very crusty for the rest.

Blog done - off to party.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 37 Everything open, everything awesome

Of course I can't vouch for the Old side as I didn't go there but various buddies who I trust assure me that Snake Ridge, Steep and Deep and and the Fish bowl were truely awesome having been closed for 3 days.

Facts first. Deck temps this morning were -16 and during the day they may have risen to -10 at the base but at each loop through White Pass it was -15 or less and as we left the hill at the end of the day it was down to -18. It was a blue bird day with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and angel dust in the sky. The snow base was 206 cms (so Lynda still relaxed) and the lower temps meant that the stuff skied over yesterday was abit chunky but still pretty good.

Yesterday's ridge line heli bombing helped by a little of the same this morning meant that everything was open so we went to the New side to sample the delights of Currie bowl for the first time in three days. The high traverse of the County line was open but with the Saddles closed. The traverse was through some of the roughest avi debris I have seen but got better as the day went on although the far side of the traverse deteriorated so that it kept out all but the most enthusiatic devotees of the front side runs. Strangest sight was two boarders deciding to drop off the traverse in the middle of the avi debris and ride down it - whatever thay had been smoking must have really been good.

We just looped all morning -
Cougar Glades - first tracks ( well second but the first soon disappeared) great tree skiing in the 50 cms or so of fresh that we have had since last opened all the way down.
Skydive - about three tracks in front of us so stacks of untracked all the way down
Stag Leap - not many tracks through the trees at the top and plenty of fresh on the left side after that.
Easter bowl - funnily enough a little crusty at the top with the better snow in the lower sections before hitting Lizard.
The Brain - arrived to tie for first tracks with some boarders who were calling to each other and calling it "run X". They took the stream bed so I took the right trees which were mostly untracked. Almost got to the cat track before having to cut out into Skydive.
Window Chutes - Top of Decline quite skied but good then untracked to the log drop which was in great shape and only about a 5 ft drop. Ski out was in great shape.
Secret Chutes - as always mostly untouched then a right hitch into Spinal Tap which had been skied but tons of soft had dropped into the stream bed making for great soft deep snow all the way down to the cat track.

This led to a late lunch when we linked up with buddies to go back for New side loops all afternoon. We just had time for Cougar and Stag which were more skied but still in pretty good shape. We tried a run back off Timber through Mars which proved to be very scraped and was only just about worth while because of the cut back into soft just under Hells Gate. Final run down Skydive which as always in soft tracked snow was just awesome.

Beer, followed by more beer, followed by hot tub followed by Irish Whiskey. Temps tonight due to fall to mid minus 20s but as it is clear I suspect it could go lower. Certainly beer was freezing to the inside of the bottle in the hot tub tonight and the moon and stars were stunning. Four days of significant snow forecast from Wednesday - bring it on.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 36 not awesome but close enough

No new snow in town overnight but the conditions from the hill gave 9 cms in the last 24 hours although most of that fell yesterday during the day and after the snow plot reading. The base is now up to 2 metres (subdued 2 metre party in the Griz) which at least means that Lynda is relaxed - she always says she only relaxes after the base gets past 200 cms.

Starting temps were -11 and by the end of the day they had dropped to-13 without really getting up much during the day. Conditions were overcast with only a hint of flurries but clearing later in the day, but more of that later. The soft base had hardend but there seemed to be some fresh on top ( quite a lot considering there hadn't been any new snow in town) which was dry with a low moisture content and real powder in the real sense of the word.

As with yesterday we had a plan - go to the New Side and hang about there on the grounds that an opening in either Currie bowl or Anaconda was more likely than an opening anywhere else. As far as it went the plan went well and during the course of the morning we heard some significant charges being detonated in Currie and a massive release out of Polar Chutes which took out the far side of Currie Powder most of the way down the bowl - a clear warning to anyone who had any doubts about the closures and was tempted to poach.

We looped White Pass going into the Knot Chutes and various bits of Surprise Trees, or dropping the shoulder and chute just before Knot and then heading out to the far side of Surprise, or just dropping down the Gun bowl and finding our way down through various trees and pitches. Many permutations but all fun and a surprising amount of untracked/lightly tracked snow to be found with the initial crowds (not that bad) fading as the day went on. Went to lunch via Triple Trees which still had loads of untracked in tight sections.

Just after lunch they opened Anaconda Glades for the first time in three days and the pitches were truely awesome so that you needed a snorkle on some of the tree chutes with over the head face shots all the way down. Below there was choice, you could either drop Bootleg Glades which had suffered a bit from half way down by riders cutting in from Diamond Back over the past few days, or you could cut across under the bottom avi sign and get to the lower parts of Baraccuda or Currie Creek and have some really awesome and mostly untracked powder - for the most part we did the latter.

That was it for the afternoon, traverse into Knot Chutes, Idiot Traverse, Anaconda ( various chutes, they were all good) and out through lower Currie - repeat 5 times. The afternoon was most certainly awesome.

Loads of beer in the Griz and banter with buddies who were equally stoked by the day. As the skies had cleared we watch the Heli bombing of the Ridge lines which was cool and promises some spectacular openings tomorrow. More beer in hot tub and bed.

Forecast is calling for a substantial storm cycle later this week but with temps around -18 the snow should come down light with a low moisture content so avi closure should be minimal and the powder pure champagne - fingers crossed.