Saturday, February 5, 2011

Day 63 The return of the Old side

The warm up continued and it was beautiful blue bird day on the hill all day with starting temps at the base of -2, a bit cooler up top but by late afternoon we had + 4 at the base and much warmer in the direct sunlight. The result was that on south facing slopes were had quite heavy spring skiing conditions which later in the day started to set up on the surface as the sun went down becoming very crisp and not easy skiing. On the north facing slopes conditions remained just like yesterday with great soft blow in staying in consistent shape throughout the day.

We had the junior free ski competition today which was being held on the New side in Concussion so we decided to go to the Old side on the grounds that there would be fewer people, the blow in from two days ago should still be good and with the high Cedar traverse closed yesterday anything out towards Snake Ridge and beyond would be pretty good - bingo.

After a couple of runs down Bear and Sunny side which both seemed to show signs of some fresh snow we headed out along Cedar High traverse for the first of 4 loops -
Snake ridge nearside - Load of fresh which may have been blow in but which looked quite like new snow. Good first tracks down then into KC chutes which were challenging in the top section but nice and soft in the wide lower sections.
Snake Ridge farside - the gully full of blow in all the way down to the traverse into Lower Gorby bowl which is now ok coverage.
Gorby bowl - as always left alone by most people because of the apparently gnarly exit. Actually just above the rock band the shimmy left then right was as mellow as I can remember.
The Gorby entrance into Steep and Deep which again was mostly unskied because of the tricky steep entrance through the alders but by the ski out in the lower chutes it was in direct sunlight and real spring conditions.

All returns were through Kangaroo which we thought was skiing pretty ok but maybe not to judge from the several groups we passed in there seeming to have a fairly torrid time, heigh ho. Loops were completed either through Boom bowl or Bear chutes both of which were great soft wind blown.

In the afternoon we hit the new side and found that the start of the Freeski was set so high up that the only way to get past it was to hike Cornice ridge, just as if you were about to go for Lone Fir. This had a plus side in that to get to Skydive we had to drop the top of Barracuda which is somewhere we hardly ever go and is actually quite steep and a lot of fun. Skydive seemed to have some fresh particularly on skiers left and because of the difficulties in getting there it was all untracked.

Next time round I drifted into the Knot chutes which didn't look that special so I hopped over the ridge line into Gotta Go and found only one track and the best steep untracked skiing on the hill. The ski out through 3's and Bootleg Trees were also pretty good.

By the time we got back to the top the competition was over so we could take the Skydive traverse and hit Cougar Glades which were rather soft and sun affected most of the way down and a bit crunchy and setting up lower down. Next Siberia ridge which since a few weeks ago has been excellent terrain skiing with no rocks showing in the gnarly section.

Final rip down - you guessed it - Skydive. Icey bumps in the top then you can pull the trigger in the lower sections which are soft but just starting to get through to a firm base.

Snow in the forecast.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Day 62 It's amazing what some blow in can do

As promised the warm up came and we went to the hill in temps of -2 which stayed pretty consistant at the top of the hill but rose to about +3 at the bottom. Two things helped the general snow conditions. Firstly as a result of the raging wind conditions yesterday particularly on the Old side there was some quite amazing blow in to be had on the North West facing slopes. Also we actually had some flurry/snow activity that lasted for about 2 hours and gave up some pretty good grappel and fill in snow during that time. As a result the snow base has now risen to around 250 cms.

Following a hunch we went to the Old side anticipating that most of the blow in would have come in Boom bowl and we weren't disappointed. Huge soft wind grooming in Boom bowl which was mostly untracked, we then dropped off the Goat track into Buckshot which was totally untracked.

For the rest of the morning we spent our whole time in the Old side triangle - Cedar ridge 4 different ways, King Fir twice, Linda's Boom bowl a couple of times etc. In completing the loops back we always came back through Kangaroo (five times). Overall the snow was deep and for the most part untracked, or at least very lightly tracked and as it turned out excellent quasi powder skiing. At one time we were going to head out on the Cedar traverse to try Steep and Deep/Fish bowl but found the traverse just being closed because of the cornice loadings in cedar knob due to the high winds - we just diverted into yet another Cedar ridge loop.

After lunch we headed over to the New side where parts were starting to be fenced off for the junior free ski competition this weekend. We drifted off along the County Line which we had some trouble finding in the very socked in conditions at the top of White Pass - a three chair day (only three chairs visible in front of you). Loops on Cougar Glades, Concussion, Stag Leap, Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap, The Brain (particularly fun in the stream bed) and of course the final rip down Skydive. Somewhere in there was a quick back loop in White Pass just pad out the time before close. Everywhere had good blow in which while not exactly powder was great fresh snow and really good free riding.

A great day in some relly nice soft snow. More snow in the forecast looking pretty good.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 61 a report for the weekend

I know that on Friday mornings I get a lot of hits from people thinking of skiing Fernie at the weekend so Thirsdays in future will be more about what the hill is like and bit less about what Lynda and I have done on the hill.

Yesterday's trauma injury to the right calf muscle on the final run of the day proved to be rather worse than the original injury. The result was that this morning the calf was so swollen that I couldn't do up my ski boot. All morning was spent with icing and various other treaments so that just after midday I was able to close the buckles on the right boot so we headed to the hill for an afternoons skiing.

We went to the Old side and I assumed (incorrectly) that groomer would be a bit kinder to my leg. As it turned out rough terrain was fine on relatively soft snow but fast groomers shaking the injured area was the only thing that was really painful. The wind on the Old side was just brutal - yet further proof that this year we are getting all the weather without any breaks in between. Later in the day from the top of Skydive it looked as if Bear Chair had been shut down and to be honest it didn't surprise me.

The whole of the Old side triangle was good with particularly good blow in all the way down Lynda's and some awesome wind groomed blow in on the skiers right of Boom. Because of the late start there was not much time so we headed for the New side.

Just time for a quick Skydive ( had to go back there as that is where I stacked it yesterday), Stag Leap and finish on Skydive again. All good with some soft snow but as policy I am skiing a little slower until this leg fixes.

So the report for those who have not been here since last weekend. Overall the soft powder has not been added to so you are on tracked powder as affected by 3 days of -20 or more temps i.e. dry but a bit chunky.
Cedar Bowl - some of the best snow on the hill if you are prepared to push out on the traverse to the Steep and Deep area. Fish has some good lines with a relatively low avi danger (as I write this, things can change with rising temps) so may be worth a hike.

The Old side triangle - all good with some soft stuff still left off Cedar ridge and if what happened today keeps up some great wind sift in Linda's and Boom bowl.

Lizard bowl - don't ski it much so can't comment but looks pretty well groomed with the bits in between heavily skied.

The Front runs (inc Brain, Secret chutes, Easter etc) all still in ok shape but you will have to rely on blow in to get fresh lines.

Currie Bowl - good blown in wind grooming in all the chutes off the county line.

Timber bowl - still in good shape, hardly touched but will probably be a bit wind affected after today's conditions.

Summary - come to the hill and have some fun but don't expect awesome conditions like last weekend. If you are prepared to look there is still some good stuff but likely to be windsift at best.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 60 happy Groundhog Day

This may come as a surprise to those living outside of Canada or the USA but Groundhog Day isn't just the name of a movie it is a genuine event in which grondhogs are dragged out of their holes (or where ever they live) and if they see their shadow winter is going to last for at least another 6 weeks. Wiaton Willie was pulled out of his slumbers today and the little brute couldn't see his shadow so we are due an early spring although starting temps on the deck of -26 seemed to argue against this.

It was a blue bird day as the arctic high persisted and although afternoon temps did rise to almost -10 it was a pretty cold day with the snow well dried out after three days of arctic conditions. Forecast is for a steady warm up. It seems to me that this year we haven't really had many days of average temps and conditions. We have either had awesome powder, rain and elephant snot or brutally cold conditions giving boiler plate. You expect all of these conditions in BC in January but usually there are a few days of normal weather in between each extreme, this year things have just lurched from one extreme to another with nothing in between.

We went to the Old side and after a warm up down Bear and Sun up hit out towards Steep and Deep on the grounds that the traverse was very had work in the grippy snow so maybe it wouldn't be too tracked. Good idea as a couple of loops through Steep and Deep and one through Gorby ( the shimmy to avoid the cliff as mellow as I can remember) proved. Cedar ridge and King fir were also in pretty good shape with soft deep snow available as long as you were prepared to stay tight on the trees.

The runs back were always through Kangaroo (4 times some soft but mostly icey bumps and best way down onto the cat track now from skiers left) and then Boom/Bear chutes which similarly still had soft. Lunch.

After lunch we went to the New side and just looped -
Decline - Rather more skied over than I expected.
Cougar Glades - Really nice deep snow all the way down, hear that yesterday a guy was pulled out with both his legs bent the wrong way round a tree.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - probably the best snow on the New side with the stuff that had falled into the stream bed in Spinal tap particularly deep and nice to fall line ski.
Stag Leap - nicest of the front runs with more soft and lightly tracked snow than any of the others.
Sky Dive - Final rip of the day in pretty ok soft snow. Bad news was that the leg I injured on Friday just gave out as I landed a jump (it has been geting a bit more problematic as the snow has hardened) I the ensuing wipe out I mangage to traumatise exactly the same part of my right calf as I did on Friday. Managed to ski down but it is now about twice the size it should be and painful - lets hope for an overnight recovery.

No snow in the forecast but a warming trend, perhaps it really will get like Groundhog day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 59 Cold, hard and tough conditions

On the way to the hill today it was -28. During the day it stayed low so that as I got on the Bear Chair late in the afternoon it was about -18 which must have been about as warm as it got (ignoring direct sunlight) although it stayed a bluebird day with angel dust and sun dogs - a typical arctic high.

As it was so cold plus the fact that it was Lynda's first day back from the UK we decided on a two break strategy giving us 3 sessions of skiing. What emerged was that the continuing cold weather had dried out the snow even more so that the surface was now less chunky and actually would pass for powder in certain circumstances. The problem was that on the upper mountain where the base was just more soft snow this was fine but on the lower mountain where there had been the rain crust last week you were alternating between deep soft snow and a slick base - very challenging.

We went to the Old side and had a good start getting Lynda back in the saddle with Bear bumps, Sun up, Boom, Buck shot, Boom ridge, Cedar ridge several ways, and of course Kangaroo each time which illustrated what slick based bumps and heavy soft snow could present by way of a challenge. The snow was surprisingly good, particularly on Cedar ridge and at one time we stood in Cedar bowl for 5 minutes not seeing a sole anywhere in the bowl. By just after 11 we were cold enough and went for a hot choccy break.

Next we went to the new side and had a quick loop through White Pass to test the snow which was also very soft and only partially tracked in Gun bowl and Highline trees. Just had time for a Skydive , Decline and Concussion all of which were approaching powder in places. Skydive as always icey bumps in the top for the first 5 turns or so but then good. It was noticeable that Polar Peak was open so as Lynda wasn't going to ski the final session we had lunch and then I headed off with my hiking pack.

Going up Timber chair for the short final session I noticed White Pass wasn't loading and had closed signs. Further enquiries revealed that there had been a problem with the snow pack and no one was being allowed up. I hit Siberia ridge which wasn't too gnarly in the gnarly section and the lower "terrain park" part of the run was just great snow.

Deciding that White Pass would be closed for sometime I went back to the Old side for a couple of pretty good loops on Cedar Ridge ( it really is powder in there) and Kangaroo ( exit to the cat track left is now certainly the way to go). After a couple of runs thought that it seemed pretty quiet so headed back to the New side.

I was much surprised to find White pass reopened and according to reports it had been closed for only 10 minutes. Still trying to work out why it needed a 10 minute closure apparently for safety reasons ?

Final run was -wait for it - Skydive. This time it was icey bumps at the top giving way to soft snow on terrain. Final section skiers left made a change and provided some fresh tracks.

Hot tub, beer and relax. Temps on the deck dropping like a stone, just gone past -25. Must get warmer sometime.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 58 Back into the freezer

We were threatened with an Arctic high overnight and sure enough it came in with temps in free fall so that by morning we had a typical Arctic high bluebird day with the temp falling to -28 on the way to the hill but rising to a balmy -27 when I got there.

Today was always going to be a short day as I had to drive to Calgary to pick up Lynda from the airport on her return from the UK. The flight was in the air and early as I left for the hill so by a process of count back I worked out that I had to leave the hill by 11 at the latest to get to the airport on time.

With a high chance of frostbite it was a day for no skin to be exposed, 5 layers under the ski jacket, inner and outer gloves with hotshots, two pairs of thermal long johns and the fleece balaclava - nice and toasty but not very flexible.

The effect on the snow of the low temps was to dry it out and make it very chunky and heavy. After two days of being able to take it easy and just let the skis ride in powder it was a bit of a shock to find conditions where you had to really focus on what you were doing and have a fair amount of physical input to make it happen. On the plus side the ride up on White Pass chair was in the midst of swirling angel dust and looking back towards the sun there was a perfect sun dog sitting in the valley - I feel so sorry for people who never go to the mountains in these cold conditions and see these fantastic beautiful sights of raw nature.

Just had time for a quick loop back down White Pass to get used to the changed conditions then Decline, Stag Leap and of course a Skydive finish. What a difference a day makes, all were really hard work in the chunky dry snow, but very enjoyable if you like a challenge. Last loop round I saw a couple of patrollers heading for Polar Peak so maybe that opened today, watch this space for a further report.

On the way back from Calgary temps hit -32 in the Porcupine Hills so lets hope that those are not heading this way. It looks like a few days of cold followed by a warm up then a 4 day snow cycle so who knows we could get the first 4 x awesome report ever.

Day 57 Awesome, awesome

You will appreciate that is one less awesome than yesterday which accurately reflects the situation in that whilst it isn't as good as yesterday it is still pretty damned good.

The snow stopped some time in the night and the indication was that we had about 40 cms of fresh in the cycle from start to finish. The forecasters were predictably wrong and we got a blue bird day as the arctic high asserted itself with no new snow but good viz and temps which stayed at -10 at the bottom of the hill and about -15 at the top. By the close it was -16 as we drove off the hill and now is -20 on the deck and still falling.

I decided to try the Old side for fresh tracks which proved to be a mistake. We were all held at the base of Bear for over 15 mins ostensibly for avi control but actually the hill was being skied by the breakfast club (whoever they are) first trax ( may be the same as the breakfast club but I believe they are just people who have paid to get a jump on the rest of us) and about 20 instructors ( well why wouldn't you allow employees to get the advantage of fresh lines over fare paying customers) - the result of which was that the whole of the Old side triangle had been trashed by those who had either paid to get onto the hill or were there by way of privilage of employment before any of the rest of us could get there.

In future I will always take my chances on the New side where you may get bad viz or a rolling opening but at least you know that you get a chance at first tracks you will start on an even playing field that hasn't been tilted by money or favours.

First few runs through Boom were tracked for above reasons and only fresh stuff was in Buckshot which presumably had proved a bit hard for the early starters to find. The push out to Steep and Deep was quite hard in the grippy snow but well worth it for a lightly tracked run down Steep and Deep ( which it was) and a nice ski back through Kangaroo. Bear chutes then off to the New side where I had heard (correctly) that Currie bowl had opened.

The day ( and it was a line up at 8:45, and a finish at 4:05 with no breaks) was then just a series of runs off the New side. No point in trying to describe everything as everything was good.
Siberia ridge - Gnarly section not really gnarly and the lower section just like a terrain park but with deep soft snow.
Knot chutes, Anaconda Glades, Bootleg Glades - a great run off the hill with rather scratchy stuff in the second Knot chute but awesome soft in Anaconda 2 and even better in the tight trees on the left of Bootleg.
High Saddle, Spinal Tap - very scratchy in the Saddle but great skiing underneath and just awesome hero snow in the creek bed of Spinal Tap.
Lone Fir, Spinal Tap - amazing soft lightly tracked snow in Lone Fir with the biggest danger being hit by your own slough and for Spinal Tap see previous remarks.
Cougar Glades - Several times, just perfect powder as long as you held left into the tight trees.
Stag Leap - Twice, good in the trees and better all the way down.
The Brain - a mass of fun in lightly tracked trees at the top and as usual so many ways down in the lower sections that it was untracked both times through.
Decline, Window chutes - soft skied over powder and a nice log drop.
Skydive - at least three times alway straight down the middle in hero snow with crazy lines of free riding, last run of the day best of the lot.

A great day sking. Thanks to Katie and Rob for a great meal tonight. Not much of a report tomorrow as I will only have time for a few runs before driving to Calgary to pick up Lynda on her return fron the UK - good to have her back.