Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 77 An ugly busy day but a short one

Today was always going to be one of the busiest days of the year being the Saturday of Alberta family weekend. Add to that the reports of awesome fresh snow over the past 7 days and the forecast of bluebird conditions and a daytime high of a mild -2 and the inevitable consequence was more people on the hill than I have seen at any time this year and that includes the Christmas break.

On the plus side the starting temps were -20 which kept a lot of people off the hill early and I had to go to Calgary to pick up my Irish sailing buddies from the airport so I was only going to be able to ski until about 11:30. By the time we left the hill the crowds at the Bear chair were ugly and I wasn't that unhappy to be leaving.

The reason the Bear was so busy was that it accessed the only significant untracked powder on the hill. As I hinted at in yesterday's report there was only one place to go. Of course I didn't say where it was but anyone with half a brain cell could work out that Snake Ridge and beyond from the top hadn't been touched for two days and would be totally awesome - it was.

With the limited time available we only manage two trips out before Bear became impossible. First time we hit Steep and Deep, Lynda from the Redtree side and me from the steep Gorby bowl shoulder. Both were thigh deep and totally awesome. Next time round I went into the Poppa chutes in Fish bowl using the Redtree cut out and Lynda took Redtree along the fence, again totally awesome.

After that it was just a few return loops through Kangaroo, Boomerang, Boom ridge, Cedar ridge, all of which were ok skiing and would have been described as something much better if it hadn't been for the incredible skiing we have had over the past few days and this morning.

Crowds were so ugly that I was actually pleased to be heading home by noon in order to drive off to Calgary. Forecast is changing and the base which is now down to 292 cms should be up above 300 sometime next week.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 76 Awesome red hot Currie powder

It turned out that the 24 hour snow fall was 25 cms giving us 78 in the last 7 days and the base has risen to 298 cms so it looks like the 3 metre party will be delayed until the next weather cycle that is due to hit us early next week. There was no significant snow overnight and today was a fairly clear day with good sunshine at times, temps starting at -10 and getting up to -2 at the base during the day. Things stayed clear tonight allowing for heli bombing of all the ridges so everything should be open tomorrow and as we lay in the hot tub drinking beer this evening it was -12 under clear starry skies.

We went to the New side on the grounds that Currie bowl was more likely to open than Cedar High Traverse and therefore we would get significant fresh powder ahead of the Old side. As we rode up Timber we had been told that White pass was closed but word came over the radio that it was opening and by the time we reached White Pass it was green. Only the White Pass core was open at first but even that was pretty good filled in powder from yesterday afternoon. There were a few more people around due to the start of Alberta family weekend but not too bad with lift lines only a couple of minutes at worst.

They opened the rest of White Pass keeping Currie bowl and Anaconda closed and we had several good runs taking the Knot chutes ( second chute really deep as was Jim) and the Surprise trees getting fresh tracks each time as we moved further left ending up well into Triple Trees. Late morning they dropped the signs on Currie and the race was on.

We only had the low traverse but took it out to Skydive to find two tight tracks on the left but the main part mostly untracked with yesterdays 25 on top of all the rest this weeks deposits. Rob, Lynda and myself just staright lined it in thigh deep powder all the way down in what was the run of the season so far and well into the top 10 runs of all time ( and I have a lot of time on the clock). Next the Brain which only had one track in it which we quickly lost after the first turn then it was deep untracked powder in the trees all the way down to the cat track.

With first tracks gone the rest of the morning was spent getting early tracks with some untouched stuff in Decline, Stag Leap, and Window chutes (all deep and awesome) before heading for a late lunch.

After lunch we went to the Old side to see what was open and most importantly if Cedar High Traverse was open to allow access beyond Snake ridge - it wasn't. We traversed as hard as we could which included a tricky crossing of the Gorby cliffs and ended up in lower Steep and Deep. The snow was awesome thigh deep powder but we had given away so much vert to get there it was all over too soon. Looking up we could only imagine what it will be like when the upper traverse opens.

In a nutshell the juice wasn't worth the squeeze so we went back to the New side where we completed a great drop of Cougar Glades where untracked lines could still be found if you cut the trees tight. Last run down Skydive was not as good as the earlier fall line rip but still pretty good to finish one of the top 10 days of powder, ever.

Off to Calgary Airport tomorrow to pick up my Irish buddies so I guess I will only have time for about two and a half hours skiing in the morning but given the satisfactory results from this evenings heli bombing there will be only one place to go and it should hold up even under this weekend's crowds until I have to leave the hill - let's see.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 75 Puking snow all day

About 3 in the morning I got up for a pee and noticed that it was not snowing, about 5 I got up for a glass of water and noticed it was snowing pretty hard. When the alarm went off at 7 it was still snowing hard as it did up until about 3 in the afternoon with the fall rate at times having to be at around 5 cms per hour. The initial report from the hill was 5 cms of fresh and a base of 280 cms, wouldn't surprise me if we didn't get to 300 cms during today in which case the 3 metre party is due in the Griz bar tomorrow night when we will all get incredibly drunk - try and differentiate it from any other night if you can.

It was so socked in that we thought that and Old side start in the Old side triangle would be the right way to go. As we lined up at Deer we were told that Bear and Boom would be a half hour opening so we immediately headed for the New Side. Amazingly not only was White Pass running but everything on this side of Currie bowl was open. Everyone seemed to have used up their favours at work yesterday to get the morning off to ski so as a result there were no crowds around with about 20 of us lined up at Timber for first turn.

We decided to take the Idiot Traverse out towards Surprise in the hope that Anaconda was open but with not great expectation. We were over the moon when we found that Anaconda was open and that we (Me, Nick and Lynda) were the first three there in what by that stage must have been about 20 cms of fresh snow on top of the 30 that had fallen over the previous two days. Hard to describe just how awesome the first tracks down Anaconda and Bootleg were where we were able to surf our massive sloughs all the way through the trees.

After that we spent all morning tracking out to either Anaconda/Bootleg or dropping Surprise, initially cutting back tp White Pass but later going further out and running Triple Trees all the way to the base. With the impressive fall rate all tracked stuff was filled in and untracked stuff was just getting thigh deep. Late morning for a change we hit Siberia ridge which by that time was an untracked terrain park of deep rolling fluff.

Next time round White Pass had been closed due to stability problems so we went to the Old side only to find that loading had been stopped on Bear and Boom for the same reasons - time for an early lunch. After lunch, not trusting what White Pass may throw up we went to the Old Side for the afternoon.

Maybe Dougie was right yesterday and the best snow was on the Old side as there certainly seemed to be more snow of a slightly stronger consistency which gave the best powder skiing I can remember for several years. We just rolled all over the Old Side skiing several times, Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's (including Linda's private parts) Cedar ridge several ways, Buckshot, King Fir and of course the usual return through Kangaroo. Even hit the trees and log rolls between Boom ridge and Cedar Trail for the first time this season and the trees on the skiers right of Haul Back (really steep and deep) for the first time ever.

Everywhere was the same, awesome, awesome deep powder where you could wind up the speed to the point where you were just flying (I mean it really felt like you were flying) and then just float down with a series of face shots. The Austrians say that there are two great sensations in life and one of them is skiing in powder snow - the Austrians are right.

A totally awesome day where Currie bowl and Cedar high traverse never opened. This means that with things settling down then if they can bomb the ridges tomorrow then we will have just as much again fresh powder just waiting for us. Time for bed and to dream of another powder day tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 74 another 15 cms and an awesome day

Overnight we had another 15 cms of fresh on top of what we had already had giving us over 30 cms of fresh in the last 48 hours and a base of over 275 cms so looking at the forecast there may well be a 3 metre party sometime next week. The problem was that this time it snowed in the town as well so everyone knew we were on for a great powder day and as a result everyone turned up at the hill. Matters were made worse by the fact that they were still heli bombing the ridge lines when we arrived so the Old side was closed until the results were assessed and on the New side only Timber chair was open at first.

We took an initial run back through Siberia ridge which was like a great fluffy terrain park in the bottom section with plenty of untracked lines. We then waited about half an hour at White Pass for it to open but when it did everything (Knot Chutes, Anaconda Glades, Currie bowl, the County Line) I mean everything except the Saddles was open - awesome.

Not much point in going through the day run by run as we stayed on the New Side and just tried anything and everything all of which was good. So good in fact that I skied through with no break (except a minor yellow snow break) and got in a solid 7 hours uninterupted powder skiing. A buddy in the bar said that the Old Side was pretty awesome which I am sure it was but I will leave that for tomorrow when hopefully the Cedar High traverse will be open. Highlights of the day included -

Arriving at the top of Skydive first thing with Rob and Lynda to find it totally untracked and hitting it me on the left, Rob on the right and Lynda down the middle - awsome.

The Brain untracked so that you could fly the big rolls in the middle section without having to slow down.

Lone Fir with Rob decideing to cut into One Step Beyond with me because it was scraped out and I was in untracked powder.

Spinal tap that had filled in so deep that you had top drop your skis into the fall line to keep going.

Decline into Window chutes where you could more or less straight line Decline and hit the log drop looking for maximum air.

The 6 diamond drop with Knot chutes, Anaconda Glades and Bootleg Glades where all over the biggest danger was being barreled out by your own slough.

Many, many more runs all over the New Side all of which were excellent in deep powder either untracked or only lightly tracked.

A great finish where me and a buddy Randy hit the far side Knot chutes ( he took Slim and I took Jim) then a skate back to White Pass for the final rip down Skydive where both of us spent more time with our skis in the air than on the ground.

Right up there as a great day followed by too much beer, hot tub, more beer and then relax with beer. Time for bed and to look forward to the next day or two which promises more snow.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 73 Fresh snow + no people = one good day

And that was how it was today. Lets start with the facts. The forecasters called for a snow rain mix overnight but in the event it just rained in the valley all night long. The encouraging thing was that the temps on the deck were always in the +1/+2 range so that the suspicion was always that there would be good snow on the hill. As day dawned it became apparent that the the snow/rain line was very low on the hill and that for the most part the precip had come down as snow over most of the hill. Official reports gave 15 cms of fresh and a base of over 260 cms so we headed to the New Side to take advantage of the fresh overnight snow.

The snow was quite heavy with a lot of moisture but still pretty ok. We did a quick loop in White Pass which was restricted by avi closures but two loops confirmed that even in slightly socked in conditions everything was ok but a bit heavy with poor viz. Suddenly all the sign lines dropped and we had Timber, I Bowl, Knot Chutes, Anaconda, Currie bowl and the County Line available to us at a stroke.

In the heavy snow we had a couple of abortive attempts to get out to Anaconda before we hit on the idea of dropping the Knot chutes (awesome) then taking a high traverse for first tracks in Anaconda (awesome) and the then hitting the tree chutes in Bootleg (awesome, awesome) all in all a good call.

After that the pattern was set and we headed out on the County line ducking into Cougar Glades, The Brain, Concussion and Currie Creek before finishing for lunch on Stag leap. All were awesome and un tracked due to the lack of people on the hill. When was the last time you lined up for a powder day and only had 6 people waiting with you at first turn at Timber Chair.

Aternoon it started to puke snow so much that viz was a problem and I just cycled all the new side runs, Window chutes twice ( log drop off has reached the stage where you are acually doing things to make it more rowdy) went to Lone Fir but as it had been skied hit the two chutes beyond (one step beyond ?) where it was steep deep and un tracked.

After that with the snow building up so quick you were getting first tracks in runs you had already skied yourself it was Cougar Glades, Secrect Chutes/ Spinal tap, a quick run back through Siberia Ridge (the terrian at the bottom just awsome).

All day we had to contend with a rain crust band on the lower mountain which was always a bit testing everytime you looped through the base sections. Heard a few moans in the locker rooms about this but to be honest it wasn't much of a problem and you just had to suck it up as a price of getting the good skiing.

The final rip through Skydive was just spectacular with a ton of fresh effectively giving you untracked powder all the way down on last run of the day, we flew it with what seemed like super human powers (a quote from a ski DVD) for what was probably the run of the season so far.

Puking snow as we left the hill - hoping for an awesome day tomorrow and with deck temps of - 1 this could just be the case.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 72 Not another track in sight

First just to start I got the info on why Lone Fir was close yesterday from a patroller buddy. After they had cleared the Saddles they tested Lone Fir and found that there was considerable air under the surface so that the solution was an explosive charge which by that time couldn't be done because there were so many people on the hill, result the chute was closed to be on the safe side, so the question is answered.

Todays report will be of little or no use to anyone wanting to find out what conditions are like for inbound skiing at Fernie as I hardly did any - more of which later. Hope this clarifies the arguement that seems to be going on a number of other sites about the validity of my blog, roughly the positions are that the official sources don't like it as I don't toe the official line and the real skiers who want to know what's happening think it's quite useful. If you agree tell a friend.

As forecast the day broke overcast but not all that cold (-2) and warmed steadily until by the middle of the day it was +7 at mid station on the hill. Luckily the precip held off and as a result the conditions on the hill held up much better than you would have expected with only slight softening at the base which shouldn't set up too badly as it cools.

Working on the basis that yesterday the Old Side was closed most of the day and today showers were forecast for the afternoon (thankfully wrongly) I figured that it would be a good plan to go Old Side in the morning and New Side in the afternoon. So off to the Old side and a drop down Steep and Deep which wasn't all that steep or deep but was ok skiing. A return through Kangaroo which was back to it's icey, ugly, tufted, lumpy self and all the better for that. Boom Ridge and Boom were both full of soft bumps filled in with blow in and great soft skiing.

Next time round I hiked Fish bowl, ducked the out of bounds fence and skied all the way down to the bottom of Fish bowl in totally untracked deep powder, followed by the usual hike out to Red Tree road to get back to Haul Back. This was much enlivened by a female moose who was hanging about on the trail and didn't take the hint to go until about half way through the morning.

That was it for the day for me. Six, or possibly seven loops through Fish bowl top to bottom - I can't quite remember how often. There was one other guy going out there (I guess from the tracks as I never saw him/her) and each time we each went one bit further before dropping in so that all day I had fresh untracked snow never crossing another track all day. By late afternoon I was just on my own ( hadn't actually seen anyone out in the bowl all day) and finished with an amazing run off the steep chutes in the middle of the bowl which were very deep untracked snow in the gullys. I know it's risky but it is a matter of judgement and to me there is nothing quite as nice as as sking way out of bounds in fresh snow with no one with you or near you - but you must weigh the risks carefully.

Runs back were always through the (ugly) Kangaroo and (nice) Boomerang with the occasional flick down Boom Ridge by way of a change. Totally knackered at the end of the day by all the hiking but just time to get across to the New Side to link up with buddies (Rod and Joy) for a last blast down Skydive which was beautiful and soft but, horror of horrors, tracked, which was a bit of a shock for me after the day I had.

A totally awesome day, possibly one of the best ever but due entirely to conditions that existed outside the resort boundaries. Temps cooling and some precip in the air, could be in for a half decent few days of heavy snow low down and ok stuff on top.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 71 a much better day than I expected

Overnight temps rose amazingly to +7 but fell back to about +2 by morning which was a great contrast from the forecast -5 which we had been promised. Not much precip but the weather feature of the night was wind, tons of it. We had power outages at the house due to falling trees and the news on the radio this morning was about power outages all over the Elk Valley for the same reason. Arriving at the hill we were told that the Old Side was down due to a tree having fallen on one of the power cables - a pattern was starting to emerge. During the day several fallen trees were to be seen on the hill.

With the decision taken for me I went to the New Side - Lynda was taking the day off due to a severe attack of the Fernie flu which everyone seems to be going down with. The conditions showed severe wind damage but when you got into it the surface was great flat windgroomed soft snow pretty well everywhere you looked.

A quick run back under Lift Line and then the White pass chair confirmed just how good things were, really good. After that it was four loops of Knot Chutes ( great blow in powder) Anaconda Glades (awesome wind grooming) getting fresh tracks each time by going one chute further and Bootleg Glades, again awesome wind grooming in the trees.

Next was a traverse across the top of the Knot chutes ( third chute drop off a bit rowdy) and then first tracks in Gotta Go which was predictably steep and deep all the way down. Going out on the County Line I ignored the Saddles which still didn't have enough fresh to look attractive to me and hit Cougar Glades which were yet again untracked blow in and well on the way to awesome. Last run before a late lunch was to be Lone Fir but hiking the ridge I found it closed which was strange as everything else around it was open. Made do with a great rip down Skydive which was soft and easy, if a bit scratchy in the final section.

After lunch went back to the New Side although half way through the afternnon word came that the Old side was up and running. Not going there could have been a mistake as everyone who did reported great skiing in the Snake/Steep and Deep area. I satisfied myself with The Brain, Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap, Window Chutes, Stag Leap, Cornice Chute and of course the final rip down Skydive. Not much to say as all of these were just like everywhere else with great wind groomed blow in providing untracked powder in most places. Once again a hike up to Lone Fir proved to be a waste of time and i must find out what was going on there.

All in all an excellent day against all the odds. One more day of these unseasonably warm temps before the mercury starts to fall tomorrow night and with any luck we go into a weather cycle that could produce some more of the white stuff