Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 84 warming up a bit and snow on the way

It was cold again last night, down to about -25 in the Elk Valley. The forecast said it was going to be sunny but actually it was overcast with flurries and strong winds which gave huge amounts of blow in and ok soft snow on the down slope wind streams. Things were so bad that todays Freeski competition was cancelled, partly because of poor viz in Polar chutes, partly because surface conditions were really bad and partly because with the wind the wind chill temp was so cold.

We went to the Old side and spent the morning looping Boom, Boom ridge, Linda's, Cedar ridge, King Fir and of course returning through Kangaroo 5 times. Everything was a bit better with the less cold temps making the base a little less hard and the new/blow in snow providing a soft surface. Cedar Ridge was probably the best snow and almost powder in some places. Kangaroo as always was rough tough and ugly, just the way we like it.

Afternoon was spent on the New Side where the conditions were getting totally wild in the high wind and blowing snow conditions. We went out a long the County Line and tried -
Stag Leap - great soft blow in snow getting better all the time
Secret Chutes - much the same as Stag leap.
Spinal Tap - the snow was much softer than you would have thought but a bit scratchy on the exit.
Cougar Glades - by this time the flurries were really starting to fill in and it was the best run through the glades in many days.
Skydive - Final rip which was so much better than the previous two days it was had to credit what a little fresh and blow in could do.

Forecast for warming temps and a load of snow over the next few days, lets hope it delivers before I head back to the UK for a week to check up on things there next Wednesday.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 83 and I thought yesterday was cold

The deck temp this morning was -32 and the conditions pure blue bird skies. The RCR web site reported that the lifts would be starting late due to the temps. My Irish guests lacked the enthusiasm for an early start so we had a late breakfast with French Toast and Canadian bacon and my buddy Rob came round to have coffee, breakfast and plan the day. We went for a little tour round taking in the old cotton wood forest by which time it was gone 12 and the temps had warmed to -20. All my buddies declined but I went to the hill, the lifts had started at 10.

Had a New side (half) day scratching around to see what I could find. The very cold overnight temps had set the base up so the whole hill (or at least the bits I tried) was skiing very ugly. All trips down lift line were a bit of an adventure with the hard tracked up snow, cold muscles and variable light meant you had to pay attention at all times.

The Freeski competition had moved to the Knot chutes which was kind of cool as you could watch a couple of runs each time you went up the White Pass chair. Watching the guys skiing the Knot chutes and hocking off the cliffs and landing in the fall line on stuff that I ski half way cautiously was a good reminder that no matter how good you are there are always those who are one hell of a lot better. As a result I took a couple of loops in White Pass which were ok but the up slope wind drift was very hard and packed in.

The main runs of the afternoon were Skydive, Stag Leap, Decline and then Skydive again. The traverse out was pretty mellow after some great work by the trail crew on Currie Creek shoulder. Skydive was about as tough as I have ever skied it with hard bumps, varied surface and generally just very tough conditions. Decline was much the same but a little better. Stag Leap was the best of the lot probably because the ski in through the trees was pretty challenging and as a result the run was softer and less affected by skier traffic.

A few beers after skiing then off to hockey where the Ghostriders won the first of the best of 7 play off series for the division championship against the Creston Valley Thundercats - go riders go. Temps on the way back were -24 so tomorrow could be a bit of a challenge as well.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 82 back in the freezer

Actually I was told tonight that the average domestic freezer is held at about -15 and as we never got anywhere near as warm as those temps today maybe back in the freezer is the wrong title for today.

We arrived at the hill to -20 temps and although the base may have warmed up a little the mercury at the top of the hill started at -26 and the best figure I saw all day was -21 so all in all a very cold day. All the warning signs said that there was a frost bite danger so predictably a large number of vacation skiers went out with uncovered skin and, surprise, surprise, they got frost bite of the face. I think it was Einstein who said that "there are only two things that are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not that sure about the universe," so true.

We went to the New Side on the grounds that the freeski competition would take out the County Line traverse at some stage so we should get what we could when we could. Conditions were really gnarly, there was a huge amount of wind damage giving hard wind crust lunar landscape, where this hadn't happened the blow in snow was packed and crusted so hard it was real challenge, add to this not very good light which did improve during the day and you had one tough set of ski conditions.

First loop through Skydive confirmed how tough it was with the big bumps at the top swept clean and then hard wind pack all the way down. Did I mention that the cold temps had stiffened up the soft snow and the base to the point where your skis were trying to back seat you all the time? No, well they had. Next loop I tried Easter bowl which had the blow in but still very stiff packed untracked - hard work. It was so cold that two loops were all you could take before heading to Lost Boys for a choccy break.

After the break we had two more loops through Concussion and Alpha Centauri as the Freeski had cut off the traverse. Both were wind crusted at the top and very grabby blow in lower down. Lunch proved a suitable point for all my buddies to abandon me and I headed for the Old Side.

I linked up with my good buddy Rob and we had some good Old side loops using bumps as an effective way of keeping warm. Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Cedar ridge, Kangaroo and Boom again all good but very tough tests in the wind packed, grabby and very variable conditions.

Last run we tracked back to the New Side on the grounds that the Freeski would have finished to do a traditional finish down Skydive. Not that traditional because due to the temps we were about 15 minutes ahead of shut down but we were quite cold. Last rip down Skydive warmed us up but the conditions were such that the few other skiers we saw all seemed to be having a tough time. As it was we had great but challenging skiing all the way down which I guess is how it should be in designated expert terrain.

Out tonight for a meal at the good old Rip'n'Richard's. Overnight forecast for -32 so tomorrow could be an even colder start.

Day 81 another short report

Sorry that the reports have been a bit short of late but I have my Irish sailing buddies staying with me and as a result the time to file a report at the end of the evening is very much curtailed by the amount we are drinking each evening, tonight no exception, normal service will be resumed after this weekend.

Today started cold (-12) and to be honest stayed about the same all day so that by last run White pass was showing about -15 and as we drove out of the car park it was -16 and falling. We had 2 cms of fresh over night and it snowed most of the day but at these temps the moisture content was pretty close to zero so the accumulation wasn't much and most of the new snow came from some pretty strong ridge line winds.

We went to the Old side and found that the effect of the overnight freeze was to harden up the base where it had already been skied. The soft stuff on top had no real effect so you spent the whole day being bounced around by the hard under surface and having real problems in trying to keep out of the back seat - not made any easier by the flat light. We looped Steep and Deep from the Gorby shoulder which was untracked but because of the reasons already mentioned was hard work.

Spent all morning on the Old side in Linda's, Boom Ridge (twice) Cedar Ridge ( three times) King Fir, Boom and Buck shot, in fact all over the usual places in the Old side. Of course there was several (four or five) returns through Kangaroo which as always were tough and icey. Overall the Old side was much the same where ever you went, light fluff on top but with the hard base underneath that was always trying to catch you out. Great fun and a great challenge but not everyone's cup of tea.

After a late lunch I hit the New side and having dropped my buddies just hit out to get what I could.
Surprise trees - loads of wind blown and tougher than you would have expected due to to variable quality of the wind blown snow.
Sky Dive - Big hard bumps at the top then hard chunky snow all the way down which skied great as long as you kept up your speed and bossed the snow.
Stag Leap - Softer than Skydive although the ski in through the trees was a bit tougher. Great lower section down to the cat track
Decline/Window chutes - Much the same as Skydive but with the log drop getting to be not much more than a bump, must try finding a way to liven it up tomorrow.
Skydive last rip - much the same as before.

All in all a pretty good day's skiing but hard and challenging. Tomorrows forecast is for -20s on the mercury but a wind chill warning of -42 for the Elk valley. This could be an interesting day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 80 Skydive untracked, third time in 7 days

Yup, we got first tracks in Skydive yet again but that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves so lets start at the beginning.

Overnight we had snow which was reported as 6 cms of fresh at the 7 o'clock snow plot check but it continued to snow most of the day so it was a whole lot more by last turn. Temps were around -6 and stayed there all day so the snow we had falling stayed in pretty good shape. Conditions were overcast and snowing all day except for the last run when it suddenly brightened up, let's hope that isn't a sign of things to come.

We had a New side day and considering the crowds at the base it was amazing. We got first tracks in Skydive for the third time in a week which is something of a record. Next loop we went into Stag Leap which was also untracked. Third loop was Cougar Glades which were also untracked. Don't know where the people were but sure as hell they weren't where we were and three major runs untracked has to be record. Although things weren't as good as last week they were still pretty good and three untracked major runs speak for themselves.

The rest of the day was taken up with the Brain, Decline, Widow chutes, Loan Fir/Spinal Tap, Secret chutes, Spinal Tap (again) Cougar Glades (twice) etc. In other words we had a great day all over the New side getting fresh or fairly new snow everywhere we went and even though the Skydive traverse was getting a bit technical towards the end it was great fun.

Lost count of all the places we skied but a great day in powder. Possibly more convective cells on the front end of the Arctic high just about the hit us and give us temps right out of the freezer but with a chance of major dumps on the front end of the cycle. We will see.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 79 busy in the parking lot but no one on the hill

Yeah, it was strange today. We got to the hill about 15 minutes late due to having to pick up a buddies skis from town on the way to the hill. We only just managed to get parked in the very back of Lot 2, this being a holiday Monday, but when we actually got on the hill there were no line ups and at least in the parts of the hill we skied no people.

All the weather reports talked about starting temps of -14 but actually it was about -6 when we hit the hill and stayed at about that temperature all day all over the hill. It was sunny to start with but by the afternoon we had cloud and fairly significant flurries which may well give up some good fresh stuff between now and tomorrow morning.

As White Pass had been broken down yesterday and as a result Currie bowl had been close we went to the New side for what we thought would be the best snow. We bumped into our buddy Rob who was on his split shift today and he had skied the Old side and confirmed that it wasn't that good.

We drifted around Skydive, Stag Leap, Decline, Concussion, Cougar Glades, Secret chutes and Spinal Tap. All were good packed in snow taking an edge due to the huge skier traffic this holiday weekend. The best snow was Spinal Tap with the soft snow having drifted into the creek bed making for great soft deep skiing.

In the afternoon it was much the same thing on much the same runs with much the same results. Only deviation was that we went out to Anaconda and Bootleg glades and the snow in Anaconda was still good deep powder, the best on the hill at the moment. Met up with my buddy Randy and hit Spinal Tap one last time and finished witha rip down Skydive which after the big bumps at the top was just awesome soft bumps.

Devastating evening with my Irish sailing buddies and now bed ready for what might be a powder day tomorrow.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 78 Crowds but some good stuff if you know where to look

First the toast we raised to RCR tonight in the bar tonight. On the busiest Sunday of the year they had White Pass chair down all day which meant that at least 25% of the terrain and nearer 30% of the advanced terrain was not available with the maximum high season ticket price place. This of course had a huge knock on effect on the rest of the hill with ugly lines particularly on Bear. Why was this a cause for such celebration ? reason - I lost count of the number of people I heard in the lift lines, locker rooms, day lodge and Griz bar saying that after last weekend when the Old side was down and this weekend with no Whitepass they would never would never come to Fernie ever again. The reason that this is such a cause of celebration for us is that the numbers in future will be way down and we will have the hill to ourselves, a problem for RCR but as they seem to be bent on creating these problems who are we to discourage them.

A bluebird day with no new snow and a starting temp of -15 getting up to about -2 by mid day. We decided to hit the New side on the grounds that the Old side would have been trashed yesterday. With White pass down and promised for 10, then 12, then 2 then not today we did what we could off Timber. Lift Line, Black Cloud, Surprise, Siberia Ridge (particularly good). When it finally dawned that White pass was not opening we went to the Old Side.

As we thought Bear chair was ugly busy but just like yesterday Boomerang was ok, in fact rather less busy than a usual weekend. We had a few runs up and and down Boom, Boom ridge and Linda's and found that just like the New Side there was no fresh snow but good tracked powder which was soft bumps taking an easy edge.

We all thought that the Haul Back would very busy but to everyone's amazement it was even less busy than Boomerang. This was the situation for the rest of the day and to this moment I am at a loss to explain why this part of the hill was so quiet on what was an otherwise ugly busy day. We looped Cedar ridge several times via Kangaroo to celebrate.

After lunch we got word that White Pass was going to stay closed so it was back to the Old side for more of the same - best snow all day was Boom ridge skiers left which remained soft bumps so you could really cut loose top to bottom. End of the day we risked the Bear chair crowds for a traverse out the the area boundary and then a drop down Steep and Deep which was well tracked out but great fun.

Beers with our Irish buddies in the Griz bar afterwards and then more beers at home. A pretty good day given the crowds and the crap lift maintenance.