Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 25 and I'm getting worried

What I am getting worried about is the changing weather conditions which I fear may cause problems but more of that later. My worries started last night when we got back late evening at a time when the forecasters said it should be serious minus temps only to find that it was only -1. During the night I could hear the noise of water on the tin roof by the front deck which is usually a sign that either it has been raining or the snow is melting. In the morning there was no rain but on the way to the hill the temps were +2.

When we arrived at the hill there was no new snow and the base was hanging on at 103 cms which was amazing considering the conditions over the past few days - perhaps there are good commercial reasons for keeping the base figure above 1 metre in the week before Christmas break.

Having done my bit by going to the Old Side yesterday I felt that I could spend today on the New Side with a clear consience particularly as it was Christmas Eve. The strange thing was that the crowds were still staying away, the parking lot was almost deserted this morning and the hill was just as quiet as it has been over the past few weeks.

The temps stayed a low plus temps at the base all day and about -4 on top with the top of White Pass totally socked in. The forecast had been for flurries but none really materialised so that we had some ice balls up top later on and drizzle low down.

Just like yesterday we spent all the time looping out along the Reverse Traverse and dropping off into various Currie Chutes - Concussion, Tom's Easter Bowl, Cougar Glades etc. There was less wind sift today but just like yesterday the skiing was ok on top and hard and bumpy low down. To break up to routine we did loops back to White Pass via Surprise Trees, Quite Right Trees and all points in between. The toughest bit was the Gun bowl each time because the light in there was totally socked in and it was braille skiing all the way down.

Last run before lunch and before close of play each time was a drop down the top section of Skydive then a left cut into Decline to ski out on the lower section. The top of Skydive remains awesome deep powder still mostly untracked but a bit twiggy. The lower part of Decline was a bit like a sale lot for Christmas Trees but as long as you paid attention and jumped your turns in the gaps it was actually quite good fun.

My worries relate to the forecast. For some time we have had precip in forecast for most of next week. That precip was snow with low temps but now (just as I said some time ago) the forecasters are revising their temps upwards and the precip is now called for as a rain/snow mix. My worry is that if things go as they usually do then by next week the revised forecast will be for a few degrees warmer still and we will be looking at a serious rain event. Now the hill has withstood rain before but with this low base I think the results of a major rain event would be nothing short of disasterous.

Keeping my fingers crossed for a nice Christmas present in the form of a fall in temperatures and snow next week.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 24 Saved by the afternoon wind sift

Today had the makings of a day just like the last half dozen or so. The temp on arrival at the hill was -7 and again it stayed cold on top made worse by wind and warmed to just below freezing at the base. With no new snow the base stayed at 103 cms and the 40% chance of flurries called for the afternoon disappeared as the skys cleared and we had a blue bird end to the day.

Skiing was ok up high, slick and crunchy down low with the New Side generally in much better shape than the Old Side. For everything else you could read yesterday's report and I could end things here. That would be if it wasn't for the wind sift that came in on a quite strong and very cold wind later in the day which did change things somewhat.

We went to the Old Side first to test things and found every thing pretty crunchy and difficult. All over Cedar Ridge was hard under foot and Boom Ridge was particularly hard work. Steep and Deep didn't seem to have more tracks than a couple of days ago so I concluded it was still crust and didn't even go to check it out. Having established that the Old Side remained too marginal to be fun with the possible exception of Boom Bowl which was starting to fill in with some wind grooming as we made our choice to try the New Side.

The New Side was just like yesterday with ok snow up on top but as the day went by the blow in wind sift improved the situation by the hour. We just ran out to all the Currie chutes and found that the sift in the top had created great wind grooming pretty well anywhere you went. The exits of course were still rather hard but considering the low base and just how little snow we have had it wasn't all that bad.

The steep chute into Concussion was particular fun with edge to edge jumping required to keep control. All the other stuff (Tom's. Barracuda, Concussion chutes, Cougar Glades, Easter Bowl, and Alph Centauri) were good wind sift for at least the top sections. When the action flagged we dropped back into Surprise trees which was chunky but ok.

Main downer of the day was putting a 6 inch core shot in the base of my good skis on the Reverse Traverse by hitting a submerged rock ( enough sift to hide it but not enough to protect you) and taking a high speed header as a result. Skis are now in with the excellent Gear Hub for repair so it was back to the rock skis and fingers crossed that they hold together for the next three days until the good ones are repaired.

The Polar Peak lift looks like a non starter (quite literally) for the Christmas period. I understand that the inspectors have headed off for their Christmas break and so nothing will be happening for a couple of weeks. I can't be certain as official sources are strangely quiet on the subject so let's see - perhaps they are still working out how to spin this.

In the afternoon I met a few Blog fans who made some kind comments on my poor efforts and we skied to gether for a while. Pleasure to meet you guys, spread the good word. We had a final run through Skydive and Stag Leap but to be quite honest the snow was starting to get a bit tracked up in there and there were very few good powder turns to be had. Still, it had to be tried.

This evening we had our traditional pre Christmas meal in the lounge at Lizard Creek. Most years we have to get there early to get a place, this year we were the only ones there all evening except for a family of 4 which arrived just as we left. Surely it can't stay this quiet. Loads of snow still in the forecast over the next 7 days.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 23 classic Fernie dilemma

And the classic Fernie dilemma that faced us when we got to the hill today was the usual early season one of, go to the Old Side and have poor skiing or go to the New Side and have poor viz. We went to the New Side which proved to be a good call as the ridge line cloud and mist that was the problem lifted by lunch time give some ok if not great viz.

Temps are way back down and it was -9 when we got to the hill, no new snow so the base was down to 103 cms and overcast conditions. The temperature rose a little during the day but with the fairly strong ridge line winds on the New Side (where we skied all day) it felt more like about -15 most of the day.

Just as it has been for the past few days the snow was ok up high but becoming chunky in the lower sections. The ski out on Gilmar Trail has become very icey and thin and I wasn't entirely surprised to see patrol loading a casualty on to the banana to get them off the hill half way through the morning.

Both morning and afternoon we looped out into Currie chutes trying several different ways down Concussion, Toms run, Alpha Centauri, Easter bowl and Cougar Glades. We interspersed these loops with runs down 1-2-3 or Anaconda Glades or occasionally back to White Pass via Surprise Trees. Conditions were exactly as expected with a hard but ok base with some windsift in the upper areas and slabby melt crust in the bottom.

While traversing under Polar chutes we encountered some patrollers who had been given the job of breaking up the wind crust in the chutes in anticipation of the opening of the Polar Peak lift. The comments they made confirmed my view that the skiing up there is pretty ugly at the moment and if the public only used to lift serviced skiing get up there in any significant numbers then it could get rather messy.

In any event the state of Polar peak is unlikely to worry anyone for a while as the smart money is now on the opening missing the pre Christmas deadline, we will soon know for sure.

So in summary it was a tough hard based skiing day where you had to stay on your game for the whole time if you were to avoid any major incidents. Of course if you did stay on your game and enjoy a challenge it was a pretty ok day.

The good news is that in the forecast we have snow, lots of it, starting on Christmas Eve and getting heavier over the next few days. Of course this is only a forecast and a lot can go wrong between now and then but lets keep our fingers crossed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 22 the shortest day

It's kind of unusual for the shortest day to be a bluebird day like today, usually it's overcast and seems to get dark around 3 but with the forecasters calling for cloud and fog it couldn't come out as anything other than pure bluebird.
The temps are well on the way down with a start of -6 and I guess out of the direct sunlight it stayed that way all of the day and was -7 as we came off the hill. No new snow so the base reduced further to 103 cms which is pretty sketchy for this time of year.
Today we went to the hill with a different attitude which I think helped in us coming away with a better view of conditions than we otherwise might have done. Instead of expecting everything to be good we accepted that it wasn't and just went looking for what was good and being grateful when we found it.
We went to the New Side and found that although some of the snow had been packed in ugly by high traffic ( bottom of Lift Line, exit of Easter bowl and the lower parts of Tom's) there was still a considerable amount of ok, if well skied, snow in the upper parts of all runs. Gun bowl was very nice in the sun and runs back in White Pass through Quite Right and Surprise Trees were also good if slightly tough skiing.
Currie bowl was open all the way across as the final chair had been hung on the Polar Peak lift at 7 last night. On that subject the race is on and bets are being taken for the opening of the lift. It appears that if the inspectors can be satisfied before Friday then a pre holiday opening may be on but if not then the inspectors go off on holiday and its mid January before the lift opens - looks like this one is going to go down to the wire.
We spent the morning looping out to 1-2-3s, Concussion (3 different chutes) Tom's, Easter bowl and Anaconda Glades. All were ok skiing with a bit of blow in on a firm base on top and some more marginal stuff lower down.
At lunch I got word that the high traverse across Cedar bowl had been opened so I decided to hit out across it and give Steep and Deep a go - big mistake. As the traverse hadn't been open for several days there was no skier traffic in Steep and Deep and it had not been touched since the snowfall at the end of last week then the big melt down and refreeze. The result was some of the worst breakable crust I have even had to ride which could only be done by hard jumping all the way down which was hard work to put it mildly. We went back to the New Side.
We spent the rest of the afternoon continuing to loop the various parts of Currie bowl we had done in the morning which as there had been no change in the weather was exactly the same as the morning. Final run was a drop of Skydive from the top which from the Decline split was untracked over the knee powder down to the half way trail. The terrain was hard and it was a little twiggy but as good powder skiing as you will find all season. The hike out in to Cougar Glades (the bottom of Skydive looked like a Christmas tree farm) was a bit of hard work but well worth it.
A few beers and then completed my Christmas shopping - and it's not even Christmas Eve, I must be getting organised or something.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 21 Really really beat up

I am not sure if am describing how the hill is at the moment or how I feel having been out skiing it all day, I guess a bit of both. Maybe a little dust on crust overnight but it might just have been some windsift. I went to the Old Side as I hadn't been there yesterday and found very much what I expected. Hard refrozen crud lower down, hard hard skiing up top and groomers that went from hard to slick bullet proof ice. As seems to be happening this year the wind was blowing much harder (and very cold) on the Old side sweeping large areas clear of any soft snow. The problem is that it didn't seem to be depositing it anywhere or at least if it was I couldn't find any. The high traverse across Cedar remains closed because of the avi risk and the poor viz on top suggests that patrol aren't going to be able to to much about it any time soon. I tried all the usual stuff - Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's Cedar Ridge, King Fir etc and didn't find anything that wasn't hard tough skiing. Boom Ridge in particular was at it's icey, chunky, bumpy best (or worst depending on your point of view) and it wouldn't surprise me if I was the only person stupid enough to give it a go today. By 11 I had had enough and headed for the New Side. The New Side was in better shape but nothing to get excited about. The best snow probably was the drop under Timber in Lift Line cutting right into Big Bang or Lazy Locals all the way out and then Big Bang from the top. Spent the rest of the day mooching around the new Side looking for fresh snow without much luck. Surprise Trees and Anaconda Glades were about ok but hard work in chunky snow. Various Currie Chutes and Concussion were all ok in the top although the blow in was very grabby on the ski tips and the lower sections very hard. Easter bowl from the top is starting to get very tracked out and has become quite hard bumps from about half way down. The traverse out to Easter is starting to get tough after the bridge and it is my guess that it is now only a matter of time before there is a major stack there if some shovelling isn't done soon. First sign of the holiday season appeared on the last traverse where I encountered a group of 4 not just standing on the traverse (that's bad enough) but one of them was actually laying across it - I shared my thoughts with them on the subject on the way through. As with yesterday the last run was Skydive top, through the trees to Stag Leap and then out through lower Cougar Glades - still loads of fresh deep snow but twiggy. Things are not looking good with no new snow forecast for a few days and the base now down to 104cms which is the lowest it has been all season and way below opening day. The good news is that they are hanking the chairs onto the New Polar Peak lift some progress is being made there. Still sore even after a long hot tub.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day 20 things are improving

Well maybe things are improving or maybe I am just in a more optimistic frame of mind tonight, what ever the reason it seems to me that today was rather better day.
Last night's snow didn't amount to much (about 3 cms) and the base is down to 107 cms which was pretty well what it was when we started but when we got to the hill there was snow on the trees that generally make things look a bit nicer and temps were below freezing. In fact temps at the base started at -2 and got up to +1 while up the mountain it was minus single figures all day. The conditions were slightly overcast with a cold ridgeline wind which brought the occasional flurries but overall just a firming up of what we have.
I had a feeling that the Old Side was going to be pretty poor ( a view confirmed by a few buddies who skied it) so we stayed on the New Side all day. We linked up with our good buddy Lee who has managed to blag 3 weeks off work and skied together for the morning and some of the afternoon.
The New side was in good shape. The drops to White Pass from timber via Lift Line were all good soft snow and on the couple of occasions we ventured out to Mitchy Chutes we found Lazy Locals traverse actually in better shape than it had been and Mitchy's nice and soft all the way down to the rock band which unsurprisingly you had to negotiate with some edge to edge jumps - all very nice.
The Gun bowl and Surprise trees that we did morning and afternoon were ok. Viz in the Gun bowl was poor but improved during the day and skiing the blow in was fine if you didn't get too shaken by the traverse lines. Surprise itself was a bit chunky but mostly untracked and about on the right side of ok.
The good news today was that they seem to have finished splicing the cable on the new Polar Peak lift and were getting ready to start to hank on the chairs and start running some tests. Opinion seemed to be that it would be running for Christmas week ( assuming testing goes ok) and will then be up for the rest of the season. A bye product of this was that we could ski across to the reverse traverse and whilst I don't want to be a downer I do have to say that looking up Polar chutes didn't really fill me with the desire to take the lift to the top. Let's see how it works out.
Morning and afternoon we looped out and did most runs several time which were -
Concussion - Nice if a little slabby in the top.
Cougar Glades - very nice and soft all the way down where the trees had protected the surface from the wind but the exit is even more sketchy that it has been.
Easter bowl - ok snow all the way down but the wind sift proving a little grabby in places.
Anaconda Glades - very nice blow in at the top but hard lumps of debrise in the bottom.
Decline - Varied, hardish bumps in the top, very tough windslab in the middle and nice soft deep powder down to the trail out to Easter. That trail was much enlivened by a newly fallen tree that forced a detour into some quite tricky stuff on the edge of Easter.
Stag Leap - Last run and the best of the lot. Great untracked deep powder through the trees from the top of Sykdive to the top of Stag Leap. The whole of the top section untracked but a bit twiggy in super deep powder, the best on the hill.
Beers, hot tub with friend and temps falling so at least what we have should stay in good shape. No real precip in the outlook but things can change.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day 19 a significant reduction in quality

Now, to be fair a number of people in the Griz Bar tonight did not agree with my view that things had become pretty scratchy and thought that I was being over critical. That having been said this blog is about my views and here they are.
For the past few days I have made the point that despite deteriorating weather conditions the skiing conditions have held up quite well. Today was the day that the conditions took their toll and the skiing, particularly on the Old Side deteriorated. In summary the conditions on the hill fell back to the worst they have been all season as confirmed by the snow base reducing to 116 cms, almost 20 cms below what it was few days ago. This was further confirmed by the lower slopes showing rocks and bare earth peeking through groomed ice.
Initially when I got to the hill it looked like we had had overnight rain at least on the lower slopes due to their beat up natures. This didn't make sense as from my own observations there had been no precip over night although to be fair these observations were from my hot tub on the back deck while drinking beer and through the blinds of my bedroom window while getting up for a pee in the middle of the night so it would be hard to describe them as scientific.
The explanation was the incredibly warm temps which have been up to +7, been above zero for the past 48 hours and had the effect of melting the snow and base back to the extent described. Despite a forecast of -4 overnight temps on my deck at the start were +4 just as an example.
The Old Side was a mess of re frozen crud up top, heavy mush in the middle and groomers frozen to boiler plate lower down. I suppose the groomers might have been ok but then we don't ski groomers. Not worth listing all the runs we tried in the morning but again the high traverse across Cedar Bowl was closed so we couldn't try Snake Ridge and beyond. Some of the stuff was ok such as Boom Ridge and Boom bowl but even there it was soft to start but hard crunchy ice in the lower section.
The New Side was actually a lot better if only because it was higher. We skied it all afternoon as the temps fell so that by the end of the day even at the base temps were down to zero. The effect was that the snow that had softened during the day was re freezing fast later on. Up top things became a bit heavy and chunky but low down we were back to ice with bare patches on the ski out.
Anaconda, 1-2-3s, Concussion several ways and Easter bowl all conformed to heavy chunky stuff up top and a mixture of refrozen crud and or soft melt in the lower sections. In summary a very mixed day in difficult conditions which were just ugly on the Old side but rather better on the New.
Last run was in snow actually falling up high. By the time we got in the bar snow was falling top to bottom on the hill although it was very wet at the base. In the hot tub on the back deck it was still snowing while we drank beer and temps were down to -1 so tomorrow could hold something quite interesting and the damage to the hill could be on the way to being repaired.