Saturday, December 31, 2011

Day 32 Surprisingly Good

The official information gave us 8 cms in the last 24 hours of which I guess most of it was the grappel storm of yesterday afternoon. Whilst I had some hopes that the storm would make things a bit better, in the event it out performed my best expectations. The base came up to 160 cms which is pretty good. Everyone keeps going on about how poor things are compared with last year's awesome conditions but this is simply rubbish. As a matter of fact at this time last year the base was 147cms and it remained very sketchy going into January - the totally awesome conditions that everyone remembers from last year didn't start until January so as we are a head we should just chill out and wait for more snow.

Temps on the way to the hill were about -1 and during the day it probably didn't get much above zero at the base. Up top it seemed to be about -5 all day and we had light flurries off and on all day which didn't do a whole lot for the base but made us all feel a lot better. Yet again we went to the New Side and yet again reports I got later from the Old Side tended to confirm that this was a good call.

The crowds today seemed less but that may just be because everything opened pretty well straight off the bat (a slight delay on Currie) so bodies were distributed evenly over the hill. Even allowing for that crowds were down on yesterday and my guess is that we will see a steady decline over the next couple of days until we back (almost) to pre Christmas numbers.

The effect of the new snow was to create a fantastic smooth and slightly heavy (but in the best possible sense) base of soft snow that you could push around and treat almost as hero snow. The result was great skiing on the untracked blow in everywhere on the New Side.

Not a lot of point of listing the runs as they were all much the same and great grappel hero snow.

Surprise trees - wonderful snow.
Anaconda Glades - strange opening with the fence down but the signs green so we got first tracks.
Bootleg Glades - as we were first in Currie they were untracked and we had a great run if crunchy under foot.

Later in the day we started working our way out along the low traverse in Currie Bowl and just kept finding great skiing in Concussion, Tom's, Easter bowl, Cougar Glades and all other drops off the traverse.

Later we started working our way onto the front runs and did them all top to bottom for the first time this year and they were -
Cougar Glades - great untracked skiing all the way down, particularly if you kept to the left hand side. Even the lower section was ok with the new snow forming a cushion on the rain crust.
Skydive - Fantastic deep powder in the top, great skiing in the middle section and very patchy alder strewn stuff in the bottom.
Decline - Awesome powder on top and some ok, if a bit tree riddled skiing lower down, the new snow made the crust ok.
Stag Leap - Really awesome tree skiing at the top then just as for Decline for the remainder.

Looks to me like the front runs are just about starting to come into play with even the bottom sections skiable with care.

So it's New Years Eve and it looks like a quiet night and an early start tomorrow in the hope of a quiet hill and maybe even a little extra snow to play with.

Day 32 Surprisingly Good

Friday, December 30, 2011

Day 31 More snow and more crowds

Just like yesterday we had crowds and we had some pretty good snow. Overnight I noticed snow when I got up for a pee and by the morning the official figures were another 8 cms of fresh and a base of 157 cms which seemed about right to me, but the good news was that the snow line was right down to the base of the hill.

On the way to the hill the temps were around zero and when we got there it was a wet icey drizzle (if that isn't a contradiction) at the base becoming light snow on top. This stopped quite soon and we had overcast conditions and no precip except for an incredibly heavy grappel storm towards the end of the day which sent down ice chunks about the size of 1 cent pieces - great fill in material to ski on. By the end of the day it was +2 at the base but still about -2 on top.

Once again we concluded that high was going to be good and just skied the New Side, a decision confirmed by a few buddies who gave the Old Side a try. We had also concluded that the new snow up high on yesterday's snow would be great but the question would be just how much the relatively thin layer of new down low would have improved the crust from yesterday - we were not disappointed.

As has been the habit of late we had a rolling openin inWhite Pass and the snow in Lift Line down from Timber was good powder and remained so all day. Viz at the top was not great so it was a grope down Gun Bowl every time but the powder was so soft it was always easy. When the shoulder of the I bowl dropped we had a crazy powder chase to get fresh tracks back under the chair which was huge fun and well worth while with great face shots.

While waiting for Currie we looped back through Surprise Trees and Triple Trees several times both of which had great sections but also had a firm base ready to catch you out. When the fence dropped on Currie we had a fantastic run thriugh 1-2-3s with face shots all the way down and then a quick flick into Bootleg glades which were ok in the top but a little scratchy lower down. We had noticed skiers dropping in from the far side of Currie and went to investigate.

The Reverse Traverse was closed at the County Line but the low traverse was open. As this is hard work particularly for boards it protected the snow and we had a good run down Concussion and Tom's folllowed by first tracks in Currie Creek and also Cougar Glades left (right had already been taken) before a late quick lunch.

In the afternoon we spent our time in Currie tracking out on the low traverse and getting great drops in the Concussion area particularly after the heavy grappel storm. Second to last run was Cougar Glades again where a far left adventure caused me to hit some submerged hazards and have a big but harmless stack. Final run was Skydive from the top ( totally awesome powder) and then an exit through Decline which was hard work jumping in the covered rain crust.

Spent some time in the bar tonight listening to a bunch of "experts" telling me how you can't access the stuff I skied today in Currie from the low traverse - may God keep them in that way of thinking and as a result keep them out of all the good stuff. Tomorrow could be the ugliest day of the year for for crowds which were pretty bad today but not as bad as yesterday - after that things should start to get a bit quieter. The trend is for cooling with snow next week so lets see.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 30 Crowds, and some strange conditions

Things didn't look good last night as we left the hockey game and it was raining hard, very hard and in addition the Riders had played as bad as I can ever remember and lost 5-3 to the Thunder Cats.

We headed to the hill in the morning in temps of +3 and noted that the snow line was higher up than yesterday - probably around the White Pass base. The official site claimed another 16 cms of fresh with a base of 150 cms which as I have said is probably true at the snow plot half way up Bear but not that relevant to the significant part of the hill that is below this level.

After describing yesterday's Sierra Cement as "Light fluffy powder" the official site had a reality check and described what we had as "Spring Conditions" (in December ?) - the truth is that it was ok powder down to just above the White Pass base and very ugly rain crust below that.

We went to the New Side on the grounds that anything on the Old Side would be mostly in the rain crust which was confirmed but later reports which confirmed the top half of Cedar as good but the lower parts as ugly. We had the perfect storm conditions for crowds with a busy day, the hill hyping how much powder we had and the only good skiing being in White Pass so everything was set for massive crowds at White Pass and we had huge crowds and long line ups right up to late in the day and these were the worst I can remember.

We ripped down from Timber to White Pass and found that the last couple of turns in the fresh powder turned to crust which was an indictation of where the rain transition took place. After a short break to allow the heli bombing to finish White Pass opened and we had a great run back to White Pass in unracked powder through Gun bowl and Quite Right. Next time round we found the shoulder into the I bowl open and we had many loops into Surprise Trees and out as far as Triple trees and back again. Every time we had great fresh powder in the top sections getting a bit crunchy lower down.

They opened Anaconda Glades and we got it just before the main Currie opening and it was spectacular stuff. The ski out on Gilmar Trail was very ugly as it was ungroomed rain crust and the first loop was very tough but later as it got more skied over it was hard icey death cookies but better that it was earlier. With Currie open it was a must to try 1-2-3s which were good soft deep new snow all the way down and even some untracked if you looked hard enough.

We noticed from 1-2-3s that the Reverse Traverse was open so next time round we headed out that way. This area had been closed yesterday so that there was over 30 cms of new snow to hit today. All afternoon we just worked our way out further each loop from Concussion to Currie Creek getting early tracks in very deep snow all the way across. Skier traffic beat in the lower parts so that exits were ok if a bit crunchy. Gilmar Trail remained slick and/or crunchy all day.

Only let down was a hike up to Lone Fir which I had been told was open only to find it closed. The chute back into Currie was steep and untracked and almost made the hike up worth while. While I was up there I hit Cougar Glades which were awesome for about 80% and totally untracked but as ugly as a bears ass for the other 20. This decided me that the whole Skydive area was worth avoiding until the next snow.

Last run down Currie Creek was tracked but very deep and well worth it. Skied all day today 9-4 with no break so early night.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day 29 a real work out

Overnight temps rose as forecast and we heard rain beating on the tin roof of the deck. As we drove to the hill we could see that the snow/rain line was about half way up the hill and the official boards were claiming 18 cms of fresh and a base of 135 cms both of which were probably true at the measuring plot which is about half way up Bear. We concluded that most of the Old Side would have been beaten up by the rain so the best (almost only) good skiing would be off the New Side.

First problem of the day was that they seemed to be short of staff at Timber so there was no one to organise the line and chairs were going up with only 2s and 3s on when there was a huge line up - not good planning. White Pass was closed but as nobody wanted to risk a run back to the base in the light rain we all stood around until about 10 when loading started. The rip down to White Pass had confirmed that the snow was going to be heavy Jersey Cream at the best with no real powder.

We had a partial opening on White Pass which was socked in at the top and the run through Gun bowl was heavy untracked which was hard work. Quite quickly the rest of White Pass opened and we had many runs down through Surprise Trees moving further out into the boonies each time to get frsh tracks. Most of the undergrowth was now covered and we had good heavy first tracks all over the area. By late morning we had worked our way quite a long way round the shoulder and were dropping on to Trespass Trail only a little past Bootleg Glades. The combiation of the busiest day yet and the very limited good skiing meant that the crowds were huge and ugly for a while but died away quickly after lunch - the heavey snow took it's toll.

At this point they opened Anaconda and we had two good runs to the bottom through the near Anaconda chutes which were kicking out a slough that almost took you out. On the way to the bottom we ran the near chutes on Bootleg Glades nearside and had some ok stuff but very very heavy and the Gilmar Trail was no better. As I said it was a real work out.

In the afternoon we did a bit more of the same and then Currie bowl opened but was closed at the County Line so you couldn't get any further than Currie Powder except for a cut into lower Concussion just at the end. Just like everywhere else it was heavy creamy, great fun when untracked and always ready to rip your ACL if you didn't pay attention.

Later in the afternoon we moved into 1-2-3s and found the best snow of the afternoon, particularly the untracked stuff in 3s. Final run was a great rip through 1-2-3s followed by a drop of Diamond Back Ridge which was ok for the first time this season if a bit testing in the lower section.

Just off to the Hockey (go Riders go) and then an early night. Even though temps are around +4 the hill is calling for up to 20 cms tonight so who knows what we will get.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 28 Awesome

Yes, after 27 days skiing we get one which qualifies as awesome from bell to bell. Apparently we only had another 10 cms overnight but it seemed a lot more, the base was up around 115 cms and the temps were sitting at about zero at the base and -5 up top for most of the day. Off and on we had flurries all day and they were continuing towards the end of the day as we left the hill.

We went to the New Side and lined up well before opening to get early tracks. We were rewarded with a prompt start and a great rip in powder down Lift Line to White Pass. Even better White Pass was open although Currie was closed as was the ridge at the entrance to the I bowl. This allowed three or four runs back through the Gun Bowl and the Quite Right area to totally trash the powder before the fence dropped on the I bowl.

We headed out to Surprise Trees and got about third tracks which meant plenty of deep untracked snow which was so good we almost missed the ski out into Silver Lining. After a couple of loops going further each time to find better untracked snow they dropped the fence in Currie.

Lynda dropped early and got almost fresh tracks in Concussion but I headed out to Cougar Glades and had to cut the first tracks out there. Cougar Glades was just awesome untracked powder all the way down and even the ski out below the trail was starting to get ok. Next time round was Easter bowl which had only been lightly used and was great powder all the way down.

We spent some time on the New side trying lots of stuff -

Mitchy Chutes - mostly untracked and deep
Easter bowl again - just as good as the first time
Anaconda Glades - hike the hump and it was deep and fresh in chutes
Bootleg Glades - dropped early before the main chutes and had great skiing in the tight tree chutes.
Concussion - again, many great untracked ways down.
1-2-3s - good powder all the way down and some untracked stuff to be found round the edges.

We went for lunch and were surprised to see how crowded it was at the day lodge as the parts of the hill where we had been skiing had been pretty quiet considering this is the major holiday week.

After lunch we went to the Old Side and found Cedar high traverse was closed. With this in mind we had a few runs down Cedar Ridge which was deep and soft but fairly well tracked. Late afternoon a break down in the Haul Back lift decided us to head back to the New Side for a finish. This was not before we had dropped lower Kangaroo twice and found a lot of deep untracked snow.

On the New Side we got word that the Saddles had opened but a quick look into Corner Pocket with all the tires exposed convinced me that there was better finish. I think I was right as the top of Skydive was all of todays fresh on top of yesterdays mostly untracked deep powder that was there already. The result was the first real straight line powder rip of season in the top section of Skydive. The cut into the lower section of Decline proved that things there had improved a good deal since yesterday and it was totally skiable with care as long as you were prepared to jump round some of the small Christmas trees.

Good beers afterwards. hot tub and relax. temps are still around zero and with a lot of precip in the forecast there has to be a worry that we are going to see rain in the next 24 - hope not.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 27 the crowds start - but not too bad

You have to understand that by crowds we are talking in Fernie terms, not European. This means that whilst the numbers were up today there were no lift lines and only once did we have to share a 4 person chair, as I said crowded is a relative term.

Temps were about zero as we reached the hill and -5 on top. That might have got a degree or two warmer at the base but stayed nice and cool up high. There had been a dusting of 2 cms new and the base was 111 cms. We went to the New Side not because we thought the skiing would be great but because on a busy day the New Side is usually less congested first thing.

The new snow had just freshened things up a bit and the wind had obviously been in play as there were a few swept areas and some wind sift in the dips. We did much the same as we have been doing for the past few days and Lift Line with a right cut into Big Bang was a very nice way down to White Pass base.

We tried a loop back through Surprise trees and found that the traverse had deteriorated a bit but when you got there the Surprise Trees had improved yet again and were some nice soft snow on the old base. I only went out there one again a fair bit later in the morning and this time hiked the hump in Anaconda Glades and put first tracks in the second chute which didn't look like it had been skied at all in the new snow and was knee deep powder in places - awesome.

For the rest of the time we looped out along the reverse traverse taking whatever was on offer. There was some great stuff in the near Concussion chutes and Alpha Centauri but going further into Severe Concussion things got even better. We did this several times and it was always good.

We had two drops through Easter bowl which were both good soft snow particularly in the top if a bit hard and bumpy low down. Best snow was in Cougar Glades which had sifted in and was , as near as I could see, untracked, except by Lynda's head half way down due to a moments inattention. After all this we had a deliberatly late lunch to avoid the post Christmas crowds.

We had intended to go to the Old Side in the afternoon but we were so late we didn't want to risk finding it was no good and having to come back to the New Side and risk missing most of the afternoon particularly when we knew the New Side was so good. So we spent the afternoon doing what we had done all morning and it was just as good.

Final run was rip down the top of Skydive which was still just awesome deep powder and a little less twiggy than in the past few days. Even the bottom section of Decline had improved so it was just gnarly with some interesting pitches between the bushes.

A few beers in the bar and my buddies have arrived from Vermont. The slightly worrying thing is that after a 24 hour snow cycle that may produce up to 10 cms of fresh there is still some wet stuff in the outlook to follow - one day at a time.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 26 a nice Christmas present

Merry Christmas everyone. We weren't so sure last night as we turned out of a friends house quite late to find it raining. As we drove up the Cokato Road towards our house things cooled down to -1 but all night the temp was right on the edge.

We woke to a light covering of snow and got to the hill in temps of around zero at the base and reports of 8 cms of new snow. As the Old Side had been so rough and by tradition we only ski a half day on Christmas Day we decided not to take risks and went to the New Side. Later conversations in the locker room seemed to indicate that the Old Side ( particularly Cedar bowl) was ok.

The extra 8 cms made all the difference and there was almost no one on the hill. The tradition here is to ski Christmas afternoon if at all so we were able to grab first tracks pretty well any where we went.

Lift Line - first tracks and nice soft snow filling in the lower section.
Big Bang - first tracks and the new snow sitting nicely on the old soft.
Mitchy Chutes - a couple of tracks in front of us and like Big Bang
Surprise Trees - first tracks and now skiing much better and less chunky
1-2-3s - scratchy in 1's but good all the rest of the way down
Cougar Glades - had to cut the traverse out above Currie Creek but were rewarded with great first track tree skiing.
Concussion chutes - loads of untracked options with the new snow sitting on yesterday's windsift giving a smooth deep ride.
Easter bowl - first tracks first time round and Lynda reported second tracks when she went there next time. The new snow seemed deeper here with nice floating powder.
Stag Leap - the new snow has totally repaired the upper section and for the first time this year we continued through the bottom section which is still pretty twiggy and hard work.
Skydive - just awesome first tracks with the new snow on top of the great powder that was already in there. Exit via lower Decline was bit easier than yesterday but still having to jump round a lot of small trees.

By the time we were leaving the crowds were arriving (still no lift lines or anything like that) and the snow was starting to feel a little rubbery in the +2 temps. A great Christmas Day.

Temps still hovering around at the point so we can't be sure whether this precip event coming our way will come down as white or wet. Pray to the Griz.