Monday, December 31, 2012

Day 31 still no snow but the hill stays in ok shape

As I said considering that we have had no real new snow for about a week and in the intervening time we have had the busiest holiday period of the year the hill is in remarkably ok shape. Of course everything has been skied in but there are still places where some soft snow can be found. For the most part it has been packed in pretty well and big bumps are forming but those bumps are taking an edge and not hard and icey as we have had in years past.

This report may be a bit brief as after all it is New Years Eve and there is some serious celebrating to be done. On the way to the hill temps were -10 and during the day they may have risen a degree or two but they remained there or thereabouts for most of the day - it was -10 on the way home. There was no new snow and the base is down to around 210 cms. It was overcast all day despite the forecasts of sunny periods so the light remained pretty flat all day.

As promised we went to the Old Side and poked around to see what we could find. It panned out as -

Sunnyside Shoulder - bumps and some tricky lines on the left. The chutes beyond China Wall were bumpy and a bit twiggy.
Steep and Deep - we hiked out to the fence and found Steep and Deep with soft bumps and some fluff on top. We exited through the skiers right chute which was firm bumps.
Boom Ridge - Bumps with some slick sections where it had been previously groomed
Boomerang - Big bumps in the top and smaller bumps lower down, exit on the Goat Trail was a little sketchy.
Steep and Deep again - as before but we exited through the left chute which was tight bumps between the alders.
Linda's - quite tracked and bumpy but soft on the right.
Cedar Ridge Right - just like everywhere else, bumps taking a nice edge.
Boomerang - found a much better line in the bumps this time which are getting quite big.

We exited on the Goat Trail then went to base for lunch. Every drop from Haul Back top (3 times) we went through Kangaroo from top to bottom. It was very varied and it took me until the final time to work out the best lines in all sections and then it was great.

In the afternoon we tried Polar Peak which was tolly socked in. We had the slowest drop in the whitest conditions of the season yet, it's not often you have to check and send snow down the slope before turning in order to see the surface below you.

We then ripped Concussion, Currie Creek, Cougar Glades, and Stag Leap in New Side loops all of which had a lot of hard packed bumps at the top and some soft stuff low down. The White Pass loop to fill in time was Knot chutes (surprisingly good) and Surprise Trees (getting well tracked) before we headed out to Skydive for the 4 o'clock run. Big bumps in the top getting smaller as you went down until the bottom section was quite mellow.

Beers and a quiet night in for New Year. The crowds today were, as all holiday, evident on the lower slopes and day lodge but missing on the upper hill. Things should start to get quieter from now on in and snow is called for at the end of the week.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 30 more people but still quiet if you know where to go

The light snow of last night fizzled out pretty quick and we had no significant accumulation. Temps on the way to the hill were around -10 and during the day they got up to about -5 before falling back to -9 as we drove home. For most of the day the top of the hill was socked in which gave us some light mountain snow which was a nice skiing surface but didn't really add much to the base which has now compacted down to around 210 cms.

I thought Polar Peak might be open right off the bat as there was a certain lightness in the cloud cover so we went to the New Side and inertia being what it is we stayed there all day - I promise I will be back on the Old Side tomorrow. The crowds were still not as big as I have seen them at this time of year in the past and if you got out to the end of the Reverse Traverse or the the top of the Big Three things weren't really much different from a normal Sunday. That having been said the hill is really starting to show the effects of no snow for a week and high volume holiday skier traffic. Whilst the snow is still nice a crisp and taking and edge and there is still some soft to be found we are starting to see some very big bumps forming all over the hill.

The light at the top of the New Side was very flat and conditions at the top of White Pass very socked in. As a result we decided to do a loop back through Surprise Trees to get ourselves together in some tree shadow. It was pretty good, tracked up but still with some soft berms to surf on the way through. When we got back to the top Polar Peak was open so we decide to give it a go - big mistake, it was like skiing in a milk bottle and we picked our way down to the Reverse Traverse before cutting out to Cougar Glades. I tried the trees very hard right which still had lots of soft but were very tight, so tight in fact I had to cut back left about half way down. We exited through the lower left chute which was a bit technical through the twigs and dead fall but still enjoyable.

After that we just looped the New Side avoiding the Peak -

Decline - still good but with the whole top section now soft bumps. Only the lower pitch as soft snow of any kind. We cut into Window Chutes at the half way stage and had great semi tracked skiing in the trees. The log drop is now about 3 ft and the lower section soft snow but a but scratchy in the final pitch.
Stag Leap - getting a bit technical through thr trees with some slick sections. The run below the trees probably still has the most soft of all the big three.
Currie Creek - as I have said before this tends to be left alone as by the time anyone gets there they are on a mission to go further. Actually it was quite well packed in but gave us good easy bump skiing (well as easy as that kind of pitch allows) all the way down.

As last run before lunch we tried Polar Peak again and found Pappa Bear a little more visible than the time before. We cut out to Skydive and found the bumps in the top bigger than ever but easing off all the way down until the final pitch was just pushing soft snow.

After lunch which was quite late I headed up Polar Peak to see if things had improved - even bigger mistake than the morning as the viz was about as bad as I have seen it all season and I had to grope my way down to the Reverse Traverse. As I was in need of being able to see something I went into the Brain which was a bit tracked up in the top section but still with some soft and untracked stuff in the second section if you played it very tight with the trees.

Next time round amazingly the cloud had lifted when I got to White Pass top and Polar Peak was bathed in sunshine. I just managed to catch the last chair up and went to Baby Bear on the grounds that with the crap light all day all the traffic had stayed in Pappa Bear - I was right and had a fantastic rip down Baby Bear in deep soft snow in perfect light.

As it was so late it was a slog round Trespass Trail to get back to White Pass then out to Skydive for the last run. Skydive remainded bumpy a lot further down than usual but the bumps took a nice edge. Great to meet up with my buddy Rod half way down and now he is in town I expect us to be leading each other astray on the hill.

A good day spoilt only by having to line up for about a quarter of an hour to get in the Griz Bar. Must be the only business that would leave their best customer (ok Tyler maybe second best) standing out in the cold while members of staff by pass the line to go to the bar - can't have members of staff having to line up in cold after all can we ?

No new snow in the forecast for a few days so all we can do is hope the crowds start to drift away.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Day 29 how can so little new snow make such a difference

This is the question we were giving some 3 pint attention to in the bar tonight. Over night there was a dusting of snow, maybe 2 cms. During the day we had more taking it to 5 cms at the most but the effect on the hill was to give conditions reflecting a fall of at least twice the recorded figures and maybe more in places. Needless to say the answers we came up with ranged from the idiotic to the even more idiotic and no one had any real idea of why things worked out the way they did, but they did and we had a great time.

Temps were between -10 and -5 all over the hill and of course as we had snow, things were socked in at the top - everywhere else the light wasn't really anything to write home about. Having had quite a lot of time on the Old Side yesterday we drifted over to the New Side in part to see if Polar Peak was open which it wasn't first thing. It was clear ( or rather not clear) that given the light conditions staying in the tree line might be a good idea.

First run was an untracked Cougar Glades which had surprisingly deep soft on a firm base. Exit was in the left lower chute which was tough edge to edge stuff between the dead fall. Best news was that patrol had shovelled in the dip after the bridge on Skydive traverse and this remained pretty mellow all day.

I have to confess that today proved so much fun that I ditched lunch and just spent all day looping out beyond the County Line and getting great skiing. The log of the day is -

Stag Leap - the new snow made the drop through the trees pretty straight forward and after that the sking surface did give the odd face shot.
Decline - like Stag Leap but slightly more bumped in the upper part but then some of the best skiing of the day.
Skydive - beautiful as usual and ignoring the opinions that Decline is better.
The Brain - it was the first time in there for a few days and there is still plenty of soft in the top section and untracked lower down but it can get a bit technical in the trees.

Polar peak had been closed all morning due to poor viz and now just as the viz got about as bad as it had ever been it was opened. We dropped a wonderful soft Pappa Bear before cutting out to the top of Skydive (where the bumps still look like they have buried VW Beetles) and then dropping into the left of Secret Chutes which were good powder if you took it tight to the trees.

My buddies went for a late lunch but I met up with another buddy and skied on.  We did a Polar Peak loop down Grand Pappa Bear which was bit white and wind crusty on the shoulder so we looped back and had a very nice run down Mamma Bear in soft deep snow. Tthe route to the base was through Cougar Glades again which were tracked but with soft sections then a short left hike into Stag Leap and some great all terrain skiing to the bottom.

We went for a last trip up Polar despite it being socked in and had a very tough ski down Pappa Bear in some of the worst viz of the season - sorry for taking you up there Tekka but I enjoyed it. To meet up with another buddy I had to drop to Trespass Trail and back the White Pass. We just had time for a White Pass loop in Highline trees which by this time were getting very white indeed before heading out for the final run down Skydive.

As always the big S gave us a great soft snow finish with a very excitig rip in the bottom section where the skis spent as much time in the air as they did on the ground. Today was supposed to be the busiest day of the holiday period but it seemed ok to me. There were a couple of brief line ups at Timber but these were more due to mechanical failure or human stupidity than volume of traffic.

Light  coming down as I am writing this - fingers crossed.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Day 28 no new snow but no great crowds

Yup, we had no new snow to speak of overnight but by the same token the hill got busier but not the ugly busy crowds I had been expecting - perhaps the had heard they were charging $6.25 for Kokanee in the Griz Bar.

As I promised we went to the Old Side and had a really good morning. The start was delayed as one of my guests had forgotten her pass and had to go to guest services to get a replacement which was done fast and efficiently - thanks Liz. While waiting we had a rip or two up and down Bear which was fast groomed smooth skiing - not my kind of thing at all.

We hit out to Steep and Deep and whilst it was pretty steep the snow was quite chunky with only a very light covering of new stuff on top of the base. The right chute was packed but taking an edge and the return to Boom Chair via lower Kangaroo was quite fluffy. After that we reassembled the group and spent the morning doing -
Boom Ridge - kept to the skiers right to avoid the groomed section (when will they stop grooming the beautiful bumps out of Boom Ridge) and the snow was soft with some windsift.
 Boom to the Goat Trail - pretty hard packed but the bumps taking an edge.
Gorby Bowl - yes, another long trek out but worth it as it was very lightly tracked. Had to escape the cliff band by a left traverse into Steep and Deep which was as before.
Cedar Ridge right - good tracked powder taking and edge.
King Fir - Just like Cedar Ridge but with deeper snow below the fir itself.
Linda's - really just like everywhere else packed but taking and edge with soft stuff near the trees.
Bear Chutes/Buck Shot - as above

In summary the Old Side was in great shape but with no new snow it was the tracked bumps that made it fun. Best untracked snow was in upper Kangaroo which I did twice and was a bit tricky in the drop on to Cedar Trail. If there were two closed signs in the top as I have been told then I didn't see them.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side for a short session after such a long morning. Polar was running but not loading due to poor viz. Stag Leap was a little slick in the trees at the top but great soft skiing in the run. For a change we tried Knot Chutes ( a bit scratchy in the middle) Anaconda Glades ( surprisingly soft in the second chute with blow in) and Bootleg Glades which were ok hard pack but still pretty twiggy low down.

That of course got us to the final rip down Skydive which reamains tracked but soft for the most part. For the first time I got a bit more air than I intended in the final pitch but great skiing. The whoopdy-do on the traverse by the bridge is getting to the end of it's sell by date. I held it together ok but I can see why a lot of people took one trip out to the Big Three and decided not to take a second - from a personal point of view I hope it stays that way.

Some snow in the out look.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 27 another New Side day

Yes, I hung around all day today on the New Side hoping for a Polar peak opening which never happened. I promise all fans of the Old Side that I will ski over there tomorrow and give my thoughts on what the conditions are like.

It didn't snow overnight or at least they claimed 2 cms which is much the same thing. Temps were a mild - 10 as we headed for the hill and they got warmer all day so that on the drive back this evening we were looking at -5. We had very light snow off and on all day and the very overcast conditions gave poor light. The new snow had added a slickness to the skiing surface with the hard pack underneath firm but taking an edge. Best of all, although the hill was a bit busier, the crowds still haven't showed up and we didn't have to wait in line at any time today.

Some friends from the UK (Steve and Liz) arrived to stay last night so we decided on a New Side day with a possible Polar Peak if it opened which it didn't. How many ways are there to say that we did what we have been doing for the past three days which was for the most part just looping out towards the big three -

Alpha Centauri - hard packed but the smallish bumps taking a nice edge so a good warm up for our guests.
Cougar Glades - well tracked up but some soft deep stuff in the trees, a hard left cut at the bike trail gave us the bottom half of Stag Leap which had a mixture of hard pack in the middle and soft on the edge.
Siberia Ridge - not a trip into Currie but a great run. After the choke it was like a rolling terrain park in soft snow, perhaps the best on the New Side today.
Skydive - big bumps in the top but then just as good as always with soft tracked snow all the way down.
Decline - on my own as the others had gone for a choccy break. The bumps stayed further down than usual but were taking a nice edge. By the lower pitches ther was loads of soft and even some untracked by the side.
Stag Leap - getting a bit slick in the trees in the top but once in the run really fun soft snow/hard pack mix.
Decline - as before, then a very late lunch.

After lunch I just had time to go back to Cougar Glades which skied just like the morning. This time I took the left exit chute which is still very testing with a lot of deadfall but also some great lightly tracked snow.

I did a filler loop through Surprise Trees which still had a lot of soft but some slick sections in the high traffic areas. After that it was of course a finish on Skydive with the whoopdy - do on the far side of the bridge still not shovelled in and proving a disincentive to anyone who doesn't like surprises. After the bumps the snow was still soft and in the final section I suddenly had an attack of the red mist and ripped it as fast as I can ever remember, maybe the old man still has it in him.

No new snow in forecast but who knows what the Old Side will hold tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day 26 where were all the people

We expected the crowds to start today but not so. We got to the hill a little before 9 and found we could park in the second line of lot 2, I can't usually do that on a normal weekday. Theories differed as to why it was so quiet but came down to three main ideas - everyone was hungover, everyone was still driving up from Calgary, everyone had gone over to Lethbridge for the Boxing Day sales to get their big electical goods ( of course declaring them at the Provincial Boarder to pay HST cough cough) but would be on the hill tomorrow. For my part I was happy just to get a quiet day.

Temps were cold at around -13 at the base and stayed that way during the day although an inversion with temps up to -8 at the top developed during the day. The hill were claiming an extra 4 cms of snow but I couldn't see it, to me it was a light dusting with maybe a hoar frost layer forming on the surface. Where there had been skiing the hard pack was firm but taking and edge with the surface a little slick, where there was untracked snow it was chunky but still ok, if hard work.

We went to the New Side and had a run back through White Pass to test the conditions. They were as above and the skiing was fine. Polar peak was closed as it was totally socked in so we just drifted out along the Reverse Traverse and went to Cougar Glades which were well tracked up and so a little speedy in places but nice tree skiing.

I bumped into my buddy Red Pants Rob and he stayed with me for what proved to be s very enjoyable day with a lot of mileage but nothing too tough. The rest of the morning was spent looping Stag Leap, Skydive, Easter bowl and Decline. They were all tracked up with big bumps at the top of Skydive but for the most part were chunky tracked snow which was a bit physical but great skiing.

On the last run of the morning it looked like things were clearing and we guessed that Polar Peak would open in the afternoon - we guessed right. When we got to Polar it was clear and as Rob said he had never skiied Grandpappa Bear, that's where we went. The skiing off Polar was very good as it had not bumped up too much. The surface was slick so a fall would have resulted in a long trip but the snow was taking an edge much better than I expected so skiing was remarkably easy and good fun.

Next loop we went to Baby Bear as Rob had never skied that either and then we cut across to the top of Skydive. I had an inspiration and we tried the Brain. It was tracked but there was still loads of deep snow and some untracked lines in the lower section if you cut the line between the trees and the stream bed tight - not everyone's cup of tea but to me just perfect skiing.

We had time for a final trip up Polar which turned into a Pappa Bear descent and a schuss round Trespass Trail to get back up White Pass to get out to Skydive again for the 4 o'clock Skydive club daily meeting. There were 6 of us taking part today which is a record for this season but I hope soon to be beaten. As always Skydive skied like a dream (if a rather naughty one) particularly in the bottom section.

I suspect tomorrow will be the start of the 7 day zoo but as some friends arrived to stay tonight for the next two weeks I am still looking forward to some good rips towards the end of the day when the crowds start to die down. Still no snow in the outlook.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Day 25 merry Christmas everybody

And a particular merry Christmas to all of you who have raised the average number of hits on the blog to 400 a day - a bit different from the 20 hits a day that started things off. 

As you may know Christmas day is the day when we get to the hill a little late (why does opening a bottle of  Jamesons 12 year old in Christmas Eve always seem such a good idea at the time) and then taking a few morning runs before heading up to the Griz Bar for a couple of drinks with buddies and then home.

Today, a short day was more attractive than usual as there had been no new snow and starting temps in the valley were -18 although I think I detected a slight inversion on top. Anyway it was great test of my Christmas presents from Lynda of a merino wool long sleeved top and smart wool socks. I am delighted to say that they kept me really toastie all morning and if anything I was a little too warm.

We went to the New Side and found White Pass chair down for a tech problem. We ran back to Timber base via Lift Line and Black Cloud which showed that the hard pack had become hard but was taking and edge and the tracked powder was getting a bit heavy. Next time up White Pass still wasn't working so we hiked Lazy Locals with the intention of hitting Sib Ridge but noticed White Pass loading so we dropped Big Bang in nice hard pack.

After that with White Pass open we found that Polar Peak was also open so we went up. The light was very poor and I had some very unchristmassy thoughts towards the cat driver who had pushed debris into to entrance to the chutes and which couldn't be seen as you dropped in. Half way down the light got good and we noticed we were third and forth tracks down - that would be since forever in Polar Peak on Christmas Day as this is the first year the lift as been open at this time. We went to base via Stag Leap which was good but a mixture of hard pack and heavy tracked powder.

Next loop Polar was clear and we had a spectacular rip all the way down to the Reverse Traverse. The route to the bottom was Decline/ Window Chutes which were just like Stag leap but if anything the log drop had got a little bigger. Final loop was anthor spectacular rip down Pappa Bear chute and then of course Skydive to finish which was also just as Stag Leap - hard in places, heavy in others.

A great morning skiing made all the better by linking up with the best ski buddies in the world Rob and Katie. Beers in the Griz made much more fun by Lynda spilling her Mogul Smoker all over herself - she claimed that Rob's new gloves had got her too excited. Now at home getting ready for a hot tub with champagne, a gut busting dinner and then far too much to drink.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 24 no new snow

Sure, we had no new snow over night but we still have had 156 cms in the past 7 days and the base is 240 cms so it isn't all bad - I guess we all knew it had to stop snowing sometime.

It was cold overnight and it was -12 on the way to the hill. They said there was another inversion today but It didn't feel like it and so by the afternoon the base temps may have risen to about -8 but up top it was a lot colder. The skies cleared to bluebird and for a couple of hours the whole thing had the feel of an arctic outflow. It is telling that Polar Peak chair was closed all day due mainly to the freezing temps and wind chill up there.

We decided that as it was Christmas Eve we would have a lazy day - that is mentally in not trying to work out the best runs not physically where the day proved to be quite tough. I spent the day on the New Side just looping out along the Reverse Traverse and dropping runs off Skydive top and the surrounding areas. The skiing was all in tracked powder which was a little chunky having been dried out by the cold temps - that having been said it was still soft deep tracked powder everwhere.

The morning was - Skydive, Surprise Trees, Stag Leap, Decline/Window Chutes, Knot Chutes, Surprise Trees and Skydive. The only things of note other than the very nice tracked powder everywhere was the log drop in Window Chutes which had filled in to almost nothing and the dip above Currie Creek which was getting very deep indeed. It was a close run thing for best run between Stag Leap which always stays a bit less tracked because of the trees at the top and Window Chutes which stays in great shape for much the same reason.

In the afternoon it was just a repeat with Concussion, Stag Leap, Secret Chutes (rather chunky) Surprise Trees and of course the final run down Skydive. Conditions stayed good in the very cold temps and the few people who had been on the hill earlier had gone so we were back to having our own private ski hill and making the most of it before the rush starts on Boxing Day. Best of all was that the dip on the far side of the bridge at Currie Creek had been shovelled in  (thanks Tyler) so that the trip across to Skydive was now a pretty easy ride.

Christmas Eve drinks in the bar with buddies and then back home to do this report before having a hot tub and beer in -16 temps. Christmas is shaping up well and I am looking forward to tomorrow's traditional morning only on the hill follwed by Christmas dinner. Apologies for the shortness of this report but Christmas calls.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 23 the storm passes but more to come

Last night's winter storm blew itself out in the night so this morning dawned with no snow actually falling for the first time in about a week. The hill we claiming 12 cms of fresh but I have to say that in places it seemed much more to me, perhaps as much as double in certain stashes. Temps had fallen to -12 at the base and started about the same all over.

During the day an inversion developed so that temps on top were about -5, this was except up Polar Peak which was it's usual windy brutal self driving ice pellets horizontally at you at about 50 klicks. We had flurries off and on during the day with a super heavy one late morning which must have accumulated at least 5 cms in an hour but things brightened up towards the end of the day. They are calling for another 10 cms tonight and who am I to argue.

We went to the Old Side and as we arrived at the top of Bear they dropped the fence into Lizard Bowl. I am not a big fan of Lizard as the pitch is not steep and the skiing generally not challenging but as there was untracked to be had we took Bow Trees and assorted gullys and first tracked our way back to Bear Chair.

We then proceeded with our original plan which was to go out to Snake Ridge and hit the Gorby Steep and Deep shoulder which just like yesterday was thigh deep and totally awesome. We worked our way back to Boomerang with conflicting reports as to whether or not there was a problem with the chair. It seemed to be running but we were told by an insider not to rely on it and so headed to the New Side via a very mellow drop down Boomerang in chopped up powder.

On the New Side we had time for three loops via Polar Peak before lunch -
Pappa Bear/Skydive - poor light in the top but good snow all the way. Great deep lightly tracked powder in Skydive.
Mamma Bear/Stag Leap - as with Pappa Bear. Stag Leap had much better coverage than last week in the trees above the run and the run itself was great rolling soft powder, like a terrain park but better.
Baby Bear/Decline/Window Chutes - still poor light and great powder in Baby Bear. Decline still had some untracked lines along the side but was mostly deep tracked powder. For the first time this year the direct drop into Window Chute from above off Decline looked an option and it proved to be deep untracked snow which I guess hadn't been skied this year. The chute was still full of soft snow and the log drop down to about 3 ft at the most, one more dump and it could well disappear.

After lunch I went back to Polar Peak and hit Grandpappa Bear on the grounds that it was one of only two Bear lines I hadn't tried this year (excluding Goldilocks who isn't really a Bear). This took me back to Polar base for another ride and this time I dropped Spirit Bear which was a little rocky in the entrance but very soft and deep after that. The run to the bottom was via Cougar Glades which in truth were pretty tracked out although the left side exit chute was almost untouched, probably as there were some alders and dead fall to contend with.

I only had time for a couple more loops excluding Polar Peak so went back to Stag Leap as it had been so good earlier - it was a little more tracked up but still very good. I bumped into a ski instructor buddy and we hiked up into Big Bang next time round and got some very nice lightly tracked lines on the right near the trees.

So last run was Skydive as usual. The whoopdy-do on the far side of the bridge had been getting worse all day and last time round it took a fair bit of caution in the entrance to keep your speed down to a safe pace - some work is seriously needed there. Skydive itself had a few bumps in the top then you could pull the trigger for a crazy free ride all the way down in great soft snow.

Tonight we went out for our traditional pre Christmas meal in the Lizard Creek Lounge. The main course was excellent (good old Alberta beef) but the service was slow, the drinks over priced (8 bucks for a small bottle of cider) and the desserts aweful - think we will give it a miss for the rest of this season.

Let's see what Christmas Eve holds.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Day 22 the most beautiful words in the english language

Well I guess everyone has their own favourite poem or quote that the think is beautiful but to me the most beautiful words were said today on the radio " a cold arctic air mass sinking south will meet a series of wet coastal systems moving into the interior" all the better because that is exactly what is happening right over our heads.

It got cold overnight and we started with -11 at the base and about the same on top. It might have got a degree or two warmer during the day but by the close it was back to -10 and falling. As usual it was snowing but the snow died out for a short time during the day. By the end of the day the snow  was back with a vengence and as I am sitting here writing this a full on winter storm is raging outside which will produve only the Griz knows how much by the morning.

We started with a reported 28 cms of fresh snow on yesterday's soft cheesey base. The overnight temp drops seems to have sucked the moisture out of the snow and the fresh (which was very light) was sitting on a firm but giving base from yesterday.

We went to the New Side as the Old Side on a Saturday with all the pay for powder groups in front of you would have been trashed out of existance. I had  expected a complete gong show given the powder and the time of year but the crowds if anything we slightly less than a usual Saturday. This was helped by the fantastic job that patrol did to get the whole of the hill open and spread us out across all the available terrain.

White Pass was open and we looped Surprise Trees and Anaconda in fantastic powder which was so much more skiable than yesterday. Getting first tracks in Anaconda and down through Bootleg both untracked with faceshots was so sweet. We were waiting for Currie Bowl to open and had been tipped off by a patroller buddy that we would get Currie and Polar Peak late morning.

When the fence dropped on Currie we had a terrible decision to make. Should we ski down to Polar Chair and go for first tracks on Polar Peak or go for the Reverse Traverse to get first tracks it one of the big three - as they hadn't quite got Polar read we headed off the Skydive. Third tracks down were fantastic with deep powder either side of the center.

Next loop we went up the peak and as there had been a bit of traffic took Barely Legal which was mostly untracked powder. I noticed the sign had dropped on Corner Pocket and with only two tracks in front hit the chute and knee deep powder below - exit was left side Easter which still had untracked lines. Polar Peak again but this time Baby Bear for the same reasons as before and then Decline which was tracked but super soft and deep.

I had just been given word that Snake Ridge had opened so worked across to the Old Side. On the way out across Snake I broke the first rule of powder skiing - never ski past good powder looking for better - I traversed over Snake Centre which looked just great but I was on a mission and it paid off. I dropped the really steep shoulder between Gorby Bowl and Steep and Deep which some friends tell me is called Curve Ball. It was the best, deepest snow of the day allowing fall line skiing through the alders in waist deep powder. I cut left into Steep and Deep and it was just as good with seriously deep powder. It was so good I did another lap which included a tracked up but good Boomerang and a great lower Kangaroo, but out beyond Snake it was just as good again.

The chance for lunch had gone so it was back to Polar Peak for for a last time but this time down Pappa Bear which was turning to soft bumps. Cougar Glades was tracked but still some good stuff if you took some ballsy lines close to the trees. Last run was Skydive which was much more tracked up than earlier in the day but still great soft deep snow.

An awesome day in hero powder snow with some fantastic deep untracked lines - with a major winter storm blasting us, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Day 21 a timely reminder

Yes, today was the day when powder skiers who's ability had been flattered over the past week or so by the hero snow that we have been having received a sharp reminder that there is rather more to this sport than they might have thought. The factors that made it such a tough day were -
New Snow - 19 cms but this time heavy with a high moisture content.
Temps - rising to zero or possibly above at the base and only about a degree lower on top. The result was the existing snow became very heavy indeed, ok if you were first tracks but such hard work when tracked up.
Viz - it was snowing all day as usual and the light was the flatest I can remember. Flat light is what some people would call a white out, but only if they have never been in a real white out. To make matters worse during the day the cloud base descended to about half height on the hill so eveything after that had poor viz  as well as flat light.

We went to the New Side and first run got to the fence on the Zig Zag just as a patroller above waved to me to indicate it was green. The light was so flat in untracked snow that neither of us covered ourselves in much glory as to style but we got down. Skiing wasn't helped much by getting some abuse from the chair from people who thought we were poaching - dickheads.

After that we did several loops in Surprise trees as they were the only place that the light was ok and found some ok but heavy untracked snow. We arrived at Anaconda just after it opened and had a spectacular run down chute two with only two tracks ahead of us. For the rest of the morning we looped Surprise and Anaconda as the snow got heavier and the skiing tougher waiting for Currie Bowl.

I must have been very good in a past life as the fence on Currie dropped just as our chair reached the top of White Pass. The low traverse only on the far side of Currie was open so we went in. Rather than try and work a hard traverse we just swung Alpha Centauri top to bottom in untracked lines between the few tracks that had beaten us in. Next time round the side step traverse had been cut so we worked our way out the Currie Creek where we were blocked by a sign line and so had  a very fast rip down Currie Creek in lightly tracked snow. I have to say I was not happy to see so many people ignoring the sign line and equally unhappy to see no action being taken against them.

The rest of the morning we spent our time dropping off the Reverse Traverse anywhere between Concussion and Barracuda and finding very heavy untracked lines with the viz getting worse and worse,

After a very late lunch I went back up the New Side having heard that Lizard and Cedard Bowls remained closed on the Old. I was amazed to find Polar peak open and went up only to find the viz worse than my worst fears. It was a long grope down Pappa Bear in what felt like soft heavy powder but as I couldn't see it I couldn't be sure. It was then just a couple of loops of Concussion and Currie Creek again both of which were getting tracked up and so becoming very hard on the legs.

At the end of the day my legs were toast having had to deal with a whole day of heavy snow and poor light which does tend to push you into the back seat for some good old fashioned thigh burn. I was due to go to an end of the world party but was just too knackered to make it.

Temps are still hovering around zero on the deck but a cooling trend is forecast with more snow so with any luck we will be back to hero conditions tomorrow or the day after.

Day 20 well on the right side of acceptable

Of course this is just my famous English sense of humour showing through with a case of serious understatement. The official figures were for 38 cms overnight but of course that measurement was taken at about 5 this morning so as it snowed tons since that time I guess we had about 50 cms of fresh before we hit the hill this morning.

Glad I got that first paragraph down before my buddies Rob and Katie came round for a hot tub party as resuming this report a few hours later and after a whole load of beer I wouldn't have been able to manage anything so erudite. It's still snowing now and looking at the forecast perhaps it's going to snow forever, who knows.

Temps at the start were about -5 but rose steadily during the day so that by late afternoon they were almost up to zero and things looked a little dodgy. As it turned out that was the high (strangely enough just as forecast) and temps are now falling. Snow is continuing to fall but hey, what's news in that, it's been falling for over a week.

We went to the Old Side and although we were the third chair up Bear and well ahead of anything on Boomerang we found Boom, Boom Ridge and Cedar Ridge all tracked out - go figure why being first up doesn't get you first tracks. We played around on the Old Side grabbing what we could in Boomerang, Cedar Ridge, Boomerang Ridge, Linda's and Bear Chutes before heading off to the New Side. they were all pretty good and deep considering that those of us starting at normal time were starting well behind the eight ball.

On the New Side we were all waiting for Currie Bowl to open so we spent a lot of time looping Surprise Trees and Anaconda/Bootleg Glades while we waited. Hardly worth mentioning just how good they were in the new deep snow. Around lunch Currie opened but we had our timing wrong as we had just dropped Anaconda and missed it. On the plus side as we got to the top of White Pass we got the word that Polar Peak was opening ( I suspect Patrol just  want some skier compaction in there) and we were third chair up.

After a few day's closure there was about a metre of new untracked snow in the Polar Chutes and it would have been rude not to trash it. We did four laps off the Peak, three in Papa Bear and one in Mama Bear all of which were a bit white in the top but great lower down. The routes to base each time were -
Cougar Glades - not very tracked with awesome powder. The left cut into Stag Leap low down gave loads more vert in deep powder.
Currie Creek - by the time that most people get to the bridge they are on a mission and Rob and I figured that Currie Creek would have got lost in the rush. We were right and with only two tracks in there we had great powder from top to bottom.
Decline/Window Chutes - chopped powder but great untracked in the trees to the left but a bit tight. In the chute itself the log drop was down to about 5 ft with me hitting it off the middle left to right and Rob right to left into about 6 ft of deep snow.
Stag Leap - just starting to get filled in between the trees at the top and nice chopped powder all the way down

Our final attempt at Skydive was frustrated by Currie being closed for avi bombing. We fished with the Knot Chutes (Tight Knot) Anaconda Glades and Bootleg Glades - not a bad substitute in good blow in over the ridge line.

The hill is still in fantastic shape and more snow is in the offing - bring it on. This was the first day that I skied 9-4 with no breaks at all and I feel that bed is well deserved.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 19 hoist by my own petard

And before anyone goes off to look up the above quote , it's from Hamlet, so why does it apply to me. A couple of days ago a buddy described the skiing as awesome and I checked him because, as I said, when the skiing gets better how are you going to describe it. Yesterday with the fantastic conditions I used the A word and now here I am trying to think of something better to describe today. Worse still, with 30 cms called for tonight (and it was puking snow earlier when I was drinking beer in the hot tub and still is coming down looking out on the deck) and perhaps a metre by Sunday what am I going to be able to say then.

I didn't think there had been much snow overnight and temps on the way to the hill were a nippy -12. There was an inversion so it was a balmy -8 on top but the boards were claiming 10 cms of fresh and a base of 182 cms. We went to the New Side in anticipation of a Reverse Traverse/Saddles opening and found that there was at least 10 cms of new snow on top of yesterday's deep fluff and a fair bit of blow in as well. To make things even better it started to snow, kept it up all day and shows no sign of stopping so things just got better still.

We did an Anaconda loop which has deep fresh blow in while waiting for the Traverse to open. My timing must have been a bit off as we missed it as all my buddies liked to tell me later. That having been said there was some awesome awesome skiing to be had - highlights were -

Cougar Glades - only three tracks in the top all of which went right giving us the tight left side trees totally untracked. Over the head face shots all the way down and fall line S's in the narrow tree chutes. We cut left at the summer bike trail and had the bottom half of Stag Leap which was tracked but deep.

The Brain - for the first time this year I thought it was worth giving this a try as the deadfall had much more cover now. There was one track in the top that cut towards Skydive so the rollers on the top section hadn't been touched. In the dips of the rollers the snow was chest deep and light. The rest was good until the last couple of turns where I git suckered into being greedy and had to shuffle over some dead fall to get out.

Corner Pocket - I noticed the Saddles were open and very few were staying high enough to get up to CP so with a couple of side steps I went in. The snow in the chute was deep soft and easy - well as easy as a double black diamond chute gets. Under the chute the sking defied description with deep continual face shots for as long as you could ski without breathing. Exit to Easter bowl left was deep and only lightly tracked. Lynda had done Concussion instead and insisted on another CP run so she could see how good it was - even she was impressed.

Window Chutes - I hit left off Decline which had been pretty good anyway. Deep untracked snow to the left of the chute and so much soft stuff at the log drop that I hit it full force off the centre - 5 or 6 ft drop. Even the exit was not scratchy as it usually is.

Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - great deep snow in Secret Chutes. Spinal Tap was a bit of a mistake as the old fallen trees weren't covered, there seemed to be a couple of new fallen trees to me and the stream hadn't fully filled in. There was some very tight dancing on the deep soft snow on the right shoulder to effect an exit.

Return to Couger Glades - what can I say, a bit harder left and it was still untracked just like first run of the day. Almost made me wish I had just lapped the Glades all day. For the first time this year we tried the left hand exit at the bottom which was mostly untracked, very deep, a bit twiggy and great fun.

Skydive - last run of the day in tracked deep powder which had improved as the day went on with the all day snow fall. A great final rip on the edge of control all the way down to finish the day.

There was some other stuff in there but after a lot of beer after skiing and almost falling asleep in the hot tub that's all I can remember. Loads of snow in the outlook between here and Sunday, if the world does end on Friday I am going to be so p---ed off.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 18 awesome

Yup, it was that simple, today was awesome, no more, no less, just awesome and that is the top and bottom of it. The figures speak for themselves, we have had 35 cms in the last 24 hours and 52 cms in the last 48. The base is up somewhere around 180 cms and the coverage is fantastic.

It started snowing some time in the night and by the morning a significant accumulation was evident. Driving to the hill was very interesting as a large number of people seemed to think that the sign saying "snow chains or snow tires required beyond this point" at the base of the hill really said "have a go with your front wheel drive summer tires and see if you can get stuck half way up ski hill road" - morons. We managed to avoid the carnage and got up just before 9 but I undersatnd that not long after the line up was back to the town and it took over an hour to get to the hill. On the plus side it gave us some uncontested early tracks.

It snowed until well after lunch , sometimes quite hard. We went to the Old Side as obviously on a big powder morning like today the Old Side triangle was going to be the only thing open.We looped Boomerang (deep and untracked on the left) Cedar Ridge  (twice) which was also awesome powder, Linda's, King Fir and Bear Chutes, all of which were filled in and with loads of untracked lines if you were prepared to work.

The reason we had been on the Old Side was that we had heard that the White Pass lift was closed. As the word came to us that White Pass was open so we migrated to the New Side. Lift Line was as soft and deep as I can remember it. For the rest of the morning we played about in Knot Chutes, Surprise Trees and Anaconda Glades because Currie Bowl was closed from the top. No real problem as everywhere was good and getting better as the snow continued to fall.

In the afternoon we went back to the New Side to find that Currie was open. We had a couple of fruitless runs down the left of Currie Powder as they had posted a notice that the traverse into Skdive was open - it wasn't. We went back to Anaconda far chutes for some more runs which were much more fun than the heavily gladed chutes of 1 and 2. Somewhere in there I had a couple of traverses into Knot Chutes which were great and exits through Bootleg Glades which were also fun but twiggy.

Towards the end of the day I linked up with a buddy and we tried Triple Trees for the first time this year which were mostly untouched and thigh deep all the way down with all of the dead fall covered. As Skydive was closed we missed out on that for the final run but left the hill via Tight Knot, Anaconda 2 and Bootleg Glades - not a bad finale.

Temps are falling and it is about -10 on the deck as I write this. Today was supposed to be the break between two weather systems with more snow over the next three days - the world is supposed to end on Friday, give me three more days of this powder and that's ok by me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 17 I was right

And of course what I mean is that when I said last night that maybe better was to come, I was dead right. It snowed overnight and the official figures were 12 cms by this morning. Patroller buddies tell me that by the close today we had another 15 cms and since then it has continued to puke snow all evening - I have no idea what the end figures might be when this cycle finishes, if indeed it ever does.

The effect on conditions was that we had great powder to start with that just got better during the day as a combination of new snow and blow in (it got very windy during the afternoon) filled in your tracks almost as fast as you could make them. Temps stayed  a few degrees below zero so the snow did stay in good condition all day.

We went to the Old Side and found ok snow but not quite as deep as we expected. Considering we were on one of the first chairs up it did seem to me that everything was very tracked up and it did make me wonder if some of those "pay for powder" groups hadn't beaten us to the snow. Boomerang was good and lightly tracked on the far skiers left down in the guts. We next tried Cedar Ridge which had some very deep soft powder but surprisingly tracked in places. We felt that maybe the New Side would be a better bet so after a lift up Boom we hit the Bear Chutes which were much improved from the past few days as the twigs and dead fall were getting well buried - across the bridge to Timber.

We did three Polar Peak loops on the New Side as the snow started to really fall. Just like all season the trip up to the Peak was howling wind on the chair and the light when we got there was decidedly white. In the chutes (Papa, Mama and Papa Bear in that order) the viz was pretty dreadful and didn't get better until about two thirds of the way down - after that it was soft smooth knee deep powder all the way to the Reverse Traverse.

The journeys to the base were via Cougar Glades, Stag Leap and Decline. No point in expanding on these runs as they were all great soft powder, getting deeper each time and with the few tracks that were there being filled in by a combination of new snow and wind sift. It was one of those days when the harder you hit the soft rolls of snow and the more air you took the easier the skiing became.

After lunch we went to New Side and found that Polar Peak had been closed due to lack of traffic as had the Saddles - in truth we had looked in the Saddles earlier and decide not to drop them as the light below them just looked too flat to be fun. We spent the afternoon alternatively looping Surprise Trees and Anaconda Glades with the snow now filling in so fast that our tracks were covered each time we returned. A fantastic afternoon with hardly anyone else on the hill and linking runs like Lift Line and the Gun Bowl skiing like soft powder runs in their own right.

The final run of course was down Skydive. It had filled in so well that the Reverse Traverse going out had to be cut just as if it was the first run of the day. The run itself was soft rolling terrain covered by mostly untracked powder. We had to stop a couple of times when the wind was blowing so much snow off the trees that we simply couldn't see more than a metre in front of our eyes.

It was still puking snow as we drank beer in the hot tub tonight - could tomorrow be better yet ?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 16 a good powder day but maybe better to come

We woke this morning to find it snowing. Obviously it hadn't been snowing long as there was no real accrual but the fall rate looked pretty promising. As we arrived at the hill in the usual -3ish temps it was really puking down snow and the fall rate had to be at least 5 cms per hour. The snow stayed until late morning after which we had occasional light flurries.The official figures were for 8 cms of fresh and maybe we had another 10 during the day.

With everything socked in we went to the Old Side and found that the new snow on the existing base gave some very nice deep and fluffy powder - it seemed to me that the upper hill had about double the snowfall of the base but that is just a guess. In any event everything was very good early season powder.

Boomerang was well filled in with untracked lines on skiers left. After that we tried Linda's as it had been good face shots a week ago and we weren't disappointed, still good face shots. We then stuck our noses in Cedar Ridge, and that was it for the morning as we found our way down several times in deep untracked snow with only a bit of bush wacking needed to get out at the bottom. As this area had only officially opened a couple of days ago the snow was particularly deep and soft all over.

We did have a look in Kangaroo but even with the new snow the top was still too twiggy but the lower section was good powder skiing between the trees, roots, rocks, stumps etc. As the New side was calling we dropped to base through Bear Chutes (don't shoot the Bear) and found great lines in between the clumps of alders with an exit via the Goat Trail.

We had time for two Polar Peak loops on the New Side before a late lunch. Both times up the peak it was very socked in at the top so that the first few turns did involve a fair bit of guess work. As we came out of the cloud the run in Pappa Bear opened up into knee deep untracked powder for some of the best skiing so far of the season. The two runs to base were through Cougar Glades (a bit tracked up but nice soft snow) and Decline (just getting better all the time with deep soft snow on lively terrain and a fantastic lower section thanks to the work done on the alders in the summer) - time for a late lunch.

In the afternoon it was straight back up Polar Peak. The viz had improved a bit which was a pity as it encouraged a few more takers but there was still plenty of deep untracked on the sides of the chutes. We went to base via Stag Leap which was improved by the new snow with great soft rolling terrain for the most part but still a bit scratchy in the final pitch.

Polar Peak was too good to miss so we made a final run and it was just as good as the others. In order to get some final skiing in White Pass we had to return to White Pass base by Trespass Trail which a buddy of mine describes as the only run on the hill which is up hill in both directions. Our White Pass loop took us into the 3rd Knot Chute via a pretty steep drop in but we were repaid but some of the deepest untracked snow on the hill - on to Surprise Trees which were tracked but still with some fresh lines available,

Last run was - you guessed it - Skydive. The new snow just meant that you could push things that little bit harder and as a result have a really fun finish to the day.

Best news of all is that the really heavy snow is still yet to come (so they say) and if the forecasters are right (chokes on beer) we could be in for a very exceptional few days.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 15 love convective cells

As I was riding up the last lift of today with a patroller buddy he told me that the outlook was for convective cells. These are the second favourite words for all Fernie skiers as they are the local weather systems that can lead us to getting huge dumps while the area forecast and what is happening all round is just a light dusting. Of course nothing is guaranteed but at least we are in with a shout. Before anyone asks  the first favourite words for a Fernie skier are "the beers are on the house" but I don't anticipate hearing them any time soon.

I was wrong yesterday when I said today would be a bit of a zoo, we got to the hill about 8:45 and parked well into lot 2 with only a little more traffic than a week day. It was explained to me that this weekend all the out of towners are tied up with office parties, Christmas shopping, visiting families etc. Whatever the reason it was pretty quiet.

It had been colder overnight down to about -10 and we started with base temps of -8 and a couple of degrees colder up the hill. During the day temps rose but never to the point where the snow softened and I guess by the end it was -2 at the base and -5 on top. The day was overcast with afternoon snow showers but no great acumulation. Viz was very socked in at the top such that half way through the day Polar Peak had to close and by the end the "white" line was half way down White Pass - from the words used you will guess it was another New Side day.
Just like the previous days the snow was lightly tracked everywhere but with blow in and the daytime snow the skiing surface stayed in great shape. The day shaped up as -

Surprise Trees - two loops in good soft snow.
Anaconda Glades - still some of the best snow on the hill in chute 2.
Bootleg Glades - good in the top but very twiggy on the exit.
Lift line - used every time from Timber Top to White Pass base and still soft but scratchy in places.
Polar Peak - very socked in at the top but half way down Papa Bear became soft flat windsift.
Tom's - where the snow had blown to, deep, untracked and very nice.
Timber to bottom rip - caused by me getting my pole hung up on the chair and not being able to untangle it, had to race the chair to the base to get it sorted.
Polar Peak - still good low down but the viz much worse.
Concussion - good soft snow in the left of the steep chute.
Anaconda - as before , good, then lunch

After lunch it was the usual afternoon loops of -
Easter Bowl - very mellow soft bumps
Cougar Glades - still some untracked if you are prepared to take some ballsey lines near the trees.
Surprise Trees - still in great shape
Skydive - where else would you finish but in the soft bumpy terrain of Skydive.

While drinking in the bar tonight I was told that the upside estimate for the current weather cycle was 70 cms in 48 hours - I hope they are right. At least the weekenders had a couple of runs down Polar peak today to calm their paranoia that we only open it mid week - perhaps.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 14 same old, same old

Now, it's usually well into February before I start saying that days are blurring into each other and there is nothing new to say on the skiing but here I am 14 days into the season this year and it's same old, same old.

Overnight we had a dusting of snow again, some good wind sift to fill in yesterday's skiing again, hardly anyone at the hill again, overcast conditions socking in the top and giving light flurries during the day again and temps which stayed just below zero at the base and about -5 up on top again. None of this is to say that skiing wasn't good because it was, or to say we didn't have a great time, because we did, it's just that I am running out of things to say about the skiing we are doing which as anyone who knows me will tell you is a rare thing.

We tried the Old Side and found Bear with a soft covering of windsift. After that the Gully shoulder down into Cedar was untracked soft bumps and even Cedar Centre was groomed and ok. Boomerang looked tempting and was nice soft blow in and the Goat Trail out of Boom was surprisingly good. There followed a few loops out into Lizard Bowl and the trees on the far side of Arrow seemed to have been gladed this year and were untracked.

As a final run before a late choccy break we hiked out across Cedar with the intention of getting out as far as Redtree which we had been told was good. As it was crossing the near side of Snake Ridge proved too much of a temptation and we ripped down in some great deep, lightly tracked and sifted in powder. I tried the shoulder just to the right of KC chutes and as expected it was marginal but some great skiing in between the alders, tree stumps etc. Took the second half of Kangaroo on the way back to Boom Chair which was ok but lots of little Christmas trees - I actually looked in the top of Kangaroo but wit 8 foot alders all the way across it is going to be some time before we can ski that.

After the break we went to the New Side and as usual Lift Line was soft in the top and scratchy lower down. We came down from White Pass via Gun Bowl (poor viz but great snow) Anaconda Glades (loads of soft untracked blow in and maybe the best skiing on the hill, pity about the short pitch) and Bootleg Glades (still nice and soft in the top but very twiggy on the exit). Last loop before lunch was out along the Reverse Traverse to Tom's run - we were looking for Polar peak despite the socked in conditions but it wasn't open today. The whole area around Toms seemed to have filled in with the windsift and there was nice boot deep lightly tracked powder all the way down to the Gilmar Trail.

After lunch there was just time for three loops of the New Side taking in the Big Three - Stag Leap, Decline and finally for last run of the day of course Skydive. I really can't add anything to what I have said about those runs over the past few days. Deep soft windsift but with very interesting terrain and minimal alders.

More snow in the outlook over night. If the new snow keeps Polar Peak closed I guess it will just add to the paranoia of the Calgarians up for the weekend who are convinced we keep this lift back for the use of locals mid week only - honest guys it's just the luck of the draw.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 13 peak performance but confused

The peak performance was the first time that Polar Peak Chair had been opened all season and the confusion is that after a lot of beers celebrating the opening of the Peak it is very hard to remember what happened and in what order but I will give it my best shot - in any event I can remember going up the Polar Peak Chair five times in the day.

It was a few degrees below freezing all day and all over the hill so the snow stayed in pretty good shape. The overcast conditions gave up a little light snow but there is more in the forecast.

We went to the New Side in the hope that Polar Peak would open and first time up White Pass we spoke to a patroller buddy who confirmed that the chair should open in about an hour. To kill time we looped back down the Gun Bowl (soft and deep) and Surprise Trees which had filled in well and were great skiing. Next we dropped Anaconda where we had first tracks in what was deep snow and to all intents and purposes untracked after the effects of the overnight blow in.

When we got to the top of White Pass, Polar Peak had opened. We were only the fifth chair up all season and as a result had an awesome run down Papa Bear chute in deep untracked powder. We cut back to the chair and had another run down Papa Bear which was as good as before and then exited through Severe Concussion where the snow varied from deep to scratchy all the way down.

We went back to the Peak for a shot at Mamma Bear (still deep and untracked) and then went out to Cougar Glades which had filled in nicely but were a bit tracked up. Final run of the long morning was another trip up the Peak to roll down Baby Bear in still deep snow. Exit to the base was through Corner Pocket which was getting a little scrapped out but had great powder underneath the chute - final drop in Easter Bowl was still soft but broken fun snow.

In the short afternoon session we did one more Polar Peak but found it totally socked in and very hard going although the surface in Papa Bear was still good. We got to base via the great Decline which is the best of the big three at the moment. With the Peak no longer attractive we  did a loop off White Pass via Tight Knot in the Knot Chutes which took a bit of air to access but was well worth it. A final drop of Anaconda was almost as good as the first in the morning with great lightly tracked powder down to the trail.

The final run was a hike out into Big Bang which had some awesome deep powder but also some ugly ice patches. Then of course it was off the Skydive for the final bumpy powdery drop which seems to be more fun every day.

Beers. hot tub and a threat of a further guest - what more could I want.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 12 another good New Side day

I got an email from my tele skiing buddy Ray from Vermont last night to say he had had enough of the crap conditions out east and he was on his way to Fernie. I am delighted to say he arrived in time to pick up m tab in the Griz bar tonight and the conditions are such that I don't think he will be disappointed.

We went to the hill today under valley cloud in temps of -2 with temps about -5 on top. During the day things got a couple of degrees warmer across the board. There had been 6 cms of very grainy new snow raising the base to just over 150 cms. On top it was clear above the clouds in the morning but socked in around lunch time and once again it started snowing with light snow all afternoon.

Lift line was nicely filled in with soft powder and no one seemed interested in skiing it so we did. From the top of White Pass I had to cut the Idiot Traverse out to Surprise Trees and so grabbed first tracks down through the trees in deep untracked powder - it was so nice I did it again with only a couple of tracks showing. Next time up I found a way into Knot Chutes without having to take too much air to clear the rocks and had a great drop of the Tight Knot having to surf my own slough. Anaconda only had one track in so I grabbed first tracks in Chute 2 which again was deep and pretty spectacular. The trip to base was via Bootleg glades which were surprisingly good if a bit twiggy low down.

The light on top was good above the clouds and it looked like Polar Peak might be opening with patrol doing some cutting. I didn't want to get too far from the possible action so I did Corner Pocket and then High Saddle where the skiing below the Saddles was still great soft deep powder - each time a trip into Easter Bowl was very rewarding. To take me up to lunch I did a couple of loops through Concussion which were also only lightly tracked, soft and deep.

In the afternoon I realised that with the socked in conditions Polar Peak wasn't going to happen but stuck with the New Side, looping Stag Leap, Decline, Cougar Glades, Knot Chutes/ Surprise Trees. The skiing was great in all areas where last night's snow plus what was now falling gave a very nice, soft but undulating terrain to ski.

Of course final run was Skydive which is just getting better and better as the snow accumulates. Like every where else today there was no one around and I guess that yyou could count the number of tracks even at the end of the day on one hand.

Light snow coming down as we sat in the hot tub - I wonder what tomorrow will bring for our guest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 11 first rant of the season

Well, eleven days in before I have need to give out with my first rant is something of a record but here goes. The rant is about the dickless tossers who throw garbage on the hill. Even with so few people as we have had so far I have already seen a paper coffee cup, a beer can and a power aid bottle dropped from lifts. For Christ's sake have some respect. If you can take this stuff up the hill you can put it in one of the garbage sacks at the top of each lift. The snow Gods are offended by this sort of behaviour and they will get their revenge by giving us poor snow conditions, so stop behaving like complete wankers and keep your garbage to yourself - rant over.

On the way to the hill we had temps of +1 and about zero at the base. I guess the freeze line rose a little way up the hill but stayed a few degrees below zero in the upper mountain. The top of the hill was very socked in (even more than yesterday) and viz in the Gun bowl on the New Side was as near to zero as makes no difference.

We went to the Old Side and spent the early morning in Lizard where there were many ways down on snow that had been compacted by skier traffic. I have always called this surface hard pack but I am now encountering a new name - packed powder. How packed snow can be powder is a mystery to me but I guess the power of the P word is such that anything will be called powder (even hard pack) if it brings the punters in.

Late morning I decided to give Snake Ridge a try after yesterday's reports but was just a little disappointed to find a slight wind crust and skiing certainly no better than what we had under the Saddles yesterday although knee deep and lightly tracked. Either conditions had deteriorated or the had been exagerated. The skiing was good untracked powder but the exit into Lower Gorby bowl was a bit scratchy with some frozen avi debris just as you got into the bowl.

We had further runs through Boomerang and Boom Ridge which were both wind affected crust and not much fun. Worth noting the first very twiggy run down Kangaroo of the season which was more to say it had been done than for any fun reasons.

Over to the New Side and we spent a lot of time running out on the Reverse Traverse and dropping off when it looked good. That way we had Alpha Centauri (very mellow. soft and easy) Concussion (wind crust in the top but soft powder low down) Toms (also wind crust in the top but nice soft snow that was only lightly tracked although a bit twiggy after the choke) and Curry Creek (awesome deep untracked powder in the top with the bushes nicely spaced but a bit of a nightmare on the exit with the alders) and then a late lunch.

After lunch a run down  Cougar Glades found them full of deep snow with the tracks filled in by the snow/ice fall that had started around midday and fell for the rest of the afternoon - the only mistake was trying the left chute exit at the bottom which was very scratchy and twiggy.

To fill in time I went to Surpirse Trees and found them almost untracked and soft and deep even at the end of the day. I think the bad light in the Gun Bowl had deterred traffic although there was hardly anyone on the hill to begin with.

Last run was as always down Skydive which was steep, deep and bump terrain, great skiing. On the way home it was -1 in the valley and snowing so lets see what happens.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10 missed out on the opening of Snake

It happens to the best of us. Today I nailed my colours to the New Side with the idea that the best powder would be under the Saddles. In the event a number of my buddies confirmed that the best skiing of the day was when they opened Snake Ridge on the Old Side for the first time this year and they had untracked thigh deep powder top to bottom - ah well, some you win some you lose.

We seem to be between weather systems at the moment. Conditions are overcast but with no real precip and temps are warming so that day time highs will be only a little below zero for the next few days. After that we are due another snow cycle but as I have often said forecasting more than 24 hours out in Fernie is a total crap shoot.

We arrived at the hill with temps of -7 that rose during the day to -2. It was fairly clear at the bottom but as we got to the top things socked in and the light became very flat and viz very poor. As we went up it became apparent that the New Side had been subject to a pretty serious wind event overnight.

Lift Line was wind crust at the top but nice and soft on the way down to White Pass. The whole White Pass area had been wind affected so that on updraft slopes it was hard swept crust but with deep wind blown ridges and very deep powder where the wind had deposited the snow. This would not have been a problem if the light hadn't been so bad that none of this was visible. We had several exciting runs working hard on the crust and getting stuck in deeps.

We went out to Surprise Trees a couple of times and found that the tree cover had protected the surface and the trees gave shadows for good viz. There was still plenty of untracked lines through the trees. We then hit Anaconda on a couple of loops still trying the near, newly gladed chutes. As we guessed these were lee side slopes so the snow was deep and soft with all yesterdays tracks filled in.

After a hot choccy break we went to try Corner Pocket in the hope that the powder below was filled in from yesterday. In the event the powder was ok but it felt like there may have been a bit of down draft wind to pack the powder in to make it a little heavy. After that it was -

Cougar Glades - a bit like Surprise Trees and still lots of untracked lines but a bit twiggy on the exit.
Corner Pocket - as I had linked up with a buddy we did it again and still found untracked slightly heavy powder.
Decline - great soft snow but very interesting terrain and untracked lines lower down.
Cougar Glades  - again, just as good.
Siberia Ridge - tried it for the first time this season. Nice soft powder as far as the choke which was quite easy to negotiate with no rocks showing. Below all the summers brush work became apparent and the run was clear of twigs and wonderful soft snow on very rough interesting terrain.
Skydive - as usual the final run down which was soft snow and uneven terrain and hard work for the last run of the day.

Beers, hot tub, bed - end of a good day, wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 9 the saddles in early December - can this be true

There was only a dusting of snow overnight (3 cms) and a base at 151 cms. Temps were falling so we arrived at the hill to temps of -7 at the base and -10 on top. During the day they rose a couple of degrees but this still meant that temps all over the mountain were in the range for perfect powder snow which is what we got.

I expected crowds today but things were quiet, so quiet in fact that it was more like a week day than a Sunday - a school of thought was that the weekenders had skied so hard yesterday and partied so hard after skiing that they were in no shape to ski today, that might even be right. The forecasters were calling for a fine day with afternoon flurries so sure enough it started snowing mid morning and just continued with dry, light powder all day, in fact it's still snowing out on the deck now.

We headed to the New Side on rumours of a Polar Peak opening but it soon became apparent this would be impossible. The upper part of the hill was totally socked in with snow and blowing snow in windy conditions. Viz was very white, particularly at the top of White Pass - I guess that's why they call it White Pass.

We tried a few runs off White Pass in the Gun Bowl which was braille skiing and through Highline Trees which were nice soft windblown powder. We then tried a couple of runs through Surprise Trees and found the Idiot Traverse quite mellow and lots of untracked lines in Surprise itself. Next was a couple of trips through Anaconda to try the new glading in chutes 1 & 2. I have to say these are now rather too open for my personal taste but I dare say many will think it an improvement. I understand that 3 and above remain tight steep trees so I guess thats something for everyone.

After a quick hot choccy break we discovered that the Reverse Traverse was open out to the Saddles. For the saddles to be open at this time of year is quite unusual and I went looking for the powder below them which has been untracked so far this year. The viz on the traverse was non existant.
High Saddle - one guy beat me in but there was so much thigh deep powder that we both had awesome untracked skiing. As with all saddle runs I cut right into Easter Bowl and found deep soft lightly tracked snow in the trees on the left.
Corner Pocket - even better than High Saddle if only because of the extra vert. great untracked thigh deep powder.
Low Saddle - a quick right hook after the trees in the top opened up more deep untracked skiing.
Lone Fir - I thought it was worth hiking up and wasn't disappointed, only a few skiers had got in before me. A little scratchy in the choke but after that awesome deep powder down into Easter.

After a very late lunch I took a quick trip out to Decline which was in great shape with deep soft snow, plenty of terrain to give an interesting ride and great work low down to clear out last years alders.

As I arrived at the top of Timber a patroller buddy gave me the nod that Big Bang was about to open so as soon as the signs flipped I cut Lazy Locals Traverse into the top and then hit Big Bang top to bottom untracked with over the head face shots all the way. It was so good that after that I looped back off White Pass top and had another go - Big Bang was still mostly untracked and just as good as before.

Last run of course was Skydive which had been filling in all day and was great soft deep powder all the way down. A great way to finish.

So it was still snowing as I was puting up my Christmas lights with a deck temp of -6. Looks like another good powder day tomorrow with an outside chance of Polar Peak.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 8 welcome to the New Side

We didn't have a huge dump overnight, just 3 or 4 cms to freshen things up, however yesterday's snow was rather more than anticipated so that we had 32 cms the day before and 25 cms in the 24 hours up to this morning so just do the math on the 48 hour figures.

Temps cooled so that it was -4 at the base and -7 on top. I guess it cooled all day as a couple of minutes ago when I looked on the deck it was -11, the upshot of this was that all the new snow stayed in great shape all day.

I forecast a zoo today and I was right. As we rolled into parking lot 2 at 20 minutes to 9 (opening) I saw a huge scrum round Timber Chair even though it wasn't running. We were told that Timber would be delayed 15 minutes and as I have waited hours in the past while waiting 15 minutes for Timber we decided to hit the Old Side.

We had a great untracked run off the chutes at the top of Bear into Cedar and ripped it still untracked all the way under Cedar Ridge and out on to Cedar Trail. I guess all the crowds at Timber gave us a clear run. After a loop back down Boomerang which was nice filled in powder we got word that Timber was open and headed for the New Side.

From the top of Timber we dropped Puff which was alwas the best way down to White Pass Chair. Puff was great with interesting terrain following the ground contours give tough but interesting sking. Sometime soon they will push a groomer up Puff and ruin everything but for time being it is great bump powder skiing.

The rest of the morning was spent up and down White Pass in Knot Chutes, Gun Bowl, I bowl, Highline Trees (interesting fallen tree drop) and the chutes just before Surprise which was cut off by a closure line. Everything on the New Side had been untouched so far this season so the powder was knee deep everywhere with deeper patches in the dips.At the end of the morning they opened Currie Bowl and we went far side hoping for a Reverse Traverse or Low Traverse opening but with no luck. We hit the side of Currie Glades which was deep and only lightly tracked.

After a quick break we found that the Low Traverse out across Currie was opened and although it was a very hard side step traverse it accessd some awesome deep (untracked so far this year) powder. the runs were -
Cougar Glades - First tracks ( well a board had been in but the tracks soon disappeared) top to bottom with over the head face shots all the way.
Decline - great with few tracks and very clear in the lower sections.
Skydive - tracked but good on the left with huge face shots as you hit the rolls on the way down.
Cougar Glades - again with friends - still plenty of untracked
Stag Leap - great in the trees at the entrance as it appeared to be untracked. A few tracks lower down but still lots of tight lines of fresh powder.
Skydive - final run of the day and 6 side step traverses so far had their effect on the legs so that it was a tough final run. Dan met me on the way out and we had to stop several time on the way down to give the legs a break.

Fantastic work has been done in the lower sections of the big three with alders removed and the skiing much better than last year or previous years.

Far too much beer in the Griz and a long soak in the hot tub. Looking up at the stars I could see Cassiopea (spelling ?) and not for the first time I wondered how the ancient greeks thought 5 stars shaped like a W looked like a semi dressed lady resting on a sofa - I guess that's what drinking ouzo does for you.

A great powder day and fingers crossed for Polar Peak tomorrow as the lift was turning last thing tonight.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 7 let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

And boy did it snow. We had 32 cms of fresh in the 24 hours up to this morning (base 140 cms) and during the day it continued to snow hard. I don't have figures on today's accumulation but I wouldn't think it could be less than 15 cms. They are calling for another 10 cms overnight (which judging by the snow falling as were in the hot tub seems a likely figure) and a further 10 cms during the day tomorrow. The season has gone from zero to hero in 48 hours.

As we drove to the hill valley temps were -2 and didn't change much all day. The same could be said for the upper mountain temps which hung around at about -5 without moving much. The result was that the snow that fell pretty well all day remained light and dry powder. It was one of those days when by the afternoon the tracks from the morning were mostly filled in so that we were getting powder right up to last bell.

Of course there were more people but after a small line up at Elk at first bell things were pretty clear for the rest of the day. Lizard was open all the way across to Dancer but we didn't go there tending to stick to the steeper pitches around Boomerang and Cedar which are more fun in the deeper powder. Cedar was open as far as Cruiser and most of the stuff between Boom and Cedar was open if a bit twiggy.

We started by dropping the chutes at the top of Bear down to Alpine Way and then further down in the trees towards the Gully. There was only one track in front of us and as there was plenty of room we all got deep untracked powder all the way down. After that we took many runs in the Cedar/ Boomerang area which in no particular order were -
Boomerang - still a few alders and a crunchy base low down from the old rain crust. Sometimes it was an exit along the Goat Trail and then a drop down Kodiak (now really nice and deep) back to Boom chair. Other times it was a case of holding left onto the face along side Boom Ridge and dropping straight to the chair from there. Snow just got deeper and more powdery as the day went on.
Boom Ridge - hardly touched so great deep powder all the way down. A bit twiggy on the exit but great skiing every time.
Linda's - open for the first time in several days so super deep. The only place all day where I got consistent face shots over the head and had difficulty breathing by the wave of powder in the mouth. Several great runs. Watch out for the fallen tree half way down.
Cedar Ridge - very twiggy but good stuff in short bursts in between the bushes. A crunchy base lower down from the old rain crust.
Alpine Way and below - many drop offs from Alpine Way with various routes down to the trail around Cedar Centre. All great powder skiing and nice undulating terrain allowing for quite a lot of air time.

Rode the Boom Chair up with 1 minute to go to closing and had a final rip down Boomerang where the snow was really starting to pile up. Beers in the Griz and the snow fall observations from the hot tub on our back deck.

I guess tomorrow will be a bit of a zoo with all the weekend worriors turning out having had reports of powder and a promised opening of the New Side - heigh ho, it's just a price we have to pay for having the hill to ourselves midweek on days like today.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 6 is this the start of winter ?

After yesterday's pretty crappy day things had to improve today and sure enough they did. We now have cooler temps, fresh snow, precip falling as white stuff even down in valley, in fact as I said in the heading, it looks like the start of a proper winter.

Overnight temps fell so that on the way to the hill it was -1 at the base and about -3 on top, staying around those figures for the rest of the day. There had been a very light dusting of new snow (1 cm) and the base had shrunk to 108 cms.

In terms of openings we got Arrow and all of Lizard bowl below Tower 6, the top of Cedar bowl from Bear as far as Cruiser.but still no Cedar Ridge, Boomerang, Boom Ridge, Linda's and all the surrounding areas.

Bear was in better shape than yesterday so we had a couple of runs - still a bit icy. Bear top into Cruiser next was very interesting. They had pushed a groomer down the middle of Cruiser in response to yesterdays aweful rain crust. Where they hadn't groomer the crust had firmed up to a hard base that would support weight and would just about take an edge. Trouble was that a combination of old skier traffic and rain damage made for a very very uneven surface and although better than yesterday it was still tough skiing. North Ridge was still icy but not quite the boiler plate of yesterday and had loose snow to either side to facilitate turning. We amused ourselves in these areas until lunch.

Late morning it started snowing and although it seemed to be driving quite hard there didn't seem to be much accumulation. The forecast was just for flurries but in true Fernie fashion the snow continued and became heavier so that by close we had accumulated about 4 cm and it was puking snow.

The snow improved the afternoon skiing which was  a repeat of the morning loops into Cedar plus some Arrow/lower Bow loops in Lizard. The cooling trend had firmed up the base in Lizard just like in Cruiser so that by the afternoon all the ungroomed skiing was good and not breakable crust and the increasing amounts of snow just made the skiing really rather smooth. I guess if you got down low enough you would have found breakable crust but I didn't find any on the upper hill.

For the first time this season I found myself catching the last chair up Bear and wishing we had a few more runs left. Of course this may have had something to do with the fact that my feet were in much betteer shape thanks to the great work done overnight on my boots by Donny at Top Shelf.

It has been snowing ever since we left the hill. I had to clear about 10 cms of snow off the hot tub to be able to get in and after a great soak in the falling snow (I love hot tubs in a snow storm) about a further 5 cms have accumulated. As I look out on my deck it is still puking snow and the snow is quite light and fluffy - long live Fernie flurries. Tomorrow could be the first powder day of the season - head for the hills.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 5 a pretty crappy day

And before anyone suggests that I am being a pessimist I would point out that most of my buddies suggested a better title for today would have been "a very crappy day."  Those blog followers who hang on my every post will remember that last night I was looking at two forecasts, one calling for a load of snow and the other for a load of rain. It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the sod's law of skiing that the rain won out.

When I went to bed last night it was +4 and pouring with rain and when I woke up this morning it was +3 and still pouring with rain. Most of the snow in the valley was pretty well washed out. When we got to the hill the rain line was more or less at the top of Bear so with only the Old Side open this meant that everything was rain affected.

There must have been some snow just below the top at the weather plot as the hill were claiming 14 cms of fresh and a base of 114 cms. If the sking along side the plot was anything to go by it must have come down in the middle of the night and then been rained upon to produce an ugly crust.

Lizard stayed closed so the first run was down the Bear. The first few turns were in a tricky rain crust before it became a refrozed hard iced base and remained that way all day. Next I (not we as Lynda refused to have anything to do with a day like today) took a trip down North Ridge and Emily's to Haul Back. The surface had been groomed but refrozen to a bullet hard ice sheet base where you were skiing about as fast sideways as you were forwards. Lower North Ridge to Boomerang was actually breakable crust on a groomer which was pretty strange and only got a bit better through the day as the surface was broken up by skier traffic.

Early on I decided to try Cedar/Cruiser encouraged by one of the snow flurries that occured during the morning. Cruiser was about 1 ft deep breakable crust and and absolute nightmare to ski, every turn was a huge physical effort. Later in the day I noticed Ski Patrol had put a warning sign on Alpine Way suggesting that Cruiser was experts only and giving it a tripple black diamond rating. I didn't try it a second time.

During the day we had a cooling trend and clearing skies. They were setting up snow makers during the day so it should get cold and this was confirmed by the clear skies tonight when I looked up from the hot tub and saw the stars.

So today all you could ski was a scrappy Bear and a sheet ice North Ridge - as I say pretty crappy. Of course technically you could have skied any part of Boomerang but my guess was that would be even worse than Cruiser. The few tracks that led in and then turned immediately and bailed out tended to confirm this.

There are only so many ways you can ski a couple of runs so by 3 in the afternoon I bailed. In any event I was suffering some early season foot pain and went down to the ever reliable Top Shelf to get it sorted. Beer in the griz, hot tub and bed. Forecast is for cooling and some snow, anything has to be better than today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 4 started really well before going way down hill

And so it did. We had great skiing in the morning and then as conditions deteriorated with the rain line moving up the hill things got pretty crappy to be quite honest.

Overnight we had some snow but very wet. Driving to the hill temps dropped from zero to -1 so we arrived to light snow showers, very overcast conditions which socked in the top of the hill all day and a claimed base of 102 cms with 6 cms of fresh. As you would expect for a mid week day in December with nothing special in the forecast the hill was almost deserted.

We arrived at the top of Bear to find that Lizard Bowl was closed for avi work on the head wall. Even after quite a lot of blasting Lizard remainded closed all day, I guess this was because the results couldn't be seen in the socked in conditions. This meant we only had the Old Side from Bear to Cruiser open with the top of Cedar off Bear also closed. To compensate the whole Boomerang area including Boom Ridge was open but more of that later.

We had a couple of runs down Bear with the new snow untracked dry powder on a smooth base. Second time down we hooked into Kodiake which yesterday had been a bit of a nightmare. Today the new snow made all the difference and the new snow on yesterday's mush base made for great untracked slightly heavy powder down to Boom Chair.

A ride up Boom Chair showed that the whole Boomerang area including Boom Ridge was open. From above you could see that the area was covered with alders and general ground scrub but in between the growth there was some great deep powder that was totally untracked. We looped 4 times taking different lines in Boomerang , twice taking it all the way to the bottom and twice taking the very patchy Goat Track out to the top of Kodiak which was starting to get a bit more tracked up.

As it is early season we are on a two short break strategy so we stopped at 11 for some hot choccy.  The second session was a case of doing loops down Cedar Ridge off Alpine Way and then down Cedar Centre to Haul Back. Then take Lower North Ridge to Boom Chair, up the Chair and then down Boomerang and repeat. The one attempt at Boom Ridge worked well for the first three quarters before having to bail to skiers right due to just too much undergrowth.

During this session the precip started as snow at the top and wet snow at the bottom and the skiing was exellent with good powder untracked in places. The wet snow turned to rain and by the time we broke just after half past 1 the lower hill was getting very heavy and claggy but still with good stuff on top.

Lynda declined to come out for the final session as it was raining very hard at the base. Dressed in my yellow 10 buck Canadian Tire plastic rain jacket I gave it a go. As always Lynda was right (aren't wives always right ?) as the final session was not good. The rain line was about half way up Bear and above that the snow was coming down almost as wet as rain. The result was everything now was heavy and where there had been powder we now had elephant snot.

We bailed at about half past three and hit the Griz Bar which as always at this time of year may have lacked numbers but made up for it in the quality of the company. Too wet for us to even think about a hot tub.

We have two forecasts - one says it's going to rain hard to the top of the hill for the next 24 hours. The other say that temps will cool overnight and about 25 cms of the precip will come as new snow. I know which one I would like to be right but lets see.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 3 so much better than expected

Now, lets put this into context, compared with the awesome powder days that we have had and will have again the current conditions are pretty poor but in the context of an early season skiing experience what we have at the moment is pretty ok.

I went to the hill today with very low expectations. There had been snow over night but so light that the tire tracks in my drive were still clearly visible. The radio forecast a rain snow mix for the next few days with daytime highs of +4 and as we headed off to the hill in temps of +2 we had light rain. As it was we had some really very good conditions for early season which proves the old skiing adage - if you don't go you don't know.

When we got to the hill they were claiming 12 cms in the last 24 and a base of 97 cms. Given that most of that snow probably fell yesterday expectations were still low. As it turned out the snow had continued to fall as a very fine graupel ( that's what I have been told is the correct spelling of grapple) and had provided a good covering. Temps stayed a degree or two above zero at the base all day with temps of about zero mid mountain and -1 at the top. The conditions were very overcast with occasional short flurries of graupel during the day.

It being the first weekday of the season skier traffic was very thin and all day it was possible to stop for several minutes without seeing anyone. We headed up Bear to find that the overnight snow had left a smooth powderish covering about half way up the boot. We took a couple of runs down Bear and laid fresh tracks each time by staying left and right. Next as Cedar bowl had been opened from the very top as far as Cruiser we dropped the chutes off the top of the Bear and had some quite deep untracked but heavy snow down to Alpine Way. We then did a couple of loops via Haul Back and Boomerag each time cutting as close to Cedar Ridge as possible before dropping left to Cruiser - Cedar Ridge and Boomerang off North Ridge remain closed. The snow was great with fresh powder on the old base but still with the ground contours showing through to make for good interesting terrain.

Late morning Lizard High Traverse opened all the way across to Dancer and we were there when the fence dropped. For the rest of the morning we just looped off Bear traversing out into Lizard until we could see no more tracks then dropping down in untracked powder (sort of) about boot high down to Tower 6 trail.

The afternoon was just are run of the morning and we were still finding fresh tracks right up to closing bell. Right at the end I bumped into some buddies (Rob, Dan and Brian) for a final rip through Cedar and then Bear and Cascade - a great finish to the day.

So, having gone expecting the worst I ended up having a pretty good day. Technically as what we were sking was untracked and flew as we skied it I guess it has to count as powder but lets keep a sense of proportion about things, it was good but by no means awesome.

Final mention is for Kodiak which we skied mid afternoon. Being a bit lower the untracked "powder" was very heavy indeed, tending to force you into skiing rail road lines in wide curves rather than nice turns. The toughest run on the hill at the moment for anyone looking for a challenge.

As always beers in the Griz bar with buddies then a hot tub back at the ranch. First day that I don't feel completely knackered at this time of night.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 2 a big improvement

After the rather sketchy conditions of yesterday a fall of new snow went a long way towards getting the season back on track. Conditions are still very much "early season hazards" but at least now it's starting to feel a bit like some of the other opening weeks that we have had and we have rather more of the Old Side to play with but still no sign of the New Side. Given the very low skier numbers we will probably have to wait at least until next weekend before we get the New Side.

Overnight the rain turned to snow and whilst it wasn't a heavy fall it kept on coming and was still falling as we drove to the hill. Starting temps were zero in the valley and -1 at the base of the hill. The boards claimed an 85 cm base and 8 cms of new overnight, given the measure was taken early in the morning we probably started with about 10 cms of quite heavy fresh snow. It snowed all day with the snow fall building so that by closing we had quite an accumulation on top. Base temps rose to +1 and the snow turned to rain at the very bottom but not enough to do too much damage to the snow already on the ground. So while we did have a fair amount of new snow it was with a high moisture content and heavy.

The effect on conditions was to turn yesterday's base into a very hard ice crust. I think there had been some grooming but it must have happened while the snow was wet slush yesterday evening as when the base formed it was very bumpy and uneven. The fresh snow of the day gave a good soft covering but the conditions were about as tough on the legs as I can remember as the icey uneveness was hiden by the new snow so you were constantly having to react and rebalance everywhere you skied. The new snow never got quite enough to give a smooth ride but it did cover a lot of yesterday's bare patches and as a result the rock skis only took a couple of new gouges during the course of the day.

We started on Bear and had a couple of runs on the new soft snow where some untracked stuff could be found. Just like yesterday we looped out to Haul Back via North Ridge and Emily's which were in much better shape than yesterday but still no skiing off either side into Boomerang or Cedar Ridge. From the top of the haul back Lower North Ridge was now open so that was the route back to the Boom Chair.

That set the pattern for the day. As patrol managed to open new areas we skied them a couple of times before moving on to the next opening. As a result we tried -
Arrow - great soft snow in then top then many different ways down as you spread out along Tower 6 Trail. Below the trail things got very interesting with a lot of alders and other bush work making sking very challenging but great fun.
Alpine Way - when opened you could access much of Cedar Ridge just on the near side of Cruiser. The many and varied ways down were lightly tracked in heavy powder but following the advice from Ski patrol we cut out left half way down to avoid what was described as "hero to zero conditions".
Cedar Centre - very sketchy on the icey base with loads of growth to make life interesting, probably the toughest challenge on the hill at the moment.

All the skiing was linked by loops through Bear or Boomerang so that the whole thing came together as quite enjoyable circuits. Another bell to bell day which left the early season legs complaining. A visit to the Griz Bar to see friends and then home for a hot tub seemed to go a long way to effecting a cure.

Cooling temps and more precip in forecast so if they have got it right (no laughter please) then things should continue to improve - lets see.