Saturday, January 7, 2012

Day 39 is it getting better or are we just getting used to it

A very good question as I thought today was, well if not ok, at least tolerable whilst a number of people I met were saying it was just as bad as ever.

As promised I went to the Old Side to check things out and even took a trip down the Bear groomer to see if it was as ugly as everyone said - actually it seemed ok to me but then maybe the groomers did some good overnight work. Elsewhere Sunny Side, Boomerang and Cedar ridge were just ugly icey bumps with no sign of wind sift despite the cutting wind that was blowing and some mountain snow which didn't amount to anything.

Exploration of the Old Side was not helped by the fact that the Haul Back lift was down. Bearing in mind that the last two times I went to the Old Side the Boomerang Lift was down I am tempted to think that perhaps it would be a good idea if before getting the new Polar Peak lift to run (now scheduled for the 14th) it might be a good idea to make sure the existing lifts are running ok - but what do I know.

Temps were down at -2 at the bottom and -7 at the top and probably only rose a degree or two all day. The base was down to a very solid 152 cms at mid mountain but the temps did allowing snow making to continue on the lower runs some time into the morning so that most of the brown bare patches are now covered. We went to the New Side -

Just like yesterday the cold temps had frozen what was there and conditions ranged from nice soft blow in to boiler plate. We spent all day trying runs off White Pass and did most of them at least twice, summarised as -
Lift Line/Big Bang - still a challenging drop to Whitepass but almost every condition to be had on the way down and a bit more blow in than of late.
Surprise Trees - no real sign of new snow and a hard crunchy surface all the way down. Watch for the rope on the ski out into Silver Lining which has been lowered to the point where it can strangle the unwary.
Anaconda Glades - I guess where the snow has blown from Surprise. Nice blow in to be had in all the chutes we tried - best snow of the day.
Bootleg Glades - a bit hard on the base but ok dust on crust for the most part
1-2-3s - another really nice run with a bit of soft snow blown in but mostly a firm surface taking a good edge.
Concussion chutes - totally varied and unpredictable. Deep soft blow in and sheet ice and that changed from turn to turn all the way down.
Alpha Centauri - some of the best snow blown in just on the far side of the trees.
Easter bowl - great windsift at the top but very hard icey bumps lower down and the light always seemed to be flat.
Cougar Glades - biggest mistake of the day. Hard refrozen tufted ice all the way down without even a flake of soft snow to be seen.
Decline - great skiing on blow in on a reasonably forgiving base. Both times we exited via the trail into Easter as the lower section was likely to be ugly at best and dangerous at worst.

The forecast is calling fot some pretty dramatic precip events over the next two weeks. We have all been around long enough to know that you deal with one day at a time and tomorrow is likely to be much the same as today.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 38 a levelling down of conditions

Whilst yesterday we had very varied conditions ranging from soft blow in to sheet ice today things seemed to find their level so that most parts of the hill were much the same and not all that good wherever you went.

Overnight we had 2 cms of fresh which didn't make much difference to the conditions but did make things look a bit better which is always nice - the mid mountain base was 152 cms but I would be willing to bet the base at the base would be about 10% of that figure, there were still many bare patches on the lower groomers. Temps on the way to the hill were -1 and around -6 on top and whilst the base may have warmed a little the upper temps stayed the same most of the day.

Conditions were overcast with some late afternoon flurries which didn't really amount to anything. Our hope was that the dry cold would have made the skiing surface nice and crisp but in the event we got hard icey bases with tufted crust and some blow in between the outcrops - this was everywhere to a greater or lesser degree. We went to the New Side and stayed if only because all the reports I got from ski buddies confirmed that the Old Side was if anything worse. I realise this is becoming a bit of a New Side blog and promise a few runs on the Old Side tomorrow in the interests of balanced reporting.

Lift Line was a bit tougher than yesterday with icey chunks but more people seemed to be using it. For most of the day I dropped the top section which was ok before cutting left into the trees between Lift Line and Big Bang which offered the best windsift. First run off White Pass was back through the Gun bowl and Quite Right which was light blow in on ice. Next we tried Surprise Trees and found more dust on crust getting more icey lower down.

Anaconda Glades gave up some of the best snow of the day because of the ridgeline wind sift but the next section via Bootleg whilst ok dust on Crust was made more difficult by last nights grooming pushing a load of death cookies into the chute. Next was 1-2-3s which whilst not as good as yesterday was still giving a reasonable edge grip in all three sections. Bootleg next time round was no better.

Next was a series of runs through the various Concussion chutes which were now all some light blow in on very uneven icey bases. The exit on Gilmar trail was always very slick and icey. We had an early lunch as it seemed cold although the mercury was only showing about -5 so a stop for and extra layer seemed appropriate.

In the afternoon with Lynda headed off to the gym and left to my own devices I decided to do a bit of adventuring -
Cougar Glades - pretty crunchy in the top and very crunchy in the last few turns above the trail. The ski out was ugly ice with branches and tree stumps.
Easter Bowl - actually very nice in the upper sections with the blow in forming wind grooming but going to hard icey bumps in the lower section.
Cornice Chute - not quite sure why I did this except that the blow in looked nice. Very patchy with tufted ice between the blow in. The good news is that the latest conditions have got rid of the large death cookies at the bottom section and replaced them with lots of small ones.
Decline - As I expected the top section was very nice with untracked blow in down to the first trail, nice to get first tracks that late in the afternoon. I had planned to ski out along the trail into Easter but in a fit of stupidity I hit the bottom section. Actually although it was a little crunchy in places and a bit technical in others it was great skiing.

To fill in time I did a couple of loops in Surprise trees at the end of the day and found that they were still crunchy and quite ugly but as I was obviously getting used to the conditions I could give it a really good rip. Final run was Sydive top and a cut into Decline lower with a buddy (welcome back Rod) which again was good sking up high and a bit technical low down but well worth the effort.

Once again not a day for the purist. If you are looking for great powder then this isn't the time for you. If you want tough challenging skiing that gives you a great thirst in the bar afterwards then enjoy.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Day 37 Most places ugly but a few ok

First of all I would say that I was wrong yesterday when I said that it was spring. As I was having coffee in bed this morning listening to the radio I heard that there had been a grass fire over in Alberta at Nanton (just over two hours drive fron here) that had burned 60 square kms of land and half a dozen homes - this isn't spring, this is summer.

It didn't rain overnight but it did blow and wind damage was evident particularly on the New Side. On the way to the hill it was +4 and stayed that way all morning at the base before cooling to +1 this evening. Up top it was zero or just below all of the day, cooling as the day went on under overcast conditions which gave very flat light for most of the day.

The effect on the hill was interesting. At the very base the surface turned to slush and stayed that way but no where near as bad as yesterday. The groomers at any elevation were slick fast and very icey - I understand the Bear was particularly bad although I didn't ski it myself. Up higher and away from the groomers the surfaces refroze from yesterday's melt down but with very varied results. We went to the New Side in the hope that the higher slopes had not been so badly affected by the melt yesterday but in the event I think all elevations were equally badly affected.

The drop down Lift Line from Timber top just about summed things up - it was hard and icey but taking an edge if you worked at it. Mostly we just dropped the line but with an occasional detour into Big Bang. In the whole day I didn't see anyone else in Lift Line either while skiing it or from the lift, this must say something but I am not sure what.

Gun bowl and Quite Right were much the same with a hard icey base just taking an edge. After that we worked our way round the Concussion Chutes and the Currie Chutes which went from ok ice pellets taking an edge to ugly sheet ice. The didn't seem to be any correlation to hight or aspect to explain the variences. A good example was 1-2-3s which was an ok surface taking an edge in all three pitches and Easter bowl (same elevation and aspect more or less) which was just hard icey bumps top to bottom and that in not very good light.

The ski out routes were equally varied -
Gilmar Trail - slick ice all the way down except in the bare patches
Diamond back ridge - ok in the top but very ugly and stumpy on the last pitch
Bootleg Glades - best of all of them and just a bit slick in the alders at the bottom.

After lunch I tried the Old Side but found Boomerang and Cedar Ridge pretty icey and tracked so I headed back to the New Side. Spent the rest of the afternoon with a re run of the morning before venturing out to Tom's run which was pretty ugly ice tufts. By late afternoon the temps were dropping and the grappel showers that we had had off and on all day began to get heavier becoming real snow by last run.

I quite enjoyed the day. I have tried to explain this before, the difference between good/bad conditions and how much fun you have. I know there are plenty who think that unless conditions are good you can't have fun but I disagree. To me skiing an ugly challenging ice run in half good style gives me a sense of achievement and I would call that fun. In a nutshell a predominantly ugly day like today can be (and was) enjoyable.

I came off the hill a liitle early as my boots are starting to fall apart after 500 days (Bill days) of skiing so I had to go the Top Shelf ( best boot fitters in my opinion) to start to organise some new footware. First fitting Monday at 9 as long as it isn't a powder day. On the subject of the weather we appear to have gotten away with it again by having a big warm up but the precip coming on the cooling tail, that having been said, there comes a time when we don't want to just get away with it but to get some serious winter snow and that time is long past.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 36 life in the sauna

I was thinking of writing about spring skiing but that doesn't seem to even begin to descibe the warm up that hit us today. A chinook was called for in Calgary today with forecast highs there of +16. Everyone tells me that this has no influence on the Fernie weather but experience over the past few years tells me that whenever this happens the Fernie temps go up way over the forecast and today was no exception.

On the way to the hill this morning it was +5 and on the way back well after sunset it was +9. During the day in the direct sunlight (it was a bluebird morning before clouding over) it could have gone much higher - who knows. Even up top in the shadow, late morning it was +3 and as a result we had true spring conditions with every surface softening but particularly those south facing.

For us it was just like a spring day and we decided to go high to the New Side although reports from the Old Side confirm that north facing slopes like Cedar Ridge stayed ok all day. In the morning we risked the south facing slopes which became very soft very quick but in the afternoon tended to hang out on the more north facing slope which even with the lack of direct sunlight were soft to the top and just plain mushy lower down.

The base was quoted at 157 cms which is still high for the time of year and higher than last year. It is worth examining this in a bit more detail to explain why the conditions appear so marginal this year. Last year we had a lot of early season snow followed by low temps and no snow. The result was a low snow base but one that existed all the way down the hill. This year we have had a fair amount of snow at the snow plot level followed by warm ups. Add to this that a lot of the snow that has fallen has been rain lower down so whilst adding to the base at the snow plot it has actually been reducing the base over most of the hill.

The result is that we now have a very beat up lower mountain and an upper mountain melted and getting ready to freeze (if the cool weather ever comes back) into boiler plate. I can't ever remember such a long warm period in January, a fact confirmed by talking to one of the snow makers who hasn't been able to work for two weeks because it is just too warm.

We just hit the New Side all day and had nice soft Spring skiing everywhere - I don't mind spring skiing but I do like it to come after winter skiing and not before. All the Currie chutes were good all morning going to slush lower down so that is what we skied from Concussion to Currie Creek.

In the afternoon we kept to the more north facing slopes - Cougar Glades (twice) run of the day being shaded by the trees and only getting sticky low down.
Anaconda Glades - good blow in in the second chute and high enough not to be too warmth affected.
Bootleg Glades - Ok and mostly untracked but a bit scratchy underneath. Soggy just above the Gilmar Trail
Mitchy Chutes - even this high up and north facing it was corn snow.
Lone Fir - very sketchy and heavy through the chute but some ok if heavy stuff down into Easter bowl.
Decline - nice in the top but just got heavier all the way down
Sykdive - last run of the day and just like Decline but with more alders in the lower part - at least the front three runs (don't let me catch anyone calling them the fingers) are now open although no better than they have been for the past week or two.

In summary the skiing was ok spring skiing on corn snow which would have been great in April but sucks in January. The base is now very fragile and more snow is needed. If things don't cool down and we get precip then we could lose the lower hill altogether, on the other hand if things do cool down we could be faced with boiler plate a death cookies top to bottom. Our only hope is a cooling trend with precip turning to snow and looking at the forecast that is odds against but we can hope.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Day 35 People but no crowds

Or should that read crowds but no people, let me explain. I had expected a lot fewer people at the hill today and so was disappointed to find that parking lot 2 was quite full, there were quite a few people around at the base and the ski racks seemed fairly full. The expectation was that the crowds were still with us but in the event we had some of the best untracked skiing of the season so far.

Over night temps had risen so it was +2 when we arrived at the hill and probably got up to about +4 during the day. Temps at the top were -2 and I guess held at about zero for most of the day. We had seen a little flurry activity overnight but were surprised to see the boards claiming 5 cms of fresh and a base of 157. We had our doubts as we got ready to ski but actually there was at least 5 cms of new powder (a little heavy) which had a great effect on repairing the hill after the holiday period and on the New Side some additional blow in which continued all day.

Our stratagy was to go to the Old Side and ski the fresh snow in the morning before it got too warm low down then move higher on the New Side in the afternoon as temperatures rose - it actually worked out well for a change. This was one of those days when we arrived with no great expectations but found that overall the conditions were really very nice all day which somehow is the best way for things to happen.

On the Old Side our fresh track experience started when we put first tracks in Boom bowl and then worked our way out left at the bottom also for first tracks. Next was Boom Ridge, also first tracks on soft bumps under the new snow. We then hit Cedar Ridge (Lynda left and me right) and both reported no tracks in front of us all the way down.

This was getting very weird as there were people around but they all seemed to be sticking to the groomers and first tracks were there for the taking all morning. Next we did King Fir and all three sections were untracked. Next stop Linda's run, and yes you guessed it this was untracked as well. By this time it was about 11:30 and we still hadn't had to cross any other tracks. To put things in perspective this was only 5 cms of fresh on a soft base so we weren't talking awesome powder but it was still pretty good.

Last run before lunch we looped right out to the boundary fence and skied Steep and Deep. Although there had been a few tracks in front of us the face is so large that untracked skiing was there for the taking until you hit the right hand chute into lower Gorby which was surprisingly good all the way down to Haul Back. A special mention for Kangaroo which we skied 3 time top to bottom and which was ok with the new snow in the top nice and soft and the warm conditions softening the bumps in the lower section - I guess Kangaroo will now be the trail of choice when dropping from Haul Back top to Boom bottom.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and found much the same conditions but with more wind sift to the point where after skiing the Severe Concussion chute I looked back up at where I had skied and it was untracked - the wind was sifting the snow faster than I could track it up.
Concussion - great blow in powder on a soft base in all the chutes
Cougar Glades - really really great powder all the way down.
Ananconda Glades - Deep snow in the first chute over the hump and I guess we got about third tracks which was good enough.
Bootleg Glades - the near tree chute had filled in and the rest was ok but a bit scratchy underneath down to the Gilmar trail
Lift Line/Big Bang - good deep blow in that was forming wind grooming in the bowl.
Mitchy Chutes - just like Big Bang and just as great except for some dickhead who cut me off from the right hand side of the trail and nearly caused a major stack just by being stupid. After that the drop was fine.

Last run of the day was the daily meeting of the Skydive club - only 5 memebrs today. Top of Skydive was just awesome powder with very few tracks and we exited through the lower part of Decline which is becoming almost civilised with the new snow.

In the bar I was given a hard time over how late the blog is appearing each day but what can I do ? It takes an hour to type and that is always after some significant bar/hot tub time. I guess I will just have to try harder. Another warm day forecast with the danger of precip which would come down as liquid powder ( I understand all precip is now called powder of one kind or another) but perhaps with some flurry activity first - whatwever it is we will ski it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 34 surprisingly busy but an ok day

Yes, it was rather busier today as I had anticipated that with the drift back to the city after the holiday today would have been really quiet, apparently not but we can hope for the next few days.

No new snow overnight and and the base was down to 157 cms so skiing was never going to be anything better than ok (which is quite good enough). As we arrived at the hill it was -8 at the base and a little cooler on top. During the bluebirdish day temps rose but never to get above zero at the base and by close of play it was down to about -3.

As a first for a few days we went to the Old Side to check things out. Our efforts in this direction were frustrated by the fact that the Boom chair had broken down and remained so for an hour or so. We had a quick rip down Bear then went out to the Sunny Side shoulder which was good but firm bumps. As we were trying to link up with a buddy we did another loop through Boomerang which was ok againg but firm bumps taking an edge.

In an attempt to give the Old Side a final chance to show what it could do we traversed all the way out to the boundary fence by Fish bowl and dropped Steep and Deep. Yet again it was ok but nowhwere near as good as what we have been skiing on the New Side for the past few days so with the added hassel of Boom broken down we skied out on Cedar Trail and headed for the New Side.

We tried the following -
Cougar Glades - rather more tracked than ithas been in the past but still great skiing through the trees. Even the ski out seemed a bit less scratchy.
Concussion - courtesy of Lynda's report, smooth blow in most of the way down.
Low Saddle - the only Saddle that looked even slightly worth attempting in their skied out state. A bit slick and icey through the steep part of the Saddle ( a good challenge) but what had yesterday been great powder below today was a bit chunky, tracked up and hard work.
Stag Leap - wonderful skiing through the trees, ok for most of the run and some ugly hard ice in the lower section.

After Lunch I linked up with some buddies and went back to do to New Side in much the same way -
Cougar Glades - as before
Decline - great on top getting harder work as you went down.
Sykdive - still very good powder on top but this time the right cut into Stag Leap was icey hard work, but great fun in my view.

A good point was made today about the ski down from Timber top to White Pass bottom on the New Side where many people just swing round the groomer and treat it in effect as a non run. Although the pitch is short my view is that this is some of the most fun skiing on the hill and today was no exception.

Lift Line was the most obvious route which although getting a bit tracked up was good steep skiing. The right cut into Big Bang was great with a steep drop into the lower right hand bowl being the best route. The hike up to Lazy Locals was only lightly used and two traverses have now been cut - the higher is ok but avoid the lower like the plague. Puff Trees still have plenty on snow in and about a hundred ways down. I suppose all I am doing is making the point that when you ski off Timber Chair there are great alternatives to just skiing round the groomers (as we know my view is that skiing groomers isn't skiing at all)

Flurries are forecast for overnight. In fact this week is forecast as an exact re run of last week where we got snow then rain then more snow, lets hope they are wrong about the rain bit.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day 33 No new snow but the best day yet

So how did we have such a great day with no new snow - the answer is that they opened the Saddles for the first time in about 7 days and as a result we had awesome deep powder skiing most of the day, but more of that later.

When we arrived at the hill today temps were -9 at the base and a couple of degrees colder on top. During the day temps came up a bit but I guess it remained below freezing at the base and about -5 up high. No new snow and the base hanging in at 160 cms. There was some light cloud that broke up during the day and conditions were only just short of "bluebird".

Being New Years Day (by the way Happy New Year) the morning crowds were way down and in fact it was quieter than a normal Sunday. This was good news as the low numbers meant that when the new snow became available it didn't get the beating that it otherwise might. We went to the New Side - now I know this is starting to sound like a New Side only blog but heard me out and you will understand why it was yet another New Side day.

We went out looking for the high traverse in Currie and found it closed so we had a nice drop down Severe Concession which had some nice blow in. Generally the cooler temps meant that yesterdays tracked powder had been dried out into some fairly chunky dry snow which was pretty hard to push around.

Next time round we found that the Reverse Traverse had been opened at the County Line and that all the Saddles were open for the first time in over a week. The order of play was -
Corner Pocket - all tires covered, great powder edge to edge jumping all the way down and awesome powder pretty well untracked for 7 days when you hit Lizard bowl. The final drop through Easter was a little tracked up but ok skiing and the exit that we used all morning.
High Saddle - wonderful powder all the way down the chute that could be skied by jumping turns, below it was just as Corner Pocket.
Low Saddle - excellent powder in the chute itself. As always we cut skiers right as soon as possible and found the untracked chutes under the cliffs for first tracks in those chutes, exit via Easter.
Low Saddle - again and the same tactic. This time there were a few more tracks in the chutes but the right cut still gave us a load of untracked skiing into Easter.
Lone Fir - as I always say this is some of the steepest and tightest skiing on the hill and today it was just perfect. We were about third tracks in and it was steep deep powder with the main danger being barreled out by your own slough, in fact Lynda nearly was. The pitch below the chute through the avi damaged trees was the deepest untracked powder so far this season.

In the afternoon we returned but found the usual problem that some not very good skiers/boarders had side slipped the chutes and they were becoming scraped out - I do wish people who can't ski or ride the Saddles would stay out of them instead of trashing them for everyone else. High Saddle was tougher in the chute but a re run of the morning below.

We decided to try some adventuring and hit Window Chutes for the first time from Decline. It was great in the top but a bit breakable crust in the middle with lots of ground obstructions exposed. We had to ski round the log drop as it was not yet covered but in the lower section the traffic had created a harder and slightly icey base which actually was a rather better skiing surface all the way to the cat track.

Last loop we dropped back off the top of White Pass as we hadn't done this today and went out to Triple trees which as always had plenty of un skied lines even if the drop onto Trespass Trail did tend to shake a few fillings loose. Last run was Skydive top and cut into Decline bottom. The Skydive top was as always just awesome hardly tracked powder, the lower part of Decline is still pretty twiggy but now at least skiable in the sense that you can link turns all the way down.

Nothing in the forecast for a few days but the crowds should fall off and things get back to normal.