Saturday, January 28, 2012

No report today

As I feared last night Lynda's flight was on time just after noon so I had to leave for Calgary before the hill opened and got back after it had closed.

Of all the days to miss this wasn't a bad one. With good snow all week the weekend crowds would have been ugly and with no new snow the conditions would have been no better than ok. It is the weekend of the Kokanee snow dreams party so if we had been here there would have been a huge line up to get in the Griz bar and when we got there it would be full of strangers just up for the day who would not be interested in our usual sole topic of conversaion - skiing.

The drive to Calgary was ok with just a bit of wild life on the road. Temps stayed just below zero all the way there and back. Coming back through the pass there was quite a lot of blowing snow. As we arrived back in town it was starting to snow and although the air temp was -3 the snow was coming down wet which was a bit worrying. Watch this space for tomorrows report.

Welcome back Lynda

Friday, January 27, 2012

Day 59 a frustrating start to a great day

Lets deal with the frustrating start first. I got to the hill reasonably early, got ready, taped myself into my boots and was already to go when I pulled up the zip on my jacket and it broke so the front fell open. There was nothing else for it but to get off all the kit and drive back to the house to pick up one of my old ski jackets. Of course I could have just bought a new jacket but at on the hill prices you would have to be joking.

By 10 o'clock I was ready to go (by far the latest start of the year) and headed up the New Side in the hope of a Polar Peak opening. There had been about 7 cms of snow in the last 24 hours but I think most of that had fallen yesterday and there was really nothing new overnight. The wind had done it's job and a considerable amount of wind sift had blown around to refresh most places on the hill. Temps were around -5 and stayed there all day which kept the snow in great shape - of course up Polar Peak it was a lot colder and with a significant wind chill but that is just something that is going to have to be taken as read in the future.

I arrived at the top of White Pass and was pleased to see that Polar Peak chair was turning but not loading. I did a couple of runs back through the Knot Chutes (Tight Knot mostly untracked) and out through Surprise Trees that still had plenty of deep tracked powder while killing time. I got my reward as on arriving at the top of White Pass they were indicating Polar Peak was open and I got on the fifth chair going up.

Three days of closure and loads of new snow says it all. The Polar chutes were just awesome deep powder and I got second tracks in Mamma Bear - the run to the base through wind sifted Concussion chutes was equally good. Next time I hit the right hand Polar chutes so I could ski to the loading station and check to timing of a Polar loop - less than 10 minutes.

I was looking for ways to link in to the Polar chutes for a run off the hill and had an idea about the Saddles which proved to be a good one as High Saddle was easy tight jump turns all the way down with great powder underneath and an exit through Easter bowl. Next loop was just the same, just as deep powder but this time the drop was through Low Saddle. The saddled was a little scratchy but the chutes off to the right under the rock band were awesome and mostly untracked.

After this the Peak was closed due to high winds that was no real surprise given the brutal conditions on the last chair up. As it was about lunch time I took Lone Fir which had been mostly left alone and was just great steep tight chute skiing and then and exit through Spinal Tap which as always was demanding but huge fun jumping in and out of the creek bed.

After lunch I went back up and was delighted to find Polar Peak re opened so I pushed out to Baby Bear (fast becoming my favourite) which because of the access prroblems and the wind sift appeared almost untracked. A quick hike up to One Step Beyond ( the chute beyond Lone Fir) was rewarded with untracked steep and deep chute skiing, exit via Easter bowl which was in ok shape.

Next Polar lap was a right hand chute to allow a short Polar lap and the another Baby Bear trip but this time with a traverse into Cougar Glades which still had some pretty good lines in the tight tree sections on the left hand side. This brought the Polar Peak total to the day to 7 which I thought was ok so with some time to kill on the final lap in White Pass I did yet another Tight Knot/Surprise Trees loop which was still in great shape and lightly tracked even at the end of the day.

Final run through Skydive was, as always, great free riding to finish the day with skis spending more time in the air than on the ground.

A Warning - tomorrow Lynda gets back and if her flight into Calgary is on time I must meet her just after noon. It follows that if this happens I won't be skiing and there will be no blog unless anyone is interested on what a drive to Calgary and back feels like. Of course if the flight is delayed I may get a couple of runs and if so I will give a report no matter how brief.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 58 a very happy Australia Day

On the hill most Aussies were given the day off to celebrate their national day in proper style (I think alcohol may have been involved) while the rest of us had yet another great powder day to deal with in the only way we know how - by trashing all the powder we could see.

You may recall that yesterday I said that it would only take about 5 cms of fresh snow to completely restore the hill and we got 6 cms overnight bringing the base up to about 235 cms so job done. It snowed all morning and we had some grappel flurries in the afternoon so I would imagine the snowfall figure will be about double when the 24 hour figures are published. Temps were just below zero at the base as we started and they rose to a couple of degrees above during the day with no significant melt. Up top the numbers were more like low single digit minus figures all day - the result was the snow stayed in ok shape.

Arriving at the hill and seeing the top (anything above mid mountain actually) socked in and mindful of my promise of yesterday I headed to the Old Side to see what was on offer. Lizard high traverse was closed and remained so as did Cedar high traverse but what was left was very good. There was no one around, partly because there was hardly anyone on the hill and partly because of an (incorrect) warning of a late opening on the Old Side lifts which I had failed to pick up.

The sking was just great powder, quite deep on a soft base. First tracks in Cedar ridge followed by the same in King Fir gave great face shots all the way down. After that it was just loops off Boom covering Cedar Ridge (three different ways), King Fir again, Linda's ( great untracked skiing on the right, Boom and down into Buck shot, Boom ridge, and a couple of other places I can't quite remeber. Everywhere was boot deep powder on a soft base and either untracked or lightly tracked. Returns to Boom were always via Kangaroo where first time round I got first tracks and after that it was just nice soft bumps and about as good as I can ever remember the Roo.

With the temps rising and the base getting a bit heavy it was time for lunch and a chance to try my luck on the higher elevations of the New Side. By a happy coincidence the snow had stopped and the light was lifting as I headed up after a short lunch break.

Polar Peak was never going to happen with the light lifting so late although they did turn the chair a few times just as a tease - they really need to get a permanent sign at the top of White Pass saying whether or not Polar chair is open as by the time you have skied down to check it out you are below the line of the Reverse Traverse.

We just looped out into great conditions which had only been lightly tracked and were improving with new grappel and wind sift all afternoon. Loops included -
Stag Leap - really great with only about 5 tracks.
Decline into Window chutes - deep and untracked in the lower section with even the ski out starting to get less icey.
The Brain - better every time I ski it and now just getting to the stage where you can free ride the rollers even in the tight trees.
Cougar Glades - if you went far left into the tight trees it was mostly untracked and awesome.

Runs down to White Pass involved a lot of hiking up to Mitchy's chutes which were great untracked winsift even after you had skied them with many more options now available through the rock bands.

Final run we hike up to Lone Fir which was closed but then dropped the shoulder into Currie Creek before cutting out to Skydive for the usual awesome rip top to bottom. Beer and hot tub well deserved.

Tomorrow looks a day to hang out on the New Side and see what happens, at least that is where I will be.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 57 yet another really good day

Sad to say it was yet another day that I spent all day on the New Side so there is no Old Side report but I will make a real effort to get over to the Old Side tomorrow as long as there is no chance of the Polar Chutes opening which I have to say looked pretty awesome as I looked up into them as I skied across on the reverse traverse for the last run of the day.

We had been threatened with a snow/rain mix overnight with the rain coming in the morning on the back of warming temps. In the event we got 19 cms of fairly creamy snow overnight and although temps got to about +3 at the base and -1 at the top during the day the odd bits of precip seemed to come down white (heavy snow or ice pellets) to me when they fell, off and on during the day. Some buddies said there was light rain at about 5 in the morning but I didn't see it and it certainly hadn't affected the snow on the hill.

The base rose to a respectable 238 cms and because the snow has been top to bottom on the hill the lower parts of the runs are starting to get in good shape with even Decline, Skydive and Stag leap getting not too badly affected by undergrowth in the lower sections. With the snow coming down a near zero temps I went to the New Side to get better dryer snow.

The first trip up Timber didn't go well with the chair stopped for 10 minutes but on the plus side this meant that I arrived at White Pass (which had been closed) just as it was opening. The I bowl was closed at the shoulder so I had a couple of runs down through the Gun bowl and Quite Right area which was in poor flat light but around 20 cms of mostly untracked fresh snow.

When the I bowl opened I did a couple of loops across the idiot traverse and down Surprise Trees. The surprise was that the winds at this stage had become so strong that I lost sight of the traverse several times and on one occasion had to stop skiing in Surprise Trees as the viz was down to (quite literally zero) in the blowing snow.

Next to open was Anaconda and I did a couple of very enjoyable loops which involved traversing in to the Knot Chutes (Tight knot each time) and then dropping into Anaconda. First time I just hiked the hump but next time went a couple of chutes in, but both times it was deep soft hero snow which made the tight lines pretty easy. Exits were via the trees in Bootleg glades which were mostly untracked. Second time through I heard some whooping from the Currie Chutes and guessed that Currie had opened.

The rest of the day was spent looping out into Currie, first on the low traverse and later on the high one as it opened. What we didn't get opened was the Polar Peak chair, the Saddles and Lone Fir, but we can wait as they will all be awesome as and when they come on stream.

Not much to say about the remainder of the loops as they wee all awesome in hero snow where you could just carve big GS turns at maximum speed and enjoy the ride. Even at the end of the day the lack of crowds meant that untracked, or lightly tracked options were available. The running order where conditions were all equally good was (or at least as far as I can remember after several beers) Stag Leap, Cougar Glades, Window Chutes, The Brain, Decline, Stag Leap again, Easter bowl with a left cut into Spinal Tap, and the final rip down Skydive.

I can't vouch exactly for the running order as all runs merge into one looking back on them as they were all soft deep fresh snow with plenty of new lines to be found. Some snow called for in the overnight with temps starting to cool tomorrow so it looks as if we have gotten away lightly from what could have been an ugly rain event and the possible 5 cms of new snow would put the hill right back in great shape.

Over the last very busy weekend I met dozens of blog readers who made some very kind comments on what I am doing here so thanks for that and if you like what you see tell a friend. Just to answer the three most frequently questions I was asked -
1. No, I have no official standing with the hill and no financial backing or sponsorship. I do this just for fun. In fact I have turned down several advertising offers to keep this blog independant. If I start taking money it always raises the question of whether my views are genuine or am I being paid to hold them.
2. Whilst the blog is not interactive you can always post comments after each day. If you want a more detailed view on anything email me direct at
3. I don't post pictures or videos because I don't want to waste my ski time during the day taking them. In any event there are plenty of other sites that do stuff like that much better than I could so let's leave it to them

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Day 56 a day that just got better as it went along

For the first time in about 10 days the overnight boards said no new snow but as we currently have a heavy snowfall warning for the Elk Valley for tonight going into tomorrow (with the greatest accumulations in the Fernie area) then this is just a small break. In any event the base having settled to something pretty firm was 225 cms.

The snow had dried out and wind sifted around so that everywhere (unless stated other wise) we were skiing on soft tracked powder with a firm base (but not hard) taking a really nice edge. In normal circumstances most of the world would say this was great skiing but in Fernie it just passes for ok.

I had another New Side day lurking around looking for the Polar Chutes to open and as always dropped lift line from Timber top with the occasional detour into Big Bang all of which was ok and was the route taken on every lap. The problem with today's surface was that it was skiing quite a lot quicker than yesterday's so you had to be on your game and put in some effort to stay in control for the first time in a few days.

Before Polar Peak opened I had loops through Skydive, Cougar Glades and Decline all of which were as per above and very nice skiing. As soon as the Peak opened I went up despite the fact that I thought it looked a bit ugly.I was right, it was horizontal ice pellets at about 50 clicks on the way up, no viz at the top and tough crust in th chutes on the way down. I came down via Stag Leap which was good and soft and enough work to warm me up.

I must be stupid (tell us something we don't know say my friends) as I decided to have another go at the Peak next time round and amazingly it was even worse. Ran out through Skydive which was it's usual fun soft self. Lunch

After lunch I had decided not to go back to the Peak but as I got to the top of White Pass it looked as though the cloud base was lifting so I gave it a go. It was incredible that in the short time I had been in for lunch things had changed that much. The next three runs off the Peak were all in ok, if not great viz but sifted in snow which got better as you went further left and by the end of the day was untracked wind grooming. A reminder that we are playing in serious double black diamond terrain came with a skier stacking it about half way down one of the chutes and taking a trip all the way to the bottom. This won't be the last time this happens this season so everyone should take the patrol warnings about the terrain seriously.

The three loops were -
Polar Peak, then Window Chutes. Still loads of soft snow and the log drop only about a metre. Just starting to get a little icey again on the narrow ski out.
Polar Peak, then a hike up Cornice Ridge to Lone Fir which was still in great shape but a few edge to edge jumps needed to get through. Exit with a traverse across Easter bowl and then into Spinal Tap which was still in pretty good shape despite evidence that people had been in there a bit over their heads and side slipped some of the best sections.
Polar Peak, then a traverse into Secret chutes which weren't quite as good as yesterday but in most other circumstances would be described as awesome lightly tracked powder.

Just like yesterday I needed a fill in lap of White Pass at the end of the day and traversed into the Knot chutes and hit tight knot which was skiing just about as well as I can ever remember it. The chutes on the left of Surprise Trees still had plenty of life in them for a late run. Last run of course was to meet up with buddies and rip Skydive which was just skiing better each time I went down it today.

So, the hill is in great shape and we have a heavy snowfall warning. We also have a threat of rain at lower elevations but the freeze level has been revised downwards as the day has gone on so I am hoping for a lucky break. Fingers crossed. A new record with 5 Polar chutes in a day but one that will be broken no doubt and quite soon if the viz improves.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 55 one of the most enjoyable days skiing ever

I can't really work ot why today was so good but everyone in the Griz tonight agreed that it was. After the past week of total awesomeness it's a bit strange that today seemed so good but I guess that's just the way it goes.

Conditions helped with temps at the base staying at or around zero with the upper mountain temps a few degrees lower. We had 8 cms of reasonably cold overnight snow which had the effect of firming up the under layer of powder without actually making it hard so it just took a nice edge. The snow on top was light enough so that it didn't really affect the skiing but just made things look and feel nice. The base was up to 220 cms and the light was not too bad in the afternoon if a little socked in during the morning.

I had a report that Polar Peak chair was going to open so went to the New side to check. The new snow made real first tracks an option and on the first drop down Lift Line from Timber top to White Pass bottom it actually slabbed out on me. This is how the day went, you try and work out why it was so good -
Cut the trail to Cougar Glades and had first tracks all the way down. Not enough snow to float on but enough to give the feeling of powder.
Followed two guys into Skydive and had just resigned myself to third tracks when they stopped at the top to take pictures of themselves (hope they were worth it) so I grabbed first tracks in Skydive.
Got first tracks in the trees next time round on the way down to Stag Leap but a track appeared out of the right hand trees and crossed to the left of the run. Had to content myself with second tracks but as the others stayed left I didn't see them until the ski out.
The Brain was the next on the menu and a snowboard track cut in from the Decline side but then disappeared to the left of the creek bed giving me first tracks to the lower part and then out on to Skydive.
Although it was getting near Polar Peak opening I went for one more loop, this time through Window Chutes which were (you guessed it) untracked with the one metre log drop skiing ok and the narrow exit much less icey than yesterday.

Then they opened Polar peak and for the first time ever allowed us to ski the Polar Chutes from the chair. Some people were just looping the chutes and back to the chair but this didn't make any sense to me for two reasons. Firstly you had to cut out of the chutes early to get back to the chair missing the snow in the bottom which was the best and untracked, presumably because people were cutting out and missing it. Secondly the ride up was very cold in a cold wind and a loop to the bottom was just what was needed to warm you up ready for the next ride.

I did four loops -
Main Polar chute then a left cut into Severe Concussion which was still wonderful and soft filled in with wind sift.
Mamma Bear chute then the Reverse Traverse out to the top of Skydive followed by a drop through Secret chutes which may just have been the best snow all day with lightly tracked powder and big rollers off the dead fall.
Main Polar chute. I was trying to devise the toughest way down and think I did just that. After the Polar chute I traversed to Cornice Ridge, hiked the ridge and then dropped Lone Fir which was just awesome soft powder then a traverse across Easter to Spinal Tap which was deep tracked powder in the top and great terrain skiing jumping in and out of the creek bed on the lower section.
Mamma Bear chute again but this time followed by a quick traverse into Decline and then down that top to bottom with the bottom section now totally skiable and very soft.

For the record the snow in all the Polar Chutes was soft powder which was tracked up a bit by the end of the day but if you were prepared to work the smaller chutes and ski all the way down there was still plenty of fresh snow to be had.

To kill some time at the end of the day I looped into Surprise trees and was amazed to find only about half a dozen tracks that had been put in there all day, I guess the draw of polar had taken the traffic away.

A final rip down Skydive which as always was soft and deep with just a bit of work needed through the alders to finish. I don't know why it was so good today but it was. Perhaps it was the total lack of people (back to no line ups at all) or the opening of Polar Chutes, who knows, but it was a great day.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Day 54 so much better than expected

I have often said that the best days on the hill are those when you go there with no great expectations and get a nice surprise - today was such a day. After the warm up yesterday we expected an icey crusty day to day. What we got was 18 cms of snow in the past 24 hour but best of all we had 10 cms overnight of what appeared to be solid grappel. The result was that everything was filled in, yesterdays damage was covered or repaired and we had the most wonderful hero type snow to float on/in mostly untracked all over the hill.

The facts were about 10 cms overnight, a base back up near 230 cms ( we above Lynda's safety level of 2 metres) and temps of around -4 which only rose to zero at the base and stayed well below that on top keeping the snow in great shape.

Our tactic today was to stay on the New Side. Our reasoning was that Lizard and Cedar bowls (inculding Snake Ridge) would be open after this mornings heli bombing and whilst the snow would be great ( I am sure it was) the crowds would be ugly, plus everyone would have underestimated just how much new terrain there was still to be had on the New Side. In the event we think we called it right, we got great New side skiing with hardly any lift line ups and on the odd occassion I looked over to Bear from the top of Sydive the line ups look worse than the New Side yesterday and I don't even want to think what Haul Back would have looked like.

Here's how the day went -
Two trips through Surprise Trees before Currie bowl opened getting first tracks in the right hand side on the first run and second in the left on the second. The snow was yesterday powder with 10 cms of grappel on top which gave great supportive hero powder to ride on top of - all runs all day were like this.
The fence dropped on Currie but the sign line at Cornice chute remained in place so I dropped in there with a few tracks in front.
Traversed into the Knot chutes (tight Knot) which were great easy (if a bit steep) skiing before heading out to Anaconda Glades to get first tracks in the second chute which you could almost straight line. Final exit via Bootleg where again the first chute in the trees was untracked. As I skied out of Bootleg I noticed the patrol carrying the temporary signs out of Currie Creek so things were open.
Got to Skydive which already had about half a dozen tracks in it but but staying close to the edge there was stacks of untracked - still this hero snow everywhere.
Next into Cougar Glades which had a few tracks in the top that disappeared as you went down, exit by the left hand chute that was mostly untracked.
The Brain was next on the menu with only a couple of tracks ahead of us. This was truely awesome as the hero snow was just what was needed to cover the dead fall and make really ripping it for the first time this season an option.
The high Reverse Traverse opened (we had been low up to now) and we looked at Corner Pocket which amazingly was down to the tires already. We went to Lone Fir which only had a few tracks in and as always the biggest problem was being barrelled out but our own sloughs.
Next time we went one further into the chute one beyond Lone Fir which no one sems to be sure of the name and I call One Step Beyond. Untracked and awesome. We were so pumped up we crossed Easter bowl and dropped in to Spinal Tap wich is now filled up with more snow although there are still some big drops into the stream bed as you work the terrain on the way down.
Having worked hard we took and "easy" run through the trees into Stag Leap which was tracked up but still in pretty good shape, well worth the rip.
Back to work so we hit the top of Decline then into Window chutes where the log drop even in it's steepest part isn't much more tha a metre. Snow was great and deep most of the way down but there is still the ice sheet on the steep part of the narrow exit to catch out the unwary.
A return to Cougar Glades showed that there was still some untracked if you were prepared to work hard and tight to the trees on the left hand side.
Final rip down Skydive in company was as always a great way to finish.

So this was a really big day with 7 hours of skiing and no break - probably my biggest day of the season. Conditions remained great throughout and there were no crowds, at least on the New Side. I have to have some sympathy for the weekend warriors who could only make yesterday and as a result had a pretty poor time. Those who stayed today had a better story to tell.

Forecasts very undecided (as am I) as to what is going to happen.