Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 73 another good day

I'm kind of running out of things to say as yet again we had a day of no new snow, overcast conditions, a reducing base (this time to about 253 cms) but some great skiing in the snow which has stayed in good condition with temps staying at or about just below zero all over the hill all day.

As some guests had arrived we spent the day showing them around and as a result put a bit less snow than usual under the skis during the day. Of course they were over the moon that the hill was covered in snow and we could ski wherever we wanted which in their opinion meant that the conditions were awesome. It's as well sometime we are remineded of what others have as their bench marks for skiing conditions which are always well behind what we have in Fernie, As if to prove the point the weekend crowds were way down so there were no lift lines and it appears that Calgary is becoming as picky about fresh snow as the Fernie regulars.

We went to the Old Side and had good skiing on Sunny Side shoulder before heading out. After that it was Boomerang, Buck Shot, Cedar Ridge several ways, Linda's, King Fir, all of which was good but with some chunky stuff in lower Linda's - also a groomer pushed up there, what have we got to do to stop these guys.

Just before lunch we took a hitch out to Steep and Deep which was a bit softer than two days ago. This prompted a debate as over the past few days in conditions which have been fairly unchanging we have seen conditions in various runs go from awesome to crap and back again and vice versa, We have no explanation as to why these changes are taking place and it seems to all of us that something much more than just skier traffic is in play but we can't work out what.

All returns (four) were through Kangaroo which was, as you would expect, icey, bumpy, tough and great fun. After a late lunch we headed for the New Side.

We looped out through White Pass and Polar Peak and found that the bumps in Polar Chutes were hard, steep and with a life threatening penalty if you got it wrong but actually taking a nice edge and pretty relaxing bump skiing as long as you paid attention. Much easier than the drop into Concussion which was tough icey refrozen crud most of the way down

Next loop into the Polar chutes seemed even easier which was strange as the light was flattening. We then went out to Easter which was probably the best snow on the hill with soft bumps all the way down.

We just had time for two Surprise Trees loops off White Pass which were probably some of the most technical skiing on the hill, before heading out the Skydive for the final rip. On Skydive now the bumps in the top are getting pretty steep, the mid section is nice skied in soft snow and the lower section is hard ribby bumps which strangely to me seem to be the best bit of the whole run.

Far too much beer to start a quiet night in with even more beer and Hockey Night in Canada on TV, looks like a good night.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 72 a quick half day

It was a half day because I had to drive to Calgary to pick up my Irish sailing buddies who were coming in this afternoon on the Air Canada Frankfurt flight - don't ask, it's a long story. We were also saying goodbye to our two other friends who have been staying whilst sorting out two more friends who arrived on Wednesday and are staying with buddies. Is it just me or are we starting to become a serious source of income to the hill ?

No new snow, the base down to 256 cms, overcast conditions with the ridge lines socked in and temps of around -5 when we arrived at the hill. The result was that the snow seemed to have got rather tougher and chunkier where it hadn't been skied much and hard bumps but taking and edge where it hadn't.

Usual starts on Sunny Side shoulder gave firm crisp bump skiing for a couple of runs. Next was a run down Boomerang all the way in crisp bumps at the top and hard chunky snow in the lower section.

Because we had friends we dropped to the base via the previously groomed Boom Ridge which I had criticised a few days ago. I hate to say "I told you so" but I did. The ridge not having been regroomed is now a hard slick packed almost ice surface. Off piste skiers leave it alone because it has been groomed, groomer skiers leave it alone because it has now become slick and ugly. As I said before there are just places that shouldn't be groomed.

We had time for a loop out to Steep and Deep which had become harder and tougher since yesterday and needed some good navigation to avoid the avi debris at the bottom. We then had a short loop off Cedar ridge which has become nice packed in bumps taking an edge in crisp snow for the most part.

The two returns were through Kangaroo which whilst hard and icey seems to be skiing a bit easier than of late or perhaps it's just the fact that the rest of the hill is getting tougher. Time for an early finish and then a long drive to Calgary and back. No new snow in the offing so looks like we are going to be scratching about for a few days yet.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 71 and the cost of skiing drops below 12 bucks a day

Yes, today is the day when the average cost of a day's skiing (assuming that you bought a pass in the Early Bird sale) drops to below 12 bucks a day which seems to me to be a reasonable price to pay, but watch this space as an average of near 7 bucks a day may be achieved by the end of the season.

With the hill it was same old, same old. Although there seemed to be a dusting of new snow making things look a lot fresher and prettier the official report was no new snow, the base is down to 256 cms, the skiing is tracked up hard pack and bumps, hardly anyone on the hill and for a change we had a low cloud base that socked in just above Bear top on the Old Side.

Temps were around -6 at the base and bit cooler up on top to start with. By the end of the day the base had warmed to -2 and on top it remained a few degrees cooler. The effect was that the snow on the hill stayed in pretty good and unchanged condition all day.

We went to the Old Side for our traditional two drops down Sunny Side shoulder which like every other day was firm bumps taking a nice edge. Again we headed out across Cedar Bowl and tried Steep and Deep which was ok with hard pack in the top, quite soft stuff in the middle and some tricky avi debris on the ski out.

We were so encouraged we tried two further loops out in Redtree which was just like Steep and Deep and Gorby bowl which was soft all the way down but a bit technical in the left/right shuffle through the rock band and again tricky in the avi debris on the ski out.

After that it was just loops off Boomerang in Boomerang itself, Cedar ridge (a couple of ways) and Linda's all of which were starting to get a bit tracked up and bumpy in places but with the bumps firm and taking an edge it was fun skiing. Of course this all led to 5 returns through Kangaroo which had not changed and was hard icey bumps but perhaps a little easier to ski due to the skier traffic.

After a late lunch we headed to the New Side and found that the cloud base was just above Timber top which of course meant it was about half way up White Pass. We did think about Polar Peak but it was so socked in at then top of White Pass we could hardly see the Peak chair when we skied under it let alone at the top and we were getting freezing drizzle fogging the goggles at that stage. There was no reason to suppose that the Polar chutes would be anything other than the icey bumps of yesterday so in the prevailing conditions we decided to give them a miss.

We looped -
Decline - nice soft bumps all the way down
Easter Bowl - probably the best snow on the hill and only one track in front of us going in even at 2 in the afternoon. Soft smooth bumps.
Stag Leap - a bit chunky on top and scratchy down below, not the best run on the hill.
Concussion - refrozen crud in the top but quickly becoming nice smooth hard bumps all the way down through the gully.
Skydive - final run and a great run it was. Bumpy in the entry but nice soft if chunky snow in the middle and the bottom has now had enough traffic to make it good challenging hard pack skiing.

Still no significant snow in the forecast so we could be in for more of the same thing. Due to pick up my Irish buddies from Calgary so it could turn out to be a half day report tomorrow depending on their flight punctuality.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 70 tough skiing can be fun

The reason I write today's title is because the number of people (whingers) who are saying how bad things are on the hill. They seem to have a straight line equation in their heads which reads "tough skiing =bad, easy skiing =good". This leads to the view that "the only good skiing on the hill at the moment is on the groomers".

My view is well known in that skiing on groomers is never good - it isn't really skiing at all. I also take the view that the fun in skiing is in over coming the problems and hazards thrown up by the hill so that the tough skiing we are getting now (and there is no dispute that it is tough) is some of the most fun skiing we have had all season as long as you are prepared to make the effort to overcome those hazards and enjoy the challenge. Of course if all you want is easy skiing then what I am saying will make no sense to you and never will.

The day started bluebird with no snow and a base of 263 cms. Temps on the way to the hill were about -16 at the base and about the same on top. During the course of the morning it clouded over and we had wild temp fluctuations which at the base got up to -2 before dropping to -6 and on top inverted to -2 before falling away to -8. All in all a pretty crazy day for temperatures and a continual trend of becoming more overcast with flurries before the end of the day.

As an example of fun we had two rips down the Sunny Side shoulder which were hard packed in bumps and the chute to the skiers left of China Wall which were similar bumps - tough but fun.
Next I took a loop out to Gorby Bowl for the first time this year and had some tough skiing in the top of the bowl before finding a way out of the rock band with a left right shuffle and then a line through the only part of the avi debris that looked anything like flat -fun.

After that it was loops off the Boom Chair through Boom bowl, Buckshot, Linda's, Cedar Ridge a couple of ways all of which were tough semi tracked snow and great fun. Last loop before lunch was along hike out onto the traverse in Fish Bowl followed by some great untracked skiing just beyond the avi debris which I have to admit was rather larger than I thought - maybe a risky manoeuvre but great untracked skiing.

Needless the say the three returns through Kangaroo were hard ugly icey bumps that took 100% concentration to stay in the game but was rewarding when you did it and as a result was, you guessed it, fun

In the afternoon I went out to the New side and did -
Decline - great soft bumps now all the way down, real hard work.
Easter Bowl - good steep soft snow becoming harder and bumpier on the way down.
Polar Peak - the 40th time this year and it was ugly hard icey bumps in the chutes with the light socked in when we got there, had a good laugh at the patrol sign that said "softening in the sun" always the danger of a life ending slide over the rocks so great challenging skiing.
Stag Leap - surprisingly good snow on top but a tough ski out in the lower section requiring some good edge to edge jumping.
Cougar Glades - the most variable run on the hill. We had every condition on the way down and the only way to keep things together was to stay on your game.
Mitchy Chutes - hard pack but quite smooth and tight in the rock bands.

Skydive - final run and as usual was good chunky bumps in the top and scratchy rough terrain in the lower section.

All of the afternoon was tough skiing where I had to be at my absolute best to stay over the skis and rip down in a half way decent style. Me and my buddy Rod had a great fun day skiing on the hill. That is the answer to those that think this type of skiing can't be fun.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 69 tougher but the end is in sight

Yes, today was tougher due to the cooling conditions but a pecip cycle is on the way which should give us some powder by the end of the week.

For a change it was a bluebird day so there was no temperature inversion and temps at the base to start were -12 with temps of about -14 on top. During the day they rose to -2 at the base (warmer in the direct sunlight) and around -7 on top. The result of these fairly standard gradients was that the snow froze even harder than before, not slick ice but very hard snow with unforgiving tufts of what had previously been soft snow.

We went to the Old Side and just like yesterday started with a couple of drops down the Sunny Side shoulder which is now hard packed bumps but taking a nice edge. Next it was out to the nearside of the Fish bowl which still had some untracked lines but they are getting more difficult to find.

After that we spent the morning looping off the Boom Chair in Boomerang, Linda's, Cedar Ridge (several times) Buck Shot all of which were tough chunky partially tracked snow. The returns were always through Kangaroo (four times) which is now very hard and icey top to bottom.

Last loop of the morning was down Boom to Bear and then out to Steep and Deep which was hard chunky tracked snow and some avi debris in the bottom of Gorby bowl that needed a bit of avoiding. Hard work but fun, then lunch.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and found much the same thing. The top of Polar Peak was in clear bluebird skys but having been up there as much as we have and seen the views the icey and rocky ways down didn't seem all that attractive so we decided to pass. We just looped out on the Reverse Traverse -
Cougar Glades - really hard chunky refrozen crud most of the way down, a bit of a mistake.
1-2-3s - tougher than yesterday but still ok skiing.
Easter Bowl - probably the best skiing on the hill although the soft snow in the top wasn't as soft as it was yesterday and the bumps, which were also a bit harder, started rather higher up in the bowl than they had done yesterday.
Decline - quite tracked up and as a result some hard packed powder bumps all the way down which skied surprisingly well.
Michy Chutes - still ok but getting a bit scratchy in the rock band.

And of course a final run out to Skydive where the upper section seemed to be skiing a bit worse than yesterday with the now usual chunky snow but the lower section skiing much better so it was a more consistant experience. The precip cycle is due to start on Friday and we do really need some more snow to refresh the hill although with the base we have skiing is ok. If groomers is your thing (it certainly isn't mine) you could be having a great time.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 68 bloody bindings

More about bindings later. Another day just like the last few. Temps on the way to the hill were about -11 at the base and -4 on top. As the day wore on base temps rose to low plus figs before droppng away to -3 by tonight whilst upper mountain temps remained fairly constant. It remained overcast for most of the day with a few sun shafts breaking through. No new snow so the base is now down to 267 cms.

Unsurprisingly the conditions gave some very variable skiing surfaces. In fact this was yet another really tough day's skiing on the hill made worse by my cold which I now hope has reached it's peak and is in retreat. It is hard to describe just how much your energy levels reduce as a result of something as simple as a cold.

We went to The Old Side and after a couple of runs down the Sunny Side shoulder which was nice packed in bumps taking an edge we headed out towards the boundary fence. We had a 50:50 choice of Fish Bowl and Steep and Deep. As luck would have it we went for Steep and deep and it proved to be good luck. On the exit to Gorby bowl Lynda broke her heel binding and lost a ski. Had we gone to Fish bowl she would have faced a long walk out, as it was, getting out of lower Gorby through the avi debris on one ski was not exactly a walk in the park. Luckily two patrollers were close by to get a snow mobile to collect her from the cat track and get her back to base.

What is going on with ski bindings ? I have broken three heel bindings in the last year (Rossi) which you might expect with my weight and type of skiing but Lynda has now broken two (Sally) which given her soft style just shouldn't happen. It's about time binding manufacturers got their collective asses in gear and started making kit which is fit for purpose for the all mountain free riding user.

Getting Lynda sorted and on the snow mobile to the base to get her reserve skis took up some time. For the rest of the morning it was just loops off Boomerang, Linda's, Cedar Ridge (several ways) up until lunch. Just like yesterday the skiing varied from easy packed in powder where there had been skier traffic to chunky and tough where there hadn't. Also like yesterday the groomers had trashed much of the good skiing, particularly Boom Ridge. Four times through Kangaroo were tougher and icier than yesterday and as a result even more fun in my opinion.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and took a look at Polar Peak. It was open but with my low energy levels I decided not to try it as it was going to be super tough skiing if the chutes below were anything to go by. We looped -

Concussion - Much more refrozen crud than yesterday when things had obviously been sun affected. Nice challenging skiing.
Anaconda Glades - Rather disappointing as the snow in the chutes was chunky rather than soft but well on the right side of ok.
Bootleg Glades - Really nice packed in skiing taking an edge.
1-2-3s - Ok skiing in all the chutes and surprisingly smooth.
Easter Bowl - Probably the best skiing on the hill with the surface staying soft on top and soft bumps lower down.

The runs back through Gun Bowl off White Pass ( the last time just a straight run back to fill in time) were much more refrozen crud than of late and again I suspect the sun effect from yesterday was responsible, no better than ok.

The final rip down Skydive was just like yesterday, great on top but a bit technical in the bottom section. Still no new snow in the immediate outlook but a precip cycle starting later this week.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day 67 the devil makes work for idle hands

This was one of my granny's funny sayings, she had lots of them but eventually she went barmy and we had to have her locked up, but that's another story. This is so true as far as the groomers in Fernie go. When we have snow dumping it is all the groomers can do to keep some of the lower mountain clear. When we get a few days without snow as we have now then, with nothing to keep them busy, the groomers start grooming all sorts of places that have no business being groomed.

Today places in question were Boom Ridge, Puff, Freeway, to name but three. As a result of the grooming great untracked skiing was smashed into a flat ugly carpet. My view is well known in that skiing groomers isn't skiing at all as it lacks challenge and the essential interaction with the natural surfaces and features of the mountain. I can only repeat what I have said before, perhaps we should change the tag line of the hill to "Legendary Grooming".

The crowds had gone and on the way to the hill temps were -12. Once again there was a low fog/cloud base with sun above and a temperature inversion so that up high it was about -4. No new snow so the base had drifted down to 269 cms. Just like yesterday as the cloud burned off the temps at the base rose until they were -4 at the close and the upper mountain temps cooled to about -6.

The main results of these changing conditions was amazing angel dust just above the clouds with huge sun dogs and ice crystal rainbows, some of the must beautiful I have see. Also with Polar Peak clear many decided to make it the day for their one photo op up there choosing to come down the groomed face which I understand was icey and rocky rather that use the chutes which were fine but a bit bumped up and hard and just waiting fot someone to take a slide over the cliffs.

We went to the Old Side and after a nice warm up on the Sunny Side shoulder on hard packed tracked snow headed out to the near side of the Fish bowl which still had untracked powder in places. After that we just played around off Boomerang with several runs through Cedar Ridge, King Fir, Linda's, Boomerang, Buck Shot, Bear chutes etc. The conditions were very varied. Where there had hardly been any skier traffic the snow was soft and good powder, where there had been a bit more it was chopped up chunky and very tough and where there had been more still it was beaten in and skiing quite nicely taking an edge in bumps.

Four trips through Kangaroo showed it was back to it's icey tough self and as I said yesterday is an excellent practice ground for anyone wanting to ski the Polar Chutes. After lunch we went to the New Side.

The bluebird conditions proved too great a temptation for us to ignore Polar Peak so we went up for the truely spectacular view. We guessed the "easy" way down would be rocky and ugly ice (a buddy tells me it was) so we opted for the chutes which are now steep hard bumps where if you fall you are not going to stop any time soon. As we got there patrol were just expanding the entrance so we were able to drop in on a fresh snow berm and avoid all the rocks at the top. The run down was fine hard bump skiing but well worth taking some care over.

After that there didn't seem much point on going up again just to say we had done it so we looped the Currie side in Concussion, Easter bowl, Secret Chutes and Cougar Glades, all were ok with the best skiing on the North facing slopes like Easter.

At the end of the day we tracked into the Knot chutes and got a nasty surprise as these were hard refrozen crud and very tough skiing, not worth the effort although from the lift they looked quite nice. Surprise trees were better where they were shaded and so it was to Skydive for the final rip. Skydive is skiing ok on the upper sections but still pretty sketchy down below. I was feeling it a bit as I started a cold last night and my energy levels were way down but I managed to rip down in half way decent style for the end of the day.

The stable air mass seems to be with us for a while so probably more of the same tomorrow.