Saturday, March 3, 2012

Day 94 Not a bad day and not as bad as it could have been

The forecast was for a big warm up with possible precip of the snow/rain type. In the event we got the warm up but what little precip we had came down with some ice pellet flurries and no more. The overcast conditions protected the snow from any sun damage and all in all we rather got away with it. Once again there was a lot of wind (enough to close Polar Peak again) and as a result there was windsift in most places.

Temps on the way to the hill were -1 which rose to +5 during the day. Up top temps started lower and got to about zero at the warmest. The result was that the lower mountain became rather soft and spring like as the day went on although the upper hill stayed in remarkably good shape and the base was around 330 cms. For some reason the crowds seemed to stay away and the overall effect was for us to have a pretty good day in conditions which could have gone very much the other way.

We started on the Old Side with a few runs up and down Bear as I was trying out my new skis. In general this is the only use I have for groomers in that it allows you to work out the interaction between youtself and the new skis without any input from the terrain which is boringly consistent. The new Sally Shoguns were all I could have hoped for. They were pretty much the same dimensions as my old S5s with just a mill or two extra at every point and 300 mill lift in the tips. The only differences I noticed were a feeling that there was less material between you and surface (could be true), the bamboo core meant the skis were much lighter, quicker from edge to edge and a bit quicker coming out of the turn. They also seemed to have much better edge control although that may just be because they had edges ! In summary, very happy and able to drive the skis a bit harder than my last ones - happy days.

We managed 3 loops out to Steep and Deep/Gorby bowl/Gorby shoulder into Steep and Deep. They were all good deep soft snow with loads of windsift. Even low down they were not to chunky until later in the morning. We had 3 returns through Kangaroo which was like soft spring skiing in bumps that were icey underneath, great challenging stuff. Completing the loops through Boomerang gave good soft easy bump skiing in blow in and then the final drop down Boom Ridge was again easy soft bump skiing.

In the afternoon we went out to New Side and with Polar Peak closed did the usual Currie loops of Cougar Glades, Stag leap, Decline Window chutes which were all soft tracked snow in places and soft bumps in others, just nice skiing.

We needed two White Pass loops to fill in time. Perhaps on another day I would have gone in the Knot chutes but I didn't want to risk the rocks in the traverse on my first day on my new skis so it was two loops through the Gun bowl and Surprise Trees which still had some great soft lines if you were prepared to cut lines close to the trees.

Final run was of course through through Skydive and I was pleased to find that the new skis performed just as well in the big GS turns in the tracked snow there as they had in the tighter technical stuff in the trees and the bumps.

As I said a good day. Tomorrow looks tricky with warm temps and precip but the way things went today, I'm feeling lucky

Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 93 strange weather but ok

When we woke this morning there had been no new snow but the base was still 330 cms and the temp on the deck was -14. Driving to the hill the temp started to rise as soon as we left the valley and was about -6 as we arrived at the hill. During the day it looked as if things were going to go bluebird and temps started to rise fast but by lunch time everything was getting socked in, snow flurries were starting, light was very flat and temps were falling so we finished with about -5 on top and -1 at the base. As I said a strange day of mixed conditions and when you throw in that here was wind that sifted snow all day and kept Polar Peak closed you can see what I mean by strange weather.

We went to the Old Side and had a warm up down Sunny Side shoulder and the chutes below which gave some good skiing on a firm base with blow in. We then went out to try Steep and Deep with a little trepidation as we thought it might have been sun affected yesterday - not so, it was great tracked powder all the way down.

We then had a little play of Cedar ridge which was tracked but soft and Boom Ridge which had not suffered grooming and as a result was good soft bumps with windsift. Next loop was the Gorby shoulder into Steep and Deep which was surprisingly untracked, I guess it's the fact that it is steep and between main runs.

We had a last loop before lunch and repeated the Gorby/Steep and Deep run on the grounds that it was so good. All exits from Steep and Deep were through one of the three main exit chutes all of which were skiing soft and pretty mellow. All returns (4) were through Kangaroo which is still full of soft snow, in fact the only problem is the cat driver that cuts the track half way down is insisting on taking a big cut on the uphill side and as a result there is a 3-4 ft drop onto the cat track and the start of the second section is full of death cookies.

We always completed the loop through Boomerang which was skiing ok with some soft blow in making it a bit easier. The only exception was last time round when we got word that Boomerang chair was down so we traversed out on Cedar Trail noting that the Boom chair was stopped and this was obviously one of our better decisions - Lunch.

Afternoon was spent on the New Side which with Polar Peak closed was just a load of old fashioned Currie loops -
Cougar Glades - getting a bit tracked up and slick in the top but ok soft blow in on powder lower down.
Stag Leap - like Cougar glade slick through the trees. The snow in the main run was getting a little chunky in the warming temps and this was a feature of all the afternoon runs which as a result became rather harder work.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - see above, hard work but only partially tracked and some good deep snow if you were prepared to take tight lines in the trees.
Decline/Window chutes - see above (Secret chutes,Spinal Tap I mean).
Skydive - last rip getting a bit more chunky than before but still some very good skiing.

In summary a good (but not fantastic) day with the Old Side probably delivering rather better snow than the New Side for a change. As we left the hill is was snowing in strong winds and with significant plus temps forecast for tomorrow who knows how this will fall out.

On the way back from the hill I dropped in to Ski Base to buy some new bindings and have them mounted on some Sally Shoguns that I bought in the bargain bucket at the end of last season. They look about the same as my S5s but a bit lighter with the bamboo core so lets see what happens.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day 92 enough new snow to make things pretty good

Overnight we had 13 cms, or rather that was the call for the past 24 hours, I think that only about 5 cms fell overnight but it had the effect of giving a covering to yesterday's chopped up powder. This was a mixed blessing as the new snow did have some fill in effect but it was dry and fast so that when you turned the skis were always trying to get away from you and for the first couple of turns until you got used to it you did tend to find yourself in the back seat. The snow didn't have any hold up "hero" quality so the skiing was a bit technical from the outset.

It was about -6 as we got to the hill and at the base it warmed up to low plus temps before falling back to -1 as we left the hill. Up top it remained at minus temps all day. Conditions ranged from overcast to bluebird and viz from very flat light to excellent. We also had snow off and on all day on the upper mountain. In other words everything was very varied all day but the snow stayed in great condition as tracked powder with some fresh lines.

We went to the New Side in anticipation of Polar Peak being the best snow due to the wind sift and new snow in the chutes. First trip up White Pass revealed that the Peak was still on standby so we dropped back tp White pass base via Gun Bowl and Quite Right Trees both of which were untracked 5 cms of new on a deeper powder base but the light was very flat indeed.

As the next loop showed that the Peak was still closed we went out to Cougar Glades and had a great rip down in the new snow and with untracked lines in the trees particularly on the left. Quite deep on the left side creek bed exit. Next loop the Peak was still closed so we did Stag leap which had a couple of tracks in but was much the same a Cougar Glades (and everywhere else on the hill) about 5 cms of fresh on the deep tracked powder of the previous few days.

Then the Peak opened and we did two loops of Papa Bear and Grandpa Bear back to the chair before heading out to Mama Bear. All three chutes were deep untracked wind sifted powder and excellent steep chute skiing. We dropped via Concussion which was in surprisingly great shape and hardly tracked.

Next time round we cut out left on the Peak to Baby Bear which was starting to get tracked but was still deep and ok. We exited via Decline/Window chutes which like yesterday were only lightly tracked an excellent deep snow in the chute, the only problem is that log drop has now totally disappeared so the chute is a bit less challenging than usual.

After a late lunch we went back to Polar Peak for a loop back through Barely Legal and then a drop to the traverse through Spirit Bear which was steep, narrow and full of soft snow, and as such great skiing. We returned to base through Secret Chutes and Spinal Tap which were great chopped up deep powder and only lightly tracked in the new snow.

Back up to Polar Peak for a loop through Grandpa Bear and then a drop to the traverse through Mama Bear. By this time the chutes were getting pretty chopped up but the quality of the snow was such that it was still good deep skiing. All afternoon the viz had come and gone but for these last runs we could actually see what we were doing which made them all the more enjoyable. The season's Polar chute tally rose to 96 but who's counting. Exit to base via Decline/Window chutes on the grounds that they had been so good earlier on and we were not disappointed, they remained steep, deep, and lightly tracked.

Last rip was down Skydive as usual. Just like yesterday there were steep soft bumps in the top which makes for good enjoyable bump skiing. Lower down the snow was soft and chopped up but great skiing all the way down to the bottom, tough but really good fun.

Tomorrow looks like much of the same but the weekend is looking at temps of +7 and +10 so we may be in for some rather strange conditions.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 91 the Peak opens but the best snow is lower down

Overnight there had only been a light dusting in town but on the hill it felt like a couple of cms more. Temps on the way to the hill were -10 and they stayed well below zero all day giving a final temp of -3 as we drove away from the hill. During the day it snowed off and on all day so that we had an accumulation of about 4 cms by late afternoon. Conditions were pretty socked in from above White Pass chair.

We wnt to the New Side and did a quick White Pass loop through Quite Right trees for no other reason than I needed to find a quiet place to make some yellow snow - I guess more information than anyone needed. The whole of White Pass was skiing well with a little fresh snow over a firm base which took an easy edge - the light wasn't anything to write home about.

We knew that White Pass chair was open for the first time in four days so we went up. Quite honestly it was a bit of a disappointment. The light was very bad for the first three or four turns and then we got into the chutes that had been tracked up by "ski cutting" and were also full of blasting debrise. Despite this we looped back and tried Mama Bear which was better in every respect but still not worth getting excited about. We exited via Severe Concussion which was great skiing as were the gullies lower down with all parts starting to get filled in by the falling snow.

Next loop was Barely Legal off the top of Polar Peak that seemed a lot better as no one had been there and the exit chute which had been tight before was super soft fresh snow. We then went out to Baby Bear which although tracked was good deep snow. Exit via Decline/Window chutes which still had stacks of untracked lines particularly in the top section trees above the chute where we had contiuous face shots - forget the log drop it's way below the surface.

Final loop before lunch was just Papa Bear chute down to the Reverse Traverse which was all deep if tracked powder and which gave 5 Peaks for the day and a season running total of 86. This time we exited via Stag Leap where you had good skiing through the upper trees as long as you stayed out of the main traffic areas. The run itself was great soft snow all the way down becoming more friendly as the snow accumulated.

After luch we stayed on the New Side (sorry Old Siders but it was the best skiing although I got some pretty good reports from Snake Ridge area) and went back to the Peak. When we got there things were socked in so bad we decided not to go up. We stayed of the same mind until about 3 when the cloud base lifted slightly and we decided to give it a go only to find the chair shut. We spent the rest of the afternoon looping Currie Bowl -
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - by now the snow was really starting to fill in so all the skiing was fresh tracks on a soft deep base. Spinal Tap was particularly good with no tracks since the storm and great soft snow in the creek bed.
Cougar Glades - hard to describe how a few cms of snow could make all the difference. By staying left and cutting close to the trees it was still possible to find some fresh lines but the snow covered tracked powder was pretty good anyway. The left had exit picking the really steep pitch was awesome with your own slough getting up to about thigh height.
Decline/Window Chutes - we did it again, partly because it was so good and partly because we had linked up with my buddy Rob who hadn't skied it with us earlier. Just like before the top entrance was great deep powder and lower down it was much improved and untracked after the 5 cms or so we had just had during the day.
Two Knot chute/Surprise loops in good soft new snow was a good way to kill time at the end of the day and face shots in Surprise, which no one seemed to have skied much, were a real bonus.

Last run of the day down Skydive was about as mellow as I can remember it after you got through the bumps at the top. Unusually it just got better as you went down so that the final pitch was point your skis anywhere in soft snow and let it rip - a perfect end to agood day.

More snow in the outlook.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 90 no new snow but stll plenty of fresh tracks

We had no new snow overnight but there is plenty in the forecast so we are all pretty relaxed. Starting temps were -15 at the base and they probably got up to low minus figures during the day as they were -4 as we drove away from the hill. Up top it stayed cold, I would guess about -7 all day. We started off with valley cloud which gave up some light snow and which socked in the top of White Pass very white. Later it burned off to give a pretty good bluebird day with temps probably a bit warmer in the direct sunlight. The base had dropped to 346 cms giving an extra 6 cms of settlement over night and the snow was correspondingly heavier.

We had a choice, go the the New Side for Polar Peak or go to the Old Side for Cedar High Traverse - we went to the New Side. With the top socked in we could hardly see Polar Peak chair at the loading area but it was clear that it wasn't running. This was due to an accident last night with the cat which had slid off the cat track and down the slope and for safety reasons the chair couldn't open. It took all day to recover the cat using another cat (good side effect was that grooming was strictly limited) so Polar Peak remained closed all day and we had to change our plans.

We found that the Saddles were open so we dropped through Corner Pocket which was in pretty good shape with no tires showing. The light on the far side wasn't great but we had mostly untracked powder all the way below the Saddles which was great deep powder which hadn't been skied for three days. We headed across to the Bear Chair to try our luck in Cedar.

Our luck was in as they had opened the Cedar High Traverse for the first time in 3 days. We went out across it 4 times trying Steep and Deep, Gorby bowl, Gorby right shoulder and then a drop into a tight steep chute I have never been in before through the trees into Lower Gorby and the Gorby bowl left through the trees which were good to the rock band then a bit technical. All of these had been tracked but because we were trying lines well away from the main traffic (easier) areas we could still find thigh deep untracked lines for significant parts of the descents.

Each return was through Kangaroo which was nice filled in bumps but with about a 3 ft drop onto the cat track half way down. The loops were completed through Boomerang or Bear Chutes both of which were good soft bumps with stashes of deep powder. An awesome long morning of deep powder skiing with significant amounts of thigh deep untracked snow.

In the Afternoon we went to the New Side and had it confirmed that although the cat had been pulled off Polar peak and the conditions were now bluebird there just wasn't enough preperation time left so the Peak would remain closed.

We went to Anaconda via Knot chutes and then Bootleg glades and found great deep partially tracked snow (untracked in the bottom of Anaconda) with the only problem being that the snow was losing a little of it's hero quality and you couldn't quite throw down like yesterday. This require a few quick checks to bring down the speed when fall line skiing wasn't quite the way to go.

Next was drop through High Saddle which was skiing well after the bumps in the top and in the improved light there were lots of untracked lines but blast debrise was a constant problem. The exit through Easter was starting to get a little chunky but still deep in places.

We found ourselves with time on out hands so we did two White Pass loops through Knot Chutes which were tracked but good soft snow in any chute and each time a finish through Surprise Trees which was still deep tracked powder.

Final rip through Skydive was as always good, particularly in the mid section where there was still tons of soft snow. In the final pitch I was subject to a bit of pilot error for the first time this year and managed to roll it which gave everyone a good laugh at my expense - no harm done.

Back to the hill tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 89 is there a grandmother left alive in Alberta ?

The reason I ask this question is that I had expected the weekend crowds to be gone today but in fact when were arrived at the hill at about 10 minutes to 9 it was very crowded, we were lucky to just squeeze in to the back of parking lot 2 and most of the cars seemed to be Albertans who were extending their weekend to cover Monday. I can only assume that an aweful lot of people from Alberta had taken the day off as a sickie or in the time honoured tradition asked their employers for time off to attend their grandmother's funeral.

The snow dropped off over night but we had 36 cms in the last 24 hours and the base had risen to 354 cms. Temps were -12 to start and during the day they rose to about -3 at the base and -6 on top with the base temps falling away to -9 as we drove away from the hill. We had the tops socked in early on but after that it cleared to a mostly bluebird day with some cloud cover so that heli bombing was delayed but when it came we got some good openings.

We went to the New Side because we were hoping for Currie bowl (which we got) and Polar peak (which we didn't). I understand that on the Old Side where we didn't go Cedar High Traverse didn't open but everything else did and it was pretty good. A sign suggested an opening of Currie bowl at 11:30 and given that we had, had about a metre of new snow since it had last been opened with much more in the dips and rolls we were all getting very pumped up and ready to go while we waited.

We had several loops in Knot chutes (Slim, Thin and Jim as well) which were all deep but tracked snow, and then runs into Surprise Trees (excllent deep snow) and beyond and a track back to White Pass chair. Sure enough Currie opened more or less on time.

We hit out to Cougar Glades across the Reverse Traverse that had been cut but was shoulder high on either side in places as you worked your way out. There had been a couple of tracks in Cougar Glades but because of the waist deep powder (assume most places were waist deep powder today as they were) we had to straight line the top until we got up enough speed to start making some slight turns. It follows that we didn't really see any other tracks all the way down.

Next loop I linked up with my buddy Rob and he suggested the Brain as being a place that would not have been trashed. What and awesome suggestion, whilst there were a few tracks in the Brain it is so wide that there were fresh lines for both of us. What is more we could just throw down fall line tracks, jump the remains of any dead fall and still have plenty of space in the trees. Things were so good that for the first time this year we went all the way to the cat track in the bottom section with no problems.

We then tried Decline/Window chutes - Decline was little tracked up but with some deep splashed but Window chutes only looked to have a couple of tracks in and in any event we stayed in the trees either side. Over the head untracked powder all the way down. By this time the crowds had gone and we were back to a normal Monday, more or less.

Next was Secret chutes which were lightly tracked but very deep followed by Spinal tap which again had a couple of tracks showing but deep, deep snow in the creek bed and waist deep snow when you hopped onto the shoulders.

We then took a decision (besides not stopping for lunch) to hit areas that we would not hit if the snow was not so deep. After all, it's great to hit Stag leap with even more snow than usual but how much more fun to go for something that would not normally be on the agenda. We went back to the Brain but this time fall line skied the steep trees on the left of the creek bed which were so tight that it was actually dark and hard to see. Great deep powder skiing that you could only do by straight lining the tight stuff - awesome skiing that really pushed up the heart rate.

Next we made our only bad decision which was to cut across the Knot Chutes to Gotta Go. Just like a few days ago this was scraped down the the crust in the mid section and I assume it will be like that all season - now clearly off my "to do" list for the rest of the season. All the skiing below was great soft deep powder and the trees to the left of Bootleg Glades were so friendly that I took them all the way to the bottom for the first time ever.

We went back into Currie and took Cougar Glades to the left and stopped just short of Stag leap dropping the trees there. I'm not sure this place even has a name but because of the tightness and steepness of the trees it was pretty well untracked. We had our work cut out but found good lines in untracked powder all the way down until we were eventually spat out somewhere on the Bear connector.

Last run was a trip up Mitchy chutes which were tracked but still deep then out for a final rip down Skydive. In keeping with the traditions of the day we drifted off into the trees on skiers right and again had great untracked waist deep powder for the last run of the day in the tight trees (longest straight line I have ever had to do which really got the heart going) before cutting out into Skydive half way down the final pitch for an amazing free ride with the skis more in the air than on the ground.

Beer with buddies and an early night in anticipation of Cedar High Traverse or Polar Peak, whichever comes first tomorrow.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 88 out the other side of awesome

Oh yes, today was almost as good as January 17th and that is saying something. On that subject I heard a great joke last night - How do you tell if someone skied Fernie on January 17th - you don't have to, they will tell you.

This won't be a very long report as we have had a totally awesome day followed by far too much beer for me to make any kind of sense at all.

It snowed another 40 cms overnight on top of the 34 cms we had yesterday and it must have puked another 26 cms during the day and it is still snowing now. It has been snowing for 3 days and maybe it will never stop snowing ever again - at least we are promised another 12 cms overnight and that should be good enough.

It was -8 when we arrived at the hill and -7 when we left and I doubt that the temps got up much during the day during the constant snowfall. Not much was open. On the New Side Currie bowl was closed so we just had Timber and Siberia. On the Old Side it was no Lizard bowl or Cedar bowl so it was just about only the Old Side triangle with Bear to Cedar Ridge being all that was available. Of course the snow that was available on either side was almost a metre deep, deep and totally awesome.

We went to the New Side and going up Timber found that White Pass was delayed so we had a run down Black Cloud which was deep, deep powder with over the head face shots cutting out visability and breathing and was tottaly awesome - assume these were the conditions everywhere unless stated to the contrary.

With so much shut we looped White Pass through various Knot chutes and Surprise trees where we just had to spread out to keep getting fresh tracks. We had hoped for Anaconda but when it became clear that it wasn't going to open we started to loop to the bottom through Triple Trees. We should really rename them Quintruple Trees as after the third section through the trees we did two more sections (down on to Summer Trail under Timber chair and then off that trail through the lower trees) in normal circumstances these would be too tight and steep to be fun but in today's waist deep snow you just pointed your skis through the tightest sections in the fall line and let it go.

After lunch we went to the Old Side and did a couple of drops of Cedar Ridge (Ridge right and King Fir) which were great skiing with all the crowds going back to - well, wherever they came from. Two returns through Kangaroo had it skiing about as mellow as I can remember in deep powder. We went back to the New Side via Boom which was predictably deep and soft.

On the New Side we tried Siberia Ridge and although it had been tracked in the lower section it was like a deep terrain park only lightly tracked where you could fly big air knowing there was a soft landing and again the snow was making breathing difficult with continuous over the head face shots.

With Currie closed Skydive was off the agenda so we finished with two loops of Triple Trees catching the final White Pass chair at 1 minute to closing bell. In the trees it was alway possible to find fresh lines somewhere and these always resulted in huge face shots. A fantastic finish to a fantastic day.

Far too many beers with very pumped up buddies in the Griz bar. Best of all at least 60% of the hill has reamained closed and tomorrow they are calling for a cold bluebird day before we go back into another weather cycle. Tomorrow could see an awesome day of the type normally only seen in ski movies and with the crowds all gone - I can't wait but it will have to be an early night.