Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 107 a big day by any definition.

Yes, today we had 8 trips up Polar Peak, 4 drops through the Saddles, 3 drops down Spinal Tap, and the big three off the front plus Cougar Glades, as I said, a big day by any definition.

So how did it all happen ? Well, we went to the hill and it was -3 at the base and cooler on top. During the day temps rose to about +5 at the base and just about plus temps on top. As we arrived we were told that there was an inversion and that it was sunny above the valley fog. For most of the morning the result was that the top of the hill was totally socked in (worse than it has been all season) and although it hinted that it might be clear up at Polar peak, as it wasn't open this was pretty irrelevant.

We had yet another 13 cms of fresh snow raising the base to 410 cms - this is getting to be a crazy season. Everything was open straight off the bat so we headed to the New Side to see if Polar Peak was going to open and eventually we got what we wanted.

First run we headed out across Currie on the low Traverse and got to Cougar Glades which were unracked so we took them. Next we went to Skydive which was a bit tracked up but was ok and we had powder top to bottom.

We went out to Currie and found out that the Reverse Traverse was open so we pushed out to see if the Saddles were open and we were delighted to find that they were. Corner pocket was full of snow with no tires showing. Viz was not great but we had the most mellow descent ever through the chute and just groped our way down the snow underneath which was great untracked if slightly heavy powder - we exited left side Easter which was pretty untracked.

Next time we dropped High Saddle which was also super mellow and easy edge to edge skiing all the way through the chute, the viz had improved so that we had a very easy rip below the chute. This time we exited through Spinal Tap which was soft deep powder just starting to get a little heavy in the warm up.

When we got to the top of White Pass they were just switching the sign for Polar Peak so we got very early tracks up there. Of course we were behind staff members who had got the first lift - after all you wouldn't want fare paying customers to get first tracks when the chutes were opened for the first time in 5 days.

We looped Polar Peak 5 times in Popa bear, Barely legal, Grandpa bear, Popa bear and then Baby bear - this brought my Polar Peak total to 100 for the year. We took the view that the awesome deep conditions (and they were deep and awesome in the chutes) would be deteriorating in the sun and we needed to get the good snow while it was available.We dropped to a late lunch via Corner Pocket (a few tires showing but still ok with the soft snow below the chutes perhaps the best on the hill) and then Spinal Tap which was just as good as the time before.

After lunch Lynda went home as it was day 100 on the hill for her and she is very wary of day 100 as it was 4 years ago she broke her leg on that day, so to get it behind her is considered something of a result.

In the afternoon I went back to the Polar Chutes and ran down Popa bear which was just starting to set up in the less than soft snow. To complete the set I dropped the low Saddle and cut right into some deep untracked snow which stayed in good shape in the North West facing aspect. Another exit through Spinal Tap was good but getting heavy.

I arrived at the top of Polar Peak next time round and took Barely Legal all the way back to the base of the chair before hitting out to Mama bear which was tracked and setting up in the base. This completed the bear family circle for the day and brought the number of Polar Peaks for the season up to 103.

With not much time left I went out to Stag Leap which was good through the trees and even better in the run itself. Made a major deposit in the karma bank by putting a kid back together who had a major yard sale in the last pitch of Stag Leap.

Final rip down Skydive was pretty good with powder in top, reformed crud in the middle section (which wasn't too bad) and soft in the final pitch.

Things may look a bit different tomorrow when the softening snow sets up over night, lets see.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 106 I never thought this would happen

And what I thought would never happen was that I have actually run out of things to say about skiing powder in Fernie. Having spent the last 5 days trying to find different ways of describing trashing up the powder that has just been puking down I now have to run up the white flag and admit defeat, there is nothing new to say about today that I haven't said over the last 5 days.

Yet again it snowed over night - 18 cms of fresh new powder.
Yet again on the way to the hill the temps were low enough to keep the snow in great shape - we had -3 at the base and colder on top.
Yet again the base and total snowfall increased - 405 cms and 1007 cms respectively
Yet again it warmed during the day but the snow stayed in great shape if a little heavy at the bottom by the ened of the day.
Yet again we went to the New Side - the Old Side was mostly closed so we just had that much more terrain on the New.
Yet again Polar peak was closed due to the socked in conditions.
Yet again it snowed - not quite all day and not quite as hard as it has but still pretty impressive.
Yet again we had rolling openings - first White Pass then Surprise Trees, Anaconda, Bootleg Glades, and finally Currie bowl at the low traverse all the way across to the big three.
Yet again everywhere we went it was deep powder up to the knee and untracked snow to be had if you cut things close to the trees.
Yet again we had awesome skiing - all the usual suspects, Sykdive, Decline, Window Chutes, Secret chutes, Spinal Tap, Cougar Glades, Stag Leap, Toms run, Mitchy Chutes, Lift Line etc etc and all awesome powder.
Yet again we finished with a rip down Skydive which was still great powder

As I said nothing new to say but oh what an awesome day. Still no Polar Peak but still hoping for tomorrow. Almost hope that conditions change so I have something original to write but not really that worried.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 105 another awesome powder day

This may have to be a quick report as today we passed the 4 metre mark for the snow base and 10 metre mark for total snowfall on the hill year to date. this double celebration has propted an evening out at friends and the taxi is booked for 7 so at that time the report finishes.

With no real forecast of snow we were surprised to wake up to a deep covering of fresh powder and a heavy snowfall warning for the Elk Valley. The snow base was 395 cms at the early morning reading after 20 cms overnight and as it has puked snow all day we must be well beyond that figure ny now.

We got to the hill in temps of -3 at the base and about -6 on top. The forecast called for snow turning to rain but in the event we had snow all day although it was getting a little wet low down by the end of the day it was still very much snow and great powder on top. In a nutshell we started with great untracked powder everywhere and as the day wore on this was replaced by a steady fall of new snow and wind sift. The replacement rate was not enough to fully cover tracks but it gave pretty good skiing and added to the untracked snow of which plenty remained.

We went to the New Side as it was forecast to get wet low down and we thought (correctly as it turned out) that the Cedar high traverse would remain closed cutting off the best skiing on the Old Side. I am sorry that this is becoming something of a New Side only blog but that is just the way things have gone this year.

Currie, Knot Chutes and the I bowl were all closed but we got a good rolling opening. After a couple of runs up and down White Pass (Gun bowl, Quite Right, trees etc) in good deep powder they opened the I bowl.

We then had a couple of loops in Surprise Trees with Knot chutes still closed again in great powder much of which was untracked. Knot Chutes opened and were very deep but in poor light. To extend our range we hit Triple Trees (all 5 parts) all the way to the base. This was perhaps not the greatest plan for as we arrived at the top of White Pass it was apparent that Currie had opened, yesterday's sure touch on timing seemed to have deserted us.

The Reverse Traverse was open which gave us some hope for Polar peak but the viz socked in and just got worse all day so that put paid to that. We spent the rest of the morning looping the far side of Currie in super deep powder but unlike yesterday we encountered quite a lot of traffic most of which appeared to be out to demonstrate just how incompetent they were at holding a traverse for any length of time.
Skydive - a few tracks but enough untracked to make it a spectacular run of over the head face shots from top to bottom.
The Brain - more tracked than I expected but plenty of untracked lines in the trees to the right of the creek bed and untracked all the way down to the lower cat track
Cougar Glades - again tracked but I held a tight line in the trees way off to the left and was rewarded with some untracked chutes.
Knot chutes/Anaconda/Bootleg - we had an idea that as they had dropped the fence on Currie at the same time as Anaconda perhaps people would have ignored the latter. We were right and had great deep powder in the Tight Knot followed by untracked hero snow in Anaconda and some awesome skiing on the far side of Bootleg with the only scratchy section in the tight chute at the bottom. Lunch

After lunch we went back to the New Side and started to try variations on the drop from Timber to White Pass in the trees on the skier right of Lift line. These were so good we did these every drop all afternoon. We continued to loop -
Decline/Window chutes - just awesome lightly tracked snow and deep in the chute.
Lone Fir - closed so after all the trouble of hiking I had to do a drop into -
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - see Decline/Window chutes.
Stag Leap - the snow was easing off just a bit but the blow in gave soft powder that looked mostly ntracked all the way down. Something clicked and I dropped the skis in the fall line and had the fastest run ever down Stag Leap spending most of the time near the fall line and in the air, it just felt so easy.
A fill in up Knot chutes which by now had refilled with fresh then the final rip down Skydive which was a re run of Stag leap.
Awesome, awesome, awesome - taxi has just arrived, must go.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 104 a great sense of timing

More about the timing later but first apologies to those of you who have been waiting for tonight's blog. The reason it is late coming is that I have been down at the movie house watching some vintage ski movies in aid of ski heritage week. The scary thing is that my buddy says he can remember the K2 road trip movie coming out and he is younger than me - feeling old.

We woke up this morning to the sounds of heli bombing as the skies were at least clearish for the first time in a few days. On the way to the hill temps were -1 and cooler on top. During the day base temps rose to +5 and temps on top were a little above zero. The official report gave 18 cms of fresh in the last 24 hours most of which would have fallen during the day yesterday and a base of around 285 cms.

There had been a considerable wind event and that combined with the fact that Currie Bowl had closed at lunch time yesterday (there had to be at least 10 cms of fresh in there) and that Polar Peak had to be a certainty for today, decided us to head for the New Side. In the event whilst Polar Peak looked a goer for most of the morning the cat cutting the new track broke down and it was late afternoon before the track could be cleared so once again no Polar Peak, fingers crossed for tomorrow.

First time off White Pass we got to the shoulder of Gun Bowl just as they dropped the rope and so had first tracks in Surprise trees which were a bit creamy but ok. Next loop Knot chutes remained closed but we hit out along the Idiot Traverse only to find Anaconda newly opened so we had first tracks in the chute just over the hump then first tracks in the nearside trees of Bootleg Glades. All this was good untracked snow but a little slabby due to the wind.

Next time up White Pass we completed a hatrick of perfectly timed arrivals as they dropped the fence just as we got off the lift with only a handful of people there. The Reverse Traverse was closed but we actually cut the traverse out from Polar Sink so when we arrived at the top of Skydive we could have helped ourselves to first tracks in any of the big three or associated runs. We hit Skydive top to bottom untracked, me on the left Lynda on the right, all nice deep powder that had mounted up since yesterday's mid day closure.

We then looped Currie -
Cougar Glades - only a couple of tracks in front of us in the top and they disappeared when we got down a few turns. Great untracked powder all the way down to the cat track at the ski out.
The Brain - untracked in the top but quite a few more tracks lower down. Plenty of fresh lines to be found in the trees to the skiers right of the creek bed and we were able to take it all the way to the cat track at the bottom of Skydive.
Stag Leap - (please note it is Stag in the singular, so many people seem to give it an incorrect posessive 's') Well tracked but still soft snow and some untracked bits in the mid section. The ski out was starting to get soft.
We had an early lunch hoping for Polar peak but discovered on our first run after lunch that wasn't going to happen.

In the afternoon Knot chutes had just opened so we put tracks in the Tight Knot which was very deep and soft and only seemed to have the ski cutting tracks in there ahead of us. Surprise Trees were getting tracked but still had some fresh lines close to the trees.

Next time round we had intended another Knot Chutes but got tempted into Gotta Go which for the first time this year was not scratchy in the choke but good deep powder down to where the tracks from 3's started to chunk things up. This time through Bootleg we tried the far (skiers right) trees which were not quite as good as yesterday but still good powder but a bit scratchy lower down.

After that we discovered that the Reverse Traverse an Saddles were open so we dropped Corner Pocket which was very friendly with only a couple of tires just starting to show and with some great soft untracked snow underneath the chute. We crossed Easter to Spinal Tap which was ok but just starting to get a bit heavy. Next time we did High Saddle and the soft snow under that which were every bit as good as Corner Pocket had been. This time we worked our way all the way out to the top of Window Chutes which were very similar to Spinal Tap - good but heavy.

To fill in at the end we did a Mitchy Chute (very nice blow in) and Tight Knot/Surprise both of which still had remarkably good deep soft snow as a a surface. Final rip was Skydive top to bottom without a break which although obviously more tracked up than the first time was still good soft skiing all the way down.

A good day (not quite as good as yesterday) made all the better by the hill being even less busy than it was yesterday, we hardly saw anyone out on the far side of Currie all day. Fingers still crossed for Polar Peak tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 103 First day of spring and it puked snow

Yes, today was the first day of spring. Overnight there had only been 3 cms of fresh snow and starting temps were -3 at the base and -5 on top. Things probably warmed up a little during the day but stayed cool enough so thathe snow that fell during the day came down white all the way to the base without a huge moisture content even low down.

Just before we left for the hill it started to snow and it just puked down all day and only stopped at about 6 this evening. The result was that we must have had over 20 cms of fresh during the day and the base must be getting on towards 400 cms by anyone's measure.

We went to the New Side looking for Polar Peak but it quickly became apparent that we would not be getting Polar Peak in the heavy new snow and that it would only be a matter of time before Currie bowl had to close. In these circumstances we decided just to keep looping the far side of Currie for as long as we could. As the day wore on every run became better in ever increasing depths of snow and we frequently found ourselves laying fresh tracks down slopes that we had already skied ourselves. The situation was made even better by the lack of people on the hill. Apart from a few instruction groups (who seemed to be intent on standing on groomed runs talking about skiing) there was no one around as evidenced by the fact that we had to cut the traverse out to Skydive from scratch every time we headed out.

We went to Skydive and put the first two tracks down there in reasonably deep snow on a firm base. Cougar Glades was next, deeper and with a couple of tracks in the top but untracked lower down and starting to become awesome. We thought Stag Leap would be good and were we right, the snow had mounted up to deep powder and although I am sure that there had been tracks in there before us they were covered and to all intents and purposes it was first tracks again.

The Brain was the same as Stag Leap, probably tracked but no sign of them in the new deep snow. Going into the Brain I noticed that Skydive was now untracked so next time round we ripped that again and it was getting really deep. On the same basis we figured that Cougar Glades would have filled up a bit more and we were not disappointed all the way down. By this stage the Reverse Traverse had been closed and we were accessing the big three by the lower Polar Sink Traverse, hard work but worth it.

I decided to skip lunch and got to the top of White Pass just as they were closing Currie Bowl. We just managed to get through and had a final rip down Skydive which by now was again untracked and skiing as deep powder. After that we spent the afternoon looping back through White Pass, Anaconda, Bootleg Glades, Triple Trees etc.

It was a great afternoon. Anaconda was deep in all chutes and the snow was of a hero quality so in tight situations you could just drop your skis into the fall line and let it rip. Bootleg was good particularly in the trees on the nearside or the far side of the main glades - nice brainless skiing in very easy mellow conditions. The only downside was in Triple Trees where I hit a death cookie pushed down by some pretty random grooming and stacked it big time - just a sore wrist to show for it so I guess I am pretty lucky.

The snow has stopped but we have flurries forecast for the overnight and tomorrow could be pretty epic always with the chance of Polar peak opening althiugh the effect of todays wind (did I mention we had mega wind storms all afternoon)`will mean that they are back to square one with the cat work they will have to do on the access track.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 102 things getting better

This morning we awoke to temps of -3, no new snow to speak of and overcast conditions with the occasional flash of sunlight. During the day we probably got pretty well every condition going. We had sun, flat light under cloud, showers of ice pellets, totally socked in conditions, for a short period in the afternoon very heavy snow which put down about 5 cms of fresh in a very short time then sun followed by more snow showers - you try and work out a description of conditions out of that.

We heard that conditions in the Polar Chutes were rather unstable and that it would take time to get them open so we went to the Old Side to try our luck. It was ok but nothing to shout about. We dropped the Sunny Side shoulder which was good tracked in powder taking a nice edge.

After that we looped out to the nearside edge of Fish bowl which had some good untracked sections, Redtree - very chunky all the way down, hard work but ok and then finally Gorby via the steep shoulder into Steep and Deep which was a bit less tracked than most of that area but quickly became chunky in the lower sections with some signs of avi debris that needed to be avoided.

Somewhere in there we had a return to Boomerang chair down Boom ridge which was good soft tracked bumps. We always completed our loops through Boomerang which was again good tracked up powder and Kangaroo which was at it's ugly, icey, bumpy best with a big drop onto the cat track where the trail had been cut into the uphill side.

Late morning we got word that Polar Peak had opened so we headed to the New Side only to find that it had been almost immediately closed due to poor viz. We contented ourselves with a quick trip down Corner Pocket which was still in good shape and the surface below the chute nice soft powder. We then cut across to Spinal Tap which was great soft snow specially in the creek bed.

After lunch we went back to the New Side and tried Lone Fir which was ok in the chute but a bit disappointing in the lower parts where the snow was nowhere near as soft as I expected. We exited via Spinal Tap again which was still good.

With the snow starting to fall heavily and the viz deteriorating we had to stay in the trees so we had a Decline/Window chutes followed by Cougar Glades both of which were getting better and better as the new snow mounted up. The lower sections of Cougar were even starting to slough on you as you skied.

Amazingly the light suddenly improved as the snow stopped and they opened Polar Peak for the last half hour of the day. Papa Bear was in fantastic condition with fresh deep blow in powder all the way down to the reverse traverse - 95th time this season. We dropped via High Saddle which was in good shape and the ski out was good as long as you avoided the avi debris from blasting and then once again into Spinal Tap which was still proving good skiing.

Last run of course was Skydive which was great rip in the new soft snow top to bottom without a break. More snow in the outlook and the base up at 370 cms so plenty more skiing to be had.

A note for the diary - 28th March, 6 pm at Corner Pocket on the hill the appreciation event for Patrollers and Groomers - 10 bucks to get in to go towards our guests beer and a fun evening for all if last years event is anything to go by.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 101 Nothing sucked

It may seem a strange heading to a report on what has been a great day's skiing but that just about sums it up. There was nothing in the overnight to indicate that things were going to be exceptional and in fact they weren't. What we did get was that everywhere we went things were just really nice skiing (not awesome, epic, sick, or any of the other much over used adjectives) but just really nice - in truth, nothing sucked !

The official overnight gave 15 cms of new snow in the last 24 hours although I expect a lot of that fell during the day yesterday and the base was up at around 380 cms. On the way to the hill temps were -3 at the base and a bit cooler on top. During the day temps rose to +2 at the base and around zero on top but the good news was that it remained overcast so there was no sun damage on the skiing surfaces.

The skiing surfaces themselves were well filled in with the overnight snow and there had clearly been a major wind event during the night. All this meant that whilst you could technically get first tracks the surface was such that you were really skiing a deep dust covering on yesterday's leavings.

We went to the New Side in anticipation of the opening of Polar Peak. When we got there they were working hard on cutting the cat track to the Peak but in the light of the recent snow this was never going to be an easy task. As it was they made it at about 3 in the afternoon which was too late to open the chair but does bode well for an opening tomorrow - apologies to the weekend warriors who appear to have missed out on the Peak yet again.

As we arrived at the top of White Pass they dropped the fence on Currie Bowl and that set our agenda for the rest of the day. I can list the runs but the conditions were pretty much the same wherever you went - yesterday's new snow on a firm base ranging from scratchy to soft depending on where you were.
Skydive - first run with only two tracks, against all odds it got better the further you went down.
Cougar Glades - a few tracks in the top but after that great untracked skiing in the tight tree lines.
Stag Leap - great tree skiing in the top then soft tracked snow all the way down.
Decline/Window chutes - just as every where else
Lone Fir/Spinal tap - a bit scratchy through the chute but wonderful soft snow underneath and some ok stuff when you cut across Easter to Spinal tap (even the creek bed is well filled in) Lunch

The Brain - now a bit tracked but still plenty of untracked lines to be had.
High Saddle/Spinal Tap - we were a bit ambushed by the saddles suddenly being opened but they were skiing very mellow and the snow underneath was good but there was a lot of avi debrise to be avoided.
Cougar Glades - Once again and just as good as the first time.
Lone Fir/Window chutes - an interesting variation by taking the Lone fir drop and then skiing the soft snow below before cutting all the way across easter and ending up in Decline just in time to take the top route into Window chutes which like every where else were still good soft snow on a slightly scratchy base.

Final rip of course was down Skydive that just seemed to be skiing better and better as the day went on. It was so good in fact that we ripped it from top to bottom with no stops and it was so mellow that it wasn't really tiring at all ( well not much) even at the end of the day.

As I said a really nice day in good fun snow without ever finding really awesome conditions. In other words, nothing sucked.