Saturday, December 8, 2012

Day 8 welcome to the New Side

We didn't have a huge dump overnight, just 3 or 4 cms to freshen things up, however yesterday's snow was rather more than anticipated so that we had 32 cms the day before and 25 cms in the 24 hours up to this morning so just do the math on the 48 hour figures.

Temps cooled so that it was -4 at the base and -7 on top. I guess it cooled all day as a couple of minutes ago when I looked on the deck it was -11, the upshot of this was that all the new snow stayed in great shape all day.

I forecast a zoo today and I was right. As we rolled into parking lot 2 at 20 minutes to 9 (opening) I saw a huge scrum round Timber Chair even though it wasn't running. We were told that Timber would be delayed 15 minutes and as I have waited hours in the past while waiting 15 minutes for Timber we decided to hit the Old Side.

We had a great untracked run off the chutes at the top of Bear into Cedar and ripped it still untracked all the way under Cedar Ridge and out on to Cedar Trail. I guess all the crowds at Timber gave us a clear run. After a loop back down Boomerang which was nice filled in powder we got word that Timber was open and headed for the New Side.

From the top of Timber we dropped Puff which was alwas the best way down to White Pass Chair. Puff was great with interesting terrain following the ground contours give tough but interesting sking. Sometime soon they will push a groomer up Puff and ruin everything but for time being it is great bump powder skiing.

The rest of the morning was spent up and down White Pass in Knot Chutes, Gun Bowl, I bowl, Highline Trees (interesting fallen tree drop) and the chutes just before Surprise which was cut off by a closure line. Everything on the New Side had been untouched so far this season so the powder was knee deep everywhere with deeper patches in the dips.At the end of the morning they opened Currie Bowl and we went far side hoping for a Reverse Traverse or Low Traverse opening but with no luck. We hit the side of Currie Glades which was deep and only lightly tracked.

After a quick break we found that the Low Traverse out across Currie was opened and although it was a very hard side step traverse it accessd some awesome deep (untracked so far this year) powder. the runs were -
Cougar Glades - First tracks ( well a board had been in but the tracks soon disappeared) top to bottom with over the head face shots all the way.
Decline - great with few tracks and very clear in the lower sections.
Skydive - tracked but good on the left with huge face shots as you hit the rolls on the way down.
Cougar Glades - again with friends - still plenty of untracked
Stag Leap - great in the trees at the entrance as it appeared to be untracked. A few tracks lower down but still lots of tight lines of fresh powder.
Skydive - final run of the day and 6 side step traverses so far had their effect on the legs so that it was a tough final run. Dan met me on the way out and we had to stop several time on the way down to give the legs a break.

Fantastic work has been done in the lower sections of the big three with alders removed and the skiing much better than last year or previous years.

Far too much beer in the Griz and a long soak in the hot tub. Looking up at the stars I could see Cassiopea (spelling ?) and not for the first time I wondered how the ancient greeks thought 5 stars shaped like a W looked like a semi dressed lady resting on a sofa - I guess that's what drinking ouzo does for you.

A great powder day and fingers crossed for Polar Peak tomorrow as the lift was turning last thing tonight.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 7 let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

And boy did it snow. We had 32 cms of fresh in the 24 hours up to this morning (base 140 cms) and during the day it continued to snow hard. I don't have figures on today's accumulation but I wouldn't think it could be less than 15 cms. They are calling for another 10 cms overnight (which judging by the snow falling as were in the hot tub seems a likely figure) and a further 10 cms during the day tomorrow. The season has gone from zero to hero in 48 hours.

As we drove to the hill valley temps were -2 and didn't change much all day. The same could be said for the upper mountain temps which hung around at about -5 without moving much. The result was that the snow that fell pretty well all day remained light and dry powder. It was one of those days when by the afternoon the tracks from the morning were mostly filled in so that we were getting powder right up to last bell.

Of course there were more people but after a small line up at Elk at first bell things were pretty clear for the rest of the day. Lizard was open all the way across to Dancer but we didn't go there tending to stick to the steeper pitches around Boomerang and Cedar which are more fun in the deeper powder. Cedar was open as far as Cruiser and most of the stuff between Boom and Cedar was open if a bit twiggy.

We started by dropping the chutes at the top of Bear down to Alpine Way and then further down in the trees towards the Gully. There was only one track in front of us and as there was plenty of room we all got deep untracked powder all the way down. After that we took many runs in the Cedar/ Boomerang area which in no particular order were -
Boomerang - still a few alders and a crunchy base low down from the old rain crust. Sometimes it was an exit along the Goat Trail and then a drop down Kodiak (now really nice and deep) back to Boom chair. Other times it was a case of holding left onto the face along side Boom Ridge and dropping straight to the chair from there. Snow just got deeper and more powdery as the day went on.
Boom Ridge - hardly touched so great deep powder all the way down. A bit twiggy on the exit but great skiing every time.
Linda's - open for the first time in several days so super deep. The only place all day where I got consistent face shots over the head and had difficulty breathing by the wave of powder in the mouth. Several great runs. Watch out for the fallen tree half way down.
Cedar Ridge - very twiggy but good stuff in short bursts in between the bushes. A crunchy base lower down from the old rain crust.
Alpine Way and below - many drop offs from Alpine Way with various routes down to the trail around Cedar Centre. All great powder skiing and nice undulating terrain allowing for quite a lot of air time.

Rode the Boom Chair up with 1 minute to go to closing and had a final rip down Boomerang where the snow was really starting to pile up. Beers in the Griz and the snow fall observations from the hot tub on our back deck.

I guess tomorrow will be a bit of a zoo with all the weekend worriors turning out having had reports of powder and a promised opening of the New Side - heigh ho, it's just a price we have to pay for having the hill to ourselves midweek on days like today.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 6 is this the start of winter ?

After yesterday's pretty crappy day things had to improve today and sure enough they did. We now have cooler temps, fresh snow, precip falling as white stuff even down in valley, in fact as I said in the heading, it looks like the start of a proper winter.

Overnight temps fell so that on the way to the hill it was -1 at the base and about -3 on top, staying around those figures for the rest of the day. There had been a very light dusting of new snow (1 cm) and the base had shrunk to 108 cms.

In terms of openings we got Arrow and all of Lizard bowl below Tower 6, the top of Cedar bowl from Bear as far as Cruiser.but still no Cedar Ridge, Boomerang, Boom Ridge, Linda's and all the surrounding areas.

Bear was in better shape than yesterday so we had a couple of runs - still a bit icy. Bear top into Cruiser next was very interesting. They had pushed a groomer down the middle of Cruiser in response to yesterdays aweful rain crust. Where they hadn't groomer the crust had firmed up to a hard base that would support weight and would just about take an edge. Trouble was that a combination of old skier traffic and rain damage made for a very very uneven surface and although better than yesterday it was still tough skiing. North Ridge was still icy but not quite the boiler plate of yesterday and had loose snow to either side to facilitate turning. We amused ourselves in these areas until lunch.

Late morning it started snowing and although it seemed to be driving quite hard there didn't seem to be much accumulation. The forecast was just for flurries but in true Fernie fashion the snow continued and became heavier so that by close we had accumulated about 4 cm and it was puking snow.

The snow improved the afternoon skiing which was  a repeat of the morning loops into Cedar plus some Arrow/lower Bow loops in Lizard. The cooling trend had firmed up the base in Lizard just like in Cruiser so that by the afternoon all the ungroomed skiing was good and not breakable crust and the increasing amounts of snow just made the skiing really rather smooth. I guess if you got down low enough you would have found breakable crust but I didn't find any on the upper hill.

For the first time this season I found myself catching the last chair up Bear and wishing we had a few more runs left. Of course this may have had something to do with the fact that my feet were in much betteer shape thanks to the great work done overnight on my boots by Donny at Top Shelf.

It has been snowing ever since we left the hill. I had to clear about 10 cms of snow off the hot tub to be able to get in and after a great soak in the falling snow (I love hot tubs in a snow storm) about a further 5 cms have accumulated. As I look out on my deck it is still puking snow and the snow is quite light and fluffy - long live Fernie flurries. Tomorrow could be the first powder day of the season - head for the hills.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 5 a pretty crappy day

And before anyone suggests that I am being a pessimist I would point out that most of my buddies suggested a better title for today would have been "a very crappy day."  Those blog followers who hang on my every post will remember that last night I was looking at two forecasts, one calling for a load of snow and the other for a load of rain. It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the sod's law of skiing that the rain won out.

When I went to bed last night it was +4 and pouring with rain and when I woke up this morning it was +3 and still pouring with rain. Most of the snow in the valley was pretty well washed out. When we got to the hill the rain line was more or less at the top of Bear so with only the Old Side open this meant that everything was rain affected.

There must have been some snow just below the top at the weather plot as the hill were claiming 14 cms of fresh and a base of 114 cms. If the sking along side the plot was anything to go by it must have come down in the middle of the night and then been rained upon to produce an ugly crust.

Lizard stayed closed so the first run was down the Bear. The first few turns were in a tricky rain crust before it became a refrozed hard iced base and remained that way all day. Next I (not we as Lynda refused to have anything to do with a day like today) took a trip down North Ridge and Emily's to Haul Back. The surface had been groomed but refrozen to a bullet hard ice sheet base where you were skiing about as fast sideways as you were forwards. Lower North Ridge to Boomerang was actually breakable crust on a groomer which was pretty strange and only got a bit better through the day as the surface was broken up by skier traffic.

Early on I decided to try Cedar/Cruiser encouraged by one of the snow flurries that occured during the morning. Cruiser was about 1 ft deep breakable crust and and absolute nightmare to ski, every turn was a huge physical effort. Later in the day I noticed Ski Patrol had put a warning sign on Alpine Way suggesting that Cruiser was experts only and giving it a tripple black diamond rating. I didn't try it a second time.

During the day we had a cooling trend and clearing skies. They were setting up snow makers during the day so it should get cold and this was confirmed by the clear skies tonight when I looked up from the hot tub and saw the stars.

So today all you could ski was a scrappy Bear and a sheet ice North Ridge - as I say pretty crappy. Of course technically you could have skied any part of Boomerang but my guess was that would be even worse than Cruiser. The few tracks that led in and then turned immediately and bailed out tended to confirm this.

There are only so many ways you can ski a couple of runs so by 3 in the afternoon I bailed. In any event I was suffering some early season foot pain and went down to the ever reliable Top Shelf to get it sorted. Beer in the griz, hot tub and bed. Forecast is for cooling and some snow, anything has to be better than today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 4 started really well before going way down hill

And so it did. We had great skiing in the morning and then as conditions deteriorated with the rain line moving up the hill things got pretty crappy to be quite honest.

Overnight we had some snow but very wet. Driving to the hill temps dropped from zero to -1 so we arrived to light snow showers, very overcast conditions which socked in the top of the hill all day and a claimed base of 102 cms with 6 cms of fresh. As you would expect for a mid week day in December with nothing special in the forecast the hill was almost deserted.

We arrived at the top of Bear to find that Lizard Bowl was closed for avi work on the head wall. Even after quite a lot of blasting Lizard remainded closed all day, I guess this was because the results couldn't be seen in the socked in conditions. This meant we only had the Old Side from Bear to Cruiser open with the top of Cedar off Bear also closed. To compensate the whole Boomerang area including Boom Ridge was open but more of that later.

We had a couple of runs down Bear with the new snow untracked dry powder on a smooth base. Second time down we hooked into Kodiake which yesterday had been a bit of a nightmare. Today the new snow made all the difference and the new snow on yesterday's mush base made for great untracked slightly heavy powder down to Boom Chair.

A ride up Boom Chair showed that the whole Boomerang area including Boom Ridge was open. From above you could see that the area was covered with alders and general ground scrub but in between the growth there was some great deep powder that was totally untracked. We looped 4 times taking different lines in Boomerang , twice taking it all the way to the bottom and twice taking the very patchy Goat Track out to the top of Kodiak which was starting to get a bit more tracked up.

As it is early season we are on a two short break strategy so we stopped at 11 for some hot choccy.  The second session was a case of doing loops down Cedar Ridge off Alpine Way and then down Cedar Centre to Haul Back. Then take Lower North Ridge to Boom Chair, up the Chair and then down Boomerang and repeat. The one attempt at Boom Ridge worked well for the first three quarters before having to bail to skiers right due to just too much undergrowth.

During this session the precip started as snow at the top and wet snow at the bottom and the skiing was exellent with good powder untracked in places. The wet snow turned to rain and by the time we broke just after half past 1 the lower hill was getting very heavy and claggy but still with good stuff on top.

Lynda declined to come out for the final session as it was raining very hard at the base. Dressed in my yellow 10 buck Canadian Tire plastic rain jacket I gave it a go. As always Lynda was right (aren't wives always right ?) as the final session was not good. The rain line was about half way up Bear and above that the snow was coming down almost as wet as rain. The result was everything now was heavy and where there had been powder we now had elephant snot.

We bailed at about half past three and hit the Griz Bar which as always at this time of year may have lacked numbers but made up for it in the quality of the company. Too wet for us to even think about a hot tub.

We have two forecasts - one says it's going to rain hard to the top of the hill for the next 24 hours. The other say that temps will cool overnight and about 25 cms of the precip will come as new snow. I know which one I would like to be right but lets see.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 3 so much better than expected

Now, lets put this into context, compared with the awesome powder days that we have had and will have again the current conditions are pretty poor but in the context of an early season skiing experience what we have at the moment is pretty ok.

I went to the hill today with very low expectations. There had been snow over night but so light that the tire tracks in my drive were still clearly visible. The radio forecast a rain snow mix for the next few days with daytime highs of +4 and as we headed off to the hill in temps of +2 we had light rain. As it was we had some really very good conditions for early season which proves the old skiing adage - if you don't go you don't know.

When we got to the hill they were claiming 12 cms in the last 24 and a base of 97 cms. Given that most of that snow probably fell yesterday expectations were still low. As it turned out the snow had continued to fall as a very fine graupel ( that's what I have been told is the correct spelling of grapple) and had provided a good covering. Temps stayed a degree or two above zero at the base all day with temps of about zero mid mountain and -1 at the top. The conditions were very overcast with occasional short flurries of graupel during the day.

It being the first weekday of the season skier traffic was very thin and all day it was possible to stop for several minutes without seeing anyone. We headed up Bear to find that the overnight snow had left a smooth powderish covering about half way up the boot. We took a couple of runs down Bear and laid fresh tracks each time by staying left and right. Next as Cedar bowl had been opened from the very top as far as Cruiser we dropped the chutes off the top of the Bear and had some quite deep untracked but heavy snow down to Alpine Way. We then did a couple of loops via Haul Back and Boomerag each time cutting as close to Cedar Ridge as possible before dropping left to Cruiser - Cedar Ridge and Boomerang off North Ridge remain closed. The snow was great with fresh powder on the old base but still with the ground contours showing through to make for good interesting terrain.

Late morning Lizard High Traverse opened all the way across to Dancer and we were there when the fence dropped. For the rest of the morning we just looped off Bear traversing out into Lizard until we could see no more tracks then dropping down in untracked powder (sort of) about boot high down to Tower 6 trail.

The afternoon was just are run of the morning and we were still finding fresh tracks right up to closing bell. Right at the end I bumped into some buddies (Rob, Dan and Brian) for a final rip through Cedar and then Bear and Cascade - a great finish to the day.

So, having gone expecting the worst I ended up having a pretty good day. Technically as what we were sking was untracked and flew as we skied it I guess it has to count as powder but lets keep a sense of proportion about things, it was good but by no means awesome.

Final mention is for Kodiak which we skied mid afternoon. Being a bit lower the untracked "powder" was very heavy indeed, tending to force you into skiing rail road lines in wide curves rather than nice turns. The toughest run on the hill at the moment for anyone looking for a challenge.

As always beers in the Griz bar with buddies then a hot tub back at the ranch. First day that I don't feel completely knackered at this time of night.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 2 a big improvement

After the rather sketchy conditions of yesterday a fall of new snow went a long way towards getting the season back on track. Conditions are still very much "early season hazards" but at least now it's starting to feel a bit like some of the other opening weeks that we have had and we have rather more of the Old Side to play with but still no sign of the New Side. Given the very low skier numbers we will probably have to wait at least until next weekend before we get the New Side.

Overnight the rain turned to snow and whilst it wasn't a heavy fall it kept on coming and was still falling as we drove to the hill. Starting temps were zero in the valley and -1 at the base of the hill. The boards claimed an 85 cm base and 8 cms of new overnight, given the measure was taken early in the morning we probably started with about 10 cms of quite heavy fresh snow. It snowed all day with the snow fall building so that by closing we had quite an accumulation on top. Base temps rose to +1 and the snow turned to rain at the very bottom but not enough to do too much damage to the snow already on the ground. So while we did have a fair amount of new snow it was with a high moisture content and heavy.

The effect on conditions was to turn yesterday's base into a very hard ice crust. I think there had been some grooming but it must have happened while the snow was wet slush yesterday evening as when the base formed it was very bumpy and uneven. The fresh snow of the day gave a good soft covering but the conditions were about as tough on the legs as I can remember as the icey uneveness was hiden by the new snow so you were constantly having to react and rebalance everywhere you skied. The new snow never got quite enough to give a smooth ride but it did cover a lot of yesterday's bare patches and as a result the rock skis only took a couple of new gouges during the course of the day.

We started on Bear and had a couple of runs on the new soft snow where some untracked stuff could be found. Just like yesterday we looped out to Haul Back via North Ridge and Emily's which were in much better shape than yesterday but still no skiing off either side into Boomerang or Cedar Ridge. From the top of the haul back Lower North Ridge was now open so that was the route back to the Boom Chair.

That set the pattern for the day. As patrol managed to open new areas we skied them a couple of times before moving on to the next opening. As a result we tried -
Arrow - great soft snow in then top then many different ways down as you spread out along Tower 6 Trail. Below the trail things got very interesting with a lot of alders and other bush work making sking very challenging but great fun.
Alpine Way - when opened you could access much of Cedar Ridge just on the near side of Cruiser. The many and varied ways down were lightly tracked in heavy powder but following the advice from Ski patrol we cut out left half way down to avoid what was described as "hero to zero conditions".
Cedar Centre - very sketchy on the icey base with loads of growth to make life interesting, probably the toughest challenge on the hill at the moment.

All the skiing was linked by loops through Bear or Boomerang so that the whole thing came together as quite enjoyable circuits. Another bell to bell day which left the early season legs complaining. A visit to the Griz Bar to see friends and then home for a hot tub seemed to go a long way to effecting a cure.

Cooling temps and more precip in forecast so if they have got it right (no laughter please) then things should continue to improve - lets see.