Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 15 love convective cells

As I was riding up the last lift of today with a patroller buddy he told me that the outlook was for convective cells. These are the second favourite words for all Fernie skiers as they are the local weather systems that can lead us to getting huge dumps while the area forecast and what is happening all round is just a light dusting. Of course nothing is guaranteed but at least we are in with a shout. Before anyone asks  the first favourite words for a Fernie skier are "the beers are on the house" but I don't anticipate hearing them any time soon.

I was wrong yesterday when I said today would be a bit of a zoo, we got to the hill about 8:45 and parked well into lot 2 with only a little more traffic than a week day. It was explained to me that this weekend all the out of towners are tied up with office parties, Christmas shopping, visiting families etc. Whatever the reason it was pretty quiet.

It had been colder overnight down to about -10 and we started with base temps of -8 and a couple of degrees colder up the hill. During the day temps rose but never to the point where the snow softened and I guess by the end it was -2 at the base and -5 on top. The day was overcast with afternoon snow showers but no great acumulation. Viz was very socked in at the top such that half way through the day Polar Peak had to close and by the end the "white" line was half way down White Pass - from the words used you will guess it was another New Side day.
Just like the previous days the snow was lightly tracked everywhere but with blow in and the daytime snow the skiing surface stayed in great shape. The day shaped up as -

Surprise Trees - two loops in good soft snow.
Anaconda Glades - still some of the best snow on the hill in chute 2.
Bootleg Glades - good in the top but very twiggy on the exit.
Lift line - used every time from Timber Top to White Pass base and still soft but scratchy in places.
Polar Peak - very socked in at the top but half way down Papa Bear became soft flat windsift.
Tom's - where the snow had blown to, deep, untracked and very nice.
Timber to bottom rip - caused by me getting my pole hung up on the chair and not being able to untangle it, had to race the chair to the base to get it sorted.
Polar Peak - still good low down but the viz much worse.
Concussion - good soft snow in the left of the steep chute.
Anaconda - as before , good, then lunch

After lunch it was the usual afternoon loops of -
Easter Bowl - very mellow soft bumps
Cougar Glades - still some untracked if you are prepared to take some ballsey lines near the trees.
Surprise Trees - still in great shape
Skydive - where else would you finish but in the soft bumpy terrain of Skydive.

While drinking in the bar tonight I was told that the upside estimate for the current weather cycle was 70 cms in 48 hours - I hope they are right. At least the weekenders had a couple of runs down Polar peak today to calm their paranoia that we only open it mid week - perhaps.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 14 same old, same old

Now, it's usually well into February before I start saying that days are blurring into each other and there is nothing new to say on the skiing but here I am 14 days into the season this year and it's same old, same old.

Overnight we had a dusting of snow again, some good wind sift to fill in yesterday's skiing again, hardly anyone at the hill again, overcast conditions socking in the top and giving light flurries during the day again and temps which stayed just below zero at the base and about -5 up on top again. None of this is to say that skiing wasn't good because it was, or to say we didn't have a great time, because we did, it's just that I am running out of things to say about the skiing we are doing which as anyone who knows me will tell you is a rare thing.

We tried the Old Side and found Bear with a soft covering of windsift. After that the Gully shoulder down into Cedar was untracked soft bumps and even Cedar Centre was groomed and ok. Boomerang looked tempting and was nice soft blow in and the Goat Trail out of Boom was surprisingly good. There followed a few loops out into Lizard Bowl and the trees on the far side of Arrow seemed to have been gladed this year and were untracked.

As a final run before a late choccy break we hiked out across Cedar with the intention of getting out as far as Redtree which we had been told was good. As it was crossing the near side of Snake Ridge proved too much of a temptation and we ripped down in some great deep, lightly tracked and sifted in powder. I tried the shoulder just to the right of KC chutes and as expected it was marginal but some great skiing in between the alders, tree stumps etc. Took the second half of Kangaroo on the way back to Boom Chair which was ok but lots of little Christmas trees - I actually looked in the top of Kangaroo but wit 8 foot alders all the way across it is going to be some time before we can ski that.

After the break we went to the New Side and as usual Lift Line was soft in the top and scratchy lower down. We came down from White Pass via Gun Bowl (poor viz but great snow) Anaconda Glades (loads of soft untracked blow in and maybe the best skiing on the hill, pity about the short pitch) and Bootleg Glades (still nice and soft in the top but very twiggy on the exit). Last loop before lunch was out along the Reverse Traverse to Tom's run - we were looking for Polar peak despite the socked in conditions but it wasn't open today. The whole area around Toms seemed to have filled in with the windsift and there was nice boot deep lightly tracked powder all the way down to the Gilmar Trail.

After lunch there was just time for three loops of the New Side taking in the Big Three - Stag Leap, Decline and finally for last run of the day of course Skydive. I really can't add anything to what I have said about those runs over the past few days. Deep soft windsift but with very interesting terrain and minimal alders.

More snow in the outlook over night. If the new snow keeps Polar Peak closed I guess it will just add to the paranoia of the Calgarians up for the weekend who are convinced we keep this lift back for the use of locals mid week only - honest guys it's just the luck of the draw.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 13 peak performance but confused

The peak performance was the first time that Polar Peak Chair had been opened all season and the confusion is that after a lot of beers celebrating the opening of the Peak it is very hard to remember what happened and in what order but I will give it my best shot - in any event I can remember going up the Polar Peak Chair five times in the day.

It was a few degrees below freezing all day and all over the hill so the snow stayed in pretty good shape. The overcast conditions gave up a little light snow but there is more in the forecast.

We went to the New Side in the hope that Polar Peak would open and first time up White Pass we spoke to a patroller buddy who confirmed that the chair should open in about an hour. To kill time we looped back down the Gun Bowl (soft and deep) and Surprise Trees which had filled in well and were great skiing. Next we dropped Anaconda where we had first tracks in what was deep snow and to all intents and purposes untracked after the effects of the overnight blow in.

When we got to the top of White Pass, Polar Peak had opened. We were only the fifth chair up all season and as a result had an awesome run down Papa Bear chute in deep untracked powder. We cut back to the chair and had another run down Papa Bear which was as good as before and then exited through Severe Concussion where the snow varied from deep to scratchy all the way down.

We went back to the Peak for a shot at Mamma Bear (still deep and untracked) and then went out to Cougar Glades which had filled in nicely but were a bit tracked up. Final run of the long morning was another trip up the Peak to roll down Baby Bear in still deep snow. Exit to the base was through Corner Pocket which was getting a little scrapped out but had great powder underneath the chute - final drop in Easter Bowl was still soft but broken fun snow.

In the short afternoon session we did one more Polar Peak but found it totally socked in and very hard going although the surface in Papa Bear was still good. We got to base via the great Decline which is the best of the big three at the moment. With the Peak no longer attractive we  did a loop off White Pass via Tight Knot in the Knot Chutes which took a bit of air to access but was well worth it. A final drop of Anaconda was almost as good as the first in the morning with great lightly tracked powder down to the trail.

The final run was a hike out into Big Bang which had some awesome deep powder but also some ugly ice patches. Then of course it was off the Skydive for the final bumpy powdery drop which seems to be more fun every day.

Beers. hot tub and a threat of a further guest - what more could I want.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 12 another good New Side day

I got an email from my tele skiing buddy Ray from Vermont last night to say he had had enough of the crap conditions out east and he was on his way to Fernie. I am delighted to say he arrived in time to pick up m tab in the Griz bar tonight and the conditions are such that I don't think he will be disappointed.

We went to the hill today under valley cloud in temps of -2 with temps about -5 on top. During the day things got a couple of degrees warmer across the board. There had been 6 cms of very grainy new snow raising the base to just over 150 cms. On top it was clear above the clouds in the morning but socked in around lunch time and once again it started snowing with light snow all afternoon.

Lift line was nicely filled in with soft powder and no one seemed interested in skiing it so we did. From the top of White Pass I had to cut the Idiot Traverse out to Surprise Trees and so grabbed first tracks down through the trees in deep untracked powder - it was so nice I did it again with only a couple of tracks showing. Next time up I found a way into Knot Chutes without having to take too much air to clear the rocks and had a great drop of the Tight Knot having to surf my own slough. Anaconda only had one track in so I grabbed first tracks in Chute 2 which again was deep and pretty spectacular. The trip to base was via Bootleg glades which were surprisingly good if a bit twiggy low down.

The light on top was good above the clouds and it looked like Polar Peak might be opening with patrol doing some cutting. I didn't want to get too far from the possible action so I did Corner Pocket and then High Saddle where the skiing below the Saddles was still great soft deep powder - each time a trip into Easter Bowl was very rewarding. To take me up to lunch I did a couple of loops through Concussion which were also only lightly tracked, soft and deep.

In the afternoon I realised that with the socked in conditions Polar Peak wasn't going to happen but stuck with the New Side, looping Stag Leap, Decline, Cougar Glades, Knot Chutes/ Surprise Trees. The skiing was great in all areas where last night's snow plus what was now falling gave a very nice, soft but undulating terrain to ski.

Of course final run was Skydive which is just getting better and better as the snow accumulates. Like every where else today there was no one around and I guess that yyou could count the number of tracks even at the end of the day on one hand.

Light snow coming down as we sat in the hot tub - I wonder what tomorrow will bring for our guest.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 11 first rant of the season

Well, eleven days in before I have need to give out with my first rant is something of a record but here goes. The rant is about the dickless tossers who throw garbage on the hill. Even with so few people as we have had so far I have already seen a paper coffee cup, a beer can and a power aid bottle dropped from lifts. For Christ's sake have some respect. If you can take this stuff up the hill you can put it in one of the garbage sacks at the top of each lift. The snow Gods are offended by this sort of behaviour and they will get their revenge by giving us poor snow conditions, so stop behaving like complete wankers and keep your garbage to yourself - rant over.

On the way to the hill we had temps of +1 and about zero at the base. I guess the freeze line rose a little way up the hill but stayed a few degrees below zero in the upper mountain. The top of the hill was very socked in (even more than yesterday) and viz in the Gun bowl on the New Side was as near to zero as makes no difference.

We went to the Old Side and spent the early morning in Lizard where there were many ways down on snow that had been compacted by skier traffic. I have always called this surface hard pack but I am now encountering a new name - packed powder. How packed snow can be powder is a mystery to me but I guess the power of the P word is such that anything will be called powder (even hard pack) if it brings the punters in.

Late morning I decided to give Snake Ridge a try after yesterday's reports but was just a little disappointed to find a slight wind crust and skiing certainly no better than what we had under the Saddles yesterday although knee deep and lightly tracked. Either conditions had deteriorated or the had been exagerated. The skiing was good untracked powder but the exit into Lower Gorby bowl was a bit scratchy with some frozen avi debris just as you got into the bowl.

We had further runs through Boomerang and Boom Ridge which were both wind affected crust and not much fun. Worth noting the first very twiggy run down Kangaroo of the season which was more to say it had been done than for any fun reasons.

Over to the New Side and we spent a lot of time running out on the Reverse Traverse and dropping off when it looked good. That way we had Alpha Centauri (very mellow. soft and easy) Concussion (wind crust in the top but soft powder low down) Toms (also wind crust in the top but nice soft snow that was only lightly tracked although a bit twiggy after the choke) and Curry Creek (awesome deep untracked powder in the top with the bushes nicely spaced but a bit of a nightmare on the exit with the alders) and then a late lunch.

After lunch a run down  Cougar Glades found them full of deep snow with the tracks filled in by the snow/ice fall that had started around midday and fell for the rest of the afternoon - the only mistake was trying the left chute exit at the bottom which was very scratchy and twiggy.

To fill in time I went to Surpirse Trees and found them almost untracked and soft and deep even at the end of the day. I think the bad light in the Gun Bowl had deterred traffic although there was hardly anyone on the hill to begin with.

Last run was as always down Skydive which was steep, deep and bump terrain, great skiing. On the way home it was -1 in the valley and snowing so lets see what happens.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Day 10 missed out on the opening of Snake

It happens to the best of us. Today I nailed my colours to the New Side with the idea that the best powder would be under the Saddles. In the event a number of my buddies confirmed that the best skiing of the day was when they opened Snake Ridge on the Old Side for the first time this year and they had untracked thigh deep powder top to bottom - ah well, some you win some you lose.

We seem to be between weather systems at the moment. Conditions are overcast but with no real precip and temps are warming so that day time highs will be only a little below zero for the next few days. After that we are due another snow cycle but as I have often said forecasting more than 24 hours out in Fernie is a total crap shoot.

We arrived at the hill with temps of -7 that rose during the day to -2. It was fairly clear at the bottom but as we got to the top things socked in and the light became very flat and viz very poor. As we went up it became apparent that the New Side had been subject to a pretty serious wind event overnight.

Lift Line was wind crust at the top but nice and soft on the way down to White Pass. The whole White Pass area had been wind affected so that on updraft slopes it was hard swept crust but with deep wind blown ridges and very deep powder where the wind had deposited the snow. This would not have been a problem if the light hadn't been so bad that none of this was visible. We had several exciting runs working hard on the crust and getting stuck in deeps.

We went out to Surprise Trees a couple of times and found that the tree cover had protected the surface and the trees gave shadows for good viz. There was still plenty of untracked lines through the trees. We then hit Anaconda on a couple of loops still trying the near, newly gladed chutes. As we guessed these were lee side slopes so the snow was deep and soft with all yesterdays tracks filled in.

After a hot choccy break we went to try Corner Pocket in the hope that the powder below was filled in from yesterday. In the event the powder was ok but it felt like there may have been a bit of down draft wind to pack the powder in to make it a little heavy. After that it was -

Cougar Glades - a bit like Surprise Trees and still lots of untracked lines but a bit twiggy on the exit.
Corner Pocket - as I had linked up with a buddy we did it again and still found untracked slightly heavy powder.
Decline - great soft snow but very interesting terrain and untracked lines lower down.
Cougar Glades  - again, just as good.
Siberia Ridge - tried it for the first time this season. Nice soft powder as far as the choke which was quite easy to negotiate with no rocks showing. Below all the summers brush work became apparent and the run was clear of twigs and wonderful soft snow on very rough interesting terrain.
Skydive - as usual the final run down which was soft snow and uneven terrain and hard work for the last run of the day.

Beers, hot tub, bed - end of a good day, wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Day 9 the saddles in early December - can this be true

There was only a dusting of snow overnight (3 cms) and a base at 151 cms. Temps were falling so we arrived at the hill to temps of -7 at the base and -10 on top. During the day they rose a couple of degrees but this still meant that temps all over the mountain were in the range for perfect powder snow which is what we got.

I expected crowds today but things were quiet, so quiet in fact that it was more like a week day than a Sunday - a school of thought was that the weekenders had skied so hard yesterday and partied so hard after skiing that they were in no shape to ski today, that might even be right. The forecasters were calling for a fine day with afternoon flurries so sure enough it started snowing mid morning and just continued with dry, light powder all day, in fact it's still snowing out on the deck now.

We headed to the New Side on rumours of a Polar Peak opening but it soon became apparent this would be impossible. The upper part of the hill was totally socked in with snow and blowing snow in windy conditions. Viz was very white, particularly at the top of White Pass - I guess that's why they call it White Pass.

We tried a few runs off White Pass in the Gun Bowl which was braille skiing and through Highline Trees which were nice soft windblown powder. We then tried a couple of runs through Surprise Trees and found the Idiot Traverse quite mellow and lots of untracked lines in Surprise itself. Next was a couple of trips through Anaconda to try the new glading in chutes 1 & 2. I have to say these are now rather too open for my personal taste but I dare say many will think it an improvement. I understand that 3 and above remain tight steep trees so I guess thats something for everyone.

After a quick hot choccy break we discovered that the Reverse Traverse was open out to the Saddles. For the saddles to be open at this time of year is quite unusual and I went looking for the powder below them which has been untracked so far this year. The viz on the traverse was non existant.
High Saddle - one guy beat me in but there was so much thigh deep powder that we both had awesome untracked skiing. As with all saddle runs I cut right into Easter Bowl and found deep soft lightly tracked snow in the trees on the left.
Corner Pocket - even better than High Saddle if only because of the extra vert. great untracked thigh deep powder.
Low Saddle - a quick right hook after the trees in the top opened up more deep untracked skiing.
Lone Fir - I thought it was worth hiking up and wasn't disappointed, only a few skiers had got in before me. A little scratchy in the choke but after that awesome deep powder down into Easter.

After a very late lunch I took a quick trip out to Decline which was in great shape with deep soft snow, plenty of terrain to give an interesting ride and great work low down to clear out last years alders.

As I arrived at the top of Timber a patroller buddy gave me the nod that Big Bang was about to open so as soon as the signs flipped I cut Lazy Locals Traverse into the top and then hit Big Bang top to bottom untracked with over the head face shots all the way. It was so good that after that I looped back off White Pass top and had another go - Big Bang was still mostly untracked and just as good as before.

Last run of course was Skydive which had been filling in all day and was great soft deep powder all the way down. A great way to finish.

So it was still snowing as I was puting up my Christmas lights with a deck temp of -6. Looks like another good powder day tomorrow with an outside chance of Polar Peak.