Saturday, January 5, 2013

Day 36 we need more snow

There is only so much that windsift can do and with no significant snow for almost two weeks things are starting to get a bit scratchy. That isn't to say we don't have great coverage for the time of year or that the hill isn't holding up well considering the holiday traffic we have had but, if you want to ski the powder that Fernie is so famous for we need snow and we need it now.

Today was another overcast day with temps of around -6 all over the hill. The wind of yesterday had continued into the night so wind sift skiing was to be had. Patrol were having a busy day with the chain saws sorting out all the trees brought down in yesterday's wind and from what I could see they did a pretty good job at cleaning up the mess.

We went to the Old Side first and had a warm up down the Sunny Side shoulder which was crisp bumps with some sift in the troughs. On the advice of a patroller buddy we went out to the Red Tree (skied by Lynda) and Steep and Deep (skied by me) areas and again found some nice wind sift between crisp bumps.

That was just about the story of the Old Side which we looped on Boomerang, Boom Ridge, Linda's Cedar Ridge (several ways) and Buck shot - all a bit of sift between quite nice bumps. A special thanks must go to the group who decided to side slip the left exit from upper Kangaroo on to the cat track thus ruining the only reasonable exit and leaving the rest of us with a pretty sketchy drop - I love these people.

We went to the New Side and found the top of White Pass socked in and very white. It was this way all day and as the afternoon wore on we found the cloud base was drifting down the hill and the sock in line eventually ended up somewhere near the top of Timber - viz was very poor above that line. I went to check out the Polar Peak chair and found it running but not loading, it would be really helpful if they put a sign at the top of White Pass showing the Polar Peak status to save wasted trips to the chair to check.

We ran down Alpha Centauri which was in great windsift shape and then Concussion which was the same. Last run before lunch was Skydive which was very bumpy in the top but getting better low down and good but twiggy in the lower section.

After lunch I had a relaxing afternoon just dropping various bits of the Currie chutes off the Reverse Traverse all of which was crisp bumps, twigs and other obstructions starting to come through and a bit of sifted snow. One run worth mentioning was trip out to Decline and then into the Window Chutes where my navigation skills (rather an assumption that there will always be space when I jump blind round a tree) let me down and I had to do some reverse shuffling to get away from a close encounter with a tree - all in the game and the chutes themselves where still deep soft snow.

We had to do a fill in loop in White Pass at the end of the day and after a totally white drop through the Gun Bowl went to Triple trees down to Trespass Trail. It was untracked wind blown snow which was a bit slabby and grabby in places but great skiing. As there hadn't been any real wind today I have to assume that we were the first ones in there today at about half past three.

The final rip down Skydive was of course fun but the twigs in the bottom section are now starting to become a bit of a hazard to health if you don't pay attention. As I am typing light snow is falling and a wet Pacific system is supposed to hit us in the next day or two - lets see.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Day 35 in praise of wind sift

We didn't have an significant snow overnight and temps on the way to the hill were -6 with the top socked in and a little light valley snow falling - no chance of a bluebird inversion today. In fact the reports I got from Polar Peak indicated an 80 klick wind and obviously the chair wasn't running. On the up side this must mean that the chutes that we trashed yesterday will now be filled in with deep soft wind sift and ready for us the next time the Griz allows us to access the Peak.

Wind sift was the feature today starting in the morning with some soft fill in on the bumps. Later in the day it became much more of a feature (Bear Chair was closed for a while due to wind) and in the bar afterwards everyone had great windsift stories to tell no matter where they had been skiing on the hill.

I went to the Old Side for a short morning and had a general poke around on Cedar Ridge (several ways), Boomerang, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Bear Chutes and Buck Shot just to name a few. The wind sift hadn't really started to fill in at that time so the skiing was bumps with a crisp feel taking a nice edge with a little bit of wind blown snow in the dips. I went for an early lunch and headed to the New Side.

We got word that Bear had been closed due to too much wind while the New Side stayed open. This continued a trend we have seen over the past two years where the wind on the Old Side appears much worse than on the New which is a reversal of previous trends. The afternoon passed in ever improving wind sift as -

Cougar Glades/ Stag Leap - the snow in the trees was just filling in and was mostly untracked. After the side step up lower Stag Leap only had a few tracks in and skied very easily all the way to the bottom.
Decline/Window Chutes - the bumps at the top of Skydive/Decline were starting to fill in a bit and Decline itself appeared to be untracked but that could be because of the wind sift. Window chutes were very mellow and soft with the log jumps squashed to almost nothing, well a couple of feet or so.
Lone Fir - a real surprise in that a tree from the cliff above had snapped under the weight of the snow and wind and fallen across the chute half way down - very surprising if you weren't ready for it. I got through (just) by high siding the tree on the left and then had the most awesome soft deep snow down into the avi trees - for some reason people didn't seem to be skiing this line.
Spinal Tap - great soft blow in but still very technical through the dead fall in the lower sections. When I popped out of the trees I found a fallen tree right where I had been standing last time round when I came out of Window Chutes. Very scary.
The Brain - a great result as the wind had shaken tons of snow from the branches of the the trees to form a sort of super heavy "powder" between the trees that behaved in such a way to hold up the skis and make hard fast skiing almost easy although the dead fall was still an issue.
Annaconda/ Bootleg Glades - amazing windsift in the chutes which was a little slabby and grabby but super deep.

The final run down Skydive was of course great fun and the wind had sifted in enough snow to start to make it a soft ride. We did it top to bottom again but I think this might be the last time as I really do prefer to throw down hard for three sections rather than ski controlled all the way.

Snow in the out look getting excitingly close and there is a possibility of a Polar peak opening with wind sift so let's see.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day 34 Perfect Polar Peak

The forecasters got it dead right (now there are words I don't often type) and we had a major temp inversion today. The result was that below the cloud line (White Pass top but getting lower all day) we had cold temps of around -10 and valley snow. Above this was a bluebird day with all the sights you would expect (sun dogs, clear sky snow, even some angel dust etc) and milder temps. By the afternoon it has almost completely cleared and driving back from the hill we had clear skies and temps of around -14.

It didn't look promising on the way to the hill with the tops socked in and we were going to go to the Old Side. In the locker room a buddy told us that she had just had a call from her son (a patroller) to say that it was bluebird on top so we just headed for Polar Peak.

On a day like this we always take a loop on the Peak and the another chute with a drop to the bottom. The morning was -
Pappa Bear/Mamma Bear/Concussion - No one had worked out what ws happening and like all day most of the visitors to the Peak were intermediates who just wanted some photos and then a trip down Polar Coaster to give them bragging rights. Pappa Bear was deep soft windsift in perfect light. In the Mamma Bear chute we grabbed first tracks and I set off a huge slough which I raced all the way down and just beat out of the chute - by the end it had reached a size that there would have been real issues if it had caught me. Concussion was poor light but soft snow.

Barely Legal/Baby Bear/ Currie Creek - Barely Legal was very deep but a large number of not so good snow users had taken a lot of snow out of the lower chutes, in the end it was just easier to air some rocks to get out. Baby Bear was soft and deep and Currie Creek seemed untracked on the 4 cms of snow plus wind sift that we had received in the night.

Grand Pappa Bear/Spirit Bear/Concussion - Grand Pappa was a bit crusty on the exposed shoulders but soft and deep elsewhere. Spirit Bear was hardly tracked, I guess because of the tight entrance and the choke lower down, it was great wind powder skiing. The light had improved in Concussion so I took the steep chute in which was well covered with a bit of a technical section in the middle.

Pappa Bear/Mamma Bear/Stag Leap - Both chutes were as before with windsift actually filling in as we were skiing them. The trees at the top of Stag Leap were abit slick but when we got in the run I doubt more than half a dozen people had been in before us. We had a great rip down to lunch.

In the afternoon I linked up with my buddy Rob just off night shift in the mine - how does he ski after that ? It went -

Pappa Bear/Mamma Bear/Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - The chutes were as before but on the way to Mamma I found a steep little chute marked "cliff" and had the steepest soft snow drop of the day into the main Mamma chute. Cougar Glades still had lots of soft from the overnight accumulation and we took the left cut into Stag Leap which was just as it was before lunch.

Spirit Bear/Concussion - Still a lot of soft in the tight bits of Spirit Bear and the steep chute into Concussion remained in great shape.

There was just time for a quick hike up Big Bang which was quite soft in the trees on skiers right before heading out to Skydive for the last run. Having set the precedent yesterday there was nothing else for it but a top to bottom run without stopping.

All in all and awesome day. We will have better sunny days up Polar Peak (but the snow will be spring slush) we will have better snow up Polar Peak ( but the viz will be crap) - we probably won't get too many combinations better than we got today, this season. Any day you can ski the Peak 11 times is a good day,

A couple more days snow drought then the next precip cycle should begin.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Day 33 an afternoon adventure

But before we get to the afternoon let's look at conditions and the events of the morning. The mountain snow which has been falling very lightly for about the past 5 days accumulated 2 cms overnight and continued to fall all day today. As I have said before this doesn't give us much accumulation but it does at least make some fluff fly and makes everything look rather pretty.

On the way to the hill temps were -8 and rose a little during the day to about -4. Interestingly they are calling for an inversion over the next few days which will keep temps about the same mid mountain but give plus temps on the ridge lines. Whether or not this will happen and if it does, what it will mean is anyone's guess. It was socked in on top but lifted a bit in the afternoon. This didn't help with the Polar Peak chair as it went tech early on and stayed closed all day.

We went to the Old Side and were surprised just what a difference a little snow and windsift made. It was also interesting how the hard pack seemed to have dried out giving it a crisp quality and taking a nice edge. Everything had been skied and was firm (but nice and crisp taking an edge) bumps. We just played around in Sunny Side, Cedar Ridge, Gully and Gulch, Boom Ridge, Linda 's, Cedar Ridge again and Bear Chutes - all as described, bumps skiing very easily with totally carvable contours. We went to the New Side.

On the New Side the hard pack seemed a bit harder and the soft snow such as it was had become firm and chunky. We were unaware of the Polar Peak problems and assumed the closure was due to poor viz and so we just looped White Pass waiting for things to improved. Highline Trees, Firey Hornet, Surprise Trees and the Chutes all were ok hard pack. We even traversed into Tight Knot as the sun was out and Lynda dropped her first Knot Chute of the season. With no sign of the Peak opening we went to lunch via Decline which is now bumped most of the way down but as they come at you at such regular intervals they are some of the best bumps on the hill and very easy skiing.

In the afternoon I was on my own as Lynda had decided to take a half day. I decided to push out into unpopular (usually because they are pretty technical) areas to try and get fresh snow. I had great results -

Lone Fir - well worth the hike up. Deep soft snow in the top, a bit scratchy in the choke and then great soft snow through the avi affected trees.
Spinal Tap - this had been ugly a couple of weeks ago so I hoped it had been left alone. It was still ugly with a lot of dead fall but at least the stream bed is a bit more filled in. The snow was deep and mostly untracked but you did have to do some very tight turns between the trees and the creek to pull through.
Gotta Go - I cut across to top of the Knot Chutes and found Gotta Go full of deep soft snow. In the choke you had to do a pretty big jump to get round the scratchy section but apart from that it was very deep snow.
Bootleg Glades trees left - most people had cut out when the going got tight so there was soft snow all the way down if you were prepared to try some ballsey lines.
One Step Beyond - this is the chute just after Lone Fir and I don't know the name but this is what we call it. Best off all, the snow was so deep I had serious slough management issues in the first chute before cutting right to the tight exit chute. In that chute slough management became more problematic so I skied the right shoulder and in the end just pulled up by a tree and let the whole lot express train by me so I could drop the last few turns out of the chute - not bad for 8 days after a storm.
Knot Chutes again - Tight Knot had plenty of soft.
Triple Trees - just the first section as I was going back to White Pass via Trespass Trail. Very lightly tracked with deep snow and a lively drop on to the trail.

Last run was Skydive. As no one else turned up to ski it I decided to make it a challenge by skiing it all the way down to the day lodge in one with no stops - I deserved a beer or two after that.

A couple more days of snow drought then precip in the forecast for the weekend - here's hoping.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Day 32 risk of flurries

I have only headed today's report in this way as it is a quote from the official report on the RCR web site. I am rather puzzled that at the ski hill flurries should be considered a risk but as they didn't show up in any significant quantities I guess it isn't worth getting too excited about. Temps hung around -7 all day and the hill was socked in on top during the morning and the light got a bit better during the afternoon. During the day we had a little light mountain snow but no accumulation.

The crowds notched down yet again and to be fair, after last nights celebrations (by the way happy new year) we made a very late start for us (10 o'clock) and were still well ahead of the crowds such as they were. We figured Polar Peak would be clearing and went to the New Side to be ready if that happened.

First time up we didn't like to look of Polar Peak so we went out to Currie Creek. It was tracked hard pack that had bumps which were crisp and taking an edge. It may be assumed that every other run skied today was just the same unless indicated to the contrary. The bumps lower down came at particularly nice intervals and made for easy bump skiing.

Next we still didn't like the look of Polar so hit Cougar Glades. Nice bump skiing but a bit technical on the left hand lower exit where the guy broke v's 3,4,and 5 in his back two days ago. On the next trip up I couldn't resist Polar Peak any more and gave it a go despite being told by a patroller buddy that it was only about 1 % better than yesterday. He lied, it was about 2 % which still meant it was totally socked in skiing in a milk bottle (for the benefit of younger readers that is what we used to buy milk in before we had cartons) all the way down.

We had earned a rest so next round took Decline down which was big bumps in the top and smaller bumps for the rest of the run, all taking a nice edge. Whilst on this subject I am always amazed by the number of people who won't go and ski the big three because they say they don't like the drop after the bridge or the bumps at the top - for goodness sake it's just a one off or 8 turns to get through and you get great skiing - on the other hand keep thinking that way and leave the good stuff to then rest of us.

Last run before lunch was a rip down Skydive which was good but a bit chopped up by boot tracks where they had done the tourch display last night - quite surprising if you weren't ready for it.

In the afternoon I teamed up with a blog follower and great skier Spencer (hi) for some Polar Loops -

Polar Peak/Concussion - as we got to the top the light improved and we had a great rip down Pappa Bear in wind groomed soft snow. The steep chute into Concussion was good soft snow but it did get a little scratchy in the tighter bits of the chute lower down

Polar Peak/Currie Creek - this time I took Mamma Bear and Spencer took Baby Bear. Because the light had been bad these had been left alone so we had great untracked deep windsift all the way down. Currie Creek was bumped up but with soft snow on the right and a few technical turns to get through the choke at the bottom.

Polar Peak - just caught the last chair and had a great rip down Baby Bear with the light starting to go. I had the long slog round Trespass Trail to get back to White Pass so we could do the 4 o'clock Skydive drop. As before bumpy and some twigs starting to shown through but still the harder you push it the more fun it was.

Still no snow in the outlook, it could officially become a snow drought (7 days without real snow) by tomorrow evening.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Day 31 still no snow but the hill stays in ok shape

As I said considering that we have had no real new snow for about a week and in the intervening time we have had the busiest holiday period of the year the hill is in remarkably ok shape. Of course everything has been skied in but there are still places where some soft snow can be found. For the most part it has been packed in pretty well and big bumps are forming but those bumps are taking an edge and not hard and icey as we have had in years past.

This report may be a bit brief as after all it is New Years Eve and there is some serious celebrating to be done. On the way to the hill temps were -10 and during the day they may have risen a degree or two but they remained there or thereabouts for most of the day - it was -10 on the way home. There was no new snow and the base is down to around 210 cms. It was overcast all day despite the forecasts of sunny periods so the light remained pretty flat all day.

As promised we went to the Old Side and poked around to see what we could find. It panned out as -

Sunnyside Shoulder - bumps and some tricky lines on the left. The chutes beyond China Wall were bumpy and a bit twiggy.
Steep and Deep - we hiked out to the fence and found Steep and Deep with soft bumps and some fluff on top. We exited through the skiers right chute which was firm bumps.
Boom Ridge - Bumps with some slick sections where it had been previously groomed
Boomerang - Big bumps in the top and smaller bumps lower down, exit on the Goat Trail was a little sketchy.
Steep and Deep again - as before but we exited through the left chute which was tight bumps between the alders.
Linda's - quite tracked and bumpy but soft on the right.
Cedar Ridge Right - just like everywhere else, bumps taking a nice edge.
Boomerang - found a much better line in the bumps this time which are getting quite big.

We exited on the Goat Trail then went to base for lunch. Every drop from Haul Back top (3 times) we went through Kangaroo from top to bottom. It was very varied and it took me until the final time to work out the best lines in all sections and then it was great.

In the afternoon we tried Polar Peak which was tolly socked in. We had the slowest drop in the whitest conditions of the season yet, it's not often you have to check and send snow down the slope before turning in order to see the surface below you.

We then ripped Concussion, Currie Creek, Cougar Glades, and Stag Leap in New Side loops all of which had a lot of hard packed bumps at the top and some soft stuff low down. The White Pass loop to fill in time was Knot chutes (surprisingly good) and Surprise Trees (getting well tracked) before we headed out to Skydive for the 4 o'clock run. Big bumps in the top getting smaller as you went down until the bottom section was quite mellow.

Beers and a quiet night in for New Year. The crowds today were, as all holiday, evident on the lower slopes and day lodge but missing on the upper hill. Things should start to get quieter from now on in and snow is called for at the end of the week.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Day 30 more people but still quiet if you know where to go

The light snow of last night fizzled out pretty quick and we had no significant accumulation. Temps on the way to the hill were around -10 and during the day they got up to about -5 before falling back to -9 as we drove home. For most of the day the top of the hill was socked in which gave us some light mountain snow which was a nice skiing surface but didn't really add much to the base which has now compacted down to around 210 cms.

I thought Polar Peak might be open right off the bat as there was a certain lightness in the cloud cover so we went to the New Side and inertia being what it is we stayed there all day - I promise I will be back on the Old Side tomorrow. The crowds were still not as big as I have seen them at this time of year in the past and if you got out to the end of the Reverse Traverse or the the top of the Big Three things weren't really much different from a normal Sunday. That having been said the hill is really starting to show the effects of no snow for a week and high volume holiday skier traffic. Whilst the snow is still nice a crisp and taking and edge and there is still some soft to be found we are starting to see some very big bumps forming all over the hill.

The light at the top of the New Side was very flat and conditions at the top of White Pass very socked in. As a result we decided to do a loop back through Surprise Trees to get ourselves together in some tree shadow. It was pretty good, tracked up but still with some soft berms to surf on the way through. When we got back to the top Polar Peak was open so we decide to give it a go - big mistake, it was like skiing in a milk bottle and we picked our way down to the Reverse Traverse before cutting out to Cougar Glades. I tried the trees very hard right which still had lots of soft but were very tight, so tight in fact I had to cut back left about half way down. We exited through the lower left chute which was a bit technical through the twigs and dead fall but still enjoyable.

After that we just looped the New Side avoiding the Peak -

Decline - still good but with the whole top section now soft bumps. Only the lower pitch as soft snow of any kind. We cut into Window Chutes at the half way stage and had great semi tracked skiing in the trees. The log drop is now about 3 ft and the lower section soft snow but a but scratchy in the final pitch.
Stag Leap - getting a bit technical through thr trees with some slick sections. The run below the trees probably still has the most soft of all the big three.
Currie Creek - as I have said before this tends to be left alone as by the time anyone gets there they are on a mission to go further. Actually it was quite well packed in but gave us good easy bump skiing (well as easy as that kind of pitch allows) all the way down.

As last run before lunch we tried Polar Peak again and found Pappa Bear a little more visible than the time before. We cut out to Skydive and found the bumps in the top bigger than ever but easing off all the way down until the final pitch was just pushing soft snow.

After lunch which was quite late I headed up Polar Peak to see if things had improved - even bigger mistake than the morning as the viz was about as bad as I have seen it all season and I had to grope my way down to the Reverse Traverse. As I was in need of being able to see something I went into the Brain which was a bit tracked up in the top section but still with some soft and untracked stuff in the second section if you played it very tight with the trees.

Next time round amazingly the cloud had lifted when I got to White Pass top and Polar Peak was bathed in sunshine. I just managed to catch the last chair up and went to Baby Bear on the grounds that with the crap light all day all the traffic had stayed in Pappa Bear - I was right and had a fantastic rip down Baby Bear in deep soft snow in perfect light.

As it was so late it was a slog round Trespass Trail to get back to White Pass then out to Skydive for the last run. Skydive remainded bumpy a lot further down than usual but the bumps took a nice edge. Great to meet up with my buddy Rod half way down and now he is in town I expect us to be leading each other astray on the hill.

A good day spoilt only by having to line up for about a quarter of an hour to get in the Griz Bar. Must be the only business that would leave their best customer (ok Tyler maybe second best) standing out in the cold while members of staff by pass the line to go to the bar - can't have members of staff having to line up in cold after all can we ?

No new snow in the forecast for a few days so all we can do is hope the crowds start to drift away.