Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Season summary 2012-13

Again apologies for the slight delay in producing the report. Yesterday I got a call from Fernie Ford to tell me that my 13 year old Explorer needed a new transmission which would probably cost more than the car was worth. After some quick calcuations and some rather more protracted negotiations we drove away in a 4 year old F150 truck , bright red in colour so watch out for me in the new vehicle next season.

So, what strikes me about the ski season just gone looking back on it. I think I would characterise it as being a season of extremes even by the standards of Fernie. For example, the worst opening, the best pre Christmas ever, the driest January, the warmest Feb, the hottest late March and the best late snow and closing day, but more of all these things in their place. Before starting it is worth mentioned some comments that I have had from buddies who ski tour and have told me that this season was the best ever for them due to the relatively light snow falls in January and February and as a result the very low avi risks allowing them to tour almost without resriction.

On the hill we opened with a very thin snow pack and the first few days were some of the ugliest rain crust I can remember with only the Old Side open for the first week. Things then turned round and we had 170 cms of snow in just over a week and it became the best pre Christmas skiing that anyone could remember, certainly the best since the New Side opened back in the late 90's. The hill appeared to have got a better understanding of how to get Polar Peak working this year and as a result we had some awesome runs in the Polar Chutes with no one here during December mid week skiing. Probably the best run of the season was when we put first tracks in Cougar Glades (of the season) in thigh deep untracked powder. December came to an end with the snow tapering off but a very respectable 2 and bit metre base and only light crowds (in my opinion) for the Christmas/New Year holiday period.

We looked set for another epic season but in January things rather went on hold. On the plus side we didn't have any deep freeze arctic high days when the temps never get above -30 and indeed we didn't have very cold weather all season. On the negative side we didn't have much new snow. There were a handful of routine powder days (ok, I know they would be epic in most parts of the world but this Fernie) but nothing to get really excited about. The base crept up to about 2 and a half metres and all the talk was of a snow drought.

Most of February continued much as January but with the addition that it started to get warm during the day. I don't mean spring skiing or anything like that but my recollection is that during February it just about got to plus temps at the base stations on almost every day. The result was that the snow we got was pretty wet, the skiing was ok but not greaat and the base stayed below 2 and a half metres until the last week of Feb. Last week in Feb we got a mix of rain events which were some of the worst in memory and some good skiing when it cooled.

The first couple of weeks of March were very much like the end of  Feb with some horrible rain events but also some good snow as the wet pacific systems came in with warm air on the front and cooling as they pass through. The third week in March brough a much better snow cycle so that by the 21st the base passed 3 metres for the first time in the season, peaking a couple of days later at about 330 cms. Just when we thought things were starting to go our way nature struck back for the last week of March with the warmest temps I have seen, +18 one day on the hill and a 7 day bluebird period (unheard of in Fernie) when night time temps didn't really go below zero. Huge areas of the hill became unstable as the snow lost it's integrety from the surface right down to the base. In fact the highlight of the month was on the 30th when 540 of us took a drink simultaniously of the longest shot ski in the world and set a new world record.

At the beginning of April there was a lot of debate as to whether or not the hill would hold out to closing but nature had another trick to play. Winter returned with colder weather, freezing temps at night (for the most part) the hill getting re opened and some rather good powder skiing. The final week was the least busy I can remember with only 54 customers being recorded one day and that included about 30 in groups taking their level 2 instructor courses. This brought us to closing weekend which was the best ever. The Saturday gave us a heavy dump so that quite a lot of the hill remained closed but with cooling overnight the snow stabalized and Sunday we had 67 cms of fresh snow to trash all over the hill and the base back up to about 320 cms having dropped to 210 in the hot weather. A fantastic finish.

So in summary I would put the season as slightly better than average but but no means as good as the last two years which were just epic. I managed 127 days most of which were full 9-4 no groomer days. I didn't keep count of the trips up Polar Peak this year but I would guess at about 300 times (only skiing the chutes as long as they were open )the higher number being achievable because the Peak was open so much more often this year now they have worked out how to keep it running. Highlight for me was my first drops off Currie Head Wall which were a lot steeper that they looked or I thought they would be. That having been said looking into Richards now from the top doesn't look anything like as scary as the Wimp Chutes so who knows next season.

Off at the end of next week to sail boats and run marathons for the summer. As usual I will probably put together a Fall report when I am over here at the house in September. A special thanks and goodbye to all my blog readers who make my day by saying hi on the hill, it's nice to be appreciated.


  1. Hi Bill,

    Great reading, good entertainment, and addictive. It has now become a routine to read your blog over breakfast (in UK), where my wife just doesn't quite get my love of Fernie and the white stuff (she WILL learn).

    I didn't manage a trip across the pond this year due to work commitments, and only managed a European trip, which was super sweet, but not up to Fernie standards.

    I am banking this year, and planning 2 trips now for next season, and hopefully will manage to say hi!

    Looking forward to reading next years blogs, enjoy the summer, if we get one this year in the UK, who nows.

    All the best, safe trip,


  2. Thanks Neil - hope to see you in Fernie next year. Sitting on my deck in T shirt and shorts drinking cold beer and watching he sun set over the still very snowy Lizard Range. Maybe I will just stay here for the summer