Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day 43 a short report

The reason it is a short report is that I (no one would join me today) had  a great day on the hill and  then got in the Griz with my ski buddies and had far too much to drink. We are now heading out for a meal with my ski buddies Rob and Katie so the window to say anything is pretty small and anyway I have had far too much drink to remember.

The weather forecasters were calling for clear skies so we arrived at the hill to light snow falling and about 4 cms of fresh with a temp of -16. It stayed pretty cold all day and was -14 as we drove away from the hill. Later on it became bluebird so I guess the weathermen got it right in the end.

I went straight up Polar Peak and got a blue ski view of the snow storm in the valley below. Anyone who has seen this knows what an awesome sight it is and anyone who hasn't wouldn't understand and pictures wouldn't go any way to helping - trust me.

I did 3 loops off Polar before heading to the base via Stag Leap. Just like yesterday Stag Leap was great on top but as ugly as a bears ass in the final third. That was the pattern for the day, a loop back  off Polar Peak (always through Pappa Bear as Barely Legal and Grandpappa Bear were only lighly covered on yesterday's ugly conditions) then out to one of the far chutes (Mamma, Baby and Spirit Bear) to loop to base.

Hard to remember how it played out in my confused state but the loops seemed to be -
Stag Leap - great soft snow on top scratchy in the last third.
One Step Beyond - which may be called Easter Medows, super deep in the chute which was tight and steep and firm but ok in the fans.
Skydive -  as per Stag Leap.
Cougar Glades - surprisingly good with still some untracked lines in the left side trees. Because it finishes above the rest of the big three there was no scratchy section at the bottom.
Decline - as per Stag Leap.
There was probably more but i can't remember.

The best news of the day was that late they open Currie Head Wall with the Wimp Chutes. I was unable to find a ski buddy to go out there and as I have never skied the head wall (it is steep even by my standards) and errors there have consequences, I didn't get out there. I now have made arrangements to ski with experienced head wall skiers tomorrow so with any luck another first for me is on the cards.

Skydive was of course the last run and played out just as the big three had done all day. Far too much beer in the Griz - roll on tomorrow. Any day when you ski Polar Peak 13 times is good.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Day 42 typical Fernie

And just what is typical of Fernie is the way the conditions change just to show you up when you think that maybe you have things under control. Yesterday we had hero snow which meant we could all ski as if we were experts, no pitch or line was a problem and we all thought we had got it cracked. Today conditions changed so that it was a lot tougher to ski what we had and much tougher to find untracked lines, if you wanted to ski like you did yesterday you just had to put in much more effort.

The effect on the snow users was that they either had to muscle up and ski harder or give up and go home. Looking at the lack of skier traffic in the afternoon I guess quite a lot decided on the latter course of action - no one will be surprised to know that I chose to go for it and squeeze the best I could out of the conditions.

The hill called 4 cms over night but I guess most of that fell yesterday. On the way to the hill it was -10 and stayed that way all day getting a little cooler on top and with the wind chill I guess we were looking at about -16. It was mostly clear and during the day it became bluebird particularly on Polar Peak. Working on the basis that the Peak and the Saddles were the only parts of the hill not open yesterday we went to the New Side to cash in.

Polar was closed at first and we had a run through Lift Line and Surprise Trees which proved to be a bit heavy in the areas and slabby on the open slopes. It was evident that there had been a massive wind event leading to huge windrows, slabby snow and really hard wind packed crust, sometimes all within a few metres of each other.

Next time we dropped Knot Chutes which had looked soft from a distance but which actually were hard packed wind crust and tough skiing all the way down. We finished off with Anaconda (where all the soft wind had blown to) and Bootleg Glades (still soft untracked snow in the trees to the left).

Polar Peak was not open so we looped Corner Pocket (a bit tight in the chute but fantastic deep untracked powder below) Nearside Easter (great untracked lines in the trees) High Saddle (realy tight edge to edge jumping through the chute and then below just as Corner Pocket) Nearside Easter (as before).

Polar Peak opened and we had several different lines down and ran back to the base of the chair. The snow was very varied, soft on top and with huge windrows across the chutes and hard pack below those. I didn't even look at Grand pappa Bear as it just looked like a lunar landscape. The only bad experience was Barely Legal which was awesome soft snow all the waydown to the rock bands which were totally scoured - the exit was very scratchy and left a few dints in my bases.

For lunch I ran off the hill therough Low Saddle ( which after a right cut half way down the chute was super deep untracked powder) - Easter nearside trees again.

After lunch it was back up Polar Peak which remained bluebird and the most fantastic 360 degree view of mountain tops, perhaps in the world - and awesome view on an awesome day. We had more runs up and down Polar to the base of the chair which was much as in the morning. I did take a trip out to Lone Fir as all the Saddles looked pretty scraped out and hiked up to find it steep and deep and very mellow skiing through the chute with even better snow in the fans through the avi affected trees.

More playing on Polar Peak comfirming that the far chutes Like Mamma Bear and Baby Bear were in the best shape for the day. A last drop of Pappa and a return trip through Trespass Trail brought me back to the top of Sydive for the final run. The only other person today was my good buddy a ski instructor called Andy who had been working all day and fancied a rip. We had a good one with the crunchy section in the bottom third proving to be an interesting challenge.

No new snow in the forecast and temps suposed to be down to -16 tonight. Could be an interesting weekend.

Day 41 what a difference a day makes

First of all apologies for the lateness of this report. Straight from skiing we went to our buddies Rod and Karen for some excellent chilli and far too much beer. That may account for the erratic spelling and rambling nature of this report.

Yesterday finished ugly with rain and plus temps. Overnight things cooled so that by the morning it was -2 and it had snowed most of the night. The result was that we had what seemed to me about 20 cms of fresh (a bit more in the wind sift areas) on top of the great upper mountain snow of yesterday. Lower down the base had refrozen to a very crusty under base but with the new snow on top it still skied ok. So what we had was the top two thirds of the hill as awesome powder and the bottom third as covered crust which just about supported skier weight.

We went to the New Side to get as high as possible and were amazed at the lack of people - I guess they were put off by yesterday's conditions. Polar Peak was closed and remained so but as we skied off the White Pass chair they dropped the fence on Currie Bowl. On the far side only the low traverse was open and as we didn't feel the need to go any further we just dropped Alpha Centauri/Concussion and got first tracks in super deep powder all the way down including Gilmar Gully.

Next time round the traverse had been cut and we worked our way out to Cougar Glades where everyone had their own fresh lines in the trees in real hero fall line snow. I had intended to go out to Stag Leap but the trees to the right of the run before I got there (don't even know if they have a name) tempted me and I had an awesome run in super tight trees all the way down cutting out on to Stag Leap just before the bottom.

The high Reverse Traverse opened and we checked out the Saddles which were closed and remained so. We had intended to ski the Brain but as we passed over Currie  Creek it only had one track and we dropped in for a mega high speed rip all the way down. Next loop we got to the Brain and found it untracked and amazing tree skiing. Just before the exit on to Skydive we hit the crunch line and the last few turns in the trees were a bit technical.

Decline was next on the agenda  and although tracked had plenty of untracked lines and areas. I pretty much straight lined the top section which is something I have never been able to do and speaks volumes for the hero quality of the snow. We cut left into Window chutes and after an amazing deep run through the trees were staggered to find the chute untracked. It was an awesome rip with a great log drop marred only by the crunch line cutting in just as you hit the choke and so making for some very exciting final turns.

Last run before lunch we hiked Lone Fir thinking that perhaps with the Saddles closed we would not get the chute. No fear, it was open and although tracked the snow was such that you could rip the chute with short GS turns rather than to having to make edge to edge jumps as usual. Below the fan was awesome and there were some great untracked pillow lines in the trees to the left.

After lunch we just continued as before. Stag Leap (great soft snow in the trees and still untracked on the edges) Cougar Glades (by holding hard left in the tight trees it was still possible to find untracked fall lines) Anaconda Glades (tracked but great deep snow and untracked lines in the lower sections) Bootleg Glades ( nearside trees untracked all the way down, the first time I have been able to hit these this year) and so to Skydive.

Last run we had a great team of me, Steve, Liz, Randy, Rod and Stinger to have a last rip. The first two thirds were just the best maximum speed powder free riding you could get. The last third was crunchy but ok.

So an amazing turn round with temps still cooling. No crowds and quite a bit of the mountain yet to open so tomorrow could also be pretty good.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Day 40 rather messy conditions but some ok lines

The reason for the mess was the rising temperature. When we went to bed last night it was -2 and snowing but by the time we woke up it was +4 and whilst the precip had stopped it had clearly turned to rain up some time in the night. The hill were calling for a fresh 20 cms but they didn't say 20 cms of what. At the base it was messy and wet while on top there was very heavy slabby snow which took a lot of skiing.

It was overcast all day and late afternoon we started to get flurries at the top with rain showers at the base. As we drove away from the hill temps were falling to +2 and are forecast to go to -8 tonight. As can be imagined from all this the new snow on top was pretty heavy and as you moved down the mountain it became real Sierra Cement somewhere just below half height.

We went to the New Side to get as high as possible in the knowledge that there was no chance of us getting Polar Peak. With Currie Bowl Closed we had several loops back through Surprise Trees getting a little further round each time and finding some heavy untracked lines most of the time. As soon as they opened Knot Chutes we included them in the loop. The snow was very heavy but if you skied it fast it felt like powder and we just about hit all the Knot Chutes including Slim and Jim and one time or another.

When they dropped the fence on Currie there was the usual rush but with so few people on the hill quite frankly it wasn't much of an event. The high Reverse Traverse wasn't open so we took a gamble and cut back to Anaconda (via Knot chutes) which had opened at the same time. This was a good choice as the whole of Anaconda was untracked so we divided up the first two chutes and had an amazing deep (if heavy) powder rip down to the trail.

Next time round we gambled again and went back to Anaconda - another good call. No one else had been there and we had to cut the trail out to about Anaconda 4 before we dropped. The snow was so deep that I was actually knocked off my skis by my own slough about half way down and had to execute a pretty spectacular recovery to continue. Bootleg Glades looked a bit marginal but were good heavy lightly tracked snow only becoming hard work in the last couple of turns.

Last run before luch we headed out to Cougar Glades and after a bit of side stepping from the low traverse worked our way in to Cougar Glades which were awesome heavy hero snow allowing you to fall line ski in the trees. The low exit to the left did get a bit mushy but was ok.

After lunch the rain down low and wet snow on top started. We went back to the New Side and found things socked in and Currie Bowl closed due to avi risks. Two poachers were actually hit by an avi in Currie but were ok - pity. I hope that at least their passes were pulled for the rest of the season for making the patrollers risk their lives to go and get them. As anyone who knows me knows, my opinion of poachers is that hanging is too good for them.

We went back to looping Anaconda and Bootleg which were still hardly tracked and had some very deep heavy snow in them. For a change we ran to the base through Triple Trees which were mostly untracked but got very sticky in the third section - we didn't even think about parts 4 and 5.

With Skydive cut off, the hill closing down one bit at a time and the lower hill now getting very messy in the rain we had to look for a finale. We decided to hit out a long way into Anaconda and take a random chute. We dropped at about 5 and had a nice start before getting into a tight chute that needed about 6 edge to edge jumps and then straight line it out beyween two trees into a super soft bowl - a very nice line. The final exit was through Bootleg Glades which was still ok.

This was a very tough day with conditions that would not be considered much fun by many. For us it was just another set of challenges that were fun coming to grips with although by the close the legs were getting very tired. The forecast is for cooling with maybe more snow which could give us anything from powder on a crisp base to boiler plate depending on how it plays out - whatever it is we will there.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Day 39 a bit slabby and grabby in places but pretty good

The snow of yesterday died out pretty early in the night so the 24 hour figure was only 17 cms - base up at about 230 cms. We obviously had a very significant wind event on the hill last night as a number of trees were down, and the snow was very wind affected with the apparently smooth powder surfaces a bit slabby and grabby. On the way to the hill temps were only about zero and at the base rose to a degree or two above that while staying at around -4 on top.

The most interesting aspect of the start was that whilst it was overcast the ridge lines were clear and as we arrived we were treated to the sight of ridge line heli bombimg which seem to get great results all the way across the area. We had a choice - go to the Old Side and ski Snake Ridge which should have been open by the bombing or go to the New Side and try for Polar Peak. We went to the New Side which was a mistake. Polar Peak remained closed due to high winds - the chair kept dropping on to auto slow speed and there is no way anyone in their right mind would be wanting to ride that chair at slow speed at around tower 8.

We had many runs in untracked or lightly tracked snow which had been created by a combination of yesterdays snow fall and last nights wind. As I was group skiing with friends we didn't quite rack up the usual amount of vert but still had a very nice day.

Cougar Glades -untracked on the left
Stag Leap - untracked with the bumps filled in
Lone Fir - super deep and even better in the fans with only one board track beating us in
Lower Easter - mostly untracked on the left side
Decline - lightly tracked and untracked in the trees off to the left
Window Chutes- really good untracked in the trees at the top and a soft landing on the log drop, soft and deep below.
Triple Trees - we skied all five sections down to the trailed below Summer Road and had untracked tight tree skiing all the way down.
Secret Chutes - great fall line skiing in the untracked trees line to the right
Spinal Tap - filling in with hero snow so that even with the dead fall that is there you could still ski some pretty good lines
Knot chutes to Jim - steep soft untracked with a broken off Christmas tree in the middle of Jim that needed avoiding
Anaconda -  took one of the far chutes that hadn't been touched which was great
An oddline through the trees beyond Bootleg Glades which was great open tree skiing in the top and then some rather more technical bits followed by some bush whacking to get out on Gilmar Trail

Lunch. After lunch we gave the Old Side a try and had a great loop out to Steep and Deep taking the shoulder between that run and Gorby Bowl which was steep and untracked before cutting left into the run itself - great skiing. Kangaroo skied well with a lot of soft blow in. We had a great run back through Boomerang where we hung left and found more untracked. For the first time this year we hit the trees to skiers right in the lower section by Boom Chair. Don't know if this has a name but it was great tree skiing with many log drops and a couple of navigational issues.

After a further fun drop down Bear Chutes we ran back to the New Side and just had time to do a loop of Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees ( very good and lightly tracked) before heading out to Skydive. Of course Skydive was tracked (Lynda grabbed first tracks in there in the morning) but it was soft and smoothed out a bit by the wind. We had a maximum speed rip to finish the day which was great.

It is now snowing and temps are -2. There is a worry that there will be a warm up on the front end of this weather system bringing rain. As it is passing around dawn at the coldest time of the day I have hopes that we might just keep the precip white - after that it is a heavy snowfall warning for the Elk Valley so her we go, here we go.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Day 38 it just got better all day

And the reason it just got better all day was that it started snowing this morning and is only just showing signs of stopping. Add to this some serious wind blowing in wind sift and smoothing out surfaces with wind grooming and you have a formula for an ever improving day.

Overnight they were calling about 10 cms of fresh but as I said it was snowing, quite hard at times, from the outset. I would think we had about 15 cms during the day so on top of the 215 cm base we has some great skiing. Temps were up at -1 at the base and -4 on top, conditions were obviously overcast and the viz was pretty poor anywhere above mid mountain.

We went to the Old Side on the grounds that Cedar High Traverse had been closed all yesterday so Snake Ridge should have been pretty good. The traverse was closed and remained so all day but the decision to go to the Old Side remaind good as we were skiing in the trees which was very helpful in the poor light.

We had a typical Old Side morning poking around in Cedar Ridge (several ways) Boom Ridge ( left shoulder still best) Linda's ( Linda's private parts in the trees was particularly nice), Boomerang (through the guts), King Fir (several different ways) and Buck Shot just to name a few. Most of the places were untracked or had untracked lines due to the complete lack of people on the first day of non holiday skiing for a couple of weeks. It snowed very hard right up to the holidays, during the Christmas break there was hardly any snow and now it is over were are back into a big snow cycle - I guess God isn't a Calgarian.

Of course every drop from the top of Haul Back was down Kangaroo which remains very twiggy in the top section but very mellow in the lower parts. We went to lunch with snow still falling hard and reports that the New Side was even better.

After lunch we went to the New Side and found that the light was socked in. Polar Peak had been running but there was no point in going up there for bragging rights when by now the new snow lower down was boot deep and getting deeper by the minute - in any event Polar Peak closed almost as soon as we got to the New Side.

It worked out as -
Cougar Glades/ Stag Leap - we stayed left in the trees in the glades and had some very tight lines which to all intents and purposes were untracked. Stag Leap was filling up with deep soft snow and was a beautiful rip.
Siberia Ridge - we thought this might not have been skied much and we were right. The choke was as always a bit scratchy but after that it was like soft deep terrain park all the way down - a real free riders run.
Big Bang - we had noticed how good this looked from the Lazy Locals high traverse so we dropped off next time round and had great deep smooth powder we could roll down with fast GS turns. So good we included it in every loop.
The Brain - only a couple of tracks in there and those were filled in. The best run down there of the season with the snow holding you up so you could really take the trees tight to get the best line.
Decline/Window chutes - by this time Decline was skiing like a deep untracked free riding terain park where you could take air off every bump and land it softly. The Window Chutes were so full of snow I hit the log drop right off the centre and hardly noticed the landing. Almost got taken out by my own slough coming through the choke.
Skydive - what a finish. By the end of the day the snow was deep, of hero quality and filled in so it looked almost untracked. I had one of my rushes of blood to he head and had a total rip just on the edge of control (actually just beyond the edge but holding it together) with the skis in the air more than they were on the ground. it's always a good run when your buddy asks "are you sure you made any turns in that last pitch?".

So an awesome day and maybe better to come with more snow in the forecast. The temps of around zero are a worry and a threat of the R word has been mentioned for Wednesday but lets just hope we stay lucky.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Day 37 an awesome day with some powder

When I woke up for a pee in the night it was snowing quite heavily. The hill report only called 7 cms but this was as at 5 am so I figured there would be more and I was right. The snow stopped just before we got to the hill but it remained overcast all day. The interesting thing was the temperature which hovered at around zero all day at the base and was only about -5 even on the upper mountain.

We had new snow so we decided to have a New Side day. At the weekend one of the pay for powder groups would have had all the good lines off the Old Side and as this makes me very pissed off I decided to avoid the whole issue. It turned out to be an excellent call as with the White Pass top socked in and Polar Peak not running we actually cut first tracks out along the Skydive Traverse to Skydive - what a position to be in, any run we wanted off the big three untracked in what seemed to me to be about 15 cms of new snow and windsift. We hit Skydive top to bottom with the bottom of the bumps all filled in with soft powder.

After that the morning played out as -

Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - a couple of tracks headed right so we headed left and had untracked lines in the left hand trees all the way to the Stag Leap cut out. Stag Leap had two tracks in front of us so still plently of fresh.
The Brain - not everyone joined me for this but it was their loss. One board track crossed left to right in the top section but after that it was untracked on top of the hero snow fallen from the trees in yesterdays wind. Great tight steep tree skiing on the right shoulder of the creek bed.
Lone Fir/Easter - patrol had done a great job with the chain saw in removing the tree that had fallen in this chute two days ago. There were only two tracks in front of us and the real danger was being barrelled out by your own slough as you dropped the chute. The avi trees and the trees on the left side of Easter below the chute were pretty well untracked and great skiing.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - large sections of the chutes were untracked and I managed to find a fall line line straight through the trees in what seemed to be very deep new snow. Spinal Tap is filling in and although it is still very technical around the new dead fall the snow is fantastic and deep, I guess due to low skier traffic, after all who in their right mind would want to ski a chute like this.
Decline/Window Chutes - amazingly there were still places in Decline where the snow was untracked for a turn ot two. The new snow in the top of the Window chutes meant that you could fall line ski the trees into the top of the chute and after that it was tracked but deep snow but a little scratchy in the choke.

We had a late lunch and went back to the New Side. Bearing in mind that we had not yet skied Stag Leap from the top we did that and found it still lightly tracked with some fresh snow. We then hiked up to One Step Beyond and found only one track ahead of us. The snow was deep and fresh and the exit chute tight and fun as becomes what is probably the tightest steepest chute on the hill in general use.

We were wondering what to do next when our minds were made up for us by the opening of Polar Peak. As they had opened it so late they decided to keep it open until 4, which they did. We went up three times cutting back to the lift each time. The conditions were brutal with a very strong wind and bad viz. We skied Pappa Bear twice (poor viz but great soft snow) and Grand Pappa Bear once ( ugly windcrust in the top half suddenly becoming soft flat windgroomed powder half way down for no apparent reason) before as a final run off Polar we decided to go for Mamma Bear as it looked like no else had been there.

Mamma Bear was fantastic deep wind sifted powder and the viz was not all that bad, we had super GS turns all the way through the chute. On a whim we skied on the Skydive and then took that to the bottom with no break. Polar Peak to the bottom of Skydive non stop is quite an achievement and after that our legs were on fire with a fire that could only be put out with lots of beer.

Off to hot tub and drink more beer while thinking about the forecasts of some pretty serious snow in the next couple of days.