Saturday, January 19, 2013

Day 50 sunny, windy and a bit of a snow drought

First of all let me say that having upset a few people yesterday by my remarks about skiing the same runs over and over again and my remarks about people who don't like Kangaroo having poor technique, I am going to have to go a bit to upset people more today, but I will give it my best shot.

It was bit strange today in that it was -7 on the way to the hill  but as it was a bluebird day (we are having more of these than usual for January) temps at the base rose to about +4 and on top they barely stayed below zero. Winds became an increasing feature during the day day eventually shutting Polar Peak chair and on the way back from the hill temps once again were down to -3.

Timber  chair was closed first thing for 15 minutes and eventually opened about 11 which was pretty strange 15 minutes. I understand the cause was the electrics on top becoming frozen which is fair enough as no one could have seen that happening on a ski hill.

We went to the Old Side  and played around in Boom Guts which were still wind grooming from yesterday but maybe not so much soft blow in. After that we were all over the Old Side in Linda's Cedar Ridge ( 3 different ways) King Fir and Bear Chutes/Buckshot. All these had areas had smooth wind grooming but for the most part the smooth suface was crisp and hard without that much blow in but there were some places where it did ski pretty soft.

Of course Kangaroo was the exception which was hard bumpy, icey and technically demanding, or perfect as I would describe it. We only did it three time today and apart from a load of dead snow borders lying about in the top section it was easy skiing - I did manage to share my thoughts with one of them on the advisabilty of lying behind a blind hump.

We went to the New Side and found Polar Peak open which was a bit surprising as the winds were quite strong. The view from the top of Polar was just spectacular as the atmospheric conditions meant that you could see forever. The skiing in Pappa Bear chute was pretty mellow with sift starting to give you a nice edge on the hard pack. The problem was that if you fell there was going to be no chance of self arrest and you were likely to end up somewhere near the BC/Alberta boarder. This was demonstarated acouple of time while I was watching from the traverse having skied it.

It was so nice we looped back to the chair before doing it again (funnily enough no one else seemed to be looping) and then dropping through severe Concussion which had some nice soft blow in gathering in the top. Next time we did another Pappa Bear off Polar Peak and as before found that the lower parts of the chute were soft blown in snow where you could bang out long GS turns at high speed. The route to the base was via Stag Leap which was interesting through the trees, nice and soft in the mid section and a bit scratchy on the exit.

After a very late lunch there wasn't much left of the afternoon and I took a buddy into Concussion and found that there was even more sift than before. The gully to the left of Gilmar Trail is just starting to get interesting (don't ask the guy who had a very funny face plant in the alders) and made for a fun ski out.

Cougar Glades/Srag Leap was nice tracked tree skiing in the top and chunky soft snow when I hit left into the run. I needed to take a White Pass loop to kill time and did Knot Chutes which were firm in poor light and Surprise Trees which were a bit wind affected but ok.

Skydive tonight was just myself and my buddy Rod back from Calgary - a nice run, chunky in the top and crunchy low down. A small line up to get in the Griz bar was ok and then loads too much beer with Rob, Katie, Lynda and Simon - Rob is such a bad man as he always makes me drink too much beer. A quiet night in.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Day 49 a bit of a windy one

The forecast for today was for a big warm up which did happen but the main feature of the weather was the strong winds which were very strong at ridge line levels and were even quite strong at the base. The effect of this was that even though base temps rose to +3 during the day and the conditions were bluebird there was no real melt and the main feature was even more sifted snow even after the winds of the past few days. Needless to say Polar Peak was a non starter in these conditions and when ever you looked up there the wind driven snow coming off the ridge lines confirmed this view.

We went to the Old Side as I had a feeling that the rising temps may have softened the lower slopes - boy, was I wrong. The conditions had changed in that there were huge areas of wind grooming giving a flat easy skiing base in many areas. On a day like this you expect wind grooming to have affected Boom Guts as that happens every time but what I didn't expect was to find wind grooming in many areas of Cedar Ridge, King Fir and Linda's. All these runs are usually protected by trees so wind grooming is limited but today we saw smooth flat surfaces which just picked up extra depth as the day went on and the snow blew in.

I know that many people love it when the skiing gets this easy in areas that are usually a little more difficult and rip the runs over and over agin at high speed, just because it is so easy. I know I am the odd one out but having ripped around all these lines during the moring I became bored by the lack of challenge (there are only so many ways you can rip a soft snow billiard table surface) so I went to look for something more challenging.

Kangaroo provided my answer by giving me tight alders in the top, icey bumps with twigs and rocks in the top section, a tricky drop on to the cat track on ice and a very challenging bottom section in crust with horses heads on the top of the bumps. I have always taken the view that if your technical skills are good then Kangaroo is a great run and if they are not then it's a nightmare of your own making. I dropped the roo 5 times and had a better run every time as I started to understand how the lines played out.

After lunch I headed out to the New Side. Winds were getting very strong and for a while I was worried that they might stop one of the chairs but we kept going. As always the way from Timber Top to White Pass bottom was Lift Line and it skied nicely with soft powder in the top turning to ok bumps in the bottom.

We just hit out on a few loops due to the fact that it was a short afternoon following such a long morning on the Old Side. They ran -
Stag Leap - ok in the trees but a bit confusing working out what was a real obstruction and what had just blown off the trees. The sift was getting good in the mid sections and skier traffic had pounded in the worst of the crunch low down.
Decline/Window Chutes - Decline was easy soft rolling terrain but the drop into the chutes was decidedly chunky. The chutes themselves were fine but the log drop is now up to about 4ft and the exit through the choke just as the scratch line begins isn't getting any easier.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - I cut further right than usual and found a few untracked lines in the tight trees. Spinal Tap was very rough and chunky in the top and very scratchy low down particularly when jumping in and out of the stream bed. It was tough but I enjoyed it.

So at the end of the day we came to Skydive and although the numbers were down again (2) the quality was through the roof - me and Lynda (explanation for some of my readers, this is British humour). We had a good ski down in ok but firm conditions and met up with our Irish buddy Simon in a bar (now there's a surprise) as he was enjoying his first day with us out here.

I guess we will just have to go and have a look tomorrow as forecasts are all at odds with each other.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Day 48 there comes a time when no matter how much wind you get there is no snow to sift

The stats say it all, in the past 7 days we have had 7 cms of snow and although the wind has worked overtime to give us wind sift that is a fair imitation of powder there comes a time when no matter how much wind you get there is no soft snow to move and all you get is the old snow packed in harder than ever - today was that day.

On the way to the hill it was -7 and temps rose steadily all day until driving back from the hill it was +2. looking out on my deck only a moment ago it was -1 which is way warmer than the last few days. Conditions were almost bluebird but with some high wispy cloud. The problem was that winds were very apparent at the top of Polar Peak which again remained closed. During the day the wind line moved down the hill so that by mid day it was on the Timber Ridge and later moved to the Currie Chutes and even lower.

Normally this kind of wind would bring soft windsift but after 3 days of this there is little or snow snow to be blown around and the result was that we had packed in surfaces to ski on. Actually this wasn't so bad as the surface took a good edge in crisp conditions and there was always a little slabby windsift to make it more interesting.

I spent some time in the morning looping back to White Pass chair through Knot Chutes which remained firm but taking and edge, when they get round to opening Polar Peak I would imagine that the chutes up there would ski very much like this. As it became obvious that Polar Peak would not open I just started to do New Side loops off White Pass.

As I have said the snow was packed in and taking a firm edge on a crispy base with a little slabby snow blown in. There is not much point in giving a blow by blow account of the runs skied as most of them were the same and the same as yesterday. Our New Side loops were - Currie Creek, Skydive, Cougar  Glades/Stag Leap, Decline, Stag Leap, Decline/Window Chutes, Cornice Chute, Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap, Knot Chutes/Anaconda/Bootleg, Siberia Ridge (nice and mellow and lightly tracked) and Surprise Trees.

It's really not worth going in to details of each run until the snow comes back and gives us something to differentiate them. By exception, Spinal Tap was heavy in the top giving hero snow but very scratchy and technical jumping in and out of the creek bed to exit, Anaconda was particularly nice in top section of the second chute with soft snow and Sib Ridge was almost giving face shots (if rather wet ones) on the way down. Apart from that things were as described - hard crisp edgy skiing on wind packed snow.

Final run of course was Skydive and what we lacked in numbers (3 of us) we made up for in quality with me, Andy B and Randy sharing the final rip of the day. With temps forecast to go to plus figs tomorrow, more wind in the outlook and no new precip it looks like we could be in for a very interesting few days. I think a visit to the Old Side first thing might prove interesting as the lower hill softens.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Day 47 hard snow and hard skiing

No new snow today and temps were around -10 on the way to  the hill. During the day they must have risen to almost zero at the base but stayed about -5 on top, so much for the inversion the forecasters were promising. It was clear on top with high cloud but the ridge line winds were pretty brutal which prevented the opening of Polar Peak. A few high traverses up into the chutes off the Reverse Traverse showed it was quite hard pack in the Polar Chutes and no great powder so no great loss.

We went to the New Side to hang around and wait for Polar Peak and in the way of things we stayed there all day. In summary the soft windsift that we had seen yesterday had been packed in very firmly so that what had been soft yesterday was hard and only just taking an edge today. Lift line was a tough ski and remained so all day although once you got used to it you could rip it quite hard.

I looped out to Currie Creek and found a bit of blow in but still plenty of hard stuff to contend with. The next loop was further to Cougar Glades on the grounds that the trees would have protected the surface from the wind packing which was true but only to some extent. I cut out into Stag Leap and found the bottom section crunchy but no worse than it has been.

It's getting hard to remember exactly what happened and in what order as days are starting to merge into one so this may not be exactly the right sequence of events -

Lone Fir - I hoped the wind would have sifted in some soft powder, what a mistake. In the chute it was ugly slab which would probably have been ok for the later skiers after we had brokenn it up. The fan which is usually soft powder was hard ugly wind swept crust. We climbed to get this and juice certainly wasn't worth the squeeze in this case.
Decline/Window Chutes - actually the bumps at the top of Skydive/Decline had filled in quite well. The run itself was a little wind affected but in Window Chutes the snow was soft with the crunch line still in there starting at the choke.
Stag Leap - nice in the trees but wind affected in the run and scratchy in the lower section.
Easter bowl - I don't often do it but it was surprisingly good in the trees on the right, the short hike up to the top was well worth it.
Skydive - great as always in top and even the scratchy section at the bottom was starting to respond to the light skier traffic and was heading towards ok.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - the tree protected snow in the chutes was very good. Spinal Tap was heavy but tracked snow with loads of dead fall and a crunch line in the lower section. I can't decide whether I love or hate this pitch but today for the first time I was able to drop into the creek bed and then jump up on to the right shoulder in the lower section in an almost competent fashion - perhaps it's love.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - by holding the trees very tight on the left I still managed to get some fresh lines but it was a pretty ballsey call to hold it that close. Stag Leap was still scratchy in the bottom.
Surprise Trees - slabby but ok.

And that brings us to Skydive as the last run which was just like earlier in the day - great bumps in the top, soft ripping skiing in the middle and a bit crunchy lower down.

Today proved tough because everything that was soft blow in yesterday had been packed really hard by the wind except in a few places where the sift was still good. Tomorrow may give us Polar Peak but at best my guess is that will be hard pack with some soft windsift on the lee sides of the rock bands - who knows.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Day 46 harsh conditions but good skiing

On the way to the hill today it was about -7 and slowly warmed at the base so by close it was -3 although it probably stayed around -10 on top. The ridge lines were socked in and the wind was so strong that we got reports that White Pass chair was not loading the public.

When we got up the effects of the wind were apparent with closures due to avi risk (Cedar High Traverse and the Saddles) closures due to wind and cold (Polar Peak) and a whole load of sifted wind which ranged from slabby to the most awesome soft wind grooming.

We skied around the Old Side dropping Cedar Ridge four different ways and finding soft snow every time. Boom ridge was nicely filled in but special mention must go to Boom Guts which was smooth wind grooming and could be ripped in high speed GS turns from top to bottom. Linda's, Bear Chutes and Buckshot all had nice blown in snow although a bit crunchy in the lower sections. King Fir was untracked and had some surprisingly deep windsift in among the trees.

Of course Kangaroo was the star and we dropped it 4 times. The windsift had no effect here and the top section was icey bumps with shrubs and alders waiting to catch you between the stumps and rocks. The lower section after a pretty sketchy drop onto the cat track had improved since the other day and the new snow now meant that the breakable rain crust didn't snap every time you landed on it. This is a really challenging pitch and as all the other routes from Haul Back top to Boom bottom are groomers I can't understand why everyone doesn't take this route.

At lunch we heard that the New Side was fully open (except Polar Peak) so off we went for the afternoon. I was amazed how much sifted in snow there was (it had to be sift as there has not been significant snowfall) and in places it was well over the top of your boots. The afternoon played as -

Lift Line - great soft snow renewed every lap with blow in off the ridge line.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - the windsift had filled in particularly on skiers left to give untracked lines. Lower Stag Leap was still scratchy but much improved.
The Brain - I couldn't believe how much new snow was in there although I was cuting the stream bed pretty tight to get new lines. The last few turns were a nighmare on crust and we were glad to cut out at the base of Skydive.
Window Chutes/Decline - Decline had hardly been tracked and the trees at the top of Window chutes were deep and untracked. As before the crunch line started just about at the choke but, hey, if it was easy everyone would be in there - the log drop is still big enough to be fun.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - loads of untracked lines to start with and although there had been some traffic in Spinal Tap the snow was heavy enough to hold up well. The crunch line at the bottom as you tried to exit the creek bed was miles of fun.

At the end of the day I took a quick loop on White Pass under the chair and still found plenty of soft snow. Skydive for the last run is getting almost smooth (well less bumpy) in the top and was just soft rolling terrain down to the last pitch where the crunch began. As no one else turned up for the final rip I took it top to bottom without a break just to add a degree of challenge.

So, the wind (with moisture) and light gave for some pretty tough conditions today whilst the blow in windsift provided some very mellow skiing surfaces, a day of contrasts.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Day 45 Happy Birthday to Polar Peak chair

Yes, it was one year ago to the day that Polar Peak chair opened for the first time so today is it's first birthday. It was a pity they couldn't get it open to celebrate but to be fair it was cold with brutal winds and the windchill on the top doesn't bear thinking about. First loop through I stood under the chair and sang Happy Birthday - two guys came over to ask what I was doing and when I explained they moved off pretty quick. I didn't have time to explain that we are small town and have to make our own entertainment.

It wasn't as cold as yesterday (-9 as we arrived at the hill and warming a few degrees during the day) but with the socked in moisture in the air and quite strong winds it felt a lot colder than the mercury was reading all day. It was snowing as we arrived and with the windsift we seemed to get a new covering of snow that skied rather better than the 4 cms or so that had to be the true measure.

When I say "we" I am using it in the Royal sense as everyone had deserted me today so I was on my own - I actually quite enjoy a day pleasing no one but myself. Even for a Monday in January with cold temps today was quiet. There were time when I found myself skiing for 20 minutes or more without seeing a sole - of course I mean soul, after all you wouldn't expect to see that many fishes on a ski hill.

I decided to have a New Side day playing in the few cms of new snow and windsift. Having arrived at the hill about half an hour late due to some over celebrating last night I ran straight through to last bell with no break.  A special mention has to go to Lift Line which was full of soft new snow and was my route from Timber Top to White Pass base every time and was some of the best snow on the hill. Other than that it played out as -

Currie Creek - although late I cut the first tracks out that way. I never intended to ski the creek but I was tempted as I skied over it and as Oscar Wilde said "the only way to rid oneself of temptation is to yield to it" - Dropped in and had a great rip to the bottom on new snow on a soft base.
Cougar Glades - where I had been going in the first place and where I had to cut first tracks beyond my own at the top of Currie Creek from the previous time. Great new snow on a soft base (I'll stop saying that now as that was how it was everywhere) and the exit was above the rain crunch line.
Stag Leap - a bit slick in the trees but after that great until the crunch in the last third.
Lone Fir - still deep snow in the chute and the new snow had improved the fans beyond recognition. The exit in Easter still had some fresh lines.
Anaconda/Bootleg Glades - The widsift had come over the ridge and was deep and soft. Trees to the left of Bootleg still have untracked lines.
The Brain - most of the way down it was seriously good powder and untracked with tight lines in the trees. The final few turns were in the rain cruch and a bit technical but fun to test yourself.
Decline/Window Chutes - Really nice rolling terrain in Decline and soft untracked into Window chutes through the trees. The log drop is now just about 4 foot and so easy with the only problem being the rain crunch starting just as you hit the choke on the exit - what fun.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - more good soft snow with the rain crunch in Spinal Tap only starting about as you are negotiation the tight deadfall sections on the exit - more fun.
Gotta Go - as usual fairly untracked as most people don't fancy traversing across the top of the Knot Chutes. A bit scratchy in the choke but great soft snow below.
Siberia Ridge - as always almost ignored by the skier traffic so good snow and the lower section is now like a great terrain park with air to be had off all the logging trail berms.

After a quick hike up for a very sweet Big Bang it was out the Skydive for the final run. Only three of us today and no crazy racing but still a nice fairly fast rip down. As with all of the Big 3 the bottom third was chunky but ok if you kept your speed up.

Wonder what tomorrow will hold ?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 44 a bit nippy

Yup, on the way to the hill today it was -20 at the base and about the same over the whole hill. During the day it rose to about -10 with some sun and the ridge lines socked in by cloud. On the way home tonight it was -12 on the temp indicator in the car so I guess it may be warming up a bit. Polar Peak was closed all day so the Currie Head Wall may have to wait a day or two but the reason for closing was that with wind chill on top it was -32 and you can't risk taking punters (many of whom may not be best prepared) up there in those conditions.

We went to the New Side and found that the combined effect of the very cool temps and a wind event in the night was that the snow had become very chunky and hard work. There were also death cookies breaking away so that on more than one occasion today I landed a ski on one coming out of a turn and had some quick work to do to stop one of the skis breaking away down the hill and taking me with it.

We drifted out to Cougar Glades and had a good run through the trees still finding soft untracked snow close to the trees but the hard pack did mean you had to stay hard over your skis all the time. Next loop we went down Skydive. The bumps in the top have smoothed out a bit and the top sections still had some soft snow to surf on. The lower third was well below the rain crunch line from a few days ago and was hard work. My guess is that it will take at least 10 cms of fresh to repair the lower parts of the Big 3.

We were getting cold so we worked our way over to the Old Side which as usual was few degrees warmer but still no stroll in the park. We spent the rest of the morning running around Cedar Ridge (several ways) Boom Ridge, Boomerang, Linda's, all of which were ok skiing on a firm base but with some soft on top. We did consider working our way out to Snake Ridge but with the cold snow proving grippy the juice didn't look worth the squeeze and a buddy that went out there confirmed this was the case.

A special mention must go to Kangaroo which was about as bad as I can remember it with a "marginal condition" sign from patrol at the top. The top section was hard icey bumps with ice tufts to catch you and twigs, roots, stumps and rocks to add to the challenge. The lower section made the top look like a piece of cake - it was breakable rain crust all the way through and a real nightmare. Having done it once we just couldn't believe how bad it was so we went back to do it again and found it just as bad - there are times when we are pretty dumb.

In the afternoon we met up with more friends and played on the New Side -

Currie Creek - we didn't mean to go there but it looked so good and once we were in it was a super rip to the bottom.
Decline - surprisingly soft in the top sections and nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be low down, a bit crunchy and no more.
Anaconda Glades - the first chute over the hump was full of deep but heavy snow. Once you got the hang of it the snow skied almost like deep powder.
Bootleg Glades - the nearside trees were still mostly untouched and it would have been a spectacular high speed rip if it haden been for catching my basket in a small bush and getting yanked into the back seat.

For the final rip down Skydive at 4 there were 9 of us which is a record for this season. Of course with so any of us there we just kept pushing each other until we all had a great rip on the edge of control even through the crunchy sections at the bottom. We had beers and nachos in the Griz as a goodbye to our buddies Steve and Liz who are heading back to the UK tomorrow. This gives us a few days before our next guest arrives from Ireland - as I have always said - you would be amazed how many friends you have when you own a house in Fernie.