Saturday, February 2, 2013

Day 64 a short day and a drive to Calgary

Today I was going down to Calgary Airport to pick up Lynda who has been back in the UK for 10 days sorting out family stuff. The nice thing about flights from the UK is that by the time you are getting ready to go to the hill they have been in the air a couple of hours so +/- 5 minutes they are pretty certain of their arrival time. By simple math I worked out that I could ski until 11 then drive like the wind, not exceeding 100 clicks of course.

It was warm on the way to the hill this morning, it was about zero and also bluebird so it had the potential to be a very very warm one. I understand that by mid afternoon it was real spring skiing all over the hill.

We went to the Old Side and with Saturday crowds in the offing we decided to head out across Cedar as far as the boundary fence just to get awy from people. We dropped over into the Fish bowl and found it very slabby and crusty although with most of the tracks filled in. The conditions didn't justify a full trip to the bottom of the bowl so we cut out on Red Tree trail and if anything found it even more slabby than the Fish Bowl.

Kangaroo was bumpy and icey as usual and full of members of a family looking a bit lost. We took a run off the top of Boom down Boom Ridge which was a series of firm but not icey bumps which seemed to come at you at just perfect intervals to stay in the fall line.

We took a loop down Cedar Ridge which was firm but with a little blow in and really nice skiing wherever I went. Kangaroo was as before but minus the family. After that there was just time for a quick loop down Boom twice which was smooth and soft and great fast GS turns all the way down.

It's amazing how quickly 11 comes round and it was time to drive to Calgary. As I left town it was +5 in the valley. More amazingly as I turned on to Highway 2 in Nanton the temp was reading +13 which is high even for the praries in what I suspect was a Chinook, looking a wind strength.

Back at the house now and it is zero again. This is crazy weather and who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Day 63 wind sift or wind slab, it depends on where you went

On the way to the hill today it was +1 at the base and temps rose during the day so buddy of mine who couldn't get to the hill until afternoon told me it was +6 in down town Fernie at noon. Ridge line cloud cover and a cold wind kept things in ok shape for most of the day but there was no doubt that things were getting a bit heavy particularly in the direct sun light. On the way back tonight it was still +2 and it looks like we are stuck with this warm air for a day or two during which time we have to pray to the Griz for no precip.

We went to the Old Side not expecting much but found it had been wind affected in the night and on the slopes where the snow had been deposited it was either super soft sift or slightly crusty slab. The trick all morning was to try and work out where the snow had come down and in what form to get the best skiing. For most of the morning this meant dropping Cedar Ridge in a variety of lines from Alpine Trail on the skiers left to King Fir on the skiers right. The snow was mostly soft sift and as hardly anyone else seemed interested in doing this fresh tracks could be found all morning.

As the people started to turn up (it seems to me that more and more people are taking Fridays off and the hill is becoming almost weekend like in places) we had to push out further to find new snow. I did two loops in Gorby Bowl, one on the left shoulder into the trees and then cuttting left into Steep and Deep and the other hugging the right shoulder all the way down to the cliff band and then exiting with a quick left, right shuffle to avoid the worst of the cliffs. On both runs the snow was a little slabby at the top but soon became soft deep sift in the lower sections.

Returns were always through Kangaroo (6 times) which was tough icey bumps and so great fun and Boomerang (3 times) which contrary to normal skiing law seemed to get smoother and more untracked the more it was skied - go figure. After a very good morning on the Old Side it was time to have a fairly late lunch and try the New Side.

Polar Peak and the viz wasn't bad at all, although a bit patchy. We did a Pappa Bear loop to the chair and then hit out to Baby Bear which was full of soft sifted snow all the way down to the Reverse Traverse. The trip to Base was via Concussion which was nice and soft and taking an edge and then the Gilmar Gully which is quite interesting lower down with some fun rollers to hoc in and out of the creek bed.

Next time up Polar we tried Grand Pappa Bear which wasn't a great call. The shoulder below the chair was wind affected and even with some blow in the surface it was scratchy crust. We went out to Mamma Bear and found the skier's right of the chute untracked although I guess this was just due to the blow in that was coming in fast even as we watched it. A really great rip down to the traverse. This time the exit was via Stag Leap which had enough sift on yesterday's skiing to make it very mellow.

We were a little short of time so having linked up with my buddy Rob we had a non stop rip through Anaconda Glades which were nicely filled in and Bootleg Glades which flipped between sift and slab without much warning. Because of the time pressures it was a White Pass top to Timber Base rip in one with no stops which was a bit hard.

This was not as hard a Skydive last run where Rob and I arrived late so had a max speed rip top to bottom with no stopping. A very though end to a long day but I guess it does mean my energy levels are coming back and the cold seems to have subsided.

Tomorrow will be a short day and a short report as Lynda is coming back from the UK and I have to drive down to Calgary to pick her up - with any luck I should get 2 or 3 hours in during the morning before I have to head off. It could be a bit of a strange weekend anyway as tomorrow is Ground Hog Day and Sunday is Super Bowl. Doesn't look like the weather is going to change much either.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Day 62 no new snow and thank goodness given the temps

I knew today was going to be bit strange as when we woke up the weather network was showing current temps of -9 and the deck showed zero, clearly things were moving fast. We went to the hill and found it a overcast with breaks and +1 at the base and about -5 on top. By mid afternoon it was up to +5 at the base, +1 at White Pass base and about zero on top. The snow got very warm and chunky as the day wore on even quite high up although by the close things were starting to set up and it was actually snowing on top (wet snow below) as we came off the hill.

For no real logical reason we decided to have a New Side day and found Polar Peak closed for viz which didn't seem all that bad but the chutes did look a bit slabby from underneath. As I was still suffering from slightly low energy levels due to my cold I spent the morning guiding friends into some of the places they might not have gone.

We intended a trip to Skydive but as a buddy fell down Currie Creek we took that instead and it was surprisingly good as the snow was deep and temps hadn't yet risen. Next loop we took Stag Leap which was tracked but soft. The rest of the morning was Skydive (soft bumps in the top and pretty ok all the way down) Cougar Glades (very mellow but starting to get soft in the left lower exit chute as the temps rose) Lone Fir (a bit heavy but ok in the chute and soft in the fan) Spinal Tap (really very good and deep with the lower chute starting to be great fun jumping in and out of the creek bed avoiding the dead fall). It was pretty low key morning and so we went to lunch.

After lunch it was back to the New Side to push things a bit harder -

Decline/Window chutes - the snow in Decline still had untracked lines and the trees above Window Chutes was mostly untracked. Window Chutes itself skied heavy but the rising temps meant that the exit chute was soft and much less scratchy than normal.
Gotta Go/Bootleg Glades - as regular readers will know my buddy Rob found a good line to the left of the choke in Gotta Go yesterday and as he was working today (sorry Rob) I went back and put some more tracks in there and it was still deep and soft. Bootleg Glades were ok in the top and starting to bump up lower down with bumps that came at you just right, you have to love bumps like that.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - the chutes still had good soft untracked snow near the trees. Spinal Tap was just like before and great skiing, perhaps it's just because we are getting used to it.

It was time for a fill in loop on White Pass so we dropped the Knot Chutes (good but chunky snow) and Surprise Trees (just starting to set up) before heading out to Skydive.

On Skydive it was just Rod and me tonight and as today had been tough chunky skiing we agreed to take it easy. This lasted about 5 turns in then it was the usual rip all the way down.

Tough skiing so another early night and still a crap shoot on the weather, particularly the precip.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Day 61 a slabby Old Side, ok New and cold.

Ok, an expalanation, it was slabby on the Old Side but improved as we moved to the New. The cold refers not to the temps but the fact that I am suffering day 4 of a cold (usually my worst) with low energy levels. As luck would have it I seemed to pick up a bit in the afternoon although that could be due to linking up with my buddy Rob who always pushes me hard and just having to suck it up for the rest of the day. I do actually feel that the worst is past and we can get back to some stupid skiing over the next few days.

It was -7 on the way to the hill with overcast conditions on top, Polar Peak stayed closed all day due to viz. Temps fluctuated but generally stayed cold until we left the bar tonight and found ourselves in a +1 air mass. The outlook is very uncertain, we could have some precip, or maybe not and it could come down as very white or very wet, or anything in between - welcome to the joys of living in Fernie. The base remains good at just over 250 cms.

We went to the Old Side and had a pretty white run back down Sunny Side shoulder (badly named today) just to get ourselves in shape and found that although no snow was reported overnight there had been a wind event and the surface was pretty slabby. After that we went out to Gorby Bowl which was quite deep but slabby all the way down and as you would have expected untracked. .The left, right shuffle round the cliff band is now well established

Kangaroo was pretty ugly and icey but no worse than expected. Boom Ridge was slabby in between the bumps and it was good idea to keep up speed to stay on top. We exited via Boom guts which was just like the Ridge and headed for the New Side. We noticed straight off from our first drop of Lift Line that the snow had blown in here but was a bit softer.

There was just time for three quick loops of the New Side before lunch bearing in mind I was suffering. First off was drop of Stag Leap which was remarkably untracked on the blow in all the way down. Next I hit High Saddle if only because it looked quite tough. I did manage a good entrance by high siding it to the left but it just became edge to edge jumping in the lower section. The bad news was that the light went very flat so I had to grope my way down to Easter Bowl on what was probably ok powder without ever seeing it, ah well, that's how it goes sometimes.

Last run before lunch was Cougar Glades which was tracked but had fresh blow in to play on and the left hand lower exit chutes are getting quite deep.

After lunch Rob and I hit -
Decline/Window Chutes - ok skiing in Decline and of course untracked lines above the chute. Skiing was deep and good down to the choke which was bit scratchy.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - great soft snow still in the chutes and amazingly we got first tracks in Spinal Tap which is filling in but still pretty challenging in the lower deadfall areas, the log drop into the creek bed seems to be getting bigger every day.
Gotta Go/Bootleg Glades - as always Gotta Go was only lightly tracked and Rob found a new way through the choke with soft snow which I intend to exploit over the next few days. Bootleg was a bit chunky but ok.
Knot Chutes/Surprise Trees - a quick White Pass loop which gave us a nice drop of Reef Knot and some surprisingly deep lines in Surprise Trees if you were prepared to cut things fine.

Skydive of course ended the day and a special mention goes to the two blog followers I met there (sorry guys didn't get your names) from Lethbridge. Great to see you and glad you enjoy the blog - spread the good word. Skydive skied very mellow with bumps in the top flattening out a bit lower down but with plenty of soft snow.

Where the weather is going is a total crap shoot so the next few days should be interesting to put it mildly.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Day 60 not the dump we expected but still ok

We went to bed last night being promised 20+ cms of snow. In the event we got 7 cms in 24 hours but I guess no more than 4 of that actually fell overnight although it did freshen up yesterday's powder rather nicely. It did get cold, starting at -7 and staying at that all day but dropping to -10 from time to time as the cold high from Alberta kept trying to push in. The result was that the snow did get a little chunky in places but where it hadn't been tracked too much it was still skiing as good powder.

I decided on a New Side day and ducked the line at the Reverse Traverse (a patroller buddy was flipping the signs and gave me the ok) and I went out to Skydive. There was one track in front of me which amazingly went into the Brain so I had Skydive all the way down in fresh snow on yesterday's tracked.

Next time round Polar Peak was still not open so I dropped the newly opened Corner Pocket and even that early had to hop over the exposed tires in the top of the chute. CP is funny in that everyone traverses left as soon as they exit the chute. As usual I took a short right hand cut and had deep untracked powder all the way down the shoulder. Easter bowl still had  soft on the left and Freeway was as always a bit scratchy.

Polar Peak opened and we looped Grand Pappa Bear in what was the best light for several weeks. There is a little chute in the rock band just before you get to Mamma Bear and I dropped it untracked and almost got taken out by my own slough which I had to race all the way to the traverse. Cougar Glades were very mellow skiing, with some untracked lines in the left trees and once again I skied right across the bike trail without seeing it and took the lower left chutes which had hardly been touched, to exit.

Next Polar adventure was Grand Pappa Bear then Baby Bear. I forgot to say that the snow in the chutes was deep powder and holding up well. We took Stag Leap down for lunch and as always found a few less tracks than in the others of the Big three and plenty of soft free riding lines.

After lunch it was Polar Peak again with Grand Pappa Bear and then Spirit Bear which because of it's tight entrance was soft, deep and hardly tracked. We hiked up to Lone Fir and found only a handful of tracks in the chute and untracked line in the fan below and through the avi trees. We cut right across Easter and got to Spinal Tap which again was super deep in the trees just above the chute. The chute itself was tracked but there was loads of snow and jumping in and out of the creek bed and hocking off the log dead fall just added to the fun.

Polar Peak again but this time the run back to the chair was Barely Legal which had good snow in the chutes but with 4 snow boarders side slipping it behind us (why would they do that?) it won't be like that for long. The little rock chute still only had two tracks in so we took it again still with a big slough to be surfed. This time the route to base was through the Brain which had a surprising amount of traffic showing in there but of course with so many ways down there was still good untracked snow to be had.

Last loop we didn't have enough time to go up Polar so it was just a good old Decline/Window Chutes with Decline tracked but soft and Window Chutes soft until the scratchy bit in the bottom choke - there was also loads of greenery there so I am not sure what that was about.

Skydive was almost crowded at 4 with so many turning up but after two really hard days we skiied it fast but not stupid fast as we have been doing.

Beers and a quiet night in seem like a good plan particularly as it is -10 on the deck and snowing.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Day 59 More snow and a very good day

The only reason that the word awesome doesn't appear in the title is that there appears to be a facebook campaign against me using such a word and that with the snow forecast for tonight it might not be a good idea to run out of superlatives too soon.

We had another 17 cms overnight and it snowed during the day, I guess adding 5 cms. It was overcast with flurries most of the day and only cleared a bit in the afternoon. Temps were around -3 at the base and few degrees cooler on top. About half way through the day we suddenly got a cooling trend but that eased back and by the end of the day we were in low minus temps all over the hill. It was socked in at the top with pretty poor light all day which only got a bit better in mid afternoon and for the most part deteriorated as the snow flurries moved through.

With a load of fresh snow and the thought that Bear was down yesterday so there could be some good stuff on the Old Side, that's where we went. All the top of Cedar remained closed so we just poked around doing, Cedar Ridge ( a couple of ways) Boom guts, King Fir, Linda's, Boom Ridge and associated lines. Everything had new snow covering yesterday's tracks and the underlying deep snow from yesterday gave a great soft powder base.

After a great early morning sorting out the best lines on the Old Side in some great untracked lines we headed off to the New Side. Of course this was after dropping Kangaroo three time which skied very mellow in the top and with a hard base base lower down. In fact the only thing that was difficult there was the drop on to the cat track where the cat had cut a significant drop onto the track from above.

We went to the New Side and found Currie Bowl open but with only the low traverse going out to the top of the Big Three - anyone calling those runs the fingers please stop reading here. I got first tracks in the Brain which with all the new snow was just awesome deep powder. I was almost tempted to try the creek bed but I think it will take one more metre of snow before that becomes viable on skis.

Next time round Polar Peak was open with the usual crap visibility on top but by the time I got to Mamma Bear it was just bad and the snow was awesome smooth deep powder. I exited via Decline and Window Chutes which were deep with untracked lines but as always the choke in Windows was a bit scratchy.

Final Run before lunch I tied up with a few buddies (your mention Annabel)  and took Baby Bear (super deep soft powder) Secret Chutes ( still a lot of untracked lines) and Spinal Tap (amazingly deep in the top and ok lower down) and headed for lunch. My impression was that the New Side got a lot more snow than the Old Side where the snow plot is, perhaps twice the official figure.

After Lunch I had a quick Polar Peak in Mamma Bear and then a very nice Cougar Glades in the trees on the left side which still had untracked lines. Like yesterday I had intended to stop on the bike trail but rolled through it without even knowing it was there. It was a great deep powder tree run.

Next time the light on Polar improved slightly so I looped Grand Pappa Bear (a tricky game between the wind crust to the right and the deep powder to the left), Barely Legal ( great deep powder as no one fancies the exit chutes which were surprisingly mellow) and Spirit Bear which had a few tracks from earlier in the day but was sifted in and was awesome deep powder. I went down through Stag Leap which was easy deep tracked powder.

Last loop on White Pass I took the Knot chutes into Slim which only seemed to have two tracks in with super deep snow and the nearside Surprise Trees which were skiing pretty well considering it was late in the day.

Last rip was down Skydive with quite a few buddies, looks like the 4 o'clock Skydive club is starting to take off. As we sit here there is an Arctic high slipping down from the North and a wet Pacific system coming in from the west. If they bang in to each other above us and decide to fight for dominance we could be in for a mega Fernie system - worst case 20 cms called for, heres hoping.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Day 58 Awesome, with possibly more awesomes to come

Well, the forecasters had called for a light dusting of snow and in true Fernie fashion what we got was 35 cms in the last 24 hours and 51 cms out of the latest snow cycle in total. We got to the hill in temps of about -2 and during the day they didn't rise much staying a few degrees lower on top. Conditions were socked in from about half hill height. It snowed in various forms up to about midday when it lightened up a bit and the light even up at Polar Peak was as good as could be expected although far from ideal.

The blight for many snow users will have been the failure of the Bear Chair which stopped early morning and stayed stopped. The patrol had to do a chair evac and I heard reports of people being stranded for up to two hours which is a bit of a pisser especially if you are only a vacation or weekend skier. Luckily we went to the New Side so this didn't affect us beyond the New Side being rather busy for a Sunday although line ups were a minute or two at the most.

The New Side was restricted with Currie Bowl closed and the opening delayed because patrollers were being pulled to the Old Side to help with the evac. We spent a morning looping out into Knot Chutes and getting great soft and only partially tracked runs in the steep tight chutes. We looped Surprise Trees a couple of times and found the snow really deep in there (over the knee) and some fantastict untracked lines down to Trespass Trail.

On one Loop out we found thay had dropped the fence on Anacond Glades and had an awesome run full of face shots where the only danger was being taken out by you own slough. Bootleg Glades on the near side trees were also unracked and super deep. Next time out we tried Triple Trees and took all 5 sections finding untracked steep tight lines in trees.

We were still waiting for Currie bowl so we took a far Anaconda chute which was even deeper and more sloughy than the first before hitting the trees on the far side of Bootleg Glades which were great in the top but with a lot of deadfall to contend with in the lower section.

Currie Opened and we couldn't resist 1-2-3s which had many untracked lines and gave over the head face shots all the way down. Next loop we went out to Skydive and although it was tracked there were lines to be had tight to the trees either side and by carrying speed (something I am doing more and more in Skydive these days) I had almost continuous face shots in the top two sections.

My buddy Rod went for a late lunch but I was in no mood for a break and skied on only to find Polar Peak had opened in very poor viz. I worked my way out to Mamma Bear and was rewarded by the most awesome deep powder chute skiing of the season so far. The exit was via Cougar Glades which still had some untracked lines in the trees to the left and Stag Leap which was tracked but good free riding terrain.

The light on Polar improved so it was only "poor" and I took a loop back to the chair on Grand Pappa Bear which as always had some scratchy parts but also some awesome powder. I then dropped Baby Bear which was just as good as Mamma before taking Decline and Window Chutes to the base which by this time had some tracks (except in the trees above Window Chutes which always seem to have untracked lines to me) but were fantastic deep tracked powder.

Last trip up Polar was just before last chair so I ripped Pappa Bear all the way down and then cut into Currie Glades for some easy tree skiing before working back along Trespass Trail to White Pass Base. Final run of course was Skydive which with a few buddies was great fun racing down tracked deep powder.

The outlook is for 10 cms tonight, 10 tomorrow and 20 tomorrow night - as I said more awesomes could be on the way.