Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day 71 a really really short day

I was picking up yet another Irish buddy from Calgary Airport today (it's amazing how many friends you have when you own a house in Fernie) so it was always going to be a short day. When I clicked on the flight tracker this morning I was astounded to see that the flight was going to come in about half an hour early so I was going to have to be off the hill by 10:30.

It was -9 on the way to the hill with no new snow, a base of around 230 cms and the promise of a bluebird day but staying quite cool - I have no idea how it actually turned out. We went to the Old Side and dropped Cedar Ridge off the top of Bear and took various faces down to the Gulch. Snow in the Gulch was taking a nice edge.

From Haul Back top Kangaroo was the only way to go and the top section was really nice and crisp. Lower down it got a bit icey and bumpy but no worse than usual. We then dropped Cedar Ridge right again which was still nice and crisp and returned via Kangaroo which was as before. We only then had time for a run down Boom Ridge which was mellow bumps with some soft before trailing out on Cedar Trail and calling it a day. I know this is as long as some people ski in a day but to me it seemed hardly worth strapping the skis on for - ah well, I suppose it was ok when the alternative would have been not skiing.

The run ro Calgary was very different from last week when I got temps of +13 in Nanton. Today it was minus temps all the way with a lift to +2 at the airport. Highway 22 was deep drifting snow and on the Deerfoot trail I got hit by a full on winter storm. On the way back the snow held off until the pass and then it really started to snow - so hard at one point I thought the pass might close as the road kept disappearing under the wind blown snow.

As soon as we came through the pass it cleared and Lynda tells me that Fernie had been bluebird all day. What crazy weather we have here in Canada. Tomorrow will be another (full) day.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Day 70 a demo day

Yes, today was the day I demoed some Armada JJs from Straight Line. My conclusions was that they were a pretty ok pair of skies, not as good as my Sally Shoguns (but to be fair I work with those 130 days a season) but still very good. I think if I was prepared to put in the time and learn exactly how they ski best they may turn out to be a very good pair of skis indeed. Everyone says "of course you should really try them in deep powder" this is rubbish as all skis are great in deep powder (remember how well we used to ski it on our skinny skis all those years ago) and you could actually ski deep powder on a couple of planks of wood and it would be ok. The real test of skis is in the more marginal conditions. If anything I was a little disappointed that I didn't have the "road to Damascus" experience that others seem to have had when skiing the JJs and just found them an ok good pair of skis.

It was overcast with ridge line cloud when we got to the hill but the the cloud burned off eventually giving a pretty sunny day. Temps at the base started at -2 and rose to +3 by the afternoon and the official figures were for about 5 cms of fresh but it just looked like a dusting to me. On top temps started at -5 and hung on just about below zero during the day. Polar Peak was initially closed due to poor viz but opened during the morning and just got busier as the day went on an the viz improved.

We went to Skydive to give the new skis a test and found it was firm bumps in the top and fairly bumped up all the way down. Next loop Polar Peak was open so we had a very foggy drop of Pappa Bear which was scratchy in the top but got to some nice soft powder from about half way down. This time we came to base via Stag Leap which was bit slick in the trees but nice soft snow in the run itself.

We went up Polar again and this time went to Baby Bear which was soft, deep and only lightly tracked. Our route to base was through Cougar Glades which were good but I just couldn't get the really tight lines working with the demo skis. The final exit through the lower part of Stag Leap was as before, soft and ok.

Our final loop before lunch involved a loop back off Polar through Grand Pappa Bear which was big mistake as the light was totally flat and the surface just wind crust. We played it safe and went out to Baby Bear again which was as before. The exit was Decline (nice soft bumps all the way) and Window Chutes (untracked in the top but getting quite scratchy lower down particularly in the choke) which was a good finish before lunch.

After lunch I went back on to my Shoguns to compare and contrast and after throwing it down in a few places I decided I am not going to be changing my skis any time soon. The afternoon went -
Polar Peak/Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - I stuck with Baby Bear in Polar and then found Secret chutes tracked but with plenty of soft in the trees. Spinal Tap was tracked but good hero snow.
Polar Peak/The Brain - This time I did a Polar loop going out to the Clown Chutes which although short were steep and untracked before finding some open untracked stuff to take back to the chair. Next Spirit Bear proved good and tight but with a few rocks coming through. The Brain was tracked but using the Shoguns I cut super tight lines in the trees and took the creek bed at the bottom before cutting out into Decline, still great untracked tree skiing if you take some ballsey lines.
Polar Peak/Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - Mamma Bear was just as good as Baby and probably a bit less tracked. In Cougar I hit the left tree lines that I couldn't in the morning due to the demo skis and got some good untracked steep fall line tree skiing befor cutting out left into Stag Leap which was still skiing pretty well.

I'm sure I have missed out a couple of runs but it has been a long day and quite few beers were taken with buddies in the Griz tonight. The last run was Skydive top to bottom with no break and it was bumpier than it has been so that speed did have to be controlled in a couple of sections.

I have to go to Calgary tomorrow to pick up an Irish buddy (yes, another one) so it will only be a couple of hours skiing in the morning and a short report. There is no new snow forecast for a few days and with the weekend crowds I don't think I will be missing much.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day 69 yet another pretty good day

Over night we had 7 cms which wasn't great but it kept everything fresh and gave a covering on yesterdays snow. This 5/10 cms every night does make for some very good, if not awesome, skiing. On the way to the hill temps were -1 and having been caught out yesterday the highway authorities were well on the ball with ploughing down to the tarmac, tons of grit and more salt than the Atlantic Ocean. The road up to the hill today was so tame you would not believe it.

During the day we had the odd flurry with base temps above zero but the precip coming down as wet snow or ice pelets. Temps on top stayed a few degrees below zero and such snow as we had accumulated ok and the existing snow stayed in great shape. Polar Peak remained closed all day due to viz.

We went to the Old Side and cut the traverse out in to Snake Ridge and hit that untracked with a nice drop off the left shoulder into KC chutes which were also untracked and great soft snow. The return was via Kangaroo (soft and as mellow as I can remember) and Boomerang which was flat, soft and fast. Next loop we hit the shoulder between Steep and Deep and Gorby Bowl which as always was very steep but with deep soft snow between the alders. Steep and Deep itself had an ok covering mostly untracked but was rather scratchy underneath. The exit via Kangaroo and Boomerang was just as before.

We went to the New Side and managed a few loops -
Skydive - wonderful soft bumps in the top and easy skiing all the way down. Right side was untracked.
Stag Leap - easy skiing through the trees and then hardly any tracks in the run itself allowing you to freeride wherever you wanted to.
Secret Chutes/Spinal tap - a great finish before lunch. Although both the chutes and Spinal Tap were lightly tracked the snow held up as real hero quality and it was superb free riding all the way down through the chutes.

After lunch I linked upwith my good buddy Rob and we went just like a couple of teenagers trying to push each other harder and on occasions push each other off the traverse we were on. At one stage we had the New Side loops running at 25 mins which, when you consider that those loops have 18 mins of chair time that makes for some pretty crazy skiing.
Lone Fir/Spinal Tap - we ripped through fast enough to avoid our slough in great deep snow both in the chute and in the fan. Spinal Tap was as before, hero snow and easy skiing.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - as Rob had commented on how tight I could take the trees I took a very, very tight tree line on the left and had untracked all the way down. Stag leap was tracked but soft and deep.
The Brain - as were were in the mood for tight trees we hit this all the way down at speed taking air in the trees on the right. For the first time this year I exited on the trees to the left and into Decline which were super tight with a load of dead fall and as such were great fun.
Stag Leap - I can't remember exactly the order in which we did this but we did do it and it was soft and deep.
Decline/ Window Chutes - good soft tracked skiing except in the trees above Window Chutes which as always were untracked. The chute itself was soft but tracked.

We did most of our drops from Timber to White Pass via Lift Line which was ok but tough with one trip into Mitchy Chutes which was ok but a bit scratchy in places. On our last run out to Skydive we were a bit early so we hike up to Cornice Chute and jumped off the steepest part of the cornice to get a few very deep powder turns untracked before cutting out to Skydive. We had our usual last rip of the day out there and as always Skydive was a fun mix of bumps and soft snow.

After skiing I went to Straight Line (not a shop I usually use) to get a demo pair of Amarda JJs for tomorrow. Apparently you either love them or hate them so watch this space.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 68 more snow and more idiots

The "more idiots" relate to this morning's drive to the hill. It snowed about 8 cms overnight and maybe another 5 during the day. As we left the house this morning it was + 2 dropping to zero on the highway and going to -2 on Ski Hill Road. The result was that a bus had slid into the ditch on the newly formed ice and the way through was blocked by 3 morons trying to get up the hill in two wheel drive cars with all weather tires. Eventually a grader pulled one of the cars clear and I took the opportunity just to drive up through the gap that had opened - a short wheel base Ford Explorer in locked 4x4 with good snow tires can just about drive up the side of an iceberg. After we got through I think the road remained closed for about half and hour - morons.

The good news was that the hill was pretty deserted and we went to the New Side to get high and get good snow although a number of buddies who went to the Old Side told me that the low snow over there stayed pretty good all day.

Because of the late start due to morons we had a morning of -
Skydive - one board track had beaten us in there but it disappeared into Stag Leap. We had Skydive from top to bottom untracked, me on the left, Simon on the right and Lynda in the middle - it was great.
The Brain - a couple of tracks in the top disappeared and then it was wonderful soft untracked skiing all the way down.
Polar Peak/Pappa Bear/Mamma Bear - the chutes opened and Pappa was a bit patchy. Mamma was better with more blow in and some deep soft snow mixed with some hard pack in places.
Cougar Glades - there were a couple of tracks in front of us which disappeared right and then we had really good untracked tree skiing off to the left. We cut into Stag Leap which had a couple of tracks in but again there were mostly untracked lines availabe all the way to the base.
Polar Peak, Baby Bear - this was where all the snow had blown to and was awesome deep powder only lightly tracked.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - whilst there were a few tracks in the chute they appeared and disappeared as you cut through the trees giving some good lines. Spinal Tap was untracked for the second day running and great skiing.
Baby Bear/Lone Fir/ Easter - what a finish before lunch. The baby was still soft and deep, Lone Fir had about 4 tracks in but was soft in the fan with untracked lines through the avi trees, Easter was tracked but soft.

Lunch was late so the afternoon was short -
Baby Bear/Decline/ Window Chutes - Baby as before and Decline still surprisingly lightly tracked. The tree drop into the chutes was untracked and the chutes themselves still had plenty of soft untracked snow.
Baby Bear/Lone Fir/Spinal Tap - Sixth time up Polar Peak and we were just learning that Baby Bear was deep, soft and filling in as fast as you could ski it. Lone Fir was still full enough with snow to cause big problems with your own slough and Spinal Tap still had lots of soft snow to cushion the jumping in and out of the creek bed.
Knot Chutes/Surprise Trees - a fill in on White Pass which was well worth while as the snow in both places was deep and soft.

Of course Skydive was the last run with the bumps in the top soft and the run in the mid sections filled in so that it was so smooth that big GS turns were the only way to ski it. A great day in fresh snow with loads of untracked stuff marred only by the mornings morons. Maybe some more over night (snow not morons) but these slightly plus temps are so unusual for Feb who knows how it will pan out.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 67 what a nice surprise

Yes, today was one of those days when you go to the hill with no great expectations and actually have a fantastic day's skiing. We arrived to temps of around zero and overcast conditions which stayed all day. As soon as we got to the hill it started to snow with wetish stuff at the bottom but good snow on top. We had flurries all day which mostly came as ice pellets and despite base temps getting up to +3 by mid afternoon we only had one drop to the base where the snow coming down could really be described as wet. Towards the end of the the day we had a great graupel storm which gave us a thick covering of the soft ice pellets which was great hero skiing.

Official figure were only for 1 cm at the snow plot at the mornings reading but my guess was we had about 5 cms of fresh in the cycle as a whole and maybe even more in places on the New Side with windsift. It's amazing the difference even a bit of snow like this can make particularly if you stayed on the North facing slopes where the underlying conditions were pretty good. We had a great morning of getting first tracks (or at least if anyone had been there before us their tracks were filled in -

Skydive - we cut the traverse out there and took it top to bottom in untracked snow.
Stag Leap - there were no tracks in through the trees and when we got there we found the run untracked. Wonderful soft skiing in nice terrain all the way down.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - again no tracks among the trees and the snow really getting quite deep in places. Spinal Tap was also untracked and very nice skiing in and out of the creek bed.
The Brain - trying to keep up the untracked theme and also showing this the a new buddy Brad (hi Brad) we cut into the Brain and unsurprisingly found it untracked. There were some really nice lines through the trees before cutting out on to Skydive.
Lone Fir/Easter Bowl - this was the star of the day as not only was Lone Fir untracked but it was filled with the deepest blow in imaginable. I was almost taken off my feet by Brad's slough as I waited at the bottom. Easter was nice and soft with some untracked lines.
Gotta Go/Bootleg Glades - we had one last run before lunch and were trying to keep our untracked skiing record intact, plus Lynda hadn't been in Gotta Go yet this year. The main chute was tracked but by traversing into the left chute we found untracked lines all the way down through the final part of 3's and on to the trail. The trees to the left of Bootleg were also untracked and good tight tree skiing and the lower Gilmar Gully was just fun.

After a fairly late lunch we carried on looking for untracked stuff on the New Side and found that the conditions were getting softer and deeper as the flurries of graupel continued. We tried -

Decline/Window Chutes - it was still very nice soft bumps skiing in Decline and the straight drop into the chute was untracked. Once in the chutes there were still a few tracks but it was ok skiing and the snow, even in the choke, was in good shape.
Cougar Glades - as always fresh tracks could be found somewhere in the trees on the way down. The left hand lower exit was skiing ok but the snow was getting a little heavy.
Easter Medows Chute (I guess I must stop calling it One Step beyond)/Spinal Tap - I hiked up again and took the chute beyond Lone Fir which was if anything deeper and more blown in. I had a great drop jumping in and out of the chute in the trees to the right to avoid my own slough and the fan below was just great. I cut across Easter to Spinal Tap again and found it mostly filled in and just as good as before lunch.

I had time to kill at White Pass so traversed into the Knot Chutes and dropped them. This confirmed my view that where we had south facing sun affected surfaces from Saturday the new snow was barely adquate to given enough coverage to  repair the damage.

Skydive was as always soft and tracked but well filled in for the final non stop run of the day. Perhaps another 10 cms tonight which would make things just fantastic but I am not counting chickens. Beer, hot tub and an early night does seem like a sensible precaution.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Day 66 Pity Groundhog day was on Saturday

The reason it is a pity is that today felt just like yesterday and looking at the forecast I have a feeling that the next few days are going to be just the same. Where is Ground Hog day when you need it?

On the way to the hill it was about +1 and overcast on the ridge lines. During the day temps rose at the the base to maybe +5 but stayed about -2 on top with the snow protected by ridge line clouds and wind (particularly on the New Side) so that for most of the mountain the snow stayed in good shape. Of course the south facing slopes that had been mushed on Saturday never softened and continued to be ugly and icey if you were dumb enough to try them which on a couple of occasions we were.

We went to the Old Side and made the first dumb decision of the day to ski Sunny Side shoulder on the basis that temps were so warm that maybe ambiant temperature would have softened the surface - wrong, it was rock hard and ugly. Next we dropped Cedar Ridge left side which was firm and crisp but taking a nice edge.

We did another loop through Cedar Ridge right which was just as nice and firm and each time returned through Kangaroo which was predictably icey, and ugly and as  a result (in my opinion) was great fun. There are only so many north facing slopes on the Old Side and only so many ways you can ski Cedar Ridge so we took Boomerang (super smooth and easy skiing) to get to the New Side. There was also the issue that there were so few people around (it being a Monday) if anything had happened to us we might not have been found until the spring !

On the New Side we went straight to Skydive which like last night was great fall line bumps in the top, firm easy bumps lower down and the great free riding terrain all the way down. Next loop we tried Anaconda/Bootleg Glades/Gilmar Gully. This was very good with a bit of sift having come in over the ridge line in Anaconda. Bootleg was skiing firm but good and the gully was nice fun terrain but the light was a bit flat.

Last run before lunch was a trip through Stag Leap which like yesterday was a bit slick in the trees but very good firm free riding from the trees to the bottom. After lunch we went back to the New Side and I cracked up the pace with -
Decline/Window Chutes - Nice firm bumps in Decline with still nice vertical lines to be had in the drop into the chute in some quite soft snow. The chute itself was firm but skied ok if a little twiggy on the exit.
The Brain - a little slick where it had been tracked but still loads of untracked lines in the trees to the right of the creek bed. Just starting to mush due to the ambiant temp in the last few turns before cutting out into Skydive.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - both amazingly good with some soft snow all the way down. Jumping in and out of the creek bed to exit just gets more fun each time you do it although the drop from the log is getting big enough to be exciting.
Currie Creek - I was short of time so took a loop down the creek hoping for some soft snow. Last big mistake of the day, it was just that bit south facing and was hard crunch with slick sections all the way through to the exit. Not quite ugly, but not far off.

And so to Skydive with just three of us there but enough to have a fun rip. As before it was bumps in the top becoming easy bumps lower down and by the end we were just throwing down GS turns and pretty much ignoring the bumps even at speed. We went to the bar and had a great night with our buddies before coming home for a hot tub, dinner and bed - life in Fernie is very simple and good.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Day 65 Spring skiing but not really

You see, the way spring skiing works is that all the south facing stuff gets turned to mush in the sun and the then freezes overnight. Next day you ski the North facing slopes which were not sun affaected until the sun starts to soften the south facing slopes which have of course turned to ugly crusty boiler plate in the overnight freeze. As they soften you have a great time until they turn to mush again - any questions so far ?

Yestrday part one was completed with the sun softening the slopes and overnight part two worked out as they froze to ugly crud. Unfortuately today the final phase never came through. Ridge line clouds kept the sun off all the upper mountain surfaces and a strong wind kept temps down. The result was that the south facing slopes stayed pretty ugly all day. This meant we had to keep to the un sun affected faces all day even though it took us a couple of runs to work this out.

Temps at the base at the start were +1 and we anticipated another hot day. In the event it did warm to about +3 at the base but the upper slopes were shaded by ridge line cloud and a with a strong cold wind the snow on the upper mountain did not show any signs of softening all day.

We went to the New Side on the grounds that the higher we went the better the snow potentially would be. We had a White Pass loop through the Gun Bowl and Surprise Trees which confirmed that where the snow had been exposed to the sun it was icey, chunky and ugly.

First proper run we went up Polar Peak (welcome back to Fernie Lynda) and found the chutes rock hard, smooth and with no sift, and to make it worse the light was socked in at the top. One run convinced us that there was no good skiing to be had off the Peak. We dropped Concussion and found that there the sun affected snow was ugly icey and bumpy. The only good news on the run was Gilmar Gully which is now fully open and great skiing although the light was a bit suspect from time to time.

We worked it out for ourselves and did north facing loops -
1-2-3s/Bootleg - not great light but nice firm but un sun affected snow.
Easter Bowl/Freeway - again firm and taking and edge but easy skiing.
Anaconda/Bootleg - just like every where else north facing firm but fun
Stag Leap - a bit of a chance as it is not all that North facing but it turned out ok with firm terrain all the way down and the bottom section nowhwere near as scratchy as I anticipated but a little slick through the trees in the top. Lunch

In the afternoon I went up Polar Peak to see if the blow in had made things better. Whilst the viz had improved the conditions were if anything worse. The chutes were smooth and no real problem but one mistake in those slick conditions and it could well have been your last, not worth going up again. So my loops which again were about staying away from sun affected snow were -
Decline/Window chutes - Decline was really rather nice, just taking an edge. The drop into Window chutes had been skied but a fall line line could be seen through the trees and I had one of my best drops into the chutes of the season. The chute was full of soft snow in remarkably good shape.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - rather as above with some great lines in the trees facing away from the sun. The chute is staying in really good shape.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - not great as the glades are just that bit round the shoulder of the hill to make them a bit south facing. Not too bad in the shade but ugly and icey in the open areas. Lower Stag Leap like before was firm but nice.

And so we come to Skydive at the end of the day. Before we come to this I have to give special mention to patrol who have worked on the traverse by the bridge to the point where it is in the best condition I have ever seen it. Great job Annie and Romi.

Skydive was great. It was bumped but they were firm without being hard and came at you at exactly the right intervals for fall line bump skiing. We hit them top to bottom without a break at race speed. After that it had to be beers and to try and understand that peculiar piece of Americana known as Super bowl. Maybe a light dusting tonight.