Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day 85 a perfect storm

No, I am not refering to last nights snow dump of 20 cms which was pretty good but not perfect. I am refering to the conditions that led this to being the busiest and most crowded day of the season. We have Alberta family day (which seems to be a week long) so that there are already crowds, it's reading week for the more senior students (why they are skiing and not reading is a mystery to me but what do I know) we have the junior free ski competition with all their competitors and family and we have a weekend so all the usual weekend warriors are here. Add to that the first significant snowfall (20 cms) for weeks and we have the perfect conditions for an ugly busy Saturday and we were not disappointed.

It snowed overnight but unfortunately not hard enough to close the pass to keep the crowds away - note to my friends and followers from Calgary, I do of course mean "close the pass just after you got through it". It was only -1 on the way to the hill and overcast but from the fact that we had a 20 minute line to get the car up the hill and then when we got there we were in parking lot 3 even before 9 o'clock it was clear it was going to be a very ugly busy day. We went to the New Side on the grounds that the pay for powder groups would have trashed the Old Side and I reckoned that the bottle neck at Haul Back if you wanted to ski Snake Ridge and beyond would be just stupid.

As it was on the New Side we had big line ups at both Timber and White Pass all day which significantly reduced the amount of snow you could put under your skis in case anyone wonders why we appear to have done so little today. Even riding singles didn't seem to help much.

First time up White Pass Currie was closed but we got word Anaconda was open. We went to Anaconda via Knot Chutes which were a bit busy but still had some soft lines. There were only a couple of tracks in the mid chutes of Anaconda and we had great powder in the trees. We went to base via Bootleg Glades (totally untracked in the near trees) and Gilmar Gully, lightly tracked and plenty of untracked lines).

When we arrived at the top of White Pass next time we had one of those moments that the Griz allows only to those who respect his hill. As we came off the chair the fence to Currie dropped and we led the charge out on the low traverse to the Big 3. In the event we dropped into an untracked Cougar Glades and 4 of us had untracked lines all the way down to the didused cat track. It was the second best run through there of the season (the best being when Lynda and I put first tracks of the season down there in thigh deep powder) and as it turned out the run of the day - proof that virtue has it's own rewards.

After that the day was punctuated buy long lift line waits (at least 5 minutes some times) until mid afternoon when the visitors found that they didn't have 7 hour legs and things got quieter. We did -

The Brain right - a couple of tracks were in front of us but as always there were so many lines between the trees and and in and out of the creek bed that there was loads of untracked.
Skydive Trees right - surprisingly tracked in the top but untracked in the lower tighter tree sections and great skiing.
Polar Peak - we did a loop as soon ast they opened the Peak and came back to the chair through Pappa Bear. There was a long line so the next time it was a very deep and lightly tracked Baby Bear before traversing on.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - the chutes were well tracked as was ST although the snow in there was holding up well as being soft and deep - lunch.

We had a very late lunch to avoid the crowds so all we could do in the afternoon was -
Polar Peak - Mamma Bear this time still with tracked soft snow.
Decline Window Chutes - Decline was soft bumps and the direct drop into the chutes had untracked lines. The chutes themselves were well skied and a bit scratchy in the choke.
Stag Leap - Still loads of soft snow
Skydive - a good number of us turned up for the final blast. The bumps in the top had be softened and slightly flattened by the new snow. For the rest of the run it was a deep rolling free ride with plenty of time spent in the air.

We skipped the Griz tonight as the line up to get in was down the stairs and the only way you could have beaten to rush was if you were to come off the hill early and miss out on part of one of the best days for weeks - no way were we going to do that. The alternative of a few beers in the Park Place Pub a two bucks a pint cheaper was actually something we might want to consider more often.

Maybe more snow tonight but the crowds should be less tomorrow and by Monday things should be back to normal.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 84 the new snow cycle begins

We had some contradictory wether signs today (when aren't they) regarding the next weather front moving in. Some reports said that it would arrive as snow while others said it would be a snow/rain mix or even rain. In the event we seem to have got over the warm leading edge of the weather front with no more than snow with a high moisture content and things look set to give us loads of snow for the next couple of days.

On the way to the hill it was -1 and overcast. Fairly early on in the day it started to snow and by the end of the day we had probably had another 10 cms pushing the base up to around 240 cms. Temps rose to around +2 at the base but the precip kept coming down white even if it landed a bit mushy.

We went to the New Side deciding to risk the closures relating to and supporters of the Junior Free Ski comp as being the lesser evil when set against the damage that some pay for powder groups would have inflicted on the Old Side. In the end I think it was  a pretty good call.

Without Lift Line being available as the drop from Timber top to White Pass bottom as it was part of the freeski course we had to find different ways down which were Puff and Puff trees, right and left. All these were soft bumps even in the trees getting softer all day as the snow accumulated.

We had a day of New Side loops with Polar very much closed in the snow which became heavy in the afternoon. The loops were -

Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - the snow was not yet building from today but even last night's and yesterday afternoon's accumulation was very nice and soft and untracked.
Stag Leap - very mellow through the trees and in the run the snow was starting to get deep.
Cougar Glades - getting deeper still and untracked in the tight trees on the left and the lower section to the disused cat track.
The Brain right - by this time the snow was really starting to build and the lines in all sections of the Brain were super soft and deep. There may have been a few tracks in there before us but as I have said before there are so many ways down that you can always find fresh lines. The final section had filled in so well that you could pretty much get to the cat track.
Decline/Window Chutes - there were many untracked lines in Decline but perhaps surprisingly Window Chutes was tracked but still with soft snow.

We broke for lunch and then went back to the New Side. Most of our group decided to just keep rolling through Cougar Glades which seemed a bit odd to me as they were the same individuals who argued yesterday that four tracks in that run and it was trashed - people can be strange. My buddy Steve who arrived last night from the States and myself decided that re running easy lines wasn't for us so we headed for where the big waves were.

Triple Trees - really great skiing all the way down taking in all 5 sections. This run gets ignored and as a result the old snow plus the new snow gave us some really deep untracked lines.
Skydive Trees right - these don't get much traffic at the best of time so the new snow on top gave some very deep powder. Even the tight exit through the deadfall was starting to show signs of mellowing.
The Brain left side - the top section had completely filled in from our morning visit and the roller just before the creek had somehow acquired about 1 metre of snow to blast through. The left side trees were as always tight and as such untracked in what was becoming quite deep snow.

We had intended a White Pass loop but on arriving at the chair with about 25 mins to go we were told that it was broken down and would not run again. As we were about to turn away we were told that there was a chance it would run and a few moments later we loaded. The journey was rather erratic with stops and speed changes so we decided not to risk a trip back to the White Pass base but skied on and got to Skydive about 10 minutes early - sorry Dan and Rod for not waiting for you.

Skydive last time down was just starting to turn back into a powder run. The bumps at the top had smoothed out and for most of the run you could ride the powder ridges almost fall line skiing and getting genuine face shots in the process.

The forecast is for at least 40 cms in the next 48 hours and it was puking snow as we sat in the hot tub a few moments ago. This could be a good one.

Day 83 the next snow cycle begins

Yes, we seem to be starting a new weather system which no forecasters really have seen and which gave us about 10 cms of snow during the day and may give us up to 30 cms of fresh going into Saturday with possibly 100 kilck winds.

On the way to the hill it was -5 and overcast. We had only been skiing for about an hour when it started to snow. It snowed all day (sometimes quite hard) and I would imagine that by the end there had been an accumulation of around 10 cms.

We went to the Old Side and decided to loop Snake Ridge on the grounds that the group today was made up of people who could actually get out to the end of the traverse without having a heart attack brought on by unacustom exertion.

We had 5 loops out to Snake and hit Gorby bowl left and Gorby Bowl right, Curved Ball into the trees below and then Steep and Deep, high shoulder into Steep and Deep and Snake Ridge and KC Chutes, all in no particular order. This meant 5 returns through Kangaroo which was quite hard bumps in the top section and very hard bumps in the lower. As I have said before, Kangaroo is meant to be a an icey bump run so none of us can be surprised if that's how it turned out.

We completed the loops through Boomerang or Bear Chutes which were ok and getting better as the snow continued to fall. In fact the only down side of the increasing snowfall was that the push out to Snake got harder each time although this was compensated by the deepening powder that we found.

After lunch we went up the New Side and were amazed to find that Polar Peak was open, considering the snowfall which was getting pretty heavy and the resulting almost zero viz - or as I said in the Griz Bar tonight "that was the worst visibility I have ever seen". It was a total grope down the chutes and although the snow felt good under the skis the lack of viz meant that it wasn't worth another trip.

We then had two loops in Cougar Glades which had a few tracks although these had been put in the more open areas (appearently by two of my intermediate friends) so that as long as you had the technical ability there was plenty of untracked lines to be found.

Next loop was in Skydive trees where the new snow was making the lines really mellow and even the exit at the bottom through the dead fall was getting pretty ok. We needed a quick White Pass loop so I dropped the top of Triple Trees on my own as the rest of the group didn't feel up to the exit push along Trespass Trail. The snow in there was getting pretty deep as the snow fall continued.

The final rip down Skydive was a pretty mellow event as the snow continued to build up. By the bottom it was soft and easy bumps.

The forecast is for a big snowfall cycle over the next day or two with 100 kph winds. This could get really good.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day 82 a bit more snow

Overnight we had 7 cms of snow which was a bit more like a snow fall and as it came down at about -7 was in the form of pretty good powder. On the way to the hill it was -6 at the base and warmed to low plus temps in the strange weather although it stayed down at about -5 on top. Polar Peak was closed all day due to the poor viz. The weather was strange because it fluctuated from overcast and flurries to blue bird and back again, sometimes in the course of a single New Side loop.

We deciced to have a New Side day which from conversations in the bar at the end of the day may not have ben the best decision as there were some reports of ok conditions in Gorby Bowl and KC chutes. Anyhow we made our call and had a good day, mostly in the trees due to the variable viz doing loops of the New Side -
Cougar Glades - all the way to the disused cat track in good soft lines on the hard left and anywhere you wanted to go in the lower section.
The Brain Right side - There were a couple of tracks in front of me but the most annoying were two boarders who side slipped the trees from top to bottom, why would anyone do that, ride it don't slide it. The snow that was left was soft with many good untracked lines and the lower section holding good all the way down to the lower cat track.
Skydive Trees right - again mostly untracked but I did manage to blow off a ski when hitting some hidden dead fall in the lower section, a timely reminder of the risks of tight steep tree skiing. Apart from this accident it was good.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - it was very lightly tracked and soft in ST all the way down to the choke. Even the lower section had some soft snow to be had by jumping in and out of the creek bed.
The Brain Left side - this is the steeper, tighter line of those available in the Brain and as such was untracked. It was a great way to finish the morning before lunch.

After lunch I went back to the New Side and decided to give Triple Trees a go (via Knot chutes which were a bit scratchy on the base) as I hadn't been there for some time. It was in fact full of untracked lines and the top section was great. The second section was not so good due to death cookies pushed down from Trespass Trail by the groomer. Section three was good and soft and even sects 4 and 5 were ok even if the skiing was a little tight through the dead fall by the end.

I linked up with some buddies and we had a rip through Surprise Trees which were surprisingly good. We then did two loops, one through Cougar Glades all the way down and the other through the right side Brain. Although there were one or two more tracks in these than in the morning they skied exactly as they had earlier in the day - see above remarks.

We had time for a quick loop out to Triple Trees which was still skiing soft in the top section before returning to White Pass on Trespass Trail. This timed us dead right for a final rip down Skydive which has huge bumps in the top and mid sized bumps in most other places. The soft snow did give the bumps a forgiving feel and although much harder work that before it was great skiing.

There is some more snow in the forecast and it wouldn't take much to get the hill back into very good (if rather bumpy) shape. I think the Polar Chutes should be rather good when they open. For myself the tougher conditions have left me feeling a bit beat up but as they say in hockey - suck it up princess.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 81 call that a snow fall

Last night we were all getting excited about an overnight dump and in the event it came out at 3 cms. For today we had a forecast of overcast with flurries turning to snow and it turned out as a bluebird day with a bit of late afternoon haze. It's true what they say " a weather forecaster is the only person who can get things wrong 80 % of the time and keep their job". This little skiff of snow pushed the base to around 225 cms which is about a metre shy of where I would expect it at this time of year.

On the way to the hill it was -6 but in the direct sunlight it must have got to nearer +4 during the day at the base. On top it stayed below zero but again in the direct sunlight the snow was getting heavy if it wasn't quite melting. So in summary it wasn't quite spring skiing but it got quite close at times.

We went to the Old Side just as yesterday and poked around looking for good stuff. Cedar Ridge two different ways was ok on a firm base with a light covering of new snow. King Fir seemed to have a bit more in it but was still scratchy on the exit. They groomed Boom Ridge a couple of days ago and have now discovered (what the dogs in the street could have told you) that if you groom a steep slope and then leave it you will end up with an ugly slick slope. The answer of course is don't groom good steep runs but then who listens to me on this subject. There were warning signs on Boom Ridge for long slides so we just held the left shoulder which was good soft snow all the way through. We even exited via the trees on the lower right of Boomerang which were ok and lightly tracked.

All three loops were linked by Kangaroo which is skiing very mellow in the top section and bear ass ugly on icey bumps in the lower. Somewhere in there we took a run back on Haul Back in the trees on skiers right of the lift. After some tight lines in the top to get through some dead fall it was great tree skiing in soft powder back to the bottom of the lift. We decided that we had seen all that the Old Side had to offer and headed over to the new.

Polar Peak was open so we hit Mamma Bear (soft wind sift) and then traversed out to Stag Leap which skied ok with very few bumps but a few more in the final pitch. Next time round we looped Polar Peak in Grand Pappa Bear which was rather wind affected in the upper sections but nice soft blow in on the way back to the lift. Next chute was Baby Bear which was full of soft snow before heading out the Skydive. The bumps in the top of Skydive are getting very interesting with steep sides and tricky lines and even lower down you had to pay attention to the terrain. We had a very late lunch after a full morning.

In the afternoon time was limited so we were up Polar again this time for a drop through my chute in the cliffs on the near side of Mamma Bear which was untracked. We went to Cougar Glades which still had soft untracked if you held the tight trees hard to the left and we went all the way to the disused cat track by Stag Leap which is fast becoming a favourite line of mine.

One last Polar loop was through Baby Bear which remained soft and deep. During the day we only had cause once to alert patrol to a slider in the chutes and I don't think he was too badly hurt so not a bad day. Secret Chutes and Spinal Tap hadn't been hit hard and were in great shape with new snow on top of the old.

We did have a high speed loop on White Pass through Heartland to kill time and got the final chair with four minutes to go. Skydive was just as before with steep tricky bumps in the top and bumpy terrain all the way down. They are calling for more snow tonight but given the forecasters track record I am not holding my breath. To be fair from the top of Polar you could see a number of convective cells and if one of those hit us then the snow could be very good.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Day 80 wow, made it

Wow, yes, I am just so amazed that I have made it through to day 80 of the season without any major injuries (touch wood) and that things seem to be going better than most seasons although it has to be said that the lack of snow since Christmas is making it a very testing season.

Overnight we had another 5 cms of fresh making it 10 cms in 48 hours and this time it came down white all over the mountain so there was no rain line to deal with. On the way to the hill it was -3 and during the day once again temps rose to around +4 at the base and a bit below zero higher up. We had variable cloud during the day which gave us the odd burst of sun but also a few minor flurries which didn't really amount to anything.

We had an Old Side morning off Cedar Ridge in about three different ways and King Fir all of which were ok skiing with the fresh on top giving some soft lines. The four returns through Kangaroo all proved that an icey bump run when performing as it should is full of icey bumps, good skiing in my view and if you don't like it don't go there. We had trip down Linda's which was also soft and nice and then as a lot of the morning had been used up we slipped down Boomerang which was a bit scratchy in places and headed out to the New Side.

Starting on the New Side so late we didn't have much time before an even late lunch so we just did Cougar Glades which still remain soft and lightly tracked on the hard left and took it all the way down to the disused cat track at the bottom of Stag Leap. Next we found Polar Peak open and took a loop back to PP base via Grand Pappa Bear which was a bit ribby on top but soft untracked snow lower down. We then hit Mamma Bear via my right chute which had loads of deep soft blow in all the way to the traverse. After that it was a run down Stag Leap itself which was slick in the trees and ok in the run.

Final run before a quite late lunch was Polar Peak (Baby Bear)which was full of soft blow in and then Skydive which is now pretty bumpy in the top and some way down but still skiing nicely in the new snow. We then had a very late lunch to avoid the Alberta Family Weekend holiday crowds. In the afternoon (what was left of it) we went back to the New Side which was starting to become pretty deserted as the crowds headed back to Calgary or the vacation skiers who were staying discovered that they don't yet have 7 hour a day legs.

We went to Polar Peak again and I had a rather disappointing run down Spirit Bear which was scratchy way further down than I expected before finally softening. We hit the right side Brain which remained soft and found plenty of untracked. Next loop we just went straight to right side Skydive Trees and had an amazing run down through the tight sections where I guess at least 50% of the skiing was untracked.

After a long unscheduled stop on Timber chair we only had time for the final Skydive rip. Today a lot of guests turned up for this event and we had both numbers and quality in the final rip of the day. Skydive is getting very bumpy and in truth Stag Leap is probably a better run but there there are such things as traditional values to consider when choosing your final run - it was still pretty good.

There is talk of another 6-10 cms tonight and continued precip activity for the rest of this week - bring it on.

Day 79 ugly busy and lots of idiots

The day was the busiest of the year in my view with major lift line ups at Timber and White Pass but then I guess that on the Sunday of Alberta family weekend clashing with Presidents weekend in America and the first new snow (ok only 5 cms) if it wasn't busy then the hill would be going out of business. The idiots of course refer to the amazing number of people who decided to stand around on the traverses causing normal traverse users to have to take some pretty radical lines in order to avoid them.

It was about -1 on the way to the hill and at the base it got up to around +3 during the day. On top it was -4 to start and maybe hung around zero for most of the day. The hill called 5 cms of fresh overnight which felt about right and the snow stayed in good shape on top and only became rain crust at the the very bottom of the Big Three.

We went to to the New Side on the grounds that with the rain/snow line somewhere on the lower mountain the higher we could go the better it would be. Polar Peak wasn't open straight off the bat but did open later and in any event the runs off the Big Three and Currie chutes were good enough for me.

With the huge line ups the number of runs you could get during the day were much more limited than normal but because the skiing population of the hill were not all that experienced in the Fernie Factor it was still possible to find fresh tracks albeit with a much fewer number of runs than usual. The way it panned out was -
Cougar Glades - we had these untracked all the way down to the disused cat track and it was really nice skiing.
The Brain right side - again untracked but you had to cut out to Skydive half way down the final section because of the rain crust in the lower section.
Skydive Trees right side - not quite untracked but pretty lightly tracked in the top section and totally untracked low down but again rain crust made it all a bit challenging in that lower section.
Polar Peak/Secret Chutes/ Spinal Tap -  Polar peak had opened and the light was just about ok so we skied Mamma Bear which was good deep blow in. The snow was ok in the chutes and really quite amazingly good in Spinal Tap itself.
Polar Peak/Decline/Window Chutes - this time the light in Polar was a lot worse and after a bit of slithering around we found Baby Bear which was also soft and deep blow in. The bumps in the top of Decline were very lively but after turning left into Window chutes it became very soft and was great skiing all the way down to lunch.

After lunch we were a bit short of time but did Cougar Glades which was still untracked and then did The Brain left side which still had a few untracked lines.  After that it was Skydive which is getting decidedly lumpy in the top and then smooth bumps but ok lower down.

It was off to the hockey tonight (hence this late report) where the Riders won 2-1 with the winner coming 9 seconds from time. As we left the hill it was snowing and it has been been snowing off and on all evening, I am optimistic of another powder day with a few less people around tomorrow.