Saturday, March 9, 2013

Day 91 a new Polar Peak record ?

The reason I have put a question mark in the heading is that I am not sure that the 16 times we skied Polar peak today was a record for us but as far as I can remember it was. Before the usual suspects who try to work out my motivation in skiing get started and decide that I am trying to prove some stupid point by skiing the Peak so much today let me say that my sole motivation was that I thought that was where the best snow would be so that is where I went - nothing I heard in the bar after skiing convinced me that it was a bad decision.

We had no new snow over night and on the way to the hill it was sunny through broken cloud with a temp of -5. It was clear that it was going to get a lot warmer during the day and sure enough by the end we were seeing temps of +6 or even more at the base. Another good reason for skiing the Peak was that off and on all day it was shrouded in cloud/mist so that the snow stayed in good condition and the skiing had a certain mystical feel as you dropped in the variable light. The base is now back down to 283 cms and I have a horrible feeling that this could be the first season in about 20 years when the base never gets to 3 metres.

The ticket checkers were all in animal suits today for reasons well beyond my understanding. That having been said they looked good and everyone was having fun so what was there to object to - great show guys.

We went to the New Side on the grounds that the best skiing yesterday was in the chutes off Polar Peak and there was nothing to suggest that things would start any different today. When we got to the top of White Pass we were surprised to see that Polar was not yet open so we dropped Concussion. This was very nice soft skiing, getting softer in the sun and was ok as far as the Gilmar Gully which got a bit chunky in the sides lower down.

Next time round Polar was open and just like yesterday we found that the snow hadn't been swept out of Grand Pappa Bear and Barely Legal so we had many lines we could take through various variations in the front side chutes to get back to the chair and just loop. We did three loops back, the best of which was Barely Legal before dropping Mamma Bear (via my chute) and taking Stag Leap to base. Stag Leap was ok powdery bumps all the way to the final pitch which was a bit scratchy.

We went back to Polar and did six loops off the front side trying variations of the main runs and tight chutes between the rock bands. As before all the skiing was deep and soft with easy bumps where the traffic had been high. Best run remained Barely Legal. The final run before lunch was Spirit Bear which was rather chunky and skied out before we went to Secret Chutes/Easter Bowl/Freeway which were very good and deep north facing skiing.

After lunch as I linked up with buddies Rob and Katie I had a quick Mamma Bear chute via my chute (all Polar skiing was deep and soft tracked powder unless stated to the contrary) and then a Decline which was ok and soft but getting very hard work and heavy in the lower section.

I was then up Polar Peak for the rest of the afternoon try variations in all of the chutes, all soft and deep. For a change I hit out to lookers left just once off the Peak and hit the Clown Chutes. I took the second one (Side Show Bob ?) which was very interesting with huge snow chunks but great skiing none the less.

Having to get to base to loop back for Skydive I took Baby Bear chute which was good call as it was good skiing even at that time of day. The next decision was my worst of the day as I dropped in to Currie Creek. It was hard refrozen chunks of crud as far as the eye could see. As soon as I dropped it I realised my mistake but with nowhere else to go it was just a case of "suck it up princess" and bang out a long series of jump turns all the way to the bottom just to get you through the crud - just what you want towards the end of the day.

Last run of course was Skydive which had been affected by 2 or 3 snow boarders who had side slipped it from top to bottom. Given that it must have been hard work for them to traverse out there you have to ask - why would they have done that ? We had a good rip and were surprised by how good things were in the lower section with only the last half dozen turns being in real crud.

We are in for another cold night so lets see how the snow reacts to that. Unofficial reports tell me that the snow cycle forecast for Monday is now starting to look a bit reduced from what they thought - I hope not.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Day 90 all over the place

I am not actually talking about my skiing which has often been described as all over the place, but rather how the day rolled out which seemed to involve skiing the hill from fence to fence (and beyond) and taking one or two lines that hadn't been seen for a week or two.

We had very little snow over night but the big post skiing dump I talked about yesterday meant that the figures worked out at 15 cms of fresh in the last 24 hours, 31 in the last 48 and a base of 291- getting dangerously close to the point where we would have to get unbelievably drunk to celebrate the three metre party.

We went to the New Side and pushed out to the top of the Big 3 seeing fewer tracks as we went out. We hit Skydive which had one or maybe two tracks drifting in and out of the trees on the left hand side so that we really had first tracks in the main run. It was good soft bumps with a covering of new snow and although the lower section looked like it should have been ugly with trashed refrozen powder, it skiied pretty well as long as you had the speed to stay on top.

Stag Leap next time round was untracked through the trees but had a couple of tracks in the run itself. Good skiing all the way down but with the same problem in the lower section as Skydive. Next loop I had a look in Corner Pocket which still had the tires exposed despite having only opened a few minutes earlier. High Saddle needed a couple of big jumps on the left hand shoulder to get in but after that it was simple edge to edge through the chute. The snow underneath was spectacular soft untracked powder and the exit via Easter right side was only just a little less in terms of awesomeness.

We cut across to the Old Side to try Snake Ride which had been closed for a couple of days and were not disappointed. We had two loops out before lunch, the first on the Gorby shoulder to the right of Steep and Deep which was steep and mostly untracked. Next we went out in to the near side Fish bowl where there were loads of deep untracked north facing lines before it was time to cut out right into a very chunky and warm lower Redtree.

Returns on the loop both times were through Kangaroo (hard sketchy bumps in the top and very heavy in the second section). Also through Boomerang and the Goat trail which were respectively bumpy but getting softer and very hard and bumpy. Lunch.

After lunch it was back to the New Side to discover that viz had improved and Polar peak was open. I did Grand Pappa Bear, Barely Legal and Pappa Bear cutting back to the chair each time and finding them tracked but with soft deep snow. After that it was time to move on through my chute into Mamma Bear which was the deepest skiing up to that point. I decided to hike up to Lone Fir but found the chute closed - later I was told it was for coverage as the chute was mostly blue ice. I dropped a rather sketchy Cornice Chute before heading out to Stag Leap for a fairly soft run in the lightly tracked snow.

Next time round it was back up the Peak for Grand Pappa Bear (still plenty of soft untracked snow) Barely Legal (still great soft deep snow even in the exit chutes) and then Baby Bear which was particularly steep and deep on the left up against the rock band. We dropped to base via Concussion which was pretty good skiing on a hard base with the odd bits of soft.

This just gave time for the final Skydive rip. For the first two thirds of the run it was pretty uneventful  but the final part was very chunky and hard work which was not really what you needed at the end of the day.

A great day skiing with even better drinking with buddies in the Griz Bar. Nothing much in the outlook for the weekend but a forecast of the next snow cycle starting Monday and going in to Tuesday so that works alright for me - let's see.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 89 and a pretty good way to come back

So the official figures read like this - we had 16 cms of snow overnight pushing the base to 281 cms but it snowed during the day probably pushing the 24 hour figure to over 20 cms and the base correspondingly higher.

In normal circumstances you would think that this would give awesome (or even awesome, awesome) conditions but in the event all we got was some pretty good skiing. The cause of this was twofold - firstly there was a hard rain crust all over the hill (even at the top of Polar Peak) which meant that you were always dropping through on to a hard icey crust and where the snow sloughed ( which was in many places) the icey crust became the only skiing surface available. Secondly the rising temps at the base meant that the snow on the lower parts of the main runs (particularly the big three) became very heavy and cheesy especially for those of us who were a little out of condition having had the last 8 days off.

It was -2 when we arrived at the hill and it had been snowing all night. It snowed off and on all day while the temps rose to around +4, to the credit of the Griz snow continued to come down white even if it had a high moisture content. During the day the snow slackened a bit but after we had finished it came back with a vengance which promises good powder for tomorrow.

We went to the New Side on the grounds that the higher you went the better the snow would be and this proved to be not an entirely bad plan. With a buddy from the RCMP we were listening out on the radio for news of openings as we skied together. Our first loop was out to Anaconda Glades which were untracked in the chute we took but the snow sloughed down to rain crust as we skied it. Bootleg Glades trees to the left were just great untracked snow for first tracks but I guess second tracks down wouldn't have been anything like as good.

Currie wasn't open so we had a couple of White Pass loops through Surprise Trees which were good deep snow on a scratchy base. After we finish there the fence on Currie had dropped and we had a long morning with a late lunch skiing -

Cougar Glades - two tracks in just in front of us that disappeared and then great untracked skiing all the way down.
The Brain right - plenty of untracked lines but the firm base meant that you had to ski with a bit more caution than last week.
Decline/Window chutes - rather more tracks than I expected but ok skiing where the heavy snow was pushed over the firm base.
Stag Leap - a little skied out through the trees but loads of untracked lines in the run. The bumps which had been soft were now hard and this was feature of all of the skiing in the Big Three all day.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - again rather skied out in the top and very bumpy and icey in ST itself.

After lunch I went back to the New Side and found that Polar Peak was open. The viz was as normal bad but the snow in the chutes was soft and deep although the scratchy base was evident suggesting to me that the rain at the end of last week fell all the way up to the top of Polar peak. I hit Pappa Bear back to the chair and then Baby Bear (all the chutes were soft and deep although you could see nothing) down to the traverse. After that it was a run down Decline which was soft snow on top of hard bumps in the top and very heavy snow in the bottom.

With time running out I took a loop through Currie Creek which was surprisingly untracked - I guess everyone had either dropped off before or pushed on to the Big Three. This just left time for a final run down Skydive where I was joined by a couple of the regulars. It was a tough non stop run with the snow lower down now getting super heavy but a great way to finish the first day back on the hill.

While we were drinking in the Griz we had a very heavy storm which must have put down at least 5 cms in about half an hour. If nothing else we will have this to ski on tomorrow although it is continuing to snow as I am typing this - maybe we will have another big powder day tomorrow.

An early report

I'm back. I flew into Calgary at about 2 yesterday afternoon and Lynda was there to pick me up so with only carry on bags I was through immigration in a couple of minutes and back here in Fernie by 6 in the evening. Thanks to Air Canada for running a nice on time flight with more movies available than I have ever seen.

So here I am wide awake at 6 in the morning due to the time shift from the UK and doing a quick recap on what I think has been happening on the hill while I have been away. I am also getting pretty excited as it is puking snow, has been all night and is forecast to do all day -this is what I call a proper welcome back.

As I understand it things have been a bit weird. At first after I left there was awesome deep powder with great skiing on the previously closed areas around Snake Ridge and Red Tree Fence. After that it rained all day which destroyed most of the hill and then temps went way up to +8. The result was huge inbound avies which eventually closed the New Side for a day and a bit and even closed most of the Old Side - sounds like last weekend was a good weekend to miss. It then went cold (-12) and we had some new snow which has resulted the coverage repairing but apparently there are loads of death cookies from the avies lurking under the snow to catch out the unwary.

Reading the above you might have thought that I was away for a month for that range of conditions to have occured but it was only 7 days. Fernie has to be the only place on earth where you could get that range of conditions in the space of a week and still come back to what looks like a full on powder day.

Ah well, time to get up, make coffee, and head for the hills - wonder if I can remember how to ski after a week off. Read all about it this evening.