Saturday, March 16, 2013

Day 98 and a bit better still

No point in getting carried away, today wasn't awesome or anything like that but did continue an improving trend if you were prepared to used your brain to work out what was happening and you had the energy to take advantage of it - if not you probably would have had a pretty poor day. In particular, considering it was a Saturday the crowds were missing - I hope that was nothing to do with my rather down beat reports of the last few days, but if it was then the truth never hurt anyone.

Overnight not much appeared to have happened and we were relying on the opening of new terrain and the flurries forecast for today to give us the improved skiing. In the event it froze hard overnight so that anything skied yesterday and not groomed over night was ugly and rutted hard ice skiing. Temps were around zero at the base as we started and it was raining. All day we had hard ice pellet flurries which sometimes came all the way to the base and sometimes changed to rain turning back to ice a little way up the hill. The result was to give some ok graupel higher up but some very varied conditions lower down and just plain mush at the base by afternoon.

We went to the New Side as we had reports that the Old Side was pretty ugly which I could well believe. We took a loop back through White Pass which confirmed what we thought which was that the groomers were ok but where stuff had been skied yesterday (and most of what would have been new stuff such as Gun Bowl, Lift Line, Surprise Trees, I bowl, Anaconda, Zig Zag etc. remained closed) it was ugly, rock hard tracked up skiing.

Currie bowl opened with the strong recommendation to stay on the groomers which for obvious reasons we decided to ignore. With everything beyond Currie Powder closed the only "off piste" was Currie Glades which were great. The rain had beaten the surface flatish and with no traffic yesterday or the day before it had frozen hard and smooth but just about taking an edge. The new snow/ice falling on top provided a bit more of a soft skiing surface and the over all effect was ok. Gilmar Gully upper and lower sections to the base were much the same but with some entertaining death cookies pushed in but the groomers from the cat track and getting a bit soft in the last few turns.

We tended to loop the above with variations (Currie Glades provide many different routes down) for most of the morning. Just before lunch I was struck with the idea that the Big 3 would be in much the same state as Currie Glades if we could only get to them. We cut hard left under the last closure sign in Currie (we never poach) and then traversed out to the trees as hard as we could. It was then a case of a side step traverse up through Cougar Glades until we got to Stag Leap. Despite the traverse being horrible breakable crust due to the snow falling off the trees the run was, as anticipated a smooth, undulating firm base taking and edge with a covering of today's snow and needless to say untracked. We had a great run and went to lunch.

In the afternoon I went back and just did loops of Currie Glades (every way possible) before cutting in to either Stag Leap or on a couple of occasions Skydive which just required a little more work. I think people who have never tried to cut in to the Big 3 from the skiers right would be amazed just how far up you are in the run when you use the summer bike trail to get in. I would estimate in both cases you only lose about 20/25% of the run giving loads left in which to have fun. All afternoon the only tracks we saw were our own from the repeat trips giving plenty of fresh lines each time.

Last run of course was Skydive which although curtailed was excellent up until the last couple of turns which were starting to get bit mushy. Loads of pre Paddy's Day beer and fingers crossed for a cooling trend and some serious snow overnight.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 97 just getting a bit better

Yes, lets not get carried away by today, it wasn't awesome or fantastic or good (or legendary to use the official jargon) it was just better than yesterday and just about ok skiing for this time of year.

During the night it rained hard again in the valley and on the way to the hill it was +3. The good news was that the forecast for today had been revised so that we had no precip in the forecast and were even supposed to get some sun (which we did) with clouds and and temps going up to +7. We also had a 1 cm dusting of snow on the upper mountain which is obviously what occured towards the end of the precip cycle at some early hour of the morning.

We went to the New Side and found that only Heartland/Highline guts were open just like yesterday. The difference today was that off the groomers the snow seemed to have firmed up under that 1 cm covering. My own theory is that the rain soaked way down into the snow yesterday so when it cooled we effectively had a rain crust but about a metre thick so that you always skied in the crust. The result was that the ungroomed stuff was soft and floaty even when it was obviously only covered with the lightest of dustings. The whole thing had the strange feeling of skiing powder which quite clearly it wasn't

For a couple of hours or more we looped variations and different lines of Highline Trees, Milky Way Trees, Puff Trees right and all the interlinking runs. They were all as described above - soft and floaty on this rather strange base. As the morning progressed things seemed to get softer which was not surprising as most of what was open on the New Side was south facing. We decided to cross to the Old Side via Deep Sea which like yesterday was skiing pretty well at that time as soft bumps.

On the Old Side we found that Lizard Bowl across as far as Easter was open but Emily's was closed for racing so no recreational skier could actually get to the bottom of Haul Back - a strange decision given how little terrain was actually open. We had a couple of runs in the steeper parts of Bow and found the snow soft but chunky. Before lunch we took a quick run down Kangaroo which was soft but with the right exit on to the cat track now completely bare.

After lunch we had a few runs around the Arrow/Bow areas in Lizard together with the lower chutes which were starting to get quite soft and heavy. After that I just went for loops (a further 7 in all) of North Ridge which was ok on the surface and hard underneath and Kangaroo which just got more mellow as the afternoon wore on. By the end of the day I was taking Kangaroo as a series of fast GS turns with no need to take account of the bumps which had been flattened by the temps and in any event were so soft they could be ignored.

Tomorrow may well be a different story and if things cool down as forecast the Roo could well take it's revenge for the lack of respect shown during the course of this afternoon. Beers in the Griz and a hot tub were the order of the day.

Forecasts are for cooling temps and snow (perhaps in significant amounts) before the weekend is over. I have my hopes but when you have lived in Fernie as long as I have you learn to treat these forecasts as no more that a best guess by the forecasters - about as accurate as when they choose their lottery numbers. Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Day 96 conditions officially down graded to very crappy

Of course when I say "officially" what I mean is that I am down grading the conditions here on the blog - I dare say the real offical sites are striking a somewhat more positive note. The reason for my down grading is that despite a little more terrain being open today the continuing warm conditions now mean that anything ungroomed or not subject to heavy skier traffic simply won't support skier weight and you just dive like a submarine when you try to ski it. Add to that the fact that the rain started mid morning and just got heavier and heavier as the day wore on and was liquid all the way to the top of White Pass which was the highest point of the hill open, then you end up with very crappy conditions.

I suppose the real test is that we came off the hill at lunchtime today because it was so bad. I have only been off the hill that earlier three times this year, Christmas Day when we went for a huge lunch and twice when I had to drive to Calgary airport to pick up guests - it was that bad.

Overnight temps never got below +4 and were at that going to the hill in overcast conditions. About mid morning the temps started rising and were +6 as I drove away from the hill. About the same time it started to rain, quite light at first but then harder and harder. By the time I was sitting in the Griz Bar having my second beer just after 1:30 it was coming down in stair rods (an English expression meaning it was peeing down) and going all the way to the top of the hill. We actually got pretty wet walking from the Giz to the car which was in line 1 of Lot 2 so hardly any distance at all !

We went to the New Side as it had been closed yesterday and found most of it was still closed. From White Pass we just had the Highline/Heartland guts which were groomed and off Timber it was Puff to White Pass and Deep Sea or later Falling Star to base (the former only partially groomed but well skied in) and that was it. Everything else you could think of Currie Bowl, the I Bowl, the Gun Bowl, Lift Line, Sib Ridge etc were all closed.

The conditions were socked in and with temps well above zero even at the top the groomers were soft mush on a hard base and getting softer all the time, particularly when the rain started. We spent the morning looping White Pass with the odd foray into the very limited pieces of off piste available - they were uniformly ugly and too soft to ski easily, or in some cases at all.

Late morning we ran to base down Deep Sea which was mush on a bump base in the top and unusually was probably the best skiing on the hill. We had just time to do one run on the Old Side up to Bear and like yesterday found most of it closed and the groomers slush on a hard base. About that time the rain started to come down so heavily that being able to see through the goggles started to become an issue and we decided that was as good a sign as we were going to get that the skiing wasn't going to get any better.

I never like to leave a hill early as I always think that you can squeeze something out of the conditions no matter how bad they are. Today proved that even with my enthusiasm (and I do get criticised for taking an over optimistic view of skiing in Fernie by quite few of the regular skiers) there are some days when you just have to run up the white flag and head for the bar.

Tomorrow doesn't look like any great improvement but I will be there to give it go.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 95 a pretty crappy day - but much better than expected

Yes, we actually expected a very crappy day as a result of the conditions (of which more later) and the extensive closures (again more later) but in the event the conditions only turned out to be pretty crappy so that by some measures that could be regarded as bit of a result.

The hill were claiming 16 cms of snow in the last 24 hours on their site which must be true or they wouldn't have claimed it. I guess what happened is that we got that amount of new snow yesterday before the rain started in the evening. What the report didn't say was that after the snow stopped it hosed down rain all night right up to the top of the hill so what we had was either groomed soft rain affected snow or pure elephant snot where it hadn't been groomed.

Due to avi risks the New Side was closed all day. On the Old Side the runs under the Deer were open but the only upper mountain runs open were Bear, North Ridge, Lower Linda's, Emily's, Kangaroo, Kodiak and Bear cub. Closed runs were Bear chutes, Boom Bowl, Lizard Bowl, Cedar Bowl, Boom Ridge and Linda's. This is not a complete list on either side but it gives an idea that we only had a very limited opening on a small part of the Old Side today.

When we got to the hill the temp was +3 and rising (it got to +7 during the day) and raining. The rain came and went during the morning but it was enough for me to put on my super expensive rain suit - yellow plastic pants and jacket from Canadian Tire costing 20 bucks. People may laugh but I was dry and toastie all morning when quite a lot of others appeared to be giving up due to the rain. By the afternoon the rain had eased off so I was back in normal gear and for the last couple of runs we actually had graupel coming down white from about half way up Boom and above.

We looped around the groomers on Bear, Emily's and North Ridge finding soft slushy snow on a firm base giving an ok skiing surface. When things became a bit boring we extended to loops to cover Kodiak which was ungroomed in the top and very hard work in the elephant snot. We also started to loop Kangaroo which was initially hard work with only our tracks in but becoming easier during the day as it became more tracked up. We did three Kangaroo loops in the morning combining with Kodiak/North Ridge/Emily's to extend each loop before lunch.

After lunch the top of the hill cleared a bit and we could see the spectacular avies that had come down off the Lizard Head Wall and Cedar Nob covering the high traverses in both bowls - that's why they were closed. The rest of the afternoon was spent as with the morning doing North Ridge /Emily's /Kangaroo /Bear /Kodiak etc loops. The groomed parts remained firm underneath but slushy on top, Kangaroo in particular benefited from the skier traffic turning it into soft and quite mellow bumps. Four more loops in the afternoon gave a total 7 Kangaroos tody which on a day like today was no bad tally.

The short term outlook is not good although some snow is called for over the weekend and beyond. My worry is that if it freezes the ugly death cookies that we can see everywhere will become a real hazard. I have no idea what the New Side may hold when it opens.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Day 94 the last good day for a while ?

Today was a great day but we are forecast to get rain for the next two days going pretty well to the top of the hill so today could have been the last good days skiing for some time. That having been said, it's only a forecast so let's wait until tomorrow and see what happens - in the meanwhile we will celebrate a very good days skiing in ever improving conditions.

In total contrast to yesterday which was a bluebird spring day, today started overcast with light snow and temps of -2 on the way to the hill. It stayed overcast all day and the temps fluctuated from +1 to -6 as the new weather systems moved in. The overnight figures were for 3 cms of fresh although it snowed fairly consistently all day so that by the end of the day we must have had almost 10 cms of fresh in places out of the latest cycle.

The impact on the conditions was that the new snow tended to freeze the base which had been softening yesterday to give a very hard and bumpy base. This gave the classic dust on crust conditions to start with. As the day wore on the base didn't soften even though temps got to around zero for most of the hill but the extra snow did start to give a good powder covering on the base. Two further things worth mentioning were the light (very poor and flat all day) and the slabby nature of the snow which broke up and slabbed at the slightest excuse - had there been a bit more snow we would have been facing some very serious stability problems, as it was we had rolling closures as the day went on in Snake, Lizard and the Saddles.

I felt that nothing much would have improved on the Old Side since yesterday so we went to the New Side and spent the whole day there. Our first trip was to Skydive (as Lynda said, we were going to ski it sometime so it might as well be straight off the bat) where we cut the traverse out to the top. It was about 5 cms of good powder on a firm base and nice untracked skiing. Next loop was into Stag Leap which was also untracked and much the same as Skydive but with a little more snow - the ever increasing snow was a feature of the day.

I can't really remember the rest of the morning but somewhere in there was Decline, Secret Chutes, Spinal Tap and Cougar Glades. There was a lot of untracked skiing and I seem to remember some good untracked lines in ST. The only poor skiing was in Cougar Glades where the open areas affected by the sun were chunky and hard but in the trees there were still some very mellow lines. There was probably a run or two more but I can't remember then it was lunch.

After lunch we went back to the New Side and finding the Saddles closed which had been in my plan to ski (Polar Peak remained closed all day due to poor viz) so I had another run down Stag Leap which had filled in, was untracked and even the lower section was getting covered and soft.

In Decline/Window Chutes I was almost knocked over by my own slough in the top but the lower sections held up well. I was tempted to try Decline to the base and found that the lower sections were even better than before. I made my one mistake of the day by trying Currie Creek which looked very tempting with a soft snow covering but which was hard death cookies underneath all the way to the bottom and very hard work to ski.

Again I think there were a couple more runs but I can't remember (curse all this beer in the Griz) but I do recall that everything was just getting better and deeper all day. Last run was down Skydive which by this time was very mellow bumps in the top and so soft in the middle you could almost ignore the terrain and just push out big GS turns. The final pitch was a bit harder but still ok if you were prepared to put in the effort. Interestingly my buddy Stinger hit Decline and declared that he had skied it untracked despite me having already skied it untracked twice in the day - yes, it was filling in that fast.

So we had few beers to celebrate (it shows I know) and then home for an early night. I hope that the forecasters are wrong and that the R word holds off for tomorrow but I fear they will be right and we will have short wet day in some pretty ugly conditions.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Day 93 the pic

Day 93 a new experience at my time of life

I had attempted to put a pic of me standing under the Wimp Chutes on the blog but I seem to be having trouble with the technology so here is the report - the pic may, or may not follow.

Well, it's not often I put a pic in my blog so when I do you can be pretty certain that it is down to something rather special. In this case it was skiing the Currie Head Wall through the Wimp Chutes (who said Canadians don't have a sense of humour) which are just above and to the left of my head in the picture. They are the first triple black diamond chutes I have ever skied and although they look pretty mellow in the picture the truth is that the first few turns in the top were the steepest skiing I have ever done and for the first time this season actually got my pulse rate way up - but more of that later.

We went to the hill in -2 temps with bluebird skies which became variable cloud later. Although it got quite warm (maybe +5) lower down by the end of the day it remained cool on top so that the snow stayed in great shape all day even on the south facing slopes. The base had drifted down to about 260 cms which is around 1 metre below where I would expect it at this time of year and does not bode well if the dry warm conditions forecast for the next 14 days actually come to pass.

We went to the Old Side to test Cedar Ridge which was not as good as yesterday but was just about ok North facing skiing. We had a couple of loops off the ridge in variable soft snow with some slightly deeper stuff in the gully and gulch. Two returns through Kangaroo were enough to convince me that even for the Roo this was ugly icey bumpy skiing and twice was quite enough. We tried a run back down Boom Ridge which had been groomed the previous day and found it predictably slick and had to stay to the sides to get some acceptable soft snow. This convinced us that the Old Side had very little to offer so we dropped Boomerang which was ok firm bumps and headed for the New Side.

We got suckered in to a bluebird day looping Polar Peak in the soft smooth snow that had blown in to all the chutes. I lost count of the number of loops but Grand Pappa Bear, Barely Legal, the Clown Chutes (Krusty and Side Show Bob) and Pappa Bear featured over and over again - as I said the snow was soft and in many places lightly tracked. Another thing that kept us looping was watching Patrol having to rescue a skier who had dropped into Hot Spot (I think they thought it was the Wimp Chutes) and got cliffed out in the lower section. The rescue which eventually required a rope down took almost two hours and provided endless entertainment as we rode the chair up and then skiied down our chosen route which some times took us quite close to the incident.

Just before lunch we decided to hit out along the ridge line to try the Wimp Chutes which were the first triple black diamond head wall chutes I have ever skied. Actually they were super steep in the first few turns which really got the heart going but after that settled down to a pitch not much more that the chutes at the bottom of Barely Legal and as a result were almost a let down. We came to base for lunch through Alpha Centauri which was nice and packed in firm bumps and the Gilmar Gully which was much the same.

We couldn't believe how long we had skied in the morning or how late lunch was. As a result we just had time for a couple of afternoon Polar loops through Grand Pappa and my chute into Mamma before dropping Decline which was ok soft bumps in the top, but just like yesterday very chunky in the lower sections. Almost makes you wish we skied groomers sometimes - no, seriously.

Next lap we worked out that there was just time to go up Polar if we did a fast run down. Rob and I took Polar to the Timber chair via Pappa Bear, Alpha Cebtauri, Gilmar Trail and the Meadow in one from top to bottom at speed. A real Peak to Pint run with a whole range of conditions on the snow which we just had to deal with as went down - this was real skiing.

The last run of course was Skydive which was bumpy in the top, ok soft terain in most of the middle section and a bit scratchy in the last pitch, but much better than Decline in my view. Totally pumped after a day like this even if the conditions weren't stellar so far too much beer drunk in the Griz in celebration tonight - it will be an early night.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 92 beaten up by the hill

Yes, after today's skiing I am feeling more beaten up than at any time I can remember in the last 10 years. The problem was that all the south facing slopes were refrozen crud which didn't melt today as there was not much direct sunlight - to be fair a bit of the lower stuff melted as the melt line (independent of sun effect) moved up the hill. This meant that to get to all the good north facing stuff it was a traverse on the hard refrozen crud which formed the traverse. As we hit the traverses at speed to get as much good stuff as possible the result was that we had hard brutal traverses all day and by the end just felt totally beaten up. We still had some pretty good skiing though.

We went to the Old Side at first and dropped off the chutes at the top of Bear into Cedar Ridge which was soft blow in and may be the best snow of the day. The gully and gulch we still full of soft blow in. We had a couple more loops in Cedar (we had been told that Snake Ridge was pretty chunky and not worth the effort) doing Cedar Ridge right and King Fir. Neither of these were quite as good as the first loop but still some ok sift on a firm base which in the circumstances was as good as it was going to get.

The three return loops from Cedar were all down Kangaroo which was ugly icey bumps with refrozen crud in the lower section. As I have said before, if you don't want a challenging run don't ski the Roo. I am told it softened in the afternoon so that skiing was a bit more mellow then. With a big chunk of the morning gone and the wind getting up we dropped Boomerang which was easy soft snow with some blow in so that we could cut across to the New Side.

First trip on the New Side was out to Easter Bowl to give the first brutal traverse of many. Easter wasn't quite as good as I thought it would be with some scratchy sections but on the whole it was ok north facing skiing. We tried a loop back through the Knot Chutes. When I we I mean I as Lynda said it would be ugly and refrozen and she didn't fancy it. As usual Lynda was right, although she had understated the case, and Fraid Knot was just as ugly as I can ever remember - hard edge to edge jumps all the way down just to stay out of trouble.

The last run before lunch was Skydive - another traverse. It skied rather better than expected with the bumps in the top soft, the mid section ok soft snow with only a few scratchy places and the lower pitch taking an edge and only ugly and chunky in the final couple of turns. Lunch.

After lunch it was back to the New Side in the hope that Polar Peak might open but it never did - I guess the winds which were quite strong where we were must have been just too much up there. The afternoon was series of ugly hard traverses which resulted in some pretty good skiing at the end -

Decline - soft bumps all the way down. The very final section below the last steep pitch was super hard work as there had been little skier traffic and you had to work your way through some very heavy chunky snow.
Stag Leap - a bit technical through the trees at the top but after that surprisingly good and soft all the way down to the final pitch. The last bit of the run was a mixture of hard pack and crud and honestly not for the faint hearted.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - it was all a bit tracked out but as a north facing slope the snow remained in good shape. In ST itself the snow did get heavy but was still soft. The final section in the creek bed was made easier as the melt line had moved up and softened the bumps.
Anaconda Glades - the traverse out has to have special mention for it's rough hard brutal qualities. After that Anaconda skied like a dream with some nice ridge line blow in.

I am sure there were a couple more runs which I can't recall having had few beers in the Griz bar with buddies but take my word for it they were all hard to get to but ok when we got there.

Skydive was the usual finish which we took top to bottom in one. Just like earlier in the day the bumps in the top were soft, the mid section easy soft snow and the lower section hard but taking an edge.

Sundays are my favourite day in the Griz as the crowds are gone home, the weekend band is still playing and it is just a lot of locals and ski patrollers in there telling stories of the weekend. This tends to lead to a beer or two more than planned but what the hell, you are a long time dead.

Forecasts seem to be giving up on snow over the next few days, in fact the outlook suggests that winter is over and spring is on the way - lets see.