Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 112 a fun day in the snow

You will notice I make no reference to the skiing which was actually pretty poor but to the amount of fun we had today which was just awesome. Yet again it was a bluebird day (the longest run of bluebird days I can remember) and temps on the way to the hill were only -2. Everything warmed up fast on the south facing slopes and by the end of the day became so mushy that a significant part of the hill had to be close due to snow instability. Significantly on the way back from the hill I noticed that the temps on the car thermometer were 14/15 degrees.

We went to the Old Side and found that Bear was starting to get soft straight out of the gate at 9. We tried SunnySide shoulder and were probably one run too early as it was refrozen crud. China Wall was soft and easy skiing. We looped out into Cedar and found that Cruiser hadn't been groomed and was still very ribby but by lower Cedar Centre it was starting to get soft. I had intended to try Kangaroo but it was closed - can you believe that ?

Our final attempt to find something good on the Old Side was down Boom Ridge which was a mixture of slush and refrozen crud and very difficult to get a handle on. We decided to abandon the Old Side in favour of the New and ran out down Boomerang which was very much like Boom Ridge although maybe more going to slush in the sun.

On the New Side we found things getting very slushy and closures starting even in the morning. By the time we got there we had already lost Lift Line, Big Bang, Sib Ridge, Knot Chutes and the I bowl. We had runs off Polar Peak in the chutes through Grand Pappa Bear, Barely Legal and Pappa Bear a few times over which were all slushy big bumps before running to base. For an early lunch.

The reason for the early lunch was that today was the Cardboard Derby. This is where competitors have to build down hill racers out of  cardboard and duck tape and race them down the hill to a target near the base. It was great fun with some incredible machines that must have taken hours to build and some that were no more than a cardboard box. As usual there were spills, wrecks, laughs and fun for everyone.

We headed up the New Side only to find that the continued softening had cause Patrol to close the chutes off Polar and the Reverse Traverse so that the only way down from that side of Currie Bowl was the Polar Coaster (or the Crusty Chute) and then Currie Powder and then the Gilmar Gully all of which were very soft and mushy. We looped this twice and then it was time to become world record holders.

Straight up - this afternoon, just before 4 o'clock mountain time Lynda and myself and 552 other people set a new world record which was overseen and confirmed by the Guiness Book of Records. The record was for the most people drinking a shot from the longest shot ski in the world. They had put 120 skis together joined end to end and stuck 554 shot glasses too what was then about a 600 ft long ski. The glasses were filled with Jagermeister and on the given signal we all took a shot simultaniously by tipping up the 600ft ski. As I said it was officially a world record and we were all joint holders.

After that it was time for beers to celebrate a great fun day where the skiing was either scratchy or slushy but we had fun despite the skiing rather than because of it. Tomorrow may not be much better in terms of conditions. It may also be a short or non existent report as we are booked in at 11 for the legendary Lizard Creek Brunch which will only give us two hours skiing before (and if I am any judge of these brunches) none afterwards - let's see, it's only two days a year that I ditch skiing for eating at lunch time, the other being Christmas.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 111 why I am not all that keen on spring skiing

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I don't like spring skiing ( it is after all skiing) all I am saying is that there are a number of reasons why it is my least favourite of conditions and today proved just why.

Up until yesterday we had classic spring condidtions where the south facing slopes softened during the day and refroze over night whilst the north facing slopes remained crisp winter skiing. This meant that you could ski the north facing slopes at any time of the day and have good sking whilst on the south facing you had to wait until around late morning before they softened and became ok. Yesterday we had atmospheric warming which meant that everything irrespective of aspect melted during the day and then refroze over night. The result was that the north facing slopes were ugly boiler plate and remained so until very late in the day when they may have softened but posssibly not at all and the south facing slopes turned to mush so fast in the morning there wasn't much chance of getting anything but boot deep slush at any time.

It was -1 at the start with no new snow and the base reduced to about 292cms. We went to the Old \side and finding Bear melting from the opening bell we tried the Sunny Side shoulder and were amazed to find that too was soft and was giving us spring skiing that early in the day. We looped Lizard to Dancer to try the North facing stuff in Lower Easter and found it boiler plate. This set the trend for most of the day where the skiing was either mush or boiler plate with not much in between.

Boom Ridge proved to be going mushy in soft bumps but Cedar Ridge next time round was hard, icey and very scratchy. Amazingly Kangaroo skied ok as long as you took the left side in the sun - I would imagine later in the day it was something of a waterfall. Boom Ridge was getting very heavy and Cedar Ridge remaining ugly and hard with Kangaroo the only redeeeming feature for a couple more laps. We headed to the New Side down a very slushy Boomerang Guts. The effect of all this variable skiing was to slow down significantly the amount of snow we could put under our skis.

We had three loops up Polar Peak in Barely Legal, Grand Pappa and Pappa Bear which were all getting very slushy before heading to base through High Saddle and Easter which were hard and ugly. Next time from Timber I dropped Lift Line which was very icey and bumpy. We had a couple more loops on Polar ( Barely Legal and Pappa Bear) which were as before and then headed own to lunch. My drop through Stag Leap stands out as the worst run of the day with some turns ending in deep elephant snot which almost stopped you while others ended on ice where you skis tried to fly out from under you and there was no obvious way of working out which was which. Lunch.

After lunch I did a few loops in Polar which were as they had been in the morning. I tried another drop through High Saddle which was not only mushy by now but poor light - this could be the end of a beautiful friendship. Lift Line had been closed to stop people getting across into Mars but I cut in under the last sign and shouldn't have bothered. It was just as hard and icey and ugly as it had been before lunch despite most of the rest of the hill turning to slush.

This time up Polar Peak there was some cloud cover (did I mention it was yet another bluebird day) and with the afternoon wearing on the chutes were stating to set up which actually gave a rather better skiing surface. After a couple of loops I realised that time was getting on so I hit Pappa Bear, Currie Powder and Gilmar Gully non stop from top to bottom - pretty knackering after the sort of day we had experienced. Actually as a lot of this was on stuff that had been groomed at some time to give a firm base it skied pretty well as the surface reformed in the cooling air.

Last loop was out to Skydive and we had no idea what to expect. Actually it was rather hard in the top section but from mid mountain with soft snow reforming on a firm base starting to take an edge it was much better than expected. Loads of beer with buddies who were on stat hols for Good Friday and now an early night as the legs took a real beating today. In a nutshell we either had mush or ice and not much in between and that's why I am no great fan of spring skiing.

Day 110 hot but different

Tonight's report may be a bit shorter or at least rather more disjointed than usual due to the Ski Patrol appreciation evening which involved getting unbelievably drunk with some ski patrol buddies. As they will all be too drunk to read this I will just go on record to say that they are the most awesome bunch of guys (gender non specific statement) who could ever look after a ski hill. They do the most professional job I have ever seen and remember I have seen a lot of ski hills in my time. Best of all they do it with good humour and a smile on their face while being prepared to risk their lives at any time to save yours - respect.

Today got warmer but in a different way. Over the past few days it has frozen at night, got warm in the sun but stayed ok on the north facing slopes, in fact what most of us would call normal spring skiing. Today it didn't really get cold overnight and was only -1 on the way to the hill. The conditions were mixed cloud cover so the warming didn't come from direct sunlight. ; instead it came from atmospheric warming which meant that for the first time this year surfaces softened irrespective of their aspect so that (for example) the bumps on top of Skydive which never really get the sun got quite soft. Later in the afternoon  the sun came out really quite hot and we were back to spring skiing.

We went to the Old Side and looped Cedar Ridge (firm but taking and edge) Kangaroo ( nice firm bumps but don't tell anyone in the Fernie locker room as they won't believe you despite not having skied the run themselves) and Boom Ridge which was ok but skiing a bit tougher than yesterday. We then went to the New Side and had High Saddle which was ok but work on the S5s (see later remarks) and then Easter which was ok with the bumps firm under the soft surface skiing pretty mellow. We had a last run to base through Decline which just felt a bit chunky and uneven compared with yesterday but I guess ok.

Of course all this was a bit subjective as my good skis (Shoguns) were in for repair so I was on my old S5s for the morning. It's amazing that when I went on to the Shoguns just over a year ago I didn't feel that I changed the way I skied just because the had 300m of rocker in the tip. Going back I found I had got used to just lifting the tips to direct the skies and having the S5s with no rocker and where you have to bring the tails round to redirect the skis was much more work and no where near so much fun. Worth noting that the problem with Shoguns was where the Salomon logo cut into the base had started to deliminate and had to be stuck down - stop trying to be so clever guys and just make us plain bases to ski on.

After lunch I got my Shoguns back from repair and can't remember feel such a release since my first divorce - they were light quick turning and even had some new edges and a bit of wax to help with the warm slush we were skiing on. I went to the New Side to play on the Polar Chutes.

I had runs down Barely Legal, Grand Pappa Bear and Pappa Bear all of which were super slushy on big bumps before heading out to Stag Leap which was in surprisingly good condition and was maybe the run of the day, even low down it wasn't too bad. It wasn't hard to work out that the only slightly wintery conditions were up Polar Peak so that's where I spent the rest of the afternoon. I lost count of the various runs but it was the usual suspects from the morning several times over plus a new variation by starting from Shale Slope and cutting left into Grand Pappa Bear through the rock bands. This took us almost up to final bell.

I took a last drop through High Saddle and found two boards and a skier in there kind of hung up. They let me through but to be quite honest it's tight enough in that cute without having three stiffs to negotiate on the way down - ah well, you do what you have to do and it was an ok run down below the chute and Easter bowl was still skiing firm but ok.

Skyidive at the end was ok but for the first time in many weeks I was there alone. Of course alone or not I hit it top to bottom with no break - well, there is such a thing as pride. I skipped the Griz tonight becuse of the Patroller party and the way I feel at the moment that is probably no bad thing. I will be interested to see how tomorrow starts given that almost all the hill softened today - that having been said valley temps aren't forecast to get below zero tonight so who knows.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day 109 just getting hotter

As forecast the ongoing warming trend has continued. Today we had another bluebird day which started at -6 which was way warmer than the -12 starting temps of earlier in the week. During the day temps tended to stay cool for most of the morning but began to spiral around lunch time so that the temp at the Polar Peak load mid afternoon happened to be around +6 with things much warmer in the direct sunlight. Even driving away from the hill tonight we noticed it was +10 down town.

The overall effect was that snow stayed pretty crisp during the morning but once the sun got hold everything south facing became very mushy indeed - even the Polar Chutes. By the end of the day the stuff that was in shadow or no longer had the direct sun was starting to set up to some pretty ugly refrozen crud.

Lynda decided to take the day off so I headed over to the Old Side to see what I could find. Without the sensible advice of Lynda I decided to try the Sunny Side shoulder on the basis that maybe the early sun had softened it. I was wrong big time and it was ugly hard refrozen horse's heads all across the face - in a nut shell I got there about 2 hours too early.

After that I took 4 loops which comprised Cedar Ridge starting at Bear Chair Top and ending at King Fir, Kanagroo as a return to base and then a loop on Boom Ridge back to boom chair between each Cedar Ridge drop just to ring the changes. Cedar Ridge was north facing and as such all the runs were on firm crisp snow which took a nice edge but which was well skied in. Kangaroo was good all four times with the upper section having some soft on the top of the bumps which it paid to ski - just about as good as Kangaroo ever gets. Boom Ridge might just have been the run of the day as it was firm but taking a nice edge and with quite big bumps that allowed for some very nice bump skiing with the bumps doing the hard work for you. Four loops of that and it was time for lunch.

Over lunch I took a gamble and got rid of my jacket and put on a light fleece instead. I also ditched my gloves in favour of some light inners and of course had already left off my thermals in favour of a pair of boxers but that is probably too much information. At first I thought I had made the wrong decision as things struck quite fresh but not long into the afternoon I realised that things were getting very warm and I had made a good call.

I went to the New Side and straight up Polar for a Barely Legal and then Pappa Bear loop in the chutes. The chutes were much softer than I thought they would be with a sliding surface of mush on a none too firm base. It really felt like the skis might slither out at any time. Route to base was High Saddle And Easter Bowl and even though the saddle was a little more scraped out it still skied ok as did Easter bowl.

Next time up Polar we did a Grand Pappa Bear, Crusty the clown and Bill's chute into Mamma Bear. Just like before they were getting very soft and I dread to think how they will set up tonight. The route to base this time was through Stag Leap which of course had softened but actually was in much better shape than I thought it woud be. The high skier traffic through the lower section had actually created some nice firm bumps.

I got to the top of White Pass with not much time to spare so I dropped 1-2-3s which isn't something I often do. The snow was in ok shape as it is north facing but it was very tracked up and disturbed with traverse lines which made skiing challenging. The snow was also rather chunky which just added to the problems. The Gilmar Gully was probably some of the best skiing with the high skier traffic having pounded in the snow and the bumps coming at you at pretty regular intervals.

We just got to Skydive in time and had the usual rip. Like yesterday there were bumps in the top and the mid section was more bumpy thaqn before and the snow seemed to had a reset feel to it. The bottom section was just tough and scratchy to the point that you had to slow down and take a fairly cautious line. Of course we dropped it in one.

Another night of a fews beers on the locals deck in the sun. Remember the appreciation party for Groomers and Patrollers tomorrow night at the Corner Pocket at 6 o'clock.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 108 spring has sprung

After yesterday's adventure we decided to have a rather more mellow day today, at least as far as the skiing goes. This didn't stop us having a pretty good deck party after skiing finished today on the locals deck and another party tonight down at the Northern where they were doing their awesome offer of a burger and a beer for 10 bucks.

With all that partying this report is late and it could end up quite short. It was -9 on the deck this morning and it was another bluebird day all day so that temps got up as the day went on. By the end of the day everything south facing had turned to mush and even up in the Polar Chutes we were starting to see some softening for the first time this year.

We went to the Old Side and did four loops along Cedar Ridge starting at the Bear Top and ending at King Fir. All along it was firm north facing skiing on compacted snow. Two of the loops were completed through Spice Trees which still had some soft untracked snow against all odds and all four were through Kangaroo which skied ok on hard icey bumps with some soft on top. We also had one drop through Boom Ridge which was also firm but taking an edge.

We went to the New Side only to find that the Timber Chair was down so we had an early lunch just to kill time. After lunch Timber Chair was running again so we went to the New Side for the afteroon.

Polar Peak was in good shape with a great 360 degree view from the top and as clear as I can ever remember seeing it. We dropped Barely Legal and Pappa Bear which were both firm bumps taking an edge before trying High Saddle (still in good condition particularly the fields below) and Easter Bowl - firm but easy bumps.

Back up Polar and we took Grand Pappa Bear and Mamma Bear which were showing signs of softening on the far (south facing) sides for the first time this season in the spring sunlight. We ran to base through Skydive which was ok bumps in the top and soft snow in the warm conditions from the mid point down.

Next Polar loop was Baby Bear  (getting soft) and Decline (ok skiing as it faces away fom the sun) before a final loop of Spirit Bear which was interesting because where the snow was dark from blasting it was about 10 times softer than where it was unaffected - interesting. The run to base was through Stag Leap which was in good condition on the right where it had remained in the shade but was getting crunchy and setup on the left where it had melted and was now refreezing.

We had time for a couple of speed runs through White Pass at the end of the day to kill time which confirmed that things were beginning to set up. Last run was Skydive which was bumps in the top as before but getting very crunchy and scratchy lower down as the surface set up towards the end of day - we still ripped it in one.

Loads of booze on the deck and at the Northern and some trepidation as to what tomorrow might hold on any even slightly south facing surfaces until they warm up and begin to soften again - real spring skiing in way.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 107 my biggest day ever

I'm sorry but today was not about the hill and what it was like but was about me and what I skied, if that causes anyone a problem then now is the time to exit the site. In summary today was 8 Polar Peaks through the chutes, 2 Currie Head Walls through different chutes and 3 High Saddles. Any one of these in the past would have justified the title "a big day" but when you put them together I am sure they justify the title of the biggest days skiing I have ever had. Let us try and put all of this in context.

It was cold again overnight with deck temps this morning of -12 and still -10 when we got to the hill. It was the first pure bluebird day we have had for sometime (although the forecasters say not the last) so temps rose steadily all day in the warm sunny conditions. By late morning it was +4 at the base, zero at the White Pass load and -5 at the Polar Peak load. By early afternoon the temps were +7, +2 and zero respectively and after that I just gave up counting. The result was that anything south facing got soft fast if it was low down and even high up it was getting a bit mellow by late afternoon. North facing remained crisp and taking a nice edge all day.

We had decided on a New Side day just because we had and went up to White Pass feeling rather lethargic for reasons I don't fully understand. We had quick trip back down through the Gun Bowl and Highline Trees which seemed to get things in place and headed for Polar Peak. The view from the top was just stunning in the bluebird conditions and we looped Barely Legal and Pappa Bear which were both firm bumps taking and edge before going out to try High Saddle. I think the sign in the top of High Saddle warning of marginal conditions and saying that the skiing wasn't recommended was a great help - it kept poeple out and preserved the chute in very good soft snow conditions. Route to base under the saddle was soft if chunky powder and Easter bowl was getting to be soft bumps but very mellow.

Next loop was just Mamma Bear off Polar and then Stag Leap which was skiing remarkably soft although with some hard underlying bumps. Next Polar expedition was a return trip through Grand Pappa Bear to the load which was as everywhere hard and chunky bumps and then Baby Bear which was much the same followed by the usual drop through High Saddle and Easter which were much as before but with some sign of boards having side slipped the Saddled - a hanging offence in my view.

Before lunch we just had time for a quick loop through Easter which was still firm but taking and edge. I cut right into Spinal Tap which was tracked up through the higher chute but ok - lower down it was all a bit scratchy in the creek bed and actually pretty hard work. Lunch.

After lunch it was back up Polar Peak for some practice on Barely Legal which was still skiing ok on a hard base. Next time up I worked my way over to the Clown Chutes to get a good look at the Head Wall. Luckily (?) my buddy Rob appeared along with my other buddy Randy and they had both just skied the Head Wall. We hiked up to the Wimp Chutes and dropped in. It was super steep in the top and a bit icey (you really have to see it to understand just how steep it is) but then nice ordinary steep skiing through the rest of the chute.

Next time to the Head Wall we hiked on to Up Right chute on the grounds that Randy said is was more mellow than Wimp Chutes. I can only wish I had a bottle of what Randy was on as it was a tight slide over a cliff drop before having two tight icey turns in a very gnarly chute just to get started. After that it opened up into some nice deep powder skiing for the rest of the way.

After that I went up Polar and had a Pappa Bear/High Saddle/Easter drop which actually seemed like a bunny run after the Head Wall and was just as good as it had been in the morning. I just had time for a quick White Pass loop through the Gun Bowl and Highline Trees (still seeming so easy) before heading out to Skydive for the last run. Skydive was bumpy in the top and quite hard but softened in the mid section before becoming a little scratchy at the end. I skied it in one although my legs were pretty shot from the Head Wall ridge hiking but it was a bit slower than usual.

After a day like today it was a huge beer evening on the locals deck as the sun went down - a perfect day. Just a reminder of the Patrol and Groomer appreciation evening on Thursday at the Corner Pocket at 6. It should be great evening (it usually is) and it is also a good way of showing appreciation to the staff that make our skiing safe or even possible - go if you can, no excuses.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Day 106 sounds boring but yet another good day

It isn't my fault that nothing much is happening with conditions on the hill and what we are seeing is a slow work through of the results of a big storm cycle. The days are mostly bluebird but with some cloud cover that protects the snow at vital times and as a result things don't change a huge amount from day to day. Lucky for us the underlying conditions that are being preserved are rather good, not awesome, not fantastic or any of the other superlatives but rather good for Fernie which may be regarded in higher terms in other places where the bar is set lower.

Overnight temps again dropped to -12 which dried out the snow and left us with firm but responsive snow in most places but of course ugly crust where we had seen sun affect melting taking place - mostly on very south facing slopes such a Knot Chutes, Concussion, Snake Ridge and to some extent Steep and Deep. The weather was bluebird for a time when we had some quite long periods of clear sky snow. This occurs when moist warm air crashes into a cold air mass so fast that the moisture doesn't have time to form visible moisture (clouds) but just falls as snow. The effect is for snow to fall out of a clear blue ski in sunshine which is so cool - it only happens in fairly cold temps.

Around the middle of the day the clouds socked in particularly on the New Side around Polar Peak so that the temps stayed down and the snow was not sun affected at the warmest part of the day. In the afternoon things cleared and it warmed up all over the hill but I guess it was only just above plus temps at the base and well below from mid mountain and above.

We went to the Old Side and concluded that it wasn't worth hitting out all the way across Cedar Bowl towards Redtree on the grounds that it would be hard work and the skiing wouldn't be any better than the nearer stuff off Cedar Ridge. Later there proved to be a further bonus to this decision as we heard that a moose was loose on Redtree road trapping skiers and being a bit of a problem. Moosey would do well to remember what happened last year to the moose that attacked people out there - the environmental officer was called in to deal with it and it was delicious.

We worked our way slowly along Cedar Ridge with four drops that started with the chutes right at the top of  Bear and finishing at King Fir. The skiing on the north facing slopes was soft on top with some hoar frost covering taking an easy edge on the soft slightly bumped surface underneath. Each return was through Kangaroo which was icey bumps but skiing ok for icey bumps. Somewhere in there we took a quick trip down Boom Ridge which skied a lot softer than I expected even between the soft bumps. It was time for the New Side.

We went up Polar and found it was as white as I have ever seen it (or rather not seen it) in some very flat light. We had just one trip down Pappa Bear which was firm bumps with a little soft on top. Just like yesterday I took the route to base via High Saddle and Easter bowl and just like yesterday I found High Saddle skiing ok after the first icey turn and good soft snow underneath. Easter was some pretty ok soft bumps. Next time round the light had improved so I dropped Polar through Barely Legal which was firm but still full of snow and then ripped Stag Leap which was remarkably soft considering how long ago the fresh snow had come. Lunch.

After lunch I went back up Polar Peak and spent most of the afternoon playing in the chutes (Barely Legal, Grand Pappa, Pappa, the Clown chutes several times over) which were all tracked and firm and of course pretty steep. My main objective had been to find a buddy to take out to the Currie Headwall but no one wanted to play ball and I just don't feel happy about heading out there myself - this is my next objective - to get as comfortable with the headwall as I am with the things I used to be uncomfortable with eg the Saddles which I now think of as bunny runs.

I looped to base via High Saddle and Easter which as in the morning were great skiing in soft tracked snow. I just had time for a quick loop off White Pass and missed Polar Chair by about 30 seconds. I cut into 1-2-3s about half way up 2 for some good soft north facing skiing. The exit via Bootleg Glades and Gilmar Gully were nice mellow tracked skiing.

And so we came to Skydive for the final rip and it was bumpy in the top, mellow in the middle and bit scratchy low down, in fact exactly what you would expect on a day like this. The Griz bar was much quieter tonight and I don't know if it was in response to my comments last night but Kokanee was on offer at $4.75 a pint which is much better than the usual $6.25 to my mind.

Tomorrow is another day.