Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Season summary 2012-13

Again apologies for the slight delay in producing the report. Yesterday I got a call from Fernie Ford to tell me that my 13 year old Explorer needed a new transmission which would probably cost more than the car was worth. After some quick calcuations and some rather more protracted negotiations we drove away in a 4 year old F150 truck , bright red in colour so watch out for me in the new vehicle next season.

So, what strikes me about the ski season just gone looking back on it. I think I would characterise it as being a season of extremes even by the standards of Fernie. For example, the worst opening, the best pre Christmas ever, the driest January, the warmest Feb, the hottest late March and the best late snow and closing day, but more of all these things in their place. Before starting it is worth mentioned some comments that I have had from buddies who ski tour and have told me that this season was the best ever for them due to the relatively light snow falls in January and February and as a result the very low avi risks allowing them to tour almost without resriction.

On the hill we opened with a very thin snow pack and the first few days were some of the ugliest rain crust I can remember with only the Old Side open for the first week. Things then turned round and we had 170 cms of snow in just over a week and it became the best pre Christmas skiing that anyone could remember, certainly the best since the New Side opened back in the late 90's. The hill appeared to have got a better understanding of how to get Polar Peak working this year and as a result we had some awesome runs in the Polar Chutes with no one here during December mid week skiing. Probably the best run of the season was when we put first tracks in Cougar Glades (of the season) in thigh deep untracked powder. December came to an end with the snow tapering off but a very respectable 2 and bit metre base and only light crowds (in my opinion) for the Christmas/New Year holiday period.

We looked set for another epic season but in January things rather went on hold. On the plus side we didn't have any deep freeze arctic high days when the temps never get above -30 and indeed we didn't have very cold weather all season. On the negative side we didn't have much new snow. There were a handful of routine powder days (ok, I know they would be epic in most parts of the world but this Fernie) but nothing to get really excited about. The base crept up to about 2 and a half metres and all the talk was of a snow drought.

Most of February continued much as January but with the addition that it started to get warm during the day. I don't mean spring skiing or anything like that but my recollection is that during February it just about got to plus temps at the base stations on almost every day. The result was that the snow we got was pretty wet, the skiing was ok but not greaat and the base stayed below 2 and a half metres until the last week of Feb. Last week in Feb we got a mix of rain events which were some of the worst in memory and some good skiing when it cooled.

The first couple of weeks of March were very much like the end of  Feb with some horrible rain events but also some good snow as the wet pacific systems came in with warm air on the front and cooling as they pass through. The third week in March brough a much better snow cycle so that by the 21st the base passed 3 metres for the first time in the season, peaking a couple of days later at about 330 cms. Just when we thought things were starting to go our way nature struck back for the last week of March with the warmest temps I have seen, +18 one day on the hill and a 7 day bluebird period (unheard of in Fernie) when night time temps didn't really go below zero. Huge areas of the hill became unstable as the snow lost it's integrety from the surface right down to the base. In fact the highlight of the month was on the 30th when 540 of us took a drink simultaniously of the longest shot ski in the world and set a new world record.

At the beginning of April there was a lot of debate as to whether or not the hill would hold out to closing but nature had another trick to play. Winter returned with colder weather, freezing temps at night (for the most part) the hill getting re opened and some rather good powder skiing. The final week was the least busy I can remember with only 54 customers being recorded one day and that included about 30 in groups taking their level 2 instructor courses. This brought us to closing weekend which was the best ever. The Saturday gave us a heavy dump so that quite a lot of the hill remained closed but with cooling overnight the snow stabalized and Sunday we had 67 cms of fresh snow to trash all over the hill and the base back up to about 320 cms having dropped to 210 in the hot weather. A fantastic finish.

So in summary I would put the season as slightly better than average but but no means as good as the last two years which were just epic. I managed 127 days most of which were full 9-4 no groomer days. I didn't keep count of the trips up Polar Peak this year but I would guess at about 300 times (only skiing the chutes as long as they were open )the higher number being achievable because the Peak was open so much more often this year now they have worked out how to keep it running. Highlight for me was my first drops off Currie Head Wall which were a lot steeper that they looked or I thought they would be. That having been said looking into Richards now from the top doesn't look anything like as scary as the Wimp Chutes so who knows next season.

Off at the end of next week to sail boats and run marathons for the summer. As usual I will probably put together a Fall report when I am over here at the house in September. A special thanks and goodbye to all my blog readers who make my day by saying hi on the hill, it's nice to be appreciated.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 127 an awesome final day - maybe the best ever

First of all apologies for the late report on the final day, not only was the skiing awesome but so was the end of season party and hence the rather late report. I am now sitting down at the breakfast table wracking my brains to try and remember what happened just 24 hours ago - as I said it was a good party.

Over Saturday night the snow coninued off and on and temps got down to about -6 which stabalized the snow and dried out a lot of what had come down wet in the previous 24 hours. The result was that what had been open on Saturday was filled in and soft powder and what hadn't been skied (and bear in mind that with White Pass chair closed all day this was most of upper Timber bowl, all of Currie bowl and the Reverse Traverse with Currie chutes and the Big 3) was deep untracked powder to a new depth of about 67 cms. If things opened we were clearly in for a big day.

We went to the New Side on the grounds that offered the most previously unopened area and immediatly found Lift Line open and soft deep lightly tracked powder down to White Pass load. As we rode up White Pass they dropped the fence on the Zig Zag and we were getting excited planning our route down. We needn't have bothered as when we were about three chairs off White Pass top we heard a cheer and unloaded to find they had just dropped the fence on Currie Bowl.

We raced out to Stag Leap which we had seen untracked from the Timber chair and got about third tracks in. It was one of the best runs of the season and in the deep hero snow we pretty much straight lined down as far as the final roll when things got just a little heavier. Conditions were bluebird so things were softening fast in the direct sunlight although later in the day it did cloud over keeping what hadn't melted in great shape (hero powder) and what had softened just started to set up again.

Next loop we looked at the Saddles which were closed and remained so all day due to avi risk over in Lizard Bowl. We looked down Skydive which seemed a bit tracked and so hit the Brain where there werer a couple of tracks in front of us but they soon disappeared in the trees and it was awesome deep powder in the trees on the right shoulder of the creek bed. Next was Cougar Glades which pulled it's usual bluff on the inexperienced. It was tracked in the top but if you cut left early in trees there were untracked lines all the way down. The lower section on the disused cat track was rather claggy and I managed a good stack on some hidden deadfall but no harm done.

To get away from the sun I hit Decline/Window Chutes and found Decline soft tracked deep powder and Window Chutes with some untracked lines through the trees at the top. To keep north facing next I traversed the top of the Knot Chutes which looked quite tempting but a bit soft and pieced my way into the top of Gotta Go. I hit the left chute (Goolge Earth) and found it totally untracked and super deep powder - even lower down in the top of 3's things were pretty good. Bootleg Glades had been closed for several days and the signs at the top were ambiguous, well we thought they were, and so we dropped in for some spectacular deep powder face shots.

Last run before lunch I hiked up to Lone Fir and got my only disappointment of the day. I think patrol must have thrown a shot in Lone Fir as it was pretty scratchy but the fan below was as good as I have ever seen it, or to be more accurate as I haven't seen it as I couldn't see anything with the over the head face shots. I did think about traversing hard left to get under the Saddles but it looked like there was a ton of debrise under them so I guess even if they had been open the skiing wouldn't have been any better than what we had. I ran to lunch through Spinal Tap which was deep and soft with a few suckers holes into the creek bed itself to catch the unwary.

I had notcied how good Easter Bowl had looked when I crossed it before lunch to get to Spinal Tap so first run after lunch was Easter and it was deep tracked powder on the north facing slope. Next, it seemed to me tha Anaconda might be a good bet and I was right. The second Chute was great and the biggest problem was your own slough which as it was closing day I just decided to let rip and surf it out - awesome. It occured to me that I hadn't done Decline all the way down so off I went. The top section was as good as ever but lower down it was a tricky mix of chopped up melted powder and harder set up.

Of course the final run of the day/year had to be Skydive. Although it was tracked up it was still great skiing in the top, then setting up a little, then going soft for most of the lower section, then setting up for the last two turns - I have no idea why we had that mixed bag but it was great way to finish.

I can't recall a better closing day, or one when I have been able to ski one of the serious runs, let alone all of them. Skiing was so good that I totally ignored the Slope Soaker pond skimming event which I am told was good. The band in the Plazza was the fantastic Shred Kelly and the booze flowed.

So that's it, a couple of weeks of sorting out "stuff" and then back to the UK. Watch this space for my season report in a day or two when I have gathered my thoughts.