Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Day 27 happy new years eve to everyone

Before I start today I have to make further point of clarification. After I posted yesterday how the conditions on the hill were much better for groomer skiers than my reports might suggest I have been asked by a number of buddies if I had been leaned on to make that statement. I can honestly say that the things I said were entirely off my own bat and in the interests of being fair which you all know is something that is very important to me. Furthermore any attempt to influence my opinion would be greeted with my standard response to such actions, i.e. F- off. so I hope that deals with any such speculation.

It warmed a bit today but not much so it was -18 on the way to the hill and -17 on the way back. During the day it warmed a bit on the hill and I noticed at the Polar Peak load at about noon it was -15 so it stayed pretty cold all day. It was another bluebird Arctic outflow giving hard cold freezing conditions. Like all these "sunny" days the light was great in the sun but as soon as you got in the shadow you got defused white light which gave very patchy viz during the day.

Again because of the very cold conditions with a good chance of frost bite we divide our day into three with a choccy break around 11 and a late lunch -

Part 1 - we went to the Old Side and noticed that skiers right of Bear hadn't been groomed and as a result was bumped up with hard challenging bumps. We took about three runs down in a straight line which was enough to get us warm. The rest of the time we looped Cedar Ridge, Boom Ridge and Boomerang which were hard, bumpy and tricky. The only soft snow was in the lower part of Kangaroo which was super soft but very twiggy.

Part 2 - after the choccy break we headed up the New Side. Polar Peak was open and we hit it twice coming down through the clown chutes (Crusty's) which was actually very crusty. The skiing was pretty crap being very wind affected but the views were spectacular. By some phenomenon I don't fully understand we were looking at mirages and the surrounding mountains with inverted images of those mountains imposed on the real thing - just awesome.  It was then a loop through Decline and that followed by a loop through Cougar Glades/ Stag Leap which was hard bumpy cold snow and just like yesterday.

Part 3 - Lynda went home and I did three New Side loops. New Chute off Skydive/Spinal Tap which was very good hard chunky skiing and very technical in the lower creek bed. Decline/Window chutes great skiing on top and very good deep snow in the chute and a bit technical after the choke.

Last run was Skydive and as usual it was very good in the first two sections and twiggy low down. I even had company for the first time in days (thanks Kevin) and it was pretty good. The only downside was on the ski out at the end which I was taking at speed when I lost the light and hit some newly made snow and stacked it big big time. Worst crash in years and bruises everywhere but nothing that will slow down the skiing, I hope.

Beers to celebrated New Year and a hot tub to soak away the pain. Like many locals I avoid the public places on holidays because of the crowds and will have a quiet New Year, emerging from the shadows in a day or two.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Day 26 a point of clarification

I think in fairness to all concerned that when I talk about conditions being tough and brutal (and I will certainly be doing that a little later on ) I am referring to the skiing off the groomers. As everyone knows I don't ski groomers, I don't even consider skiing groomers as skiing. That having been said I appreciate that a lot of people get pleasure out of this and to many it is the only "skiing" that they do. For those I would say that the groomers in Fernie at the moment are great from the limited experience I have of them getting from one place to another and if that is your thing don't be put off by what I say. If on the other hand your view of skiing is like mine, pin your ears back and listen.

On the way to the hill today it was -28 and a bluebird day. This is typical of an Arctic outflow as no moisture, visible or otherwise, can exist in air at that temperature. Up top it was probably only a couple of degrees colder but thankfully no wind at first. We were promised a warm up but when Lynda got to the hill at around 1 she had temps in the truck of -20 in the parking lot. By this time wind was starting to pick up particularly in White Pass and my guess would be that we had a wind affected temp of -30 before we headed off the hill at 4.

A special mention has to go to the lifties and the ticket checkers today. It was bad enough for those of us who were moving around in these temps. They had to stand around all day and even at the end of the day had a smile and a cheerful word for us nutters. Great work guys and girls, you are real stars.

I had decided that the day would be three modules with an early hot chocy break, a late lunch break and then beers afterwards. Each session was only going to give me time for a couple of runs in White Pass and a couple of loops to base before some of my most personal possessions (not going to mention them here) would be frozen forever.

Module 1 - drops from Timber to White Pass were always by Lift Line and always hard bumpy snow. A couple of runs up and down Gun Bowl and Highline confirmed that like yesterday the cold had given us hard ugly challenging conditions with some wind sift/ wind slab to surprise you from time to time. The first loop to base was via Decline which was ok hard chunky snow. The Reverse Traverse going out is getting very sketchy and whilst this doesn't bother me I would imagine it would be carnage if an intermediate group tried it. Next loop was Anaconda Glades which were really very soft and Bootleg Glades which were hard and bumpy with loads of alders on the exit.

Module 2 - After a break in Lost Boys CafĂ© it was up and down White Pass a couple of times with the same conditions. Loop one was down via Currie Creek which was good soft lightly tracked snow but very twiggy and technical on the exit. Next loop Stag Leap ( please note the singular) which was soft but very tight in the trees, great soft snow in the top but hard bumpy technical skiing where traffic (self included) had cut in from Cougar Glades.

Module 3 - After lunch Lynda joined me for the obligatory couple of runs down White Pass which were no better or worst than before. Next loop I went out to the new chute (name ?) at the top of Skydive and hit it all the way down to Freeway in some very variable conditions and tight bushes. I would like to say that this was me exploring but the truth was I just missed the traverse to Spinal Tap. On the off chance I dropped Siberia Ridge off Timber and found it wind affected in the top, ugly in the choke (as usual) but the best soft deep lightly tracked snow in the lower section even allowing for some new dead fall left there just to surprise you.

Last run of course was Skydive via the traverse which wasn't getting any better. Icy bumps in the top, good snow on freeriding terrain in the middle and some pretty twiggy stuff in the lower section. All in all a very tough days skiing in some pretty brutal conditions but actually these are the days when your skiing gets better, either that or you hurt yourself.

Loads of beers with buddies and then home to more beers and a hot tub. Temps driving back from the hill were up to -17 so maybe we are in for a warm up - lets see.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Day 25 very cold, hard skiing and brutal conditions - but great fun

As forecast we had no new snow and the Arctic high slipped in from Alberta with some strong winds giving some very cold conditions, made all the colder by wind chill. On the way to the hill this morning it was -14 and on the way back -19 never having got warm during the day. Temps tonight are due to go down to -25. The problem was the wind which was strong, particularly on the New Side and may have pushed the real temps to a further 10 degrees below the mercury. The other problem was that there had obviously been a big wind event on the hill and conditions were either scoured to a hard base, or wind sift, or (and this was the most common) ugly wind slab.

It was quite sunny off and on but the effect was to give defused white light in the areas not in direct sunlight making viz very difficult. The overnight freeze had made the snow hard and unforgiving and on terrain subject to a lot of skier traffic this just gave brutal skiing conditions. Add to this the fact that none of us ski well in these very cold conditions for three reasons - Firstly, we are so bundled up we can't move - Secondly, our muscles don't move as normal - Thirdly the body seems to burn energy just to keep warm so energy levels foe skiing are low. Finally poor and variable light made us all ski a bit back seat making for less controlled skiing and more strain on the legs.

Against the cold it was two pairs of thermal long johns, 5 layers under the ski jacket, woollen gloves in the powder mits with hot shots and a fleece balaclava showing no skin - I always find it funny how many people ignore the warnings and head up with exposed skin and are so surprised when they come down with frost bite - you can't fix stupid.  I was nice and toastie all day but still stopped for two breaks to thaw out.

We went to the Old Side and toured round Cedar Ridge, Boom Ridge, Boomerang and similar areas. As anticipated it was all hard chunky bumpy skiing which took a lot of effort. Lower Kangaroo was the only nice soft untracked snow and that was rather bushy. After a couple of hours of this we hit the New Side and got to understand the real meaning of cold as a mixture of greater altitude and stronger winds hit us. One loop down Decline confirmed that the Reverse Traverse had become a tough hard ice track and not a lot of fun. Decline itself was ok but much tougher than the last few days with the bumps and terrain very hard indeed.

After a hot chocy break I looped -
Cougar Glades/ Stag Leap - less slab in the glades due to tree cover but very hard bumpy chunky skiing in Stag Leap.
Decline - top to bottom again still very hard.
Skydive - ditto

After a late lunch there wasn't much time but I hit Decline/Window Chutes where the skiing in the chutes remains quite soft but everything else hard. Next was trip down the new gladed area off Skydive cutting right into Secret Chutes which aren't so secret any more. Spinal Tap was good challenge jumping in and out of the stream bed in the lower section. By that time it was 4 o'clock and time for the Skydive rip which I completed alone as no one else seemed to be around. It was pretty good but the lower section is now getting a bit technical in the hard snow.

I had intended to go to the hockey tonight but I just felt so beat up by the hill that I had a couple of beers and went home - couldn't even get out to the hot tub. The forecast is for even colder more brutal conditions tomorrow before a warming trend with some snow comes in towards the end of the week. Looks like a few early nights for me with most of the body complaining.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Day 24 not qute awesome but still very very good

Yesterday we were hoping for a big dump over night but it didn't quite happen. We had some snow overnight and the 24 hour fall figure was given as 37 cms of which I would estimate about 5 was fresh overnight. This still gave very good powder on yesterday's deep base and a mid mountain base figure of around 170 cms.

On the way to the hill today it was -6 and on the way back -9 with temps a good few degrees lower up the mountain. There was some wind adding to the chill and obviously there had been wind last night judging by the wind affected snow in places and the wind slab on the ridge lines at the top of most runs. Polar Peak chair remained closed due to  the wind chill and given the fact that conditions up there were brutal over the past couple of days and an arctic outflow is forecast I don't see us getting the Peak for several days.

As first full day of the winter break it was very busy and we only just managed to get parked in lot 2 at 8:30. Just like yesterday most of the crowds seemed to gather in the core areas or in the day lodge so that where we wanted to ski was not much busier than a normal weekend. The day lodge was ugly busy but then this is just a week when we have to suck it up and look forward to a quiet January. Lift lines were pretty big but by riding single you could keep delays at the loads down to reasonable numbers.

We went to the New Side where once again I figured the big waves would be. Don't panic Old Side fans, we intend to have at least a morning there tomorrow and will report. Riding singles to get up quicker we got to the top of White Pass in time to have early tracks back down Gun Bowl and Highline which were good deep snow and all that was available as everything else was closed. Next time Knot Chutes opened and I put first tracks in a soft and deep Tight Knot before heading over to Anaconda where the fence dropped and we had super deep powder in the second chute. The return to base was via Bootleg Glades which had deep powder in the near trees and was a bit twiggy lower down.

The rest of the morning was spent looping Currie with some very good results -
Cougar Glades - third track in which meant untracked skiing in the trees to the left. An exit into Stag Leap where there were a couple of tracks gave some really good powder as well.
Lone Fir/ Spinal Tap - a bit scrappy in the lower chute but good soft snow other than that and the fan was just awesome. Traversed Easter and hit Spinal tap which was very good in the creek bed and nice technical skiing on the shoulder of the creek lower down.
Decline/Window Chutes - Nice tracked powder in Decline and loads of untracked stuff in the Window Chutes, almost got taken out by my own slough in the choke.
Decline - great skiing with very few tracks in the lower section which is now pretty treeless.
The Brain - a few tracks in the top section and some places that needed big jumps into soft snow to get through. The lower section had some great pitches of deep untracked snow but after about 8 turns you had to stop and pick your way out of the deadfall before starting again.
Skydive - a last rip before a late lunch and it was very icy bumps at the top but becoming awesome soft snow freeriding for the most part and some rather technical jumping through alders in the lower section.

After lunch I skied with a buddy who wanted to try Lone Fir/Spinal Tap so we did again and it was just as good as before with very few additional tracks. We then dashed back from the top of White Pass when we got there to the top of Timber and then hit Siberia Ridge. The skiing was surprisingly good with a slightly sketchy area in the choke but no worse than usual and then some great terrain driven free riding in the lower section in soft deep tracked powder.

We got back up just in time for the final rip down Skydive. Things were just a bit more tracked but it was still really nice soft deep snow until the final section when it all became rather technical. That was one good day on the hill skiing fresh snow on a soft base with first tracks in many areas. The forecast is for maybe a little more snow then an arctic freeze down below -25. This will make the skiing very chunky and tough but with any luck will keep the crowds off the hill. More snow called for at the end of the week.

So some very good skiing in rather less crowded conditions than I anticipated.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 23 some crowds but some awesome new snow

We confidently expected today to be one of the busiest days of the year but it didn't seem to turn out that way. There were crowds sure enough but they seemed to be sticking to the core groomed ski areas, and of course the day lodge. My buddy reckons that the locals were put off with the idea of the big crowds and stayed away so as a result the kind of places we like to ski were less crowded than on an average weekend.

Overnight they reported 7 cms of fresh which seemed about right. Rather unexpectedly it continued to snow all day so that my guess would be that by close we had another 10 cms. The forecast is for another 20 cms overnight and it certainly is still snowing so tomorrow could be pretty spectacular. The effect of all this was that we had good untracked snow to find in the morning but even as the day wore on we had great fill in to ski on and a base that was always getting bigger and softer. By the end of the day we were skiing without touching the bottom in most places.

On the way to the hill it was -5 and on the way back it was -6 so temps stayed pretty constant. Up higher it was a few degrees cooler and of course up Polar peak it was brutal as always. Viz was generally ok over the hill but socked in anywhere around the White Pass top and above. The runs we hit today were -
Decline - first tracks with deep snow all the way down.
Cougar Glades - third track in but the other soon disappeared leaving great untracked down to the trail. We cut left into Stag Leap and as I said yesterday were surprised just how high up the cut in was leaving a long run down with only one track in front.
Polar Peak/Skydive - no viz up Polar and some icy skiing below the chair on the way down. Skydive was soft and deep with only a couple of tracks ahead and nothing down the skiers right side, great skiing.
Lone Fir/Easter - The chute was little technical but the fan underneath was just awesome deep powder and even Easter was getting ok deep snow.
Polar Peak,/Decline/Window Chutes -This time on Polar we tracked round to the fence by Pappa Bear and had the most amazing soft flat deep skiing on wind sifted snow. Decline was still quite good in the top section with some lightly tracked powder in the top. Window chutes were just spectacular with us having to beat out our sloughs in the choke to avoid being taken out.
Polar Peak/ Secret Chutes/ Spinal Tap - again in Polar we hit the soft snow on the far fence in the chutes, when it is that soft and deep and flat you simply don't need to be able to see. We dropped the newly gladed area at the top of Skydive into Easter right side and had some great deep untracked lines. We cut hard right into Spinal Tap which was not that easy to find but the upper chute was good deep snow and the lower part got a bit technical jumping in and out of the creek bed but was still some pretty nice untracked snow.

I think I may have left out a couple of Cougar Glade loops and certainly a drop down Stag Leap which was great skiing but a little twiggy lower down - trouble with doing this blog in the evening after a few beers is that the memory is not all it could be. The truth is that runs were all great with snow filling in on the tracked powder making for some great conditions. Last run we hiked out to Mitchy Chutes for the second time in the day and had a good soft deep drop. Every return to White Pass other than those two had been via Lift Line which was tracked but ok skiing.

The last rip down Skydive was spectacular with so much new snow that you could just rip it like groomer  even if this did mean that your skis were in the air more than they were on the ground. Five of us made the trip tonight so the club is growing. After a day like that we just had to have too many beers in the Griz Bar and look forward to even more good skiing if the weather forecasts can be believed - pauses for laughter to subside.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Day 22 normal service is now resumed

After a few nights when I have had to do my blog at some ungodly hour of the night or while completely pissed due to Christmas celebrations we are now back to the usual mid evening report with me having only had a couple (well ok three) beers after skiing. On this subject I was apologising to a buddy in the locker room today for the possible variable quality of my blogs over the past few days due to alcohol and he said he hadn't noticed. I can't decide if this is a complement (I can make a good report even when three sheets to the wind) or and insult in that everything I write sounds like I have been hitting the source beforehand.

Today was predictably a slow start and we didn't get to the hill until 9:30 but as the crowds have not yet shown up that was no problem. My understanding is that today is a travelling day for the visitors and that we will only see the really big numbers from tomorrow to the New Year. Another buddy confirmed that there isn't a single hotel room available in Fernie over the New Year so from now on we had better get to the hill early.

It was -6 when we arrived with no new snow. During the day temps fell if anything and on the way home tonight it was -12. Up top it was ok on the Old Side but about -10 on the New Side and a brutal -20 with windchill (my best guess) going up Polar Peak. Viz came and went but in the afternoon on the New Side it socked right in so skiing was actually quite testing and no clearing took place until about half way down the mountain.

We went to the Old Side to push out into Snake Ridge. Now I know that a couple of days ago I said the juice wasn't really worth the squeeze when it came to pushing out there but with no new openings available on the New Side it had to be worth testing. We knew we would be doing some serious bushwhacking where we were going so there wouldn't be that much skiing but hey, it's Boxing Day, what else are you going to do.

We traversed out to the boundary fence and dropped into the Fish bowl (out of bounds) but only took the near Poppa Chutes because if the avi risk. It was good deep untracked powder but with lots of alders and we bailed into Redtree which was ok and only partially tracked. When we arrived at the top of Haul Back we saw that Kangaroo was open for the first time this year, The top section was good to begin and finish but the mid section was just a nightmare, looking more like a Christmas tree sale lot than a ski run. The bottom part was good deep snow but still some serious undergrowth to contend with. We heard later in the day that Kangaroo had been shut and that doesn't surprise me.

We looped Boom Ridge which was ok soft bumps with lots of twigs and then Boom itself which was ok harder bumps with twigs but some pretty bad light at the moment we tried it. Next time out to Snake we hit the near side of Steep and Deep via Gorby bowl which was very deep and very aldery so you had to pick your way down. The exit chute in skiers right was sketchy ice and more alders. not for the first time this year it occurred to me that the summer months might have been better spent removing alders from existing runs rather than cutting new glades, but then what do I know. We looped back only taking lower Kangaroo this time.

We went to the New Side and had a shock. The conditions seemed about 5 degrees colder with socked in conditions and a brutal trip up to Polar Peak, The coaster was still the only way down and I groped across until I got under the chair, not because I thought the snow would be good but just to get some visual reference points in the fog. Up until this stage the snow had been much chunkier and harder everywhere which I put down to the cooling conditions. Things changed as we ran down Decline as last run before lunch which was soft and deep and just very nice skiing.

After lunch I went back to the New Side and back up Polar. It was still brutally cold, so much so that my buddy Lee who I was skiing with got frost bite on his nose. Again we groped down the Coaster and chutes and decided that Polar was a busted flush ( and a very cold one at that) today. We hit Cougar Glades and had great untracked lines by getting tight in the trees before cutting left on to Stag Leap. I am always surprised by how high you come out in Stag Leap when you do this and we had most of the run still with some deep soft snow to trash.

Next time round I did Decline again which was just as good as before lunch and definitely the run of the day. Running out of time I took a White Pass loop through Surprise Tress which were still good with some untracked lines if you hugged the trees on the right. It was 4 o'clock and time for Skydive which was good. Soft untracked snow on the skiers right in the top section, great free riding in the flats and even the final pitch was starting to get ok if very twiggy. The drop off by the bridge on the traverse on the way there is getting a bit funky but that suits me as it keeps the number down.

Beers, hot tub and an early night with some fresh snow forecast in the next 24 hours - works for me.

Day 21 the best Christmas Day's skiing ever

First of all apologies again for the late report but we had an outstanding Christmas Day's skiing followed by a couple of beers in the Griz Bar followed by and out standing Christmas meal with our friends Dan and Ruth with way too much more to drink than would seem humanly possible. This all may affect the quality of today's report although nothing could affect the quality of todays skiing which was simply outstanding,

We arrived at the hill a bit late due to Christmas Eve celebrations and did not get skiing until 10. This was largely due to sitting up on Christmas Eve and watching It's a Wonderful Life while drinking Jameson's Irish Whiskey.

On the way to the hill it was a bit overcast with temps of -5. There had been snow overnight but only 4 cms giving a light covering on yesterday's awesome powder. Up the mountain it got colder (-10 at the top) and throughout the day things didn't change much so that it was -6 as we drove away from the hill.

We went to the Old Side as it was traditional on Christmas day and had a good run down Cedar Ridge which was untracked on last nights snow but quite deeply tracked from the day before. It was ok deep tracked snow skiing. I looked in the top of Kangaroo from Haul Back and thought that it was unskiable due to the un cut 10 ft high Cedars. I have been told that the hill is hoping for Kangaroo to die from natural causes and I hope I am wrong on this, any informed opinion would be welcome. Having taken the Cedar Trail across the lower section of Kangaroo it looked pretty good and I dropped in with only one board track ahead of me - not having been tracked all season due to closures it was just awesome snow, The best on the hill bit with loads of twigs if you wanted to do anything other than straight line this stuff.

We looped Boomerang and then like yesterday headed to the New Side where we figured the big waves would be. As we arrived at the top of White Pass we were told that the Polar Peak Chair was just opening. This was the most spectacular skiing with a view from the top of Polar where the inversion meant that there was cloud below but bluebird conditions above and just the most awesome view in the world. The chutes remained closed but you could get the lower parts with a hard cut left. and the Polar Coaster hadn't been groomed so it was all just deep soft snow. We looped about 6 times before the rest of the hill became aware that Polar was open and we even got to drop the Clown Chutes a few times which were all great powder. Lynda voted the lower chutes the most awesome skiing so far this season and who am I to disagree.

We headed out to the Saddles and found Corner Pocket just great but icy and underneath awesome untracked powder. We cut back into Easter which was still pretty good on yesterday's soft base. Next loop was low Saddle for the first time this season with the usual ice turn in the top but with good untracked snow in the chutes to the right with face shots all the way down and a great exit through Easter.
I'm kind of losing track of what we did next but I do remember taking the Brain where I did have some great lines and untracked powder but also some dead fall and some serious bush whacking. I got a whipper in the face and blood all over my cheek but that's just the price you pay.

There was loads more stuff that I can't remember but of course I finished with a run down Skydive a few minutes earlier than usual as it was Christmas, It was still in good shape.

So we had a Christmas Day where we got Polar Peak, The Saddles, and all the skiing underneath was pretty good. I guess that's as good as it gets. The snow on the hill is in great shape and more is forecast for the weekend.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Day 20 an awesome day right up there in the top 20 of all time

Overnight we had snow. By snow I mean we had 30 cms of heavy hero snow at about -1 in the valley and maybe -4 up high. During the day due to a semi inversion we had temps about the same in the valley getting up to around zero on top. The snow which had puked down all night stopped when we got to the hill and only came back in light flurries during the day. It was overcast but around mid day the cloud descended so we had fog over the top of the hill and this came and went all the way through to last turn.

At 8:45 we were lined up for the New Side ( see my past remarks for how upset I get to go to the Old Side only to see it trashed by the pay for powder groups on big powder days) and the Timber Chair started on time. I have to say that I was impressed today by how quickly everything got opened considering the amount of snow. I am also very happy to have rolling openings as the average vacation skier simply doesn't have 7 hour legs so we get the openings later in the day to ourselves.

With just White Pass Centre open we looped waiting for Currie bowl. We must have done about 8 loops, always taking the Knot Chute further out (Slim, Thin and Jim were particularly good) and then dropping back through a wide variety of Surprise Trees lines which were all good and all deep, lightly tracked powder and totally awesome skiing. By late morning the traverse into the far Knot chutes was starting to get a bit sketchy.

They opened Anaconda and we had an awesome drop through the second chute and then Bootleg Glades via the early chutes where there was a few pieces of deadfall which made things pretty exciting. Next time round we found Currie was open so took the loop out to Skydive which was untracked on the right and totally awesome.

We then looped Cougar Glades (untracked deep powder once you got in) and then cut into Stag Leap to take the majority of the run lightly tracked although the bottom was a bit twiggy. Next was  Decline with a drop into Window Chutes which were totally awesome deep untracked snow in the top. Here is today's lesson. My buddy Miles stacked it in Window Chutes and punched a hole about one inch round in his helmet and almost all the way through to his head with the foam disintegrating. My estimate is that without a helmet he would have had a two inch hole in his head and been dead. He is a good skier and pretty sensible except in that he skis with me. If you ski or ride without a helmet just think about it - when you fall you are out of control, and we all fall.

After that I got some good intel from patroller buddies that Lone Fir had just opened - they also said they were calling it Bill's Pocket after I got caught in an avi there last year but I think they were just kidding. The trip through the chute was ok but with some ice and hard edge to edge jumping in the bottom. The fan below and all the skiing in Easter was just awesome and probably the best on the hill, with the possible exception of Cougar Glades.

I got stuck on Timber Chair for 10 minutes next time up and word filtered through that Timber was closing for the afternoon. I stayed up in White Pass and looped Mitchy's (still great snow but getting a bit technical in the choke) Knot Chutes twice (still very good) Surprise Trees ( still lots of soft deep snow) and Anaconda ( super deep in the chutes further in that no on skis.).

Time for last run out to Skydive which was still good snow with untracked lines on the right - super fast fall line skiing. Beers in the Griz and then back for a hot tub - Christmas starts here. The most awesome Christmas Eve Day I have ever skied and the first time this season I have made it from first bell to last bell with no break at all - Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 19 no new snow yet but still some good skiing

Today got off to a bit of a slow start due to far too much beer having been consumed last night. It was -5 on the way to the hill with no new snow so if we were going to get some fresh tracks it was only going to come from new openings. Readers with a retentive memory will recall that yesterday I had been hoping for and opening of the Saddles but with no luck and these seemed like the best bets for some fresh tracks so we headed to the New Side.

What with one thing and another it was 9:30 before I got skiing in over cast conditions which stayed so all day and meant some pretty poor light. Perhaps it was the poor viz on top that kept Polar Peak closed all today. Snow was forecast so no one was too worried if it looked like we were about to get weathered in.

Big Bang had opened only late yesterday so I took Lazy Locals traverse across to check things out. I have to say the traverse has been cut really well this year and is very mellow by comparison with some seasons. I actually tried the near side of Mitchy Chutes but got cliffed out and had to cut back in to Big Bang where the snow was nice and soft but littered with early season hazards. First trip up White Pass took over 20 minutes due to a lift break down so my slow start got even slower.

I traversed out and found the Saddles still closed so I dropped Tom's run which was chunky chopped up snow and a bit technical in the bottom section through the trees. Next loop round I found Corner Pocket open and had a very nice run through the chute and even better skiing in the deep soft untracked snow below which was good but you had to pick a line between runs of avi debris. Next loop was High Saddle which was narrower than usual due to the lack of a snow base so it took about 10 edge to edge jumps all the way down the chute to get through. Again the skiing below was good between the avi trails.

Last run before lunch I actually hiked up to Lone Fir and found it open for the first time this season. The name needs to be changed as there were about 20 small firs in the chute which was deep soft snow and a big jump down into the trough by the fir itself followed by some tight skiing. The fan underneath was just awesome deep soft snow and even Easter bowl lower down was ok tracked powder.

At lunch I heard that Snake Ridge had opened for the first time this season and was tempted to try it but didn't. I am not a big fan of Snake for three reasons - firstly, getting there is very hard work now that the Face Lift has been taken from us - secondly, it is quite low so in warm or refrozen conditions much of the run can be pretty sketchy - thirdly, once you have skied it there is no easy way back and the only way to get to the top again is via three lifts, Haul Back, Boom and Bear, a loop takes a very long time. In any event a patroller buddy told me that ski on Snake was at best mediocre although Redtree was very good indeed.

I went back to the New Side and had a White Pass loop through Tight Knot (still lots of good snow) and Surprise Trees (holding up well). Next it was a trip out the High Saddle which was already showing signs of wear ( a trough scrapped by boards down the centre) but the skiing underneath was just as good as before.

When I got to Timber next time I took Lazy Locals to Mitchy's but got side tracked by Siberia Ridge which only opened yesterday afternoon. The warning sign said "caution" and they weren't kidding. It was great deep lightly tracked snow but there was masses of stumps and deadfall to avoid but great skiing in between. Next time I finally got to Mitchy's and found the snow the best and least tracked on the hill but things got a bit technical in the chokes.

I just had time to loop Knot Chutes (still good) and Anaconda (chunky but good) before having a final run through Mitchy's (hit a log and stacked it) and then it was time for Skydive. The upper sections of Skydive were just as good as yesterday and it seemed to me that the lower section was just a bit less ugly but I couldn't quite put my figure on the reason why.

Did my Christmas shopping in town (yes I realise it was a day early) and then went for a meal in Lizard Creek where we found they make awesome burgers. On the drive back it was puking snow at about -1 and as I type this I can see it still coming down hard on the back deck. They are calling for 20 cms tonight and I wouldn't bet against it. Time for bed.

Day 18 two out of three aint bad

This of course was a hit for Meat Loaf off their Bat out of Hell album back in the 70's but today it applies to our hopes for openings at the hill. We had hoped for openings on Polar Peak, The Saddles, and Knot Chutes. As it was we didn't get the Saddles but we got the other two so, as I said two out of three aint bad.

Before going any further I must apologise for the lateness of this report but we had some friends over after many beers in the Griz and then many more in the hot tub and finally more still as the pizzas were delivered. So at late report and maybe not a very coherent one

On the way to the hill it was -4 with no new snow. The conditions were not exactly bluebird but we did have clear skis and significant periods of no cloud cover so that the viz was way better than we have had recently. Temps stayed well below zero all over the hill all day.

We decided to go to the New Side partly because we thought the Old Side being lower would have more damage low down due to the refreezing conditions but mostly because we thought that the New Side would be where all the action was on opening new areas and we were right. The drop from Timber Top to White Pass load was initially through Puff which was ok but later in the day they opened up Lift Line for the first time this season and the skiing in there was good soft snow but with lots of obstructions.

We looped White Pass a few times in snow which was chunky from the overnight freeze but ok ungroomed skiing. I noticed the Knot Chute sign line had dropped and did two hikes up. The entrance was rather tricky with a big drop and some rocks but Reef Knot and then Tight Knot were very good deep snow even if it was a bit slabby in Tight Knot.

We looped Concussion/Alpha Centauri a few times and as everywhere else found tracked  chunky snow but ok given the conditions. Polar Peak opened and we looped several times. Still no chutes but the ski down to the Coaster was big soft friendly bumps resulting from windrows that had not been groomed. We cut across the Shale Slope and had several runs down Pappa/ Grand papa chutes which were ok nut not quite as deep and soft as I had suspected.

For lunch I looped out to Decline and at the halfway point decided to drop the Window Chutes. In the top the snow was deep and super soft but as I worked my way down I got a bit lost and got in Spinal Tap. The snow was thin with a rain crust and the stream bed was still exposed. It was a very technical ski out which had me working hard.

After lunch I went up Polar Peak and the bumps in the top were tougher and the lower down skiing no better. We went out to Decline which provided some spectacular tracked powder but I managed a big time stack in the rain crust on the ski out. We just had time for a trip into Knot Chutes (this time from the side traverse) and a drop of Tight Knot which was still only lightly skied, Anaconda Glades were good tracked powder and we still had time for a return through Trespass trail and then a very quick White Pass loop before heading out for the Skydive 4 o'clock drop.

In view of the conditions, the role of honour has to be called and me, Kevin, Glen and Rob made the final run. Conditions were good soft semi tracked powder until the last 10 turns where we got ugly refrozen crud and ice crust. After that we all figured we deserved lots of beer.

Maybe some snow tomorrow and temps staying low.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Day 17 not quite as awesome as yesterday but still pretty good

Actually in the bar tonight there was some debate as to whether or not today was better than yesterday and there was a strong opinion that it was. My own view is that it was not quite so good and as I am judge and jury on this blog that is the decision. That having been said we are debating degrees of awesomeness so who really cares.

Overnight we had another 20 cms of fresh on top of all that we have had over the past couple of days. The base is way up over 110 cms but as I have said so often this is a measure at the snow plot and has nothing much to do with what we are skiing on. On the way to the hill we had zero degrees and very wet snow which turned to rain low down during the morning. On top we had wet snow but this ceased top and bottom before lunch after which it was overcast but dry.

Temps crept up during the day so that the base temps must have got to +3 and we had softening snow most of the way to the top. By evening the temps were dropping again so as we drove away it was about zero and the lower surfaces which had got quite heavy during the day were setting very firm by last run.

Timber Chair was not open at opening time due to snow stability problems. This was no real surprise as this was the shortest day of the year so patrol had very little daylight to work with before the hill opened and we had some very heavy and wet snow overnight - these things happen. We went to the Old Side as this was the only option and dropped in to Cedar Ridge which was good untracked lines in the top but very heavy and wet low down. Next was Boomerang which was surprisingly good and with the exit on the Goat Trail ok. We thought Boom Ridge looked ok , which it was, but with quite a lot of undergrowth to dodge on the way down and some super heavy stuff at the bottom. Finally we took Boomerang again which was just as good as before with hero snow that you could fall line ski before heading over the New Side.

Things were now open and we dropped from Timber top to White Pass base via Puff trees/ lower Lift Line just as it opened in deep fresh snow - that was the way we dropped all day. White Pass core was open but second loop round they dropped the fence at the zig zag and we had first tracks under Pillow Talk which were pretty good. After that we just looped Surprise Trees heading for Anaconda which was not open. After about 3 loops which were all good in the deep snow the fence on Currie Bowl dropped.

Only the low traverse was open and we worked our way out to Skydive which had a couple of tracks in front of us but was still very untracked. It was fantastic skiing in the top and rather claggy lower down. Last run before lunch was Cougar Glades which had a few tracks in the top but offered untracked lines once we were in, all the way down to the cat track. We bailed and exited via the Bear Connector which was bit sketchy and went for a late lunch.

After lunch I hiked up to Lone Fir on the suggestion of a patroller buddy who said he thought it was open - wrong, I had a pretty good run down an untracked Cornice Chute as a consolation prize. I tracked out to Decline and found it only lightly tracked but starting to set up in the bottom section as temps were falling. Next I tried Anaconda as I thought it would have been over looked when the fence on Currie dropped. I was partially right and the first chute over the hump was good lightly tracked but very heavy powder. I ran to base through Bootleg Glades which were very good deep snow at the top but very twiggy low down, surprisingly the exit in Gilmar Trail was no where near as bad as I thought it would be.

Last time up White Pass and I just has time for a Highline loop to bleed off some time. Naturally as last run of the day we went to Skydive - regular readers will know that this can now be cut and pasted for the rest of the season. The first two sections were very mellow still with some untracked lines and some very deep snow hugging the contours which made for great freeriding. The last pitch was some rather inelegant physical skiing in re frozen mush and lots of undergrowth. Just hunkering down and smashing through worked fine for me but it was not the most beautiful skiing you will have seen.

Beers in the bar with lots of buddies who are starting to emerge for the season - I do love Fernie. Lying in the hot tub tonight drinking beer I noticed that the skies were clear and I could see the stars. This has to mean a big drop in temps, but what it means for the hill I am not so sure.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 16 an awesome day

Yes, it has taken 16 days and we now have our first officially declared (declared by me) awesome day's skiing and it has been a long time coming. As I said last night it was raining in the valley and puking snow up top as I left the hill. Well, the rain in the valley stopped but the snow on top continued well into the night.

We woke this morning to find 12 cms of fresh on top of all that we had already had. On the way to the hill it was about -1 and on top about -3. Things may have warmed a bit during the day but cooled down so that the temp gauge on the truck was showing -1 as I put it in the garage. Conditions were great powder on top but rather sketchy down below where the rain had been last night. During the day it was overcast and pretty socked in at the top of White Pass and we had quite strong flurries adding maybe another 5 cms to the snow during the day. The base was reported at 105 cms.

Sorry if this is just becoming a bit of a New Side report but we went up to White Pass and the basis that it wold be a good day to get up high and we were dead right. Puff was fully open and great powder on broken terrain as the only good way to get from Timber Top to White Pass base all day. White Pass was open but Currie bowl and Anaconda remained closed.

We had a great time looping the Gun Bowl (deep but poor viz) Pillow Talk (lots of good lines to take and logs to jump off) and Highline (nice soft snow). I kept looping out to Surprise Trees hoping to find Anaconda open but without luck although Surprise was now filled in and deep and skiing very mellow on my DPS Wailers which I was giving only their second outing of the season. By late morning we had tracked most of White Pass which was still filling in as pretty good powder but then we took a short break.

When we got back the fence on Currie had just dropped and I headed out to Skydive. There were three tracks in front of me and all three headed on round to Easter so I had first tracks into Skydive and Decline. A terrible decision as to which one to ski (I wanted to ski both) but in the event I took Skydive down to the Megasaurus Trail and it was just awesome deep untracked snow. Even the exit was ok.

After that, discovering that the closed signs in the big three had been turned round ( whether by patrol or not I don't know) I ripped Decline top to bottom. In the lower section there was only one track in front of me and he stayed left so I skied right. Fantastic deep powder with some twigs. Last loop before a very late lunch was Cougar Glades which had a few tracks but as anyone knows in Cougar Glades you can always find untracked lines and I certainly did. All the way down to the lower cat track in untracked powder before bailing to the right for the final section.

After lunch I was back up the New Side and went out looking for stuff. The sidestep up to Lone Fir was open so I took it only to discover that the chutes were closed and I had to drop back down onto the traverse which was pretty tight skiing between the trees - I guess this was just Patrol's little joke.
I cut into Stag Leap which had a few tracks in but was great free riding in deep snow on some very lively terrain. The final pitch was very twiggy but as we were getting pretty confident at bushwhacking we just smashed through.

After such a late lunch I was running out of time and decided to try Anaconda Glades. Very often when the Glades open at the same time as Currie they get neglected and today was no exception. The first chute over the hump was deep soft snow and we just ripped it all the way to the bottom. Last run was Skydive and we took it all the way down. The top two sections were great deep snow but the bottom section was a little twiggy. The good news was that the twigs were soft and easy to smash through.

So there you have it a full on powder day when you could ski all of the big three and Cougar Glades top to bottom in some great but testing conditions. No wonder we drank so much in the bar tonight. The outlook is for more snow so fingers crossed.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Day 15 horrible rain in the valley, awesome snow on top

Yes, today was a typical Fernie day where we ended up with dreadful rainy conditions at the base reducing everything to mush and crud whilst up on top we had the most awesome powder snow conditions - don't let anyone ever tell you Fernie isn't a hill of contrasts. But back to the beginning to tell the story as it happened, and please nobody email me to tell me I shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction, it's called artistic licence.

We woke to find temps of around zero on the deck and on the drive to the hill it flicked between zero and -1 so lets say -0.5 when we arrived at the hill. It warmed up during the day to about + 2 and flicked between +1 and zero on the drive back. Up the hill temps were a few degrees colder so I guess that at White Pass it never went above -2 for the whole day.

The web site claimed 4 cms of fresh with a base of 95 cms and the boards at the lifts claimed 9 cms but it was unclear to me whether this was more snow having fallen since the morning reading or just a case of adding the last two days snow fall together. In any event we had some new snow to play with.

We went to the New Side on the basis that with rising temps it could be a good day to go high and stay high. I thought that the Old Side would be too low and the new snow would be wet and heavy but in the bar tonight I was told that the skiing in Cedar Trees on both side was very good with it only getting heavy at the very bottom. Almost as soon as we arrived at White Pass it started to snow and continued pretty well all day. The snow was of quite high moisture content and so we assumed that it was raining at the base and periodic trips down there tended to confirm this. By the end of the day it was hosing down snow on top and peeing down with rain at the base.

We took a few runs up and down White Pass in very poor viz and found load of fresh snow in the Gun Bowl, Highline, Pillow Talk and other areas. I took a trip out to Surprise Trees and put first tracks down them and they were much improved from the gnarly conditions of a couple of days ago. My hope had been that Gilmar Trail would have opened allowing us to have Currie Chutes all the way to the  bottom. Unfortunately not only was the bottom of Currie Bowl closed but so was the Reverse Traverse so we had to take Currie Glades where we found many untracked lines. The exit via Trespass Trail was hard work in the wet new snow.

We alternated runs back down White Pass with variations such as the chutes before Surprise with trips round Currie Glades which remained lightly tracked. In Anaconda Glades I put first tracks in the chute over the first hump and had to stop half way down to avoid being barrelled out by my own slough. The snow was building fast (maybe another 7 cms during the day) and the viz on the upper hill remained almost non existent.

Last run before a very late lunch I found the Reverse Traverse had opened and went out hoping for the Saddles but was disappointed. In the event we hit out all the way to Easter bowl and had some pretty good lightly tracked skiing all the way down, soft new snow on a pretty crunchy base. As I had a dental appointment in the afternoon we were only going to be able to ski to about 3 which didn't leave much time after our late lunch.

We went back up the New Side via Puff which was now officially open and great soft skiing and took a couple more runs through Pillow Talk where the snow was getting quite deep. We took a further run in Surprise Trees where the mornings tracks were covered and the conditions had improved a lot but were still very twiggy low down. For the run off the hill we had sort of decided on Easter but when we got there we saw several tracks and so just headed on to the top of Skydive. We hit Decline which had filled in from last nights efforts and which skied beautifully with the snow hugging the rolling terrain. There were a few less twigs than yesterday and we bailed along the Megasaurus Trail into lower Easter to avoid the lower closed section.

I went back for a beer after the dentists and was told that things continued to improve after I left and the snow on top was coming down heavy. As I drove away from the hill it was a sort of wet snow rain mix hitting the wind shield and I guess you wouldn't have to go very far up the hill to find that turned to snow. Bracing ourselves for the weekend crowds tomorrow and look forward to getting to the hill early to beat the rush.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Day 14 I never thought I would get this excited over 3 cms

No, that isn't something an old girlfriend said to me - well actually it is but that's another story and best not gone into here. It is actually my reaction to some new snow which in normal circumstances would not have got me that excited but in a year like this you take whatever you can. As it was things grew a bit as time went on, but that was what said to the girlfriend and as I said, another story.

Overnight we had 3 cms of fresh reported on the hill bringing the base to 89 cms. On the way to the hill we were surprised how warm it was at -2 and hoped that temps would stay low during the day. In the event things did warm up so that driving away from the hill tonight it was around zero and up the mountain temps stayed in the -5 to -3 range most of the day.

We went to the New Side on the basis that it was where the good skiing would be. During the day I had a couple of reports that skiing on the Old Side was good but closer questioning confirmed that the reporters simply meant that they liked the groomers there. As I don't ski groomers, if at all possible, this was of no interest to me and in any event how could the groomers be anything other than good for those who like that kind of thing - once you have smashed everything flat with a 3 ton cat and smoothed it out the results are pretty predictable.

Conditions were overcast and viz was particularly poor in White Pass - it's not for no reason they call it White Pass. Snow flurries started mid morning and continued all day ranging from ice pellets to full on winter snow. I would guess that at least another 4 cms of snow were added in places during the day which with some wind effect made for some good conditions.

We looped White Pass a few times and found good fresh snow in poor viz in the Gun Bowl, Highline, Pillow Talk Chutes and all down the lift line. We interspersed this with runs through Currie Bowl, sometimes through the glades (good mostly untracked skiing) or out under the Polar Chutes and then down Currie Powder - a great run early season as the snow holds the line of the terrain rather than just having been groomed so you get some good free riding. The good news was that with the fresh snow we had some great untracked powder on a firm base, the bad news was that with new snow the push out along Trespass Trail was hard work but worth it in my view for the great skiing.

This took a long time so we went for a very late lunch and to get to base I took the long traverse out to Easter bowl which was ok accumulating soft snow on a cut up hard icy base. Not bad chunky powder skiing.

Lynda took the afternoon off so I went adventuring along the Reverse Traverse. For the first time this season I had some really great skiing in Decline and then Skydive which were very challenging with some bushy conditions lower down but some sensational untracked skiing in other places.

This only left time for a Anaconda loop off White Pass and as I had anticipated things in there had repaired pretty well from the damage of the past few days so conditions were good powder on a filled in death cookie base - about as good as it was going to get.

We finished the day with another rip down Easter which had improved during the day from the filled in snow but was still rather ribby under the surface. We had several beers in the Griz with buddies and then home for a well deserved hot tub. The forecast is for more overnight snow but a worrying warming trend over the next few days. Things only have to hold up for half a day tomorrow as I have a dental appointment in the afternoon and will have to leave the hill early.

Hoping for more snow which may come as I see a new underwear tree is starting to form going up Timber so all contributions gratefully received.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day 13 no new snow, no Polar Peak and not much else

First off I have a message for Jay a regular blog reader and who I heard on the hill today slipped on the ice while walking his dogs last night and broke his hip. Best wishes to you from everyone on the hill and get back to skiing soon. Keep reading the blog and if there is anything you need doing just let us know - back to skiing.

We had no new snow overnight and the base remains somewhere in the 80 cm plus region. Starting temps were -5 in the base and -8 on top rising a couple of degrees as the day went by but mid afternoon on the New Side we seemed to get a very sudden drop in temp but it could have been my imagination. The result was that things were cold enough to make snow overnight so the ski outs at the very bottom of the hill improved again with artificial snow.

Unlike yesterday it was overcast from the outset with the upper mountain totally socked in a very poor viz from about half way up White Pass. We didn't get the promised flurries but from time to time we did get a freezing drizzle that stuck to the goggles and made life very interesting not to mention visually challenging.

We went to the New Side hoping for Polar Peak but were out of luck. With the poor viz it was always unlikely we would get an opening but we could live in hope. We spent the morning looping back through White Pass core (Gun Bowl poor viz and death cookies and the rest mostly rock hard ice) by a variety of routes. On alternate laps we took Currie bowl via a choice of Currie Glades (pretty ribby but still some ok lines) the fans under Polar Peak (some ok soft snow on a hard base) and Currie Powder which was always quite nice ungroomed freeriding terrain. Exits to White Pass were always via Trespass trail which continued to run fast in the icy conditions making the ski back less work than normal.

After trailing down to lunch through Summer Road which was icy and quick but with adequate coverage we decided to try the Old Side. Just as it has been for a week or more very little was open (Bear, North Ridge, near side Lizard and near side Cedar with supporting runs) so I only took a quick trip round to test things. The groomers were ok with Bear a bit slick and the ungroomed all but unskiable. The main point of interest was dozens of instructors going through their induction process for the season who outnumbered ordinary punters about 2:1 - lets hope they get something decent to instruct on.

I went back to the New Side and continued to loop just like the morning. The exception was that during the morning a buddy had asked me what I thought Surprise Trees would be like and I said very bad so we didn't go. In the afternoon as I was on my own and working on the basis the "if you don't go you don't know" I decided to test my theory and found I was wrong, things were much much worse. Surprise was a top to bottom run of ice, refrozen crud, death cookies, alders, rocks and other assorted fun things. I had to work really hard just to get down and my advice to others is to avoid this area like the plague until we get some new snow.

We finished with a fan, Currie Powder, Currie Glades and Trespass trail rip which was hard and getting harder in the falling temps. In the bar tonight they were getting ready for the staff Christmas Party so we left them to it after a couple of beers. I think there might be a few sore heads on the hill tomorrow.

Our main worry is that just as I predicted the precip event coming in this weekend is now being called at warmer temps than before and the possibility of rain (at least in the valley) is being talked about. We are having an early night without even the luxury of a hot tub as both of our bodies are starting to feel a bit beating up after two weeks of very tough skiing. White Christmas is on the TV as I type this and a couple of Jameson's Irish Whiskies are looking pretty tempting before turning in.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Day 12 and we get Polar Peak and some very good skiing

Overnight we had no new snow but the temps did stay low. It was -5 on the way to the hill and the same on the way back although it might have warmed a degree or two during the day. Up top temps were -7 at mid mountain and -10 on Polar Peak and didn't really warm much but by the same token, with no wind we did not get the brutal conditions that we can get on the Polar Chair.

We arrived at the hill to be told that the base was somewhere in the mid 80's cms ( all the boards had a slightly different figure) and that Polar Peak was due to open. Actually the hosts were saying that Polar peak was open and the lefties were saying it was on standby and the latter proved to be correct.

For obvious reasons we went to the New Side and found thick valley cloud covering the hill. In White Pass just about at the base of the Knot Chutes things cleared so we had bluebird skies above a heavy valley cloud base. The view was fantastic and the only thing that would have improved it would have been if we had angel dust glittering as we came out of the top of the clouds but I guess we need things a good 10 degrees colder for that to happen. The cloud base rose during the day so that by afternoon we very little valley cloud and overcast conditions on the hill itself.

At the top of White Pass the signs said Polar Peak was closed but we could see the chair turning. We took a couple of runs back down White Pass and found the Gun Bowl and Highline hard but ok skiing. We dropped Currie to the Polar load to make enquiries and were told that things were looking good for an opening so we looped Currie Glades and Trespass Trail which were much harder than last time but just about ok. We did one more Currie loop and then decided to line up for Polar Chair.

After a 5 minute wait the chair loaded and we were on the third chair up with only 4 boarders in front of us. As they had to strap in at the top we jumped them and I (followed by Brad and Lynda) put the first tracks by a fare paying customer down Polar Peak this season - autographs are available later. The main chutes were closed but we could take the Coaster to the cat track and cut hard left to get into lower Grand Papa and Papa Bear before heading back to the lift. Conditions were slick in the Coaster and about 4 cms of ok ungroomed snow on a hard ice base in the chutes.

We spent the whole of the rest of the morning looping Polar Peak about 6 or 7 times each time finding new and untracked lines as the word had not really got out that Polar was open. For lunch we took a final traverse all the way out into lower Mamma Bear and had untracked snow all the way down to Currie Powder. With the Reverse Traverse and Saddles closed due to ice the only way off the hill was Currie Glades, Trespass Trail and Summer Road which was a mixed bunch of conditions. For lunch we tried the new Big Bang Bagels outlet which was excellent quality and value and will be on the agenda  as a regular feature.

In the afternoon it was back for more of the same. By now the chutes were getting a lot of blue ice showing through but there was still plenty of soft snow. Just to mix things us we sometime ran to Currie Powder and White Pass via Trespass Trail and sometimes just ran back to the Polar load. To make things more exciting we jumped into the Clown Chutes a few times rather than taking the Polar Coaster but with the exception of the big drop off onto the cat track this was pretty mellow skiing - for icy chutes at least.

We finished the day with a Mama Bear run to Currie Powder and there was still quite a lot of untracked snow although the blue ice was showing through. We had some good beers in the Griz and a long hot tub when we got home. Best of all the Weather Network is starting to call for some snow and even allowing for the fact that it is only the Weather Network it is definitely a reason to be cheerful - lets see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 11 back to the old side

Well, as I accurately predicted on Friday the New Side was closed today so we had to make do with just the Old Side. I make no comment on the circumstances surrounding this and report it simply as a matter of indisputable fact. When I say we had the Old Side this is rather overstating things as what we had was limited openings in Lizard bowl and Cedar bowl and North Ridge and that was about it.

The good news was that temps fell last night as predicted so that on the way to the hill it was -4 and at the top -8. Things warmed a couple of degrees during the day but stayed so cold that at least they were able to make snow on the lower mountain run outs for most of the day. No new snow fell but the base was reported at 88cms which as I have said before relates to the snow at the weather plot which has been allowed to lie undisturbed and had little or nothing to do with the snow depths available in the skiing terrain that has be subjected to 11 days of skier traffic. Most of the runs had significant bare patches or early season obstructions.

I was intrigued at this mornings snow report which gave upper mountain temps at about -8 (correct) but described the snow conditions as "wet snow". You don't have to be a genius to work out that if upper mountain temps drop to -8 over night the snow may be many things but none of them would be wet. In the event my own investigation showed the snow to be a mix of boiler plate, death cookies, refrozen crud, and a number of other icy phenomena, but not wet - perhaps I just wasn't looking hard enough.

I have to admit that I was late to the hill today as I had to make a dental appointment (toothache again) so that I was half an hour after first turn before I got on my skis. We just looped around the groomers on Bear, North Ridge, Emily's, Lower North Ridge and Cruiser. These ranged from just about ok groomers to ugly sheet ice with some very varied conditions even on the same run. The only "off piste" we even tried was the stuff to skiers right of Cruiser which was pretty challenging refrozen crud.

Because of Lynda's cold we had an elevenses break and then went back for more of the same. With nothing else to do we got into some good old ski school exercises on edge control which is always good to practice. After a very late lunch I had time for a couple more laps of the same before calling it a day. What can you say, we skied the same stuff which was very average hard pack over and over again - it was better than not skiing.

In the evening we headed out to some buddies for a few drinks and a great time trying to convince each other it has to get better. Now settled down with much too much beer for an early night and a prayer to the Griz for more snow.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 10 and I'm getting worried

Now, normally when we get early season set backs I am the optimist and will dismiss any pessimists by saying "it's only early season things will get better" for some reason this year I just don't feel that confident. It comes down to two things, current conditions and future prospects both of which fill me with fear.

We have probably had the worst start to a season for 10 years which can't be good. Those of us who can remember the dreadful season of 10 years ago will remember that at least it was cold (-25 or lower) when we didn't have snow so at least any moisture that came our way came as snow which it did eventually over the Christmas period. This time it has been warm and although things are cooling down we are nowhere near the cold temps which will guarantee snow and just as importantly allow the hill to make snow.

Turning to the outlook the 14 day forecast from the Weather Network does not show any significant snow. Now, no one needs to lecture me on the shortcomings of the Weather Network forecasts (I have slated them here often enough myself) but in the long term/big picture scenario they do get it mostly right. The most worrying thing is about 7 days out where they are calling for a warm up and snow. On every occasion they have done that this year we have ended up with the temps being increased as the day approaches until we get a full on rain event and temps way up in the plus figures. I just don't think the hill could take another beating like that just before Christmas and that is why I am worried.

Today we had some rain over night but on the way to the hill temps dropped to -1 which was the first minus temp I had seen for a week. On arriving at the hill we had -1 going to +1 at the base and up the hill temps of -4 going to -2 all of which played out just about as anticipated. The overnight precip had come down as a couple of cms of fresh from about half hill height and above. which gave a wintery look to the hill but no more. the base was recorded at 91 cms at the weather plot which is fair enough but has little or nothing to do with the snow (or rather lack of) that we are skiing on over the rest of the hill.

We went to the New Side and in summary found that the conditions were hard re-frozen crud which was ok in the lightly skied areas when the new snow did make a little difference but was no good in the area's where we had tracked up the soft snow yesterday and which had now refrozen,

Morning runs were mostly White Pass core through Highline, Heartland, Gun Bowl, and the I bowl all of which were ok on a hard and sketchy base. After elevenses ( for Lynda as she had a cold) we tried Anaconda which was great soft snow in the top and refrozen death cookies in the bottom. With the exit from Currie still closed we had to return to White Pass via Trespass Trail which worked remarkably well as the surface was frozen hard and slick running.

For the rest of the morning we looped Currie Glades which skied very well and back via Trespass. Just before late lunch we went out to Corner Pocket which was much more icy than yesterday but quite ok and with some sensational untracked skiing along the closure line out to the hard left in Lizard bowl - Dancer ski out was twiggy and still sucked.

In the afternoon we went back to the New Side and watched them cut Knot Chutes (not going to open soon) and cut the cat track up to Polar Peak. Polar itself looked ok although the smooth surface in the chutes could cover a multitude of sins. I think we might get Polar this side of Christmas with a bit of luck.

We looped Curried Glades many times taking various lines all of which were good tree skiing. We broke up the routine with a couple of trips back down White Pass core so that for the last run we had a difficult choice. The best skiing had to be Corner Pocket but patroller buddies warned it was very icy. In the event it was ok with a few hard edge to edge jumps but with the starting signs of a tire appearing in the chute. The skiing underneath was just as good as before and easily the best on the hill.

Well we had a few beers in the bar with buddies and a good hot tub with more beer. Temps are cooling so that they may be able to make some snow on the lower mountain which we will need, because if I understand things correctly Timber Chair will be closed tomorrow and we will only have the Old Side. I make no comment on this whatsoever and report it simply as a fact.

So lets see what the last full week before Christmas brings - I deserve a nice present in the form of a snow dump. As I type this the sky is clear (stars to been seen while lounging in the hot tub) and temps down to -5 so at least it feels like winter,

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Day 9 back to the New Side

First I must start this evening's blog with an apology. I have been given to understand that my sense of humour (particularly in respect of lift closures) may have caused some offence in certain quarters. If I have caused any offence I am truly sorry as my purpose in life ( just like Lord Reith when he ran the BBC) is to inform and entertain, not to offend. That having been said, as far as I am aware there is no law requiring anyone to read my blog and if you don't like my sense of humour perhaps it is best not to read it - simples. Now, returning to the main theme of tonight's symposium.........

We started to feel the effect of the cooling trend this morning so that the temp on the deck was only +1 which is way warmer than you would expect at this time of year but cooler than of late. It rained all through the night and in certain conditions, rain falling into a +1 temp would come down as snow. Unfortunately as the precip was coming down from a warm air mass I think that even if temps had been zero or below we would still have got the rain.

On the way to the hill it was still +1 and the forecast for the upper mountain was around -2 which I think worked out about right. In normal circumstances you would be able to look up the hill and see the rain line but the cloud base was so low (about the top of Elk) that you just couldn't see the upper mountain and these overcast and foggy conditions came and went all day giving some very variable viz.

As I predicted the Timber Chair was open so we had access to the New Side for the first time in four days. The snow line started about half way up Timber so that by Timber top we had wet snow which came and went all day. My assessment of the conditions in White Pass was that the rain of the past few days had fallen all the way to the top beating the surface flat and then freezing but not that hard into quite a firm base. On top of that about 5 cms of fresh wet snow had fallen giving some ok conditions but some quite ribby conditions up high.

The rain on the lower mountain had taken it's toll so that there was no way out of Currie Bowl as all trails were without snow. The only ways off the New Side were Falling Star, one of the central cat tracks or down loading on Timber Chair. We spent the morning looping White Pass and taking runs out to Surprise Trees and Anaconda Glades where the skiing was surprisingly good. The downside was that the only way out of Anaconda was Trespass Trail back to White Pass which as I have often said is the only trail on the hill which is up hill in both directions.

The last run before lunch we hit out to Corner Pocket which was open even if the Concussion side of the bowl wasn't and had some great skiing in the chute and the soft untracked heavy powder underneath. The ski out along Dancer was very twiggy and with big bare patches.

In the afternoon it was back to the New Side for a few more loops through Surprise (very heavy down low) and Anaconda which was still a long slog back. I tried the traverse out to Decline which was good at first and then very heavy just before the Megasaurus  ski out. Corner Pocket was still good and we put a couple of runs down there but always hit left to get the best snow below the chute - the Dancer ski out still sucked.

Final run of the day and we took the Reverse Traverse all the way out to the top of Skydive and the traverse was in surprisingly good condition. At the top of Skydive we decided to drop over into the new gladed area above Window Chutes which were ok heavy twiggy skiing but will be great when the snow comes. We exited via the right of Easter bowl which was all a bit technical but again showed good prospects for when the snow comes.

All in all not a bad day made just about acceptable because of the upper mountain terrain that was available to us in White Pass. The lower mountain continues to deteriorate and it is now more a question of what is open, rather than what is closed when looking for ways off the hill. Nothing much promised in the forecast.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Day 8 nothing really new to say

That about sums it up as with conditions just about the same as they have been all week and only the same runs open on the hill there is very little to say except everything has got just that bit worse as you would expect. Anyone who knows me knows that I wouldn't let a little matter like lack of material prevent me from having at least some kind of say on what is happening.

Once again overnight temps stayed high and it was +4 on the deck this morning and as we drove to the hill. During the day we had plus temps all day but a cooling trend set in and by last run I would have thought it was about +1 up the hill and the surfaces which have been melting for 5 days were starting to set up. As we drove away from the hill we had +2 in the valley which probably means minus temps at the top of the hill for the first time this week and it could be the start of the end of the Pineapple Express that has dominated the weather this week.

Overnight it rained and the rain once again had it's effect over all of the hill reducing the base to 85 cms. The hill is now in a sorry state with bare patches on most of the lower mountain and all the runs needing attention to navigate between the bare patches. Very little was open with the New Side closed again. On that subject I am told (surprise surprise) that the Timber Chair will be repaired in time for the weekend crowds, anyone want to bet a jug of beer that it will need to be taken out of service on Monday when they have gone ? At least we should get two days up in White Pass to see what conditions are like.

On the Old Side Lizard was open out to Dancer and Cedar to Trillum. This tells an artificially optimistic story as within those boundaries many (you might say most) runs were closed due to poor coverage and many that were open had bare patches and some very twiggy sections. During the day things got worse as it rained most of the morning and the marginal conditions on all the runs became more marginal as a combination of rain and warm temps eroded the skiing surface.

Just like yesterday I set up a loop of Bear Chair, Bow Trees and then alders, Bear Chair, chutes into Cedar and then the trees to the right of Cruiser, Haul Back, Lower Linda's (getting very sketchy but lots of moose tracks to be seen), Boom Chair and Sunny Side shoulder to Bear Load. It took about an hour and was very sketchy in places, particularly in Sunny Side where the lack of available terrain meant that I was more or less skiing a GS track of my own line as it was the only way through the alders.

We did a few variations via Bear main run and North Ridge/ Emily's but to be quite honest we were scratching around looking for something to do. As I said the final run down Bear showed conditions setting up in the colder temps.

No one seems to know what the future holds. There is general agreement that it will get colder and we will have some precip but apart from that there is no consensus. We may have a huge dump of snow on the back of this weather system (which we desperately need) or it may just get colder which would make for brutal icy and rocky conditions with no coverage. No need to say which I hope for.

A personal message to my next door neighbour who I know sometimes reads this blog. You have left your back deck light on which is starting to annoy us when we are in the hot tub. If you are not down this weekend I will remove the bulb and leave it on your deck to save you money and me aggravation. Good beers in the Griz tonight and hockey tomorrow.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Day 7 at least it didn't rain much while we were skiing

When the best thing you can say about the day is that "at least it didn't rain much while we were skiing" then you get an idea that the conditions were not exactly champagne. Overnight temps stayed high and it was +4 on the way to the hill. During the day we had temps of  +7 all over the hill , or maybe more, and even as we drove away tonight it was +3 so everything was going to even more mush. We had some light drizzle around the middle of the day but that was the extent of the precip and hence our great delight.

During the night it rained, and I mean it really rained. This was confirmed by the damage that had been done to the hill and the fact that a rain line was just about discernible at the very top of the Lizard Headwall which was way higher than we were ever going to get today. On the official web site this morning it showed a base of 83 cms which would roughly accord with what I would expect to see after a night of rain on the hill. All the boards at the lifts showed 92 cms and when I asked why this was I was told that this was the number the lifties had been told to put down. Tonight when I got in I went the official web site and was surprised to see that the base was now recorded at 92 cms. So what happened ? a genuine error in this mornings recording, an accumulation of 9 cms on a day with no precip or someone trying to gerrymander the figures  - I leave it to you guys to make up your own minds.

As we rode the Elk ( Timber is in it's third day down for repair and so no New Side again) we noticed the reason for the crappy conditions. Someone has chopped down the underwear tree by the lift where we throw various under garments as an offering to the Griz. Crappy conditions will continue until such time as a new tree can be found and new offerings made. This is a bit of a young person's thing as no one wants to see old pairs of my Y fronts thrown onto a tree so come on guys and girls, agree a tree and get sacrificing.

There was a little more open today with the High Lizard Traverse on one side and the High Cedar Traverse on the other but only as far as the far side of Cruiser open. In between Boomerang, Linda's Bear Chutes etc. were still all closed for coverage. This was desperately limited terrain but the groomers were ok and the off piste we could get to was heavy spring skiing. The result of the rain was that we were through to bare earth in many places and the skiing could at best be described as poor.

We invented a loop which took us up Bear and then skied Bow Trees and the ungroomed areas of Bow off to the skiers right. Up Bear again and drop the chutes at the top into Cedar, cross Alpine Way and then in the trees down to Cedar Centre and Haul Back. Lower Linda's to Boom Chair and then track across to the Sunny Side shoulder and drop that to Bear and begin again. The loop took about and hour and with the only alternative skiing groomers (too horrible to contemplate) that is what we did all morning and I did all afternoon.

Never confuse the fact that because the terrain is limited you won't do much skiing. On today's limited terrain I had just over 6 hours of hard skiing, mostly off groomers. That what you can do with limited terrain if you put your mind to it. The skiing was actually soft spring skiing higher up and heavy slow mush lower down made all the more interesting by bushes, trees, twigs and alders making route decisions so much more interesting. This was particularly true on Sunny Side which I guess was technically closed for skiing but the signs were so far in you were committed by the time you saw them.

As I am typing this it is raining hard again at plus temps and the hill won't be able to take much more of this. The good news is that we are due a cool down tomorrow night with maybe some snow so fingers crossed. Tonight after beers with buddies in the bar we had our first hot tub of the season on the back deck which was just perfect. Time for a glass of wine and see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Day 6 not as bad as I expected

But before we all go off celebrating the wonderful ski conditions in Fernie it worth first understanding just how bad I expected things to be on the hill today.

As anticipated the temps stayed at about +5 in the valley overnight meaning that they probably stayed at plus temps all the way to the top of Polar Peak. During the day the temps rose a bit so that by mid afternoon we had +7 all over the hill and even as we were driving away tonight we were getting +4. In other words the warm up that was forecast hit us full on just as anticipated.

We had hoped that the rain would hold off, but that was not to be. During the night I woke a couple of times to hear rain beating down on the roof and in the morning it was still coming down pretty hard. Given the temps I had no doubt that it would be raining to the top of the hill and the evidence of our own eyes when we turned up to ski tended to confirm this. It was so bad that we delayed going to the hill for half an hour which proved to be a good move as the heavy rain stopped just about the time we arrived and as forecast and stayed away for the rest of the day.

Our fear was that the rain would mean a further loss of terrain (not that there was much to lose) and a massive deterioration in conditions. In the event we did have the loss of terrain but the conditions didn't deteriorate as much as I feared but were still pretty crappy.

When we got to the hill all that was open was Bear, some parts of Lizard below Tower 6 trail, North Ridge, Emily's (only access to Haul Back) and that was it apart from a few bits of the lower mountain below those areas. I reckon this to be less than 5% of the advertised terrain. In the afternoon The near side of Cedar bowl and Arrow opened giving some minor increases in skiable terrain but still only a tiny fraction of the ski hill.

In these circumstances there was very little skiing we could do and almost no ungroomed snow. The groomers (mostly Bear, North Ridge, Emily's, Lower Lynda's and Lower North Ridge) were soft rain affect mush on a hard base and some quite nice skiing. In places where the grooming had been done in warm temps and then frozen overnight there were some very uneven and rutted lines. In other places where the groomers had dug too deep we were down to rock and dirt so it would come as no surprise that today I was back on my rock skis.

The only ungroomed opportunities were soft mushy spring skiing which is better done with a 4 metre snow base in April than now in December with a sketchy covering. On that subject the overnight rain had reduced the official snow base to 93 cms but that was at the snow plot and in many places on runs today it was zero. We tried Lower Bow ( surprisingly ok) and Sunny Side shoulder (very soft and mushy and hard skiing in tight twiggy lines) Later in the day when Cedar opened we tried the skiers right of Cruiser which skied like good spring skiing and was ok on account of the good brush removal work that has been done in the summer on the lower section.

Honestly, that was it, a very repetitive day on limited terrain which produced ok groomers (what there were available) and some very heavy spring like off piste. Doesn't look like we will get Timber chair repaired in time for tomorrow so looks like much more of the same for the next 24 hours. After that we hopefully see a cooling trend with precip in the form of snow but we have had such a beating over the past few days I will believe it when I see it.

On a positive note the bank has finally come through with credit cards that appear to work and the hot tub is fired up although it won't be warm enough to use until tomorrow - party party.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Day 5 not very good but could be worse

Lets deal with the "could be worse" part of the title first. The west coast of BC is being hit by a Pineapple Express ( a warm wet whether event) which is dumping rain on the coast and moving inland. As of late afternoon today Fernie had experienced the warming trend but not the precip. So in that respect things could have been a lot worse. Looking at why things are not very good you have to look at three aspects of the current skiing, available terrain, current weather and ski conditions. dealing with them in order -
Available Terrain - As anticipated yesterday the Timber Chair is down for maintenance and will be for at least the next two days meaning that the whole of the New Side is Closed. On the Old side everything beyond Dancer in Lizard is closed as is everything beyond Trillium in Cedar. In the Old Side triangle Cedar Ridge, Boomerang, Bear Chutes, Linda's and all associated runs are closed. In effect we have less than 20% of the total terrain available, by my calculations, and an awful lot of that just groomers.
Current Weather - as stated we have a huge warm up with temps today on the way to the hill +3 and on the way back +4 with even up the mountain temps getting up to +5 or more during the day. The rain may have held off for the most part today (although it did drizzle a couple of time all over the hill) but this evening it is raining hard in the valley. Temps suggest that this will be the case all over the hill, or at least for the limit parts available to us.
Ski Conditions - as a result of all of the above the skiing could at best be described a spring skiing which is ok in April with a 4 metre snow base but in December with only one metre at the snow plot and less than half of that over most of the hill it leaves something to be desired. The groomers were ok soft snow but everything else was soft mush getting mushier as the day wore on or as you skied to lower elevations on any given run.

With so little to entertain or challenge I strapped on the DPS Wailers for the first time this season - say what you like about the limited skiing , there wasn't much chance of hitting rocks anywhere. With 112 under foot they felt like big stable charging platforms, and that was exactly how they were used all day.

Lynda decided to take a rain check on the grounds that "there would be better days to ski this season" and really who could argue with her. Actually anybody who has ever tried to argue with her about anything might say that but in this case she had a point. All day, all I could do was to loop Bear chair and Boom Chair taking what variations I could find. For the most part they were -
Bear - and all groomers like North Ridge, firm, taking and edge with slush on top, ok if you like that sort of thing.
Cedar - to the skier's right of Cruiser there seems to have been a lot of undergrowth work done during the summer and it is now a nice open piece of freeriding terrain all the way down from the chutes just off the Bear chair to the Cedar Centre trail.
Cedar Ridge - good untracked snow in the top but very heavy low down in all four of the routes I took down. By mid point the snow balls were sloughing hard and the turns were a real piece of heavy work in the melted snow.
Linda's - ok in the top but so heavy by the mid point that we bailed into Lower Boom Ridge and even that wasn't a stroll in the park with super heavy untracked snow.
Bow and Bow Trees - the trees appear to have been gladed and were ok but heavy. Below Tower 6 trail it all just became hard wet work with alders to make things just that bit more interesting.
Cascade and beyond - the few runs to the far side of Lizard just produced either twiggy soft groomers of super soft ( and closed) ungroomed runs.

Today was just about on the lower end of ok skiing even by early season standards. Tomorrow, assuming no new terrain is opened will probably be a lot worse. As I am typing this the rain is falling hard on my back deck and at +4 is probably falling all the way to the top of the hill. Even if the snow plot shows new snow tomorrow it will only be for the very uppermost parts of the available terrain and everything else is likely to be pretty crappy. I will go to the hill as I have a season's pass after all what else would I do but if I was going to have to pay for tomorrow I don't think that skiing would be high on my agenda - let's hope that by some miracle I am proved wrong.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Day 4 still pretty good but getting worried

Yes, we had another ok day but for a variety of reasons, some weather related, some more environmental I am getting worried that the next few days are not going to be exactly what you might describe as vintage.

Overnight they recorded another 3 cms of fresh snow raising the base to 101 cms - bear in mind that this is just at the mid mountain weather plot. On the way to the hill temps were about -1 and up the mountain temps a few degrees colder. During the day base temps got up to +1 but my take was for most of the hill it stayed at, or just below zero. Conditions were overcast with a very low cloud base (only about a quarter of the way up the hill) and even though this raised to almost White Pass top by the afternoon, just like yesterday, it dropped rapidly as temps cooled in the late afternoon.

We arrived to find that due to a misfire on the snow control explosive charge White Pass would not be opening until 10:15. This accords with the hill policy of leaving a charge for 1 hour to make sure that it really has failed to explode. We went to the Old Side which as I expected had no  exciting prospects away from the groomers and with much of it still closed (Boomerang, Cedar Ridge, Snake Ridge etc.) we just poked around the groomers and the side line soft snow until we could go to the New Side.

On the New Side things were much like yesterday with everything socked in and White Pass core providing some good soft if rather tracked skiing. Our runs all day down from Timber top to White Pass base were always through Puff and as the day wore on we pushed further towards Lift Line and got as much soft deep untracked skiing as could be got without obviously crashing the closed signs.

After a run through Surprise (ok but chunky) and Anaconda ( still soft in places) we went out to the Saddles to see if they were open and to our surprise they were. The rest of the morning was spent looping to base through Corner Pocket which was excellent, High Saddle which was a bit scraped out and Corner Pocket again before lunch. The skiing below the Saddles was a mix of avi debris and deep untracked snow and whether or not you could find the best stuff depended on the light as you dropped the chute. Last time before lunch in some super flat light I put my tips in the back of an invisible 3 ft culvert and had a bad case of premature ejection in both skis with a summersault to boot. Well it was my first fall of the season so I thought I should make it a good one.

After lunch I went back for more of the same (minus the double ejection) and skied Surprise Trees (still a bit crusty for the last few turns), Anaconda Glades second chute (chunky but good) and Corner Pocket in the best light of the day which made the stuff underneath visible so we could just ski awesome powder. After a few more runs back through White Pass which were all acceptable soft snow we finished on a Corner Pocket rip and again were not disappointed by the soft snow below. No one was skiing the Saddles today and this is such a change from high season when they are usually trashed by half way through the morning.

Of course we had a few beers in the Griz with friends.

The outlook is not good from a weather point of view as we have a Pineapple Express (a warm rain event) hitting the coast and moving inland. Our best hope over the next few days is that we get a warm up but with no significant precip, our worst fear is that we get warm rain top to bottom for a couple of days. All this is made worse because we have been told that the Timber Chair will be down for at least two days while they do vital work to it to keep it going which presumably they couldn't do in the 6 months of the summer when it wasn't in use. This means that the whole of the New Side will be shut down and the highest elevation skiing which sometimes gives us some good powder in the rain events will be unaccessible. If we do get rain we will have a couple of days splashing around on the Old Side in truly horrible conditions so lets keep our fingers crossed.

Watch this space for reports on just how bad (or not) it gets. For what it is worth we had zero degrees and wet snow as we drove on the way back from the hill tonight

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 3 and I call it dead right - I think

When we woke up this morning there were puzzling and to some extent contradictory signs about conditions on the hill. I am delighted to say that as far as I am concerned I called things dead right and had a great day's skiing from bell to bell on good powder snow with many untracked lines.

The first problem was that as far as I was aware we didn't have any precip in the valley last night although it may have happened when I wasn't looking as I did spend the evening in and had an early night. The snow report from the hill showed 9 cms of fresh bringing the base up to 101 cms and as we arrived at the hill there was a clear rain line (or snow line depending on how you look at these things) at about half mountain height. Temps were about zero on the drive to the hill and as predicted we were back in the standard pattern of an adiabatic lapse rate - there, that impressed you, it's just a fancy way of saying it gets colder as you go higher and the air gets thinner.

This told me that the Old Side would be pretty poor. I did get a report during the day that "the groomers were really nice" but those of you who know me know that this is an oxymoron as far as I am concerned and skiing groomers isn't nice, it isn't even skiing in  my view. A later report from people I trust said that everything off the groomers on the Old Side sucked and this sounds more like what I would have expected. We went to the New Side and stayed there all day and as a result had some fantastic skiing.

The temps up top were about -4 and probably stayed below zero just about all day. The conditions were overcast with a low cloud base which gave almost zero viz in White Pass and half way down the White Pass core. This lifted a bit during the day so that by mid afternoon the base was just about at White Pass top but this descended quickly late afternoon as temps dropped. We even had a little precip in the form of icy snow late afternoon but it was nothing to get excited about.

We spent the first session until elevenses skiing the White Pass core usually through the Gun bowl, Highline variations and Heartland or the line under the lift. The viz seemed to deter many skiers so we had lots of untracked lines in the new snow which on the previously untracked base seemed to ski a lot deeper than 9 cms. With Curry Bowl open we tracked out the Alpha Centauri and had great soft deep untracked skiing all the way down which was good until Gilmar Trail which was sketchy and got a lot more so as the day went on.

After a break we noticed that the sign line before Surprise Trees appeared to be down and went to investigate - it was and we could access Surprise Trees and Anaconda Glades. The first chute of Surprise was untracked and I laid down first tracks of the season in some awesome powder. Lower down there was a little rain crust and one track came in ahead of me from the right but with a lot of speed you could just push through - hard work though. I had noticed that Anaconda had been open on the way past and the next three times round we just did Anaconda to base loops going one chute further each time getting some great deep skiing even if it was a bit twiggy. Looks like some good glading work has been done in Anaconda which might make for some really good skiing later in the season. Loops down to White Pass were always through Puff which was also good deep powder but very twiggy.

Last run before a very late lunch was a trip out to Decline where there was only one track in front of me so lots of deep untracked powder. Like yesterday things got a bit heavy towards the Megasaurus Trail and as the run was closed below that I was happy to bail into lower Easter which confirmed all my worst fears of the Old Side being heavy elephant snot off the groomers.

After lunch Lynda took a break so I just went back to some Anaconda loops which were still very lightly tracked and very good skiing. Gilmar Trail was getting very sketchy by now but that's just the price you have to pay for enjoying the good stuff. Last run of the day I pushed out along the Reverse Traverse to Concussion and found lots of untracked snow by taking tight lines to the undergrowth and the lower sections which might have been crusty had enough traffic to have made them nice chopped up powder.

Met more buddies in the Griz Bar to celebrate the best day so far. This could be a high point as it is forecast to warm with no significant precip so things could go a bit pear shaped in the next few days. The real problem is that the big dump we had just before the hill opened came down at -24 so the snow was light and has not had any effect on the undergrowth, What we really need is a big dump of high moisture good old Sierra Cement to beat the bushes down and start to slide to bend the alders over. With the forecast warm up maybe that is what we will get, who knows.