Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 17 a very full on day

Yes, today was right back to where winter should normally be with new snow, rolling openings of most of the hill and top to bottom rips through the big three from first to last bell.
On the way to the hill it was -3 and we had reports of 17 cms of snow in the last 24 hours and the snow base back up to around 320 cms all of which seemed about right from what we could see. Temps rose at the base during the day to maybe +2 but stayed well below zero up the mountain so that when conditions changed from the overcast morning to precip in the afternoon that precip came down as snow from top to bottom. Ok, it was a bit wet lower down but the softening of the lower hill late in the day was no bad thing.
As we looked up the hill we could see yesterday's rain line about a third of the way up the hill and that decided us to go to the New Side. I apologise the Old Side fans but at this time of the year when there is a decided rain line on the hill so that most of the Old Side is below it and most of the New Side is above it then the decision as to where to ski seems a no brainer to me unless you want to ski groomers which everyone knows I don't count as skiing. In any event my buddies who did go to the Old Side tell me that with Snake, Boom, Linda's and Cedar Ridge closed there wasn't much to get excited about.
First run off Timber found Lift Line open low down for the first time in days so great soft lightly tracked powder with a hard base. In fact the theme of the day was that the new snow was great and got better with this afternoon's addition but there was always a hard icy uneven base that you found from time to time. Currie wasn't open so we looped back through Surprise Trees and found great untracked lines.
Next time to White Pass top Currie Bowl was open as was the traverse into the chutes from about half way between the Reverse Traverse and the usual low traverse. I suspected the sign line was still down at Currie Creek so we did 3 loops - Alpha Centauri, Concussion and Tom's. All of these were soft snow mostly untracked up top and getting a little chunky low down. Somewhere in there they opened Lift Line and the Traverse into Big Bang off Timber top so these were the runs down to White Pass every lap and were pretty good heavy chopped up powder.
Next lap I tried to get to the Big Three and found that the Currie Creek sign line had been dropped and so hit Skydive as third track in - I suspect the other two were Patrol. The top two thirds of Skydive was great untracked powder although the mid section did have a hard bumpy base. The bottom third was pay the bill time with the ugliest crust on mush I have ever skied, a real challenge. There was just time for two more loops before lunch and both of these were in Cougar Glades. My logic was that Cougar would be mostly untracked and as it finishes higher up than the Big Three there would be less crud to negotiate at the bottom and there was always the option to bail right. My guesses were dead right plus as there had been a slide in the lower section so the crust was broken up by softening debris which was a big improvement if not great skiing.
After lunch we were back to New Side loops and did -
Barracuda - still untracked lines but a hard base and bit crusty in the last couple of turns.
Cougar Glades - as before but with untracked lines a bit harder to find but the soft debris really skiing quite nicely.
Easter Bowl - probably some of the best soft snow of the day but of course by this time it was snowing again. Some buddies who took a slightly different line found a lot of avi debris but I guess I was just lucky and had great soft snow all the way down and even Freeway was skiing ok on the exit.
Of course we had to do the final rip down Skydive which was great. The upper parts were chopped up soft snow where you could stay off the hard base by riding the berms. The lower section was much improved from a combination of skier traffic, new snow and softening conditions - not great but way better that first time round.
No line up at the bar and a chance to catch up with some of my weekender buddies. This was a very full on day in far from easy conditions so it's an early night in the hope that the overnight snow in the forecast materialises.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day 16 back to winter sort of

Yesterday we were sitting on the locals deck after skiing (some of us wearing shorts having been biking in the South country) enjoying spring conditions and drinking cold beer. Today we were socked in with 10 cms of fresh snow falling during the day and everyone wrapped up - we were still drinking cold beers but after all this is Canada.
The day started a bit weird. The radio alarm went off at 7 and the news said that there had been a crash on Highway 3 between a logging truck and a car, the highway was closed and probably would be for several hours. The implication was that this crash was between Fernie and the ski hill. In the event I drove to the hill with no problems as the crash was actually west of Ski Hill Road. The hill was pretty well deserted, I guess as a result of people thinking that the highway was closed.
Today was so different from yesterday's bluebird spring skiing conditions. As we arrived temps at the base were +1 but up the mountain they were nearer -5 and much colder with brutal wind chill on Polar Peak. During the day base temps got up to +3 but stayed well below zero on the hill. It started snowing as we arrived and continued all day giving at least 10 cms of new snow and pushing the base back over 300 cms. For most of the day the snow was wet at the base but better further up. Towards the very end of the day the base snow turned to light rain but in only +3 temps I don't doubt that the snow line is low down the hill and will be down to base during the night.
I went to the New Side on the basis that the higher I could get the better the snow would be although the viz was probably going to be poor - as it turned out both predictions were correct. I was surprised to find that in the conditions Polar Peak was open (ok only the Polar Coaster) and did three loops before the brutally cold winds around tower 8 got the better of me. The irony was that as the snow got better the viz got much worse. I ran to base via Currie Powder which was ungroomed but gathering new fresh snow and Diamond Back. At the top of Diamond back the was a sign warning of "marginal conditions" which was strange as the run was flat with a deepening soft snow covering - ok, a bit slick in the lower section.
Next time round I went to Polar Peak but only managed two loops before doing a run to base just as before. The final trip before lunch had me managing just one trip up Polar but by then the viz was so bad that navigation was very difficult and there was a lot of disorientation. Being a creature of habit I ran off the hill the same way and found that the snow was really starting to accumulate and get very deep and soft in Diamond Back.
After lunch I went back up the New Side only to find that Polar Peak was now closed (no surprise there) and the viz had got even worse. After a few runs back through White Pass we ventured out into Currie Bowl and found that the low traverse was open so an untracked rip down Concussion was called for. The run was great but you were still hitting an uneven hard base most of the way down. We did two more loops out around Toms run which were just as untracked and just as good.
As the day drew to an end we had time for a couple of White Pass loops which we took through the Gun Bowl and the Pillows which were getting quite soft. Worth mentioning Puff Trees and lower Lift Line which opened and was good snow on a hard base.
For the final run we went out to Currie Creek and had a great run in the top where avoiding our sloughs was the biggest problem. As we got lower down the snow became a bit mushy and by the time we reached the Meadow it was down right sticky. This was so different from my first run of the day which had been back through the Gun Bowl on hard refrozen crud - amazing what 10 cms of fresh high moisture snow can do.
After last night it is time for an early (quiet) night in and prepare for the Paddy's Day weekend crowds. However you look at it today was good powder day which went some way to repairing the hill and tomorrow maybe I will go to the Old Side to what the news is from there.

Day 15 an awesome view from the Peak

I have said it before that the view from Polar Peak is the best 360 degree view of mountains lift accessible in the world. I acknowledge that there are better views (but they are not 360 degrees) and that there are better 360 degree views ( but you have to climb to get them) but when it comes to sliding off the lift and looking all around Polar Peak just can't be beaten - today was one of those days.
An apology is due to all followers who have been waiting for tonight's delayed report - I have been to the Pub with buddies. A further apology may be due as following the pub tonight's blog may not be the most coherent.
We went to the hill today in temps of +3 at the base and about -2 on top. Conditions were broken cloud which cleared as the day went on to perfect bluebird. Temps rose so that on the way home tonight temps were +7 and got to plus temps in the direct sunlight all the way up the hill even to Polar Peak. As usual on the slopes exposed to direct sunlight the snow quickly softened but where it faced even a little away from the sun it remained hard and when the sun went off surfaces towards the end of the day they stiffened up pretty quick.
I went to the Old Side to check thing s out and just like the last few days I found all the good off piste closed for (very good) safety reasons but good grooming across Lizard and Cedar bowls. I was told that later Snake Ridge opened with some good skiing on the sun softened snow but I didn't see it for myself. I had a kind of feeling that Polar Peak would be opening so I headed to the New Side. After the usual icy bump drop through Puff Trees ( well who wants to take an easy line) I took White Pass Chair and seeing that Polar Peak was open headed up there.
The view from the top was just stunning (see previous remarks) and I hung around just to enjoy the view. Polar Coaster was all that was open but that early it was ugly and icy with death cookies and a big (6ft) drop on to the cat track half way down if you got it wrong which I did first time round. The Polar Chutes were closed, I guess because they were pretty hard and icy skiing. We looped three times and then took a high speed run to base via groomed Currie Powder and Diamond Back.
Next time it was up Polar Peak for four more loops off the Coaster which was becoming softer. Last time round they opened the Reverse Traverse and I had an awesome untracked rip down Concussion which only got heavy towards the very bottom - lunch.
Afternoon all gets a bit confusing. I remember trying to take the Reverse Traverse to Skydive and finding that I couldn't because of a sign line and having a run down Currie Creek that was as ugly as a bears ass. I also remember a couple of runs to base through Tom's Run including the run off the hill which were great soft spring skiing.
We also found ourselves on Polar Peak in between these runs. A couple of times we cut hard left from the cat rack and got into the lower part of Grand Papa Bear which was very hard and icy. A couple more times after they had dropped the fence on Shale Slope we cut hard left and got into the top of Grand Papa Bear and then left again into lower Papa Pear. The surface was super hard and although not difficult if you knew what you were doing you could see why Patrol had kept the chutes shut.
Huge amounts of beer were drunk - end of story.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Day 14 a bluebird day with acold wind.

Today dawned clear and blue and stayed that way all day with the exception of a little ridge line cloud driven by a strong wind and blowing ridge line snow. This meant that the temp pattern on the hill was pretty standard in that it got colder the higher you went and things warmed slowly during the day. This morning it was about -4 at the base on the way to the hill and colder on top. By evening it was +7 at the base and about +2 on top, possibly warmer in the direct sunlight and cooler in the shade.
We went to the Old Side and found that there had been even more grooming in the form that all the runs across Lizard Bowl were groomed (Arrow, Bow, Cascade and Dancer) as were a couple of the runs in Cedar including Cedar Centre. All the ungroomed remained closed as it was ugly icy bumps and avi debris, these included Boom and Boom Ridge, Linda's, Cedar Ridge, Bear chutes, and Kangaroo. Needless to say all of Snake Ridge and beyond was closed and very ugly.
We skied around the Old Side on all the groomers which were hard and icy but as a way of touring the hill on a sunny day were very enjoyable. Anyone who knows me knows that skiing around on groomers is not really my thing and so after about half of the morning we decided to head to the New Side with a view to getting some more interesting skiing in over there on such ungroomed as we could find.
The New Side was cold in a fresh wind and there was no sign of  any softening. We looped White Pass with a very crunchy Gun Bowl and hard bumps in Highline, Highline Trees and particularly in Puff Trees on the drop from Timber Top to White Pass base  each time. We then had a couple of runs to base through Currie Bowl which was very hard and crunchy all the way down and even Gilmar Trail was harder and icier than yesterday - it was the Meadow before things began to soften.
We looped White Pass a few more times as things began to soften and then headed down for a late lunch through Falling Star which was soft and taking a nice edge. I don't often ski Falling Star as it is so mellow but I wanted to see the avies that had come out of Hells Gate and right across the track down by Fall Out as everyone had said they were pretty spectacular. Everyone was right and the sight of the debris was well worth a mellow run off the hill for the benefit of the view.
In the afternoon we went back up the New Side and looped White Pass through the Gun Bowl and Highline which were becoming soft bumps in the warm sunshine. We ran to base through Currie bowl and had some ok skiing through Curried Glades on the untracked blow in. Polar Peak was not running but the cat track had been cut to the top so an opening in the next couple of days is a distinct possibility. On the run down Currie we noticed that the Currie Chutes were open so we headed back up for a final run.
Last run of the day was in to Currie Bowl in the hope that the Reverse Traverse had been opened. It hadn't but a few turns down Currie powder revealed that the low traverse had been opened so we took it. We were faced with a dilemma, if Skydive could be accessed we had to do it (tradition demands) although the skiing would have been marginal but if it couldn't be accessed then a drop early in the Currie Chutes would be the best bet to get the best snow. We gambled and dropped early at around Toms run and had good untracked soft snow all the way down. To make things better, as we skied off the hill we looked up into Currie Creek and saw that the sign line was still in place so an attempt on Skydive would not have worked - result.
Beers with friends in the Griz and then a quiet night in. The next couple of days look like a repeat of ioday with maybe Polar Peak opening - not a bad prospect.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 13 spring skiing starts here

First of all a big hello to Jim. Who is Jim? well, he is a blog follower who cam up to me in the bar tonight to say just how much he enjoyed the blog. Sometimes you do wonder if anyone out there is listening (ok I know I get 300 hits a night but that isn't the point) and it is nice to get some first hand feed back so thanks Jim.
No more precip but temps dropped overnight so that it was -3 on the deck this morning and I guess a bit lower than that up the hill. As we drove up Ski Hill road it was socked in at the lower mountain but the cloud looked quite bright and we guessed that there was an inversion with clear skies and warmer temps on top and we were right. The valley stayed cold below the cloud at -3 and on top it was around zero. The cloud was at around the Bears Den with everything above that a perfect bluebird day looking down on the valley filled with cloud - a pretty cool sight.
As the day wore on the cloud dissipated and we had clear skies top to bottom by close. The effect was that the upper mountain had cooled overnight so no more breakable crust just boiler plate which did soften a bit by the end of the day. Lower down the late clearing of the cloud meant that the mid mountain stayed super hard in whatever state it had been in the day before. The very lowest parts of the hill (from the meadow and below) warmed in the rising valley temps which were about +5 as we drove away from the hill and as result turned to mush on a hard base.
We went to the Old Side working on the basis that as the temps had cooled much quicker last night the groomers would have opened much more of the hill although we expected the off piste to be unbelievably ugly refrozen crud - we were right in both respects. The signs from patrol suggested that the off piste skiing was to be avoided and I usually don't pay too much attention to such warnings. Today they were totally justified and everywhere on the Old Side which hadn't been groomed was ugly rough rain affected bumps and to all intents and purposes unskiable. Areas such as Boomerang and Cedar Ridge were closed but in any even they couldn't have been skied or ridden.
We toured around the hard icy groomers looking at the damage that the last few days have done to the hill. In Cedar Bowl off Cruiser we saw the most spectacular avi with a debris trail standing 3 meters high and which had taken out several trees. Lizard bowl was open but only Arrow and Dancer were groomed. It was funny to see the tracks in Bow where everyone had gone in, taken one turn and then just traversed to get out - it was that kind of a day. Partly because we thought there might be some skiable off piste on the New Side and partly because we figured that all of White Pass would be above the cloud and in the sun (correct) we went to the New Side.
Like yesterday most of White Pass was closed but now the sign line only stopped us at the I bowl on skiers left and everything in between was open. More importantly the cold of last night had firmed up the base there was no more breakable crust but what was left was boiler plate with a bit of dust on crust. Just as we were about to go to lunch they opened Currie Bowl but only as far as Currie Powder far side so there was no skiing off the Reverse Traverse. We actually did a few loops finding good rough un groomed skiing to the left of Currie Powder and some nice untracked dust on Crust in Currie Glades which were accessed via some interesting lines through the debris below Polar Chair base - Polar remained closed all day. The lower parts of Gilmar Trail were hard icy bumps until you reached the soft exit through the Meadow.
After lunch it was just a case of going back up the New Side and looping White Pass -still dust on crust mostly but the Gun bowl was actually getting a little soft. We also ran to base a few times through Currie Bowl mostly looking for untracked lines in the Glades and the exit in Gilmar remained hard and icy bumps.
Sitting on the deck of the Griz in the sun after skiing we heard a number of explosions and assumed that Polar Peak was being worked on although the feeling is that the chutes would be rock hard and icy if it was opened. Our friend Brian had returned from Mexico today and so with other friends we welcomed him back in the Griz in true Fernie fashion which involved quite a lot of beer. Tomorrow looks like a rerun of today as far as the weather goes but with further openings - can't decide whether I want Skydive open (because then we can ski it) or closed (because it will be as ugly as bears ass but we will feel obliged to give it a go) let's see what tomorrow holds.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Day 12 Free skiing from now on

Today was the day that my seasons pass paid for itself so every day for the rest of the season (which could be about 33 by my calculations) is free. Of course this all depends on how much you paid for your pass and how much you value a days skiing at. I got my pass at super cheap early bird prices in May and I am assuming the cost of skiing will be at high season daily prices so the math works out.
The rain stopped last night and starting temps on the way to the hill were zero so everything was super slick on the roads and bullet hard on the hill. During the day the base temps rose a couple of degrees but the mountain temps remained at or below zero so the upper mountain conditions did not soften during the day. Conditions were overcast with snow flurries all day which got a bit wet at the base during the afternoon but up the mountain provided some fine covering of new snow which went a long way to improving the boiler plate and providing a bit of a cushion on the breakable crust lower down.
We went to the New Side and found Currie closed, only the Highline/Heartland core open and only about half of that groomed. The warning boards suggested that only the groomers were skiable which was true even if they were rock hard. Off the groomers we found that the Gun Bowl was ok slick bumps smoothed out by rain and challenging in the poor light. Highline was the only ungroomed run skiable and even then it turned to breakable crust half way down which did cause me to blow off a ski and stack it right in front of some ski patrol buddies which caused much hilarity.
We spent most of the morning up and down White Pass skiing the above open areas and found that the light flurries did improve the surface but not much. Generally speaking the morning was spent skiing dust on crust in slightly improving conditions all over the Highline/Heartland core.
We had a hot choccy break and went to the Old side just to see what it was like. There was more open than yesterday but not much. We had Bear and Lizard bowl below Tower 6 and Kodiak down to the Boom chair but with all the top of Boom fenced off so you had to run back to the Bear. It was groomers all the way and some of the grooming was pretty random obviously due to the very wet snow when grooming started last night. Lower down things were softening a little but off piste looked ugly and chunky as we looped around the Old Side on hard icy groomers. Once we tried Power Trip which was ungroomed and was ugly, bumpy, icy and just ugly hard work so it was back to the groomers and then a late lunch.
After lunch I was back to the New Side for more loops on the Gun Bowl and Highline. The Gun bowl skied better as the snow accumulated a little on the hard base and I took steeper and tighter lines as the afternoon wore on. The real reason for dropping Highline every time was that because I had broken through the crust, lost a ski and stacked it in there in the morning I felt I had something to prove if only to myself. In the afternoon runs I was driving it much harder off the tail of the skis and had great runs with none of the morning's problems although that may have been because of a little new snow or some skier traffic on the surface - I like to tell myself it was due to better technique from me but who knows the truth.
For the last run I cam back through the Deep Sea central core and found that the cloud had socked in a viz was really poor. This was strange as sitting in the Griz things brightened up and we had clear skies and +3 as we drove away from the hill. Forecasts suggest we may have some snow in the out look but I am not so sure - in any event I intend to take one (free) day at a time.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day 11 Better than I expected

Now, let's not carried away, when I say things were better than I expected I don't mean that they were good, or anything like, just that I had expected things to be really awful today and actually they weren't !
Last night in the bar I was accosted by a friend who claimed that I always say that the ski conditions are good no matter how bad they are, and that just isn't true. In the last week I have described skiing as everything from awesome to crappy which as far as I am concerned is a true description of the situation - I just call it like I see it.
Where I do differ from most Fernie skiers is in that I always try to look on the positive side of poor skiing conditions and somehow squeeze some enjoyment from them. Everyone has fun in awesome powder conditions although guest services will tell you that they refund more day tickets to vacation skiers who can't handle it on a powder day that they refund tickets on a bad snow day. The difference is that on a day when we have icy bumps, or refrozen crud, or breakable crust or some other nasty conditions I will look to get pleasure from those conditions (if only the pleasure of skiing them better as the day goes on) rather than declare the day a write off and leave the hill.
So when I say I had fun in the conditions today it doesn't mean that the conditions were good (they were pretty crappy) it means I had fun skiing them as they were challenging and I enjoyed meeting the challenge. Actually if you ignored the limited terrain and the fact that it was raining then the surface that we skied on today (soft spring bumps) was actually quite good.
It was raining as we left the hill last night and it rained all night in the valley. On the way to the hill it was raining but it stopped as we drove up ski hill road and the rain held off all morning before coming back in the afternoon. Temps were +3 all over the hill and the rain had gone to the top of Bear. There was no chance that the New Side would open so there is no point in speculating what the snow conditions would have been up there but I am not optimistic. On the Old Side the only stuff open was the lower mountain, which doesn't count as skiing to me, and Bear. Everything else was closed and whilst you could access Boom Chair via Kodiak there was no skiing off Boom top other than to ski back to the Bear so other than a change of scenery taking the Boom chair had no real purpose.
We spent the morning finding as many ways down Bear and Kodiak as were possible, which wasn't that many. The skiing surface was soft bumps in spring like conditions on a hard base where there had been traffic and soft mush were there hadn't. After quite few runs we headed to the lower mountain and played in the skier cross course and the rail park just to do something different. The rain started hard around midday so it was time for lunch.
At lunch I put on my full Canadian Tire yellow plastic ski suit and so stayed warm and dry for the afternoon. All afternoon was spent on Bear just practising bump techniques and heavy mush skiing depending on which route we took down. As I said earlier , if you ignored the very limited terrain and the rain it really was quite nice skiing.
By the end of the day the precip was coming down white at the top of Bear although it seemed to clear later. There was hardly anyone around so finishing half and hour before last turn didn't seem too much of a cheat. On the way back from the hill temps were +7 in the valley so any precip is going to come down wet overnight. The future looks very uncertain.