Saturday, April 5, 2014

Day 38 an expensive day

The reason today was so expensive was that Lynda demoed some Volkel Kikus from Quest and liked them. When she returned them they were having a one day only sale of 50% pricing for skis and bindings - the rest is rather inevitable and from tomorrow she will be skiing around on a new pair of Kikus which from memory have about 109 cms under foot which is a pretty big step up from her Sally Geishas. Still my new DPS Wailers have 112 under foot so I am in no position to comment.
Overnight things didn't get really cold and temps were +2 on the way to the hill and +1 at the base. The snow report called no new snow but it was snowing as we got to the hill and continued off and on for most of the morning. By the end of the cycle I guess we had about 5 cms of fresh on yesterday's base and with no hard overnight freeze the undersurface remained soft and taking an edge - in summary these were pretty good conditions. In the afternoon it cleared up a bit without ever getting sunny so we had some warming at the base but no real direct sun melt up above and the skiing surfaces on the upper mountain stayed at more or less winter conditions. Just for the record the base is 375 cms which gives us great coverage and should be god for the remaining 8 days of the season.
We went to the New Side and after a few laps of White Pass in pretty poor light we did three loops to base through Anaconda Glades which were very sweet and where the only problem was beating your slough out of the chutes. Bootleg Glades skied way better than we expected and only started to get heavy just above the Gilmar Trail. I took a trip out along the Reverse Traverse to see if there were good viewing points for the final of the Monster event (which there were) and if anything was happen (which there wasn't due to weather) and then ran to base down Currie Creek which skied very nicely in the new snow on a fairly soft comparatively warm base.
We hung about at the base to watch the Monster finish but the event was postponed. We took Elk Chair up to Bears Den to see what the view was like but we weren't impressed so we headed over to Low Saddle and arrived about 5 minutes before kick off with great view of the Head Wall. Seeing this race makes me realise where I am going wrong. I can ski the Lizard Head Wall by turning all the way down, what I didn't realise was that the best way to do it was to straight line it as today's winner did. An awesome display of just how much better these extreme skiers are than average Joes like ourselves.
With Lizard Bowl clear we were given the green to drop Easter despite the sign line and had a great rip in untracked snow on a soft base. Next loop I hiked Lone Fir which was hardly touched and had a very nice run through the chute and an even better one on the soft snow in the fan below - lower Easter remained in good shape.
We just had time for a White Pass loop which was starting to soften of the south facing slopes. Perhaps it's worth mentioning that all runs from Timber Top to White Pass base was on the near side of Big Bang in very nice lightly tracked quite deep snow which we ripped in GS turns although I am sure that there are those who would say I was struggling.
Final run was down Skydive where I really threw the skis at the run as I was back on my old Shoguns and it is only after a week or so on the bigger banana skis that you realise just how easy it is to throw short mid size planks around and get away with it. Skydive was good until about half way down the final pitch when it became rather sticky and heavy.
We had some early evening beers in the Griz and left ahead of the full Monster party tonight which promises to be quite an event. Now settling down for a quiet night in and to prepare myself for the final week of the season.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 37 Monster Enemy Lines

Yes, today we had the first day of the Monster Enemy Lines competition with the final tomorrow. This is a simple race where the heats go from the Lizard High Traverse to the base more or less as a straight line skier cross event with 5 racers in each heat and the first two qualifying for tomorrows main event. After 5 heats all the losers got together for a mass start event with the first two of that going into tomorrow's final. As there were helicopters and more camera crews than you could shake a stick at I guess the images of the event are available all over the internet for anyone wanting to see what we got up to today. Tomorrow, weather permitting, the race goes from the top of the Head Wall in Lizard all the way to the base as a single event with a mass start and no course - we have to hope that weather will permit.
As a result of the big event and our wanting to see it, not a lot of skiing got done today. We arrived at the hill and found temps of +3 at the base and probably temps in the valley didn't get below zero all night. It was raining in the valley but this was pretty light and stopped almost as soon as we went up the hill. During the day we had the odd shower of ice pellets up the hill which I suspect may have fallen as rain in the valley. The temps warmed higher up the hill all day but with no direct sunlight we never had the super soft mush of spring skiing, but rather a general softening on the lower part of hill which got higher as the day wore on. On the way back from the hill it was +3 again and the ice pellets that were falling as we left the Griz quickly turned to rain as we dropped into the valley.
We looped the Old Side triangle three times while waiting for the racing and found that the snow on the north facing slopes of Cedar Ridge was ok but just a little scratchy low down. Kangaroo improved each loop going from really ugly hard bumps the first time to quite soft bumps taking an edge the last time. Boomerang was ok on the skiers right but very ugly and icy on the left, I guess that was the sun affected area.
It was time for the racing and we watched all the heats from Bears Den, or the Bear Chair or the Tower 6 shoulder and it was all good stuff just to see how fast these guys could go. With some time to kill before the final qualifier with all the losers we hit Bear Chutes which were ok in the top but very heavy low down, We the tried a Boomerang all the way down which was ok in the upper sections but which became breakable crust in the lower section and was very challenging. Just time to get back to Bears Den to see the final mass heat and then head for a very late lunch.
In a very curtailed afternoon we hit Big Bang which seemed to have a lot of new soft snow so that it was almost a groomer. We then hiked Lone Fir which was very nice through the chute and soft snow underneath becoming a bit chunky in the bottom of Easter. We needed a quick run back through White Pass which was ok with the south facing slopes eventually starting to softened. Last run of course was Skydive which was soft in the top getting rather breakable crust in the mid section and then soft on hard bumps low down - not the easiest finish we have ever had.
Some good beers in the Griz and then even more in the Pub where we ate with friends, hence this late report. Tomorrow forecasts mixed conditions for the final of the Monster event and with weekend crowds it could all ne a bit strange.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day 36 Ok, so don't believe me

My remarks are addressed to all those people I told this morning about where there was some awesome powder to ski and who simply refused to believe me. One of the more interesting traits of some Fernie winter locals is their absolute conviction that they know more about runs that they haven't skied than people who have actually skied them. There has to be a scientific name for this interesting phenomena other than stupidity.
First of I have to apologise for yesterday's report which was bit brief and a bit unfocussed. This was due entirely to the huge amounts of alcohol consumed during the course of Hot Dog day. I have to make it clear that at no time did we break the signed rules displayed on the hill saying that drinking while skiing was prohibited. This is a very sensible rule as you might spill some if you tried this and for that reason we didn't.
Today dawned mostly clear with some scattered cloud which increased during the day to the point where we had some very light snow flurries on top during the course of the morning but with no accumulation. It was -5 on the way to the hill and seemed to be a fairly consistent temp all the way up the hill. During the day temps rose to about +3 at the White Pass top and there was general softening of snow on the lower mountain but with no great mush down due to the lack of direct sunlight.
I decided to go to the New Side as I had an idea that with all the action on the Old Side yesterday there might be some good stuff to be had. Polar Peak was closed as were the Knot chutes, I guess because the south facing slopes had mushed up yesterday and were bullet hard ugly refrozen crud. Knot chutes opened in the afternoon although they were still pretty scratchy but Polar remained closed all day which was probably a pretty good call given the conditions.
I headed out on the Reverse Traverse and found it was the most ugly I have ever seen it with ruts, ice, crud, death cookies etc. I was really nervous as when I crossed Currie Creek the conditions were the same and I thought I had really made a bum call. Only when I arrived at the top of Skydive did things change and the bumps were smooth and soft, the mid section was deep tracked powder and the lower section skied with good powder on a hard base. It was so good I did it again with same effect and just could not believe I was getting such good deep powder skiing after the ugly traverse, After that the morning was -
Decline - even better than Skydive as the lower section was more north facing and it was less tracked.
Stag Leap - nice through the trees and then soft tracked powder all the way down. There was a little sun affected snow mid section but after that it went back to powder on a firm base.
High Saddle - nice edge to edge turns in the chute and then powder down to the turn into lower Easter where it got bit chunky.
Decline/Window chutes - great soft deep snow and just a little scratchy in the exit which is pretty much what you would expect.
A fantastic morning's powder skiing with the best part being I could tell everyone how good it was with no fear of them trashing the powder as they simply didn't believe me. In the afternoon I went back and things had started to deteriorate in the warming conditions so that lower down we had heavy mush. That having been said the traverse remained ugly and showed no real signs of softening until last run of the day. This is how it played -
The Brain - great powder tree skiing in the top which got heavy half way down rather sooner than I expected. After the cut out into lower Skydive things became very heavy.
Google Earth - where I hear you say. They had opened the Knot Chute Traverse which was still rather sketchy so I headed out to Gotta Go. That run looked a little skied out in the choke so I jumped the left hand shoulder into the next chute which is Google Earth and had the deep powder run of the day until I hit the tracks in the top of 3 of 1-2-3.
Secret Chute /Spinal Tap - nice lightly tracked powder until I cut into the stream bed where it became super heavy slow motion skiing in elephant snot.
White Pass loop - just to kill time through the Gun Bowl and Highline Trees which skied ok on crud which had melted but was starting to set up.
Final run of course was Skydive which skied just like this morning to about half way down and then just became heavier and heavier the further you went. It was a real leg buster down to the groomed trail at the base but we did manage to do it in a single shot albeit rather slowly.
In the bar tonight they were getting ready for the Monster Enemy Lines event over the next couple of days - see the official website for full details. Precip in the forecast but with temps where they are we could be measuring it in mm's rather than cm's but lets hope not.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Day 35 happy Hot Dog day

As I hinted at yesterday , today was Hot Dog day - the day we celebrate the dreadful 80's movie Hot Dog which is a mix of skiing and soft porn by dressing up in our 80's gear getting unbelievably drunk and doing stupid things all over the hill but particularly on Wallaby in the late afternoon. It is ironical that on the one day of the year when we might really need our helmets we leave them at home in the interest of historical accuracy.
Sitting here in an alcoholic haze it is difficult to piece together the day but here goes. We went to the hill in temps of -3 but it was a bluebird day so that temps warmed fast all day so the south facing slopes but stayed just about ok on the north facing. We went to the Old Side and drunk lots of Schnapps on the lift. I think Cedar Ridge was pretty soft.
We went to the New Side and drunk beer at the Lost Boys CafĂ©. Somehow we got a couple of loops in Polar Peak which was softening in the sun but not as quick as yesterday due to a cooling wind. After the loops I ran to base through High Saddle which skied ok in the chute and really well in the soft snow underneath. Lunch.
In the afternoon we went to Wallaby and did loops watching the big jumps and getting even more drunk while hanging out with buddies in the hot sun.
We came off the hill early and went to the Griz where we drank even more beer plus some shots and danced to great music. Now home and TCM have Lawrence of Arabia on (one of my favourite movies) so a quiet night in until I fall asleep - not a great report but you were warned.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Day 34 Spring skiing and winter skiing in the same day

Tonight's report may be a bit random on account of the beers we have had with some buddies and a slight memory failure on exactly what we have skied today.
Overnight they were giving 2 cms in the last 24 hours but I guess these all came during the day yesterday as there was nothing really overnight, not even dust on crust. It was -6 on the way to the hill with a forecast for rising temps during the day. The forecast was right and the early valley mist cleared giving us sun which was very hot in the directly affected areas. By the end of the day temps were very warm even up the hill so that it was +5 at the Polar load by the early afternoon.
The result of this was that the north facing slopes stayed in pretty good winter snow conditions. The south facing slopes became soft spring skiing very quickly although they started to set up towards the end of the day as the sun went off them.
We went to the Old Side and headed out to Snake Ridge as we had been told this was pretty good. We never quite made it as the runs just on the near side of Snake were in great shape with plenty of soft snow and even untracked lines which made for great winter skiing. We did three loops and each time cut out to Cedar centre avoiding the lower crunch which no doubt became pretty mellow later in the day. Each return to Bear was through Boomerang which skied surprisingly well in soft snow all the way down to the Goat Trail. I only dropped Kangaroo once as it was the ugliest and hardest that I have ever skied it even by Kangaroo standards. I dare say that things softened up later in the day to give some good skiing but I was long gone by then. We went to the New Side.
The drop from Timber top to White Pass load was always through Big Bang in the nearside deep snow as it had been all yesterday. I thought I was having great rips down with GS turns and a straight line for the bottom section but I dare say that the Fernie locker room style police would tell you that I was "struggling" - it would be funny if it wasn't for the fact that they actually believe it.
We went up Polar peak and were amazed that Grand Papa Bear was turned to mush so early in the day. We had a couple of loops through various chutes all of which were softer than you would have expected before running to base for an early lunch through Corner Pocket. Once through the chute all spring skiing disappeared and it was full on winter snow (with some untracked lines) through the bowl below and into lower Easter.
After lunch we went back up Polar Peak and I considered doing the Currie Head Wall as it was open. I didn't as it only gives one or two exciting turns (at least in the chutes that my modest competence allows) and then is pretty easy skiing and you have to do a long hike to get there. I substituted with a large number of laps through -
Clown Chutes - at least as steep in the top as the Wimp Chutes to give you the adrenalin rush.
Barely Legal - just as steep through the rock bands as the mid sections of the headwall.
My Chute - doesn't have a name but it is the chute just as you go from Papa to Mama Bear and is as steep as anything on the headwall that I would ski.
After all these loops we ran to base through Lower Saddle which skied ok and had a great winter powder rip in the first face to the right of the chute. Looking up the snow above looked even better but more of this later. We went back to Polar for a couple of loops through Clown Chutes and Papa Bear and found that the mush was starting to set up specially where the shadow from the setting sun had come into play.
The run to base was through Sean's chute - where I hear you say? It is a part of the hill I had never skied and a new experience is always something to treasure. When you side step up towards Lone Fir you arrive at a sort of plateau and there is a chute which is not often opened but when it is (like today) it has the warning sign of "extreme hazard, cliff" that's Sean's chute. It had looked ok as we had skied under it (see previous remarks) and I figured this was a golden chance to hit it. There were a couple of boarders at the top getting ready to go and they just looked like the types that if they went in there wouldn't be much snow left afterwards so I jumped in before them and had a pretty ok run although the deep snow beneath  the chute was probably the best part - after the boarders I guess nothing much in the chute would have been any good but that's life.
After a quick White Pass loop to kill time we headed out the Skydive for the final run. Skydive skied very nice soft bumps in the top and deep soft snow in the middle sections. The final pitch was a bit icy but if anything rather better than yesterday but none of us could work out why. Beers in the Griz which just seemed to slip down rather too easy for our own good tonight.
Warning - tomorrow is Hot Dog day when we celebrate the truly dreadful 80's movie Hot Dog which is a mixture of skiing and soft porn. This will involve getting dressed up in 80's gear, doing stupid stunts off jumps in Wallaby and getting unbelievably drunk. There may be no report tomorrow and if there is it could be late and totally incomprehensible.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 33 an apology

So, to whom am I apologising ? Well, the answer is my buddies in the mines who are just starting a four day set and my buddies who are weekend warriors (yes I do actually have loads of them) because as they always complain I do tend to give some very favourable ski reports on the very days that they have to work and today is no exception in a rather big way.
It was -6 on the way to this hill this morning and the snow report gave 14 cms of fresh which seems about right and because of the cold temps it was distributed fairly evenly over the whole hill and the base up at 414 cms. During the morning we had flurries which kept things cold in quite socked in conditions. In the afternoon things brightened up a bit so we had clear conditions all the way to the top of Polar Peak and temps rising to +3 by the time we drove away from the hill. This meant that we had great winter powder snow for the first part of the day becoming softer spring snow in the lower sections by the end.
Due to old age and incompetence I had left my seasons pass on a jacket I wasn't using today so I had to get a temporary pass from guest services. If anyone from the hill is reading this I would offer some constructive criticism in saying that you have a problem. There was only one guy in guest services and although he was doing a great job to work through the line up he was just one guy - it took me 20 minutes to get a replacement pass which only took about 2 minutes once I was actually served. This would not be a problem were it not for the fact that while I was waiting there were three staff on the snow school counter doing nothing except chatting and drinking coffee - they didn't have a single customer in the time I was waiting. It should not be beyond the wit of man to devise a system whereby surplus staff in one section can move to another section to help out when there is a big line up - if the problem is technical then I suggest sacking whoever designed to software for the desk terminals.
Eventually we went to the New Side and found everything open except the Saddles and Polar Peak. We did think about the Old Side and I am told by buddies that Snake Ridge and Steep and Deep were very good but I can't confirm. We had some great loops through White Pass finding soft untracked snow almost everywhere and not much by way of crowds to trash the powder. Lynda suggested Skydive and we went and found great soft powder down to the final pitch and then breakable crust under the new snow for the final few turns which were a bit challenging.
Next time round Lynda went to Easter which was super soft in the top. I went to  Lone Fir exactly 2 weeks after I was avied out there and found almost identical conditions except that the fan held firm and I had awesome untracked lines all the way down into lower Easter bowl. We got to the top of White Pass and were tipped off by patroller buddies that Polar Peak and the Saddles were about to open.
I went to Polar load and after a few minutes wait I got the first chair up to ski Polar Chutes which had been closed for 5 days. I had the most awesome untracked run down Grand Papa Bear in deep powder which was about a half dozen GS turns from top to bottom - the run of the season so far by a big margin. I looped Polar through Barely Legal which still had loads of untracked deep snow and next loop ran off Polar in Mama Bear which was big blasted in the top but had great soft snow down to the Reverse Traverse. I ran to base through Corner Pocket which was full of snow and skied like dream Under the chute there had been a lot of avi control work but it was possible to find untracked deep powder down into lower Easter bowl which was still skiing soft and deep.
Next it was up Polar peak for two loops through Papa Bear. The trick with Papa Bear is to drop skiers right of the chute as for some reason this is less skied and the snow is deeper because it is in the lee of the ridge line and gets more windsift. The run to lunch was through High Saddle which was just like Corner Pocket, great snow undisturbed for three days with untracked lines between the avi trails.
After lunch we were back up Polar for a couple of Papa Bear loops although things were getting tracked up there was still plenty of soft snow. We ran to base through High Saddle which still had loads of untracked deep powder. We then had another couple of Polar loops before taking Mama Bear which was still surprisingly untracked. The run to base was a hike up to Lone Fir which still had plenty of snow in it but more importantly the soft snow in the fan below remained super deep.
We found ourselves with time for a White Pass loop and took an undemanding Gun bowl/High Line run and were amazed by just how much deep and untracked powder there was to be had in these pretty central and pretty easy runs.
Final rip of course was Skydive which skied as very mellow soft powder for about 80% of the run and ugly hard ice bumps for the rest - ah well, everything has to be paid for. Great beers with good buddies in the Griz. Possible more precip in the forecast but probably some spring skiing by the end of the week.
On the way back from the hill I dropped in to the Mountain Pantry to pick up a couple of bottles of wine. Having picked up the wine I eventually raised a member of staff from out the back who said they were closed. Apparently I should have realised this from the fact that the open sign above the door was switched off. Here's a reality check guys, I could have walked out with all the booze I wanted if I had been that way inclined so perhaps when you close a store it might be a good idea to lock the door. Secondly you are supposed to be a convenience store and there is nothing very convenient about closing at 6. If you are a C store and want to get away with charging premium prices the quid pro quo is that you are open all hours. I won't be going there again and bought my wine much cheaper at the ever reliable Pub liquor store.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day 32 a sensational day

The only reason I used sensational in the heading of todays report is because the word awesome is so much over used and it's getting hard to find a more extensive vocabulary to describe the conditions that we have had during the past week.
First off I have to apologise that my past couple of day's reports have been rather brief. The reason for this is that my best buddies in Fernie are miners and they work 4 day sets. This weekend just gone is the first weekend since we have been here that their  sets give them time off at the weekends, at the same time as their partners. It follows that this was the first weekend we could go out for meals and we did, which meant that my last two evenings have been cut short and this does seem to have come through in what I have written. That having been said it was Polonius (in Hamlet) who said that brevity was the soul of wit do maybe being brief isn't all that bad.
Last night it precipitated in the valley all night in one form or another ranging from rain to wet snow. Obviously this had an effect up the hill and this morning they were reporting another 17 cms of new snow and a base of just over 4 metres. On the way to the hill it was -2 on the mercury and the precip at the base was coming down white. During the day we had some very hard snow/graupel showers in the morning in sub zero temps which gave way in the afternoon to some sunny periods and temps getting up to about +3 mid mountain.
The conditions were great creamy powder all morning becoming a bit heavier in the afternoon, and slushy in the lower mountain. What was particularly good was that the crowds from yesterday were gone and whilst it wasn't quite back to mid week levels it wasn't that far off. The other good point was that significant areas that had been closed yesterday were open today giving us access to almost 40 cms of untracked powder in many areas.
In the early conditions of wet snow we went to the New Side and straight away found that Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees were open straight off the bat. We did the Knot Chute/Surprise Trees loop about 6 times . These had improved from yesterday and were soft snow (lightly tracked) and very easy skiing which was a big difference from yesterday's tough work out on hard rubbery snow.
We were on our way out to Surprise when a patroller buddy passed us and told us it was clear to ski Anaconda. As always happens in these circumstances the herd drops the near chute of Anaconda (they can have it - my gift to them) whilst those of us who are a little more discerning climb the hump into the further chutes - this takes a little longer but is so much more worth it. This time I put first tracks into the first chute over the hump which hadn't been skied in two days and it was just awesome bottomless powder where the biggest problem was beating out your own slough. We then took the near trees in Bootleg for more deep and totally untracked lines through the tree chutes. By the time we go to Gilmar trail it was heavy and chunky and that rather set the pattern for the day.
We then went back up White Pass and found Currie bowl open so we just looped the rest of the day as follows -
Decline - we had intended to do Skydive but there were a couple of tracks in and Decline was untracked. Two days of soft deep snow meant you could pretty well straight line it although a guy passed me about half way down so I guess he was even straighter lining it than me but it was an awesome rip getting a bit heavy low down but as it was untracked it skied like water skiing.
The Brain - a few tracks in but as usual with all the lines available it was easy to get untracked skiing all the way down to the ski out into Skydive by which time things were a bit heavy.
Secret Chutes/Spinal Tap - some great un tracked lines in the top. In the creek bed there had obviously been a slide but we could keep on top and the snow was pretty mushy. The only surprise was the tree that had been brought down by the slide in the lower section which required a bit of avoiding in some super heavy snow.
Stag Leap - we had actually hiked Cornice Ridge with a view to dropping Lone Fir but found it closed , I heard later that it opened just moments after we were there. We dropped Cornice Chute which was awesome, deep and untracked before going in to Stag Leap. The run was tracked up but great soft snow but heavy in the final pitch.
Anaconda/Bootleg Glades - we had the idea that no one would have been back in Anaconda and we were right. We pushed the chutes a bit further across and found fantastic deep untracked lines. Bootleg was getting a bit clunky and I thought maybe starting to set up a little.
This brought us all to the final run of the day which of course was Skydive. By this time the bumps in the top were starting to reappear and were a bit of work. The mid section was awesome partially tracked powder that was a complete ripper. The final section was super soft and heavy spring skiing, no problem, just hard work.
So having struggled through another day I hit the bar and found it full of good buddies celebrating the 4 metre party - a perfect end to a great day. As we drove away from the hill temps were around zero with more precip about so things are looking pretty good.