Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 45 Furnival

Furnival is the last Saturday of the season and is a bit like Hot Dog day in that it is more about partying and having a good time unless conditions are such that you just have to take the skiing seriously which today did not apply.
Overnight there had been a skiff of snow and on the way to the hill temps were -1 which meant that all the soft stuff we had tracked up yesterday was frozen to a bullet hard rutted base and the new snow was nowhere near deep enough to cushion us from the consequences of trying to ski on it. Our only hope was for a warm up during the day which would soften the surface but this didn't really happen. It did warm up a bit but there was a cold wind all day ( the ridge line snow plumes were totally spectacular) but the sun was either behind clouds or obscured by haze and that together with the colder starting temps meant that nothing softened all day. Strictly speaking a few bits of the lower mountain and some south facing groomers did get a little softer but none of what we would call the interesting skiing became anything like soft. Even half way through the day upper mountain temps were around zero.
We went to the Old Side to check things out and found everything hard, even the groomers. Trips through Lizard and Cedar bowl failed to find anything soft. Around 11 we stopped to watch the start of the Powder, Peddle Paddle ( a four legged relay race of skiing, biking, canoeing and running)before completing some more Cedar and Lizard loops which failed to reveal any soft snow.
We went to the New Side and tried some White Pass loops which were unsurprisingly hard and crusty. We ran to base twice through Highline, Silver Lining, Trespass Trail and Diamond Back which were hard and mostly ungroomed particularly in the icy final section of Diamond back which was very slick.
We ran to lunch down Currie Powder ( the county line was closed) and it was very scratchy and ungroomed. Gilmar trail looked a bit smoother but was still very icy and we only found soft snow as low down as in the top of the Meadow. Lunch.
After lunch we tried the Old Side again without much success - Bear and Arrow and places like that were getting softer but everywhere else was still bullet hard. I had three runs down Boomerang which if anything got tougher, icier and generally just more unpleasant each time. Of course I did have to suffer a fair amount of "crazy Brit" abuse from the Boom Chair from buddies for skiing ice bumps but what else can you do. A hike out to Skydive just seemed like recipe for a trip to the hospital so I had a run down a very icy Dancer and then an early finish for Furnival.
The band were ok but I still think we would have done better with Shred Kelly. Way too much to drink in the bar with buddies and some good plans for what to do over the next few weeks when the hill closes. So here we go for the final day, just a warning, if past years are anything to go by tomorrows party is going to be so out of order that there will be no report from me until Monday morning so be warned.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day 44 not so good in the morning but an awesome afternoon

This morning dawned overcast with a threat of wet prcip at some time during the day. On the way to the hill it was +3 and although it got a bit warmer towards the end of the day, the theme was one of atmospheric warming which only spread very slowly up the hill to soften last nights pretty firm freeze. During the day we actually had wet flurries off and on although with only dust on crust accumulations and by the evening long after the hill had closed it went bluebird with another big warm up.
We went to the Old Side on the grounds that the lower elevations would start to warm first in the atmospheric warming. We had a few runs up and down Bear which had been groomed to get a feel of exactly where the melt line was and the answer was depressingly low. Cedar centre was pretty ribby and we tried an early run through Kangaroo which was just about skiable soft snow on a very hard base.
After that we just poked around for a few runs in Boomerang and Boom ridge which were all pretty marginal with some soft stuff on a very scratchy base. We went to the New Side and found everything to be even worse. Nothing, and I do mean nothing had been groomed and with a Timber top temp of zero everything had frozen solid overnight and we were faced with the mess that we had made of the hill yesterday pretty much cast in concrete. We tried a White Pass loop but couldn't really find anything soft and then ran to base through Currie Powder which was very scratchy and didn't soften until half way down Gilmar Trail - time for an early lunch.
After lunch we decided to go to the Old Side on the grounds that the New Side would only soften late (if ever) and the Old Side just had to be a better bet. It was a good call and we looped Bear under the Chair, Boom Ridge and Boomerang several times in softening snow which was taking an edge but which was no way mush. Mid afternoon I took a risk and dropped Cedar Ridge fully expecting marginal conditions and found soft untracked snow taking a wonderful edge - run of the day by a big margin. It was so good I looped it 3 more times and each time was as good as the last. All returns to Boom Chair were through Kangaroo which was skiing as super soft big spring bumps and was about the best I can remember it even if you did have to keep you skis in the fall line to keep things moving at an acceptable pace.
It was soon the end of the day and time for Skydive but with the Currie Powder sign line down how was this to be achieved ? I hiked the side step Traverse from the Lizard side and after going through some rather messy stuff in Easter bowl (big avi trails and damage) and ended up in Skydive a little way above the Megasaurous Trail. There was only one track in front of me in Skydive which perhaps isn't surprising as it was hard work to get there and the surface was pretty mushy. I had a good run down although it was important to keep up the speed and stay on top.
Beers with friends and then home for a quieter night than of late with a view to conserving our energies for closing weekend. The forecast is calling for snow but I am not holding my breath.

Day 43 a bit of a late one

Ok, sorry this is so late but straight from skiing we went out with our good buddies Rod and Karen to the Bridge Bistro and had and excellent meal and good beer which took up a lot of time. Actually it would have taken up a bit less time if they had been more prompt with the bill (why do eateries seem so reluctant to take your money after you have eaten) but none the less a good evening.
Today was a pure bluebird day with only the odd wisp of cloud. It was classic spring skiing with temps of -3 on my deck as we had our morning coffee which had risen to +3 by the time we reached the hill. There was no real atmospheric warming today so simply where the sun hit the surfaces it melted and where it didn't it stayed pretty hard. By the end of the day it was getting really warm (+12) in the direct sunlight but in the shade it still remained icy.
We went to the Old Side and found that not much had been groomed and where it hadn't it was very hard and ribby. We took several runs down Bear which wasn't showing much sign of softening but was at least groomed. This suited me as I was testing the new +2 binding position for my DPS Wailers and have to say I found this much more to my liking. After a while we tried Arrow which was ungroomed and a big mistake as it had not softened and we had to consider replacing the fillings that we had shaken loose on the way down.
Next we dropped Cruiser which was still hard but at the very bottom in the direct sun things got a little soft. In a fit of optimism we dropped Kangaroo and found that the skiing on the left in the sun was just about ok with the hard bumps softening on top. I noticed one set of tracks in ahead of me only to realise that these were my tracks from yesterday and it looks like no one had been in there since I skied it yesterday morning.
After that we took a risk on Boomerang and found it going soft on top of a firm surface. The same was true of Boom Ridge which we hit dead right and we continued to lap these runs several times until they started to go mushy. We decided to try the New Side.
Lift Line and Big Bang looked very crunchy so we didn't try them and this seems like a good call as a run down Puff which is much the same aspect proved to be challenging enough with icy bumps. We looped White Pass a couple of times finding Gun Bowl crust on mush so ok where it hadn't been skied a treacherous where it had. Highline was rather icy but ok and the I bowl was interesting after we worked our way across and avi debris trail under the Cheese Grater into the less tracked stuff beyond - like the Gun bowl, great in the smooth and not so great in the tracked. We ran to a very late lunch through Currie Powder and Gilmar Trail (the sign line is still down on the far side of Currie Powder) which was crunchy surprising low down all the way to about half way down Gilmar Trail.
After lunch there was just time for a couple of laps of Gun Bowl (starting to get really soft) I bowl still difficult where tracked up) Trespass Trail and Diamond Back (never really soft and actually quite icy in the final pitch) to get us to a final White Pass groomer rip.
We finished with a rip down Currie Powder which was a mixture of soft and crust as speeds which were pretty much on the edge inspired by some young lads setting off just ahead of us and we feeling we had to show them that the old men still knew how to rip - pathetic really but what else is there to do on a Thursday. Beers on the deck in the sun and then out for the evening, Looks like the only way we are going to get Skydive is the sidestep traverse from Lizard so watch this space.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Day 42 a surprisingly good day

When I say that I am sitting on my deck at 6 in the evening typing away on my lap top and drinking a cold beer you may be forgiven for thinking that things have got even hotter here. Actually they only started to really warm up after the hill closed so we had a day of surprisingly good skiing and then a very warm evening to sit out on the deck which is very much the way things ought to be in my opinion.
It rained overnight and the hill didn't show any new snow so I guess it came down as rain up on the snow plot although there were signs of a light dusting of snow at higher elevations. On the way to the hill it was only +4 which was way cooler than yesterday. During the day it remained overcast or hazy sun so this combined with the lower atmospheric temps and a cooling wind meant that the snow never got super mushy like yesterday but did soften in what always were plus temps although no more than +5 at any time. The sun came out at the very end of the day and temps went to +12 but by that time skiing was long over.
We went to the Old Side with a warning that hardly anything had been groomed and it had frozen over night - both these statements proved to be true. The trick was to hit what would normally have been groomers just as the ski and rain affected surface from yesterday was starting to soften. We had great runs all over in Bear, Arrow, Bow, Cascade and Dancer. A particular mention has to go to China Wall which was as near to corn snow as I have every seen in Fernie and was really nice soft stuff taking an edge on a firm base.
We did have a run down Cedar and found that Cruiser and Cedar Centre were skiing just as good as the rest of the Old Side but we were entertained by a massive death cookie which was about 5 times as big as me and had rolled across Cedar High Traverse. I tried Kangaroo and found it a mixture of too soft in some places and too slick in others, still it had to be tested. With most of the morning gone and things softening we headed to the New Side.
Lift Line and Big Bang looked too ugly an opinion which some later trips in the afternoon confirmed. Puff was the run of the day from Timber top to White Pass load as it was always changing going from soft to refrozen on pretty mellow bumps. We did a few White Pass loops and found the Gun Bowl softening, Highline ungroomed but taking a nice edge and everywhere interesting softening skiing.
Polar Peak was closed as was the sign line on the far side of Currie Powder so we ran to base down Currie Powder in conditions that were a bit scratchy to start with but softened on the way down. We had time for one more loop of the same before a late lunch. Half way down we stopped to watch a couple of Patrollers making hard work of skiing the Polar Chutes and it made us think that if these guys who are infinitely better skiers than we are had to work in the chutes then keeping them shut was probably a very good idea.
In a shortened afternoon I went to the New Side and ran to base through the Gun Bowl (very soft but skiing GS turns so easily) the I bowl (ditto) and then Trespass Trail to Diamond Back which was firm underneath and soft on top. I had a couple of White Pass loops particularly enjoying the soft snow in the Gun Bowl before running to base by the previous route which skied exactly as before.
With no chance of getting out to Skydive we had a non stop rip to finish from White Pass through Currie Powder and Gilmar Trail where the surface was just starting to set up a little. Just time for a couple of quick beers on the deck as I had to head to Straight Line to pick up my DPS Wailers where I was having the bindings remounted in the +2 position to counter the back seating I have been getting with the new skis. It's worth mentioning that Straight Line did the remounting and refused any payment even though it was all my idea. This was great customer service and they certainly will be my first port of call in future if that's how they treat customers.
It's just getting a little chilly so time to finish off and go indoors.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Day 41 full on Summer Skiing

If yesterday was spring skiing then today was summer skiing with no kind of qualification whatsoever. Overnight we heard that the temps on the upper mountain got no colder than +3 even at the top. On the way to the hill it was +12 and was even +9 when we arrived at the Timber load. During the morning it was overcast  but the temps continued to rise and as things became bluebird in the afternoon and I noticed that at the Polar load mid afternoon it was +11. After skiing we went down town to take advantage of the great Tuesday offer of 10 bucks for a beer and a burger at the Northern, and even now at 8 at night it is still +14 on the deck. In summary today was super hot all over the hill and the snow was softening like you have never seen all day.
We went to the Old Side to see what had softened and the answer was pretty well everything. We found that the groomers were ok with a very soft and quite deep surface that took an easy edge which made for slow slushy skiing. The real fun was when you tried anything off piste. The comparative lack of sunlight in the overcast conditions made no difference and the fact that the snow had been subject to plus temps for well over 24 hours meant that it was all boot deep slush. We poked around most of the Old Side looking for improvements and found none so late morning we decamped to the New Side.
Even Puff was super soft as was the Gun Bowl and Heartland, although not quite as bad as the Old Side. After a couple of very slushy White Pass loops we went up Polar Peak on the grounds that this might have been the only part of the hill not totally gone to slush. We had three loops down Papa Bear which got softer every time so that last time round the whole surface was moving under your feet but at least felt ok on the firmer base underneath. We went to lunch down Currie Powder and found that although nominally a groomer it was in fact heavily chopped up soft bumps but at least on a firm base. This was true for Gilmar Trail down to Timber Chair and remained true all afternoon which is significant as these were the favoured routes to base all afternoon.
Polar Peak had shut down over lunch due to high winds but restarted as I arrived after lunch only to shut with me on the last chair for the rest of the day due to the returning very high winds. The final run down Papa Bear was very slithery and as a result the traverse under the chutes closed straight away.
The rest of the afternoon was spent looping Lift Line (soft but bumpy) White Pass (very soft in the Gun Bowl) and Currie Bowl ( slush bump skiing in Currie Powder) until last lift at 4. We couldn't get out to Skydive because of a sign line just beyond the Polar Chutes and so finished with a final rip down Currie.
In summary it was a rather better day than we could have possibly have hoped for when we got to the hill this morning. Slush skiing isn't my favourite but as things go, today was pretty good. We can't decide at the moment whether we want it to freeze over night which would firm up the base but give us ugly crud or whether we want it to stay warm and give us the heavy elephant snot that we had today. Nothing looks like it will turn out that good.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Day 40 full on spring skiing

Yes, this morning was what spring skiing is all about, poking around trying to get to the surfaces just as they soften, too early and you get ugly refrozen crud from the day before, too late and you get mushy elephant snot. As always on a day like this there were some spectacular successes and of course some even more spectacular failures. The afternoon was something else all together but more of that later.
As I was having my morning coffee I checked the deck temp which was -3 which suggested to me that everything on the hill would have frozen overnight in even colder up the hill temps. When we got to the hill it was +5 which confirmed that things were getting warmer quicker and by the time we drove away it was +12 in the parking lot and for last run of the day I had noted a temp of +8 at the White Pass load - all in all a very warm spring day. It was a bluebird day with some clouds in the morning but in the afternoon it became quite over cast before clearing back to bluebird for a great locals deck session after skiing.
We went to the Old Side on the grounds that the lower elevations would get softer first. The groomers had cut a diagonal slash across the Sunny Side shoulder which was the first time I had ever seen that. It was really useful in that it allowed you to get into Sunny Side early to check out the conditions early knowing you had an escape route if you got it wrong. As it was Sunny Side softened very early and I had a large number of loops off the Bear Chair through the shoulder before it all became too soft.
On the advice of a Patroller buddy I went out to Snake Ridge and had an awesome run in softening snow on a firm base all the way down Snake Main. I made my first mistake by choosing KC chute as the exit and found the left side in the sun already gone to mush while the right hand side in the shade was still icy death cookies - this made for some very interesting turns until I could escape over the left hand shoulder and ski the face which was firm underneath and soft on top. The drop from Haul Back top to Boom load was via Kangaroo which was soft bumps and great easy skiing - so good I did it 2 more times.
Boom Ridge was softening and I hit it 4 times with great soft bumps which were getting a bit mushy last time round. Boom was fine and I skied it a couple of times sticking to the guts to take advantage of the firmer base as the surface softened. My only other mistake was Cedar Ridge which had softened yesterday in the atmospheric warming but had not sun softened when I did it and was rather ugly. It might well have improved in the afternoon but for me it was lunch time and then I was heading to the New Side.
When I arrived at the New Side I found that the Polar chutes had only just opened. A patroller buddy said that they had started to soften but as things became overcast they were starting to set up and he couldn't guarantee the conditions. I dropped in and found the most wonderful conditions - the chilling winds were creating a sort of sugary surface which on the soft under snow took a great edge and made skiing the chutes so easy. Awesome skiing as long as you weren't fazed by the whole surface moving under your feet as you turned.
I did laps of Grand Papa Bear, Barely Legal and Papa Bear three times each so 9 runs in all off the Polar Chutes, all good and very mellow. It was getting late so I dropped Mama Bear (also very good) and High Saddle (great in the saddle but very mushy in the face below) before looping back to Timber on the groomers as the lower mountain was very heavy. There was just time for a White Pass ripper loop before heading out the Skydive.
I have to say that I was not anticipating a vintage Skydive given the conditions but I was so disappointed to find that I was the only one who turned up for the 4 o'clock run. Actually it wasn't to bad with the upper section soft on the bumps and the lower section setting up to take an edge. In a reversal of normal conditions it was the mid section which was challenging as heavy elephant snot.
The evening on the locals deck of the Griz was magic in warm sunshine. We were entertained by Crazy Luc with stories of his various narrow escapes (the guy has more lives than a cat) and plenty of input from the Patrollers who were there as well as a good number of buddies and even a guest visit from Murdie the retired avi dog.
Looks like tomorrow will be much the same.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Day 39 warm and getting warmer

On the way to the hill today it was +3 suggesting that we had no freeze last night at lower elevations and indeed no freeze quite a way up the hill. Conditions tended to suggest this was right. There had been a little new snow on the upper hill in the form of graupel (about 4 cms) so things were soft and covered but getting softer in the atmospheric warming all the time.
By the end of the day mid mountain temps had risen to about +8 and it was much hotter both at the base and in the direct sunlight. The hill became mushy all over, even on the north facing slopes as the temps rose. The sunlight itself was something of a surprise as we had been forecast rain all afternoon and although it was overcast this morning it cleared in the afternoon to bluebird conditions and at the end of the day we were sitting on the locals deck drinking beers in our T shirts - so much for weather forecasts.
We were delayed as Lynda was picking up her new skis and checking them out so it was getting on for 10 before we really got going We went to the New Side although I have had reports that Redtree and Cedar Ridge on the Old Side were pretty good all day. We dropped Knot Chutes with the intention to ski Surprise Trees. As the chutes were scratchy we hopped over into Anaconda Glades and had a great run through the chutes in deep snow. Bootleg Glades were a bit heavy but skied surprisingly well. This was all so good we did it again with the same results. Next time I hit Gotta Go which was untracked and I had to hold up in choke to let he express train that was my slough to go through before finishing it off.
We decided to hit out down the Reverse Traverse and dropped Corner Pocket where the tires are still covered. The skiing below was great soft untracked powder which at that time of the day was pretty light. Last run before lunch we found Polar Peak was open but only on the cat track and had about half a dozen nice powder turns off the track low down but it was a long way to go for such a small and mellow drop. The run to base was through High Saddle which was soft with easy edge to edge jumping and some great untracked heavy powder below - the exit through lower Easter was decidedly heavy. Lunch.
After lunch I went back up the New Side and had another drop through High Saddle which was starting to get a bit rubbery but the stuff underneath was still good. Polar Peak remained open and we got the word that the chutes had been declared safe having been closed all morning due to ugly conditions. Kevin and me went in an were some of the first to ski them. They were a strange mix of hard ice, soft windsift, sun affected new snow and crud - in other words pretty well every condition you could think of in one run. We took Papa Bear to the load and a lot of people (I guess encouraged by seeing a couple of old guys skiing it) were on the chair and ready to go. We took Mama Bear which had some great soft smooth snow in the lower section.
We ran to base through Low Saddle which I skied really badly. The new DPS Wailers have a habit of dumping me in the back seat and for some reason on this run I was unable to counter it. Next loop was a run through Papa Bear off Polar which by this time was getting almost soft but still with a few surprises. We dropped Low Saddle on the basis that I had some ghosts the exorcise after the previous pass. This time I skied it ok but I still feel I have some technique issues to sort out with the new Wailers in the steep tight chutes.
Last run was supposed to be Skydive but it didn't work out. We loaded Timber chair in plenty of time but then had a ride with 8 break downs which took 25 minutes instead of the planned 11. This would not be a problem except that the White Pass chair load wouldn't let us ride because we were 3 minute late even though all the problems had been caused by Timber chair breaking down - apparently this " wasn't their problem". So a lot of customers were very pissed off because they couldn't complete their circuits when anyone with a brain would have kept White Pass open a few minutes late and got a lot of customer good will by doing so but then what do I know - I am only a fare paying customer.
We ran to base in via Black Cloud in spring temps which by now were + 8 on the hill and +11 on my deck and with the whole of the hill turning to slush. Beers on the deck in sun - spring skiing really is here.