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,