Saturday, December 27, 2014

Day 23 some crowds but some awesome new snow

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 26, 2014

Day 22 normal service is now resumed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 21 the best Christmas Day's skiing ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 19 no new snow yet but still some good skiing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 18 two out of three aint bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe some snow tomorrow and temps staying low.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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