Sunday, February 15, 2015

Day 73 and I'm feeling dizzy

The reason I am feeling dizzy is the number of times I looped Polar Peak today and I have to be honest I lost count. The reason is that this is the best, and by my definition the only, skiing to be had on the hill in the continuing dreadful conditions - now confirmed as the worst for at least 40 years.

After my comments last night about warm temps we at last had a bit of a break and the temp on the deck this morning was -4 and -5 on the way to the hill. It was bluebird conditions all day so whilst things warmed up in the direct sunlight there was no atmospheric warming and anywhere out of the sun stayed cold. The temp at the White Pass load and the Polar peak load was zero all day so unless the surfaces were in the sunlight everything remained bullet hard and the tracked up stuff remained particularly ugly. Needless to say there was no precip of any description.

We decided to hit the New Side and that is where we stayed all day. On arriving in White Pass we looped around several times waiting for Polar Peak to open and every where we went we found hard chunky icy ugly conditions. We dropped down Currie Powder and found that Gilmar Trail was now a hard closure so we just tracked back along Trespass Trail which at least was an easy call as the hard icy conditions made skating back to White Pass load as easy as it ever gets.

Next time up White Pass we found Polar Peak had just opened and so we were straight there. As I arrived at the top I skied over to a Patroller buddy to ask what was happening as only the Coaster appeared to be open and he responded by flipping the sign on Shale Slope. For those who don't know Shale Slope is as near to the Polar chutes as you can get without actually skiing them. I had first tracks in on the slope which had been closed for several weeks and was smooth hard pack but taking and edge in the warming sunshine. We cut across the traverse under the lift and found the skiing good and soft in the top but a bit ribby lower down where it had melted and refrozen on the way back to the lift.

That was it for the rest of the morning as we just looped Polar Peak numerous times always finding a different line down Shale Slope and trying various permutations of the pitches under the lift some of which were soft and good and some less slow. For lunch we ran off down Currie Powder (groomed but icy) Upper Diamond Back (easy if a bit full of ice pellets) Summer Road (easy cat track skiing) Lower Timber (ugly sheet ice and in some parts all but unskiable) and then the Falling Star ski out which had many bare patches but was ok.

In the afternoon I was back up White Pass and looped around again and found very little soft - the shoulder in Gun Bowl was softening but no stroll in the park. A buddy told me that the newly opened Knot Chutes were very good but with the I bowl just tracked up crud the hiking to turning ratio in there just looked wrong to me - I went back to Polar Peak.

Now, usually when Shale Slope is open and in the direct sunlight it lasts for a couple of hours at most and then reverts (as it's name implies) to an ugly rocky pitch. Today for some reason (maybe because it has hardly been opened all season) it skied fine all day and even though it became quite bumped up and soft we still didn't find any significant areas where we broke through to the rock base. As the afternoon wore on we abandoned skiing under the chair as the surface started to set up very hard and full of death cookies and just ran down into the lower part of the Coaster under Shale Slope.

It was time to run off when the Polar lift closed at 3:30 and so we ripped back round Trespass Trail to White Pass and got a couple of runs through White Pass core which just tended to confirm that everything was ugly and icy before heading off the hill. We dropped Deep Sea which was very icy track skiing before cutting out to Lower Siberia Ridge which was icy and ungroomed but compared with some of the ski out options was actually quite ok.

We had a few beers in the bar and I got reports from the Old Side which tended to confirm that we hadn't missed much there with Boom, Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge etc closed. Today we suffered the problem that whilst cooler temps can preserve the hill, they do make skiing almost impossible in areas that were skied recently in warm mush - what we need to sort this is snow, and lots of it.

A final foot note is that the Kokanee advert that was being filmed a few weeks ago is now out and anyone interested can watch it here, particularly the handsome guy in the patrol cap who appears a couple of times. Lets see what tomorrow holds.


  1. Hi Bill - we are from Sasktachewan and are heading to Fernie with younger kids (8 and 9). They usually ski the lower half of the mountain (not good enough for upper). Is it pointless to come this year? Is there any snow on lower half? Thanks Bill...Great blog!

    1. Curtis- I'm afraid most of the lower mountain is closed. You can ski to the base via a couple of tracks but the Meadow is green, all the lower stuff below Bear down to Elk on the skiers left side is closed. Things may turn round but at the moment you will only have very limited trail skiing on the lower mountain. The only lower run fully open is the Lizard ski out - your call.