Friday, December 11, 2015

Day 1 a full on powder day

Yes, the first day on the hill today (just 7 days after official opening) was a full on powder day with 17 cms of good powder on the upper mountain. Just to make it clear, this was not a case of it being good for the time of year, it was good by any definition and would stand comparison with any powder day on the hill at any stage of the season.

The wet weather we have been having in the valley over the past few days gave us fresh snow on the hill. This shouldn't be entirely surprising as the precip turned to snow in the valley for both of the past two nights which meant that it would have been powder up the hill and even during the day when it fell as rain in the valley it would have been snow at some point up the hill.

The day dawned overcast and stayed that way most of the day with some very light flurries around mid day and brightened a bit towards the close. Temps on the way to the hill were -1 with the upper mountain temps probably around -3. The temps rose a couple of degrees during the day so that the lower hill snow became a little heavy but on top it remained in great condition.

The official snow figures were for 17 cms of new snow which if anything slightly understated how good things were, and a base of 150 cms. Now, I have explained snow bases before but as it is early season it is worth making the point again. At any ski hill the snow base is reported at a plot very high up the hill which is more or less level and never subject to any skier traffic. The result is that the snow base recorded at any ski hill has little or nothing to do with the snow you may actually find yourself skiing on. If you use the ski base as a cypher for just how much snow is around fine, if you think that a base of 150 cms means that you will be sliding around on a meter and a half of snow all over the hill then you are in for one hell of a surprise. The 150 cm snow base for Fernie means some good coverage up high but pretty thin low down and lots of early season hazards still poking through.

I hit the Old Side and found Lizard across to Dancer and the main Bear runs open. The 17 cms of new snow rested either on a groomed base or the ungroomed snow between the main runs and was for the most part untracked because of the low numbers of skier traffic this early in the season, Of course the first few turns of the season were as usual rather tough but after a run or two things got back to normal and the skiing on the deep untracked snow all over Bear and Lizard was awesome.

Just as most of the open areas had been skied they opened Boom Guts and Boom Ridge which gave a load more untracked skiing. Ok, most of it was fairly twiggy but if you kept you wits about you there was some great deep powder to be had. By late morning most of the new areas had been skied and I was thinking about a break when I found myself at the top of Alpine Way just as they dropped the fence on Cedar Ridge. This gave excellent loops in deep hero snow which was untracked as you pushed across towards King Fir as the day wore on. The only bad skiing of the whole day was in the bottom of King Fir where some refrozen avi debris made for some tough skiing.

The lower parts of Cedar down to Haul Back were all deep lightly tracked powder with some great skiing. I even managed to ski the lower part of Kangaroo (the upper part was closed) which was very mellow after it's significant summer hair cut. It was time for a late lunch.

After lunch I tried the New Side and found the whole of the White Pass area was excellent soft snow which had been tracked up a bit during the morning. I did several White Pass loops and then was tipped the wink by a ski patrol buddy that it might be a good idea to stand by the sign line by Firy Hornet which was the limit of skiing up to that point. My reward was that the fence dropped a couple of minutes later and gave us first tracks in Surprise Trees which was truly awesome. We just spent the rest of the day looping Surprise Trees back to White Pass and finding new lines in the trees every run.

Close of the day was a run off the hill through Falling Star and then beers with buddies in the Griz bar. In summary it was one of the best first days I can remember and even though there are numerous early season hazards in the form of alders, rocks, tree stumps etc there are areas which are truly excellent full on winter powder conditions. Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds.

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