Saturday, January 17, 2015

Day 44 not quite so good and weekend crowds but an ok day

After yesterday today was bound to be a bit of a let down but in the event we had some ok skiing. The official web site claimed 10 cms I the last 24 hours which of course is true but it all came yesterday so we had no new snow overnight and although there had obviously been over night wind events in places there was little of no wind sift in the places I skied.

It was -2 on the way to the hill and +1 on the way back. At the various points that I saw thermometers on the hill today temps seemed to be about -1 or zero. Of course this doesn't include Polar Peak which was not open and I guess a few degrees colder. It was overcast on the ridge lines but with some sun across the valley but during the day the weather socked in more with a forecast of precip (more of this later) over night and into tomorrow. There was no real snow of any kind during the day.

With the weekend crowds driving in and after a very big day yesterday I decided to have a relaxing day in comparison. I hit out to the Old Side and had a warm up through Sunny Side shoulder which was ok with a bit of sift blown in between the alders. China Wall was not much better, in fact it was worse as there was no real sift.

I then did three big Old Side loops heading out to Steep and Deep, Snake Ridge and the Poppa Chutes in Fish bowl. Steep and Deep had a little wind crust but was good packed powder skiing although the exit chute to the right was very twiggy and you had to bushwhack your way back in to Lower Gorby bowl. Snake was much better with loads of untracked lines although the exit was bit sketchy as I got lost trying to cut into Lower Gorby and ended up skiing some very technical chutes in the KC area. Poppa Chutes were soft and very largely untracked snow. I had considered taking the Fish bowl all the way down and hiking out but half way down the surface had been wind swept back to blue ice so I bailed into Redtree which was some very mellow soft snow skiing.

Each of the three loops back (bear in mind that each loop requires a trip up Haul Back, Boomerang and Bear) we dropped to Boom load via Lower Kangaroo which is skiing ok if a bit twiggy. I did look in upper Kangaroo but decided against it not because it was closed but because it still looks too twiggy and crusty to be much fun. The run down Boomerang to the Goat Trail each time was very mellow soft snow particularly on the skiers right. I then just had time for two Loops down Boom Ridge which was skiing very soft and mellow before having a crowded lunch in the day lodge. As I have said before these Snake ridge loops do take a lot of time what with the three lifts and having to work your way out there so this was my first day when I have done loops in this way.

In the afternoon I went to the New side and immediately hit Tight Knot (awesome soft snow) Anaconda Glades over the hump (best snow of the day) and Bootleg Glades also great snow in the near chute through the trees but very twiggy low down. My next loop was my only real mistake. High Saddle had opened that morning and I figured that even weekend boarder traffic could not trash it in a morning - wrong. There was a gully just bit shorter than my skies gouged down the middle of the chute with a blue ice base. I worked my way down and found some pretty good powder but the light failed just about as I arrived so even that wasn't as good as it should have been. After that I just took a regular loop through Decline which skied very well although it was much more bumpy in the top section with a big bit of wood showing.

As we were getting short on time I did a couple of White pass loops, both times through the Tight Knot which still had some great snow in the chute The drops were trough the I bowl (an easy ski out on ok powder) or the Surprise Chute just before the trees which skied about as soft and mellow as I can remember and ran Anaconda a close second for run of the day. And so 4 of us assembled at the top of Skydive at 4 and unsurprisingly found - Hard bumps in the top, great free riding in the next section, easy GS turns in the mid section and some hard twiggy skiing in the final pitch.

Our guests left today and I don't pick up our next one until Tuesday evening from Cranbrook Airport. As I have often remarked "you would be amazed how many friends you have when you own a house in Fernie". Had my first beers tonight in the Griz Bar with my buddy Rob, just back from Australia but somehow I suspect they won't be our last. The forecast is call for a ton of snow but with temps staying warm, we have to hope this is going to come down white but there has to be a danger of what the hill describes a "mixed precipitation" and the rest of us call rain. Let us pray to the Griz that it come down white.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Day 43 way better than we thought we were going to get

So what happened ? Well. overnight we had about 6 cms of fresh snow and I estimate that we got maybe another 3-4 cms in the day before it stopped, so why is this minor accumulation so exciting. My own view as to what happened is this - about 2 weeks ago we had a big snow dump which we trashed, about 10 days ago we had a 10 cm accumulation which then went hard with a rain crust on top. Since that time no one has skied the potentially deep crust and today' 8 cms of quite heavy hero snow meant we could. This gave us access to up to 30 cms of untracked snow albeit through several layers and a bit crusty at times but skiing way better than a first glance at the snow statistics would suggest.

On the way to the hill it was -6 and -2 as we drove away so the warm up continues. They were calling 6 cms of snow which feels about right and there was considerable wind sift around. All day the wind was blowing strongly in socked in conditions on top which gave great wind sift which not everyone could find to ski in the poor viz. It snowed off and on all morning and we enjoyed some ever changing conditions in the wind although viz on White Pass was universally poor.

We caught one of the first chairs up from Timber  and got a bad start to the day when it stopped for a long, long time. The end result was that we arrived at Timber top at 9:25 having started an 8 minute lift ride at 9 - not a good start to the day. Things were all covered with new snow and in places much deeper blow in so that skiing all over the upper mountain was great but the viz was somewhat variable.

We just looped the New Side all day and I skied from 9 to 4 with only the briefest of yellow snow breaks which must make this my biggest day of the year. Conditions were very good made all the better by the absence of anything we could have reasonably described as snow for at least 10 days. It panned out like this -
Lift Line (eventually) - first tracks which were great wind sift.
Cougar Glades/ Stag leap - totally untracked so just awesome.  We had to cut the traverse out to the Big 3 which was hard work in slabby snow but that's what you have to do to get first tracks. The snow between the trees in Cougar was still a little crunchy but untracked it was just awesome. Stag Leap was totally untracked free riding.
Skydive - Lynda and I grabbed third and fourth tracks in there and they were just as good as we expected Great untracked lines.
Decline as with Skydive there were only two tracks in front of us, I surprised myself by seeing how long I could hold my skis in the fall line and as a result doing the first pitch in about 4 turns, awesome.
Stag Leap - beautiful soft powder through the trees at the top and this extended into the main run. Stag Leap run was still lightly tracked with the alders down low just starting to disappear.
Not So Secret Chutes - we had intended to cut into Spinal Tap but missed the traverse. Run of the day with super deep wind groomed snow and only two tracks in front. Amazing straight line skiing.
NSSC/ Spinal Tap - the snow as just as good in the chute as before and the snow was of such hero quality that any tight situations could be dealt with by just pushing your skis in the fall line. Spinal Tap had one track in and was super deep snow when allowing for all the previous layers of snow.
Lone Fir - totally amazing deep untracked snow which again was skied with fall line skiing and maybe two turns in the choke.
Decline/Window chutes - Decline a little more tracked out but Window Chutes hardly tracked great powder.
NSSC/Spinal Tap - Lynda came back from lunch with a buddy so we did this once again and it was just as good but with a couple more tracks.
Currie Creek - everyone seemed to have ignored this and is was awesome and deep with only a couple of tracks in even at the end of the day.
Knot Chutes/ Surprise Trees - a quick White Pass loop where the chutes were very deep and the trees were a bit variable but ok.
Skydive - the final top to bottom rip which was skiing great all the way down with many untracked areas.

After 7 hours non stop skiing we had rather more beers than we should have had and as Lynda had skied bell to bell including a couple of Skydives it's a case of Boston Pizza order out tonight for us after a long soak in the hot tub. Wonder what the weekend holds.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Day 42 a day of two halves

And the two halves were the Old Side where we had harder and bumpier skiing than ever and then the New Side where we had some great new wind sift albeit in some rather variable visibility.

On the way to the hill it was -6 and on the way back it was -3 with up the mountain temps hanging in at -5 for most of the day. It was weird weather with sun in the valley but ridge line clouds with some quite strong ridgeline wind. this meant socked in conditions on top but good viz below in the sun although in the shadows the defused white light from the sun gave some very flat poor light conditions. By evening cloud was starting to roll in and ridgeline winds had come down the mountain so that quite a lot of wind sift was being blown around in the gusts.

As we had guests we decided to do our host bit and went to the Bear which was groomed - no comment. After that we tried New Lift Line which had poor light but was ok hard bumps. Boom Ridge looked like it might have been nice in view of the fact that it was in sun light but it was harder and icier bumps than yesterday all the way down. We tried Linda's and Cedar Ridge which were all hard and bumpy with not soft before heading over to the New Side late morning.

We immediately discovered that the wind sift off the ridge had started to build so Lift Line and Big Bang were ok after the first couple of turns and stayed that way all day. We looped White Pass a couple of times and found the sift in the Gun Bowl was super soft and smooth. I had a couple of drops through the Knot chutes and was amazed to find other people there. It was actually a non stop group (stopped of course) but they had the good manners to get off the traverse and let me drop Tight Knot which was really rather good, if a little slabby, so that was ok.

I ran out to High Saddle and had a good edge to edge jumping session of about 10 turns before I got through the chute. After that the light rather deserted me but the skiing underneath was very good with the sift covering the crust of last week. Last run before a late lunch and it was up Polar peak which was socked in with only the Coaster open but if you cut hard skiers left from the cat track you could get some good soft turns by the fence down to the Reverse Traverse. I ran out through Decline which had a little sift in but basically skied rather harder and tougher than yesterday particularly in the lower section.

After lunch I picked up one of my guests and took him up Polar Peak which by now was really, really socked in. We cut out to the fence in Grand Pappa Bear and had some ok skiing in very poor viz. We then dropped via the steep skiers left chute into Concussion which was run of the day. The light improved and the snow had sifted in to a good depth giving some great skiing - I know where I will be going tomorrow morning.

We did a Decline loop and it was as before, some new soft snow but mostly bumpy and hard. With some time to kill we took a trip down the Gun Bowl (awesome windsift) and then out to Surprise Trees to see if they were any good. They weren't - some ok sift in the open sections but hard refrozen crud under the trees.

And so we got to Skydive for the final run and decided to take it top to bottom in one for the first time as a day's final run this year. Kudos to me, Brad and Dave for making it in one with some very hot thighs. Great beers in the bar with buddies and nice chat with some ticket checkers who were drinking there and are really nice bunch of people - best in years.

The forecast is for new snow but how much and when is the debate. We will be getting up in the night to check on this as we really need some more snow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Day 41 no new snow and still pretty tough

Now you need to understand that the coverage is still good despite the very skinny base of 140 cms and even with no new snow there is still plenty of off piste skiing (how European) to be had it's just that it is all pretty hard tough skiing being a mix of tracked up crud, hard skied in bumps or some untracked rain crust. Suits me but I can see that this is not everyone's idea of a good day's skiing.

It was -6 on the way to the hill and -3 on the way back so things are finally warming up. It was overcast all day with the conditions at White Pass about as socked in as I can remember them and very cold in the moist wind chill despite the mercury saying it was about -6. We had a little valley snow during the day which was nothing to get excited about as it must have amounted at most to 1 cm on top of the big three but then given what we have been having , hey - let's get excited.

We went to the Old Side for the morning and unsurprisingly found that with nothing having happened to change conditions over night the conditions hadn't really changed - funny that. We skied around New Lift Line, Bear, Cedar Ridge, King Fir, Linda's, Boomerang and Boom Ridge twice. Not much to say in that the snow remained hard and the bumps were tough but taking an edge. The skiing was not the easiest in the world but quite acceptable as long as you paid attention. We did look into Kangaroo but decided it was still too bushy to be fun. A drop into the tight chute into the Gulch was much enlivened by a snowboarder deciding to show us how I was done and stacking it in the 6 ft hole in the bottom of the creek bed which we could have told him was there and that was why we were skiing it a bit circumspect - I think he got the message. So we went to lunch having skied all over the Old Side and found it to be hard chunky bumps just about taking and edge.

In the afternoon I went to the New Side and dropped down Lift Line all afternoon which was skiing nicely with some blow in over the ridge line. The log drop in Big Bang was still there and I tended to air it over that on every drop just to make for rather more fun lines down to White Pass. It was always going to be a series of loops out to the big three for the rest of the afternoon and that is exactly how it panned out -
Decline - still skiing so mellow for most of the way down with big bumps in the top and great freeriding the rest of the way. Last few turns just have to be good old fashioned gorilla turns, not much style but some effective grunting to get the skis round in the rain crust.
Stag Leap - crusty in the trees and in the first section but then becoming really nice free riding in the mid section. As always, very twiggy and very crusty in the lower pitch.
Skydive - like yesterday, great for three quarters of the run then crusty twigs in the bottom.
Decline - as before.
White Pass loop - to kill time I took a loop back down Highline. It's worth mentioning here just how socked in it was at the top of White Pass. Even the cat track was real leap of faith and the light didn't clear until at least half way down to the load.
And so we got to 4 o'clock and it was time for Skydive again. The only participants were me, Rod and our snowboarding buddy which was no bad thing as it meant that we could hit it pretty quick from top to bottom. A few beers afterwards and now we are out to be treated to a meal by our current guests so that should be good, Bridge Bistro is looking favourite at the moment. Some flurries in the forecast so fingers crossed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Day 40 not much to say

Well, as anyone who knows me knows that it takes some very special conditions for me to have not much to say but today achieved this. The reason is that conditions were much the same as yesterday and we skied pretty much the same places so it's hard to find much to say other than read yesterday's blog.

We seem to be stuck in a rut at the moment where overnight temps drop to about -10 in the valley and a bit colder on top. During the day things warm up a little although today I noticed a temp of -11 mid morning at the Polar load with a ton of wind chill when you went up to the top. The weather is very overcast giving poor viz in White Pass and surrounding areas and we even had a little valley snow - most people can't work out how we are getting such low temps with such high humidity and not be getting snow - but we are not and nothing much is forecast until the weekend.

As you would expect the snow is much the same as yesterday - still rain crust where it hasn't been skied, broken crust which is ok in some areas and large amounts of skied in hard bumpy snow. We went to the New Side and found conditions pretty much identical to yesterday - hard and bumpy. Early morning we tried to scope out some intermediate ungroomed for our guests and found that Milky Way Trees and Currie Glades were about the best we could offer although these were all hard tracked up bumpy skiing with very little soft snow.

For the whole day we just looped the Currie/Big Three area and found the skiing tough but enjoyable -
Alpha Centauri - very nice mellow tracked in skiing all the way down.
Concussion the hard way - the tight chutes to skiers left were very sparse and you had to make some pretty big edge to edge jumps to get in but after that it was good broken crust.
Decline - still the best of the big 3 but you do have to pull off about 10 good old gorilla turns in the bottom crust to get out.
Polar Peak - only went up once today before they closed it and was told I was only the second guy up there. At the top you could see the blue ski and sun straight up but you were just a few metres short of breaking out of the top of the clouds. No viz but good wind sift on the way down.
Stag Leap - still rather crusty in the top and very crusty through the trees, good tough skiing.
Not so Secret Chutes - skiing very nicely in the top but crusty low down.
Easter bowl - chunky broken crust but ok skiing from top to bottom.
Decline - as before, if anything getting easier.
Skydive - for the first time this year I hit it top to bottom with no break which given the conditions was a very good shout. As always, great in the top and crusty in the bottom.
Stag Leap - as before
Skydive - tonight 4 of us turned up for a rip with gust snowboarder (Jesse) who is a blog reader - welcome to the Skydive club buddy. It skied pretty well as the traffic we have put in there over the past week improved the run.

And that was it - a case of same old, same old and it looks like it may be that way for a day or two yet. really keeping our fingers crossed for the forecast snow at the weekend.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Day 39 and today was a bit worse and a bit tougher

After a few days when things have been getting better we inevitably had to come to a day when things got a bit worse and a bit tougher and today was that day. I have to say that I am not quite sure why things got as they did as we had no new snow overnight and it didn't get that cold with starting temps of around -7 at the base and a bit colder on top. What ever the reason the snow was just harder and bumpier than yesterday with most of the soft stuff which made skiing pretty easy yesterday was somehow packed in hard to the existing base.

We went to the New Side with a view to skiing some soft stuff from yesterday but found that it just wasn't there. Buddies reported that the Old Side was no better so we thought "what the hell" and just stayed there all day. During the day it was overcast at times, at other times we had socked in cloud and in the afternoon blue skies which gave flat light in the shadows - in other words it was very variable. Temps up the hill never got very warm and I noticed it was -8 at the Polar peak load most of the day and towards the end it was -11 with some significant wind chill on the chair, in fact wind was becoming a bit of a feature by late afternoon.

We looped White Pass and found Gun bowl almost zero viz and Highline hard and bumpy - wait for later in this report for frequent use of these words. We hoped Alpha Centauri might be soft like yesterday but it wasn't - hard and bumpy.

After that it was three Polar loops to base -
Polar/Decline - Polar was totally socked in with no viz of any kind and the only saving grace was the final pitch down Grand Pappa was hard wind sift and very flat. Decline was very nice softening crust most of the way down but with some hard crust in the final few turns.
Polar/Stag Leap - Polar as before and Stag Leap much more crusty through the trees and in the top section. The bottom was very twiggy and hard and bumpy where it wasn't crusty.
Polar/Skydive - Polar the same and Skydive about half way between Decline and Stag Leap. Ok skiing but a but crusty and of course hard and bumpy.

In the afternoon after an awesome bagel lunch at Big Bang Bagels it was more of the same -
Polar/Not So Secret Chutes - Polar as before and having tried it 4 times in one day without great results I decided to can it for the rest of the day. NSSC were great skiing all the way down getting crustier as you went. I had thought of cutting into Spinal Tap but at the entrance level it was getting very crusty and not wanting to ski a very crusty tight chute I bailed into lower Easter bowl which skied ok in the high traffic areas.
Decline - Really very good skiing, very nice if a bit crunchy lower down.

At this point I have to mention that my buddy Brad had shown me a nice drop off in Big Bang as an alternative to lower Lift Line and I skied it all afternoon taking a bigger drop each time - great fun. It was 4 o'clock, time for Skydive, and tonight 6 of us turned up. Just like earlier in the day it skied very mellowing the top and middle sections but as before was very crunchy in the last pitch. Still a nice tough finish to the day.

Lots of beers and a welcome back to Rob, Katie and little Joseph who Lynda picked up from Cranbrook airport tonight having spent about 2 month with the in laws in Oz. Looking forward to getting Rob back on the hill and in the bar. Finished the evening doing a film shoot as part of a Kokanee advert on the locals deck where I had to give my views to cam on the Griz - can't wait to see how it all turns out.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Day 38 and still a little better

As suggested things were just a bit better today than yesterday. Whether or not this is due to an improvement in conditions or the fact that we are getting better at skiing rain crust remains and open question but you can't argue with the fact that skiing today (for us at least) was a bit better.

On the way to the hill it was -8 and -6 driving back. During the day up the hill I saw temps of maybe -3 which seemed a bit colder on the face for some reason, so things were warmer although they never got to plus temps. Best of all there was no real wind (even up Polar Peak) so it remained reasonably warm all day. We had no new snow overnight although the boards were claiming 5 cms in 24 hours where I guess most of it fell during the day yesterday. It was overcast and viz came and went all day. The base was 142 cms and Lynda's journal (probably the most authoritative  document on the subject) confirms that the base at this time of the year is usually between 50 and 100 cms above where we are.

Crowds were pretty light as is usually the case on the first weekend after the Christmas holiday although there were quite a lot of kids groups around. We went to the Old Side to see what was what.

The morning was spent looping through New Lift Line (nice soft bumps) Gulch (closed so a bit technical) Lower Kangaroo (unskied unbroken rain crust - even more fun) Cedar Ridge (actually pretty good tracked skiing) King Fir ( a bit crusty with a blue ice patch in the middle) Boom Ridge (very technical crusty bumps with apologies to the group that came down after me obviously think it looked rather better than it was) and of course Boomerang which was a bit hard and bumpy but ok skiing as long as you paid attention. Some of these were skied several times.

Very late morning we went over to the New Side and even the drop via Lift Line from Timber top the White Pass load had improved in the warming conditions. We looped Polar Peak (very poor light but ok wind sift under the Grand Pappa Bear chute) and then ran to base via Alpha Centauri which like yesterday was the best skied in soft snow on the hill. Last loop before a very late lunch was Polar Peak again where the light was now much better and then Decline which was starting to ski soft with a bit of crust.

After lunch I just kept banging in 30 minute laps of the big three (Skydive, Stag Leap and Decline) which were great soft skiing but with some rather crusty bits particularly in Stag Leap. My view is that things were getting a little more easy all over with the crust softening but still a lot of challenging skiing where the crust was unbroken. Last run of course was Skydive which skied almost like usual in the tracked up crust that we have beaten in over the past few days.

So another good day at the hill with the ungroomed starting to repair and the off piste skiing good if you have the skill and are prepared to make the effort. Finally anyone easily offended please do not follow this link. I can only think that this has been put together by a blog follower who knows me well and I have my suspicions who it was - Shannon. Worth pausing some of the scenes to make sure you can read the sub titles which reflect my view on so many things.