Saturday, January 31, 2015

Day 58 Hebrews 13.8

Now I know that most of my followers are good God fearing folk and will immediately know the quote from the good book but just in case I have a few heathens out there reading this, the quote in the King James version is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever". I'm afraid that is exactly how I am feeling about the skiing on the hill at the moment, another day today just the same as those we have had all week and it doesn't look like changing.

There was no new snow overnight and although there were the lightest of flurries around as we arrived at the hill the snow was not accumulating partly because there wasn't much of it and partly because at the temps it came down at (circa -6) it had so little moisture content than even if it had heaved down we would have got no more than dust on crust. Later on in the day the flurries died out but things remained overcast so there was no chance of anything softening later in the day.

On the way to the hill it was -5 and on the way back -4. During the day base temps rose to -2 but at the White Pass load it never got above -5 and at the Polar load it seemed to hang around at -9 most of the day. On the plus side there was no wind, amazingly not even on the Polar Chair which is something of a first this season. For some reason temps felt much colder than the mercury seemed to suggest and we had to drop down late morning to put on extra layers and in the end were dressed more for temps of -12 or more which we never saw on most of the mountain - perhaps all the warm weather has just made us soft.

With these temps and overcast conditions absolutely nothing changed from the previous days with the groomers hard and getting slick later in the day and all the un groomed set in a boiler plate version of what it had looked like (for better or worse) after the last warm day we had - last Monday.

As usual we went to the Old Side for a poke round and found that the Haul Back T Bar which had been down for the last two days had been repaired in time for the weekend. We looped round Bear, North Ridge, Lower Linda's, Cruiser, Cedar Centre etc and found the grooming hard but taking an edge. We did look into Boomerang for a couple of turns but finding it super hard icy bumps we bailed. With nothing much of interest to us we cut over to the New Side.

We found Polar Peak open and had 3 loops down the Coaster which just about the only skiable run available with the Shale Slope now exposed cutting off access to the chutes which probably would have been pretty ugly anyway. We ran to base through Currie Powder and Gilmar Trail which were hard and icy but quite skiable if you looked for the best lines. We went back up for 2 more Polar Loops and then a run to base the same as before for a late lunch.

After lunch I went back to the New Side and satisfied my need for non groomer skiing with a couple of White Pass loops through the Gun Bowl and High Line which were just hard slick icy bumps but ok as long as you paid attention. There was just time for a Polar Loop and a run to base (Currie Powder and Gilmar again) before heading up to White Pass for the final run.

Just to reiterate all the Currie Chutes are closed so I had no choice but to stick with the Currie Powder/ Gilmar option which by this time was getting very slick. On the way down I saw a couple of skiers who were in over their heads taking their skis off to slide down. I can't begin to describe how dangerous this is as if you start sliding without your skis there is nothing to stop you except the next tree. I was going to call someone when I got down but in the locker room overheard a radio call sending transport up to collect them so I guess it all ended well.

With Lynda having gone back to the UK I had a very curtailed drink in the Griz - as I will be driving for the next two week I had better get used to this, but just starting to make up for it now. There is snow in the forecast but no one seems to be able to agree how much or at what temp. The only thing to do is take one day at a time.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Day 57 plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

Hey, bet none of you thought I could speak French, actually I had it beaten into me (quite literally) at school back in the 60's and always knew it would come in handy one day. What it means is that the more things change the more they stay the same. This is how it was today where the weather changed a fair bit as did the available terrain but what we ended up with was much the same as we have had all week. But first a rant .....

Not the first time I have ranted on this subject but circumstances seem to suggest another rant is long overdue. The target of my rant today is people who insist on playing "their" music out loud on the hill and in the environs. Now, I have no problem with people who want to listen to their music through head sets or ear plugs. This is not my thing as it I think it deprives me of a vital sense (hearing) and on a number of occasions the noise of someone behind of above me had allowed me to turn away and avoid a nasty accident but that is a matter of personal choice and anyone who wants to do this is welcome to, in  my view.

My problem rests with the growing number of people who think they have the right to inflict their "music" on others whether they want to hear it or not by playing it out loud from some device secreted about their body. If you want to hear it fine - it is the height of ignorant rudeness to inflict this on others. Only today I was forced to take a White Pass chair to the sound of the music genre described as rap (I always feel that the 'c' is silent in the title of this genre) when I would have much rather slit my eyeballs with rusty razor blades given the choice - rant over.

On the way to the hill it was -4 and -4 on the way back. The hill had valley cloud so that everything up to Bear Top was socked in and giving off an ice mist. Temps if anything were slightly colder up top. We skied the Old Side still with the Haul Back broken down and looped Bear, North Ridge, Lower Linda's Cruiser, Cedar Centre and connecting runs. They all were ok hard icy groomers with very poor viz as we were in the valley cloud for most of the time. With this amount of cloud cover nothing softened and even when the cloud burned off after lunch the parts of the hill that weren't in shadow were just subject to so little sun that they also remained hard and bumpy. In summary the hill got hard and icy last night and nothing that happened today did anything to soften it.

We went across to the New Side and as anticipated we broke through the cloud tops about half way up White Pass and to make things even better found Polar Peak to be open - even in the sun the teps at Polat load were -3 and way lower with wind chill at about Tower 8. Only the Coaster was open but we looped it three times and it was slick and with some death cookies low down but not too bad. We ran to base through Currie Powder as everything else in Currie remained closed and the light got really bad low down but that was just part of the fun. Gilmar Trail skied slightly better than yesterday which means we upgraded the status to just plain ugly.

We went back up Polar Peak for two more runs as the views in the bluebird conditions were just too good to pass up on. The run to base this time through Currie Powder was improved as the cloud was dissipating and we had slightly better light. We had lunch at the ever excellent Big Bang Bagels - if you haven't had their Mr Fernie with added bacon on an onion and garlic bagel then you simply haven't lived.

After lunch we did a quick tour round the Old Side in much improved light but still no soft snow so we were restricted to the groomers in Cedar and Bear. By now it was late afternoon and we headed to the New Side only to find things much worse than this morning with the sparse snow scraped off and we were down to blue ice in many places. Heartland, Polar Coaster, Currie Powder and Gilmar Trail were just s few of the runs that we found had deteriorated to sheet ice in our three laps that we completed.

We went for beer and are now having a quiet evening after the most brutal weeks skiing on record. We have to hope that the snow in the forecast actually materialises and we get some respite. Lynda heads back to the UK for a couple of weeks tomorrow so I will have to fend for myself (actually my buddy Simon who is staying might help here) and when she comes back we usually get some snow so fingers crossed.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Day 56 Groundhog day come early

For the benefit of my non North American followers Groundhog Day is a real event which takes place on the 2nd of Feb each year so it not due until Monday but you could be forgiven for thinking it was today. For my younger followers Ground Hog Day was a movie where Bill Murray featured as a weather man who went to cover the Ground Hog Day celebrations (more about these on Monday) and had to live the same day over and over again - since then it has become a synonym for any day which just seems to be like the last - lecture over.

For today's report just read yesterday's - end of story. Ok, I guess I had better put a bit of flesh on the bones but there isn't really that much to add. As forecast things were a bit colder over night (-6 on the way to the hill) and stayed a bit colder all day, it was -2 as we drove away and I noticed that nothing got above -1 at the White Pass load all day. I suspect in the direct sunlight we may have had plus temps but there was a little more cloud cover so not so much direct warming sunlight and yet no good cloud cover so no atmospheric warming. The result was that not much (in a practical sense read nothing) warmed up and softened during the day. so what we had was a re run of yesterday but just a bit colder and with no softening surfaces.

We went to the Old Side and poked around although the terrain was limited as Haul Back T Bar was broken down and stayed that way all day. We were on hard packed groomers on Bear, North Ridge, Lower Lynda's and all the associated linked runs. The under surface was still hard blue ice in places. Late in the morning we decided to go over to the New Side and I decided to try Boomerang as it looked like it might have softened in the sun on the skiers left - big mistake, It was hard tracked up bumps all the way down and as ugly as a bear's ass. We even stopped for a hot choccy in the excellent Lost Boys Café as there was so little to tempt us out on the hill.

We dropped to base through Currie Powder which was still slick and hard and eventually through Gilmar Trail which skied marginally better than yesterday (not saying much) because it seemed to me that the grooming had taken place at rather lower temps but then I am no expert in this area. Next loop through White Pass I made my next big mistake by going in to the Gun Bowl which turned out to be boiler plate bumps with tracked up crud and just to make matters more fun the cloud rolled in as I went in and cut the viz to zero - not one of my better runs but ok tough skiing.

Just before lunch we ran to base via Currie Powder and Gilmar which in a vision of things to come were skiing rather worse than the first time round with some very slick blue ice patches. After lunch it was another few rounds of the Old Side still avoiding the Haul Back T Bar which remained "temporarily" out of surface.

I cut back to the New Side where the viz had improved so I looped White Pass and to base through Currie several times. Just for the record Lift Line and everything to skiers left of Currie powder were closed but to be fair I don't think even I would have given them a go today even if they had been open. The drop through Heartland to White Pass base got slicker each time until it was pretty well all blue ice. The run back through the Gun Bowl was tough icy bumps but with good viz it was pretty ok skiing. the drop down Curie and Gilmar just got worse each time so that by the last run it was more or less blue ice all the way down but as this was the stuff I learned to ski on it was no big deal - just not worth getting really excited about.

And so to the bar for beers with buddies and long discussion about the conditions, the hill and what glading was needed and the future price of oil - in fact a fairly normal evening. The bad news is that we still think things will get worse before they get better. We must have snow for things to improve and ahead of that things must get colder, or at least stay as cold as it is with no softening. Maybe we have to take one for the team over the next couple of days until things improve - not that we have much choice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Day 55 and I thought yesterday was ugly

I was reminded by Lynda half way through today that I had forecast that things were going to get much worse because we would be getting the overnight freezes between now and the new snow forecast for the weekend but with colder overnight temps and lower daytime temps the conditions would just become ugly ice. She pointed out that I was dead right - sometimes I wish I wasn't always right in calling the conditions.

Now to be fair, if you are a groomer skier then things are not quite as black as I am painting them. The grooming is working better now we have colder temps over night but even there the base is groomed ice which comes through as slick blue ice surface in many places not to mention the numerous places on the lower hill where the snow has gone and we have large brown patches or a forest of chopped off alders at best. Of course if you are not a groomer skier (like me) today must rate as one of the worst days ever.

No new snow over night and the snow base is down to 120 cms. Just for the record this compares with 220 cms 2 years ago and 280 cms 3 years ago so that gives you an idea of just how far behind the 8 ball we are. On the way to the hill it was -5 and was -1 as we drove away tonight. During the day temps rose to plus figures right at the base but at the White Pass load it stayed at about zero all day. With no atmospheric warming the snow softened only in the direct sunlight and even then only for a short time. For the most part the hill remained hard boiler plate all day on the upper mountain.

It was a bluebird day with cloud on the peaks in ridge line wind. The cloud dissipated during the day and by the end we had bluebird conditions. I am not a fan of clear blue skies because of the effect they have on the light. Ok - in the direct sunlight viz is great but on a North facing hill like Fernie at least half the runs are in shadow which because of the defused white light become very poor viz as you ski into them and as this is usually accompanied by a dramatic change in surface it makes for very difficult light conditions - can't imagine why so many people seem to love bluebird days.

We went to the Old Side and poke around on Groomers in Bear, North Ridge, Emily's, Lower Lynda's, Cruiser etc. These were mostly ok but still with some very slick areas. We did try a few runs down the Sunny Side shoulder but found it not to be softening very much and for the most part it ugly icy bumps. We went to the New Side late morning.

First drop from Timber was  down Puff which unbelievably skied worse than yesterday. Really hard icy tracked up bumps which we didn't try a second time. The several White Pass loops were through the Gun bowl where things had softened a bit but nowhere near as much as yesterday and through Highline which was hard icy bumps. We ran to base through Currie Powder which in the interests of accuracy should perhaps be renamed Currie Refrozen Crud. We had the idea of drifting out to Concussion to see if it had softened but the sign line was down all the way down to the bottom of the Concussion chutel. This was a conditions closure and probably no bad call - even if it had been open I doubt I would have pushed out into the Currie Chutes or Skydive today - at least not more than once.

We did another Currie Powder loop before a late lunch mainly because we couldn't believe how ugly the ski out through Gilmar Trail had been. We should have believed it because it remained just as ugly with ice, some random grooming of mush and lots of chopped off twigs.

After lunch we went back to the Old Side and were unable to find anything off the groomers that had softened. My buddy Kevin did take a run down Boom Ridge and reported it as slow ugly piece of work. Sunny Side shoulder had reformed as crud so we went back to the New Side to try out luck.

No real luck on the New Side as the Currie Powder loops were no better and the chutes remained closed - thank goodness. We did have a couple of loops back to White Pass and found the Gun Bowl was setting up but just about acceptable but Highline had become bullet proof bumps. It was 3:30 and we skied off for a final work out through Currie and Gilmar which if anything skied a little worse than they had done during the day perhaps because it was getting colder.

Beers and hot tub to get rid of the pain which was only partially successful. Looking ahead I think things will get worse before they get better. The skiing will only improve with new snow which is forecast for the weekend, between now we will have cooling conditions making the bumps and the base harder and icier with nothing to mitigate the ever toughening conditions.

Day 54 and another realy ugly day's skiing.

First of all apologise for the late posting of this report as I have been out with my buddies for wings night down the pub. As always on these occasions there is a supplementary apology for possible memory failure and poor spelling due to far too much beer but here goes ....

Just like yesterday it froze over night with no new snow and on the way to the hill it was -3 and few degrees lower up the hill. During the day things warmed up to about +6 up the mountain and about +8 at the base. The conditions were nowhere near as bluebird  as yesterday with a bit of haze covering the sun which became solid cloud cover by afternoon. the result was that we had the same boiler plate start as yesterday but it did not soften as quickly in the direct sunlight. The hazy sun and atmospheric warming did give us some softer conditions in places but at no time did we get the uncontrollable mush slides that dogged us yesterday and caused most of the hill to be closed.

We went to the Old Side and found pretty well everything ugly hard and icy and so were restricted to groomers around Bear, North Ridge, Emily's, Lower Linda's. Cruiser and Cedar Centre. The only place we found any softening was on Sunny Side shoulder where we took two trips down, the first a bit crunchy but the second starting to get to the point where it took an edge. This got us to late morning with only boiler plate groomers to show for our troubles for the most part so we hit out to the New Side in search of something better.

On the New Side we dropped Puff as Lift line was closed and found it rock hard icy tracked up bumps and it remained this way all day for the next 5 times that I tried it. We looped the White Pass core four times as Polar Peak was closed and found that skiing in the Gun bowl was very mellow soft snow and Highline was hard and icy - the Knot Chutes and the Idiot Traverse were closed at that time and even though they opened later in the day I have to say I was not tempted. Our run to base at lunch was through Concussion which had softened in the top to crisp sugary snow although the run out through Gilmar trail was very twiggy and sketchy.

After lunch we just looped the New Side several times from Currie Creek to Concussion and found for the most part firm sugary skiing with soft patches which was ok in the context of today. The best exit was to avoid Gilmar on Lower Barracuda where the coverage was better and the bumps were at least taking an edge.

I thought long and hard about going out to Skydive for the final run as it had never been in the sun all day and by my judgement was going to be very tough going. Tradition got the better of me and I took a lone journey (no one else was stupid enough to try it) out to Skydive. Things were pretty much as expected with hard ugly boiler plate in the top, mixed conditions in the mid section and some semi melted crud in the bottom pitch. Probably the toughest run of the year for me so far and as such really good challenging fun but so, so hard.

Beers, and then visit friend Rob and Katie (and baby Joseph) before heading to the pub for wings night with more friends - hence the late report. Tomorrow looks like another overnight freeze but without the warm day time temps to melt it so things could be even more challenging tomorrow.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Day 53 spring skiing in my fleece in January - no way

Actually I wore my fleece instead of my jacket today which I have never done in January and to make matter worse we were skiing Polar Peak and I have never skied Polar Peak in just my fleece (well of course I had my pants on as well ) at any time of the year so this should give you an idea of just how mellow things are. This is not necessarily good news for the ski hill as the last thing we need is mild weather but it does make for a very interesting new experience.

Overnight things got a bit colder than forecast so it was zero on the deck when we got up this morning and -1 when we arrived at the hill. The result was that yesterdays skiing had turned to boiler plate. Groomed boiler plate on the groomers, Smooth boiler plate where there had been no skier traffic yesterday and tracked up ugly boiler plate where there had but in summary it was all hard boiler plate. The only strategy was the old spring skiing one of working our way into the harder areas as and when they softened in the sun.

Things did warm up and soften. It was a bluebird day all day which if nothing else afforded some spectacular views from the top of Polar Peak which I say again has to be the best 360 degree view of mountains anywhere in the world. Temps at the base got up to +9 and even up the mountain  it was +6 at the Polar load and obviously a lot more in the direct sunlight which was everywhere in the bluebird conditions.

We went to the Old Side and had a run down the bumps on the side of Bear which were rock hard and good practice. Bear Chair broke down so we hit the New Side and found that Gun Bowl was already softening in the direct sunlight and skiing very well. All of the White Pass core was skiing well with some variable conditions.

Polar Peak was open and we had spectacular runs down the Clown Chutes which skied so mellow in the corn snow conditions, The shoulders above the rock bands were particularly good and unskied. We tracked across under the lift and had 3 great loops through the firm but forgiving flat snow in that area. Eventually we ran to base through Concussion hoping that it had softened. It had in the top and was if anything too soft but it stiffened up in the lower sections and became just hard ice in the ski out.

Next loop I had my first of 3 drops through Puff (Lift Line was closed) during the day and found it to be rock hard icy bumps and although good practice for things to come, not the best skiing in the world. We then did 3 more Polar loops where the Clown chutes , if anything, skied even better than before. This time it was time for lunch and we ran to base via Tom's run which was flat and getting very soft.

After lunch we went back up the New Side but as because in the morning things had been getting very soft and spring like we started to get closures due to the risk of soft snow avi's. All over the snow was breaking down and loosing adhesion with the lower layers. It was only going to be a matter of time before things had to be shut down. The problem was that in the runs out of the direct sunlight nothing had softened so in between these super soft areas we had places where we were skiing on pretty much sheet ice.

We did 3 more Polar loops which were getting very mushy and the clown chutes that were dropping back into the shadow were starting to get ugly and icy. We ran to base through Concussion which was starting to set up and was great skiing. Next time up we found most things closed. Knot chutes were sliding and closed We had just seen a snowboard get dragged over the Cheese Grater when the snow sloughed but he got up and rode away with no problem - better buy a lottery ticket tonight buddy, today is your lucky day. With only the White Pass core open we decided to drop Currie Bowl which was now mostly closed (most of what was open was sheet ice) as well due to the danger of wet snow avi's, and we cut back to the Old Side.

The plan had been to side step up into Skydive for a very ugly last run but we found our way blocked by a sign line on the edge of Easter bowl which even if it faced the wrong way persuaded us that the traverse was not on. We took another trip up Bear and dropped Boom Ridge which skied remarkably well taking and edge all the way down and getting quite soft in the lower pitch. For final run my buddy Brad suggested that Boom Bowl looked pretty good. That's the last time I listen to him as it was hard, bumpy and as ugly as a bear's ass which was surprising as it was about the same elevation and pitch as Boom Ridge which had skied so well. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and so we had an ok last run and then some well deserved beers.

More warm weather called for tomorrow which is worrying as the hill is really getting very sparse with brown patches appearing all over the lower mountain, It won't take many more days of this before we have some real problems in getting off the hill.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Day 52 and I have had many days worse skiing than this

The reason for my low expectations was the warm wet weather that we have had over the last 24 hours. Last night it was about +4 and raining, and when I say raining it was pissing down all night. The weather forecast called for precip with a snow line at 2000 metres which students of my recent blog will know translates in English as "it will lash down with rain all over the hill". The forecasters were right and it rained all night right up to the top of the hill.

The rain stopped just before dawn and we headed to the hill in temps of +8. By a happy coincidence as we drove away from the hill tonight it was also +8. During the day it got warmer and the temps at the White Pass load were almost +10 before falling back to +3 mid afternoon (surfaces began to set up) and then warming back to about +8 when surfaces began to soften again.

You don't have to be a genius to work out that the skiing surface was always going to be soft melted rain affected mush off the groomers which is where we ski. In the afternoon it firmed up a bit, but not much, and by the evening it was back to mush spring skiing again. The wind was big feature and Bear Chair was closed until 1 due to big winds on the Old Side. There was not quite so much wind on the New Side but it was still pretty lively and everything stayed open. By the afternoon the ridge line cloud which had been around in the morning dissipated and the winds dropped giving a quite pleasant end to the day and almost bluebird conditions with not much wind.

We went to the New Side on account of the fact that Bear was down and had a great day putting in 9 New Side loops in conditions which should have meant that we were skiing elephant snot but in the event the snow was no worse than typical spring skiing. Given that the traverse out was only open a the Polar sink rather than the Reverse Traverse this was rather good effort.

Not much point in going through the runs in seriatim as they were all much the same. Twice through Concussion was crisp in the top and great soft snow low down. The exit was always through Gilmar gully which was soft and skied way better than the trail. Twice through Decline which skied easy as you could use the bumps to turn in the soft snow but lower down you had to ski soft to avoid breaking through and breaking through the surface. Easter bowl skied very well as skier traffic had pounded in the base and the soft snow on top just made it easy although the ski out through Freeway was bit mushy.

Cougar Glades/ Stag Leap was a little disappointing as I hit it mid afternoon and expected the surface to be setting up, it was mush and pretty hard work but Stag was ok. In Stag Leap which I had hit earlier (good this time shifting isn't it, a bit like watching Pulp Fiction) the upper section had been great untracked rain affected snow which we hit as easy big GS mush turns. Lower down it became a bit more work but that's life. We had two Skydives today, one early and of course the final run which was ok soft rain affect snow (like everywhere else) but with a slight crust forming last time round. The mid section was pretty easy but the lower section was piece of work with a surface you could break through both times.

Somewhere in there early on I did a loop of White Pass (more time shifting) and the snow in Gun Bowl and Highline was soft rain affected snow on a firm base and looked as if it remained that way all day.

In summary we got hit by a good old fashioned pineapple express which has taken a toll on our base now down to 130 cms and exposed lots of brown areas on the lower mountain. Against that background we got in a day of rain affected spring skiing which far from being an awesome day was way better than we may have expected. The forecast calls for an even bigger warm up but with at least no precip - let's do this one day at a time.