Friday, April 10, 2015

Day 127 a warm up without sunshine ?

Yes, things can get warm without direct sun light ( at least not for the first part of the day) and this makes for interesting ski conditions particularly on parts of the hill that have been north facing, or in the shade for other reason up until now.

Overnight things didn't really get that cold and it was +1 when we arrived at the hill. Conditions were overcast and we had light rain/snow off and on as we arrived. During the morning things settled down to overcast with flat light but temps getting up to +6 at the White Pass load and +4 at the Polar Peak load. With no direct sunlight we had atmospheric warming which tended to soften everything regardless of it's aspect and turned everything to mush quite quickly. In the afternoon we had some periods of sun between clouds but this only had a marginal effect on temps and for the most part the atmospheric warming and consequent softening of the snow continued all day.

We went to the Old Side just for a change and found everything softening straight off the bat. Bear, Arrow and all across Lizard bowl was soft and skiing ok but the run back to Bear load was all ploughed in artificial snow and just about good enough for the purpose of keeping the track open. The only really interesting skiing was when we tried the Sunny Side shoulder which was ok soft snow on a firm base but there were some navigation issues in the tight alders but overall it was ok. Could be the last time on the Old Side this year so we had a moment's silence before heading to the New Side.

We tried a couple of White Pass loops and found that the Gun Bowl and the I bowl were softening but not as quick as the stuff on the Old Side. It took several loops before we were happy that things were soft and so naturally we then moved on to Polar Peak. We only looped Polar a couple of times, once through the Coaster (everything else was closed and it was smooth and soft) and once through the Clown Chutes where Crusty skied well after a lively entrance. The run off for lunch was through Easter Bowl and I have to admit that the Traverse out convinced me that skiing Concussion would have been good if you didn't have the prospect of Trespass Trail as a ski out hanging over you after you skied it. Easter was getting a little mushy but was ok.

After lunch it was back up the New Side to try Lift Line from Timber top which was good in the top and very sticky low down. Gun Bowl was super soft and Surprise Trees held up better than I expected and was ok soft skiing. I moved on to Polar Peak and did some loops of Crusty chute (still soft) and then cutting back under the chair which was chopped up soft crud and therefore and easy ski on the DPS's - soft full rocker skis do have their place. We ran to base through Decline which was good on the central spine where there had been more skier traffic - it was softening nicely. The exit was via a slow Megasaurus Trail and a sketchy Old Side ski off.

We just had time for a couple more Polar Peak loops when we got up the New Side and I stuck to Crusty (still soft) and under the lift (getting softer) for the two loops we had. We were last chair up before they closed and part of me hopes that we don't get Polar Peak again for the rest of the season. I got first tracks down Polar when they opened at the start of the season and have just got last tracks down at the end. It would be kind of nice if it ended that way but if not last tracks will still be up for grabs.

The run back to White Pass after Polar closed was through a very soft and mellow Currie Powder and an incredibly slow and sticky Trespass Trail. We were so late and so slow that we only had time to go up White Pass and take the Reverse Traverse for the ski off - we have only had to download Timber twice this year when Currie was closed and as long as there is away to ski off the hill we will be skiing it. I wouldn't go as far as my buddy Miles and say that "downloading is for pussies" but I do tend towards that school of thinking. We took a final run down Skydive in the name of tradition with a Megasaurus ski off. It was not bad mushy skiing but I suspect Easter would have been better. In the event we had no choice as it was Dan's last day skiing (he is working the next two days) so we had to finish with Skydive - at least part of it anyway.

Some beers in an unbelievably quiet Griz Bar considering it's a Friday. Wet snow called for overnight and personally I'll take anything we get.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Day 126 a very warm day eventually

As a measure of just how warm things are getting I am typing this report sitting on my front deck at 6:45 in the evening in the warm setting sunshine with temps of +15 showing on the  thermometer, now that's warm.

It was -1 on the way to the hill today but conditions were bluebird. When you say that there was not a cloud in the sky all day you are usually indulging in a bit of hype but today that was true. Not one cloud was seen all day except for some distant clouds visible from the top of Polar Peak where you can see about a million miles, so that hardly counts. As a result things warmed up.

During the morning it got up to +10 at the White Pass load and +6 at the Polar load which were very similar temps to yesterday. The surprising thing was that whilst the surfaces softened very quickly yesterday, today they took much more time, at least an hour in some cases. We couldn't work out why that might be and speculated that it may have something to do with how cold it got last night or the moisture content of the snow but in truth we were guessing - the facts was that it took longer for things to warm up and soften today.

We went to the New Side and found that things were hard and ugly off the groomers but the groomers themselves were skiing ok. We looped around White Pass waiting for things to soften but a couple of forays into the Gun Bowl proved that we were pushing our luck a bit early and things were very churned up crusty ice for the most part. Polar Peak was open and as the Coaster looked in good shape we went to have a look. The plan was to do a couple of loops on the Coaster and then run back to the White Pass load via Trespass Trail which should still be very slick and that is exactly what we did. Polar Coaster was just starting to soften and was easy skiing which convinced us that the White Pass loops would also have softened.

After the run back to White Pass we found that there had been a lot of softening in the Gun Bowl and the I bowl and did three or four loops back through these getting soft spring skiing which still had some remnants of icy chunks if you weren't careful. We decided to go back to Polar Peak on the grounds that things should have softened up there but as already stated the softening was taking much longer everywhere for reasons that no one really seemed to be able to explain.

Polar Peak had softened but we still only had the Coaster side so it was two drops of the Clown Chutes and two drops of Shale slope all of which had got soft and skied very nicely in the direct sunlight. The ski down to the chair under the lift was always just on the crusty side of easy but on balance was ok skiing. We dropped to lunch through Easter Bowl which was good winter skiing in the top part and ok soft crud in the bottom. The ski out through lower Lizard was nowhere near as bad as it has been.

Over lunch we got the word that they had opened the Polar Chutes (only for the sixth time this year by my reckoning) so we were straight back up there after lunch. We just kept looping Polar either by Grand Papa Bear which was excellent soft skiing if a little chunky in the top or Papa Bear which was ok soft skiing but a rather lumpy traverse to get back to the chair. After numerous loops (we genuinely lost count) we ran down Mama Bear in excellent soft hardly tracked snow but some big slough debris in the bottom and then ripped a fast line back to White Pass via Trespass Trail.

We just had time for a White Pass loop through Gun Bowl and I bowl in super soft and super slow snow before it was time to ski off the hill again. We took the Reverse Traverse out to Skydive and hit the right hand side of the top section which seemed to have some good soft lightly tracked winter snow down to about two turns above the Megasaurus Trail when it all went a bit crusty - we exited on Megasarus.

Far too many beers on the locals deck of the Griz in unbelievably warm sun. As a measure, I am finishing now at about 7:30 on my deck and it is about + 14 and I am still sitting out in my sweatshirt and ski underwear. Not sure what tomorrow may hold but I bet it won't be as warm as today.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Day 125 back to spring skiing

Today was a typical spring skiing day with cold temps overnight setting the surfaces up as bullet hard ice and then bluebird conditions softening them during the day. The forecast had been for bluebird in the morning and rain in the afternoon so it will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Fernie weather forecasting that, with the exception of the odd high cloud early afternoon, it was bluebird all day.

When we woke it was -5 on the deck and on the way to the hill it was -2. During the day temps rose so that by the close we had +11 at the base, +10 at the White Pass load and +6 at the Polar Peak load. Bear in mind that these temps are in shaded areas and in the direct sunlight things must have been way hotter all over the hill.

We went to the New Side and found things softening very quickly. By about 10:30 the Gun bowl was soft as was Quite Right. We looped back through the I bowl several times, always having to wait for some ski cutting by Patrol in the Knot Chutes which produced significant amounts of slough debris which was actually quite soft and surprisingly skied quite well. Most of the White Pass loop became very soft very quick and you had to point the skies way down the hill to get some speed to push through.

Just once we cut out the Surprise Trees which was a real piece of work. The debris was stacked up so high that we almost had to climb over it to get out to the end of the traverse. No one had been in Surprise since last night when we skied it almost untracked. Today was good soft skiing turning to mush in places.

Polar Peak had been open for some time but we left it partly because we didn't think the skiing there would be better than anywhere else and partly to leave it to soften. By the time we got up there Shale Slope and Crusty in the clown chutes were open. There were none of the main chutes open but the Coaster was although we didn't ski it. We alternated several runs between Shale and Crusty and found that Shale had softened and skied just like yesterday afternoon. Crusty was easy and soft after a slightly exciting blind entrance. Each run we skied back to the load under the chair in soft chopped up crud which skied (at least on my big DPS banana skis) almost like powder - the Amada JJ fans told a slightly different story.

For a late lunch we skied down lower Grand Papa Bear which was good for me in the chopped up crud on the DPS's - see previous remarks. We tracked across to Easter Bowl which was almost winter like in the top but softened up down below.  The ski out through Lower Lizard was bumpy tracked up mush but better than it has been.

After lunch it was back up the New Side for Gun Bowl/I Bowl loops back to White Pass load all of which was upper mushy chopped up skiing and great for me. It was during this I had the most spectacular stack for reasons I still don't understand. In the bottom of Highline as I lined up for the jump I caught an edge, blew off a ski, got spun round and smashed the back of my head and right shoulder into the ground. No serious damage thanks entirely to the helmet and just few aches and pains in the neck and shoulder area - a good remainder that we can all stack it when we least expect it.

We went back up Polar and stuck in a few loops back to the chair via Shale slope (starting to get a little rocky) and Crusty (still skiing soft and easy) before heading off for a run to base. We chose Decline which was tracked but soft and a good exit along Megasaurus. Of course the Lizard exit was as sketchy as ever. We went back up White Pass for a quick loop up there as the Gun Bowl and the I bowl were as soft as ever and I had to blast through where I had stacked it just to prove a point to myself.

Last run we decided to be traditional and hit Skydive at least as far as the Megasaurus Trail. The top pitch was amazingly lightly untracked so we had untracked lines all the way down which only became crusty in the last two turns before Megasaurus. The ski off was mushy but no worse than usual.

It was warm and sunny on the locals deck and we had a few beers and even a few nachos in the almost summer like conditions. Strange conditions in the forecast for the last 4 days of the season.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Day 124 winter and summer in one day

 Yes, today we had a morning of winter and an afternoon of summer which I guess is not entirely unheard of at this time of the year.

Before starting tonight I do have to apologise to regular followers if my posts over the past few days have been a bit repetitive. The problem is that with the limited terrain we have had the skiing is a bit repetitive. With only Lizard open on the Old Side, skiing there (other than the ski out from Easter) has held no attraction for me so I haven't been skiing there. On the New Side Polar Peak has been closed on the top and everything below Trespass Trail at the bottom so all we have had loops on White Pass in Timber bowl, Currie back along Trespass Trail and the Reverse Traverse out to Easter as a ski off. Put bluntly there are only so many ways to describe skiing this terrain and given that this has been all we have had for over a week it is hard to see that the blog could be anything other than repetitive as that is exactly what the skiing has been. Luckily today brought a change..........

Overnight we had snow and the report was showing 12 cms in the last 24 hours although I guess a lot of that fell during the day yesterday and the true overnight figure was probably around 5 cms.  It was -2 when we arrived at the hill and stayed well below zero all over the New Side all morning. Conditions were overcast and we had flurries during the course of the morning. On the way to a quite late lunch we discovered that things were warming up down low in clearing skies. In the afternoon things went bluebird and temps warmed so that by the end of the day it was +11 at the base and temps of +5 even at the Polar Load. Predictably the winter powder snow conditions of the morning turned to mushy spring skiing by late afternoon.

We went to the New Side and had a great lightly tracked run down Lift Line in deep powder. We had been tipped by a patroller buddy that Corner Pocket was skiing well and it certainly was. The light was a bit flat in the top but it was great untracked deep powder down to the Easter Bowl cut out and then some just as good skiing in untracked snow in the trees on skiers left of Easter - a spectacular start to the day.

Next loop I cut across Big Bang and dropped into the soft snow on skiers right on the way down to White Pass which was so good that was the way I went for the rest of the day. We were just pushing out across the Reverse Traverse as in our opinion this was going to give us the best and most powder skiing without have to traverse or walk at the end of the pitch - I have heard some good reports from other parts of the hill but on balance I think our call was sound. The rest of the morning was -
Decline top - untracked and spectacular powder skiing, we cut first tracks back along the Megasaurus Trail.
Skydive top - also untracked and even more spectacular and deep than Decline but a slightly harder job to work out along Megasaurus.
Lone Fir - only two tracks in front of me and untracked in the fan below which was the best and deepest untracked snow of the day. The run down through Easter left side in the trees was mostly untracked and really very good.
All these loops were finished through lower Lizard which was actually quite smooth and way better than yesterday.

Polar Peak opened and we did 4 loops either on Shale Slope (always very icy in places) or the Coaster (not as icy as it has been but only ok) but always coming back under the lift which was great deep snow always with untracked lines available. For our final run off to what had become a very late lunch we tried the top of the Brain which unsurprisingly was untracked although you had to pick some unusual lines to avoid dead fall and the final drop onto the trail out on Megasaurus was a pretty big drop.

During lunch it became apparent that temps were rising fast in bluebird conditions and the winter powder of the morning was going to turn to spring mush. We went back to the New Side and straight back up Polar Peak to see what had changed. Shale slope was now soft and smooth and very easy steep skiing. They had opened the Clown Chutes and Crusty was a very mellow run after a slightly exciting entrance. We alternated these options all afternoon but always running back under the Polar Chair in soft spring snow.

When Polar closed we ran down the Polar Chutes to Currie Powder which was really good spring snow before heading back round Trespass Trail which didn't suck as much as we expected to get back to the White Pass load. We just had time for a White Pass loop and after a mushy Gun Bowl we traversed out to Surprise Trees which were amazingly untracked and far better skiing than we expected.

Last run and we were warned that the Reverse Traverse had been closed beyond the High Saddle (which we knew had been trashed) so it was either a down load on Timber or drop Corner Pocket which we also knew would be scraped out. We went for Corner Pocket which had all the tires exposed so the only way through was to let ourselves down on the rope and jump the last two turns, which is what we did. The skiing below was still very good as long as you didn't get in the stuff in the shadow on the left which was starting to set up with s crust on top. As it turned out it was great last run down to Dancer and then a ski off in the mushy conditions on the lower hill.

Beers with buddies on the locals deck in the sun ended a very good day. I have a horrible feeling that we have seen the last of winter for this year and we will be on warm temps for the remaining days of the season, but who knows, I could be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Day 123 Wow, this really is winter

This morning was Easter Monday and in normal circumstances you would have expected it to be a full on holiday event on the hill. As it turned out it was quieter than a normal Monday both on the hill and in the bar afterwards which was all the more surprising as the conditions had switched back to full on winter with new snow and all that goes with that.

We woke up to find that there had been no new snow over night but it was snowing even in the valley. It was -2 as we drove to the hill and all day temps stayed well below zero all over the hill and had only got to +1 as we drove away this evening. Conditions were overcast with flurries all day becoming very hard in the afternoon and some serious snow accumulations starting to build up. As you would expect from the conditions, yesterday's softened snow hardened up to a very ribby icy base and the new snow which may have accumulated about 10 cms during the day only started to make a difference later in the day.

We went to the New Side where conditions were predictably socked in and the cloud base only lifted a little during the morning before setting in low and thick for the whole afternoon. Lift line skied soft on a firm base as did most of the places we skied during our White Pass loops - Gun Bowl, Quite Right, High Line and Pillow Talk all skied well in these conditions as the snow piled up. We pushed out on the Idiot Traverse and cut first tracks into Surprise Trees which involved climbing through a thigh deep windrow just before Surprise. It was a toss up between Anaconda and Surprise with Surprise winning - not a great choice as it proved to be some soft blow in on a very icy base and quite hard work.

Next loop and the two that followed were Anaconda Glades ( just awesome soft skiing where you had to ski hard to beat your slough) and the ski along Trespass Trail which was slow and just sucked like always. Time for lunch so we went out along the Reverse Traverse in poor viz but good new snow and then decided to take the top of Decline which was soft and untracked and great skiing before heading to base down the Megasaurus Trail which was ok but hard work.

After lunch we settled it to a pattern of New Side loops where we dropped Lift Line (getting deeper and softer all the time and although closed high up Big Bang was smooth and just awesome) Looped back through various routes in White Pass  and then dropped to base via various lines out in the top of the Big 3. The White Pass loops included Surprise Trees ( at last starting to get enough soft snow to make it good) Gun Bowl (poor light but deep dust on crust) Pillow Talk ( good soft snow on top and even better after the drop into High Line under the lift) and Milky Way Trees (hit late in the day so it was really good deep skiing and even linked well back into a very soft Puff) plus several other lines too numerous to mention, but all getting good and deep.

The Big 3 drops were either Decline - easy untracked skiing on the edges with some slightly firmer stuff low down. Skydive - only a couple of tracks in front and some really great soft lines all over the run. Just once we dropped the top section of the Brain which was great untracked skiing in tight tree lines and a big drop off towards the end of the pitch - a bit of an adrenaline rush that you would not have wanted to miss. Every time we worked our way out along the Megasaurus trail which worked ok and gave us a ski off through lower Lizard which was hard and bumpy but sucked a lot less than we thought it would.

For the final run we did yet one more run across the Reverse Traverse which by this time was starting to ski almost soft in places. The final drop down Decline seemed a bit harder than before for reasons none of us could properly understand but was still pretty good.

It had been snowing more or less all afternoon and the snow was continuing to build up. As we sat in the bar the snow was still coming down even in the valley and temps were only just above zero. The forecast is for another 7 cms overnight which on top of what we have had today could make for some good conditions straight off the bat tomorrow. Time for an early night.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Day 122 Plan B

As avid followers will know from yesterday's post today had been planned to be a couple of hours light skiing followed by brunch and then the afternoon vegging on the couch in front of the TV as my Easter celebrations. This had pre supposed that the brunch was one of those all you can eat jobs that we usually get. In the event I hadn't read the small print (or any print come to that) of the Rusty Edge brunch and it was not a buffet so we just had a normal meal of eggs bennie with all the trimmings. The long and short of this is that I was not bloated after the meal and didn't need to wash it down with loads of beer to keep the food going down so that I was ok to ski in the afternoon and as a result we had a pretty normal day.

There was only 1 cm of snow overnight but some had accumulated yesterday and there was also some blow in around so that we had a reasonable smattering of soft snow on yesterday's hard base. It was -2 on the way to the hill and during the morning temps stayed down around zero for most of the morning in overcast conditions. In the afternoon things cleared up so that we had some sunny intervals and temps at White Pass load rose to about + 5 and even at Polar load it was +2.

We went to the New Side and had a very mellow drop down Lift Line with soft blow in covering a firm base. We had few loops back round White Pass and found the conditions to be a hard base under some dust in Gun Bowl, Quite Right, Highline and surprisingly, best of all Surprise Trees. We were surprised to see that Polar peak was open as conditions were socked in. Viz was very poor and only the Coaster Side was open. The ski down to the ridge was ok but the Coaster really sucked as hard ice and smooth as well. The cut out to under the lift was very sketchy but the final turns below the lift were very soft and deep. After one loop we ran to base through Easter which was hard but ok - time for our early brunch.

In the afternoon it was back up the New Side to put in loops of once back through White Pass (Surprise Trees were nice and getting soft) once back through Polar Peak (the drop under Mama bear was really soft and deep) the traverse to Easter (which was much repaired due to the excellent work of Ski Patrol) and then Easter which was getting bit softer and was good challenging skiing all day. The ski out through Lizard remained bumpy and slushy and the only skiing anywhere on the lower hill. After 3 of these loops which took the best part of an hour each it was time for the final run off the hill.

After very little internal debate I decided to hit Easter one last time and yet again it took an ok edge on a firm base all the way down. During the day I heard some terrible reports of how bad the Reverse Traverse was but personally I just don't see it. It was a bit hard and icy in places but it has been so much worse at times in the past and today the whole Easter loop experience was not easy, but by no means as tough as I have seen it.

So after a fairly full day's skiing it was time to head to the (very quiet) Griz bar for a couple of beers with buddies and then home to catch the tail end of the Easter movies on TCM in the form of Easter Parade - when can Fred Astair and Judy Garland be anything but awesome. Maybe some precip in the outlook but with bluebird skis and temps of +5 on the deck I am not optimistic.