Saturday, December 12, 2015

Day 2 Still pretty good

Yes, today wasn't as good as yesterday, but then it was never going to be, but it still was a pretty good day by any definition.

Overnight we had about 4/5 cms of new snow which tended to fill everything in and at the very least made everything thing look very pretty and wintery. On the way to the hill temps once again were -1 and a few degrees colder up top. During the day temps got up to just over zero at the base but remained a round -2 at the top giving us some well preserved snow. It was overcast for most of the day but during the morning it socked in at the top of the hill and the fog line moved down the hill as the day went on. By late afternoon flurries had started all over the hill and continued into the evening.

I went to the New Side to see if there had been much traffic since yesterday. All of White Pass was open and I spent most of the morning looping back through Surprise Trees where there were still many untracked lines with the new 5 cms of snow on top of yesterday's 17 cms giving some great skiing. All the rest of White Pass was tracked up but not tracked out powder and the return to the load was via Highline, Heartland, Pillow Talk and all lines in between. The Gun bowl was in particularly good shape with deep powder in the lines back under the White Pass chair.

About half way through the morning I dropped Anaconda Glades which were tracked but with some super steep and untracked lines in the chutes just over the first hump. The only way out was ski to base through Gilmar Trail and the Meadow. Now Gilmar Trail can be a bit sketchy in the best of conditions and today it was rather marginal. In it's favour I would say the snow had all the rocks covered so the only obstructions were wood in it's various forms but some parts were so woody that you could have put away your ski poles and used a chain saw to better effect.

I returned to White Pass via Puff Trees off the top of Timber and found they were very challenging being a mix of deadfall, powder and avi debris. The rest of the morning was spent looping White Pass and Surprise Trees as already described. Just once I pushed further into Triple Trees and found the top half to be totally awesome untracked deep powder. Unfortunately the lower half required serious bush whacking through some very tight and woody chutes before finally dropping on to Trespass Trail.

For lunch I headed down through Currie Glades off the Polar Load and found some great soft tracked snow all the way through the Glades. The ski out was again through Gilmar Trail which was no better or worse than earlier in the day.

After lunch I headed over to the Old Side as I had heard that they had opened Cedar High Traverse. The rumour proved to be true so I skied the trees in Cedar Centre which were pretty good and very like Curried Glades but rather less skied and with slightly deeper snow. The return was via Boom Guts which was still tracked but ok if you could dodge the alders.

To finish the day I headed back to the New Side and looped Surprise Trees via the ever excellent Gun Bowl and alternated this with a drop down Anaconda and a return through Trespass Trail - the only trail on the hill which is up hill in both directions. At the end of the day we chose to finish with Currie Glades and Gilmar Trail just like the last run before lunch and just like that run the upper part was good tracked powder and the lower part rather sketchy.

After a few beers in the Griz it was time for more beer with buddies at their house then home. As I sit here looking out it is continuing to snow and we will probably have a modest accumulation overnight. Temps are -1 so the snow should stay in good shape and tomorrow could be yet another very good day for early season.

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.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

First Day in Fernie

You will all note that I have headed this post as my first day in Fernie (which it is) and not Day 1 which will be used on my first day skiing which looks likely to be the day after tomorrow - Friday. After that it looks like it will be just over 120 days skiing but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

We arrived late last night in Fernie after a very long day which involved flying from Dublin to Heathrow, Heathrow to Calgary and Calgary to Cranbrook. Then it was just over an hours drive in pouring rain from Cranbrook (I'm sorry I mean Rocky Mountain International) Airport to our house in Fernie. Everything went amazingly well with flights connecting and luggage turning up on time and the only down side being the incredible turbulence in the last hour of the flight to Calgary and for the whole of the Cranbrook leg due to some very strong Chinook winds that were blowing down the East side of the Rockies.

The only bad experience in the whole journey was the car rental from Truro to Bristol airport for the hop to Dublin thanks to Budget. When I picked the car up there was damage to the nearside wheel due to a previous renter hitting a kerb pretty hard which was marked on the Vehicle Condition Report. When I dropped the car off they tried to stiff me with the price of a new tyre in respect of the damage notwithstanding the fact that it had been already marked on the VCR. I am currently in dispute with them but those who know me will rest assured that it will be a cold day in hell before they con money out of me in this way.

Today we got an amazing amount done as we always do on our first day if only because we are wide awake a 5 in the morning and raring to go. The house is all sorted out, TV, wifi all set up and running, phones reconnected, heating and water turned on, radios and cell phones charged, hot tub fired up and ready to be used in a few minutes, food and drink stocked up, seasons passes picked up, ski gear taken to the hill, truck insured and back on the road even if it did need a new battery, etc etc. All that remains is for tomorrow to return the rental car to the airport and put the Christmas lights up outside and we will be ready to kick the season off properly on Friday.

The conditions so far are quite warm and very wet. Yesterday it was +4 when we landed and it rained until we went to bed - I would imagine it was falling as snow about half way up the hill. By morning temps were down to +1 in the valley and the precip was coming down as really wet snow which accumulated to the extent of about 5 cms. Reports from up the mountain suggest it was heavy but ok skiing high up although I was told that they never got the New Side open today.

As I am typing this the rain snow mix has stopped and there is a covering of very wet snow in the valley. I am guessing that the snow on the hill has accumulated fairly well and if it was open White Pass would have some ok powder. The temp on the deck is +2 and likely to go lower through the night so if there is any more precip it will certainly come as snow. The outlook is for temps to fall so that by mid next week we will be in the minus teens and at least three days are likely to give us some snow.

Of course while I was picking up my seasons pass this afternoon I did drop into the Griz Bar for just one quick beer and unsurprisingly found all the usual suspects in there looking forward to the season. General consensus was that things up top were ok for the time of year but the lower hill needs a lot more snow.

So all that remains is a relax in the hot tub, have meal and an early night ready for one last days preparatory work. After that it will be business as usual so look out on Friday evening for the first real report.