Saturday, December 19, 2015

Day 9 a good day for a weekend powder day

Today was the first really good powder weekend of the season and we all wondered just how busy it would be. Of course as the last weekend before Christmas we expected (hoped) that family pressures would keep some of the crowds away. In the event it was quite busy first thing but after the crowds dissipated from the Timber load in the first 5 minutes of the day there were no real line ups although I can only speak for the New Side because that I where I spent the day.

Part of my New Side bias was because I thought that Polar Peak might open - it didn't but a lot of preparatory work seemed to be going on so I am optimistic that it won't be long before we are skiing the hill from the Peak to the Plazza. Even limiting myself to the New Side there were plenty of fresh lines to be had and even as the day wore on and the crows diminished (most weekend warriors don't have 7 hour legs) there were still fresh lines if you knew where to look.

The snow last night continued for at least 3 hours after the close and we probably got about 20 cms out of the cycle and at least 5 since last nights close. Not that the base has much to do with what we ski on but it is getting on for 170 cms and a very rough yardstick is a 2 metre base by the end of the year would be considered a good snow year. Rather worryingly the temps by morning were much warmer than forecast at about -1 in the valley and -5 up the hill. During the day base temps got to plus figures (maybe +1) but things stayed cold on top (-4) and by the close things were getting much colder so we may have dodged the bullet on that minor warming trend. Conditions all day were overcast with quite poor viz in White Pass to begin with and we had light flurries off and on which never gave anything you could call an accumulation.

The day for us worked out this way and as I have said it was all New Side -
White Pass Quite Right and Lift Line - the fence was closed at the Zig Zag but we got good lightly tracked deep snow in Quite Right and untracked snow in the trees on skiers left under the lift.
Decline - next time up the fence had dropped on Currie bowl so we hit out to the Big Three and chose Decline. It was just as good as last run yesterday with deep untracked snow all the way down and the final pitch now pretty well clear of alders.
Cougar Glades - for whatever reason no one seemed to be  tracking all the way out to the glades and we  had another deep untracked line down Cougar where you could just put your skis in the fall line in the tight trees. The lower section was a bit twiggy but we judged that it would be better than cutting left into lower Stag Leap which we figured would suck until we got a bit more snow
Low Saddle/Easter/ Freeway - The Saddles opened next time and we took Low Saddle. We were second tracks in but on the right cut below the chute we were first tracks and had the run of the season so far in deep untracked chutes as far as the eye could see. Easter was soft deep snow and Freeway had just opened for the first time and was rather lumpy in the top and twiggy low down
Knot Chutes/Anaconda 5/Bootleg Glades - Tight Knot was super deep snow as was Anaconda where your biggest danger was being barreled out by your own slough. Bootleg was open for the first time and the hellter skelter through the trees on skiers left was awesome deep powder. Alders in the lower part of Bootleg have all been cleared out so it was very mellow skiing to the Gilmar Trail.
Touque Chutes - not even sure if these are official dropping off the top of Skydive into the trees to the skiers left. Great deep powder all the way down and quick cut out into Easter to achieve the ski out.
Lone Fir/Spinal Tap - for the first time this year I hiked up to Lone Fir and dropped the chute. As you would expect the chute was a bit tight and technical but the role below was just fantastic soft snow. I cut a traverse across to Spinal Tap more as a personal challenge than anything else.The chute was full of deep snow with few tracks but very skiable. The only problem was that the snow hadn't filled the stream bed so you could only jump half way down before turning out. A bit of work but good fun.

After I very late lunch I had a short afternoon -
High Saddle - very scratchy, icy and hard work but great skiing below in deep powder. The exit via Easter and Freeway was just as before.
Siberia Ridge - I decided to give Sib Ridge a lash and was not disappointed. It was ok in the top section and the choke was no worse than it usually is even with way more snow than we have now.
Decline/Window Chutes - Decline was of course excellent and the drop through the trees to Window chutes had enough snow to have all the dead fall covered. The chute itself was as good as I have ever seen it in tracked powder, even the choke wasn't too scratchy.
Knot Chutes/ Surprise Trees - a quick loop to get our last run on time and we found good deep tracked snow in both areas.

All day drops from Timber top were via Lift Line and Big Bang and the various lines in there had been good. Last run of course was Skydive which was great deep rolling snow and now even the final pitch isn't all that twiggy as long as you stay left.

All in all another good day with more snow forecast over the next few days.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Day 8 just another day of typical Fernie flurries

Of course the title of today is ironical, we had one of the most awesome powder days for years which just kept getting better at things went on,but on the other hand you could just say that what we had was typical Fernie flurries.

Overnight they were giving us a total of 7 cms in the last 24 but with 4 of that overnight. As we drove to the hill it was -10 and even though it warmed to about -6 during the day things remained very cold and as a result the snow stayed in good shape. The conditions were snow which came down all day. Late morning the snow started to get light which was the forecast but then it came back for the rest of the day and just puked all over the hill all afternoon which was a real bonus. Current thinking is that we got well over 10 cms during the day and as it is still snowing there is talk of another 10 cms overnight. The actual numbers aren't important - we had tons of snow with more in the outlook.

We went to the New Side and had great untracked lines in Surprise Trees. Next loop we dropped Skydive which was very soft deep snow in top just holding the early season terrain and a bit twiggy on the lower section. Next loop I dropped Low Saddle which was as expected a bit icy in the top but after the cut right in the chute the fields of snow that opened up were untracked and super deep. The ski out to base through lower Easter was very mellow as well.

Remembering that Decline had been very good a couple of days ago I hit it and found the new snow had added to the soft rolls in the top and the mid section was twiggy but ok. The lower section was far and away the best of the big three and in my opinion could count as full on winter conditions. Next loop was Cougar Glades which by that time had filled in to untracked deep snow. I took the exit on the cat rack to the right as something told me that the lower part of Stag Leap was going to be just too ugly to contemplate.

Last run before lunch was a bit of a mistake as I decided to give the Brain a try for the first time in the season. The top section was sensational with the jump off the big roll above Megsaurus awesome with a landing in waist deep snow. The mistake was to try the lower section which looked ok off the trail but 10 turns in I was surrounded by trees, dead fall, alders, devils club etc. It was really hard work to hop, jump and traverse my way out on to the lower part of Decline.

After lunch I was back up the New Side hoping for the Polar chair to open but with no luck - maybe tomorrow I am told. Corner Pocket was the first chute which was rather icy but below the new snow had built up to some very deep powder and the traverse across to Easter gave more powder as no one seemed to be skiing it.

I then did a couple of White Pass loops which were Knot Chutes (Tight Knot) Anaconda ( chutes 4 then 5) and return through Trespass trail. The conditions were getting just fantastic a with wind sift the Knot Chutes were untracked both times and if anyone had been in Anaconda before their tracks were long since gone in the new snow.

I pushed out to the top of Skydive but for a change hit the Touque Chutes which were untracked in the now deep powder. Just time for a quick White Pass loop through Tight Knot (still untracked no matter how many times I skied it) and the far side of Surprise which was getting really seriously deep. Just a mention here that on one of my many drops through Lift Line from Timber Top to White Pass load I found a Budweiser can just like yesterday which I picked up out of respect for the Griz. If anyone has any idea who the asshole is who is dropping this trash please let me know as I have two big sacks of garbage in my garage which I would like to take round to them and dump on their doorstep and see how they like it - asshole is way to good a term for them.

Last run was Skydive which had filled in to epic proportions during the afternoon. I had deep face shots all the way down the first two sections and even the last pitch was just about ok in the new snow. As I look out on my deck it is still snowing and the temp is -6 so who knows how good it will be tomorrow. Whatever it is I will be out in it.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Day 7 another ok day

Today we had no new openings and no really significant new snow so the conditions were ok, but no better which is still pretty good for early season.

We had about 4 cms of fresh snow out of yesterday's cycle which freshened up the hill. Temps on the way to the hill were -9 and all day we had temps in the -9/-7 range all over the hill. Conditions were overcast and flurries continued throughout the day with no really significant accumulation. If this was the start of the next weather cycle I would be rather worried but as it just appears to be some bonus precip then I will take it thankfully for what it is.

We went to the Old side and had -
Snake Ridge - great soft skiing all the way down.
Kangaroo - lovely as ever in it's new form
Cedar Ridge - I have now discovered from a Patrol buddy that they did a lot of brush work in Cedar Ridge during the summer and it shows. Nice soft untracked snow in many lines.
Kangaroo - ditto
Boom Guts - snow seems to have accumulated to give nice soft lines particularly on the left hand side.
Bear Cave chutes/Cedar Ridge - some of the best soft snow in the top and very mellow lightly tracked snow all the way down. Marred only by a complete dumbass on a snow board who was sat on the snow just under the entrance chute and seemed to think it was my fault he got covered in snow as I avoided his stupid position.
Kangaroo - ditto
Bear Chutes -(don't shoot the Bear) first time of the season which were a bit bushy but some good soft snow in between.
Snake Ridge - we went further left and got even better good deep snow before skiing out on the spine.
Kangaroo - ditto
Bear Chutes - with a better idea we found a rather better line and as a result got some even better lines all the way down to the ski out on the Goat Trail.
Lunch Time.

After lunch we headed over to the New Side. My run down Lift Line was spoilt by finding a beer can dropped from the lift. I can only say that this shows such disrespect for the hill that if the Griz decides to give us a bad snow year for this kind of behaviour I wouldn't be surprised. If I ever catch the twats who throw this garbage I can promise them I will return it to them in just the place they don't want it with all the sharp corners exposed. Rant over.

Tight Knot was great deep snow and when we pushed out to Surprise Trees the snow was actually starting to accumulate. Next stop was Corner Pocket which was still in pretty good shape with a couple of icy jumps. Underneath it was great deep powder and after cutting right into lower Easter it was still alright conditions.

Next loop I made my only big mistake of the day - I decided to try the far Concussion Chutes. They had obviously slide big time and were down to a hard icy base with logs, root, stumps and rocks, all a bit of a slither to get through. Below of course was the result of the slide which was refrozen avi debris in the form of death cookies - even more fun. Not a place to go back to for a day or two.

After that it was a couple of rips up and down White Pass looking for soft snow and then it was time for the last run which has to be Skydive. Actually this was delayed as I was stuck on White Pass chair for long enough to make me think that maybe they had shut down and forgotten about me - as it was everything was ok. Skydive was hardly tracked and some of the best skiing of the day in the upper section. The bottom was unsurprisingly hard work but then after a great time someone always presents the bill so I guess that was ok.

The outlook is foe about 5 cms overnight on slightly increased temps and then 10 during the day tomorrow dying out early evening. Clearly we are going to have to work hard to trash everything out before the weekend crowds arrive but I am prepared to give it my best shot. Maybe we get Polar Peak tomorrow as well, who knows.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Day 6 more snow and more great openings

Yes, yet another great day's skiing and I am almost running out of great things to say about how much fun I am having here early season.

Overnight we had 4 cms of new snow and on the way to the hill it was snowing and continued for an hour or so which I guess gave us another 3 cms out of that cycle. Temps on the way to the hill were -6 and although the base temps may have warmed to around -3 I think the upper mountain temps stayed in the -7/-8 region all day which of course meant that the snow stayed in great shape. After the snow stopped mid morning things brightened up and we had intermittent sunshine through the clouds for the rest of the day.

I wasn't quite sure where the best skiing would be but with the hill very socked in I went to the Old Side and ran Snake Ridge and the newly cut lower section exit which is rapidly becoming one of my favourite runs on the hill. The logic was that it hadn't been really tracked up yesterday and the new snow would give even better untracked lines - the logic was dead right, it was great. Kangaroo to the Boom Load was very mellow and I was so glad to be able to speak to Fraser who headed the crew this summer that worked on Kangaroo and Snake and express my personal thanks for a good job well done - he did mention that my name cropped up more than once when they were working on Kangaroo so thanks guys.

After that that the day played out as -
Cedar Ridge - no new tracks and lovely soft snow all the way through the trees.
Kangaroo - again just really nice
Boomerang - as route back to Bear via the Goat Trail and mostly no new tracks on a soft snow base.
Snake Ridge - just as good as before and the lower newly cleaned section skiing just like a deep tracked snow dream.
Kangaroo - still good
Boomerang - also just like before, was I the only one going in there ?

After that I got word that the Saddles were about to open so I hit across to the New Side as quickly as possible to take advantage of it. Sure enough Corner Pocket was open with no tires showing and only about 5 easy jump turns to access the good stuff below. The good stuff was very very good being untracked deep powder and as far as I could see no avi debris or other hazards. I cut right into Easter Bowl which was tracked up but great soft snow skiing and a really nice way off the mountain.

I repeated the loops through High Saddle ( a bit tight because of the low snow base early season and icy about 5 turns in) and then Low Saddle ( as always steep with some icy bits but if you cut right as soon as you could there were untracked lines in deep powder snow all the way down the chutes. As with all the other Saddle loops it was an exit through lower Easter Bowl and then it was time for a short late lunch break.

After lunch I went back to the New Side and this is how it played out -
Knot Chutes - I took the traverse into the Tight Knot which was mostly untouched since it opened yesterday and I had some nice steep and deep powder skiing.
Corner Pocket - it had been so good that I revisited and found that the tires were still covered but you need to jump a bit tighter to get through the chute, after that the snow underneath and lower Easter were just as good as before.
Gotta Go - I decided to traverse across the top of the Knot Chutes ( which involved some quite big drop offs) and have a look at Gotta Go as I figured it would be untouched. I was wrong and I suspect my buddy Brad had been in there as he is the only other person I know besides me who is stupid enough to try this line this early in the season. In the event I jumped into the chute one to left called Google Earth and had deep untracked powder all the way down into Currie Bowl where my biggest danger was being taken out by my own slough.
Decline/Window Chutes - I had a crazy plan. I knew that Decline down to the Megasaurus Trail was good and having looked the the Window Chutes from the Bear Chair then the two areas linked would only not work if the top of the chute just below Decline was problem. In the event Decline only had two new tracks and was great skiing. The link through the trees was a bit sketchy with some deadfall but lovely deep tree skiing if you took care. The Window Chutes themselves were very good deep snow with just two tracks in front of me - awesome deep powder skiing and only a bit scratchy in the choke on the way out.

So it was last run of the day time. I should have mentioned that Lift Line under Timber had opened during the day and as usual had become my preferred drop from Timber Top to White Pass Load with the occasional detour into lower Big Bang - all deep untracked lines. For the final run I hiked up to take the Lazy Locals Traverse into Mitchy Chutes which were also very nice deep powder but a bit technical in the choke.

Final run of course was a rip down Skydive which still only had about 3 new tracks in it on a soft deep base. the lower section remained twiggy but more than compensated for by the awesome skiing in the upper sections. Beers in Griz with buddies then a hot tub at home, It's forecast to get pretty cold (-14) tonight and a few flurries tomorrow. The outlook is for fairly significant weather event just before the weekend so that we may get yet another good fresh snow cycle before the weekend crowds arrive, This season is just getting better.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Day 5 officially awesome, but why

Yes today's question is why was today so awesome when there was no new snow, at least not until the late day flurries we had in the afternoon. The reason is that we had huge areas of the hill opened up for the first time this season so that we had first tracks of the season all over the hill. The truth is that we were so spoilt for choice that we had to not ski the Knot Chutes (always one of my favourites) because there was so much good stuff to be had in other parts of the hill.

As I said there was no new snow but conditions were overcast and we had a few flurries in the afternoon and some wind sift which gave us a little fill in snow in the areas already open. The forecast is for lots of snow over the next few days so we are getting quite excited, even ignoring that there are areas of the hill that were  not open today such as Polar Peak and the Saddles which should mean some great skiing no matter what happens. The temps had dropped and we had -5 at the base and -7 up the hill most of the day. This meant that the snow stayed in great condition and they were able to make artificial snow on the lower hill all day.

We went to the New Side and had a couple of loops through Puff, Gun Bowl, Highline and Surprise Trees all of which were ok, but not what we were really there for. Mid morning we tracked a buddy from patrol to the edge of the Reverse Traverse and were rewarded by getting the first fence drop on that area for the season. Awesome untracked powder everywhere with a warning of death cookies low down in places. It was a day when I just went from first bell to last bell with no breaks or stopping and as a result had a huge and total awesome day. The day then panned out as -
Decline - awesome untracked skiing and even the lower section was not totally twiggy.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - awesome totally untracked skiing in Cougar down to the Megasaurus Trail which showed signs of very recent moose activity. Lower Stag Leap was deep and untracked but very twiggy in the lower section.
Skydive - a couple of tracks in front of us soon lost in the run which was great early season contour hugging skiing. Twiggy but skiable in the lower section.
Cougar Glades - we met up with my buddy Brad and had another run through Cougar Glades which was only a little more tracked than before so the right side in the trees was totally untracked deep powder.
We decided not to ski out in Stag leap but worked our way down through the lower parts to the Bear Connecter where we had heard that Snake Ridge had opened on the Old Side.
Snake Ridge - loads of untracked lines and for the first time in the season we could try the newly cleaned up lower section which made it way better than before when you either had to cut out left or right.
Next Loop Steep and Deep which was great untracked powder most of the way down with a rather technical section towards the end which required a bit of bush whacking.

Both our loops were exited through Kangaroo which with it's new haircut is one of the nicest runs on the Old Side and Boomerang which was still soft snow between all the alders. We went to the New Side to finish off the day.

Skydive - as Brad was leaving the hill it had to be done and was just as good as before and only slightly more tracked up.
Currie Creek - totally awesome untracked powder in the top and then suddenly big death cookies from avi debris which blew off one of my skis at speed but with no lasting ill effects.

Just time for a couple of loops in White Pass where the new flurries and wind sift had softened the surface then it was time for the traditional last run down Skydive. I'm afraid I was the only member of the Skydive club at 4 o'clock so it was a case of the third time down that run in the day and once again it was lightly tracked and awesome but with a few twigs in the lower section..

So overall it was a fantastic day followed by beers with buddies and then a good soak in the hot tub, Tomorrow is forecast to bring more snow and more openings although we are still dealing with early season conditions - no one should under estimate the daily challenge of tree stumps, rocks, alders, death cookies etc which every run still has. On balance things are pretty good and tomorrow should bring even more fun.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Day 4 no new snow but still ok

First of all apologies for this report being a bit late. It is because I was at the Rusty Edge enjoying their Monday night 10 bucks for a beer and burger offer which is an excellent deal. Unlike most places which skimp on the burger with these kinds of deals, this one is a full on burger with all the trimmings. Before anyone gets the idea that I might have been given some incentive to say this it is perhaps worth stating the policy of my blog which is that I will never accept any form of reward to make me express anything but my true opinions. That having been said I am drinking a glass of Jameson's Irish Whiskey while typing this and if the good folk at Jameson's want to send me a case I am open to offers.

We had no new snow overnight although they were calling for 4 cms of fresh from yesterday's cycle and that seemed about right to me. It was overcast on the way to the hill and a little socked in at the top of White Pass. By late afternoon this had lifted and we got some great late in the day sunshine which also provided some good views of Polar Peak. Temps were -4 on the way to the hill and stayed cool all day with closing temps of -4 at the base and about -7 up the hill. As I put the car in the garage tonight I noticed that the temps had fallen even further to around -10.

With my guest from Vermont we decided to try the Old Side first and had a couple of runs down Bear to get his early season legs in the right place. After that we hit out across Cedar Bowl which was ok but tracked up. Further loops were through Boom Ridge ( great soft snow on skiers left) Cedar Ridge was very mellow deep tracked snow all the way down and finally Boom which was tracked but still with soft stuff in the alders. Every loop back (three in total) was via Kangaroo which with it's new haircut is fast becoming run of the day for me - we went to the New Side.

Nothing new was open on the New Side although for a while it did look as though Knot chutes might open. A friend of mine that I met confirmed that Easter Bowl had opened on the Old Side and whilst I was tempted to investigate I stuck with the New Side. We looped White Pass several times using Highline Trees and the runs in that area to provide some very good soft snow skiing. Surprise Trees remained ok tracked skiing.

Finally by lunch time we hiked the hump at Anaconda and had a great, albeit short run down through the chutes. The ski out down Gilmar was challenging due to the soft bumps and twigs but was ok as long as you paid attention. Having had a good ski on both the Old and New side lunch was predictably late.

In the afternoon it was back up the New Side mainly because it did look like the Knot Chutes were going to open for a long while but it never quite happened. We spent the afternoon all over the White Pass area with some excellent deep powder on Gun bowl skiers left. Surprise trees, still some good lines, Pillow Talk, great line in between the trees. We even ran to base one more time through Gilmar despite the conditions.

Late afternoon we were still looping White Pass (Surprise, Anaconda, Highline, Pillow Talk etc. ) and for the last run of the day decided on a run off through Currie Glades which were soft and tracked and yet another run out through Gilmar which was getting decidedly sketchy. We were late off the hill having got the very last chair up White Pass so beers in the Griz were late as was the evening in Rusty Edge and hence this blog. Yet another really good day's skiing even if we didn't have any new snow.

The outlook is for it to stay cool and for some more snow. More importantly we are promised some more openings on the hill tomorrow and I am really looking forward to that.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Day 3 even more awesome powder

Today was the best day of the season so far (ok so I have only skied 3) but given just how good things have been so far that is still a pretty good reference. Overnight we had more snow ( reports varied but they seemed to cluster around 15 cms) and it was good deep powder which meant that the whole hill was once again awesome skiing.

The temps on the way to the hill were zero and stayed there all day and in fact were -1 on the way back. As with the past couple of days temps up the hill were a few degrees lower and similarly stayed there all day so as a result all the surfaces stayed in great shape. It was over cast on the way to the hill and stayed that way. We had flurries all day which came down as grauple in the morning which was lovely heavy pellets and by the afternoon it was an icy snow accumulation. I would guess that during the course of the day we had about 4 cms of fresh snow to add to the overnight precip.

I went to the New Side and grabbed early tracks in Puff which were nice steep terrain hugging lines all the way down the the White Pass load. In White Pass the sign line was down at the Zig Zag so all we had was the Highline/Heartland area which was deep with loads of untracked snow. The Zig Zag sign line soon opened and I helped to cut the traverse out to Surprise Trees which as a result gave me untracked, ski anywhere lines through Surprise. Next time round I cut the first side step up Anaconda hump and this time had first tracks in the second Anaconda chute which was as deep and good as I can remember. The only downside was the hike back through Trespass Trail which unsurprisingly sucked just as much as it usually does.

After that the whole morning was spend in variations through Surprise which still had many untracked lines in the trees even at the end of the morning. Anaconda remained in good shape moving across the chutes and the rest of White Pass (Highline, Heartland, Pillow Talk etc) had many great soft areas to jump into as the crowds were far less than I had expected. I went for a late lunch via Currie Glades which were tracked up but still a lot of fun and Gilmar Trail which was still very twiggy and marginal but totally skiable as a route to base.

After a late lunch I headed over to the Old Side for the rest of the day. The crowds (if indeed there had been any in the first place) had gone and for long periods of time it seemed like perhaps I was the only person on the Old Side. I looped out into Cedar Centre off the top of Bear and had some good deep powder skiing in the Centre trees. After that I just looped Boom Ridge and Cedar Ridge until last bell. Cedar Ridge had many cool lines tight to the trees as long as you didn't push too far right into the lower avi debris. Boom Ridge was lovely deep powder and good as long as you picked a line through the alders in the lower section.

Every loop back to Boom load (3 or 4 in all) was through the newly trimmed Kangaroo which was just sensational. With all the crap that had been allowed to accumulate in there removed Kangaroo is one of the best runs on the hill with steep tight lines and lovely deep powder - the only issue is the drop on to the cat track which can get a bit technical.

Final run was through Boom itself and then out down the Goat Trail which was much the same as Boom Ridge, good but a bit twiggy. After skiing we had intended to go down town to see the Christmas Train but after a day like this beer was the only way to go. It worked out well as my buddy Ray from Vermont turned up (the east Coast is having a crap start to the season) to stay with us and the party started just that bit early.

The outlook is for more flurries tonight with temps dropping to about -5. Accumulations could be as much as 10 cms but looking further out there are lower temps and more snow in the forecast for 11 out of the next 14 days so I am one happy bunny.