Saturday, January 2, 2016

Day 23 coldest day of the season yet

The temp on the deck this morning was -24 and as we drove to the hill it was flicking down to -25 which officially made it the coldest day of the season so far. It was classic bluebird conditions all day which is exactly what you would expect from an Arctic high like the one we are currently experiencing. Yet again we had an inversion and starting temps at Polar Peak I am told were around -5 rising to -1 during the day. At the base it didn't warm up all that much (maybe a daytime high of -15) and as we drove away from the hill tonight it was -18 and that dropped to -20 as we turned into our drive. As I said a fricking freezing day.

I have always said that there is no such thing as bad conditions, only inappropriate equipment and inadequate skill levels. Today was no exception and with the many layers of clothing and hot shots in the mitts with my fleece balclava I was nice and toastie all day.

Having spent the last two days on the New Side and most of that in the Polar Chutes I was determined to give the Old Side a lash this morning. Mt theory was that because of the cold people would stay away from the Old Side and I would have the hill to myself - I was right on both counts. It was freezing and for the whole morning whilst I encountered a few people at the lift loads or tops I did not encounter a single person on any of the runs that I did, it was like having your own private ski hill.

I started with Sun Up and China Wall which were both firm bumps and twiggy but ok. I then hit out to Snake ridge which is now tracked up in the top and large bumps in the mid section. I think just dropping over the edge to the newly cleared area is about as tough as anywhere in the Polar Chutes although of course the penalty for making a mistake is nothing like so severe. Kangaroo was hard and bumpy with the newly cropped alder stems ready to trip you and I hit it 5 times in my loops back to Boomerang load.

The rest of the morning was spent in all the usual areas I like skiing on the Old Side such as Cedar Ridge, King Fir, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Boomerang etc, several of these more than once. Everywhere was hard and skied but nice technical bumps skiing if you like that stuff (I do) and always tight challenging turns in the trees.

In the afternoon I went to the New Side with the intention of warming up on Polar Peak and having fun in the chutes like yesterday. First drop down Lift Line and I felt my legs needed a bit more warming up so I had a run back through White Pass and got going on the Gun Bowl and Quite Right bumps. On the next chair I discovered that the chutes were not open on Polar Peak which was a pity but given the late afternoon carnage in there yesterday I fully understand the need for patrol to protect people from themselves.

I explored looking for the newly gladed Triple Trees and this time found the line which was little to the left of where I normally ski. I think this has the potential to become one of the great runs on the hill but at the moment it needs about another metre of snow. I picked my way through ok but there was a lot of dead fall and it was difficult to get any flow going until it spits you out just under Timber Chair above Summer Road.

Next loop was far side Anaconda Glades which were remarkably soft and lightly skied. Bootleg Glades were also ok and pretty soft with the alders taken out making the skiing down to Gilmar Trail pretty easy. I felt I had earned a rest so went out to Decline where the snow was soft easy bumps all the way down.

Back at White Pass after yet another drop through Lift Line which was starting to get a bit technical in the top I had time for a Surprise Trees loop which was firm tracked bumps but pretty mellow skiing. Last run of course was Skydive where I was once again sole participant due to the usual suspects having work commitments, family commitments, illness and injuries (not all of which occurred skiing with me) etc. Now off to the pub.

Finally a few people have asked for me to publish this link to a Hitler rant about his job application for Fernie Ski patrol being reject, under no circumstances watch if you are easily offended or have good taste, you have been warned.

Day 22 a great inversion

First of all a huge apology to everyone for the lateness of this report. I'm afraid that buddies came round for a new year's hot tub party and things got a bit out of hand. Before I start I think I need to clear the air a little on the subject of the blog. A few people have mentioned to me that so far this season my reports seem to be very up beat to the point that several people have suggested that I may actually be paid by the hill for posting on my blog - that, as they say, will be the day. The truth is that my blog does probably take a more positive view of the world for a number of reasons, only a few of which are -
I am pretty positive person who tends to see the glass as half full and not half empty.
I ski the hill 120/130 days a year so I know where the good skiing is and tend to go there.
The sort of skiing I enjoy is not the sort of skiing that every one enjoys. I love tough tight technical skiing and most people don 't. This isn't for some stupid macho reason as some people think it is simply the stuff I enjoy, is that so hard to understand ?
Finally I only ski the bits of the hill I think will be good and that I might enjoy which in cases like today will be les than 5% of the hill, if the other 95 % sucks then I am in no position to comment.

In summary what you get here is not a ski report and has never been intended to be so. It is a reflection of what I have experienced which may or may not bear any resemblance to the conditions on the hill as a whole.

Today's report is dead simple. There were a couple of cms of fresh snow on the mid and lower mountain and the snow base remains at around 180 cms. Temps on the lower mountain stayed at about -12 all day in overcast conditions. We had a huge inversion so that on top of Polar Peak it was bluebird conditions and about -1, extraordinary when you think that it was -12 all day at the Polar load and the inversion took place just in the last pitch. there was no precip during the day.

I spent all morning looping Polar through Grand Papa Bear, Barely Legal, Papa Bear and the Clown Chutes. It was all excellent hard bump skiing through the chutes but you had to be aware that one mistake would have taken you from top to bottom. Apart from the entrance to the Crusty Chute which was a bit funky it was great steep challenging bump skiing. For lunch I ran to base through Decline which was ok with some new grippy cold snow and no new tracks.

After lunch I went back up to Polar for a repeat performance. I think skiing challenging skiing all day takes it toll so by 3 I was starting to make mistakes due to tiredness and decided that mistakes like this in the Polar Chutes would be a bad idea so I skied out  to the big three for more gentle skimg. My decision was vindicated when I saw a girl rag doll Barely Legal on my last chair up and it was good to see that she stood up if a bit shaken.

I did a very mellow Cougar Glades loop then a Surprise Trees loop in White Pass before it was time for a last run down Skydive, Beers and a hot tub party so sorry for any typos tonight due to booze - Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Day 21 An awesome day for all sorts of reasons

Lets establish that the reasons that today was awesome was nothing to do with new snow or deep powder, it was everything to do with the conditions that were created by the the weather and the great skiing that resulted.

On the way to the hill it was -13 and overcast with valley cloud but the promise of clear skies on top was evident from the colouring of the sky. Overnight they were reporting a couple of cms of fresh snow and just like yesterday we had light flurries off and on all day none of which gave us anything like an accumulation of snow. Temps stayed cold all over the hill and for example it was always around -16 at the Polar Load but with the moist air and wind the wind chill temps on that lift had to be around -25.

I went to the New Side and headed straight up Polar Peak. As I said it was cold but the cloud tops were just below the peak and I have never seen the cloud tops look so flat - it was like a carpet just below your feet. The viz above was the best I have ever seen and you must have been able to see clear to North Pole with the peaks poking up through the thick flat cloud tops. There were all manner of amazing sights up top. Angel Dust, Sun Dogs, Circular Rainbows, rings round the Sun etc. The best thing was a flow of clouds coming over Currie Head wall and falling like a water fall into the valley and then breaking up just like water.All morning I saw the most amazing sights I have ever seen on a mountain - beautiful.

As for the skiing I just looped Polar Peak through Grand Papa Bear and Papa Bear. I avoided the Coaster (ugly blue ice) Shale Slope (ugly blue ice in the bottom) and Barely Legal (ugly blue ice in the exit chutes) but everywhere else was huge bumps (about the size of VW Beetles in places) but nice skiing. The cold seemed to have drawn the moisture out of the bumps so that the surface was hard but crisp and taking and edge making for the most excellent challenging skiing and of course in the chute one mistake would have resulted in a long slide - prefect skiing to my mind.

Half way through the morning I ran to base through Decline which had icy bumps in the top but below the same drying effect seemed to have occurred and the bumps all the way down were crisp taking a good edge. I returned to Polar for more loops and by lunch the top of the clouds were starting to break up. Lunch to base was via Mamma Bear and the Stag Leap from the top all of which were nice firm bumps. The final pitch of Stag is still a little twiggy but good if you crash through the twigs.

After Lunch I was back up Polar which was now becoming a bit clearer in the conventional sense and a few more people were turning up. It just like the morning, I looped it many times and the daily total had to be in the 12/14 region. We took a run to base to warm up but this time via Cougar Glades and Stag Leap. Although tracked out both runs gave great firm snow taking a good edge.

We just had time for a couple more runs down Polar before it closed and then skied round to White Pass load for the final run of the day. Polar continued to be great firm bump skiing although just a bit tougher as the light faded.

Last run was Skydive which skied just a well as you would have expected and as I said yesterday, icy in the bumps at the top, soft terrain hugging skiing in the top, easy skiing in the flats and great slightly twiggy skiing in the last pitch.

New Years celebrations kicked off in the Griz with beers and are about to continue in the hot tub with champagne - Have a great 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Day 20 back to some pretty tough skiing

Overnight we didn't have any new snow to speak of and even the boards at the hill were only claiming 2 cms of fresh. We were offered a range of forecasts for today ranging from sunny and clear to flurries. In the event we got overcast conditions most of the day getting bit brighter towards the end and some very light snow off and on which peaked early afternoon but didn't give us anything that might be described as an accumulation.

Temps were chilly with a start on the way to the hill of -12. They stayed much the same during the day warming maybe a degree or two but for the most part we spent the day in -10 temps all over the hill all day. The crowds which have been 5500 and 5300 for the past two days respectively seemed to be slightly lower but we still had to squeeze into the end of parking lot 2 at 10 to 9 this morning. During the day (as usual) there were a couple of pinch points in the high traffic areas such as the Bear load or the Haul Back load but other than that no hold ups and other skiers were very sparse out at the end of the Reverse Traverse on the New Side. Things would be much improved if they insisted that that the Haul Back was double loaded rather than allowing singles to load at peak times.

Lynda was back testing her new hip for the forth time so we went to the Old Side for some gentle morning skiing. After a quick warm up down Bear which was smooth grooming we poked around on New Lift Line, Cruiser Side, Cedar Ridge, Boomerang doing some runs twice. Nothing very demanding but in most places it was tracked up firm bumps taking an edge. I hit Kangaroo 4 times which was a bit scratchy in places and the drop on to the cat track had to be planned as a far left then right turn manoeuvre.

We went to the New Side and had a few runs back through White Pass where the snow was a bit softer but rather chunky and the light was very flat. Final run before lunch we hit out to Concussion and had some nice firm bump skiing all the way down the main chute and continuing through the gully to the left of Gilmar Trail. We had lunch in an incredibly crowded day lodge where we had to sit in the locker room as the only space available - do the same restrictions that apply to the Griz Bar at busy times also apply to the day lodge I found myself wondering. Lynda was well satisfied with her efforts at rehab.

In the afternoon on my own I hit Cougar Glades which still had plenty of lightly tracked lines and then into Stag Leap which was good bumps taking an edge. Next time round the light had improved so I headed up Polar Peak which proved a big mistake. The chutes were closed due to poor viz so the only way down was the Coaster. In poor viz I hit the Coaster which was ugly crusty ice that was about as forgiving as boiler plate all the way down and has the feel that it will be like that for some time to come - below the cat track it softened and was ok skiing.

I dropped Decline and then Window Chutes all or which were hard packed powder taking and edge - much more hard work than of late. I then looped Triple Trees and had great untracked powder in the pitch down to Trespass Trail and some ok skiing in the two pitches below between Summer Road but a fair bit of dead fall. I have been told of some great glading in Triple Tress but I saw no sign of it - the obvious explanation is that what I call Triple Trees is a variation on the official version and I will be looking into this and reporting back.

Final run was on Skydive which for the record was icy in the bumps at the top, chunky tracked snow in the top pitch,mellow skiing in the flat section and some ok if rather twiggy skiing in the final pitch. A few beers then home for yet another early night, I think I must be getting old.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Day 19 no new snow but still good conditions for early season

We had no new snow (at least none I could detect) over night and during the day whilst flurries were promised we only had the odd light dusting which didn't amount to anything in terms of accumulation. The big surprise was the temperature which was down at -13 on the way to the hill this morning and -10 as we drove back and which was way lower than anticipated. To be fair temps did get up during the day so that we saw maybe as high as -4 at the Timber load but at at the Polar load it was never warmer than -10 and for most of the time way lower than that.

It was lightly overcast with a high misty cloud which gave way to hazy sunshine during the day but towards the close the conditions started to sock in a bit so that it almost looked like another weather cycle was on the way although we haven't had anything yet. People think that sunshine in these conditions means good viz but that is only partially true. In the direct sunlight things are good but in the shade (particularly when the light come through haze and therefore is diffused white light) the light is very flat making skiing quite difficult. This happened to me as I dropped into Cedar ridge this morning and I had reports from buddies of similar experiences as they dropped into 1-2-3s about the same time. Just making the point that the light did make for some problems today.

The crowds didn't show up first thing but by mid day things were busy and at lunch the day lodge was packed. Whilst there were a lot of people around at the base the upper mountain remained fairly crowd free and the Griz bar was busy but with no problems finding a seat tonight. I was solo today and only had a couple of lifts where there were crowds but both times by taking the singles line I was able to ride the lift with no delay.

I went to the Old Side for the morning hoping to get some runs ahead of the crowds. For the first time this year I tried my standard warm up through Sun Up and China Wall both of which skied well through the twiggy bits which were quite prominent. A trip out to Snake ridge gave good soft snow in the top and big soft bumps in the ski out which I understand is now being called the Waterfall, although I did hear it referred to as Gorby Gap a few days ago. My theory is that as the way out is now so much better there is more traffic in there and as a result the terrain is getting much more bumped up and we are just going to have to get used to it. Kangaroo which was always skied as the route down to Boom load is getting a bit woody and the drop onto the cat track is icy and twiggy and takes some planning.

I skied all over the Old Side with drops through Boom (always soft and good) Cedar Ridge (light problems but skiing ok) Snake (see above) Boom Ridge ( ok but twiggy low down) and all lines in between. Just once I dropped off the Goat Trail into Buck Shot and found good deep snow but twiggy in the top and the lower section looked like a Christmas Tree sale lot - we need a little more snow before I try that again.

After an early lunch I hit the New Side and found Polar Peak open and in good light - a rare combination. I lost count of the number of times I hit the various chutes but as before Grandpapa bear was the run of the day with no ice if you knew where to go. Papa Bear was mellow and Barely Legal was still very icy in the chutes. I tried two more lines than before - Shale Slope (nice on top but slick ice low down) and the Clown Chutes where Crusty was bit technical in the entrance but great soft skiing below that.

By late afternoon it was getting busy on Polar so I dropped the less tracked Baby Bear and had a great run to base through Decline where the skiing was good but the highlight was the appearance of two pileated woodpeckers - made my day.

We just had time for a couple more runs on the Polar Chutes before another drop to base via Currie Creek which was great deep skiing all the way down and some nice tight technical turns to exit. Last run was Skydive of course which we (or at least me) hit top to bottom in one and the skiing was good all the way.

A good days skiing considering the base is still only about 195 cms and despite the crowds still plenty of places to go where you didn't see anyone.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Day 18 the day the crowds show up

Today was the day that the Christmas holiday really kicked off in Fernie. When we got to the hill just before 9 we could only just get in parking lot 2, at lunch we had to sit down in the locker room to eat our sandwiches and this evening there was a small line to get in the Griz but that seemed to be more to do with checking ID - they didn't ask for mine, should I be offended ? Despite all this the lift line ups were not bad and we only had to ride single once. Out in the far areas of the New Side we saw a few more people but it was never what you would call busy.

A lot of my buddies get very up tight about these holiday crowds but personally I take a slightly different view. There is no way that the hill could operated based on the few of us that ski the hill mid week particularly in Dec and Jan. What is happening in these busy times is that the crowds are effectively paying for our seasons mid week skiing and as such we should be really happy that they show up. As a gesture how about trying to be super nice to a visitor tomorrow and maybe even showing them some quite nice places to ski - of course I am not suggesting anyone should show them the best , you have to draw the line somewhere.

Overnight we had about 4 cms of fresh snow raising the base to 196 cms which no doubt will settle over the next few days. On the way to the hill it was -7 and all day it seemed to be about -5 all over the hill and overcast. Actually we had very light snow all day which I doubt accumulated a measurable amount of snow but did at least add to rather than take away from the snow base. The upper mountain was all tracked up powder from the previous few days and with the temps keeping the snow in good shape it was pretty nice skiing everywhere,

Lynda was on her third day of skiing so we had some low key skiing while she tested the strength of her new hip. Up the New Side we looped White Pass several times through the Gun Bowl, Highline Trees, Highline and Quite Right. We then pushed out into Currie Bowl and we had two good loops of Alpha Centauri and lower Concussion which were all very mellow as was the ski out through Gilmar Trail.

Late morning I met up with buddies and skied some other lines while Lynda continued to loop. We hit Knot Chutes which were chunky but soft and Surprise Trees which were really very soft in the trees but getting a bit tracked up in the open areas. The run down for lunch was Polar Peak Mamma Bear which was super deep but firm and Touque Chutes with still some soft lines if you knew where to go. The final exit was Spinal Tap which is starting to get a bit slick in the high traffic areas. Lynda finished just after 1 which is not bad for 3 months after a new hip but with the very crowed day lodge it made for a relatively short afternoon.

After lunch we went back up Polar Peak but the viz had gone and it was closed very shortly after we skied it. Papa Bear was just about the only way we could grope our way down and it was at least soft - I guess. Cougar Glades still had some untracked lines and Stag Leap was yet again improved in the lower section. Next time round was a Decline/Window Chutes loop which was some excellent skiing in  upper Decline as soft bump skiing and then soft snow in the trees and good skiing in the chute which was a little scratchy in the choke.

We had some time to spare so we hit Siberia Ridge which remained great soft lightly tracked skiing but rather technical in the choke as always. Last run we took Lazy Locals into the top of Big Band and found some great untracked steep lines on the near side. Last last run of course was Skydive which as always was soft terrain skiing on top, mellow in the flat mid section and and tough twiggy skiing in the lower pitch

A couple of beers in a very crowded Griz Bar and then a quiet night at home. Could this be the peak busy day of the Christmas holiday period or is it just a taste of things to come.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Day 17 a lot easier than yesterday

Again avid readers can decide why today was so much easier than yesterday. Was it the 5 cms of new snow overnight and about 10 during the day ? Was it the fact that Polar Peak remained closed all day so we did not have to wrap ourselves up in order to survive and still end up freezing our nuts off on the Polar Chair ? Was it because we kept alcoholic consumption last night to at least reasonable levels so we didn't feel like death warmed up when we got to the hill ? Again, you decide.

Temps warmed up a lot overnight so that on the way to the hill it was -7 and overcast. I think it was a little cooler up the hill but nothing like yesterday's brutal temps. In a way this makes things more complicated, yesterday you just took every piece of clothing you possessed out of your closet and put it on, Today you had to make decisions which thankfully I got just about right and stayed warm without getting over heated.

The snow that I talked about falling as we skied the last run last night had some effect and an accumulation of 5 cms of fresh was reported which felt about right to me. The bonus was that despite there being no snow in the forecast it snowed all day all over the hill quite hard and at -7/8 which as everyone knows produces perfect light dry powder snow. It's hard to say but it would not surprise me if we had an accumulation during the day of around 10 cms. The wind was swirling up and down the slopes so in various places the accumulation was significantly greater if you struck lucky.

The crowds turned up today so I headed for the New Side. For reasons I can never work out the Christmas/New Year crowds always build up on the Old Side and whilst some come over to the New Side they seem intent on not skiing the best snow. This was proved today as I looped the New Side finding crowds only in the lift areas (even then there were no significant line ups) and as I headed out into the more remote areas I hardly saw anyone all day.

Whilst I wasn't late to the hill I was by no means on first chair and headed up the New Side with a nice soft drop from Timber top to White Pass load via Lift Line in lightly tracked deep snow. At the top of White Pass I bumped into my good buddies Rob and Katie and we headed out to Skydive, We could not believe that Skydive was untracked and we hit it top to bottom. The nice thing about skiing any of the Big Three (don't let me hear anyone calling them The Fingers, yuck) with three of you is that as long as you all take tight lines everyone gets first tracks - that's what happened.

We had noticed that on the way past Cougar Glades it was untracked and when we looped back it still was. Great first tracks and when we cut left into Stag Leap, yes, you guessed it, untracked all the way down. Rob and Katie had family duties so I hit out on my own.

Next stop was Decline top (lightly tracked) and cut into Window chutes through the untracked tree lines and then the chute itself with just one track in front which meant great deep snow. I looped Touque Chutes and then Spinal Tap both of which were becoming deep with untracked areas despite a bit of light traffic.The lower part of Spinal tap is now as good as I can remember it.

Around this time I decided that it was going to be a no lunch and ski straight through day as the new snow was building up and things were just getting better. I hiked up to Lone Fir and apart from one icy turn about half way down it was great soft skiing so that you could really push it hard in the chute. The ski out through Easter Bowl and Freeway was good by any standards.

For a change I hit the top of the Brain next which was full of deep untracked lines. For information a couple of days ago I had a minor stack in there which involved me having to remove a ski to get up after my ski buddies proved useless and performing any kind of recovery assistance. Contrary to rumors that seem to be circulating I did not have a life threatening experience and my continuing existence is in no way due to the actions of a particular ski buddy who I would just reiterate provided no assistance at all. I cut into Window Chute which as before were really deep.

In search of adventure I hiked back up to Lone Fir but this time went one chute further on into what is officially known as Easter Meadow but is sometimes referred to a One Step Beyond. Totally awesome snow all the way down and the only danger in the tight chute at the bottom was being taken out by your own slough. I cut across Easter after skiing the awesomely deep cushion and hit Spinal Tap once again and once again it was deep powder.

For a change I hit out off the top of White Pass to Gotta Go and had some spectacularly deep skiing (deepest so for this season) in the Google Earth chute. Boot Leg Glades were also deep and soft through the trees on skiers left. Next change was to try Siberia Ridge which was soft mellow skiing which was just a bit technical in the choke, We just had time for a quick White Pass loop through the Gun Bowl and Pillow Talk which were all soft tracked powder before last run time.

Last run was Skydive which as it had been the first run gave a certain symmetry to the day. I wasn't untracked this time but it was still pretty good deep skiing for last run of the day. Unfortunately we had to skip beers as we were entertaining at home but we had a great evening with beers and hot tub at home with Rob and Katie and 18 month old Joey.

looks like we may actually get some more fresh snow tomorrow and Lynda is going back out for day 3 on the new hip so everything is looking good.