Saturday, December 31, 2016

Day 30 Thank goodness for wind sift

Last night we didn't have any new snow and as the snow fall from the last cycle started to settle the base came down to 188 cms. Up the hill apparently there was quite a wind event which didn't really get to us down in the valley but did move the recently fallen powder around to the extent that when we got to the hill today there was a lot of areas where we had untracked wind sift to play with.

On the way to the hill it was -4 and things cooled a bit during the day so that at the White Pass load in the afternoon it was around -10 and driving back from the hill we had -6. We started with a sun cloud mix which soon clouded over and by the end of the day we were back in another full on snow cycle which is continuing as I type. Viz was surprising ok except up Polar Peak which looked very socked in and was not open at all today.

 As I expected the crowds seemed way less than yesterday despite this being a Saturday and as Lynda decided to take a break she dropped me off so parking wasn't an issue. During the day I never waited more than half a dozen chairs at a line and from midday on wards I was skiing straight on to the chairs with no line ups. The day lodge and the base areas seemed pretty busy but on the hill I would say it was no busier than an average Saturday.

I went to the Old Side which in the event seems to have been a good idea given the reports of cold strong winds on the New Side. There was no chance for me to get cold as I skated out along the Cedar High Traverse and hit Snake Ridge which was soft untracked windsift most of the way down with really nice bump skiing on the right shoulder exit and then really deep sift in the left gully. The return was via Kangaroo which was soft and mellow as long as you remembered to drop on to the cat track on the left hand side and Boomerang which was flat soft wind grooming that you could just rip with long GS turns.

That was my morning, six loops out along the traverse - three Snake Ridges which were as above and hardly skied. There were two Steep and Deeps where I avoided the newly cleared area on the grounds that there would be more untracked lines away from this, and I  was right. One exit through the cleared right chute was very mellow and one through the left chute which was a bit bushy but very untracked although I was ambushed rather by a fallen tree across the chute. I dipped into the Fish Bowl once but only as far as the Red Tree cut out and got some deep totally untracked lines as a reward.

After a late lunch there was time to visit the New Side where things were a bit colder and windier and the light was not quite so good. Decline and Siberia Ridge were both full of soft wind sift and could best be described as soft tracked powder. The final rip was of course Skydive that was full of blown in snow and after a few bumps at the top you could really pull the trigger in the lower sections. A great way to finish the year.

It was snowing by the end of the day and still is. Patrol were calling for 10-18 cms over night but as every cycle so far this season has produced more than forecast I am pretty optimistic. Fingers crossed for yet another dump over night and we should be in for a very happy new year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Day 29 The crowds really showed up

Today was the busiest day so far in this winter holiday cycle and I am told that we had 6700 skiers (or boarders) on the hill today which is getting close to a record. Even though we anticipated getting to the hill before 8:30 the line up on Highway 3 was all the way back past the Stanford and I understand that mid morning it was all the way back into town.

The driver for the crowds of course was the 24 cms of new snow in the last 24 hours and the anticipated sun cloud mix which would make today a really nice skiing day - the base was just a few cms short of the magic 200 cm mark. The forecasts for the conditions were right so although we had no new snow during the day we did have the overnight dump to trash and we certainly gave it out best shot. Temps on the way to the were -9 and during the day up the mountain they warmed to -7 before cooling so that as I swung the truck into my garage tonight the temps on the truck was showing -6.

We went to the New Side for all the reasons previously explored and found that the line ups were bigger than the past few days but not totally excessive. Mid morning they dropped the fence on Currie and we were in the charge out to the Big 3 and were in the first wave down Skydive getting untracked lines particularly on skiers left. Totally awesome face shots all the way down.

After that we looped off the end of the Reverse Traverse and found the best untracked deep snow in Touque Chutes and Spinal Tap although all of the other runs were good. Mid morning Polar Peak opened and we looped it about 10 times alternating Grand Papa, Papa Bear, Barely Legal (just ignore the cliff signs and track right) and Crusty chutes which were all good and deep. Late morning the wind started to get up and viz deteriorated on Polar so we ran off through Mamma Bear which was also soft and deep.

On a day like today there was no point in trying to lunch in the Day Lodge at anything like normal time so we continued to loop the New Side with Lone Fir being good and The Brain being the run of the day particularly in the lower section where the deadfall was mostly covered by deep snow and it was actually better to drop into the creek bed to avoid the deadfall than to look for the usual right hand side chutes. Lunch didn't come until 2:15.

The late afternoon was spent looping Decline and similar lightly tracked runs before the inevitable Skydive finish. I was actually impressed by just how well Skydive had held up and how much untracked skiing there was - so impressed I one stepped it all the way down.

The Griz bar was really jumping tonight for the first time this season although this may have something to do with me being so pumped I was drinking beer. It was great to see all my ski buddies in there just as pumped as I was after a day like this. As sign of the times we had our first (but I am sure not last) nude table slide of the season, Well we are a small town and have to make our own entertainment.

Looks like we are due another snow event starting late tomorrow and spreading into the next day but how much that will bring is an open question. After that they are calling for an Arctic airmass to move in and stick with us through to next weekend giving daytime highs in the high teens. No problem for me compared with the pre Christmas freeze up but I dare say there will be those who struggle. At least the hill should get very quiet very quick.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Day 28 Normal service has been resumed

Yes, we woke up this morning and it was snowing although from the ground cover it hadn't been snowing long. The hill reported 4 cms overnight which held the base up at 182 cms. The good news is that it continued to snow all day and is still snowing now as I type this. I guess we may have had as much as 15 cms out of the cycle so far with another 15 due tonight - who knows tomorrow may be the day for the 2 metre party.

On the way to the hill temps were -4, as they were on the way back and during the day the up the mountain temps held at about -7 but there was a strong wind chill particularly on the New Side. The main feature of the day was the overcast conditions which gave very poor viz the higher you went but this was off set by the new powder which grew all day on the base of the old powder once again giving some spectacular skiing.

The crowds showed up again but like yesterday they seemed to be confined to the parking lot, the day lodge and the lower mountain. We skied all morning on the Old Side and didn't wait in line once. After a late lunch we skied the New Side and while this was a bit busier waits were never more than 1 or 2 minutes - Europe eat your heart out.

As promised yesterday we went to the Old Side but found the Cedar High Traverse closed for avi risk already. This meant that Snake Ridge could only be accessed by a hard side step traverse and with so much good skiing to be had with little or no effort it just didn't seem worth while. We made numerous loops of Cedar Ridge (several different routes) King Fir, Linda's, Bear Cave Chutes Boom Ridge, Boom and even a bit of Buck Shot. Everything was deep, soft, lightly tracked or totally untracked and generally awesome skiing. A special mention has to go to Kangaroo which we must have dropped 6 times on our loops back and it just got better each time - I don't ever think the Roo has skied so mellow.

In the afternoon we hit the New Side and sure enough (those of you who read last nights report will remember that the reason for skiing the Old Side was to take one for the team as they always open Polar Peak when I do that) Polar Peak was open for the first time in over a week. The light was totally socked in so we only did one drop down Papa Bear but the snow was sensational and if we can keep the peak open and get better viz tomorrow we should be in for a good day.

Other notable runs of the afternoon were Lone Fir (still good in the chute and awesome deep powder in the fan) Touque Chutes (getting really deep towards the end of the day) Spinal Tap (still super deep in the creek bed) all of which could have been run of the day on a normal day. That honour went to Skydive which we hit on the last rip and with a full days snowfall in it. We had a blast with face shots all the way through the top section.

If the snow holds up all night, and it certainly looks like that now, we could be in for an even better day tomorrow. I am told that they have 80 people signed up for first tracks tomorrow (don't get me on the subject of pay for powder groups) so it will be a New Side day with an eye to Polar Peak.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Day 27 It didn't snow

It's not often that something not happening is worthy of comment but the snow has been coming so thick and fast just lately that a snow free day is something of a novelty. There was no real snow overnight and nothing during the day so that we could take a final count of the snow falls of the past few days and establish that the base is now 185 cms which is very healthy for this point in the season.

Once again we made an early start to beat the holiday crowds and got to the hill just before 8:30. The crowds must have been greater today than yesterday as we had to some way back in parking lot 2 or perhaps the visitors were just a bit quicker out of their blocks this morning. During the morning I noticed massive crowds lining up to buy tickets (I was told by a visitor that they had to wait well over an hour to get their ticket) which suggests that today was busier than yesterday. It was therefore strange that the line ups on the New Side , where I was (honest I promise to ski the Old Side tomorrow) were much shorter and we didn't really have to wait at all to get loaded. I understand that there were big lines on the Old Side so perhaps that's where everyone went.

On the way to the hill temps were -4 and during the day they started at -7 at the White Pass load but got up to about -5 and in the valley on the way home it was a balmy -2. Things should stay this warm for a day or two before we drop back to minus teens at the weekend. The conditions were as forecast cloudy with sunny breaks and the flat light came and went as you skied various parts of the hill. Polar Peak remained closed due to wind but mid morning we got the Saddles opened (the reason I was hanging out on the New Side) and they were spectacular.

There had obviously been a wind event last night and the surface had a lunar landscape appearance which I expected to be quite crunchy. To everyone's surprise is was super soft wind sift so that even in places that had been skied hard yesterday the snow had filled in (deep in places) and was very mellow skiing. Where we had new openings on untracked snow it was just knee deep soft powder and totally awesome.

I just looped all day off various parts along the Reverse Traverse and repeated all of the drops through the Saddles and chutes several times. High Saddle went from easy edge to edge jumps in the morning to an icy trough in the afternoon although the skiing underneath stayed good deep powder. Low Saddle was always a bit icy in the top but became more so as the day went on but again the chutes to the skiers right remained deep and lightly tracked. Lone Fir and Easter Meadow (only ski patrol would name one of the tightest and steepest chutes on the hill a "meadow") remained in great shape all day as did the fan underneath partly because people won't make the effort to boot pack up to them and partly because they can be  quite tricky. Special mention has to go to Spinal Tap where we got first tracks in the wind sift and the snow seems to have become a little more dense making it real hero snow as it holds you up well and makes skiing so easy.

The Reverse Traverse also warrants a special mention as it is staring to get very chopped up with many exposed rocks around Low Saddle. The corner just before the bridge is also a bit tricky and should be taken a little slower than usual to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Snow should start again tomorrow afternoon and give us a reasonable dump tomorrow night. I am going to take one for the team. Whenever I ski the Old Side in circumstances like this Polar gets opened and I miss the first few turns. The only way I can think of guaranteeing a Polar opening tomorrow is to hit the Old Side so when you guys get Polar do remember who you need to thank.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Day 26 lost for words

And people who know me know that I am not often lost for words but after a day like today that is pretty well how I feel - after all what can you say about a day like today.

Last night we were promised 15 cms of snow overnight but in the event that turned into nearer 25 by the morning. It was snowing when we woke up and snowed all day sometimes quite hard. I don't have the figure but I imaging that we had at least  another 15 cms during the day. The snow is much lighter now but they are calling for at least another 12 cms overnight tonight and more during the day tomorrow. All in all we got totally hosed with snow and it's still coming, the 2 meter snow base could be broken any day now.

On the way to the hill temps were -5 and during the day I noticed they were about -7 at the White Pass load. On the way home the valley had warmed to -3 and it looks like we may enjoy a day or two of these warmer temps before we drop back in the freezer later this week. Conditions of course were overcast and viz poor at the very top of the hill but you didn't have to drop much before the viz improved to just about ok.

The crowds turned up as anticipated and we got to the hill before 8:30 to guarantee a space in parking lot 2. More importantly I wanted to avoid the gong show as a bunch of drivers in two wheel drive cars on all weather tires tried to get up Ski Hill Road and either crashed off the road or polished the surface with wheel spin to sheet ice. I understand today was remarkably incident free considering it was the busiest day of the year so far.

On the hill we went to the New Side and found a longish line up at Timber. That set the pattern for the morning although the crowds were there the line ups were never more than a few minutes and if you were prepared to ride solo they were even shorter. Polar Peak remained closed but other than that the whole of the New Side was open (excluding the Saddles) and it was super deep snow with many untracked lines that repaired as fast as you skied them. The Old Side apparently was only really open on the triangle from Cedar Center to Arrow but what was there was pretty good.

By lunch time the crowds had faded (vacation skiers don't have 7 hour legs) and we just got to enjoy and afternoon which was only a little busier than a usual Saturday. As usual on days like this I skied through without any kind of a break and with a nice symmetry both started and finished with spectacular rips down Skydive - totally awesome.

It's not really possible to describe how good the skiing was and there is no point in giving separate accounts of the runs as they were all totally awesome. Two runs deserve special mention - Lone Fir and Touque Chutes/Spinal Tap. Lone Fir was hardly tracked in the chute and the fan underneath was some of the best and deepest skiing I have ever had. Simlarly Touque Chutes were great in the trees and Spinal Tap had filled in the creek bed super deep and was real hero snow.

In summary today was up there as one of the best and the only place the crowds impacted on the skiing was on the Reverse Traverse where there were always bodies in the way and some folk struggling with the bumpy traverse. Tomorrow should be just as good and the overnight 12 cms should go a long way to repairing the hill. Special mention has to go to Patrol for getting Currie bowl open so quickly and keeping it open all day - great work. Bring on tomorrow.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Day 25 A nice surprise

No new snow was forecast until this evening but we woke to find 9 cms of fresh on the hill and a continuing snow fall which probably added another 3 or 4 before it petered out in the afternoon. The forecast was for sun and clouds but actually it was overcast and very windy in poor viz and snow flurries off and on most of the day.

The starting temp was -14 which accounts for why the snow was such low density but during the day the temps got up tp -9 at the White Pass load. On the way back from the hill tonight it was -5 and the outlook is for a fairly warm (just sub zero) period for a few days before we drop back in the freezer in the new year.

The effect of the new snow on the skiing was predictably good but you had to be careful. The snow was such low density that it didn't fill in the bumps or hold you up in quite the way you would expect. On the first drop down Lift Line I found myself travelling way faster than I intended as the snow was not slowing me and the bumps came through with full force but when you got used to it and adjusted you could relax and just enjoy the new powder snow.

I thought the crowds might show up today and although things were a bit busier than they have been it was not that crowded and we didn't have to wait in line at any stage. My guess is that people were busy clearing up after Christmas and getting themselves to Fernie today. I think tomorrow will now be the busy day and then it will be ugly busy through to next Monday then back to normal - hopefully.

It was yet another New Side day although Polar Peak was not opened and given the howling winds and white conditions going across the base of the Polar Chutes on the Reverse Traverse this should surprise no one. Of course the winds meant that on top of the new snow we also had some wind sift giving even better fresh snow in some places. Over all there was great skiing to be had in untracked snow and as long as you were prepared to work for it there were always first tracks to be had.

Notable runs today were- Skydive (first tracks awesome), Decline (soft deep snow), Cougar Glades (many untracked lines) Stag Leap ( a big improvement in the twiggyness) The Brain (top section only had many untracked lines) Window Chutes ( soft and deep) Touque Chutes ( untracked) Spinal Tap (the creek bed is getting well filled in) Concussion (good as ever) Lone Fir (good in the chute and totally awesome in the fan underneath, run of the day) Anaconda (untracked wind sift) Bootleg Glades (very deep in the trees) etc, and many other runs I can't remember.

Final rip was down Skydive which we hit without stopping for the first time this season and although more tracked up than when we got first tracks in the morning it was still great skiing.

The outlook is now for a 36 hour weather cycle which they say should bring another ton of snow. After that there are two more Pacific weather systems lining to hit us and a cold weather cycle due to come in just after new year. Looks like things could get better and better.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Day 24 Merry Christmas

Yes, we are having a very merry Christmas and I hope so is everyone else. In keeping with our Christmas tradition we celebrate Christmas in the UK fashion with Christmas dinner at lunch time and not in the evening. This means that we only ski the morning on Christmas Day and then it's more of a tour round the hill than the usual full on trashing of the hill that takes place daily. That having been said we had a pretty full on session today and didn't get off the hill until gone 2 so it looks like "dinner" will be near 4 or 5 o'clock allowing for some serious soaking and drinking in the hot tub.

The promised snow didn't really materialise overnight and we started today with only 7 cms of fresh in the last 12 hours and the base was only just over 160 cms. What did happen was that an arctic high pushed in so temps dropped to a starting figure of -18 and we had another bluebird day, cold but with not a cloud in the sky. The effect on the snow was to dry it out and give good tracked and packed powder all over the upper mountain.

We went to the Old Side and toured around Boom, Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge, Bear and of course Kangaroo. Everywhere was soft tracked snow although there were some scrapped down high traffic areas. After a while we went to the New Side.

On the New Side we looped White Pass a few times as the snow had not been trashed yesterday in the poor light and although the conditions were a bit brisk (around -20) the skiing was good in a fair amount of untracked snow. Then they opened Polar Peak and things got really good. The conditions up the Peak were a little patchy moving from really deep soft snow to hard ice/snow pack to avi debris and back again in all runs. The view from the top was of course fantastic and in the great viz the mixed conditions did not really present much of a problem.

Early afternoon we had a great drop down Baby Bear in very deep soft snow and then came off the hill with a real ripper down Skydive. We had a couple of drinks with friends and are now just getting ready for our hot tub before Christmas "dinner" which is now looking more an more like a 5 o'clock event.

The outlook is for remaining cold before moving into yet another snow event Monday night going into Tuesday and then another Pacific system moving in later in the week. The crowds will start to turn up tomorrow and be with us for a week but if we just hunker down and wait then by next week things will be back to normal.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Day 23 Am I awake or am I dreaming ?

The reason I have to ask myself this question is yet again we had another dump of snow today which gave us yet another major powder day. This is now most definitely, in my opinion (which is the only one you are going to get here) the best pre Christmas I can remember in 14 seasons of skiing Fernie every day. On the other hand perhaps I have just died and gone to heaven, who cares as long as the snow keeps coming.

Overnight they only reported another 7 cms of snow which was not the dump we had been hoping for but the snow started again about 9 and just hosed down until about 3 in the afternoon. I imagine that we must have got 20 cms out of the cycle and the base must now be up well over 170 cms which is getting close to the magic 2 metre mark which is the point at which we all tell ourselves that the base will last and we all relax.

Temps on the way to the hill was -5 and about -7 mid mountain. During the day the mid mountain temps dropped to -9 and the valley temps were around -6 as I went out for my Christmas Eve meal at the excellent Bridge Bistro. Viz was the issue today in the snow which was very heavy at times. The top of the hill was socked in all day and the bad viz line got down as low as the White Pass load early afternoon before lifting a little by the end of the day. It was a case of braille sking on the Reverse Traverse pretty well all day.

With new snow the parking lot was as expected busy but once again when we got on the hill at a few minutes passed 9 the crowds all disappeared. They my or may not have been in the day lodge as it was another day when I skied 7 hours straight with no break - yes it was that good. The new snow gave us refreshed deep untracked powder in many places and as the snow continued to fall things just got better and deeper as the day went on.

As usual I just had a New Side day (no Polar but who knows tomorrow) and the runs were fantastic. Areas skied included Decline (very good) The Brain top (super deep snow) Window Chutes ( soft and deep) Stag Leap ( good in the top but still twiggy lower down) Touque chute (mostly untracked) Spinal Tap (the creek bed starting to fill in but still a bit technical in the choke but other wise very deep) Nameless Trees (at least no one can tell me the name of the trees between Skydive and Stag Leap - mostly untracked with some big jumps off dead fall) Lone Fir (still soft and mellow) High Saddle (still in surprisingly good shape although the soft snow underneath couldn't really be attacked in the poor light) Currie Creek deeper than expected etc Lynda tried most of the Currie Chutes and says they were great. Even the ski outs through Easter and Freeway were good powder.

Special mention for run of the day goes to Siberia Ridge which I hit for the first time today and which was so good I went back and hit it again straight away which is something I hardly ever do. It was lightly tracked and although the choke was a bit sketchy after that it was deep terrain hugging powder all the way with what looked to me like a lot of brush clearance having been done - just watch for the fallen tree in the final pitch, officially awesome.

Of course we finished with a rip down Skydive which was much improved and then drinks in the Griz before starting Christmas proper. There is some talk of more snow tonight although it doesn't look like it and a chance of Polar Peak tomorrow, that would be a nice Christmas present.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Day 22 Yet More Snow

Yes, I know it's hard to believe but we are in the middle of yet another snow cycle making this possibly the best pre Christmas skiing anyone can remember for a long while. I will try and put things in some perspective.

Overnight there was no new snow so the base stayed at about 150 cms. Pretty well on time it started to snow at around 9 o'clock and has been snowing ever since. At first the snow was quite light but picked up in the afternoon so that by close of play I guess we had about 10 cms of fresh. The best news is that we should get at least another 10 over night and up to 18 tomorrow. I was told that the snow started falling more heavily on the Old Side early in the day but as I had a New Side day I only have second hand accounts of that.

Temps on the way to the hill and again while driving back were -5 in the valley and about a degree or two cooler up the hill giving almost perfect powder snow. Light was a bit flat in the snowy conditions but there was no wind although the low cloud meant that there was no chance that we would get Polar Peak today.

We started about 1 hour late due to way too much over indulgence last night at our "Christmas" dinner, once again thanks to Dan and Ruth. The snow was already starting to build on the New Side and although there was only a few cms on top of the tracked powder of the last few days it made a huge difference. The whole hill was refreshed and there was no evidence of yesterdays crust so it actually felt like we had way more fresh snow and seemed quite deep in places, in other words a full on powder day which just got better as the snow accumulated during the day.

We spent the rest of the day through to last bell trying out lots of different permutations of the Currie Chutes and the Big 3. The Reverse Traverse was in about the best shape I have ever seen it and the bridge is so mellow getting out there it is a bit of a non event. Particularly memorable deep powder was in Decline (left side was deep) Stag Leap (twiggy in the last pitch) Window Chutes (3 times it was so good) The Brain (just the top section which was super deep) Concussion/Toms/Currie Chutes (all excellent and mostly untracked) Touque Chutes (really deep with a mellow exit into Easter) etc.

Run of the day for me was Lone Fir which was well worth the hike up and so deep and mellow that I was actually looking to find a more difficult line to make it more testing - something I have never done before. I also ran across to Spinal Tap which is filled in down in the creek but only just, very  interesting. I actually tried Lazy Locals and Mitchy's for the first time this season and they were very good but a little sketchy in the chokes. Currie Bowl was closed early for avi control work so the usual last run down Skydive had to be missed but a run off through the top section of Triple Trees which was mostly untracked was not a bad second prize.

So a very good day with better to come tomorrow and maybe even better still the next (Christmas) day. It will be hard to trash all of this before the holiday crowds show up but we will give it our best shot.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Day 21 A really short report

We are just about to head out for Christmas dinner with our buddies Ruth and Dan which we are having a few days early to fit Dan's work schedule at the mine. Any minute now the taxi will pick us up so this is super short.

No new snow over night. Temps were cooler at -3 on the way to the hill and -4 on the drive back. Up the mountain it was around -6 most of the day but overcast with flat light and no really exceptional conditions. The cooler temps and wind had formed a thin crust on the latest snow so that where it was untracked we tended to just about stay on top and where it was tracked up already it was very hard and chunky, and rather hard work.

We went to the Old Side and tried Steep and Deep and Snake Ridge which were chopped up chunky snow but ok skiing. Boom Ridge was nice firm bumps taking an edge and Kangaroo was soft except where a load of users has side slipped the left chute onto the cat track where it was scrapped out.

On the New Side the Saddles opened and Corner pocket looked trashed down to the tires only an hour after opening - side slippers again. We hit Lone Fir (soft in chute firm untracked below) High Saddle (tight edge to edge jumping but taking a good edge and firm untracked below) Low Saddle (Icy in the top but ok) and the chute beyond Lone Fir which was very deep and some tight steep sections. We repeated all day several times and hit Skydive which was chopped up but ok for a finish.

Looking forward to the next snow cycle tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Day 20 One of my Best Day's Skiing Ever

I must make it clear that I am not saying that today's conditions were some of the best ever, although they were pretty good. My measure of a day is a personal one based on how much I enjoy myself and not some numeric calculation based on snow fall, vert skied, snow depth etc. This blog is a totally subjective view (my view) of the skiing and although many may think that today was not one of the great days that is up to them - if they want to express a counter view there are always the comments at the end of the blog or indeed they can start their own blog  - what you are getting here is just my opinion. So why was today so good ?

They called the new snow at 13 cms in the last 24 hours bringing the total out of the last cycle to a little short of 70 cms and the base around 150 cms. The forecast highs were -1 at the base and -4 up the hill and although things started a degree or two cooler these proved to be very accurate forecasts. Conditions were overcast but viz was very good all day and although the wind got up to blow in a little sift around midday it dropped towards evening making the skiing very mellow and easy - first thing in favour of a great day.

We arrived at the parking lot just before 9 and found it nearly full so we were anticipating crowds on the hill. I don't know if the crowds were on the groomers (don't ski them) the Old Side (didn't get there) or the lower mountain (just a blur at the end of each loop) but out on the hill I hardly saw anyone. Of course they may have been in the day lodge but with skiing this good I went from 9-4 with no break so the first time I saw the inside of the lodge was at the end of a very big day.

We went to the New Side in the hope of new openings and as I walked to Timber Chair at 9 a patroller buddy came past me and just said "The Big 3". I took this to mean that they had opened the Big 3 runs (Skydive, Stag Leap and Decline) and this should prove, if proof were needed for once and for all that these runs are not, repeat not called "the fingers". We dropped Lift Line to White Pass which was deep and soft and remained that way all day. After that we just took my buddies advice.

What made the day really great was that only the low traverse was open so it was a bit of work to get out to Skydive Traverse although the traverse was cut about the best I have ever seen it to avoid too much work - in any event it kept the crowds, such as they were, away. We spent 7 hours doing repeat loops of Skydive, Stag Leap, Decline, Window Chutes, Cougar Glades, The Brain, Spinal Tap, Touque Chutes, Secret Chutes, Easter Bowl etc. We got first, or at least early tracks in most of these and even by the end of the day when we were putting in repeat loops there were still plenty of untracked lines. The skiing was just perfect in deep steep soft powder and whenever you got in a tight spot in trees all you had to do was push your skis in the fall line and let them rip.

Lynda held on until about 2 but also had an overdose of awesomeness which during the day had caused her to drop off the traverse early as she could not bring herself to ski past the untracked powder in the Currie Chutes. Neither the Saddles nor Polar Peak were open so we still have that to come. The only disappointment was that the hike up to Lone Fir was open but when I got there the chute was closed so I had to drop back down Cornice Chute which was more or less untracked and still pretty good. I didn't get to the Old Side but I am told that they opened Cedar Bowl all the way out the Snake Ridge and the skiing out there was awesome. I understand that Cruiser and Cedar Centre were ungroomed and caused some problems for the unprepared but that's early season skiing for you. Too much mountain and not enough time to ski it all.

As a result of today's great skiing I had two firsts for this season - first time I had skied from first to last bell without any kind of a break and first beers of the season in the Griz, well, orange and soda just wasn't going to be enough today. Tomorrow we may get Polar and the Saddles so looks like another day of hanging around the New Side.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Day 19 Warmer and Wetter

Now, no one should be getting the idea that we have been hit by a pineapple express or anything like that but the temps have risen and the snow that fell today had a much higher water content than anything we have seen so far. Nothing to get worried about as we are supposed to be at the warmest point of our current weather cycle but a timely reminder just how close to the edge we live here in terms of ski conditions.

Overnight there was more snow so that the 24 hour snowfall was 26 cms bringing the 48 hour total to 52 cms and pushing the base up to around 145 cms. Driving to the hill temps were -3 at the base which just about got up to zero during the day and -3 at the White Pass load mid afternoon. Temp on my deck now in the valley is zero and I noticed that last load at White Pass temps were down to -5 and falling.

The snow which had stopped early morning kicked off almost as soon as we got to the hill and continued of and on until mid afternoon. As I said it was high moisture which flipped into grauppel and back again a couple of times but at least always fell as white stuff. I guess we had about 10 cms out of the cycle on the hill before it finished which was way short of the volume forecast but still a pretty good top up on what we had. Perhaps it is just as well that there was not more snow as the roads were tricky and for the second day running we had a truck in the ditch on Ski Hill Road.

Winds got up again for a while though not as bad as yesterday so a combination of new snow and windsift meant loads of untracked lines reappearing over night. We went to the New Side and found the same White Pass core open all the way from Big Bang to Anaconda Glades. Everywhere was good deep powder but particularly good was Lift Line, Surprise Trees, Anaconda Glades and (really deep) Bootleg Glades. Knot Chutes remain very sketchy and rocky in places although if you know where the rocks are and avoid them there is also some great deep powder.

Late morning they opened Currie as far as Currie Powder and we had a couple of loops in some deep stuff in 1-2-3s. Later still we got the low traverse across Concussion which went as far as Currie Creek (so no Big 3, Easter, Saddles or Polar) and the loops down into Concussion were sensational - just put your skis in the deep fall line and let them rip. Late afternoon Currie was closed but by then the Surprise area had filled in and we got more deep untracked loops back to White Pass. Final run off was Anaconda and Bootleg Glades which both had many untracked lines.

Although I didn't get to the Old Side a buddy did and he said there appeared to be way less snow over there. The Old Side Triangle from Bear to Cedar Ridge was all that was open but apparently Boom Ridge skied particularly well. There was no skiing in upper Lizard Bowl or Cedar bowl so fresh tracks there are yet to come.

There is some talk of more snow tonight but most opinions point towards a day or two break in the weather systems then a cooling trend with way more snow which sounds good to me. As we have yet to have seen open Polar Peak, Reverse Travers, Saddles, Easter Bowl, Big 3, Lizard Bowl, Cedar Bowl and Snake Ridge there is loads more untracked powder to be had without any new snow and my best judgement is to hang out on the New Side tomorrow waiting for openings. Of course with the staff Christmas party tonight maybe those opens will be a bit delayed as everyone will be slow out of the traps tomorrow but I am still optimistic. Another very good day.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Day 18 Awesome, awesome, awesome

Yes, today pulled three awesomes on my personal scale which considering it only goes up to 3 is pretty good. Not sure what I will do tomorrow if the forecasts prove correct but more of that later.

Overnight the hill reported 26 cms of fresh snow which was way more than we got in town but when we got there this seemed fairly accurate. On the way to the hill the temps were -7 and all day up the hill we saw figures of around -8/9. Even driving away tonight things had only warmed to -5 which suggests that the forecast that we have been getting are more or less on track. The best thing about today was that it puked snow all day on the hill and with strong winds blowing the sift around we had deep untracked snow all day out of this cycle which must have delivered about half a meter of snow by the time it finished this evening.

The drive to the hill was interesting with number of vehicles finding that all weather or snow and mud tires are no substitute for full winter tires when it come to getting up an unploughed Ski Hill Road. It was a bit of a gong show but in the truck in 4x4 with full winter tires we snaked through with no problem and left the other guys to sort themselves out.

We made an early start and headed to the New Side to avoid me the distress of seeing the snow having been tracked out on the Old Side by various pay for powder groups. My thoughts on this practice are well known and largely unprintable so lets just leave it and not spoil an otherwise awesome day. Timber opened about 15 mins late to allow for avi control but the good news was that after very few of us had loaded they stopped loading for technical reasons. This meant those of us lucky enough to get up had White Pass to ourselves for a couple of loops until the Timber problems were sorted.

The conditions were just awesome with the new snow having rather more moisture content that the last snow cycle so it really was easy to ski very deep hero snow. Viz was a bit tough in the windblown snow but as long as you held up for the worst gusts to pass there was great skiing. It was just  the White Pass core but there were not that many people for a powder day so there were plenty of untracked lines for all.

During the day we had rolling openings to extend the area in Knot Chutes (Tight Knot remains a bit twiggy and rocky and was the only disappointment of the day) Surprise Trees (awesome) Anaconda (many ways down and all out the other side of awesome) Bootleg Glades (very deep but watch for hazards) Big Bang/Lift Line (super deep and untracked but care needed re tree stumps) and even an ungroomed Gilmar Trail might have been considered run of the day in any other circumstances.

I didn't get to the Old Side but I hear good reports in most of the places you would expect. Late afternoon I tried an experimental run down Triple Trees and found the top super deep, the drop on to the cat track tricky with rocks exposed, the second section good and third section in need of a bit more snow due to a load of deadfall - skiable but be very careful. Final run through Anaconda and Bootleg gave us deep untracked lines in places we had been skiing all day, it was that kind of a day.

The best news is that everyone is telling me that this is not the main part of the storm cycle and the main part will hit us tomorrow. If that is the case we might just be in for one of the best day's skiing ever. Even if not as Currie Bowl and Polar didn't open today there is plenty more deep untracked snow to come even if we don't get any more precip out of this cycle. An early night is called for.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Day 17 Warming Up

Well, lets not get carried away, when I say warming up I mean that we are getting temps in the minus teens and not minus 20's as been the case for the last two weeks. Of course we don't want it to warm up too much with all this precip in the forecast as they are already calling for temps later this week that are dangerously close to zero with the associated risk of us being hit by the "R" word as a result.

Today started with the temp on the deck at -15 and with no real overnight snow the base was down to 111 cms and falling. It was overcast and there was a little white dust coming down which was with us on and off all day but which never gave anything that amounted to an accumulation.

The weather feature of the day was the wind and with strong gusts in the valley I guessed that there would be a delay to the start on the hill so I took my time getting there. Like yesterday I arrived at about 10 and also like yesterday I called things dead right. When I arrived only Elk and Deer chairs were running due to the wind up high. This did not give any skiing other than the groomed lower mountain which in my book doesn't really count as skiing. By the time I had booted up and ridden the Elk then Bear and Boomerang chairs were open so we had the whole Old Side. Timber was delayed but as the wind dropped a bit late morning it started up and we had the New Side as well by lunch time.

The wind had sifted the snow around a bit on the Old Side and we found some good untracked sift in most places on the Old Side Triangle - Boom, Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge, Linda's, Kangaroo (particularly nice and soft) etc. Once again we decided against a skate out to Snake due to the slow running snow but I expect the sift just over the ridge in Redtree would have been pretty nice. In summary the skiing was much the same as the last week - tough tracked up powder with early season hazards made a little better by some new wind sift.

After a late lunch we looped the New Side where the conditions were much the same as the Old but with some evidence of wilder winds and some bigger wind banks of sift, particularly in the Surprise Trees area. Anaconda was very good all across but specially in the far right chutes and the fans underneath where the wind sift had built up were actually soft untracked snow. Bootleg was also good but packed with dead fall and stumps and in need of very careful navigation.

Last run of course was Skydive where as we had guessed the wind had lost it's strength coming over the trees and dropped quite a lot of fresh snow into the run particularly in the top. Things tended to get more twiggy the lower you went but the new snow helped.

Driving away from the hill temps were -10 and rising but the snow such as it was still was coming down very light and very dry, so much so I didn't even need to clear my hot tub cover before use tonight. We are promised some much needed more substantial precip both by way of amount and moisture content over the next 48 hours but for the moment the jury is very much out on this in my opinion.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Day 16 Brass Monkeys Beware

Back in the UK we have an expression when things get really cold, we say "Its cold enough to freeze the b---ocks off a brass monkey. Well, today in Fernie there could well have been any number of brass monkeys talking in high pitched voices as it was seriously cold.

The starting temp even in the valley was -30 with no new snow so the base remained at about 115 cms. When I say starting temp of course I don't really mean that as everyone knows that they won't load lifts in those temps to protect customers so I gave it an hour before turning up at the hill. Even driving up Ski Hill Road at 10 o'clock it was still -28 and when I arrived no lifts were running.

By the time I had got my boots on a layered up (something that takes quite some time with the 6 layers needed today) Timber Chair was moving but not loading but the whole of the Old Side lift system was open for business. After a short time Timber stopped and attempts to open the New Side were abandoned for the day due to the cold temps on top. Usually a weekend with only the Old Side open would mean big line ups but the crowds stayed away in the cold and things were so quiet I didn't even share a chair with anyone all day - Lynda decided to have a rest day, and who could blame her.

During the day temps on the Old Side got up to about -22 and it clouded over and snowed. Well, when I say it snowed, we had some very light white powder floating down with almost zero moisture content and no accumulation and for once the forecast of "less than a centimeter" was a very accurate call. The groomers were smooth and hard as you can imagine and the cat tracks were about as slippery as sandpaper due the a condition I believe is technically called " interlocking dendritic crystals" or slow squeaky snow as we know it.

Off the groomers it was just like yesterday with a hard uneven base and highly variable tracked powder which became real hard pack in high traffic areas. Early season hazards were around and were most visible as alders if you were lucky or hidden as tree stumps and rocks if you were not - get well soon Gary. The snow was slow and hard work to move around so again it was a day when the skiing was very tiring on top of the tiredness which comes from skiing all day in such cold temps.

I spent the day in good Old Side Triangle loops mainly off Boomerang hitting Boom, Boom Ridge, Linda's, Cedar Ridge and the occasional dip into Lizard Bowl. About 6 or 7 returns were via Kangaroo which was more or less the run of the day with soft snow although you had to be a bit circumspect on the drop onto the cat track. For those who are not fans of the Roo I guess the choice was between Boom Ridge and Linda's. The traverse out to Snake was open but with the slow snow it would have been just a bit too much hard work for me but probably pretty good when you got there.

On the forecast front I was chatting to some people who should know a bit about this subject and their view is that in this cycle we are going to get early next week we are going to get way more snow than forecast and it is going to come down a heavy Sierra Cement in the warmer temps which is just what the hill needs to cover all the hazards. Heres hoping.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Day 15 Plan B

Yes, I know I said that I would stop posting every day but I have had so many requests to rethink that I am prepared to try Plan B. That is to post more frequently but post less. It seems that what people are interested in are conditions and I reckon I could get those across in very few words on a daily basis. The stuff about what I have skied which is only of limited interest even to my friends can be dumped with no great loss - lets see how it goes.

Today we had no new snow so the  base was down to about 112 cms. This would normally be pretty good at this time of year but the snow that has come down has been at very cold temps with almost no moisture content so it  has no real body to cover and beat down the early season hazards, particularly alders. The result is good coverage but a base that was good to ski when new but is now fading fast.

It was seriously cold, so cold  in fact that the Timber Chair didn't start running until gone 10. Most of the day it hung at around -23 in mid mountain locations and any slight wind pushed the chill factor way down into the -30s. It was a day for many layers and full skin coverage to avoid frost bite.

With the last new snow 6 days ago the hill is starting to take on a rather beat up look and skiing is very tough. The only good news is that the snow had no moisture content as if it had the cold weather since then would have made the tracked up powder even more hard than it is. Ignoring the groomers (which I do) which seem to be in great condition nothing on the hill is easy to ski. The surfaces are chopped up and uneven so try to throw you off balance all the time. There are many early season hazards which would be difficult enough to avoid if the skiing was easy but in what we have it makes for a very difficult time and almost impossible to link a nice run together without having to constantly check and rebalance to avoid the undergrowth.

I skied both sides and the only real difference was that the New Side was a bit colder than the Old Side. Run of the day on the Old Side was Boom Ridge and on the New Side Anaconda but neither were easy or relaxing.

No new snow tomorrow and temps forecast to drop even further so I guess the good news is no weekend crowds and the bad news is the tough skiing continues. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Days 11-14 Back to the freezer

Writing this blog in 3 or 4 day bursts was an exercise that I thought would be something of a challenge if only to the memory. In the event nature seems to be on my side by delivering the season in bite sized packages of similar conditions so that I have to do very little to remember the details of each burst. So here we go with another 4 days of the season in summary form.

Last Sunday night the storm which had been puking snow for 24 hours petered out and by the morning we had 47cms of fresh snow to trash out of that cycle. Monday dawned in beautiful bluebird conditions although the daytime high was only about -16 and as a result the snow stayed in great shape. As you can imagine Monday or not there were some crowds at the start of a perfect powder day - I guess a lot of grand mothers were being buried in Fernie that day. The White Pass core opened first with some great lines back in to Timber bowl deep and untracked. By mid morning as the crowds thinned Currie bowl came on tap and we had run of the year (perhaps the lifetime) by getting second tracks through Corner Pocket and having the whole slope in to Lizard to trash in almost half a meter of snow. Polar Peak opened late morning but with a huge line up we continued to loop the Saddles in untracked snow a few more times getting great untracked skiing.

The crowds died down on Polar and we found plenty of untracked snow in Grand Papa Bear, Papa bear and Barely legal. After lunch I continued to lap Polar but about 3 o'clock my day was cut short with my second heel binding breakage in two days which caused a major stack in Barely Legal resulting in a torn calf muscle. The guys at Straight Line promised me a working pair of skis by 6 that evening and were as good as their word, keeping one pair back for a warranty claim which they did the next day getting me back to a pair and a spare - as always great work guys. The torn calf muscle made walking a bit painful putting an end to running in the gym for the moment but strangely doesn't seem to affect skiing - go figure.

Tuesday was cold with highs not much warmer than -20 and a bit of an inversion. Everything was quiet with no new snow but what the stay aways hadn't worked out was that Snake Ridge would open for the first time this season. It was a long hike out as the snow wasn't running well in the cold, the cat track was up hill in places and the low traverse hadn't been cut - still hasn't as far as I know. The laps were obviously slow but it was worth it for the powder which was waist deep in places. Two runs down Snake Main and exit by the right shoulder were good but the real treat was Steep and Deep where a lot of good summer brush work has been done making the skiers right drop into Gorby wide open all the way to the cat track without an alder in sight. Even Kangaroo was open to complete my ideal Old Side loop. The afternoon was spent finding different routes off Polar Peak such as Crusty Chute or Shale Slope top and cut left under the cliffs into Grand Papa Bear, all deep and in many places untracked - a word of warning, the Coaster is like a rock garden and only use it if you are looking to get a new pair of skis for Christmas. Final Skydive was as always good.

Wednesday was spent exploring some of the areas of the Old Side which still are rather marginal such as Linda's, King Fir, Bear Chutes and similar runs. They all proved skiable with care and had some very deep snow but the hazards meant that linking a run together was not easy. I only had the energy for one trip out to Steep and Deep but it was well worth it with much of the area untracked and the newly cleared area skiing like a dream. The whole thing was made more interesting by meeting a Moose on the way out through Haul Back but she didn't seem interested and eventually wandered off. It was supposed to be another day for an inversion but it seemed to be about -20 all over to me and things only warmed a little in the afternoon up Polar Peak (still deep snow and good lines) much later in the afternoon. Skydive was as always a good way to finish.

Thursday we had been promised some more snow and although it clouded over in the morning and some white stuff fell briefly from the sky there was no accumulation and by the afternoon we were back to bluebird conditions. Things did warm up to about -13 although it didn't really feel much warmer. I decided to have a New Side Day just looping out to the Big Three and taking Skydive, Currie Creek, Decline, Stag Leap Window Chutes, Spinal Tap, Cougar Glades, Touque Chutes and all similar areas. As you would expect the runs had areas of seep untracked snow but loads of hidden hazards like covered tree stumps, dead fall and of course alders and devils club. I even ended up with a bloody face as a result of alder whip which left it's mark so I guess there goes the career in modelling. Deepest and most untracked snow was in Window Chute/ Spinal Tap and the areas between but then that was where the most hazards were as well. The bridge at the end of the Reverse Traverse is worth a mention as it is still exposed wood slats and some orange plastic which holds up under skis surprisingly well but does do your head in if you aren't ready for it. In the circumstances a Skydive finish was hardly surprising.

So that's the last few days in summary. We now look to be getting a couple of really cold days (Friday afternoon -32 with wind chill) before things warm up to minus single figures and we get more snow. They are only calling for 5-10 cms but that was what they were calling for last weekend when we got nearly half a meter. Current base is in at about 125 cms which is good for the time of year and if we get more snow at warmer temps we could get some good old Sierra Cement to beat down the alders and give us a really good base .Fingers crossed.

Finally a number of people had expressed disappointment at the blog going down to only twice a week. Sorry guys but it really is a time thing. A number of people have emailed me to ask specific questions and I am always happy to answer emails on specific points if that helps.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Days 8-10 From freezer to awesome in just three days

When I left you dear reader you will recall that we were in the middle of a serious freeze up with no new snow but the stuff we had was well preserved in the cold and we were getting new untracked skiing as new parts of the hill were opening up on a daily basis. The Old Side was a bust as the Boomerang chair and Haul back T bar were not running and despite some considerable pre season publicity Polar Peak was yet to open. Well in the 3 days since my last entry pretty well everything has changed and for the better in a big way.

On Friday the weather continued much as it had all week with daytime highs on the hill barely getting above -20 and night time lows much colder. Overnight Friday into Saturday we had about 5 cms of fresh snow but with the daytime highs still in the mid minus teens it was low density snow which did little more than make things look a bit prettier. The real story is of Sunday (today) where the snow started in the night and by morning we had 12 cms of rather more solid snow as temps had risen to around -10. During the day it just kept coming, puking down snow all day giving us an estimated 35 cms of snow out of the cycle so far with an estimated 15 cms more to come before it all peters out some time tomorrow morning. The result has been that the hill has been transformed into a thick covering of deep powder all over with any closures more likely to be due to avi risks rather than poor coverage.

Friday was a New Side day due to the lack of lifts running on the Old Side. Everything that had been open remained good and we spent most of our time out on the Reverse Traverse either hitting the Saddles, Easter Bowl and the Big 3 or Cougar Glades. With the lack of people there were still plenty of untracked lines to be had but you did have to cut quite close to the trees to get the good stuff.

Saturday they opened all the lifts on the Old Side and I had intended to try them out but after a New Side morning which was improved by the new snow but I was ambushed by a Polar Peak opening around mid day. There was a brief window when the snow in the chutes was mostly untracked and the light was good. We looped Grand Papa Bear, Barely Legal and Papa Bear getting some great steep and deep skiing. After a late lunch we went back but the light had gone although the skiing was just as good, just not as easy. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the new snow in the Saddles although last run down Skydive was made interesting by my heel binding breaking and me having to get down the final pitch on one ski - not recommended but it had to be done.

Sunday I was out on the new DPS Wailer Pures (I had no choice with the binding gone on the old skis) and we decided to try the Old Side. Cedar was only open to just short of Snake Ridge although that may have opened later in the day. The new 12 cms of fresh snow which was being added to all the time made for great skiing in Cedar Ridge, Boomerang, Sun Up, Bear, and even Kangaroo. After a while we decided to go back to the New Side to see what effect the new snow had there.

The New Side was getting better all the time although the Knot Chutes remained a bit sketchy. Surprise Trees, Anaconda Glades, Bootleg Trees, and Currie Chutes were all good and filling in faster than we could trash them. The run to lunch through Easter was really good with the snow filling in very deep on the skiers right. After a quick lunch we were surprised to find Polar Peak open in the poor light but spent the afternoon looping Grand Papa and Papa Bear which by now were well over knee deep in soft powder which got deeper each lap. Viz was poor but with non stop face shots you would not have been able to see anyway so what the hell.

I got out as far as Baby Bear for the run off the chutes and it was just spectacular, one of the top 10 runs of all time. I linked into Decline where the top section was now untracked and deep and then cut into Window Chutes which was more than thigh deep in the places where the old snow had not been skied - seriously deep awesome skiing. Final run was Skydive which was just spectacular with long untracked lines and most of the early season growth covered - much easier than yesterday as I had two skis this time. Everyone in the bar was so pumped up about the conditions it made for a great evening although the drive back to town was rather testing even in the truck in 4x4 with snow tires.

So there you have it, tomorrow looks like it will be a super deep powder Monday which is a good way to start the week. Looks like the gym will have to do without me for a day or two. It is forecast to go back to some serious minus temps this week so the snow should stay in good shape and the crowds (well people then) should stay away because of the cold. Wait for Thursday evening for an update.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Days 4-7 Life in the Freezer

So we continue with my attempts to write up several days at a time and as far as that goes conditions have been pretty  cooperative in that the last 4 days have been rather similar. This has allowed me to get into my new winter regime which involves going to the gym on any morning that isn't a powder day or a Saturday and run 12 klicks on the treadmill before clocking in to the hill about half an hour late. This together with cutting out the booze (nothing drunk in the past 16 days since I landed in Canada) should keep me in ok shape for next summers running season. But I digress.....

Returning to the main theme of this evening's symposium, those who follow the blog closely will remember that Sunday night we were all excited as it was puking snow with more in the forecast and looking good for a powder Monday. Well, our hopes were fulfilled, we had just over 25 cms of fresh deep powder which came down at about -5 and pushed the base to a little over 1 metre where it stayed, only dropping to 98cms today. This gave us great coverage on the upper hill and much improved the situation on the lower hill.

Monday evening temps started falling as an Arctic high moved in and we thought things were cold on Tuesday when daytime highs only reached -12. We didn't know we were born as for Wednesday and Thursday the Arctic high persisted which of course gave us perfect bluebird conditions without a cloud in the sky but very cold. In fact a better description of conditions over the past couple of days could best be described a fricking freezing with daytime highs at the White Pass load never getting above -20 and starting temps even at the base were about -24. All of this kept the snow in great shape but did mean that we were so wrapped up that skiing was tough.

The openings on the hill continued. The Old Side opened Lizard bowl across as far a Freeway and Cedar bowl to about half way across. I can't make much comment on the Old Side as for reasons I will leave others to speculate upon neither Boomerang Chair nor the Haul Back T bar were running. This meant that if you dropped into Cedar the only way back was along traverse round the Cedar Trail which was bad enough but then the only way back into the circuit was via Elk Chair which is so slow that people could die of old age waiting to get to the top. This only left Lizard bowl for quick loops and as I always feel there is better skiing to be had than Lizard I only skied the Old Side a couple of times when Timber Chair went down. Apart from that it has been a New Side opening week where things have been much better.

The New Side story was one of continuing rolling openings as work continued in the newly covered areas. In Timber bowl everything opened up to Timber Lift Line all the way across to Anaconda including all the Knot Chutes and the drop in to Gotta Go. I think Surprise Tress may still have a conditions closure but as I haven't been there for a couple of days I can't be sure. The Reverse traverse was steadily extended giving us the Currie Chutes, then Easter Bowl, Lone Fir and the Big Three (note to new readers don't call them the fingers) including the Window Chutes. Finally the Saddles opened yesterday so we have it all. My only confusion is that for the past two days the lower parts of Skydive and Decline have been open and they have been fine if a bit twiggy in the bottom. Today they were closed which makes no sense to me as conditions certainly have not deteriorated.

The skiing in the newly opened areas has of course been sensational in deep untracked snow where we were laying down first tracks of the season in many places. Particularly good were Corner Pocket (easy in the chute with no tires showing), High Saddle, Low Saddle (amazingly not icy) Lone Fir, Anaconda Glades Easter (many untracked lines in the trees to skiers right) Cougar Glades (sensational and first tracks but a bit twiggy low down) Skydive, Stag Leap, Decline, Window Chutes (almost taken out in the choke by my own slough) and Spinal Tap (first tracks and awesome but a bit technical crossing the creek bed low down) and of course all the Currie Chutes. Even by pre Christmas standards there have been very few people on the hill due to the cold so every day has been a powder day with loads of untracked deep lines to be had.

In case I get accused of painting too rosy a picture it has to be acknowledged that where the snow has ben tracked the skiing is pretty tough and you can end up feeling very beat up. The cold temps have dried out the snow and made it hard and chunky always trying to throw you off balance. Add to this the fact that early season hazards (rocks and twigs) mean that you can't always take the line you want and when you do twigs catch you edges and tails and your pole gets hooked up dragging you into the back seat then the skiing is difficult in places. The cold takes it's toll on the muscles and being in about 6 layers of clothing adds to the workload. In other words it isn't all beer and skittles.

In summary we have had a great opening week as long as you are not an aspiring princess when it comes to cold temps. The outlook for the next week is continuing cold with no daytime high getting above -14 and quite a few lower than that. On the precip front we are promised some flurries over the next three days which should give measurable accumulations although at these temps the snow density will be very low indeed. So I am fairly optimistic although I have to accept that for some the continuing cold means that their season start will be delayed even further.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Days 2-3 Opening Weekend

Ok, this is something new for me as well, trying to write about more than one day at a time so please bear with me. I will try and cover the topics in a kind of logical order but I can't promise anything.

Lets start with the crowds first. I had anticipated that Saturday would be even busier than opening day but I was wrong. We got to the hill about half past 8 and parked in line 2 of lot 2. It was more like a weekday than a weekend. As the day wore on more people turned up so there were a few short line ups but nothing to get excited about and by afternoon the hill was quiet as was the Griz Bar for a Saturday night. Sunday was just as quiet with no crowds at any time and the Griz was busy but this was due to the happy hour offers to staff which are going to be a feature of Sundays, my guess is that there were about half a dozen non staff in there tonight. So a pretty quiet opening weekend Some people said they thought it may be down to folks doing their Christmas shopping but as it isn't Christmas Eve yet that doesn't make sense to me.

Now terrain. On the New Side we got Falling Star on Saturday as an additional way off the hill but apart from that things stayed the same and very limited for both days. The White Pass core was open between Puff and Surprise Trees (both closed)  although the Knot chutes were open. In Currie it was open as far as Concussion but with a sign line half way down that didn't allow skiing to base and the only way back was round Trespass Trail - not my favourite piece of polling. The Old Side opened Saturday but I didn't ski it and understand it was really just Bear and some of the lower hill. On Sunday we got Boomerang to the cut out by the Goat Trail and North Ridge and Cedar Ridge but with no Haul Back or Boom Chair the only way back was a long slow run along Cedar Trail all the way to base. Later we got Arrow down to Tower 6 trail and all of Lizard below Tower 6. In summary still very limited opening.

The weather for both days was very similar to Friday until the end of Sunday. We had 10 cms of fresh snow overnight Friday and 7 on Saturday with a bit more both days in on/off showers that blew through during the day. Temps on the upper mountain stayed at about -5 both days keeping the snow in good condition and even at the base things never got much above zero, Viz was poorer up high meaning that we never got Polar peak despite all the pre opening publicity. Conditions were overcast with some brighter periods and on Saturday like Friday the viz closed in later in the day and the viz line moved down the hill. Late on Sunday afternoon everything changed as the first major storm of the winter came in bringing high winds and heavy snowfall which is continuing as I type this. Conditions driving back from the hill were so bad that even in the truck in 4x4 with winter tires it was still a challenge. On the road back to town I kept getting one wheel on the rumble strip but couldn't tell whether it was the centre or side strip I was on - it was that bad. There is about 20 cms of snow on the top of my hot tube already and this are forecast to continue like this all night.

Skiing on the hill was just like Friday, limited but where you found it then it was very good. On both days on the New Side Anaconda was always sifted in, 1-2-3s were soft and deep as were Currie Glades and Alpha Centauri and the Gun Bowl had deep soft snow. Everywhere else was good and deep and with the crowds staying away you could find fresh tracks both days quite late in the day. The only disappointment was Tight Knot which looked good from a distance but close up had some very marginal conditions with twigs, rocks, etc which were only apparent once you were committed. Last run Sunday I ran through the Nick, or the Niche, or the Crotch, or whatever you want to call it (it seems to have a number of names) just above 2 in 1-2-3. It was a bit icy in the choke but otherwise super deep and soft untracked snow, a great way to finish.

The Old Side was also very good, Bear was soft and relatively untracked early on. Runs into Cedar Ridge gave us loads of untracked deep lines but with a bit of bushwhacking to do just at the end to get out onto Cedar Trail Boomerang was also good but twiggy however there were enough open lines for everyone to get good untracked skiing. The only downside was the long push round Cedar Trail which did thin down the number of runs possible. Arrow and Lizard were also good soft lightly tracked snow when they opened late on Sunday morning.

So in summary the weekend was one of limited terrain but what there was gave us us some very good powder lines lots of which were untracked. In most places there were "early season hazards", rocks, stumps, and alders to you and me and I was pleased to get the first major stack of the season out of the way by hitting something under the snow and blowing a ski off with no major injury. 

Even if it stopped snowing now (and it shows no signs of that) we would be in for a spectacular powder day tomorrow and with the forecast saying snow all night things could be very good indeed. I anticipate that a lot of the upper mountain will be closed for avi control as normal (although we don't seem to have the usual November ice layer that causes so much trouble each year) but I hope this will be compensated by a lot of the lower mountain which has been closed due to poor coverage and is not in an avi risk area becoming available, I am very optimistic about the rest of this week with temps forecast to fall to -15 keeping the snow in good shape. Next blog will be Thursday evening with a report on the week and the outlook for the weekend.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Day 1 Opening Day

So after all the hype and excitement opening day came round once again and overall it was a pretty good one. In summary we had limited terrain and the coverage was not deep with lots of early season hazards but where we had snow it was very good indeed and there was plenty of untracked free riding to be had as long as you looked hard enough for it.

The day dawned overcast and stayed that way all day with viz good at the top of White Pass but poor above that and as the day wore on the poor viz descended so that by the end of the day the viz line was just above White Pass load. Temps up the mountain stayed a very consistent -7 all day but felt much colder in the strong wind which sifted snow around to give some good fill in right through the day. Towards mid afternoon some light snow started and stayed with us for the rest of the day and although not apparent down in the town this evening there is every chance it is still falling on the hill.

The Old Side was not open so everyone had to head for Timber Chair with the obvious resulting crowds which lasted for about the first half hour. Only White Pass was open on top and despite every effort to set a record by getting Polar Peak open on opening day conditions in the form of poor visibility were against us and Polar remained closed. Down loading was allowed on Timber Chair although I have to say that the run off the hill on Summer Road was about as good as it ever is and we never availed ourselves of the down loading services on offer.

So what we had was the White Pass core from Highline to the edge of Surprise Trees. Puff and Lift Line were closed as were Surprise Trees themselves although we could access Anaconda to drop into Currie. In Currie it was open about as far across a High Saddle (none of the Saddles or any other access to Lizard were open) and there was a sign line that ran across Concussion pushing everyone back so that they either had to take Trespass Trail back the White Pass or Summer Road to base.

There was little or no grooming on the limited terrain available which as far as I am concerned made things pretty well ideal. The coverage was not deep so many early season hazards such a tree stumps, rocks, alders etc were apparent and had to be avoided. Nothing was very easy as the snow hugged the rough contours of the hill but it was soft and in many places untracked and so gave some great powder skiing.

With just a short morning choccy break and quick late lunch we skied all day and by the evening there were very few of us left on the hill. Everywhere was good and we tried - the Gun Bowl (many times and ways) I bowl, Pillow Talk. Anaconda (really deep in places but some tricky hazards) Knot Chutes, 1-2-3s (particularly nice) Currie Glades and upper Concussion. These all had their challenges because of the conditions but also offered great powder skiing (untracked in places) if you paid attention. We did consider trying some more adventurous stuff but decided with the thin coverage and many obstacles we had better not push our luck on opening day.

Afterwards it was back to Griz Bar to meet up with all our ski buddies and even if my sticking to OJ and soda caused some comments I enjoyed myself. Back home now for a well deserved rest. As I said the blog will not be a daily feature so wait until Sunday night for an update on opening weekend.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

T minus 1 and getting excited

First apologies for the slight miscalculation on the days to go in my last post. Like many in the town I had it in my head that opening day was Saturday and of course it is tomorrow, Friday. These days most ski hills seem to open on Friday and no one is quite sure why. Some say it's to give locals a chance to ski the hill before the weekend warriors hit town, while others think it is to allow the hill to have a chance to get their act together before the weekend crowds show up - it's probably a combination of the  two.

On a personal front all tasks have been done, the truck, the house, the hot tub are all ready for the season. Our gear and skis have been moved up to the locker on the hill although I suspect we will only be using our rock skis for a couple of weeks until the real snow arrives. Things have gone so well that we have even had time to go to the movie house a couple of times (Fantastic Beast and Dr Strange) and will try and get there more often this season. I am still running every day at the gym and have not yet had a drink of alcohol since I arrived - lets see if I can keep that up.

The good news is that we have been getting some fairly consistent snowfall in the valley - not huge amounts but a few cms here and there which would be more on the hill and if nothing else at least makes the whole town look nice and Christmassy. I will be turning on the house Christmas lights tonight for the first time as it is now December. More importantly temperatures have dropped so we are seeing nothing much above zero during the day and solid freezing temps at night. This has allowed some snow making on the lower mountain so things are looking better than before.

Looking ahead at the weather there is more snow in the outlook for pretty well all of the next 14 days although the exact amount and when it will arrive depends on which forecast you read and how optimistic you are. The one thing all forecasts seem to agree on is that in the middle of next week we will be hit by an Arctic High with daytime highs of no more that -15 and night time lows of as little as -26. So it looks like snow making will be on the cards most of next week and the lower mountain runs off the hill should be in ok shape by the second weekend of the season.

Opening day is shaping up as a fairly full Old Side opening with a couple of runs to base on artificial snow. The New Side will be open at White Pass and there is even talk that Polar Peak will be open on opening day which will be first since the chair has been installed. If we can only down load on Timber chair then the way back from Polar will have to be a skate round Trespass Trail or a trip out on the Reverse Traverse looking for the Saddles or Easter over into Lizard Bowl. Could be a fun typical early season suck it and see exploring experience - hopefully without the bushwhacking to get out that usually goes with it.

I am really excited about the season and I just love this time of year. Everyone is so positive and pumped up about the season and everything is there to play for. During the week there is practically no one on the hill and every day there are new openings or bits of the hill which will be skied for the first time this season if you have a sense of adventure. In town the Christmas lights are on and on the radio there is wall to wall Christmas music. The magic kind of evaporates from Boxing Day onwards but while it lasts it is quite literally "The most wonderful time of the year".

So after tomorrow I will be settling down to the new regime of blogging but I guess old habits die hard and maybe for the first few days we might be back on daily blogging - who knows.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

T minus 6 and counting

Well the last time I posted it was all about what I had been doing, this time it will be more about what I hope to be doing.

To finish off old business the rest of getting settled into Fernie went pretty well. There were problems with IT connections but all these were solved and Friday afternoon the rental SUV went back to Cranbrook Airport and we were down to just the good old big red Ford F150 truck. Of course that was a sign for the tire low pressure warning light to come on but that turns out to be just a duff sensor so I am not even sure I will do anything about it.

Even the secondary tasks like putting up the Christmas lights on the deck and the outside trees (not switching on until 1st Dec of course) and sweeping off the back deck have been done, the only thing left is to sort out all the ski gear which will be later on today. We have even started our routine with our first visit to the gym (12 km treadmill run) first hot tub (a great way to wind down on the back deck) and our first hockey game last night (a 6-4 win over Kimberly, which as we chant is a girls name) so things are settling down.

Turning to the skiing, well, needless to say there was no bonus weekend. Visits to the hill confirm that the lower mountain is very thin indeed with no obvious track down to base. Looking up at the runs the coverage in the Meadow looks very sparse and I think the best we can hope for is for some artificial snow tracks to be created to link the upper mountain to base. On web cams the upper mountain looks a lot better from about half way up but talking to people who have been up there working it all sounds very "early season" to put it mildly.

The snow reports continue to show a base building slightly above 1 metre but for all the reasons already explored what the snow depth is as the snow plot has very little to do with what the skiing conditions will be like all over the hill. One of the main problems is that with the unseasonably mild temperatures that we have been having ( last night was the first time since I have been here that night time temps dropped below zero and that was only to -2) the option to make snow on the lower hill which is the hill's "get out of jail free card" at this time of year just isn't there.

My worry is that conditions are starting to look a lot like they were for the past two El Nino years  with snow being promised in the forecast either disappearing a day or two before it is due to arrive or the temps when it does arrive being way higher than forecast so what we get is rain in the valley and even quite along way up the hill. Of more significance is that the precip we have had at low plus temps (+2 on Friday) has come down as rain whereas it would more usually fall as snow, indicating that it was falling from a very warm air mass in the upper atmosphere. This suggests that the moist air moving off the Pacific which drives our weather systems is warm which in turn argues for the ocean being a lot warmer than forecast - in other words if not exactly a continuing El Nino at least something like it. For those interested in weather it is this phenomenon which has cause so many temperature inversions over the past few years as the warmer air aloft flows in from the west.

Of course the jury is still out and the ocean temps are being measured as falling although it was the fact that they were not having such a significant effect of air temperatures that caused Environment Canada to pull their La Nina forecast for this winter back in the Fall. The short term forecast (ok it's the weather Network so let's not put too much faith in it) is for temps to fall during this week at least to the point where snow making will be possible which gives me a lot of confidence that an opening (if not a spectacular one) will be probable as scheduled for next weekend. Looking at the 7 day forecast they (the Weather Network again) are calling for an awesome dump of snow next (opening)weekend so by this time next week we may be rolling around up to our necks in snow in sub zero temps and all my worries will be proved to be groundless - I hope.

So there you have my thoughts on what may or may not. Watch this space for further reports as we get nearer opening day.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Boys are Back in Town

Yes, we got back into Fernie yesterday lunch time and after a flurrie of activity (of which more later) we had an early night and are now looking forward to our first full day in town. As usual the first post of the season is divided into two distinct parts. For those interested in the doings of a citizen who has now reached a point far enough on the inexorable journey from the womb to the tomb to be called "senior" please read on. For those just interested in the conditions and the prospects for skiing this season skip down to about half way and ignore the rest of the rubbish.

We drove up from our house in Cornwall on Tuesday and swung by my sister's place in Swanage to drop off Christmas presents, say goodbye for the season. We then moved on to spend the night with Lynda's cousin and his wife who had the forethought a few years ago (at least as far as we are concerned) to buy a house close to Heathrow airport. Unlike last year the return of our one way rental car was incident free with no attempt to stiff me for damage that I hadn't done - Budget please note and learn. Our flight to Calgary was later in the day than usual as we were flying with BA - something we were only doing as it is booked as the first leg of our round the world trip which continues at the end of the season and takes us home eventually via the Galapagos Islands. I have always avoided BA after they lost a new pair of ski boots of mine enroute to San Francisco some years ago and didn't seem too sorry for what they had done.

We spent Wednesday night in the Delta Hotel which is a short walk from arrivals at Calgary and although a bit pricy was well worth it to get a good nights sleep. Thursday morning we took the short hop to Cranbrook in a surprisingly smooth flight and picked up a rental SUV which we have to return later today and arrived at the house just before midday. There was evidence of some snow in town but the huge snow banks you sometimes see at this time of year were missing and the daytime high got up to +4 with some light but very wet precip. We were delighted to see that the house was just as we had left it and a quick flick of the thermostat got us nice and toasty in a matter of 10 minutes or so.

We were on fire on Thursday afternoon. The truck fired up after the battery was connected and the insurance was at a reduced rate to reflect my senior status - one of the few advantages of getting older. The wifi, land line a cable TV came on stream after a few dramas and then it was up to the hill to collect the seasons passes. This year the passes do not reflect the current year but are now reloadable for future years so make sure your photo is a good one as it may have to last some time. An interesting development is that the pass now shows the date when you first became a member - RCR speak for having bought a seasons pass. I wonder if this will now form a new pecking order of those who have been here the longest. It's a fact in Fernie that there is a view that if your grandfather didn't ski with William Fernie then you can't have an opinion on anything and I wonder if this will play to that view.

We had more keys cut - guests please try and remember to return them this year. Saw Snow Valley Spas and arranged for the hot tub to be filled (now done) and maintained, got the network drivers on one of the lap tops replaced (no, I don't know what that means either but discovered Total Maintenance in the Annex who give a great service of sorting out your computer problems) and went to Extra Foods (or whatever it's called now) and stocked up of food and drink. This left us all rather knackered so it was time for an early night. Today's big tasks are to sort out gym membership and return the rental SUV to Cranbrook while Lynda bird dogs me in the truck. Then we will be ready for the season.

While I think off it a number of people have been in touch asking how the marathons went. I am delighted to say that last Sunday I ran my third marathon in four weeks and it all went well. Last weekend in October I did Dublin in 3:54:09 ( fast end of my expectations and a qualifying time for future marathons for my age group) one week later it was the Porto marathon in 3:54:19 (I reckon the extra 10 seconds was down to the cobbles in the old city) and after a weeks break the Cornwall marathon in 4:10:02 (probably a better performance than the other two as it's the toughest on road marathon in the UK with 1700+ ft of uphill on the course) so I guess I am the fittest I have been for a ski season for many years.

All this has a bearing on some changes I am considering. During training I pretty well gave up booze which led in part to weight loss of over 35 lbs since the end of last season. I don't want to go back to the way I was so I plan a big step down in my drinking from now on. Current plan is to stay dry (OJ and soda only) 6 days a week and have a few beers on the other. I also have great cardio fitness which I don't want to lose - skiing is good for other kinds of fitness but not much by way or cardio if you have good technical ability. I am thinking of trying to get to the gym most mornings to put in an hour on the treadmill. This means getting to the hill an hour later than in the past although on a good powder day skiing is likely to win hands down - lets see. Finally there is the blog. There is no doubt that this has been fun but doing it daily is very time consuming and often I am scratching around to write something different. I am not quite sure how things will go but I have in mind to write twice a week, Thursdays to report conditions for the weekend and Sunday to review what happened. All this means that the nature of the blog will change away from an account of where I have skied, more to general observations on conditions although there will always be special days that just have to be written about. Lets see how it goes.

So what do conditions look like. Well after a couple of pretty dreadful seasons we were hoping for a spectacular La Nina winter this year but Environment Canada pulled that forecast back in the fall. It now looks like an average winter (which is still pretty good) with the usual mix of conditions ranging from awesome to crappy. Initially it has to be said that this does not look like being one of the best openings The mountain cams show plenty of coverage up the mountain but lower down conditions looks decidedly patchy.

The problem is the usual one that the snow plot where conditions are recorded is near the top of the Bear Chair in an area where snow tends to accumulate and so records a very favourable view of the hill. Current numbers are snowfall to date 97cms and base of 59cms. Anyone expecting to find conditions like this in any of the areas where we actually ski and particularly on the mid and lower mountains are in even more need of giving up the booze than I was.

Of course the real issues is that with temps staying mild (daytime highs are forecast to stay plus for a few more days yet) they can't use the snow making equipment on the lower hill. Everyone tells me that there has been rain in the valley which looking at the twiggy state of the lower runs from the base area and the lack of any snow banks in town seems to have been even worse than usual for this time of year. In summary we are still waiting for the season to kick properly.

That having been said there is still over a week to go to opening day so plenty of time for things to get colder and the snow to accumulate. If conditions had really been good for early season we would be thinking about a bonus weekend this weekend and we certainly are not getting that. I am pretty confident that one way or another we will be sliding around on snow one week today and the upper mountain will be ok subject to usual early season hazards. The lower mountain may prove rather more problematic but if things cool down as forecast there may be enough man made snow to see us running to the base without too many problems.

That's quite enough for starters. Watch this space over the next few days for some pre season thoughts as I get around town and see what's cooking. Finally there is always the early season problem when your buddies buy new ski gear which is particularly bad if it gets cold and they are wearing face masks - who is that masked stranger? - see the old Lone Ranger TV series for reference. At the end of last year I renewed my ski gear and being the bottom feeder that I am I went in late and picked up some real bargains but with a rather different look. So for those who are used to the old look here is what I will be looking like on the hill this year.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fall Report 2016

Yes, it's that time of the year again when I visit the house in Fernie, have a general poke round for a few weeks and give an update on what is happening and the prospects for the up coming ski season. This report will break down into several parts - an update on what Lynda and I have been doing back in the UK, news on our vacation here in BC (both of these should be skipped by those of you only interested in the skiing), an update on what has been happening on the hill and the prospects for the season to come.

Since we went back to the UK at the end of April the summer has really flown by. Lynda's new hip (new last September) has continued to get stronger and now she is totally back to full strength, in fact better than ever even if it does set off the alarms at the airports every time we fly. The sailing has been great in the Falmouth Working Boat and also in the RS400 dinghy with some success in the Working Boat in Falmouth and Fowey weeks. In July we flew up to Bodo in the Arctic Circle in Norway and met a buddy to sail his 44ft Rustler down the coast to Rorvik for 8 days - great fun.

I have taken up the challenge to run three marathons in 4 weeks Oct/Nov so I have been doing some very serious training. I am now up to running 80/100 miles a week  or about 14 miles a day on Cornish hills. I have also given up the booze (let's see if that can last into the winter) or at least cut down to a couple of pints one night a week and am also doing some gym work. Unsurprisingly I have lost about 35 pounds and for the first time in about 30 years my BMI doesn't tell me that I am "overweight" and it's all good news except for my pants falling down unless they are tied up really tight.

As we came home quite quickly after the ski season we had some extra time available to play with this autumn. We flew into Vancouver at the end of August and drove across BC in a couple of days (overnight at the hot springs in Nakusp is always great fun) and arrived here at the house in Fernie last Friday. Since then we have packed a lot of action into the last 8 days. On the last day of summer lift service last Sunday we got a chair up to Timber top and then hiked Polar Peak returning along Timber Ridge. Monday was white water rafting and more hiking and biking during the week interspersed with such tasks as getting the outstanding work done on the truck from the spring service etc

Every day has been at least 14 miles of running training and in fact on Thursday I put in a full marathon distance (26.2 miles) in a time of 3:57 which if I can repeat on race day (first marathon is Dublin at the end of Oct) will qualify me as an elite athlete in view of my age - 65 this year.

We are here for a couple more weeks before driving back to Vancouver and then flying up to Bella Bella for and 8 day bear and whale watching sail on the schooner Maple Leaf After that it will be back to the UK for a couple of weekends theatre at Stratford-on-Avon and running the Dublin, Porto and Cornwall marathons. Then it will be time for the winter

Looking around the hill I have to say that not much appears to have happened in the summer. Going up on Timber Chair I noticed that White Pass Chair had been dismantled and the bull wheel was off - by the way the summer lift rides came free as part of last season's winter pass benefits so worth bearing in mind if they do the same this year. I assume that the White Pass Chair will be put back together some time soon although I hear they are still awaiting parts for the gears.

There were rumours of brush cutting and alder clearance on the Big 3 and at the foot of Steep and Deep and goodness knows both areas could do with a trim. I have to say that on my hikes on the hill I haven't seen any evidence of trimming in those areas. in fact I didn't notice any evidence of much work at all on the runs but then there is still plenty of time before the season begins. If anyone from the hill wants to make some comments on the work that has been done at the foot of this report please feel free.

The weather may be trying to give us some signs for the up coming winter which are in some respects quite encouraging. This year appears to be a record season for berries and on a hike of the Mt Baldy Loop there were still loads of berries to be had. Good berry seasons are usually followed by a good snow winter and at the very least it means the bears get well fed without having to come down into town and risk human conflict - hardly anyone has seen a bear round town this fall. Temps are already below normal with today's high at about 8 degrees and when the cloud and rain clears I expect to see the first significant snowfall of the winter on the mountain tops.

The big news revolves around the El Nino/La Nina situation. The last two winters have been El Ninos which gives warmer winters than usual and the winter before last really sucked and last winter was only a bit better despite the official version. For most of this year the forecast has been for a swing to La Nina cause by colder water temps in the Pacific which would give a colder wetter winter than usual with all that implies for snow conditions. In the last few days Environment Canada have changed their forecast from a La Nina to a neutral oscillation winter due to the cooler water not yet having had the anticipated effect on air in the weather systems. Put in simple terms tis means that the winter will probably be an average one which while being nothing to hang out the flags about should be a vast improvement on the past couple of years.

So it really comes down to an old fashioned Fernie crap shoot this winter when no doubt we will have some awesome days, some average days and one or two that suck - in there somewhere we will probably get a week of -30 temps, in fact a normal Fernie winter. We will be back late November to catch the possible bonus weekend if conditions allow other than that I expect a season kick off first weekend in December as usual. This year I qualify for a Senior's pass for the first time (as does Lynda but don't tell anyone) so with the reduced price if I can't get my daily cost of skiing below 5 bucks a day I am not the man I think I am. We have already booked our flights which will involve returning to UK in the spring via the Galapagos Islands (makes a change from going round the world and it's one more thing of the bucket list) so see you all in Fernie at the end of November.

In the meanwhile Keep Your Stick on the Ice.