Monday, February 15, 2016

Day 67 and today was better

In the same way that yesterday was much worse than anticipated, today was much better, I guess that is all part of the ying and yang of skiing in Fernie in the winter.

On the subject of winter I have to put in my 10 cents worth here. Now, I don't want to be a boring old fart always going on about how things were much better in days gone by (who said too late for that) but what has happened to winter ? We used to have problems like a late start or early finish to the season and we even had a warm up for a day or two with rain (I know officially according to the hill web site it never rains in Fernie in the winter) but basically we had rock solid minus temps for many weeks at a time where all precip came down white and what came down stayed in pretty good shape. We now seem to get many weeks at a time in Jan and Feb where the temps are significantly plus during the day and even plus at night as was the case last night. Global warming ? El Nino ? I don't know but whatever it is it is starting to get to the point that winter in Fernie no longer means snow but rather means wet rainy days and conditions which are variable to put it mildly.

Overnight we had temps of +2 in the valley and it rained quite hard. On the way to the hill it remained + 2 but during the day temps rose to around +7 at the base and even up the hill we saw +2 in White Pass. Overnight they called 6 cms of new snow which I was skeptical about but to be fair we had at least that and it was thick Jersey cream in the upper parts but from half way down it was rain crust. As the day wore on the lower parts of the hill softened with atmospheric warming and some direct sunlight in places so the transition from powder on the upper slopes to soft snow lower down was more or less seamless. Of course by the end of the day the lower parts were setting up pretty firm giving some tough skiing.

We went to the New Side anticipating better skiing higher up and immediately found lift line was soft and mostly untracked. A strange feature of today was almost no crowds and particularly where we went to ski no one turned up and we got many first tracks that I didn't expect. I did ask a few people the reason for this and the consensus seemed to be that no one thought the skiing would be much good - wrong.

We looped White Pass a couple of  times and had untracked lines in various parts of the bowl. I headed out to Surprise Trees and put first tracks in the near chutes which were starting to sun ball even that early in the direct sunlight. Next time round I tried Tight Knot Chute which was ok but a bit scratchy in places. the further part of Surprise was good and untracked. We had noticed going past Anaconda that there didn't appear to be much activity so next time round we took a look. We were amazed to find just one track side stepping the hump and no tracks at all in Anaconda one. We had first tracks in the chute and then first tracks again in the Bootleg nearside trees which were both soft and smooth.

We the decided to loop out along the Reverse Traverse and found -
Skydive - we actually cut first tracks into the top despite it being half way through the morning and shared first tracks. Totally awesome with the lower sections forming up almost as corn snow on a firm base.
Decline - just like Skydive but with one track in front of us, still great fresh lines.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - a couple of tracks in front of us which soon disappeared and we had untracked chutes in the fresh snow all the way down. The Stag Leap exit was rather more tracked but nothing too bad so some great lines.
Lone Fir - The wind had sifted in loads of snow and it skied well with a couple of tracks in  front of me. The cushion was super soft and it skied well all the way down to freeway and beyond down to the cat track.

After a very late lunch I headed back to the New Side and decided to try Polar Peak which had been open in the morning but with only the Coaster side open and so much better skiing to be had I had just ignored it. I went out to the Clown Chutes and dropped Crusty but with the wind howling and the chair running slow the risks of trying it again didn't seem to stack up.

I ran down Toque Chutes (amazingly some untracked faces) and Spinal Tap which only had one track in front of me which bailed after one turn. It was rather rain crusted untracked skiing but a lot of fun on the creek bed shoulder. Next loop was Decline and then down into Widow Chutes. The top of Decline was starting to get a bit firmer as the sun went down and the Window Chutes in a complete reversal of normal were tough in the rain crusted open sections but great skiing in the chokes where the crust had been broken by skier traffic.

One more White Pass loop and it was time for Skydive and what a change fro the morning. The top was ok fresh tracked snow skiing but the bottom was ugly refrozen crud and ice which really gave the fillings a work out as you dropped them - I guess all the Big 3 would have been the same.

Some snow in the forecast but plus temps in the offing for tomorrow. That having been said today was all plus temps and we had some pretty good skiing so who knows.

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