Saturday, March 5, 2016

Day 86 a pretty crappy day

Actually with the usual positive spin that I put on things I think I am being rather kind to the hill today as the consensus opinion of those I talked to in the bar tonight was that it had, in fact, been a very crappy day.

Overnight there was no new snow that we could detect and temps had dropped to below freezing promising some very hard conditions off the groomers. On the way to the hill it was actually zero at the base but temps were rising fast and by the time we got to the top of Timber it was +1 and warming fast. Conditions were overcast so sun didn't play any part in today's conditions other than the severe damage that it had done to the south facing slopes yesterday which had set up over night.

We were very unsure as to what the conditions would be but an initial drop down Lift Line confirmed that it was ok and taking an edge on a firm base. The forecast was for rapidly warming conditions during the day and for some precip which if we could believe the forecast would drop as rain pretty well all the way to the top of the hill. Unfortunately this was one of those rare occasions when the forecasters got it dead right.

We looped White Pass several times trying various lines and finding that where they had been exposed to the sun yesterday (such as Gun Bowl) they were ugly, icy and hard work. Where that had been sheltered such as under the lift line it skied as soft snow. We were also aware of a warming trend creeping up the hill which meant that the icy stuff low down was softening fast.

We decided to try 1-2-3s which actually skied very well in soft snow which had a few chunky bits - probably the best skiing that we found today. We ran to base through Diamond Back which had been groomed a few days before but was bumpy but soft and became very soft as we got lower down. Next time up we tried to drop the Crutch (the chute at the foot of the hike up into Knot Chutes that drops into the top of 2s) which skied very nicely but was a bit scratchy and icy in the mid section - above and below it was great and I am always surprised by just how tight and steep that chute is. The run to base was through Bootleg Glades which was very mellow but got quite soggy in the last few turns.

When we got up White Pass next we noticed that Polar Peak had opened. On the way up it was clear that everything had refrozen hard and very wisely the Polar Chutes and Shale Slope were closed. We dropped into Crusty Clown Chute which was ok but very chunky and as we went in it coincided with the light going as flat as a pancake on the front of the precip system which then produced a rain snow mix for the rest of the day. We ran down in some rather marginal conditions and a very steep transition on to the cat track followed by some pretty average conditions in the lower Coaster.

The run to base was through Cougar Glades/Stag Leap which just got very heavy and mushy in the rain as we descended. On the way up next time we noticed that the rain line was now well above the White Pass load and getting higher all the time. We did a few more loops in White Pass during which the rain line continued to rise until it got to the foot of the Gun Bowl and then ran to base for a very late lunch through Easter Bowl which was mushy and got more so low down.

After lunch the rain increased and I put on full rain gear to ski White Pass. Polar Peak had closed, the viz had deteriorated so that it was only just possible to start seeing anything half way down White Pass and the rain line was pretty much at the top of White Pass. In other words it was totally crappy skiing in soft mushy elephant snot where ever you went.

Things were so bad that I decided to come off the hill an hour early at 3 due to conditions and me being wet. The last run down Skydive was some of the hardest work I have every done in very heavy mush which started badly at the top and just got worse the further you went down. Beers were well earned tonight.

Not sure what tomorrow will hold but it will be hard pressed to be as bad as today. There was very good article in this weeks Fernie Free Press talking about the El Nino (the strongest on record) and the effect it has on our weather. In summary don't expect things to get any better and we may have had a good season but it looks like it is going to be a very short one.


  1. Bill I don't know how or why you ski Fernie every day. Just wondering why you don't venture out to other resorts?

  2. Not sure anywhere would be much better at the moment - Kicking Horse was calling for rain today. Everywhere else would involve expense and losing a days skiing and without much hope of any gain at the moment

    1. At KH now and top 1/3 is fine. Did rain but snow at higher elevations. Sunshine has an altitude advantage which helps it dodge these warm cycles. Heading there today.