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.

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