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.


  1. My buddy and I were skiing down off Polar when you stacked it off Barely Legal. Glad to hear that you're OK with just a torn calf muscle and a broken heel binding. Could have ended up a lot worse with all those rocks you rolled over!

  2. Hey, Bill. Tony in Melbourne. Glad you guys have had a great start to the season, at least compared to the last couple. Hope you are doing OK after your fall. Do you know Sadie and Joe at the Raging Elk.

  3. Duane - if you were the guy who stopped, thanks for the concern. I guess I was lucky. Tony - sorry, don't know them.

  4. I for 1 like the new twice a week style :)