Saturday, February 13, 2016

Day 65 much better than I thought it was going to be.

I mean that it was better in a couple of ways over and above what I thought it might be. Last night keen followers may remember that I was heading off to Cranbrook airport to pick up a guest. On the way back as I was driving past the hill at about 10 at night it was +3 and pouring with rain. I assumed that the conditions would be a complete write off but in the event they were tricky but had their redeeming features. I was also worried about the crowds which I thought would be the biggest and the ugliest of the season. Although some of my buddies reported huge line ups and slow lift lines I didn't really find anything worse than a normal Saturday - perhaps I was lucky.

On the way to the hill it was +3 but over cast. During the day temps seemed to stay about the same all over the hill and in fact started to drop to nearer zero by the afternoon so that a lot of the upper mountain was setting up but the lower mountain was staying soft. We had grauple showers all day which didn't amount to anything but did at least indicated that more snow was a possibility. It really was a day to poke around and look for good stuff but to be prepared to suck it up and ski some crud if that is how it turned out. A combination a of a busy Saturday and showing guests round the hill (who did like a lunch in the Rusty Edge) meant that I did not put a huge amount of snow under my skis but what I did was actually ok in places.

We went to the New Side and immediately found that Lift Line was rain crust and better where it had been tracked - this was a recurring theme all day on the upper mountain. We had several loops down White Pass which were all a mix of hard refrozen snow, some fresh (4 cms claimed by the hill overnight) hard ice bases and bit of blow in.

We eventually tried Concussion which was still hard and icy and we were a little early in there. Next loop we tried Tom's run which was still rather firm but getting better and easier skiing in the more open lines. After a couple more White Pass loops which were getting softer we drooped to lunch through Easter Bowl and Freeway both of which were starting to soften in some atmospheric warming and gave us good soft bump skiing.

After lunch we headed up to Polar Peak which had just opened and found that only the Coaster was open and it was very icy - not really worth the trip at all. We dropped Decline which was quite crusty rain crust in the top but softened below the Megasauraus Trail and became easy soft skiing.This gave us the idea that the Old Side might have soft runs at the same elevation so off we went to investigate.

Unlike most of my buddies who I spoke to I didn't find ugly icy runs on the Old Side or even uglier huge crowds - in fact I found some rather nice skiing on surfaces softened by the atmospheric warming at the lower elevations. Great skiing in Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line, Cedar Ridge, Boomerang and Boom Ridge all soft and mellow. Once again a special mention has to go to Kangaroo which due to low elevation was very mellow soft bump skiing and we hit it three times.

We went back to the New Side for a final rip down White Pass followed by the final Skydive run. We found temps dropping and everything starting to set up much harder than before. the grauple was coming down harder and it gave every impression of being winter at least up high. Skydive actually skied ok in he top, crust in the mid section and soft low down. We had a really good final run.

With everything on the hill packed out with the holiday weekend we went down to the Kodiak Lounge at the Raging Elk for beers and had some great $4 pints (ok only 16 oz) but great value. Home for a hot tub and more beers and we are now waiting for a Boston Pizza delivery, not a bad day. I am told that we are due more precip than forecast and the freezing line should be down to base so we just have to keep our fingers crossed.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Day 64 I enjoyed myself

I need to make it clear here that I am absolutely only talking for myself, and I can say I had a good fun day's skiing. given the conditions others might not have had so much fun. The Old Fernie crowd would have had their ticket punched just so they can say they have skied every day and gone home as soon as possible. Others just would not have skied because the conditions looked a bit challenging (wimps) and yet other vacation skiers would have given it a try and gone to the bar early. Needless to say I had good 9-4 fun even in today's conditions.

For the past few days we have been experiencing Spring skiing conditions which manifest themselves as mushy snow in the warm sun during the day turning to boiler plate or refrozen crud overnight which it all but unskiable the next day until the temps warm and the snow softens again. A lot of unthinking people insist that this is lovely skiing under bluebird skies without giving any serious thought to what it happening. They should just ponder that after the snow cycle last week we had a base of over 290 cms and the starting figure today was 246, so these "lovely" skiing conditions have destroyed about 50 cms of our ski base in the last week.

The saving grace up until now had been that it had remained dry and so we didn't get the double whammy of destruction of warm temps and rain. Well, today was the day it all changed and we got rain overnight and for most of the morning on the lower hill. The rain line stopped around the White Pass load on the New Side but even above that we didn't get any real snow, just a bit of wet white precip and the odd ice flurries which didn't give any significant accumulations. The result was that we got wet soft melted rain affected snow all over the hill which skied pretty well in places where there had been skier traffic and was heavy elephant snot where there had been deep snow.

On the way to the hill it was raining but temps were only +1 so we had hopes that the snow line might be quite low. As said above the rain was obviously falling out of a warm air mass as the rain line was way up the hill. It rained off and on all day over the lower hill and temps were just about plus everywhere. Viz was dreadful in White pass with the whole area socked in although this did improve a little late in the day. On the Old Side viz was pretty poor but with few more breaks.

We went to the New Side and found that whilst the viz was very poor on top the snow surface was ok wet snow soft skiing. We looped White Pass a few times in the difficult conditions before biting the bullet and running to base for better viz but much wetter conditions. We dropped Alpha Centauri, Concussion, Decline and then Skydive before lunch. they all skied ok with poor viz in the top but better softer skiing below particularly on the now soft surfaces that had been icy bumps before.

After lunch I went out to the Old Side on the grounds that even though it was lower and I would be in the rain I was dressed for it in my now famous rubber and plastic gear. As always I am surprised how many people who would always dress for the cold when it is cold fail to dress for the wet when it is wet - I skied all day and at the end of the day I was warm dry and toastie just because the clothing was water proof - nothing more water proof than plastic and rubber.

New Lift Line, Bear Cave Chutes, Cedar Ridge, Boom Ridge, King Fir and Boom guts were all great skiing on soft rain affect snow. A special mention has to go to Kangaroo where the hard icy bumps of yesterday were now soft mellow wet bumps and in my opinion comprised the run of the day by a big margin.

I went back to the New Side for a quick Alph Centauri loop which was just as good as before and then dropped Skydive which like the morning was a little soft in the top and then great skiing low down where yesterday's icy bumps turned to soft rain affected snow.

Time to dash as I am picking up yet another guest from Cranbrook tonight.  I anticipate tomorrow as the first day of Alberta family week being a zoo but who knows given the marginal conditions. We are promised a cooling trend and more precip but I am not holding my breath.

Day 63 a short report

The main reason for a short report is that Lynda arrived back from the UK this evening and I had to drive to Cranbrook to pick her up. I have only just got back. Another reason is that not a lot changed on the hill today so I don't really have an awful lot to say - yes, I know, very unusual for me.

Last night at 11 o'clock I checked the temp and was amazed to find that it was still +5 on my deck. This morning on the way to the hill it was -2 but I am told the temp drop took place at around 4 in the morning so the snow on the hill stayed soft for quite a long time frustrating the efforts of the groomers for their evening session. It was full on spring conditions again although the sun didn't seem to have quite the warmth of yesterday and it actually clouded over in the afternoon. This all meant that things were late to soften and early to set up.

It was typical Spring skiing and I went to the Old Side in search of some softening snow. It quickly became apparent that there was none, and I dropped the north facing Cedar Ridge which was crisp but ok and becoming a bit icy in the refrozen snow lower down. Kangaroo was hard ugly icy bumps just like always and as I said yesterday as a result was the only run that skied just as good as it always does.

I spent the morning trying to get to slopes just as they softened and generally got there a bit too early and had some very hard icy skiing for a few laps until things warmed up. Loops through Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge, Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line. Boom Guts and Linda's all fell under this heading. Just in case I felt that the skiing in them was tough there was always the return through Kangaroo to remind me what really hard work was like.

Late morning I hit out to Snake Ridge in the hope that it had softened but found the sign line down on the far side of Blueberry and this was all the way down to the bottom of the KC chutes. I skied the sign line (right side of course) and the skiers right KC chute. The open terrain was just starting to take an edge but the chute which looked like it might have been soft snow was in fact hard ice and very energetic edge to edge jumping.

After lunch I headed up the New Side and after a nice run down Lift Line and a couple of loops in White Pass we headed up Polar Peak. Just like yesterday Papa Bear was an ok skiing surface with some blow in but icy in places. Also like yesterday if you fell you were not going to stop. We did a couple of loops before dropping Decline which was in pretty good shape and softening in the atmospheric warming.

Sib Ridge skied ok but was crunchy in the ice debris under the trees in the choke. Stag Leap skied a bit like Decline and was also pretty good. Some where in there we managed another loop up Polar Peak and it was just starting to set up as the cloud cover rolled in. We did more but I can't remember exactly what.

Last run was Skydive as usual which just like to other of the Big 3 was quite soft all the way down as the temps stayed well above zero. I did few temp checks during the day and saw figures ranging from +3 to +7 all over the hill by the afternoon with the possible exception of Polar Peak.

On the run to the airport temps dropped steadily so that by the time I got back it was around zero in the valley. We have precip in the forecast but it is anyone's guess as to how it will come down, I intend to follow the old maxim of hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Day 62 a great season but a short one ?

The reason I pose the question in tonight's heading is that so far we have had a very good season and no doubt of that. The problem is that we are now experiencing spring skiing conditions that I would normally expect to see late March or early April. More worrying is that as I look out into the short term forecast we just seem to be getting more of the same. Thankfully the hill is in such good shape that it can take a beating like this but let there be no mistake, if we don't see a return to winter conditions in the next couple of weeks we will be in very serious trouble. In the meanwhile we have to put up with spring skiing conditions which can be challenging to put it mildly.

On my deck this morning it was -5 and when we got to the hill there was valley fog but some sun on top. The sun clouded over for most of the morning but then cleared in the afternoon to give those spring skiing conditions. Base temps got up to +3 and it was a couple of degrees warmer on top in the sun with the forecast inversion. As I drove away tonight it was +4 in the valley and I fully expect another cold night as the skies were pretty clear as I lay in my hot tub drinking beer.

The result of these conditions was that everything that softened yesterday (quite a lot of the lower hill and anything in the direct sunlight) had refrozen to boiler plate at best and ugly refrozen crud at worst. Where the snow hadn't softened yesterday (mainly on the northern facing slopes) it all stayed in pretty ok condition but tended to soften in the atmospheric warming later in the day.

I went to the Old Side to see if the Sunny Side shoulder which is always the first place to soften was any good and it was hard boiler plate. After that I just ran loops off various parts of Cedar Ridge which all skied ok as hard north facing snow and interspersing these with runs down Boom Ridge which was really good skiing with some blow in and crisp bumps taking an edge.

Later in the morning I hit out to Snake Ridge and was worried that it might be a bit icy. The risks were all the other way and the surface was softening a bit quicker than I anticipated but was still quite hard in the Gorby Gap - all very good if challenging skiing. All exits were through Kangaroo which was the only run on the hill to be skiing just as it usually does. Kangroo was hard ugly icy bumps and it is always hard ugly icy bumps so just as good as usual - I'm not being funny here as I really do enjoy the testing conditions in the Roo. The final run before lunch was Boom Ridge which was just starting to get a bit soft.

After lunch I went to the New Side and had a very mellow run down Lift Line in firm but giving conditions - possibly the best snow on the New Side. I did a couple of White Pass loops in sun softened snow before trying the Knot Chutes. The snow was very strange and the surface was sliding on an under layer, ok but a bit disconcerting. Anaconda and Bootleg Glades skied ok as north face not too badly affected snow.

We went out to Decline which skied well again as it was facing away from the sun and even the lower section was ok. Polar Peak had been open in the morning but closed due to high winds before I arrived in the afternoon. I fully expected it to be closed for the rest of the day but it reopened late afternoon. Ski Patrol had given up any pretense in their signage that there was a possibility of self arrest if you fell and just designated the chutes as no fall area. I fully agreed as although the skiing was ok it was apparent that if you took a fall there was no way of avoiding a trip all the way to the bottom. I did a couple of Papa Bear loops which were ok but in truth not really worth the risk.

Stag Leap was very ugly through the trees where the snow and ice had fallen but for the run itself it was good soft snow and even the lower pitch was getting mellow in the warming ice surfaces. Another White Pass loop and it was time for the usual Skydive rip with 3 of us there. Just like Stag Leap it was good soft bumps in the top and the lower section was best where there had been ice faces which were now softening.

On the way back from the hill temps ranged from +3 to +7 and back and the whole valley looked in a pretty poor state. The forecasters are calling for more of the same for the next two days and all we can do is hope that they are wrong.

Day 61 full on Spring Skiing

I hate computers. I have just typed a pretty good report on all that happened today only to notice that I had lost the wifi signal. I assumed that the signal had gone at the end of my post so I just logged off and on only to find that nothing had been saved. so I guess that the signal went right at the start and I just didn't notice it. If I had noticed it I could at least have copied and pasted but as it was I didn't and that's about an hour's work lost. I am prepared to give it another go but to be quite honest my heart isn't in it so I don't expect great results - I hate f---ing computers.

Today we gave up any pretense that the winter conditions of last Thursday could be preserved and accepted the fact that we were now in full on Spring Skiing conditions. Spring Skiing means that we get plus temps all over the hill that softens the snow and really high plus temps in the direct sunlight which means that the snow there turns to pure elephant snot. At the end of each day the conditions set up with the evening cooling so that they turn to hard refrozen crud that will not become anything like fun unless we get more spring skiing tomorrow (most likely) or the whole situation is repaired by new snow - impossible in the short term. Some people love these conditions, for my part I reckon I have to accept them in the spring but here in in early Feb they are just a pain in ass.

On the way to the hill this morning it was -7 but in bluebird conditions the temps at the base rose to +3 by mid day. We had been promised an inversion on the temps but I didn't see anything much above +4 up the hill. Of much more importance was the effect of the direct sunlight which reduced skiing surfaces to pure elephant snot where it hit them and then left them as ugly refrozen crud as the sun went down and they fell into shadow,

We went to the Old Side for a warm up down Sunny Side shoulder which was crisp and hard and good skiing. We then went out on to Snake Ridge where the wind had sifted in a lot of snow and even in the unsifted areas it was crisp and holding a good edge. After that we looped the Old Side in Cedar Ridge, Boomerang, Boom Ridge, King Fir and various other permutations which were all soft sift on north facing non sun affected slopes.

We hit out to Fish Bowl which to be honest was a bit of a disappointment. The Poppa chutes were well tracked and we decided to bail onto Redtree which was ok but also quite tracked up. Returns all morning had been through Kangaroo which we took 5 times and was nice testing icy bumps all the way through - perfect. We ran to lunch through Boom Ridge which was nice and sifted in between the bumps and skiing about as mellow as I can remember. All in all a nice mornings skiing in softening snow but nothing too ugly.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and found Polar Peak open. For the first time ever the ski patrol were asking for a CV (resume to you Canadians) before they let you ski the chutes - I would imagine about 80% of hopefuls got discouraged from dropping the chutes. As it was Papa Bear skied rather nicely in the form of wind sift with just  a few icy patches to watch out for. After a couple of Polar loops the afternoon panned out as -
Concussion - heavy elephant snot in the sun affected snow on top getting a bit better and firmer lower down
Siberia Ridge - we figured no direct sunlight would have hit the slope and we were right. It was good skiing on snow softened by the atmospheric warming but not damaged by the direct sunlight.
Decline - same aspect as Sib Ridge and so the same surface. Good skiing all the way down.
Anaconda Glades - The glades themselves were very nice deep soft blow in with no sun damage and great skiing. The most interesting aspect was the Gun Bowl on the way there where the sun had now gone off the surface and we were left with hard refrozen crud - a taste of what is to come over large areas of the hill tomorrow.

Before I get on to the final Skydive run I must mention Lift Line. A couple of days ago I notice three cans of drink had been dropped from the lift and I decided to wait to see what happened. Well the answer as you may have expected was sweet FA and on my last two runs through tonight I picked up the cans and dumped them. Now, the prime responsibility has to belong to the morons who dropped the cans. My views on these are well known and largely unrepeatable but let us say that I think that the best you can say about them is that they breath out carbon dioxide which is good for plants and that is probably their greatest contribution to civilization.

That having been said I have to ask why it is that after two days when dozens of employees of the hill would have seen this garbage is it down to me (a guest and fare paying customer) to pick it up and bin it. Is this acceptable - I don't think so. Nothing will change until the hill gets a proper policy with severe penalties (like losing your lift pass) for throwing garbage from the lift and a member of staff is specifically tasked with clearing up the mess. This doesn't seem like rocket science to me but then perhaps it is.

Last run was Skydive which I hit on my own due to buddies being back in Calgary, or back at work in the mines, or in the bar. It was very mellow ski in soft warmed snow all the way down. Good beers with buddies in the Griz and a quiet night in. Tomorrow looks like even more spring skiing as does the day after - things could be very ugly first thing.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Day 60 maybe our luck is starting to run out

Today we had another no snow day with some sunshine forecast. Over the past few days we have got away with it as it has been overcast and cold overnight temps have meant that the snow has stayed in ok shape ever since last Thursday's big snow dump. Today started with some promise as it was overcast but unfortunately the cloud cover cleared and we had sun from late morning to early afternoon when it became obscured buy the mountain cloud cover. The result was that we started to get sun damage all aver the hill and although it was not to bad I fear much worse to come looking at the forecast for the next few days.

On the way to the hill it was -2 and at the base only warmed to about +2 by the afternoon. There was supposed to be a big inversion but I have to say I didn't really see it much as all day temps were at or about zero all over the hill although much warmer in the direct sunlight.

We went to the Old Side and did sifted loops in Snake and Steep and Deep. The lower sections of Steep and Deep was really sun affected with sun balls starting to roll. All the rest of the skiing was ok soft snow only lightly tracked, As the morning wore on we tracked Cedar Ridge, Boomerang. Sunny Side Shoulder, Boom Ridge all of which were skiing ok in soft wind sift, All returns were through Kangaroo which of course was tricky icy bumps and as a result loads of fun.

After an excellent lunch a Big Bang Bagels we headed up to the New Side, The afternoon worked out as -
White Pass loop - ok soft snow skiing in good viz
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - very tricky in the glades where I think sift had been sun affected and then set up giving some challenging skiing.
Decline - some of the best skiing we found in soft snow as the run faced away from the sun.
Lone Fir - actually rather nice skiing in the chute. Below the cushion was rather crusty on the left but good sift on the right.
Touque Chutes/Spinal Tap - this was where we figured the snow had been blown to in the wind sift and up to a point we were right. The chutes were soft blow in and good skiing but very varied as you would expect.

We did a couple of runs up to Mitchy Chutes which were pretty good but most noted for a mega stack by me when I confused some surface wind blown fir with a buried branch on a fallen tree. Glad to say I recovered after only a medium length head first pitch down the chute. I had considered going up Polar Peak which was open but a buddy confirmed that only the Coaster Side was open and that was very ugly, a good call by me not to go. The wind was starting to get pretty strong as the day wore on and I dare say that we may get some wind sift in places tomorrow.

Last run down Skydive was particularly good as the run showed signs of wind grooming, at least in the top. A few beers in the Griz and then far more beers later and hence this rather curtailed report. I promise to do much better tomorrow. Looking out of the deck temps are down around -2 here in the valley so the un-sun affected snow on the hill should stay that way for at least one day more. Here's hoping that things don't get any worse.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Day 59 lazy Sunday

Now before anyone thinks that a lazy Sunday involves skiing on groomers or not skiing from 9-4 it doesn't. After all I said I was lazy, not dead. No, today (partly affected by the sunny weather I think) I just took it easy in the areas I skied, stopping to chat to buddies about conditions, etc. Looking back it is quite surprising how much tough snow I put under my skis today so maybe I wasn't as lazy as I intended.

Overnight conditions cleared and we had starting temps of -9 on the way to the hill. It started as a bluebird day and temps started to rise pretty quickly. Luckily we were saved by some cloud cover that drifted in around lunch time and kept things cool. Although base temps must have got up to +3 it was -2 at the White Pass load and colder up Polar Peak so the snow didn't get too badly damaged by the sun. As we drove away from the hill it was zero and with conditions clearing overnight the forecast low of -5 looks likely so it should be that we manage to get one more good day's skiing before the warming trend in the outlook hits us.

When it comes to bluebird days I really do feel like across between the Grinch and Scrooge. Everyone else raves about them and says how lovely the skiing in the sun is etc and I am the only miserable sod who holds a different view.As it is my blog these views are going to get an airing even if I am the only person who thinks this way. We are here to ski on snow and snow never falls on a bluebird day. The sun is the enemy of snow, it does not produce snow, it destroys it. If we are lucky sun gives us sun crust which is a rather tricky skiing surface or worse still refrozen crud which is a nightmare. Whilst viz is good in the direct sunlight in the trees the dappled shadows make skiing very tough. In the shaded areas (a significant proportion of the Fernie ski hill) defused white light gives very flat light. In summary today we were lucky to get away with so little damage to the hill due mainly to the clouds rolling in early afternoon. I guess if you are a groomer skier none of the above applies but as I am not my views are strong on this subject.

I went to the Old Side and had a warm up down Sunny Side shoulder which was all soft bumps and very nice skiing. I then hit out to Snake Ridge which was still soft snow with some untracked areas and getting a little firm when you hit the bumps in Gorby Gap. The loops that followed were Curved Ball into Steep and Deep which as always was very lightly tracked steep skiing, Gorby Bowl all the way down which was very deep and soft with just the need for a technical shuffle to get through the waterfall and then Snake again just because it was so good.

All four returns were through Kangaroo which was hard icy bumps and a lot of fun and Boomerang which you could just take as a series of fast GS turns all the way down in soft snow. Final run before lunch was Boomerang Ridge which was very soft and mellow and only very lightly tracked with a run to base a long Cedar Trail which was reasonably slick.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and went straight to Polar Peak chair which had only just reopened after a major break down during the morning. Conditions in the chutes were ugly to the point where they were closed so the only fun stuff was in the Clown chutes which we took - nice steep soft skiing. After that the afternoon was -
Decline - still very mellow all the way down particularly in the lower section.
Touque Chutes/Spinal Tap - still great soft skiing
Lone Fir - if anything even better than yesterday with more blow in apparent in the chute and great soft snow below down to Freeway. Even the Freeway gully skied ok.
Siberia Ridge - as always rather lightly tracked all the way through with just a bit scratchy in the choke.

Final run out to Skydive and a special mention has to go to Deb and Annie who have done a great job working on the traverse so that it is about as smooth and mellow as I have ever seen it. Skydive of course skied very nicely in the top and a little scratchy in the final pitch - it is now standard for us to drop it in one and tonight was no exception.

In the bar we had beers and nachos while watching that strange piece of Americana known as Super Bowl which incidentally is still going on now some 3 and a half hours after it started. Warm temps called for tomorrow but with no precip we might just get away with another ok day like today - here's hoping.