Friday, December 2, 2016

Day 1 Opening Day

So after all the hype and excitement opening day came round once again and overall it was a pretty good one. In summary we had limited terrain and the coverage was not deep with lots of early season hazards but where we had snow it was very good indeed and there was plenty of untracked free riding to be had as long as you looked hard enough for it.

The day dawned overcast and stayed that way all day with viz good at the top of White Pass but poor above that and as the day wore on the poor viz descended so that by the end of the day the viz line was just above White Pass load. Temps up the mountain stayed a very consistent -7 all day but felt much colder in the strong wind which sifted snow around to give some good fill in right through the day. Towards mid afternoon some light snow started and stayed with us for the rest of the day and although not apparent down in the town this evening there is every chance it is still falling on the hill.

The Old Side was not open so everyone had to head for Timber Chair with the obvious resulting crowds which lasted for about the first half hour. Only White Pass was open on top and despite every effort to set a record by getting Polar Peak open on opening day conditions in the form of poor visibility were against us and Polar remained closed. Down loading was allowed on Timber Chair although I have to say that the run off the hill on Summer Road was about as good as it ever is and we never availed ourselves of the down loading services on offer.

So what we had was the White Pass core from Highline to the edge of Surprise Trees. Puff and Lift Line were closed as were Surprise Trees themselves although we could access Anaconda to drop into Currie. In Currie it was open about as far across a High Saddle (none of the Saddles or any other access to Lizard were open) and there was a sign line that ran across Concussion pushing everyone back so that they either had to take Trespass Trail back the White Pass or Summer Road to base.

There was little or no grooming on the limited terrain available which as far as I am concerned made things pretty well ideal. The coverage was not deep so many early season hazards such a tree stumps, rocks, alders etc were apparent and had to be avoided. Nothing was very easy as the snow hugged the rough contours of the hill but it was soft and in many places untracked and so gave some great powder skiing.

With just a short morning choccy break and quick late lunch we skied all day and by the evening there were very few of us left on the hill. Everywhere was good and we tried - the Gun Bowl (many times and ways) I bowl, Pillow Talk. Anaconda (really deep in places but some tricky hazards) Knot Chutes, 1-2-3s (particularly nice) Currie Glades and upper Concussion. These all had their challenges because of the conditions but also offered great powder skiing (untracked in places) if you paid attention. We did consider trying some more adventurous stuff but decided with the thin coverage and many obstacles we had better not push our luck on opening day.

Afterwards it was back to Griz Bar to meet up with all our ski buddies and even if my sticking to OJ and soda caused some comments I enjoyed myself. Back home now for a well deserved rest. As I said the blog will not be a daily feature so wait until Sunday night for an update on opening weekend.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

T minus 1 and getting excited

First apologies for the slight miscalculation on the days to go in my last post. Like many in the town I had it in my head that opening day was Saturday and of course it is tomorrow, Friday. These days most ski hills seem to open on Friday and no one is quite sure why. Some say it's to give locals a chance to ski the hill before the weekend warriors hit town, while others think it is to allow the hill to have a chance to get their act together before the weekend crowds show up - it's probably a combination of the  two.

On a personal front all tasks have been done, the truck, the house, the hot tub are all ready for the season. Our gear and skis have been moved up to the locker on the hill although I suspect we will only be using our rock skis for a couple of weeks until the real snow arrives. Things have gone so well that we have even had time to go to the movie house a couple of times (Fantastic Beast and Dr Strange) and will try and get there more often this season. I am still running every day at the gym and have not yet had a drink of alcohol since I arrived - lets see if I can keep that up.

The good news is that we have been getting some fairly consistent snowfall in the valley - not huge amounts but a few cms here and there which would be more on the hill and if nothing else at least makes the whole town look nice and Christmassy. I will be turning on the house Christmas lights tonight for the first time as it is now December. More importantly temperatures have dropped so we are seeing nothing much above zero during the day and solid freezing temps at night. This has allowed some snow making on the lower mountain so things are looking better than before.

Looking ahead at the weather there is more snow in the outlook for pretty well all of the next 14 days although the exact amount and when it will arrive depends on which forecast you read and how optimistic you are. The one thing all forecasts seem to agree on is that in the middle of next week we will be hit by an Arctic High with daytime highs of no more that -15 and night time lows of as little as -26. So it looks like snow making will be on the cards most of next week and the lower mountain runs off the hill should be in ok shape by the second weekend of the season.

Opening day is shaping up as a fairly full Old Side opening with a couple of runs to base on artificial snow. The New Side will be open at White Pass and there is even talk that Polar Peak will be open on opening day which will be first since the chair has been installed. If we can only down load on Timber chair then the way back from Polar will have to be a skate round Trespass Trail or a trip out on the Reverse Traverse looking for the Saddles or Easter over into Lizard Bowl. Could be a fun typical early season suck it and see exploring experience - hopefully without the bushwhacking to get out that usually goes with it.

I am really excited about the season and I just love this time of year. Everyone is so positive and pumped up about the season and everything is there to play for. During the week there is practically no one on the hill and every day there are new openings or bits of the hill which will be skied for the first time this season if you have a sense of adventure. In town the Christmas lights are on and on the radio there is wall to wall Christmas music. The magic kind of evaporates from Boxing Day onwards but while it lasts it is quite literally "The most wonderful time of the year".

So after tomorrow I will be settling down to the new regime of blogging but I guess old habits die hard and maybe for the first few days we might be back on daily blogging - who knows.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

T minus 6 and counting

Well the last time I posted it was all about what I had been doing, this time it will be more about what I hope to be doing.

To finish off old business the rest of getting settled into Fernie went pretty well. There were problems with IT connections but all these were solved and Friday afternoon the rental SUV went back to Cranbrook Airport and we were down to just the good old big red Ford F150 truck. Of course that was a sign for the tire low pressure warning light to come on but that turns out to be just a duff sensor so I am not even sure I will do anything about it.

Even the secondary tasks like putting up the Christmas lights on the deck and the outside trees (not switching on until 1st Dec of course) and sweeping off the back deck have been done, the only thing left is to sort out all the ski gear which will be later on today. We have even started our routine with our first visit to the gym (12 km treadmill run) first hot tub (a great way to wind down on the back deck) and our first hockey game last night (a 6-4 win over Kimberly, which as we chant is a girls name) so things are settling down.

Turning to the skiing, well, needless to say there was no bonus weekend. Visits to the hill confirm that the lower mountain is very thin indeed with no obvious track down to base. Looking up at the runs the coverage in the Meadow looks very sparse and I think the best we can hope for is for some artificial snow tracks to be created to link the upper mountain to base. On web cams the upper mountain looks a lot better from about half way up but talking to people who have been up there working it all sounds very "early season" to put it mildly.

The snow reports continue to show a base building slightly above 1 metre but for all the reasons already explored what the snow depth is as the snow plot has very little to do with what the skiing conditions will be like all over the hill. One of the main problems is that with the unseasonably mild temperatures that we have been having ( last night was the first time since I have been here that night time temps dropped below zero and that was only to -2) the option to make snow on the lower hill which is the hill's "get out of jail free card" at this time of year just isn't there.

My worry is that conditions are starting to look a lot like they were for the past two El Nino years  with snow being promised in the forecast either disappearing a day or two before it is due to arrive or the temps when it does arrive being way higher than forecast so what we get is rain in the valley and even quite along way up the hill. Of more significance is that the precip we have had at low plus temps (+2 on Friday) has come down as rain whereas it would more usually fall as snow, indicating that it was falling from a very warm air mass in the upper atmosphere. This suggests that the moist air moving off the Pacific which drives our weather systems is warm which in turn argues for the ocean being a lot warmer than forecast - in other words if not exactly a continuing El Nino at least something like it. For those interested in weather it is this phenomenon which has cause so many temperature inversions over the past few years as the warmer air aloft flows in from the west.

Of course the jury is still out and the ocean temps are being measured as falling although it was the fact that they were not having such a significant effect of air temperatures that caused Environment Canada to pull their La Nina forecast for this winter back in the Fall. The short term forecast (ok it's the weather Network so let's not put too much faith in it) is for temps to fall during this week at least to the point where snow making will be possible which gives me a lot of confidence that an opening (if not a spectacular one) will be probable as scheduled for next weekend. Looking at the 7 day forecast they (the Weather Network again) are calling for an awesome dump of snow next (opening)weekend so by this time next week we may be rolling around up to our necks in snow in sub zero temps and all my worries will be proved to be groundless - I hope.

So there you have my thoughts on what may or may not. Watch this space for further reports as we get nearer opening day.