Saturday, December 24, 2016

Day 23 Am I awake or am I dreaming ?

The reason I have to ask myself this question is yet again we had another dump of snow today which gave us yet another major powder day. This is now most definitely, in my opinion (which is the only one you are going to get here) the best pre Christmas I can remember in 14 seasons of skiing Fernie every day. On the other hand perhaps I have just died and gone to heaven, who cares as long as the snow keeps coming.

Overnight they only reported another 7 cms of snow which was not the dump we had been hoping for but the snow started again about 9 and just hosed down until about 3 in the afternoon. I imagine that we must have got 20 cms out of the cycle and the base must now be up well over 170 cms which is getting close to the magic 2 metre mark which is the point at which we all tell ourselves that the base will last and we all relax.

Temps on the way to the hill was -5 and about -7 mid mountain. During the day the mid mountain temps dropped to -9 and the valley temps were around -6 as I went out for my Christmas Eve meal at the excellent Bridge Bistro. Viz was the issue today in the snow which was very heavy at times. The top of the hill was socked in all day and the bad viz line got down as low as the White Pass load early afternoon before lifting a little by the end of the day. It was a case of braille sking on the Reverse Traverse pretty well all day.

With new snow the parking lot was as expected busy but once again when we got on the hill at a few minutes passed 9 the crowds all disappeared. They my or may not have been in the day lodge as it was another day when I skied 7 hours straight with no break - yes it was that good. The new snow gave us refreshed deep untracked powder in many places and as the snow continued to fall things just got better and deeper as the day went on.

As usual I just had a New Side day (no Polar but who knows tomorrow) and the runs were fantastic. Areas skied included Decline (very good) The Brain top (super deep snow) Window Chutes ( soft and deep) Stag Leap ( good in the top but still twiggy lower down) Touque chute (mostly untracked) Spinal Tap (the creek bed starting to fill in but still a bit technical in the choke but other wise very deep) Nameless Trees (at least no one can tell me the name of the trees between Skydive and Stag Leap - mostly untracked with some big jumps off dead fall) Lone Fir (still soft and mellow) High Saddle (still in surprisingly good shape although the soft snow underneath couldn't really be attacked in the poor light) Currie Creek deeper than expected etc Lynda tried most of the Currie Chutes and says they were great. Even the ski outs through Easter and Freeway were good powder.

Special mention for run of the day goes to Siberia Ridge which I hit for the first time today and which was so good I went back and hit it again straight away which is something I hardly ever do. It was lightly tracked and although the choke was a bit sketchy after that it was deep terrain hugging powder all the way with what looked to me like a lot of brush clearance having been done - just watch for the fallen tree in the final pitch, officially awesome.

Of course we finished with a rip down Skydive which was much improved and then drinks in the Griz before starting Christmas proper. There is some talk of more snow tonight although it doesn't look like it and a chance of Polar Peak tomorrow, that would be a nice Christmas present.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Day 22 Yet More Snow

Yes, I know it's hard to believe but we are in the middle of yet another snow cycle making this possibly the best pre Christmas skiing anyone can remember for a long while. I will try and put things in some perspective.

Overnight there was no new snow so the base stayed at about 150 cms. Pretty well on time it started to snow at around 9 o'clock and has been snowing ever since. At first the snow was quite light but picked up in the afternoon so that by close of play I guess we had about 10 cms of fresh. The best news is that we should get at least another 10 over night and up to 18 tomorrow. I was told that the snow started falling more heavily on the Old Side early in the day but as I had a New Side day I only have second hand accounts of that.

Temps on the way to the hill and again while driving back were -5 in the valley and about a degree or two cooler up the hill giving almost perfect powder snow. Light was a bit flat in the snowy conditions but there was no wind although the low cloud meant that there was no chance that we would get Polar Peak today.

We started about 1 hour late due to way too much over indulgence last night at our "Christmas" dinner, once again thanks to Dan and Ruth. The snow was already starting to build on the New Side and although there was only a few cms on top of the tracked powder of the last few days it made a huge difference. The whole hill was refreshed and there was no evidence of yesterdays crust so it actually felt like we had way more fresh snow and seemed quite deep in places, in other words a full on powder day which just got better as the snow accumulated during the day.

We spent the rest of the day through to last bell trying out lots of different permutations of the Currie Chutes and the Big 3. The Reverse Traverse was in about the best shape I have ever seen it and the bridge is so mellow getting out there it is a bit of a non event. Particularly memorable deep powder was in Decline (left side was deep) Stag Leap (twiggy in the last pitch) Window Chutes (3 times it was so good) The Brain (just the top section which was super deep) Concussion/Toms/Currie Chutes (all excellent and mostly untracked) Touque Chutes (really deep with a mellow exit into Easter) etc.

Run of the day for me was Lone Fir which was well worth the hike up and so deep and mellow that I was actually looking to find a more difficult line to make it more testing - something I have never done before. I also ran across to Spinal Tap which is filled in down in the creek but only just, very  interesting. I actually tried Lazy Locals and Mitchy's for the first time this season and they were very good but a little sketchy in the chokes. Currie Bowl was closed early for avi control work so the usual last run down Skydive had to be missed but a run off through the top section of Triple Trees which was mostly untracked was not a bad second prize.

So a very good day with better to come tomorrow and maybe even better still the next (Christmas) day. It will be hard to trash all of this before the holiday crowds show up but we will give it our best shot.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Day 21 A really short report

We are just about to head out for Christmas dinner with our buddies Ruth and Dan which we are having a few days early to fit Dan's work schedule at the mine. Any minute now the taxi will pick us up so this is super short.

No new snow over night. Temps were cooler at -3 on the way to the hill and -4 on the drive back. Up the mountain it was around -6 most of the day but overcast with flat light and no really exceptional conditions. The cooler temps and wind had formed a thin crust on the latest snow so that where it was untracked we tended to just about stay on top and where it was tracked up already it was very hard and chunky, and rather hard work.

We went to the Old Side and tried Steep and Deep and Snake Ridge which were chopped up chunky snow but ok skiing. Boom Ridge was nice firm bumps taking an edge and Kangaroo was soft except where a load of users has side slipped the left chute onto the cat track where it was scrapped out.

On the New Side the Saddles opened and Corner pocket looked trashed down to the tires only an hour after opening - side slippers again. We hit Lone Fir (soft in chute firm untracked below) High Saddle (tight edge to edge jumping but taking a good edge and firm untracked below) Low Saddle (Icy in the top but ok) and the chute beyond Lone Fir which was very deep and some tight steep sections. We repeated all day several times and hit Skydive which was chopped up but ok for a finish.

Looking forward to the next snow cycle tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Day 20 One of my Best Day's Skiing Ever

I must make it clear that I am not saying that today's conditions were some of the best ever, although they were pretty good. My measure of a day is a personal one based on how much I enjoy myself and not some numeric calculation based on snow fall, vert skied, snow depth etc. This blog is a totally subjective view (my view) of the skiing and although many may think that today was not one of the great days that is up to them - if they want to express a counter view there are always the comments at the end of the blog or indeed they can start their own blog  - what you are getting here is just my opinion. So why was today so good ?

They called the new snow at 13 cms in the last 24 hours bringing the total out of the last cycle to a little short of 70 cms and the base around 150 cms. The forecast highs were -1 at the base and -4 up the hill and although things started a degree or two cooler these proved to be very accurate forecasts. Conditions were overcast but viz was very good all day and although the wind got up to blow in a little sift around midday it dropped towards evening making the skiing very mellow and easy - first thing in favour of a great day.

We arrived at the parking lot just before 9 and found it nearly full so we were anticipating crowds on the hill. I don't know if the crowds were on the groomers (don't ski them) the Old Side (didn't get there) or the lower mountain (just a blur at the end of each loop) but out on the hill I hardly saw anyone. Of course they may have been in the day lodge but with skiing this good I went from 9-4 with no break so the first time I saw the inside of the lodge was at the end of a very big day.

We went to the New Side in the hope of new openings and as I walked to Timber Chair at 9 a patroller buddy came past me and just said "The Big 3". I took this to mean that they had opened the Big 3 runs (Skydive, Stag Leap and Decline) and this should prove, if proof were needed for once and for all that these runs are not, repeat not called "the fingers". We dropped Lift Line to White Pass which was deep and soft and remained that way all day. After that we just took my buddies advice.

What made the day really great was that only the low traverse was open so it was a bit of work to get out to Skydive Traverse although the traverse was cut about the best I have ever seen it to avoid too much work - in any event it kept the crowds, such as they were, away. We spent 7 hours doing repeat loops of Skydive, Stag Leap, Decline, Window Chutes, Cougar Glades, The Brain, Spinal Tap, Touque Chutes, Secret Chutes, Easter Bowl etc. We got first, or at least early tracks in most of these and even by the end of the day when we were putting in repeat loops there were still plenty of untracked lines. The skiing was just perfect in deep steep soft powder and whenever you got in a tight spot in trees all you had to do was push your skis in the fall line and let them rip.

Lynda held on until about 2 but also had an overdose of awesomeness which during the day had caused her to drop off the traverse early as she could not bring herself to ski past the untracked powder in the Currie Chutes. Neither the Saddles nor Polar Peak were open so we still have that to come. The only disappointment was that the hike up to Lone Fir was open but when I got there the chute was closed so I had to drop back down Cornice Chute which was more or less untracked and still pretty good. I didn't get to the Old Side but I am told that they opened Cedar Bowl all the way out the Snake Ridge and the skiing out there was awesome. I understand that Cruiser and Cedar Centre were ungroomed and caused some problems for the unprepared but that's early season skiing for you. Too much mountain and not enough time to ski it all.

As a result of today's great skiing I had two firsts for this season - first time I had skied from first to last bell without any kind of a break and first beers of the season in the Griz, well, orange and soda just wasn't going to be enough today. Tomorrow we may get Polar and the Saddles so looks like another day of hanging around the New Side.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Day 19 Warmer and Wetter

Now, no one should be getting the idea that we have been hit by a pineapple express or anything like that but the temps have risen and the snow that fell today had a much higher water content than anything we have seen so far. Nothing to get worried about as we are supposed to be at the warmest point of our current weather cycle but a timely reminder just how close to the edge we live here in terms of ski conditions.

Overnight there was more snow so that the 24 hour snowfall was 26 cms bringing the 48 hour total to 52 cms and pushing the base up to around 145 cms. Driving to the hill temps were -3 at the base which just about got up to zero during the day and -3 at the White Pass load mid afternoon. Temp on my deck now in the valley is zero and I noticed that last load at White Pass temps were down to -5 and falling.

The snow which had stopped early morning kicked off almost as soon as we got to the hill and continued of and on until mid afternoon. As I said it was high moisture which flipped into grauppel and back again a couple of times but at least always fell as white stuff. I guess we had about 10 cms out of the cycle on the hill before it finished which was way short of the volume forecast but still a pretty good top up on what we had. Perhaps it is just as well that there was not more snow as the roads were tricky and for the second day running we had a truck in the ditch on Ski Hill Road.

Winds got up again for a while though not as bad as yesterday so a combination of new snow and windsift meant loads of untracked lines reappearing over night. We went to the New Side and found the same White Pass core open all the way from Big Bang to Anaconda Glades. Everywhere was good deep powder but particularly good was Lift Line, Surprise Trees, Anaconda Glades and (really deep) Bootleg Glades. Knot Chutes remain very sketchy and rocky in places although if you know where the rocks are and avoid them there is also some great deep powder.

Late morning they opened Currie as far as Currie Powder and we had a couple of loops in some deep stuff in 1-2-3s. Later still we got the low traverse across Concussion which went as far as Currie Creek (so no Big 3, Easter, Saddles or Polar) and the loops down into Concussion were sensational - just put your skis in the deep fall line and let them rip. Late afternoon Currie was closed but by then the Surprise area had filled in and we got more deep untracked loops back to White Pass. Final run off was Anaconda and Bootleg Glades which both had many untracked lines.

Although I didn't get to the Old Side a buddy did and he said there appeared to be way less snow over there. The Old Side Triangle from Bear to Cedar Ridge was all that was open but apparently Boom Ridge skied particularly well. There was no skiing in upper Lizard Bowl or Cedar bowl so fresh tracks there are yet to come.

There is some talk of more snow tonight but most opinions point towards a day or two break in the weather systems then a cooling trend with way more snow which sounds good to me. As we have yet to have seen open Polar Peak, Reverse Travers, Saddles, Easter Bowl, Big 3, Lizard Bowl, Cedar Bowl and Snake Ridge there is loads more untracked powder to be had without any new snow and my best judgement is to hang out on the New Side tomorrow waiting for openings. Of course with the staff Christmas party tonight maybe those opens will be a bit delayed as everyone will be slow out of the traps tomorrow but I am still optimistic. Another very good day.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Day 18 Awesome, awesome, awesome

Yes, today pulled three awesomes on my personal scale which considering it only goes up to 3 is pretty good. Not sure what I will do tomorrow if the forecasts prove correct but more of that later.

Overnight the hill reported 26 cms of fresh snow which was way more than we got in town but when we got there this seemed fairly accurate. On the way to the hill the temps were -7 and all day up the hill we saw figures of around -8/9. Even driving away tonight things had only warmed to -5 which suggests that the forecast that we have been getting are more or less on track. The best thing about today was that it puked snow all day on the hill and with strong winds blowing the sift around we had deep untracked snow all day out of this cycle which must have delivered about half a meter of snow by the time it finished this evening.

The drive to the hill was interesting with number of vehicles finding that all weather or snow and mud tires are no substitute for full winter tires when it come to getting up an unploughed Ski Hill Road. It was a bit of a gong show but in the truck in 4x4 with full winter tires we snaked through with no problem and left the other guys to sort themselves out.

We made an early start and headed to the New Side to avoid me the distress of seeing the snow having been tracked out on the Old Side by various pay for powder groups. My thoughts on this practice are well known and largely unprintable so lets just leave it and not spoil an otherwise awesome day. Timber opened about 15 mins late to allow for avi control but the good news was that after very few of us had loaded they stopped loading for technical reasons. This meant those of us lucky enough to get up had White Pass to ourselves for a couple of loops until the Timber problems were sorted.

The conditions were just awesome with the new snow having rather more moisture content that the last snow cycle so it really was easy to ski very deep hero snow. Viz was a bit tough in the windblown snow but as long as you held up for the worst gusts to pass there was great skiing. It was just  the White Pass core but there were not that many people for a powder day so there were plenty of untracked lines for all.

During the day we had rolling openings to extend the area in Knot Chutes (Tight Knot remains a bit twiggy and rocky and was the only disappointment of the day) Surprise Trees (awesome) Anaconda (many ways down and all out the other side of awesome) Bootleg Glades (very deep but watch for hazards) Big Bang/Lift Line (super deep and untracked but care needed re tree stumps) and even an ungroomed Gilmar Trail might have been considered run of the day in any other circumstances.

I didn't get to the Old Side but I hear good reports in most of the places you would expect. Late afternoon I tried an experimental run down Triple Trees and found the top super deep, the drop on to the cat track tricky with rocks exposed, the second section good and third section in need of a bit more snow due to a load of deadfall - skiable but be very careful. Final run through Anaconda and Bootleg gave us deep untracked lines in places we had been skiing all day, it was that kind of a day.

The best news is that everyone is telling me that this is not the main part of the storm cycle and the main part will hit us tomorrow. If that is the case we might just be in for one of the best day's skiing ever. Even if not as Currie Bowl and Polar didn't open today there is plenty more deep untracked snow to come even if we don't get any more precip out of this cycle. An early night is called for.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Day 17 Warming Up

Well, lets not get carried away, when I say warming up I mean that we are getting temps in the minus teens and not minus 20's as been the case for the last two weeks. Of course we don't want it to warm up too much with all this precip in the forecast as they are already calling for temps later this week that are dangerously close to zero with the associated risk of us being hit by the "R" word as a result.

Today started with the temp on the deck at -15 and with no real overnight snow the base was down to 111 cms and falling. It was overcast and there was a little white dust coming down which was with us on and off all day but which never gave anything that amounted to an accumulation.

The weather feature of the day was the wind and with strong gusts in the valley I guessed that there would be a delay to the start on the hill so I took my time getting there. Like yesterday I arrived at about 10 and also like yesterday I called things dead right. When I arrived only Elk and Deer chairs were running due to the wind up high. This did not give any skiing other than the groomed lower mountain which in my book doesn't really count as skiing. By the time I had booted up and ridden the Elk then Bear and Boomerang chairs were open so we had the whole Old Side. Timber was delayed but as the wind dropped a bit late morning it started up and we had the New Side as well by lunch time.

The wind had sifted the snow around a bit on the Old Side and we found some good untracked sift in most places on the Old Side Triangle - Boom, Boom Ridge, Cedar Ridge, Linda's, Kangaroo (particularly nice and soft) etc. Once again we decided against a skate out to Snake due to the slow running snow but I expect the sift just over the ridge in Redtree would have been pretty nice. In summary the skiing was much the same as the last week - tough tracked up powder with early season hazards made a little better by some new wind sift.

After a late lunch we looped the New Side where the conditions were much the same as the Old but with some evidence of wilder winds and some bigger wind banks of sift, particularly in the Surprise Trees area. Anaconda was very good all across but specially in the far right chutes and the fans underneath where the wind sift had built up were actually soft untracked snow. Bootleg was also good but packed with dead fall and stumps and in need of very careful navigation.

Last run of course was Skydive where as we had guessed the wind had lost it's strength coming over the trees and dropped quite a lot of fresh snow into the run particularly in the top. Things tended to get more twiggy the lower you went but the new snow helped.

Driving away from the hill temps were -10 and rising but the snow such as it was still was coming down very light and very dry, so much so I didn't even need to clear my hot tub cover before use tonight. We are promised some much needed more substantial precip both by way of amount and moisture content over the next 48 hours but for the moment the jury is very much out on this in my opinion.