Sunday, December 3, 2017

Day 2 This is the end - with apologies to The Doors

Day 2 and I am already in serious trouble over my blog and likely to get in more trouble as the season progresses. I do not need more trouble in my life (particularly if I am not getting paid for it) so the blog ends today. For up to date news and information of conditions in future refer to the official sites which provide this information.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Day 1 Happy Opening Day

Yes. today was the day we have all been waiting for all summer an what we had was an opening day way better than anything we could have expected. In fact whilst it wasn't "vintage" it was still pretty good which when you compare Fernie standards to the rest of the world means that it was probably awesome by their standards.

Lets have a look at the hard facts. We had another 10 cms of fresh snow overnight which pushed the base to about 90 cms. Now you have to understand that this is a measurement from a snow plot high up on the hill along side Bear where no one skis. It does not bear much relationship to the snow that you will actually find under your skis which will be way less. It is a kind of cypher for how much snow we have and if I say that Lynda always says that she doesn't relax until the base hits 2 metres you might get a feel of exactly what 90 cms means.

It was overcast with flurries all day and the base temps sat in at around +2 with the up the mountain temps probably staying just below zero for most of the day. Later temps started to fall and we seem to be heading for some fairly consistent sub zero temps which is a bit more like the sort of thing we see and will allow the hill to make some new snow low down on the ski outs.

We only got the Old Side today and that was from the Blueberry sign line on one side to the Dancer/Easter sign line on the other. To restrict things further Boom Ridge and Boom Bowl were closed due to conditions although this closure was (as the bard said) honoured more in the breach than the observance.

We skied all day from fence to fence an had great skiing. There was minimal grooming so we had deep untracked snow over most of the hill which stayed good all the way down to the base. particularly good skiing in the morning was Cedar Bowl (all over) Cedar Ridge (all lines) and Kangaroo - about 5 times and the Roo was as good as it gets. The snow was knee deep with many untracked lines and a not enough people (about 2200 on the hill) to trash it. In most places today would be described as a full on powder day with knee deep snow and very few tracks.

In the afternoon we hit across to Easter/Dancer and hit the sign line which had soft tracked up snow. After that we got to looping Linda's (awesome deep untracked powder) Boomerang (see Linda's) and all parts in between. By the end of the day with our legs hurting from all the deep powder we finished in the Bear chutes which like so much we had skied was deep untracked powder but with dead fall adding to the many early season hazards that we just had to air it over to get down.

Great beers in the Griz with buddies to celebrate opening day. We are told that the plan for the coming week is for a rolling opening of the hill which with any luck will mean new deep untracked powder becoming available on a daily basis and with no one around from Monday onwards to enjoy it - here's hoping.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

T Minus 2 or at least 99%

Yes, it looks pretty certain that we will be getting opening day on Saturday. The official web site still shows it as "tentative" which isn't all that helpful. When I was up at the hill yesterday loading all my gear into my locker I got chatting to a buddy who works up there and he was the one who cane up with the number of 99% certainty as to us opening on Saturday. Looking at the conditions I have only taken my rock skis to the hill, the DPS Wailer Pures are in with the ever reliable Straight Line having a pre season tune up and will not be seeing snow until we have better coverage.

What happened to change things was a nice dump of snow a couple of days ago. Tuesday night we went to bed with no sign of snow in town and yesterday morning we woke up to this -
it was a good 10 cms plus of fresh snow even down here in the valley and I suspect rather more on the hill. With a few skiffs more due over the weekend and temps set to fall to sub zero day and night we should just about have enough to slide around on although it certainly isn't going to be a vintage opening.

On a personal front things are going ok, the Jeep is back on the road and the rental car has been returned. The hot tub has been fired up and I have even got the first 11k treadmill run of the season done in the gym. Today's project is to get the Christmas lights up on the deck and the tree in the front of the house and then tomorrow should be a spare day (originally opening day) to allow for the things that we will have forgotten.

The only worrying thing is that after this weekend looking out in the 14 day forecast there doesn't seem to be much happening. I am not too concerned as the computer modelling seems to be that if there is uncertainty it just defaults to calling for a sun cloud mix with no precip which is what it is now showing. As soon as some weather starts to form out west I am sure things will change but I would be happier if some precip was in the forecast.

So fingers crossed for opening day on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

T Minus 3 or maybe 4

Arrived late last night after the usual long day which involved a Gatwick/Calgary flight followed by a Calgary/Cranbrook flight and finally a rental car pick up at Cranbrook airport. It was the first time I had tried West Jet for the long haul and I have to say I was very impressed. Ok, you have to add the cost of hold luggage, pay for your meal and rent a tablet to get in flight entertainment but even with all that it was still £300 for a single flight ( my onward flights to Ecuador at the end of the season are already booked) in an extra leg room seat. Compare that with Air Canada where I would have had to pay £600 for a return flight (standard seat) and not use the return flight. The reason for that strange comparison is that a one way flight with AC would have been £1600 (yes pounds not dollars) and as long as they continue with the insane policy of charging two and a half times as much for a single flight as for a return I will be flying with West Jet.

Of course I only have had a chance to get a very early impression of conditions her but what I see gives me some cause for concern. Around town it doesn't look like winter at all but rather like spring with piles of melted snow and everything bare and brown. The reason of course is that after a great start with good snow we have had two days of pouring rain and very warm temps in the valley. The rain seems to have gone to the top of the hill and although there is snow cover it doesn't look great and the outlook has gone from a bonus weekend last weekend (which was cancelled) to opened day appearing to be put back from this Friday to Saturday (according to the RCR web site) hence the somewhat enigmatic title of today's blog. So even if we go on time it doesn't look like we are going to get a vintage opening.

The Weather Network isn't helping much. The computer model they have for Fernie really seems to struggle when we get these warm westerly air streams when temps just don't go below freezing even at night. I know a few years ago some guys from the hill did sit down with them to try and work out what was wrong but to be honest things haven't got any better. In these conditions we get daytime highs of about +6 and night time lows of +1. The modelling forecasts daytime highs of +1 and night time lows of -5. In my opinion forecasters spend far too much time looking at their computer screens and not enough time looking out of the window. The result is that they see no problem in calling for a daytime high of +1 in a day while at the same time showing a current temp of +5. I guess telling everyone that the Weather Network forecast for Fernie is rubbish will be one of my less controversial statements of the winter.

So, today starts (after coffee of course) with getting the car back on the road, picking up new credit cards from the bank, getting the car insured, getting the cable TV switched back on, arranging for the hot tub to be fired up, laying in some food supplies and getting the skis to the hill and collect the season passes - lets see how much we actually manage.

Watch this space for further reports, particularly on when opening day will be.

Friday, November 24, 2017

T Minus 7 and Counting

Yup, it's 7 days to opening day at Fernie so it's time to dust off the blog and have a look round to see what's happening. Usually at this time I have just arrived in Fernie and I am getting ready for the season and keeping my fingers crossed for an early bonus weekend. This year because I have a lot of stuff to finish off in the UK I am still here in Cornwall and don't fly out to Fernie until Monday arriving (hopefully) late Monday evening. For the first time I will be trying the Gatwick-Calgary route with West Jet as it was a fraction of the price of any other flights and I will report on how good or bad this is compared with the alternatives.

The summer and fall has passed in what seems a flash and so winter is now beckoning. We had a great summer racing our Falmouth Working Boat and our RS 400 (sailing dinghy) here in Cornwall. We also treated ourselves to a new yacht, a Jenneau 32i which we have sailed up and down the coast all summer and of course we have been out in the rib with the 90 horse engine for visits to pubs and restaurants around Carrick Roads. I have continued my judging career in sailing and have officiated as event judge and various national and world championships.

Through the summer I trained hard for the usual fall marathons and everything was going well until mid September when, while in Fernie really cranking up the pace I tore a hamstring. This interrupted the training in the vital 7 weeks before the first marathon and I headed off to Dublin in a very undertrained stated, not even sure the hamstring would hold up for the full distance. In the event I made it round in pretty bad shape in a slow 4:25 but a week later I was in much better shape and finshed Porto in 4:15. Now I am more or less back to full fitness ready for the ski season.

With no first hand experience to go on I have had to rely on reports from buddies and mountain cams to get an idea of what is happening on the hill. The early season snow seemed very promising with over 2 metres of snow already fallen and a base of not that far short of 100cms. About 4 weeks ago two buddies of mine (no names as technically they could have their passes pulled for doing this) skinned up and skied Bear and sent me some pics which looked very promising. The snow continued and a few days ago the hill announced that there would be a bonus weekend this weekend which of course was rather frustrating for me. As it turned out a warm up to daytime temps of +11 (more than Cornwall) and a rain event which from the mountain cams appears to have gone to the top of the hill has caused the cancellation of the bonus weekend and we are now back on track for opening day next Friday 1st Dec.

So, what might this season hold ? It has now officially been declared a La Nina winter which usually means some great skiing. Environment Canada has produced it's official long term forecast which is for below average temps and above average precip for the winter which has to be good news. Of course nothing is guaranteed and even in the most awesome winters ever we have a few weeks of cold dry or warm wet weather so as usual for short periods it will be a crap shoot but over all things are looking good. This latest rain event may have some consequences. On the plus side we should have a good solid wet snow base to ski on all season, on the minus side it could become a freeze layer which gives us instability problems for the rest of the season. I will need to take some expert advice on this when I turn up on Monday.

So that sets the scene - super excited for the up coming season and can't wait to get into town and catch up with old friends. watch this space.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fall Report 2017

Well here we are again in Fernie having spent a couple of weeks poking around to try and find out what things might be like for the up coming season. Actually until a couple of days ago I was out running 14 miles every day in training for some marathons later in the year and the training was going really well. Suddenly 4 miles into one of the runs there was a twang in the back of my right thigh and I was in a lot of pain. It seems just to be a pulled muscle and today I was back out trying a very gentle 2 and a half mile jog The pain is down to a dull ache so I hope I am on the mend and the marathons will be ok although the break in training is pretty unwelcome.

When we turned up in Fernie one thing was very apparent - smoke. Actually it was a lot more apparent on the drive from Calgary as in South Alberta the smoke was so thick that viz on the road was down to less than 100 metres in places. The cause of course was the wild fires that have been burning in Alberta, BC and Montana for quite a few weeks now. Everyone tells me that after a fairly wet spring there have only been 3 days of rain so everywhere is brown and dry and ready to catch fire at the first lightening strike. This is reckoned to be the worst fire season since about 2004 and even then the smoke did not hang heavily like a fog in the valley as it has done this year.

Of course there have been fire restrictions in place for weeks but the day after we arrived a restriction was placed on anyone accessing Crown Land for recreational purposes and lots of private land also followed suit. What this meant was that the only land that could be accessed in Fernie was the Ski Hill when open for summer activities and Island Lake on the trails up the valley from the lodge, in other words about 5% of what we would usually have for hiking and biking. In the past few days Waterton Lake area has more or less burned down and the Prince of Wales Hotel was only just saved.

In terms of activities for us, this all meant that our first weekend rafting had to be cancelled as access was across Crown Land. We have used our two summer lift rides to go up the ski hill and hike down from both the old side and the new side on consecutive weekends and I took advantage of the bonus opening weekend to have a day's downhill biking on the hill which was pretty tough. We have been up to Island Lake a couple of times and hiked the Mt Baldy loop and Fir Trail which was just about all that was open. Of course we went to Kikomun Creek Park and hiked Hidden Lake and Surveyors Lake and got some great pics of the painted turtles.

The weather up until a couple of days ago was 30 degrees plus every day and bluebird skies as it has been all summer. The Fall change now seems to have set in and temps are falling fast so that the daytime highs are only in the teens and in the next couple of days the night time temps are forecast to drop to below zero for the first time. Yesterday we had some light precip which fell as snow on the top of the Three Sisters so it was technically the first snow of winter although it will melt and then re-fall many times before the solid winter coverage starts to build up. The good news is that with some precip in the outlook the fires should start to come under control and things will start to get back to normal.

Having hiked over the hill not much seems to have changed. It always fascinates me how much steeper everything looks with no snow on. I am also amazed at how dense the bushes are on the open runs so that it seems impossible that they will be covered and beaten flat by the snow but every year that is exactly what happens. There was a fire up on Snake Ridge a few days ago and we all hoped that it might do some alder clearing for us but I understand it was only a very small area and we are not likely to even notice it in the winter. I did notice what looked like a wooden ramp (although it may have been a fallen tree) at the top of the first Knot Chute so they may be trying to make the entrance there a little easier. Other than that I suspect what we are going to see next season will be remarkably similar to what we saw last season.

One of the effects of a wet spring and hot summer has been that we have had an awesomely good berry season. While hiking there were still loads of berries everywhere which is not usually the case as the bears will have had them all. Looks like the bears have more berries to eat than even they can manage and this was confirmed by the contents of the large quantities of bear scat full of berries we found on the various trails we were hiking. The really good news is that the bears will not be so easily tempted to come into town in search of food and the human /bear conflicts that usually occur at this time of year should reduce - I have only seen signs of one bear in our neighbourhood so far. A couple of years ago nearly 40 bears were shot and we have to hope for a much lower number this year which should be achievable if everyone strips their fruit trees and keeps their garbage locked up - please.

So what's the weather outlook for the up coming season. Memories are being strained to go back to the last big fire season which we think might have been 2003 or 4 and no one can rightly remember what kind of winter we had afterwards. I think I recall that 2004/5 was a pretty crappy but then I could be wrong on that. The various long range forecasts from Environment Canada to the Farmers Almanac seem to agree that the winter will be slightly wetter than usual but there is divided opinion on whether it will be colder or warmer than the norm. If colder of course it looks like we could get a great snow year but if warmer we are going to be hit by some big rain events. Heigh-ho, what ever happens I will be out in it everyday so I guess in the final analysis it doesn't really matter.

Finally those who will be looking out for me in the big red truck will be disappointed. I took the truck for it's regular service only to be told that the ticking noise in the engine could be a sign of something really expensive about to happen. I looked up problems on the Triton 5.4 engine on line only to find that this is a well known problem and the engines from the year 2008 are a well known piece of crap. I decided to trade the truck while I could still get a good price an I am now driving around in one year old Jeep Cherokee (well I wasn't going to buy another Ford after that was I ?) with 4 years warranty still left on the power train. It is the 3.2 V6 which is rather quick but does drink gas but with the few miles I do that's no problem.

So that's it, see you all at the end of November and in the meanwhile remember - Keep your stick on the ice,

PS added from Cornwall -
  1. Latest predictions for this winter look really interesting. Now La Nina is edging ahead of a southern oscillation neutral outcome but the best news is that between them they make up well over 95% of the probabilities an el nino looks very unlikely. That could mean an awesome winter skiing for the North West Pacific

Monday, April 17, 2017

Season Summary 2016-17

Looking back at the season just gone there were some real high points and one or two lows. For the season as a whole it has been a good season, not an awesome one or an outstanding one but a good one which as this is Fernie means it was way better than 90% of other ski resorts could even dream of (ending a sentence with a preposition are my standard slipping). The trouble is that after the season two years ago which was the worst for 40 years, and last year which was nothing to write home about people are tending rave over this season as if it was one of the great vintages, which it was not, it was however good.

First lets look at the statistics. We had just shy of 11 meters of snow fall and that is good by any definition. What was particularly good was that when the snow came it fell from top to bottom of the hill so we got great coverage all over and not what usually happens with good snow at the plot near the top of Bear and then rain affected surface below that. You only have to look at the pictures of last years Slope Soaker where the bottom of the hill was bare and this year where we still had great coverage. On closing day the base as measured at the plot was about 330 cms and the whole hill was totally skiable.

We had a season of 137 days which makes it one of the longest I can remember. Unfortunately due to family circumstances I had to return to the UK for 7 days at the beginning of February so I only got 130 but with the seniors discount (this was my first season as a senior) I reckon I got the daily average cost down to about $5.50 which I think represents fair value. Of course the hill could continue to stay open for several weeks but given the very low number of skiers seen in the final week we have to accept the financial inevitability of closing down after Easter.

The season started in the first week in December and conditions were so sketchy with no real snow fall that for some time it looked as if we might not open on time. After a few days of not very good skiing on our rock skies the snow machine switched on and the temps dropped to highs in the mid minus teens and lows in the mid minus 20s or colder. The result was that the snow that came down had about a zero moisture content so although it was awesome blower powder we didn't really get that base of good old wet Sierra Cement that we usually do to cover the rocks and beat down the alders. These conditions continued right through Christmas and the New year holidays and gave us one of the best pre Christmases I can remember.

January came and so did the usual January snow drought. It seems to me we always get a period of about three weeks from early January when we don't get any snow at all and this year was no exception. The problem this year was that despite good snow falls we hadn't had the solid base and skiing during the snow drought involved a lot of dodging obstructions, particularly alders that were sticking up for much longer than usual this season.

In Early Feb the drought broke in spectacular style with one of the biggest blizzards to hit Fernie for years. The problem was that we had too much snow in too short a time so that most of the hill was closed for several days and the number of really good awesome powder days that we got out of that cycle was fewer than you might have expected. The real issue occurred right on the tail of the final part of the storm when for one evening and into the night it rained from top to bottom of the hill and then froze - everywhere off the groomers became ugly rain crust and some of the toughest skiing I have ever done.

Things slowly improved with the odd flurry starting to repair the hill but for several days the only tracks on Skydive were mine, along side the ones I had left in the rain crust the previous night.  Mid February the snow machine turned back on again and ran through to the third week in March. This time the snow kept coming in manageable amount of 10/20 cms (sometime a bit more) night after night so that most of the hill was open most of the time. A special mention here has to go to Pro Patrol who did a fantastic job of getting Currie Bowl and the Reverse Traverse open quicker than I can ever remember giving us great deep untracked powder skiing every day. This was the truly awesome part of the season. This was the time when I seemed to spend all my time in the trees of The Brain, Nameless Trees, Diamond Leg Trees, Triple Trees and White Rabbit, a run I had only skied once before this season

Late March we started to get spring skiing but not in the usual way. We didn't get sunny days ( in fact I think we only sat out on the deck three times after skiing. What we did get was loads of precip usually coming as snow from the White Pass load and above, and rain below that although we did have a few days of rain all over the hill. This meant we did get some pretty horrible days of skiing pure elephant snot although on the days between the precip we had some good soft skiing on the wet surfaces which softened with atmospheric warming. We also had some dreadful experiences when the crud refroze overnight and was almost unskiable until it softened later in the day.

Towards the end of the season it was the North Facing slopes that stayed in the best condition and more than usual we spent days looping the Saddles, Corner Pocket, Lone Fir and Gotta Go. We also seemed to spend a lot of time in the Knot Chutes as they softened in the sun. The Currie Head Wall opened just before the end of the season for two days only (plus closing day of course) and I managed to get some drops of the Wimp Chutes just to show everyone that the old man can still ski a headwall once in while.

The final weekend summed up the crazy end of season conditions that we were having. On the Saturday we had full on winter conditions with snow or graupel showers all day all over the hill and some great untracked powder although it was on a hard refrozen base. On the Sunday it was bluebird conditions with all surfaces softening in the sun for spring skiing and a perfect end to the season sitting out on the deck of the Griz Bar drink beer and listening to BC/DC.

So that's it folks a good season which finished on a high. For us it was good mainly because Lynda's new hip is now fully functional and she was back skiing all the stuff she used to (Polar Peak, Saddles, Big Three etc) with no pain or problems. I think her new Volkl 108s helped and despite having to go back to the UK for 28 days she still got in 95 on the hill.

We are now heading back to the UK for a summer of sailing and running marathons but not before we swing by the Galapagos Islands on the way home, well ok it's a bit of a detour but it's somewhere we have both always wanted to go. Watch out for the fall report in September and see everyone next year.

PS a reminder to get your seasons pass for next year at early bird prices when they go on sale in May. Ski passes are the strangest purchase any of us make, we pay 100% up front months in advance for something where we have no idea of the quantity (number of days) or quality (conditions) of what we are buying. That having been said the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Day 130 final day

And today was the final day of what has been a good (good but not great) season and it finished on something of a high. Overnight we may have had a cm or two of snow but nothing to get excited about. It was -4 first thing but a bluebird day so the temps rose very quickly particularly in the direct sunlight. During the day the temps rose and I am not sure of exactly how warm it got but on the way home it was +9 on the temp on the truck and in the afternoon I noticed it was about +5 at the White Pass load.

Today was closing day so we did expect to do any serious skiing and in any event my mind was occupied with trying to do better in the Slope Soaker where I stacked it on landing last year. We went up to the top of the Old Side and had a few loops around Bear and Lizard Bowl all of which were soft and easy in the softening sun. It was then time to register for the Soaker and then after that on the advice of an experience pond skimmer (thank you  Robin) I spent the rest of the morning in the Terrain Park getting used to hitting blind jumps and keeping my weight centred on the landings.

After the safety briefing at 12:30 we were ready for the main even at 1:00 and at number 10 in the starting line up I was ready to go. The best thing you can say is that I did better than last year and at least managed to stay on my feet for some time after I landed on the water which was big improvement. It took some time to get back to the locker rooms and get changed back into my proper ski gear and get ready for a full on afternoon's skiing. Here is me getting out of the water,

We had word during the morning from the New Side that things were skiing well in the sunlight and the Polar Peak and the Currie Head Wall were open and good - after lunch we went up to put this to the test.

Lift Line was closed under Timber Chair but you could cut in somewhere near the top and it was ok skiing with soft lightly tracked snow on a firm base. As Polar Peak was open we went up and found the conditions excellent soft skiing in all the chutes. Grand Papa Bear and Barely Legal were particularly good and in many ways better than at any time so far this season with easy soft skiing. The Currie head wall looked like it had received a good hammering since it had opened so we decided that the juice would not be worth the squeeze to hike up and ski it once again this season. To our surprise the Polar Chair was closed at about 3:10 so we could loop no longer and so we headed out to Decline which skied ok most of the way down but got a bit mushy in the final few turns.

It was getting late so we just had time for a White Pass (Gun Bowl, Pillow talk, Megan's Dilemma ) loop in what was slightly resetting up soft snow but still very easy skiing. Last run of course was Skydive where I found myself to be the sole representative of the Skydive Last Run club which I guess was only to be expected after a long and hard season. It was good skiing all the way down with soft snow on top of a firm base and I hit it in one all the way down to the base - a great last run of the season.

In the Plaza BC/DC (and AC/DC tribute band) were just finishing off as we got there so we went to the Griz Bar balcony and drank beer. As more buddies rolled up things just got better and guess what - we drank even more beer. It was great end of season party even by Fernie standards.

That's it for this year folks - a full season report will follow in a day or two.

Day 129 what a good way to end a season

Of course we haven't quite ended the season yet but as final day is more of a party then today was the last really full on day's skiing and it was very good indeed. First I must apologise for the late report but the party went on late tonight and then continued with a meal at the pub.

They were reporting about 4 cms of fresh snow overnight and on the way to the hill the temp as we pulled in to the parking lot was -1. It started to snow as we went up the Old Side and snowed fairly hard for most of the morning. Later in the day the snow came and went in showers of either full on winter snow or graupel and we had a quite reasonable accumulation by the end of the day. To begin with the top of the hill was socked in and viz was very poor indeed but by late morning this had lifted and we had ok viz for the rest of the day even if the light was a bit flat at times.

We had intended to hang around at the top of Bear to see the start of the skiing leg of the PPP but got distracted by the skiing in Cedar Center which was ok fresh snow on a firm base. We looped the Old Side all morning getting fresh lines in Cedar Ridge several times and always found the snow good powder on an uneven scratchy base. Our exits were through Kangaroo every time which was softening and great soft bump skiing. We put first tracks in Boomerang on our first exit and there weren't that many tracks in there on our third time round - again it was heavy powder on a scratchy base which was ok skiing. We even grabbed second tracks down Boom Ridge which was rather tougher than anticipated with some very uneven ice under the new snow. We went to lunch happy.

After lunch we hit the New Side and found Lift Line skiable but not great although this was way ahead of what we would have expected yesterday and lower down the new snow was smooth deep powder. Polar Peak was open so we went up but it wasn't that great and was rather patchy. We had the usual problem with Papa Bear that the snow got good just at the point you would need to cut back to the lift - we didn't bother and dropped to the traverse in ok wind blown snow.

The Big Three beckoned so we dropped Decline which had some untracked lines and was powder on top becoming soft snow on a softening base lower down. Next was Cougar Glades which had many untracked chutes and where the snow was just like Decline and really great skiing. We had time for a couple of White Pass loops and with the Idiot Traverse closed before Surprise Trees we had to cut into the trees lower down and found great untracked lines.

Last run of course was Skydive which skied just like Decline, good powder in the top and good soft snow lower down. It was tracked but you could still find untracked lines along the edges of the run.

We partied hard first in the plaza to Wide Mouth Mason and then in the Griz Bar although I remained on OJ and Soda and will do until tomorrow. It was a great way to end the season and tomorrow looks like it might actually be a sunny day to finish. My report tomorrow might be late, like 24 hours late, for obvious reasons.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Day 128 two hills for the price of one

Yes, today we skied on the New Side which was more or less full on winter and the Old Side which was mellow spring skiing. At first I thought it was just a matter of timing and the conditions changed as I moved from one side to the other but talking to buddies after skiing it seems that the conditions didn't change much and it was a case of winter skiing on the New and spring skiing on the Old all day.

There was no new snow overnight and it was +3 as we drove to the hill. Conditions were overcast at the top of the hill covering the New Side and sun/cloud on the Old Side. We went up the New Side and it started to snow (mostly graupel) and was blowing hard with temps at the White Pass load of about zero so everything was frozen rock solid.

Currie Bowl wasn't open so we did a few White Pass loops and found all the groomers slick and icy and rock hard. We did try a couple of forays away from the groomers but what we found was yesterday's chopped up crud which was hard and pretty well unskiable. We decided to cross to the Old Side and found that very shortly after we got below the White Pass load things started to soften and this promised better skiing low down.

We spent the rest of the morning on the Old Side where the snow fall stopped although we did have the odd graupel shower. Temps also rose to plus figs although I am not quite sure what and surfaces below the very top of Bear started to soften ok. We started with loops of Sunny Side and China Wall and then moved on to Dancer and the Dancer gully into Freeway and these were all soft easy smooth skiing. Next we moved on into Cedar Bowl and did a couple of loops of Cruiser and Cedar Centre which were ungroomed and although the top couple of turns were rather crusty the rest was great soft skiing untracked in places.

All exits were through Kangroo which was soft on a firm base and very easy bump skiing all the way down. We also exited through Boomerang which had hardly been tracked and by the time we got to it the snow had become a sort of deep soft sugar which skied way better than we expected - almost like real powder. For the final exit before lunch we dropped Boom Ridge which had softened to the point that it was ok bump skiing but the ski out along Cedar Trail was mushy and slow.

After a late lunch we decided to try the New Side and found that just like before it was snowing hard with a graupel storm and it was still only one degree or so above zero. Puff had not exactly softened but the new snow did at least make it skiable if a bit sketchy. I went out to Concussion as Currie Bowl was now open and found that it was untracked but some really ugly breakable crust. I moved around the chutes to fine better skiing surfaces and about half way down things did soften enough to be ok  ungroomed skiing.

Next loop White Pass Chair stopped three times, once for a long time. I figured that it might get shut down so I went to Skydive straight away. The Reverse Traverse was icy and ugly and in at least three spots covered with rock hard avi debris. When I got to the top of Skydive it was very ugly crust until about half way down the top pitch when it started to improve so that by the Megasauraus Trail it was soft snow on a firm base and excellent skiing all the way down. I came up Timber Chair and sure enough White Pass Chair was down so I ran to base expecting that would be it for the day via Puff, Deep Sea, Summer Road and the lower Lift Line all of which got better and softer as I went down.

At the Timber load I got word that White Pass was back running so I just had time to go up for one final run down Skydive. About this time a particularly heavy graupel shower came through very quickly giving us an accumulation of ice pellets. When we got to Skydive the graupel had changed things for the better. This time the skiing was soft and taking a nice edge on the new snow on top right from the start and just got better and softer all the way down - it is always great to finish with what turns out to be run of the day by a big margin.

As it was a holiday the bar was busy for a Friday and there was great atmosphere. I was pumped as I had just put my entry in for the Slope Soaker on Sunday and everyone was having a good time. Lets see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Day 127 I should know better

They were reporting 15 cms of snow overnight on the hill's web site and by now I really should know that at this time of year and in the temps we are having when they say that what they really mean is 15 cms of ugly mushy elephant snot. Unfortunately encouraged by a few recent experiences when the snow has come down pretty wintery I let my enthusiasm cloud my judgement and thought that we might be in for a really good day. With this in mind I ditched the early morning run in the gym and headed for the hill.

The first danger signs were obvious - it was raining and the temp in the valley was +5. Next as we were just about to go up the hill we met our buddy Kevin who was coming down having been caught in a large wet slide on Big Bang and knocked about a bit in the process - he was quitting for the day but it doesn't look like any long term damage was done.

When we got up to the top of Timber Chair we understood the problem as everything was deep, mushy, heavy and wet and very very unstable. The drop down Lift Line was a slow motion adventure. It was still snowing wet snow with the rain line just about at the White Pass load although the rain stopped late morning but came back strongly later in the afternoon with the rain line rising to about half way up White Pass. Viz was a bit strange as it was layers of cloud in White Pass so the viz came and went all morning at various levels . In  the afternoon it went back to good old fashioned upper mountain fog which started about half way up White Pass and socked in everything above that.

I didn't go to the Old Side as I thought everything over there would be even worse than the New. A buddy of mine who went over there confirmed this with the exception of Kangaroo which he said skied just about ok.

On the New Side not much was open as Currie Bowl and Anaconda Glades were closed with signs saying they would stay that way all day. So all we had was the White Pass core mostly ungroomed and all of it covered in thick heavy elephant snot to a depth of about 15 cms. All morning we looped Gun Bowl, I bowl, Surprise Trees, Pillow Talk, Highline. Heartland etc. all of which were much the same and very slow and heavy. There was a particular line just above the White Pass load where the skis just about stopped dead in the mush. Unsurprisingly we went for an early lunch.

After lunch we went back up the New Side and unbelievable as it sounds it was even mushier and slower than the morning. This may have had something to do with the temps which had risen to +5 at the White Pass load and the fact that the rain/snow mix had stopped. With nothing else to do I continued to loop as before but this time tried a few runs through Knot Chutes which were very unstable and sliding out on me all the time. By late afternoon the viz was socked in totally, it was raining again all the way up and the skiing was awful. We looked around and could only see two other people in White Pass so we quit and were off the hill by 3:30, a record for this season.

We had a good time in the bar starting to say goodbye to friends who are leaving for the season and I guess that is the start of a process that will go on for the next few days. All we can hope is that conditions improve from today.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Day 126 it got better as the day went on

There was no new snow overnight and as we headed to the hill it was overcast and the temp was a mild +4. We had no great expectation of really good skiing and at first it looks as though we were right although as the day progressed things did get better.

We went to the Old Side and poked around all morning not really finding anything very good all along Cedar Ridge. Probably the best snow was just in Bear Cave Chutes which was deep soft winter powder but it was only a few turns down to Alpine Way and below that it was a bit crusty and mushy. Kangaroo was actually ok soft bumps although lower down it was slow grippy snow. We decided to head to the New Side and went via Sun Up which was a bit variable and China Wall which was soft and mellow skiing.

As we arrived on the New Side at about noon it was starting to snow quite hard on top and continued all afternoon, sometimes rather spring like but at times full on winter conditions with some reasonable accumulations.  Temps at the White Pass load got up to about +2 but the precip came down as white all the time and even at the base it either petered out all together or was at least wet snow - only at the very end of the day did we get rain at the base.

The warning signs on the New Side told us that all of yesterdays south facing sun affected snow was ugly refrozen crud (they didn't use exactly those words but that's what the meant) and we should either stick to the groomers or look for north facing slopes. We tried some runs in White Pass but as that was predominantly south facing everything was hard ugly and icy. We ran to lunch by hiking up Lone Fir and found the Reverse Traverse really hard and rutted and we were not tempted by any of the south facing Currie Chutes. Lone Fir was a bit crusty in the top but got softer lower down and the fan was just great deep lightly tracked powder. The exit was through Easter Bowl which skied ok with lots of untracked snow and Freeway which was groomed for the first time in ages and soft.

After lunch we were back up the New Side and decided to try some big three loops. We hit Decline (really good untracked lines although rather slow in the final pitch) Cougar Glades (run of the day with excellent soft untracked lines all the way down and great skiing) and Stag Leap (sort of like Cougar but with no trees) and so had a much improved afternoon. The snow was accumulating although not enough to improve the traverse but the surface in the Big Three was starting to get quite wintery in the new snow.

Last run of course was Skydive which still had untracked lines in the top section and was soft and deep although the lower you went the more marginal it got until half way down the final pitch where it was very slow and grippy on a firm scratchy base.

So overall it was an ok day which got better. Any afternoon where you hit all of the Big Three plus Cougar Glades and they all ski well has to be good. Overnight they are calling for more snow and tomorrow is a mixed precip day so maybe the rubber gear will get one more outing this year.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Day 125 and the good skiing continues

Normally in the second week in April you are grateful just to be sliding around on snow and are quite prepared to accept some pretty poor conditions as being par for the course. Today we had a day that gave us skiing as good as many we get during the winter and indeed better than some. This season is continuing to hang on in there for us.

Overnight there had been about 5 cms of fresh snow but as we were going to the New Side which was closed for filming yesterday the new snow added to the fall in the previous 24 hours meant that we had a fairly good covering of deep powder to play with. It had frozen over night but on the way to the hill it was +2 and warming fast. The day was sunny with a few clouds coming and going so eventually the temps at the base rose to +7 and even at the White Pass load it rose to +4. As we drove away tonight it was +6 on the hill and had warmed to +9 by the time we got down town.

The effect on the skiing was that things started to soften pretty quickly on the south facing slopes in the sun. Later in the day it set up a little and the clouds as they came and went prevented the surfaces from getting anything like super mushy. On the north facing slopes the snow stayed in good winter conditions most of the day and with the two days accumulation it was soft deep powder.

Initially we went up into White Pass and did White Pass loops through the Gun Bowl, Knot Chutes, Pillow Talk, I bowl etc all of which were good soft skiing and  as they are mostly south facing we wanted to ski them in the morning before they got too soft. After a while and with the White Pass loops starting to get too soft we headed out along the Reverse Traverse to find some north facing slopes.

Our first drop was Corner Pocket which was a bit icy in the chute but ok once we got the rope out of the way.  Below the skiing was as good as anything we have had all year in good deep winter powder and the lack of skier traffic meant that there were many untracked lines. Easter Bowl was also soft, hardly tracked and deep and even Freeway was ok although getting a bit soft an a scratchy base. We had noticed that Decline appeared to be untracked as we skied under it so we gave it a go. There were a couple of tracks in front of us by the time we got there but the skiing was ok and mostly untracked although lower down it got soft on a scratchy base but pretty good all in all.

Last run before lunch we struck out to Gotta Go and although the snow was a bit mushy on the ridge line it was soft and very lightly tracked in the run itself. It was in fact so soft and deep that there was a lot of snow in the choke which is quite unusual and so the skiing all the way down was soft deep and untracked and this was definitely the run of the day. Bootleg Glades in the trees on skiers right were untracked and deep. Lower down it got a bit soft but was good skiing all the way down to Gilmar Trail.

After lunch we went back to the New Side and did Saddle loops of Low Saddle, High Saddle and Low Saddle again. Just like the morning the snow under the chutes was soft deep and mostly untracked and therefore great winter powder skiing. Just once we struck out to Spinal Tap for an exit and found it was nice and deep with just one track in front of us. There was debris in the creek bed but as long as you stayed on the right shoulder the skiing was good and soft although a bit scratchy for the last few turns.

Last run of course was Skydive which was good. In the top section the snow was fresh and deep with far fewer tracks than I expected. Things got a little crusty for a couple of turns in the mid section before settling down to good soft spring skiing on a hard base for the final pitch.

We sat out on the deck after skiing and watched a few head wall skiers who had boot packed up the Lizard Head Wall (Polar Peak had been closed all day) have what might be the last run of the season off the head wall. Just off now to the Pub for wings night and then an early night as it looks like we might be getting some more new snow over night. Surely we can't have another great days skiing tomorrow

Monday, April 10, 2017

Day 124 an enforced Old Side day

Today we only had the Old Side available to us as the New Side was closed for a days filming of the new Liam Neeson movie Hard Powder. The hill was packed out with trailers and support vehicles and it all looked very exciting but for those of us who were not involved it was just another ski day. The hill compensated the day ticket skiers by only charging them half price for their skiing as less than half the hill was available. We season pass holders are still waiting to see what we will be given for giving up half the hill for a day but I am sure it will be something generous.

The temp on the deck first thing was -5 and on the way to the hill it had warmed up to -1. Conditions were bluebird to start with before going to hazy sunshine for most of the morning before going back to bluebird mid afternoon and finally overcast and snowing for the last couple of runs - all in all a very mixed day. Temps did rise during the day but not that much so that by the end of the day it was only +2 at the Boomerang load and +3 as we drove through downtown on the way home.

They were only calling about a couple of cms of snow overnight on top of about 8 cms yesterday but when we got to the top of Bear the north facing slopes seemed to have a lot more and not heavily tracked. We spent most of the morning looping Cedar Ridge from Boogie to King Fir and found lots of deep soft powder. Lower down there appeared to be some ugly avi debris but when you hit it the lumps were soft and mellow and very easy skiing although the sight of the debris did play tricks with your head. We grabbed first tracks in Boom Ridge which was soft and a bit mushy on a scratchy base.

Returns on our loops were always through Kangaroo which was soft and mostly untracked and to my mind skiing about as well as it has all season. We also returned through Boomerang which was soft chopped up mush on an ice base and made for some very variable skiing. We went for a late lunch at the ever excellent Big Bang Bagels .

At lunch I bumped into my buddy Brad who told me that all morning he had been skiing by the fence on the Blueberry sign line  (Snake Ridge was closed so that was as near to it as we could get) and that it was very good. So I spent the rest of the afternoon looping just inside the sign line, Kangaroo and Boomerang. Kangaroo and Boomerang was just as in the morning but the sign line was good. Of course things were a little more tracked up later in the day but there were still untracked lines to be had near the Blueberry fence and chutes lower down were good tight skiing although a bit icy in places.

In the absence of Skydive we had time to finish on Boom Ridge which was still soft on a scratchy base and then back up Boomerang Chair to Bear Chutes which were ok but full of soft avi debris. It wasn't Skydive but then it wasn't a bad way to finish. Tonight they are calling for another 10 cms of fresh and as I am typing this I can hear graupel rattling down on the deck, lets see what happens.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Day 123 full on winter skiing

Just to confirm what I said in the heading this was the top of Skydive a 4 o'clock tonight after a very full on winters day of snow.
We got a slow start today because our summer lives are starting to impinge on our winter lives. I had to go to the gym to run 10 kms on the treadmill and there was work to do in connection with some sailing events that I am judging in the summer. What with one thing and another I didn't get to the hill until just before 11 which was a pity as we had about 8 cms of fresh snow. In the event I needn't have worried as there was no one at the hill and despite our late arrival we parked in line 1 of lot 2, that was how few people were here.

When we arrived it was snowing with wet snow at the base and you could see the snow line starting just a couple of towers up the hill at about half way down the Meadow. It was +2 on the truck as I drove in and a similar temp as I drove out tonight. At the White Pass load it was -1 and stayed that way all day although my impression was that it warmed up a little on top later on giving a softening surface. It snowed all day so we had a significant accumulation in White Pass (I would estimate at least 10 cms) and even after we had finished a large graupel storm hit the base while we were in the Griz looking out.

The result was that up in White Pass the snow was soft full on winter conditions. On the lower parts of the hill it became soft snow on a crust base which skied ok and full on grippy elephant snot at the very lowest ski outs.

We went to the New Side and hit out to the Big Three where we found two tracks in front of us, both of which dropped Skydive so we hit Decline untracked. It was good powder skiing on a firm base with the lower sections starting to soften to take an edge on the surface under the new powder - great easy skiing, particularly as first tracks. Next we dropped Cougar Glades which was also untracked and very deep and soft on a firm crust base.

It was obvious that the best winter skiing was the full on winter conditions in White Pass and that is where we looped for the next few times. All the Knot Chutes were deep and soft as was Surprise Trees with many untracked line still available. Last run before lunch we hit Stag Leap which only had one track in front of us where the skier had stayed tight on the left hand trees so we had untracked skiing for the two of us all the way down.

After lunch we were back up White Pass doing loops of Knot Chutes (Slim, Jim and Tight as I remember) and Surprise Trees all the way across all of which had become deep and untracked in the snow which just continued to pile up during the day - the biggest problem as it had been in many places today was trying to avoid being taken out by my own slough. We ran to base through Easter Bowl which was great soft deep snow on a firm base but the viz was deteriorating fast. By this time all the Saddles had closed although they had only been open for a short time in the morning and Polar was closed as it had been all day.

We went back up White Pass where the temp remained at -1 and the snow was still coming down and did more Knot Chute/Surprise Tree loops. Last loop I went all the way out to the top of Triple Trees and found that it was totally untracked in what by that time had become quite deep snow all the way down to Trespass Trail. Last run was Skydive which was still remarkably untracked at the end of the day and although it was a bit heavy in the top it became easy soft skiing in fresh snow from about half way down. The ski out was ugly sticky crap as it had been all day.

It was a nice quiet drinking night in the Griz as we celebrated a full on winters day skiing. Tomorrow they are shooting the movie Hard Powder on the hill so lets see how much fun that provides.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Day 122 an excellent day's spring skiing

As we skied the Currie Head Wall today I thought I would start with a nice pic of the Head Wall and the Wimp Chutes, which is the line we skied, slightly to the right of centre of the pic. The more observant of you will notice that the pic is dated a few days ago and was in fact taken on Tuesday which was the day the Head Wall opened for the first time and when I skied the Wimp Chutes three times but as conditions today were more or less the same today I have taken liberties in the name of art.

The reason for this explanation is that the trolls are out and about again. A number of these pathetic little individuals are putting it about that I don't actually ski what I say I do in my blog and an inconsistency like the pic would be just what they need to "prove" their point. I have a huge number of witnesses who ski with me and also read the blog (Rob, Rod, Kevin, Brad, Lynda, Dan etc) who know I only print the truth but that doesn't matter to the pathetic little trolls. I repeat my offer made before to them - select any day from the archive where you think I couldn't ski what I say I did and join me (as long as the conditions are similar) and I will ski everything all over again. I am also prepared to take a bet on it with no upper limit as it just depends on how much they want to lose. Of course they won't take me up because that would take balls which seem to be sadly lacking in these people.

Today the hill were reporting about 5cms of new snow overnight on the upper hill. The temp on the deck as I drank my coffee was -1 so we decided it wasn't worth rushing to the hill until things softened up a bit and even though it was a Saturday the parking lot was only about half full as we rolled up just before 10. It was +4 at the base and mostly sunny with the odd cloud. We decided that the surfaces should softening in the direct sunlight so we went to the New Side to test this. During the day temps rose steadily until it was +9 as we drove away from the hill.

As anticipated the skiing surfaces softened but mid morning some cloud and haze came in which stayed until late afternoon when things cleared again but the high haze did persist. The result was that south facing surfaces softened but didn't get super soft or mushy and didn't start to set up late in the day. The north facing slopes took longer to soften even a bit but by the end of the day they too were an ok skiing surface taking an edge.

We spent the first part of the morning looping White Pass and found great spring skiing conditions everywhere with particularly good skiing in the Knot Chutes ( we dropped several different chutes) Pillow Talk and the I bowl. Polar Peak had opened so we went up and had great soft skiing in the Papa and Grand Papa Bear chutes. Currie Head Wall had also opened so I hiked out the Wimp Chutes and found that like before you had to drop air to get in, land in a steep icy surface and bang out one icy turn and then it all skied very easily. I went back to looping the Polar Chutes which were all getting a bit soft but were skiing very easily. We dropped to an early lunch through Concussion which actually was smooth and soft and untracked in the parts where we were.

After lunch we went back up Polar and ran through Barely Legal and then Mama Bear which were getting less soft in the hazy sunshine but still took a good edge. This time we ran to base through High Saddle which was good edge to edge jumping in the chutes and firm but taking an edge in the fan. Easter and Freeway were patchy at first but got softer the lower you went and in the end were very mellow spring skiing. Next loop after a few runs through the Knot Chutes which were soft I hiked Lone Fir and found the chute a little firm but again good edge to edge jumping all the way through. The fan was just bit too hard on top to be easy but as you got down in to Easter and Freeway it was as described before getting softer and easier.

As the north facing stuff seemed to be softening I went to Gotta Go and found it a little firm in the chute and choke but taking a nice edge and great skiing. Lower down things got a bit tougher with a mass of avi debris and huge death cookies which had to be carefully navigated and the surface was more like soft breakable crust - it was tough skiing.

Last run was of course Skydive where we met up with a bunch of buddies, and their daughters, and some girls from FAST - probably the lowest average age of any group of Skydive skiers this season. The surface was a bit crusty in the top but it just got better and softer in the mid section before becoming firm with a soft surface in the final pitch. A really good run to finish a good day.

So overall it was great day where the overnight freeze was softened by the sun but not so greatly that it turned to the ugly elephant snot that we have been experiencing lately. This to my mind was spring skiing at it's best with no horrible sticky surfaces to catch you out. They are calling for snow tonight, who knows ?

Day 121 be careful of what you wish for

After a rather damp day yesterday I dropped in at Marks Work Warehouse on the way home and upgraded my waterproof gear with a heavy duty plastic jacket to match my green fishing pants and some rubber over gloves with plenty of room for a warm pair of fleece gloves underneath. At least part of me was hoping for a chance to try them out today but there was no way I could have anticipated the deluge that hit us and which tested (successfully) the new water proof gear.

Today was a gym day so it was another 10 km on the treadmill before heading out to the hill. They were calling no new snow overnight but when we got to the hill with a temp of +2 it was raining hard and the top was covered in cloud. The first chair up was very wet and things only started to turn to snow at about the White Pass load and even then it was very wet snow and very poor viz. Things stayed that way most of the morning before the snow/rain stopped just before lunch and the viz improved.

As has been the case so often over the past few days we had a choice of staying low and getting good viz but also staying in the rain or going high into the wet snow and suffering the poor viz - we chose the latter. We made a number of White Pass loops which comprised the Gun Bowl which was flat white light and Surprise Trees which was ok wet snow on a crunchy base. The temp at White Pass load hung in at around zero for some time before climbing to about +1 in the afternoon.

We decided to try a run to base through Concussion which skied surprisingly well but with the wet snow one skier was enough to trash a whole slope and we left things looking pretty messy. The lower part of Concussion had some avi debris and death cookies to avoid but Gilmar Trail and below skied surprisingly well and not as sticky as anticipated.

We went back into White Pass and had several more loops as the light improved and found good lines in Knot Chutes and Pillow Talk although the latter was really trashed after just one run. As a final run before lunch we headed out to Skydive and found just one set of tracks ahead of us on the traverse which disappeared into Touque Chutes leaving us Skydive untracked just before 1 o'clock. Skydive started very heavy and mushy but just got better as you went down so that by the final pitch it was a nice firm base taking an easy edge in the soft top surface.

After lunch the rain came back with a vengeance and it poured until about 3 when the sun made and attempt to come out before the rain returned and finally developed into thunder showers at the end of the day - up top the precip came down as very wet snow.

We looped White Pass again finding the best snow in the Knot Chutes before dropping Corner Pocket which was ok in the chute and very good soft snow in the fan although in the lower parts this turned to heavy wet mush and we had to bail into Dancer which was still pretty sticky. On our next loop we tried Barracuda which was a rather irregular soft skiing surface on a firm base but which actually skied about ok. The exit was on Gilmar Trail and through the Meadow which had all by then in the changing conditions become very grippy and ugly stop/start skiing.

I just had time for another White Pass loop and once again the Knot Chutes proved to be good. the lower parts of White Pass were getting very mushy and grippy and were real ACL ripping conditions. Last run was Skydive which skied just like the morning, getting better all the way down so that the final pitch was pretty well run of the day.

In summary today was wet tricky conditions but if you dressed for it (which I did) it was an ok day although rather hard on the legs.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Day 120 a very quiet day

Things are always rather subdued on Hot Dog Boxing Day and today was no exception. Parking lot 2 was very full of cars but closer examination revealed that most of them had been left overnight and a steady flow of taxis bringing yesterday's revellers up the hill meant the number of parked cars actually went down during the day and not up.

There was no new snow overnight and the temp as we made our leisurely start was +4. It was overcast with some slight dampness in the air and the whole impression was one of rather a dull and grey day. We were advised to stay low to take advantage of the rising warming line and we had already decided to make our start on the Old Side.

As we dropped in to Bear Cave Chutes we were surprised at how soft the snow was and progress was very slow in the deep mushy snow. It didn't take us long to work out what was happening. Where the snow had been soft and deep over the past few days the warm temps had turned the snow to elephant snot. Where it had been icy and scratchy the surface had softened so it was taking a nice edge and provided great spring skiing. So we had a complete reversal of the previous few days and we had to avoid what had been the soft untracked snow and make for the high traffic icy areas.

We spent most of the morning poking around the Old Side and found an awful lot of deep mush but found the best skiing to be Kangaroo which was great soft bumps but a few cracks in the final pitch and Boom Ridge which was so good we dropped it three times. While we were doing all this it started to rain quite hard and temps suggested to us (correctly) that this rain was going all the way to the top. We went for an early lunch which gave us a chance to put on an extra layer of plastic and rubber water proof gear.

In the afternoon we went to the New Side and found the skiing surface conditions much the same as on the Old Side - this being demonstrated by the mushy heavy conditions in Lift Line. We played around in White Pass for a while and found that the only good skiing off the groomers was either in the Gun Bowl or the I bowl. The rain intensified so that we were getting a good soaking and the cloud came down so the viz became really socked in.

Incredible though it may sound Polar Peak was open and so with the deteriorating viz we decided to give it a try before things got too bad. The skiing surface in the Polar Chutes was just about ok if a bit crunchy but in the poor light you couldn't really do anything but ski defensively. We completed our loop through Concussion where the viz was much better and the skiing just about ok.

After a few more White Pass loops we decided on an early finish and so hit Skydive. In the anticipated exact reversal of the last time we skied it the lightly tracked upper part was soft and ugly and the lower section which was previously hard and icy was really good skiing with a firm base taking a nice soft edge. It was in fact so good that we went back for one more loop making our last run at more like the usual time. Having  already hit Skydive I tried something different and dropped Low Saddle. It wasn't great, the surface in the chute just about held although some big death cookies did let go but in the fan it was ugly soft mush and I bailed at the bottom on to Dancer.

It was still raining when we left and the forecast is for more rain to come. With this in mind I dropped in at the Work Warehouse to get some more and better waterproof gear. I think the next few days could be testing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Day 119 Hot Dog Day

Don't blame me I warned everyone about today. We got to the hill late after I had run 10 kms on the treadmill at the gym today.

It was cold (below zero up top) and everything in White Pass was rock solid hard refrozen ice. As it was Hot Dog Day we went to the Lost Boys CafĂ© and had several beers before heading over to the Old Side. Things lower down on the Old Side were getting soft so after couple of loops we dropped down to base for lunch.

After lunch we went to Wallaby for the Hot Dog celebrations and after finding the beer that had been buried yesterday we went down to Wallaby and drank more beer all afternoon while watching the big jumps off the kickers in Wallaby.

When we ran out of beer mid afternoon we went to the Griz Bar and drank more beer and danced to the 80s music. It was a great Hot Dog Day and now it's over.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day 118 Currie headwall for the first time this season

Yes, today they opened Currie headwall today for the first time this season and that kind of set the tone for the day, but more of that later.

There was no new snow overnight and the temps on the front deck as I was drinking my morning coffee was -7. It was a bluebird day so temps were going to warm up quickly but obviously things were going to be rock hard and frozen at first so I headed off to the gym for my 10 kms on the treadmill. On the way to the hill it was already -2 and things just got warmer all day all over the hill so that by the end of the day it was +10 as we drove away in the truck.

The effect on the skiing surface was predictable. In the direct sunlight low down things got soft quickly but anywhere in the shade things stayed hard for much longer and didn't soften at all until the late afternoon. Higher up and particularly on Polar Peak even in the direct sunlight it remained quite cool and a cold wind kept the skiing surface rather chunky on a scratchy base although by late afternoon there was some signs of softening.

Tomorrow is Hotdog Day when we honour the truly dreadful 80's movie Hotdog (a mixture of skiing and soft porn) by dressing up in 80's ski gear and getting unbelievably drunk. So today is Hotdog Eve when by tradition the white bearded Father Hotdog gets out his naughty and nice list and see which of us boys and girls have been good on the ski hill - helping the pick up lost skis, not side slipping the chutes, not over trashing the powder etc. He rewards the good ones by leaving presents for them in the form of buried beer all over the hill and tomorrow we will go up there and open up our presents and enjoy them. The next day (Hotdog Boxing Day) we have a late start all with hangovers and clear up the previous day's mess. Of course some people don't believe in Father Hotdog and think that the beer is left by the skiers themselves to avoid the security checks at the lifts on Hotdog Day but I know he really exists.

So first run of the day with a fairly late start I had to go up the Old Side and have a little tour round to perform a certain vital task in preparation for tomorrow. After that it was ski down to base to dump the ruck sack and head up to the New Side to see what was happening.

Last run yesterday we had been tipped off that the Currie Head Wall would be opening today and in fact we were delayed in our final run while they blasted three charges in the Wimp Chutes in preparation. I didn't mention this as things could have gone wrong and in any event we didn't want all the head wall skiers in town heading for the hill today. When I got to the top of White Pass the Currie Head Wall was open and a few tracks were evident all the way along.

Before I ski the head wall I like to get a bit of steep practice under my belt so I looped Polar Peak three times always dropping Barely Legal which I reckon to be as steep in the chutes as most of the head wall. The skiing in the chutes was bit varied on a scratchy base and so was probably more challenging that the head wall and so was good preparation. Next I hit the Clown Chutes (Bozo) to take me under the head wall so I could have a look at the best lines.

My preparation coincided with bumping into my buddy Brad who had already had several head wall loops so up we went for the main event. I dropped Wimp Chutes which were a little air on the way in on to an icy steep surface which was pretty interesting. After a couple of turns things improved and the snow was reasonably soft with some untracked lines although you did have to be careful to navigate the rock band just above the cat track near the bottom. Brad had to leave but I managed two more loops where the skiing was about the same every time. I had intended to go on to ski the Up Right chute but didn't as that would have meant one more boot pack (it was already a side step and a boot pack to get to the Wimp Chutes) and in any event Up Right is really only a couple of turns before you are on an open mellow slope. I went to lunch on a high.

After a very late lunch we went back up Polar Peak but the shadows were now on the head wall making it not a very good idea to go back there. Grand Papa Bear was not much better as the surface was setting up in the cold wind and one run was enough to decide us that Polar was not going to be much fun. Corner Pocket had got a bit slick in the chute and the tires were almost showing through but the skiing underneath was soft and deep. Easter bowl was soft skiing although the Freeway exit was so crusty that we bailed onto Dancer.

We had time for a White Pass loop which was a Knot Chute which had obviously been very soft and was setting up and then the I Bowl which was also good and soft. Last run was Skydive which was nice deep snow in the top but just got progressively crusty and scratchy all the way down.

Beers on the deck (OJ and soda in my case) completed a very good day of some very tough and very steep skiing. Tomorrow is Hotdog Day and my report may be a bit disjointed, late or non existant or possibly all three - be warned.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Day 117 a full on winter start

Yesterday as we left the hill it was puking snow and continued into the evening. When we woke up this morning it was -1 on the deck and the hill were reporting 8 cms of fresh snow overnight and it had been snowing all morning since the early snow readings.

I skipped the morning run and headed straight for the hill for an early morning powder start by which time the temp at the base had risen to zero and it was still snowing. I was very surprised to see how few cars and trucks there were in the parking lot but I guess for some folk the season is all but over. We headed up the New Side where the temp at White Pass load was about -2 and conditions at the very top were socked in with snow continuing.

We headed out towards the top of the Big Three and had to cut the trail for the Skydive Traverse which was quite hard going given how much snow had fallen. We took Skydive untracked which was a bit variable with some of yesterdays crust not fully covered by the new snow making one or two turns mid run rather challenging - overall it was good full on winter powder skiing. Next loops we hit the Saddles in turn. Corner Pocket was easy mellow skiing and the fan was super deep soft untracked snow. High Saddle was easy skiing and the fan just as with Corner Pocket. Low saddle was so mellow that I jumped the right had shoulder after only one turn and was able to drop the chutes below from most of the way up into Shaun's Chute - awesome deep soft untracked snow. In between a couple of the Saddles we went up Polar Peak which had opened as the snow had stopped and the sky was clearing and to be honest were disappointed. Shale Slope, Grand Papa Bear and Papa Bear were all ok soft snow but on top of a rock hard uneven icy base which you were through to most of the time - that is why after a couple of loops we just went back to the saddles where the snow in the fans was still just awesome.

All our exits except one were through Easter Bowl which was good untracked skiing on the left side trees and Freeway which was becoming rather sticky on an ice base. Just once we tried to go out to Spinal Tap and found the creek bed full of breakable crust and avi debris and it was a very tough ski down. By the last run of the morning the snow had stopped and it was clearing towards a bluebird day. We had been told that 1-2-3s were skiing well and that Anaconda Glades were good so putting two and two together we figured that Gotta Go would be good and we were right. There were only a couple of tracks in the chute and underneath the snow was deep with untracked lines as long as you avoided the avi debris on the left. Exit through Bootleg Glades was ok and untracked in the trees on the left but got a bit heavy in the last couple of turns before the Gilmar Trail.

After lunch we were back up the New Side and Straight into Corner Pocket which skied exactly as it had done in the morning. Next we went out to Easter Bowl and found lots of untracked lines on skiers right and it was starting to get pretty soft. By this time the sun had come out and we were into a full on spring skiing day with temps at the base of +7, White Pass load +5 and way hotter than that in the direct sunshine. We just had time for a couple of loops of White Pass and found that Knot Chutes were super mushy and Surprise Trees ranged from mush to crust under the trees depending on the shadows - very tough skiing.

Last run of course was Skydive which was only lightly tracked and perversely skied rather better than it had when untracked first thing. The snow was deep at the top and the atmospheric warming appeared to have softened the base so that with the exception of a couple of turns mid run which were a little crusty it was great powder skiing all the way down. The forecast is for cold temps tonight and warm day tomorrow so maybe a morning run might be the order of the day tomorrow.

Day 116 Spring - winter - spring - winter

Sorry, tonight's report is going to be very brief because as I have said before Sunday is my drinking night and we went straight from the hill to the Currie Bowl with our good friends Dan and Ruth so it is very late before I even start todays report.

Overnight there was no new snow to speak of and it was warm on the way to the hill at +4 degrees. Our plan was to stay low on the Old Side and benefit from the rising warming line. It mostly worked with ok skiing in Sun Up, China Wall, Bear Cave Chutes, Cedar Centre Trees, Boom Ridge and Boomerang. It was soft snow on top with some crusty stuff low down. All exits were through Kangaroo which was soft bumps but a bit ribby in the last few turns in the shade.

Just after noon we went to the New Side and things changed from nice warm sunny spring skiing to a full on winter blizzard which set in from top to bottom of the hill. It had been about +1 at White Pass load but as the winter storm swept through (and every time after that) the temp dropped to -1. We skied lift line in the rapidly deepening snow and then Corner Pocket which skied about as soft and easy as I can remember. The fan underneath was super soft and untracked but in poor light.

After lunch we went back up the New Side and found that the winter conditions had gone so we skied Corner Pocket and Easter in the sun which were just awesome deep new snow. Next loop we did Low Saddle but by this time full on winter conditions were back and whilst the viz wasn't great the skiing was just awesome.

We had time for a Knot Chute drop which was good and soft in the conditions which had now switched back to sun and blue skies and it was good. We tracked out to Anaconda which was untracked soft deep new snow and maybe run of the day. The push back round Trespass Trail was another story.

Last run of course was Skydive with full on winter conditions starting up again. It was ok in the top but soft breakable crust most of the way down and only a few good soft turns just at the end. Tough skiing but not a bad end to a very good day, particularly in the afternoon.

As we sat in the Griz and later as we went about our business down town it just puked snow in valley with temps of +1 which I imagine would have been cooler up the hill. It snowed so hard that it might well have accumulated 5 cms even in the brief time it was snowing tonight. Who knows ? We will find out tomorrow.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Day 115 the worst day's skiing of the season

Yes, I can say that today was the worst day we have had this year so far by a big margin - I even left the hill early half way through the afternoon, it was that bad.

Of course it didn't seem that things were going to be that bad when we woke up this morning and read the day's weather forecast. Although there had been no new snow overnight we were promised double digit plus temps at the base and reasonably warm conditions on top with an overall assessment of "partially cloudy". It seemed that even if things had firmed up they would soon soften and we would be able to ski in ok conditions. I can only assume that forecast was the forecasters idea of an April fool's joke as what we had was nothing like what they called for and the resulting conditions sucked.

Things started going wrong on the way to the hill with valley temps of only +2 and the sky heavily overcast. Almost as soon as we arrived at the hill it started raining hard at the base and was still raining when we drove away mid afternoon. The rain line was just about at the White Pass load where it changed to wet icy snow which with some strong ridge line winds was whipped into our faces causing a lot of stinging. The temp at the White Pass load was -1 but may have got to zero later in the day. The effect on the skiing surfaces was for the groomers to be slick and icy and rock hard. Off the groomers yesterday's super soft mush had refrozen to ugly hard ice death cookies and had become solid mashed potatoes or a ploughed field - either way it was pretty near to unskiable. Just to make things really fun the cloud came down to about half way up White Pass so the viz was just about as bad as I can remember it.

So there you have it, you could have your choice. Either ski low and get soft snow (even so, a buddy of mine said the only ok thing on the Old Side was Kanagroo) but get soaked to the ski in the rain, or stay high and ski rock hard groomers or even harder ugly refrozen crud in poor viz. As I said, it was the worst day's skiing I can remember for a very long time.

We went to the New Side and just looped the White Pass core mainly on the groomers but did cut out into the Gun Bowl and the trees along side the runs all of which had been skied yesterday and were ugly. I guess if there was anywhere that hadn't been skied yesterday it might have been an ok smooth surface but as the whole of the New Side was open yesterday and chewed up in super hot conditions we couldn't find anything that was even ok.

We ran to base with the intention of going out on the Reverse Traverse in search of some smooth snow but found it closed. Probably a good idea as when we looked back up Concussion from lower down Currie Powder it was full of big ugly death cookies and there was no reason to suppose it was any better all the way across the Currie Chutes.

We went back up to White Pass and if anything the conditions were ever more ugly and viz was getting steadily worse. This time we ran to base through Currie Trees which were a bit smoother than most ungroomed areas and the trees helped with the viz. At that stage we were cold, wet and the conditions sucked and showed no signs of getting better - we quit for the day.

The funny thing about Fernie is how everyone knows your business. I only dropped by Extra Foods (or whatever it's called now) and four people stopped me to ask me why I wasn't on the hill - as I said that's Fernie. We did drop into the place on Highway 3 where they are doing chainsaw wood carving and put a deposit on bear that Lynda had been eyeing up for the front deck. At 10 bucks an inch these seem like great value to me.

So let's see what tomorrow brings, it has to be better than today.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Day 114 summer skiing

Yes, we appear to have bypassed spring and gone straight to summer skiing just like we used to do on the glacier at Hintertux. Of course the difference there was that the summer temps warmed a frozen glacier to give good even summer skiing and today what was warmed was a mix of avi debris, refrozen crud and previously untracked deep snow. The result was to give us variable conditions to put it mildly.

The day started with thick fog in the valley and a temp on my deck of +2 with a claim of 5 cms of new snow overnight which quite frankly I failed to detect at any point on the hill. By the time I had run my 10 km at the gym the temp had risen to +4 on the way to the hill and the fog line had risen to about one third of the way up the hill.

I decided to try the Old Side and found that the fog went up to the top of the Bear Chair at which point it was showing signs of thinning. There was also an inversion so that at mid mountain in the fog it had cooled to about zero but at the top it was back to +4. We had a word with a patrol buddy who confirmed that the inversion continued, at the top of White Pass you were above the fog there and that Polar Peak was about to open. With this information we ran down Arrow which was ungroomed and seemed to be both soft and crusty at the same time and then took the cat track to the New Side. The viz in fog was very poor indeed.

Lift Line was ugly refrozen death cookies with some new snow which was turning to mush already. It was also on the top line of the fog so the viz was very poor. We went up White Pass and sure enough found ourselves in bluebird conditions with the fog as a carpet below us in the valley - better still Polar Peak had just opened so up we went.

That was it for the morning, we just kept looping Polar Peak as it was obviously the best snow on the hill. We looped from the Clown Chutes on one side to Papa Bear on the other and all the chutes in between - Shale Slope, Grand Papa Bear and Barely Legal. The snow was soft and getting quite fluid in places but great skiing with great coverage. In the bluebird conditions the valley fog slowly dissipated until it was just a normal sunny day with the odd patch of cloud. Temps were rising fast and at the base it got up to +9 and at the Polar Load it was +8 with the temp in the direct sunlight way hotter than that.

We dropped for lunch through Spirit Bear and then High Saddle which was ok in the chute and excellent soft deep skiing in the fan below. The ski out was a different story with the ungroomed snow being a mix of mush and crust and very testing skiing. Over lunch we heard that the Polar Chutes had closed but after lunch we went back up to check things out. We discovered that the chutes had closed for a time but were reopened and ready for business.

The afternoon was just like the morning with repeated loops of the various Polar Chutes and the skiing surface remaining soft and lively. Once again we dropped High Saddle which was a bit tougher in the chute than the morning but still excellent in the fan. The ski out was just as ugly as it had been in the morning. We had time for a White Pass loop and found that Surprise Trees had more or less turned totally to mush as had most of the rest of the hill in the hot summer temps.

Last run of course was Skydive which looked in much the same as yesterday which was not surprising as I doubt that anyone had been dumb enough to ski it in today's conditions. The upper section was slightly reforming mush and was slightly better than yesterday, the mid section was largely untracked and very tough going, slightly worse than yesterday. The bottom pitch was actually skiing ok but getting very soft towards the last two turns.

We sat out on the deck of the Griz and had drinks (OJ and soda for me) and enjoyed the evening sunshine for the first time this year. The forecasts look rather uncertain for the next few days so I guess we are just going to have to make the best of whatever we get.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day 113 another tough day

Overnight the hill was reporting 22 cms of new snow in the last 24 hours and 15 in the last 12. As the temp on my front deck this morning was +4 and the rain line was so far up the hill that I couldn't see it from the deck I was fairly confident that any new snow would be heavy , wet and limited to the very top of the hill. I was right and in the circumstances heading off to the gym for 10 kms on the treadmill turned out to be a pretty good idea.

When I got to the hill quite a lot was closed and the obvious plan was to go high on the New Side. We found as expected a lot of very deep wet heavy snow at the top of Timber Chair with the top of lift line still closed from yesterday. We looped White Pass and found that the snow at the very top was just about ok but became very heavy after a couple of turns.

Next time as we arrived at the top of White Pass they were dropping the fence to open Currie Bowl but with lots of warnings about the amount of slide debris we would see. The warnings didn't really prepare us as even in the poor viz there were more and longer slides under Polar Chutes and all the way across the Currie Chutes than I had ever seen. Fortunately the warming temps (it got to +8 at the base and +5 at the White Pass load) meant that the debris was not quite as hard and ugly as it might have been.

It was a good old fashioned Currie 500 as we all raced out across the debris strewn Reverse Traverse to try and get to some fresh snow. We arrived at the top of Skydive to find one track in front of us that dipped in and out of the trees on the left so we had the run to ourselves. In the three pitches it went from soft to very soft to unbelievably soft so that by the bottom it was very hard work and slow motion skiing.

For the rest of the morning we dropped Decline (which was softer than Skydive) and Stag Leap which was softer still. All of this was very slow skiing and where it had been skied it was knee deep mashed potatoes and very hard on the legs. The final run before lunch was a hike up to Easter Bowl top. Fortunately Easter is so wide that there were still untracked areas which could be skied ok but as soon as you got into tracked snow it was hard going.

After lunch I did consider going to the Old Side but rejected it. On balance this seems to have been a good decision as when I met my buddy Dan later in the day he had given it a try and said what little that was actually open totally sucked with the exception of Kangaroo which was ok. I went back to the New Side.

First run after lunch was Decline into Window Chutes which went from soft to softer in Decline and actually skied ok in the chute itself. Next was Gotta Go which was tracked but quite soft in the choke. Amazingly below the choke things felt like they were setting up and the avi debris to the skiers left had been re-enforced but some big overnight death cookies which were about the size of my truck. As conditions were so sketchy I finished the drop by taking Diamond Back which actually skied ok as variable bumps.

Ever a glutton for punishment I side stepped up to Lone Fir where by the look of things only a handful of skiers had been previously. Things were really starting to set up in the chute and it was about as challenging as I can remember and had to be hard edge to edge jumps to get through. Below most of the traffic had stayed left by the closed sign line into Lizard Bowl so I moved slightly right and had untracked lines which skied ok with a slight crust starting to form as the conditions continued to set up more firmly.

After a quick ripper through White Pass to kill time it was Skydive foe last run. The top pitch was light crust on very deep snow in which you could almost sink up to your knees whenever you broke through. It's not often that lack of tracks in Skydive at the end of the day is a problem but today was one of those occasions. The mid section was more like normal soft snow and the bottom section was almost normal slow spring skiing.

All in all it was a very hard day in a mixture of deep soft snow and setting up crud. On the way home the temp was +9 so tomorrow could be just as tough as today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 112 from a wintery morning to a soggy afternoon

The rain that started yesterday lunch time continued over night and all through today in the valley - actually I can still hear it coming down on my back deck as I am typing this. The hill reported 15 cms of fresh snow overnight and as I looked across the valley while drinking my morning coffee I noticed that the snow/rain line on Mt Fernie was almost down to the valley floor so this suggested to me that we might have some pretty good wintery conditions on the hill.

My view was confirmed as I drove to the hill and the temp on the truck as I drove up ski hill road was only +1. It was raining at the base but you could see the rain turning to snow only a couple of towers up Timber chair so it was certain that the snow up high would be good. The temp at White Pass load was -1 so the snow was coming down as reasonable winter powder and the 15 cms was indeed great soft winter snow.

During the day the precip continued but the temps rose so that the rain line climbed steadily up the hill and by afternoon it was only just below the White Pass load. The temp at the load had climbed to +2 and it was about +5 at the base and very wet. On the drive home from the hill it was +5 although the forecast is for it to drop below zero tonight - I am not convinced.

As you will have worked out from the New Side references that is where we skied. With a rain line just above the base you didn't have to be a genius to work out that the higher you went the better it would be and the New Side offered the best elevation. For most of the day the viz stayed pretty good although it was overcast and snowing/raining but in the afternoon the cloud base dropped so that anything above the bottom of the Gun Bowl was in thick cloud/mist.

When we arrived in White Pass first thing we were pumped to find that there was at least the 15 cms of good powder snow promised and probably at least another 5 since the early morning measurement. There were a few people around but nothing that you could describe as crowds so there were many untracked powder lines to be had.

Currie Bowl was closed so we just had a couple of loops back through White Pass (Knot Chutes/ Surprise Trees) which were super deep and soft winter snow. As Currie showed no signs of opening we set up laps to base through Gotta Go/Bootleg (three times) Anaconda Glades and Triple Trees. This took up all the morning and gave us some very good untracked powder on top although by late morning it was getting a bit claggy lower down. As far as we were concerned Currie Bowl remained closed all day but I an told that it did open in the morning for 10 minutes during which time it showed some significant signs of instability prompting it's closure for the rest of the day.

By the time we got out after lunch the rain line was well up the hill and the snow even at the top of White Pass was getting a bit soggy. The obvious thing to do was to just loop White Pass staying high for what was left of the short afternoon after a late lunch so we did just that. We did numerous loops linking Knot Chutes (all the way from the Cheese Grater Chute to Simons Crack) with the Surprise Tree area from the near shoulder to the far side of Triple Trees. The skiing was soft and mellow in the wet newly fallen snow although lower down it was rather chunky and wet.

Last run we did one more drop of Gotta Go which was getting a bit scraped out in the choke (not surprising as it was the best skiing available and so nearly every one I know hit it several times) but below it was still soft and deep all the way down to the cat track. Bootleg Glades were very soft and tracked up so that the lower pitch was knee deep mashed potato - if that ever sets up it will be very interesting.

Afterwards in the Griz very few of us gathered to reflect on the day which overall got a big thumbs up for the morning and an "ok" for the afternoon. This is turning into the wettest March anyone can remember and we are all wondering when the current deluge will end - who knows.