Sunday, January 1, 2017

Day 31 Things get a little bit tougher

Today was the day when skiers who had been flattered by the very easy and mellow conditions of the past week discovered that there is a bit more to skiing Fernie than they may have thought.

Overnight we had 10 cms of new snow but it came down in such cold temps and with such a low moisture content that it was very light and didn't really support skier traffic. It did feel good on yesterdays soft snow but where the surface underneath was hard and icy it did little to improve the situation. In truth I preferred yesterday's wind sift to today's new snow.

It was overcast all day with a few light flurries off and on but nothing that amounted to an accumulation. The temp on the way to the hill was -8 but driving back it was down to -11 and I noticed at the White Pass load late afternoon it was a cool-16. The actual figure on the mercury was not that relevant as there was a strong wind (which kept Polar Peak closed all day) and was particularly bad on the New Side and I guess it would have dropped the wind chill temp a good 10 degrees below what was showing on the mercury.

The effect of the strong wind which had clearly been even stronger in the night was to have lifted snow from certain areas and scoured the surface down to a hard ice base. The top of Lift Line was pretty bad but looking up into the Polar chutes as we traversed the Reverse Traverse all we could see was an ugly lunar landscape of ice which will take some time to repair. Of course the flip side of this was that soft snow had been blown into certain places such as the whole Easter Bowl/Window Chutes face or the Currie Chutes to give super deep wind sifted snow. You just had to work that bit harder today to find the good stuff.

As always on New Year's Day (happy new year by the way) there were no great crowds first thing and it was only about as busy as an average Sunday. By the end of the day due in part to the cold wind we were down to very few, particularly on the New Side and the Griz Bar was only a little busier than a normal Sunday. I think we have seen the end of the holiday crowds for this year and over the next day or two the hill should fall back to the usual low levels of visitors helped by what promises to be quite nippy temps.

We went to the Old Side and had a couple of loops out to Snake and Steep and Deep which were ok but much harder than yesterday with a quite unforgiving base. Kangaroo and Boomerang remained soft and easy and after few loops we went to the New Side. Up to that time we had not been cold but one loop through Decline (very nice soft snow) in the brutal conditions and we went for an early lunch in order to put on another layer, put hot shots in gloves, go for a full face cover etc.

Now properly dressed we spent the afternoon on the New Side where we went for the soft snow in Alpha Centauri, Barracuda, Surprise Trees, The Brain/Window Chutes all of which were good. Cougar Glades was really nice and I hit the left hand exit chute for the first time this year which was deep, mostly untracked but rather twiggy. Run of the day was Touque Chutes into Spinal Tap which after about the first 4 turns were all deep wind sift with many untracked lines to be had.

Final run was the usual one step rip down Skydive which was a little bumpy and hard in the top but once through that you could really pull the trigger in the deep wind blown snow, it didn't look like many people had skied it to me.

It now looks as if we are not going to get any significant snow this week but will get some very cold temps in the Arctic airmass which is likely to dominate through to next weekend. This will be a great time to practice some of the more technical aspects of skiing in what I suspect will become increasing tricky conditions - sounds like a few of my favourite things, to quote the song.

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