Saturday, January 7, 2017

Day 37 A warm up of sorts

Let's not get carried away things did get a little warmer in some places but in other places things were just as cold as ever. The forecasts were for overcast conditions and temps a bit warmer than of late so it should come as no surprise to anyone that the day dawned clear bluebird (and with a bit of haze stayed that way all day) and the temp on the truck driving to the hill was -26.

During the day a pattern emerged so that things stayed very cold low down (mid morning it was -22 at the Boomerang load) and even driving away tonight it was -16. Higher up it was -14 at the White Pass load, -12 at the Polar Peak load and -10 on the top of Polar Peak. As we had sun and no wind Polar Peak was significantly the warmest place to be today which isn't something you can often say.

Not realising the inversion we went to the Old Side and stayed quite low for most of the morning. We had considered pushing out to Snake Ridge on the Cedar High Traverse but in the cold temps the snow was very grippy and on balance we decided against it - no one in my immediate circle of buddies tried it so I have no idea whether of not this was a good call.

We looped around Bear Cave Chutes, Cedar Ridge (many ways), Linda's run and Boom Ridge. They were all fairly mixed conditions with some soft, some chunky and quite a lot firm bumps taking an edge, particularly Boom Ridge which was actually great bump skiing. Kangaroo was starting to get a bit sketchy but was ok skiing as long as you took the left hand chute onto the cat track half way down.

Just before lunch we headed over to the New Side and discovered the inversion and just how warm things were up Polar Peak. The Clown Chutes were closed but the Coaster and more importantly the Polar Chutes were open. The surface looked a bit variable so we decided to play it safe and take Papa Bear which was soft and deep in most places but with a hard band of wind pack which just about half way down. It was so good we did it one more time before running to lunch down Decline which seemed almost as if the snow had a refrozen surface which given the conditions was of course impossible - the effect was some quite tough chunky snow most of the way down.

After lunch I went back up Polar Peak and we tried a few different lines but discovered that Papa Bear was far and away the best way down and that Grand Papa Bear was ok in the top but really ugly and icy from about half way down. We then hiked up and dropped Lone Fir which remains in excellent condition and the soft snow in the fan was awesome. Next loop was Polar Peak and Cougar Glades which were soft but tracked and the left exit which was twiggy had lots of untracked lines.

This just gave us time for a White Pass ripper and then Skydive as usual. For whatever reason Skydive was in way better shape than Decline so it was a great way to end the day. Only a short time in the Griz as Lynda and I are just trying to shift the end of a cold that has been around for a day or two and need just one more early night to get us straight. We are still waiting on the new snow due to start tomorrow but which now has a rather down graded estimate of the eventual amount - I remain optimistic.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Day 36 Can such a small snowfall really have this much effect ?

We woke up this morning to a reported 1 cm of snow although that would have been the early measure so that by the time the day was properly under way I would imagine we had 3 cms. It snowed very lightly off and on during the day and I expect the final number will be 5 cms in the last 24 hours.Obviously we had no real expectation that this snow would have any great effect on the hill partly because of the small amount and partly because of the low moisture content at these low temps but we were wrong, it appeared to have a very beneficial effect in many places.

On the way to the hill it was -18 and driving away tonight -14. During the day I noticed temps getting up to around -12 but towards the end of the day at White Pass top a strong wing sprung up and I would imagine wind chill temps were a good 10 degrees below the figure shown on the mercury. Polar Peak remained shut although late in the day the wind sift did seem to be doing some kind of repair job in the Polar Chutes. The base was down to 175 cms and conditions were mostly overcast in light flurries with the odd sunny burst.

We arrived to discover that Timber Chair had broken down so our decision was made for us and we headed to the Old Side. After a quick loosener down Bear which had a nice dust on crust covering we headed out on the Cedar High Traverse which was running pretty slow today in the dry fresh snow.

Snake Ridge was the first pleasant surprise where we found the new snow appeared to have rejuvenated the existing snow and effectively gave us much deeper soft snow all the way down Snake Main than we expected. So good that we then looped Gorby into Steep and Deep and then Steep and Deep left (always exiting in the newly cleared right chute) where we found the surprisingly deep snow continued and there was almost a complete absence of tracks. Returns were through Kangaroo and Boomerang both of which benefitted from this deep new snow effect and were good. We went to the New Side via Boom Ridge which was firm bumps taking a nice edge.

We just had time for a quick New Side loop where Lynda did Concussion and I did Decline both of which were much softer than anticipated. We the went for a relatively late lunch.

Encouraged by the improvement I had seen I spent the afternoon looping the New Side in a few runs that I had abandoned a couple of days ago until we got some new snow. Touque Chutes were very soft and the cut to Spinal Tap was easy but the creek bed got rather technical low down but overall was ok. Lone Fir was well worth the hike up with the chute still in ok shape with the fan now very soft on top with the new snow and the ski out through Easter and Freeway was great easy skiing. Decline into Window Chute was also much improved with the top part of Decline very mellow and the Window Chute was ok, even in the chokes where there was at least a covering.

Final run of course was Skydive and we had a strong team up there today for the final blast. The mid section after the ice bumps at the top was just fast GS turns in soft snow although the bottom section remained very interesting in the twigs, stumps and rocks. The most full on run of the season so far.

It was good crowd in the Griz tonight and everyone seemed to be getting excited about the forecast snow. If the little we had today can have this good effect what will a proper Fernie dump do if as forecast we get it some time on Sunday? We will hang around and find out.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Day 35 Promises, Promises

It seems to me that every day we are promised that this cold spell will end and when we get up in the morning the date for the warm up has been moved forward one more day. To be fair today did warm up a little from yesterday (it would have been a good trick for it to get colder) but we didn't get the milder temps that we were promised and now it looks like Saturday before we can drop off some of the layers we have been carrying around this week.

There was no new snow overnight and the base has now settled to around 180 cms. On the way to the hill the temp showing on the truck was -26. During the day temps on the hill were around -20 although we may have got some high minus teens late afternoon and as we drove back from the hill it was -21. Unfortunately  a wind popped up during the afternoon which had the effect of negating any feeling of warmth and pushing the wind chill well down into the minus 20's. It was overcast with a kind of high hazy cloud which suggested some upper atmosphere moisture for most of the day but by the end things had cleared to a hazy bluebird sky.

As I said yesterday I intended to try the Old Side but the Bear Chair was broken down when I arrived and not anticipated to come on line until 10 o'clock - I went to the New Side. Things were just like yesterday, where there had ben skier traffic it was hard, bumpy. rutted and icy but if you poked around there was still some soft snow to be had. Surprise Trees were very soft and Decline was also good, particularly in the lower section.

To everyone's surprise Polar Peak opened but when I got up there the Polar Chutes were closed as were the Clown Chutes and the Upper Coaster. In fact the only way down was to take the cat track down to below the Upper Coaster and then ski the groomed bowl below. I did it once and concluded that it wasn't worth getting cold (and it was cold) for that and shortly after that I understand it closed.

To warm up I took Easter Bowl (nice and soft in the top) to Bear (now running) and worked my way out along a very slow Cedar High Traverse to Snake Ridge which was ok and taking a good edge all the way down. I looped back through Kangaroo (a bit sketchy) and Boomerang (really good but bumpy) and then headed out again. This time I hit the top of Gorby Bowl which was deep and untracked down to the closed sign and then there was an ok traverse out into the clear area of Steep and Deep which skied nicely. A couple of drops of Boom Ridge which was firm bumps taking a nice edge and it was time for a late lunch.

After lunch I just had time for a Gorby loop which was just as good as before and then headed to the New Side for a Currie Creek loop where there was deep soft snow particularly in the top. After that it was time for the final Skydive rip which just like yesterday was hard and bumpy in the top, great in the mid section and a bit scrappy on the final pitch.

Not a bad day but the hill is showing signs of ware and the forecast snow for the weekend is really needed. They are calling temps of -20 for the next 24 hours then a warming trend, lets see.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Day 34 F-f-f-f-f-f-freezing

Well, the weather forecasters said that yesterday (Tuesday) would be the coldest day of the current Arctic airmass cycle - they were wrong. Today was another bluebird day but on the way to the hill the temp showing on the truck was -32. The Weather Network had a severe wind chill warning for the Elk Valley calling for wind affected temps down to -40. On the way back tonight it was -29 and during the day it got up to about -22 at the White Pass load. They were calling for an inversion but to be honest it was only a degree or two warmer on top than in the valley and any warmth felt was most probably due to the direct sunlight.

There was no new snow over night and Polar Peak didn't open so apart from being even colder than yesterday things were just the same with the exception that the tracked up snow and traverses became even harder and tougher to ski. Unsurprisingly the hill was quiet and I didn't get there myself until 9:30 which was about the time things warmed up enough to start to load Timber chair.

Once again I decided to just do New Side loops as no skiing was going to be that good today. A buddy of mine did go to the Old Side and did the very grippy push out to Snake Ridge and reported that the skiing on Steep and Deep was really good with some deep untracked lines and there was no one there. Perhaps I might give this a try tomorrow.

On the New Side, Lift Line and the Reverse Traverse had both become very ribby with some tough hard icy underlying conditions and the skis being pushed everywhere but where you wanted them to go. The pattern for the day was a run back off White Pass top to the load just to stay in the sun and the warmer air then a loop from White Pass top to the base - this continued all morning and after a fairly short lunch break all afternoon.

It's not worth listing all the runs but perhaps it is worth mentioning some of the places which gave surprising good and soft skiing. Surprise Trees far left still had many untracked lines but you had to be careful of the alders which got thicker the lower you went. Currie Creek was run of the day and I did it twice. I think that by the time skiers get to the creek they are on a mission to head to the Big 3 or Easter and tend to ignore it. The result was very deep soft snow which was only lightly tracked although the final ski out was bit technical. Cougar Glades still had many untracked areas and the lower left hand exit chute also had deep snow between the dead fall and bushes. Touque Chutes were soft and deep after a couple of turns at the top and this time I took them all the way down into the trees to the skiers right of Easter and found many untracked lines before being spat out just above Freeway. Decline remained in good shape with lots of soft snow on the final pitch.

Last run of course was Skydive which was bumpy in the top and hard for the next two turns but becoming very soft for the remainder of the run although still lots of stuff to deal with on the final pitch. The entertainment was provided by Lynda doing a cartwheel on the top pitch but landing it on her skis and carrying on - it would have got maximum points in free riding competition.

A good gathering in the Griz to discuss the day and everyone getting pumped about the snow cycle that looks like it will hit us this weekend and all the following week. Before that we have to get through a couple more days of these Arctic temps but as I always say "There is no such thing as bad conditions, only inappropriate clothing and inadequate skill levels". Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Day 33 Why do I always have to be right

Yesterday I made predictions about today's conditions, mostly that it would be colder, there would be no new snow and conditions would get tougher, I made the predictions in the hope that I would be wrong. Unfortunately I was dead right and if anything conditions were even more so than I foretold so to an extent I could just copy and paste yesterday's blog and be done with it.

Today was supposed to be the coldest of the current Arctic high cycle and I certainly hope that is true. On the way to the hill the temp flicked between -29 and -30 under clear blue skies. During the day things did warm a little so when Lynda arrived at lunch time (she had taken the morning off to do aquarobics ) it was -18 at the base. Just before close I noticed temps at the White Pass load at -21 and as we drove away from the hill it was -26 and falling. All in all a very cold and unforgiving day.

There was no new snow and Polar Peak remained closed which was no surprise in these temps. I had thought about the Old Side but with the snow running super grippy there was no chance of going out to Snake Ridge and felt all the near side stuff would be pretty beat up - a report from a buddy later in the day who tried it just confirmed my fears.

I went to the New Side and found things just like yesterday but more so. Lift Line and the Reverse Traverse were both getting quite ugly in hard icy rutted conditions. The Gun Bowl was not too bad with some firm wind sift and did at least have the advantage of being in the sun. I spent most of the day just looping out along the Reverse Traverse looking for soft snow with a full hour for lunch to warm up.

Soft snow could be found in Cougar Glades, Decline, Lower Touque Chutes and Easter bowl. You had to poke around to find the good stuff but there were still untracked lines to be had particularly in the lower parts of Cougar Glades. In almost other places it was hard bumps with rocks and lumber showing through making skiing tough, this was particularly true in the choke in Siberia Ridge.

Having looped all of the above several times we finished on Skydive which rather strangely seemed to have improved in the final pitch from yesterday. Home for a hot tub and fingers crossed that things get better. The long term forecast is still for a couple more days of this before a big snow cycle hits us at the weekend.

Sorry for the short report but there is really nothing more to say - tomorrow could be even shorter !

Monday, January 2, 2017

Day 32 Just as I predicted

I'm afraid that todays blog can add very little to my forecast of last night as pretty well everything I anticipated has come true. It got cold (really cold) the holiday crowds disappeared, there was no new snow and the skiing got a bit tougher.

It was -19 on the way to the hill today with no new snow and the mid mountain base now settled to about 190 cms. During the day we had a lot of sun but with some cloud so that base temps while we drove away tonight had warmed to -17 although every time I looped through White Pass load it was -20 or there abouts. The good news was that despite weather forecasts the wind was very much down on yesterday so the wind chill probably only stayed in the mid minus 20's. During the day some ridge line wind was evident (which would account for Polar Peak remaining shut) but even this seemed to have died down by late afternoon.

We went to the Old Side where everything was open but declined the opportunity to push out to Snake Ridge. Our logic was that the skiing would be ok but the push out would be very slow in the grippy snow. A conversation with someone who did do it later in the confirmed that we were right on both points.

We looped Cedar ridge several times and found it a bit harder and chunkier than expected and best soft snow was in the Bear Cave chutes and New Lift Line below the cat track. Loops back through Kangaroo were also tougher due to the hard bumps and scrapped out conditions. Boomerang, Boom Ridge and Linda's all skied ok but were hard and bumpy except for Linda's Private Parts which still had soft snow but you had to cut out left at the bottom to avoid twigs.

We went to the New Side and spent the rest of the day doing Reverse Traverse loops. The traverse itself had become tougher and harder and I actually had to take one for the team by side stepping down and stamping in some snow/ice obstruction just before the bridge. Runs included Touque Chutes (really soft after the first few turns) Spinal Tap (now a bit scrapped out in the lower section) Decline (more tracked up but ok) Stag Leap (good up to the final pitch where it all turns a bit twiggy) Cougar Glades (run of the day with soft untracked snow in the trees to the left and conditions so good I missed it when I crossed the Megasauraus Trail and had to exit the left chute which was deep but a bit technical in the alders and dead fall) and Easter Bowl which was soft from about half way down.

Of Course final run was Skydive where the hard bumps are getting tougher and extending almost to the Decline split off. After that it's great but getting a bit sketchy in the final pitch. Still a very good way to finish the day.

Tomorrow looks like more of the same. No new snow, sun, very cold temps, and if I am any judge conditions getting that bit tougher - I do hope so.

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.