Saturday, February 25, 2017

Day 80 good and getting better

They were reporting 3 cms of new snow on the hill in 24 hours which I guess was the skiff that we saw during the day yesterday. On the way to the hill it was -5 and driving back tonight it was -4 and snowing. During the day temps up the mountain were about -8 and at the base it got up to -2 at the warmest part of the day. The effect on the snow was to keep it in much the same state as yesterday on the lower hill. On the upper hill the new snow seemed to have frozen the existing base so things were a bit more scratchy but still ok.

The weather was kind of weird as it was hazy sunshine at times with cloud and mist blowing in but also light flurries - all this was happening at the same time which as I said made for some very weird conditions. The other surprising thing was the crowds, or rather the lack of them. As has been the case all through this holiday week the parking lots were busy in the morning but there were no line ups on the hill and no skier traffic, at least in the places that I ski. Even the day lodge had places to sit at lunch time so maybe the holiday week is winding down a day early - I fully expect tomorrow to be much quieter and Monday to be back to the usual handful of regulars on the hill.

We went to the Old Side and generally poked around Sun Up, Bear Cave Chutes, Kangaroo, Cedar Ridge, Boom Ridge, Linda's and Boomerang skiing most of them more than once. The conditions were pretty much the same wherever we went with soft tracked powder on top improved by the new snow and generally very mellow skiing. The exception of course was Kangaroo which was hard bumps in both sections but with good coverage and skiing very much as you would expect Kangaroo to ski - a bit demanding but taking an edge.

We decided to give the New Side a try and found Lift Line a little more scratchy in the top than of late. It was colder on the New Side with a fresh wind but that added the possibility of wind sift to the new snow. We had a loop through White Pass and found the Gun Bowl and Pillow Talk really nice and soft. As Linda was having a half day before going to the gym we finished before lunch on Skydive which had a few scratchy turns in the top and then just got better the further down you went.

After lunch I went up Polar Peak where it was blowing to the point that the chair was having to slow from time to time. The drop down Grand Papa bear was a bit disappointing as the wind had blown most of the snow out of the chute but the next drop through Papa bear showed us where it had blown to with awesome wind sift all the way down - the only downside was very flat light. We ran to base through Cougar Glades which had lots of soft lines and exited through the left side chutes which were a bit technical in places but a lot of fun.

Next loop we went back up Polar where the sift in Papa was even better than before and then ran all the way down through The Brain which was full of untracked lines as long as you were careful to avoid the dead fall lower down. Next loop was yet another Papa Bear off Polar and then I had decided to try Lone Fir. When I got there I changed my mind and dropped Easter Meadow (only in Fernie would they call their tightest steepest chute a meadow) which was deep and lightly tracked but a little scratchy in the final chute. The fan underneath was awesome deep snow and then I cut across to Spinal Tap which skied ok in soft snow in the upper parts and a firm base taking an edge in the lower creek bed.

Last run was of course Skydive which skied just as well as it had just before lunch and five of us got there to enjoy it. As there was no line up we went to the Griz Bar and had a good evening arguing about the day's skiing. Best news was that the snow which had started late in the day continued with stormy winds and as I type it is still puking down outside. We already have enough accumulation to make tomorrow good and if this keeps up to the forecast 12 cms we could be in for an awesome day - better get an early night.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Day 79 getting colder

On the way to the hill this morning it was -11 and on the way back it was -6. In between temps rose so that it got to about -2 at the base and -4 up the mountain. The day started overcast and we even had some flurries from low cloud in the morning giving a very minor accumulation but as the day wore on things cleared and by the end of the day it was quite sunny Overall everything on the hill stayed frozen all day with no sign of softening either from direct sunlight or atmospheric warming.

Overnight the hill was not claiming any new snow but when we got there it seemed to me that there had been a very light covering (perhaps 2 cms) so maybe that happened after the early morning measurement. The new snow did seem to have a very slight freshening effect although for the most part things were as they have been for the past two days - tracked up powder up high (if you knew where to look) and slightly chunky but ok snow lower down. In areas of high skier traffic it had become fairly hard packed with some icy patches but for the most part taking a nice edge.

We decided to have a New Side day and after a few loops through White Pass which was soft snow in places we spent the rest of the morning looping Currie Bowl/Reverse Traverse. Alpha Centauri and Concussion both skied soft to about half way down and then became firm bumps. Cougar Glades were surprisingly soft in the trees and so much so that I took the left chute exit which is now fully filled in and ok skiing with a few technical bits. Decline skied very easily all the way down and even the final pitch was soft mellow snow. High Saddle was a little more worn out than a couple of days ago but was still ok edge to edge jumping with only a couple of really icy turns in the middle. The pitch below the chute was soft snow even in the flat light and the exit through Easter and Freeway was well on the right side of acceptable. Final run before lunch was Stag Leap and we really struck gold as this was lightly tracked soft powder in the top and ok soft snow in the final pitch. Just for fun we hit the skier cross course on our way to base and it was, well, fun.

After lunch we went back to Stag Leap and found it just as good as before but of course with our expectations raised it just didn't seem that way. None the less it was a really good way for Lynda to finish her day early. We then thought we would try Siberia Ridge and got the best snow of the day. It was good soft snow down to the choke and the choke itself was about as good as usual, in other words scratchy. Below the choke things were very soft and deep and if you held the left side there was untracked powder to be had all the way down.

I took a couple of loops up Polar Peak where Papa Bear and Grand Papa Bear were full of soft bumps and so very mellow skiing. The run to base was Spirit Bear (nice lightly tracked chute skiing) the top of the Brain (still many untracked lines and some deep snow) and Window Chutes where the entrance through the trees was soft and deep and the chute itself ok although rather ribby in both of the chokes. Last run of course was Skydive which, like everything else off the end of the Reverse Traverse was good. There were a few icy patches in the first few turns but for the rest of the run it was soft and easy skiing even in the final pitch - the 4 of us who turned up really enjoyed ourselves.

Tomorrow looks like we could get some snow to go with the weekend crowds. I am looking forward to Monday when things should go back to normal for the first time in what seems like ages.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Day 78 no new snow but still ok

As the heading says we had no new snow over night but the conditions on the hill remain pretty good. This is particularly true of the lower hill where it might have been expected that the soft snow of a few days ago would have turned ugly but although it is firm and chunky it is still definitely on the right side of ok.

No new snow today and the temp on the way to the hill was -6. Today we didn't have the entertainment of yesterday on our drive along the highway (which I forgot to mention) of a moose wandering around - we did see a squirrel but to be honest it's not quite the same thing. During the day we had cloud but with sunny spells particularly early and late in the day. The result was that tings warmed up to around zero at the base (maybe a little warmer in the direct sunlight) but remained cool up the hill with White Pass load showing -4 just before close and the temp on my deck as I type this is -3 and falling.

The effect on conditions was that nothing much changed from yesterday. The upper mountain snow stayed in very good shape and the lower parts were ok. Even the south facing slopes didn't get sun on them for long enough for it to have any great effect.

As promised we went to the Old Side and spent a morning looping around trying to find some untracked snow. Sun Up and the chutes to the skiers left of China Wall were hard packed but taking a nice edge. Bear Cave Chutes and New Lift Line had some untracked snow if you cut the trees very close but were mostly tracked powder. Kangaroo which we skied 4 times was in remarkably good shape being hard bumps in the top and chunky snow in the bottom. Boom Ridge was firm bumps but with some areas of untracked snow as was Boomerang itself which we used every lap to return to the Bear Chair via the Goat Trail. Cedar Ridge skied very easily every time with lots of untracked lines in the top but some harder chunky snow low down.

The first of two long loops we took was to Snake Ridge which had great soft untracked lines in the top (but watch out for the death cookies) becoming hard pack which was taking a nice edge lower down and in to Gorby Gap. The second loop was Gorby Bowl itself which had lots of soft deep untracked snow although you had to pick your line. The exit over the waterfall was the usual left right shuffle (which I wasn't sure was going to be there when I dropped in) which was in as good a shape as I have ever seen it but can be easily missed if you don't pay attention.

After a fairly late lunch we went to the New Side and tried a loop through White Pass which in my case meant taking the High IT which was not too rocky and dropping Fraid Knot which was soft and deep as was the run out through the I Bowl. I looped out to Touque chutes and Spinal Tap and found them both heavily tracked but soft snow even if it was a bit chunky. Lower down in the creek bed things became a bit crisp but nothing to get excited about. Polar Peak was open so up we went although Lynda stuck to the Coaster which she said was very nice and I had a couple of runs through Grand Papa and Papa Bear which were both soft bumps but with some soft blow in.

Having linked up with my buddy Brad we had a final drop of Papa Bear and the hit Concussion (each with our own version of where that was) and found the snow slightly firm tracked powder but taking an easy edge all the way down the bowl. Skier traffic had much improved Gilmar Gully which was firm bumps. Last run of course was Skydive which was a little icy between to bumps at the top but then became nice and soft until about half way down the final pitch were it all became a bit scratchy.

A few OJ and sodas in the bar and now we are off to the pub for dinner. They are talking of some snow over the weekend and in my view it would only take about 5 cms to bring the hill back to a very nice state indeed.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Day 77 better than I expected

So, why were things better than I expected today. Well, avid readers may remember that last run yesterday the lower pitch of Skydive had got decidedly soft as had all of the hill at a similar level. My fear was that in the cooler conditions (it was -6 on the way to the hill today) the lower hill would at best be crusty and at worst refrozen crud. In the event the colder air seemed to have dried out the snow so what we had was rather chunky and quite hard work but by no means a difficult skiing surface. This meant that top to bottom runs overall could be classified as good today despite the fact that we had no new snow over night.

It started as a bluebird day, so much so that the opening of the upper hill was delayed due to heli bombing all the ridge lines which was kind of cool to watch as a curtain raiser to the day. Temps rose quite quickly so that we had slightly plus temps at the base during the day and a couple of degrees below freezing all over the rest of the hill. Things might have been different if it had remained bluebird but it did not. By mid morning the weather had clouded over and stayed that way with the odd sunny break all day keeping the direct sunlight off the hill and making sure that the snow did not soften even lower down. It looks like softening will not be much of an issue tomorow for as we drove away from the hill it was -1 and looks like we will be seeing a temp of -8 overnight even here in the valley.

I had a rather subdued day as I was helping to get Lynda back into the skiing groove. She has been away for about 4 weeks and when you add that to all the family issues she has had to deal with plus a bout of the Fernie Flu it was not surprising that she was having trouble getting her head back into skiing. I am pleased to say that by mid afternoon when she left the hill she was more or less back to normal.

We started on White Pass and did several White Pass loops of Highline, Heartland, Quite Right, Gun Bowl, Pillow Talk etc and found them all good tracked powder and very nice skiing. We then moved on the Currie Bowl where Lynda stuck to Alpha Centauri and Concussion. I hit Concussion which was tracked powder down to the Gilmar Trail and then Gilmar Gully which was hard packed but taking a nice edge.

I then had three loops all the same which is quite unusual for me. High Saddle which was ok all the way down with only one or two icy turns in the middle of the chute. Below the Saddle it was soft deep snow which was only lightly tracked. The exit was through Easter (chunky deep snow) and Freeway which was hard pack - a special mention to the a--hole who dropped an empty beer can in Freeway which I recovered. If you are reading this (if you can read) do us all a favour, pack up your bags, get off the hill and never come back. Last loop before lunch was Alpha Centauri with Lynda and it was still skiing soft all the way down.

After lunch we looped White Pass a few times and then had a final run (for Lynda) down Alpha Centauri which was just as good as before. Left to my own devices I went of Polar Peak which had rather variable viz which came and went but some nice wind sift that had blown in particularly in Papa Bear although Grand Papa was also pretty good. We took a run down Spirit Bear which was a bit varied and encouraged by my runs down High Saddle in the morning we tried our luck in Low Saddle. The chute was pretty sketchy with rocks and ice sheets that we had to slither through before cutting right and getting some good untracked skiing. Easter and Freeway were still in good shape on the exit.

Last run was Skydive which was very mellow down to the final pitch and not all that bad even then in the chunky snow. The lower mountain was so good that I have decided to give the Old Side try tomorrow relying on the fact that the snow will be in good shape no matter how low down we go.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Day 76 more snow

Overnight we had another 23 cms of fresh bringing the three day total to around 60 cms. Whilst some of the big dumps my grab the headlines, this steady accumulation is actually what gives us a good ski base and day after day of good powder skiing with pretty well all of the hill open.

We got to the hill to find the holiday crowds had been swelled by the 20 centimeter crowd (in Fernie if it snows more than 20 cms overnight no one is expected to go into work - they go skiing instead) so things were a bit of a gong show. We though yesterday was the warmest point of the current weather cycle but we were wrong, today was. It was zero on the way to the hill and +1 driving back. During the day the base temps rose to +4 and even at the Polar load early afternoon I noticed it was about +1. Luckily it was overcast so with no direct sun light the snow was not badly affected and stayed in pretty good shape higher up and even lower down it was a bit mashed potato but nothing too serious. There was also some low cloud/fog which came and went although for the most part viz was a bit flat but ok.

Just like the last few days we went to the New Side with a view to getting as high as possible where we thought the snow would be best. Currie bowl wasn't open but Anaconda was so we dropped in and found only one track in front and it was very good. Bootleg Glades were also good so I hit the near side chutes and also found only one track in there as well. It was all great powder skiing.

Next loop up we lined up for the fence drop on the Currie bowl in full Chinese Downhill style. I had word that the Reverse Traverse wasn't open so I dropped 1-2-3s and got untracked lines. Actually I drooped 1, traversed 2 and dropped the far side of 3 which was all good powder. The run to base was via the trees to the right of Bootleg and the left Diamond Back which I don't think have a name. There was a bit of cat debris in the top but once through that there was seriously steep untracked tree skiing all the way down to Gilmar Trail.

Next loop Timber Chair broke down with us on it. We were slowly run to the top and then looking back we could see the chair had stopped. I was told at the top of White Pass it was only going to be a 15 minute problem so I ran to base through Skydive which was tracked but deep soft snow. Actually the break down lasted for over 2 hours with regular updates telling us it was only going to be 30 minutes - not good customer communications. I went to the Old Side and did a couple of Boomerang/Boom Ridge loops which were all soft deep tracked snow. Having been told that Timber was running I went back only to find it wasn't - I went for an early lunch.

As I came out after lunch I was told that Timber would be down for at least another half hour but when I got to the lift they opened the gate and I was on the first chair up. I headed to Polar Peak which I knew had been opened and had been looped by about a dozen lucky bunnies who had been "stuck" up there when the Timber Chair had broken down. Actually things worked out ok as the snow on Polar had been pretty slabby and wind affected so the little skier traffic that had taken place had broken it up into soft deep snow rather nicely.

The afternoon was spent looping Polar Peak (Shale Slope, Grand Papa Bear and Papa Bear several times) and all the chutes were soft deep broken up wind slab higher up and some interesting and rather slabby powder lower down. I had intended to run to base through Mama Bear and Lone Fir but when I got to the top of Cornice Chute it was totally untracked and I couldn't resist but to drop it and track out to the Big 3. I ran down the Brian which had huge untracked areas and although a bit heavy lower down took it all the way to the cat track.

I went back up Polar for a few more loops and it was still skiing soft and deep so I did one more drop through Spirit Bear which was hardly tracked and Concussion which was tracked up but soft. Last run of course was Skydive which was nice and soft down to the last pitch where it got quite heavy but nothing too bad.

So in summary a pretty good day with temps just a bit higher than ideal and of course a load of unwelcome lift issues. The forecast is for cooling temps and a few flurries over the next day or two. looking out a bit further it looks like we will get some serious snow next week with temps staying well below zero so all in all I am pretty optimistic.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Day 75 things just keep getting better

We were a bit confused when we woke this morning as the hill was claiming 17 cms of fresh snow in the last 24 hours but looking at our drive we didn't seem to have anything like that much. When we got to the hill we were delighted to find that the hill had got a lot more snow than the town and during the day it continued. The result was another good powder day with the hard ice and crust really getting a good covering.

On the way to the hill it was around zero and at the base day time highs got to around +3 before falling back to zero as we drove away in the evening. Up the hill I noticed it was -2 at the White Pass load even at the warmest part of the day. It was overcast and snowing most of the day and I guess we got at least another 5 cms while the lifts were turning. This was supposed to be the warmest part of the current weather cycle and there was very real danger that the precip would be coming down as rain at the base for at least some of the day. In the event we just about dodged the bullet and although the snow got very wet by mid afternoon it did come down white (just) all over the hill all day. Things are now on a cooling trend and the forecast snow (of which there is a fair bit over the next week) should be more like the usual Fernie powder.

Just like yesterday I went straight to the New Side on the basis that the snow would be best at the highest point in the system. In fact today played out very much like yesterday even down to me skiing through lunch to avoid the crowds for Alberta Family day/week which should be somewhat reduced from now on. Polar Peak wasn't open due to the poor viz and as the day wore on the cloud line descended until it was well below White Pass top and skiing was very white indeed until things lifted a bit towards the end of the day.

Everywhere was good with new snow on yesterdays new snow and a steady accumulation during the day. This is a summary of how my day played out -
Decline - we grabbed first tracks as there were already a couple in Skydive. Great soft untracked powder all the way down getting a little heavy at the base.
Cougar Glades - plenty of untracked lines and for only the second time this year there was enough snow to go past the Megasauraus and pick up the old disused logging trail that spits you out at the base of Stag Leap. Great untracked skiing.
Touque Chutes/Spinal Tap - a bit disappointing due to the number of tracks already in there. The snow was soft and deep.
High Saddle - it was still ok but with a couple of icy jump turns in the mid chute area. Below the chute it was soft deep powder with plenty on untracked lines. The exit through Easter and Freeway was soft snow on a firm base
Lone Fir - I had to cut trail across the top of Cornice Chute and Lone Fir was lightly tracked and soft. The fan below was awesome with really deep untracked lines and the exit through Easter and Freeway was as before.
Triple Trees - like yesterday I had taken the high IT to Gotta Go only to find it still closed, apparently it's still pretty ugly lower down. As a consolation I dropped on to the Idiot Traverse in super deep untracked snow and then hit all 4 sections of Triple Trees (no, I don't understand either) right down to where you drop on to Summer Road under the Timber Chair. It was really great and mostly untracked, the only issue was bit of dead fall in the final pitch but it was way better than the only other time I skied it early season.
The Brain - there were a few tracks in the top section but plenty of untracked lines. Most of the tracks disappeared when I cut right into the lower section which had soft snow on a firm base and was so good I could stay in the trees all the way down to the cat track at the bottom of Skydive.
Nameless Trees - these are the trees to the right of Skydive that you enter as if you are dropping into Stag Leap but stay a bit left. Great mostly untracked skiing which I took all the way down to the clearing and creek bed. The bed was chopped up where the traffic had funneled and after a few turns I cut right with the intention of bailing. When I looked below me the tree skiing just looked so good and untracked that I had to take it and ended up coming out on to Stag Leap almost at the bottom, a new line and very good indeed.
Decline/Window Chutes - as the Window Chutes were about the only part of that whole area I hadn't skied I gave it a go. Decline was getting quite soft and chunky so you could keep your skies in the fall line for much longer than usual on the way down. The trees above Window Chutes were deep and untracked and the chute itself had a few tracks in but skied ok although getting very heavy in the final few turns.
Skydive - of course last run had to be Skydive and for most of the run it was easy tracked powder where you could just let things rip. The final pitch had got very heavy and was quite hard work to push around the wet snow, particularly for last run of the day.

After a few OJ and sodas in the Griz we have come home for a quiet night. The good news is that we should now be on a cooling trend so the risk of the R word is going away. The even better news is that it has been puking snow all evening and doesn't show any signs of stopping so tomorrow could be better still - fingers crossed.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Day 74 the return of powder skiing

Overnight we had 12 cms of new snow and although it fell with a fairly high moisture content it was not heavy or mushy but actually full on powder which has to be good news.

On the way to the hill it was +1 and stayed that way most of the time during the day at the base so we had a base that was getting softer all day but without actually getting slushy. Up the mountain I noticed it hung in at about -1 most of the day at the White Pass load. The result was that the new snow on top of yesterday's hard ice base gave ok skiing with a hard base underneath but as you came lower down on the hill (about the Megasauraus Trail level on the New Side) yesterdays breakable crust gave a soft skiing surface under the new snow making for a very easy soft powder experience from mid mountain to the base.

Conditions were overcast all day and around noon it started to snow with wet heavy snow mid mountain and slightly lighter stuff on top. This kept up most of the afternoon with an accumulation which may have been about 4 cms which helped the overall conditions. Later in the afternoon it brightened up but at no time did we have the sunny conditions of the past few days.

We went to the New Side and as expected Polar Peak was not open. We had a quick loop of White Pass and the found Currie Bowl open. I hit the Reverse Traverse all day without a break (not even for lunch) and was able to get a good number of laps in despite the holiday crowds by taking the single lines all day. A summary of the runs which may be a bit faulty as I have had a drinking evening this evening was as follows -
Decline - I looked in to Skydive and saw two tracks so I hit Decline untracked. It was good skiing in the top and very good lower down as the crust broke up under the new snow.
High Saddle/Spinal Tap - nice turns in the saddle with only one icy patch in the middle. Spinal Tap was soft snow on crust untracked all the way down.
Cougar Glades/Stag Leap - as always unracked lines to be found in the chutes in Cougar and ok skiing in Stag, getting very soft in the last few turns.
Lone Fir - not bad in the chute but a bit hard in the fan. Ok in the exit down to Easter and Freeway, watch out for 3 ft high avi debris in Easter.
The Brain/ Window Chutes - both had good soft untracked lines on a crusty base.
Skydive -it suddenly occurred to me that I only ski Skydive at the nd of the day so I tried it in the afternoon and it was ok with soft snow on hard base all the way down.
Stag Leap - on much the same basis as Skydive I hit Stag Leap from the top and it was good and deep all the way down.
Gotta Go - well. I tried for it. The high IT was in the best shape this year so I went out to try for Gotta Go but found it closed. This didn't make a whole lot of sense to me but rules are rules so I looped back to White Pass via Simon's Crack.
Touque Chutes/ Spinal Tap - really good soft skiing in the chutes and Spinal Tap much the same as before.
Low Saddle- on a whim I hit the Low Saddle which was way less icy than I anticipated. I cut right and the chutes were untracked which wasn't bad for 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The exit through Easter and Freeway was also pretty ok.
Jim - I just had time for a quick loop in White Pass and as the high IT was in such good shape I hit out across the top of the chutes and dropped Jim which actually skied ok if a bit technical in the tight section.

Last run of course was Skydive and although  was on my own and had skied without a break of any kind since 9 I hit it top to bottom in one and it was very good soft skiing on a firm base. A great way to end the day.

After a full on day like this I decided today was a beer day ( I have one very couple of weeks or so) and had a good session in the Griz. Tonight is a farewell party for one of my Irish buddies so things could yet get even further out of control.