Saturday, March 11, 2017

Day 94 spring skiing

So I guess all of you must be asking how come we have spring skiing when temps on the way to the hill were -11 and the upper mountain forecast temp was -10. The reason is that over the past couple of days there has been a battle of wills between the forecasters and reality. An inversion has existed for the last 48 hours meaning that up the mountain temps are a good 10/15 degrees warmer than at the base. The forecasters have refused to accept this presumably because their computer models say something else (to be fair they at now coming round to accept the situation) and have been confidently predicting cold temps up the hill. This leads to the rather odd situation at White Pass load today where the white board stated that the upper mountain temp would be -10 and this was standing along side a thermometer saying quite clearly the temp was +3. I guess sooner or later either the forecasters will accept reality and start dealing with the inversion or reality will accept that it has been wrong and start doing what the forecasters say it should do.

Yesterday's grauppel showers had produced 8 cms of snow in 24 hours but only 1 cm over night. On the way to the hill it was -11 and overcast with viz actually socked in at White Pass top. The inversion meant that up the hill we had plus temps and as the day wore on the viz line rose and all skiing surfaces softened quite a lot. During the afternoon we had some precip that fell as rain low down and wet snow up high suggesting the inversion was dissipating. Unfortunately that dissipation seemed to be a case of the warm air moving all the way down the mountain and displacing the cold air rather than vice versa. Driving away from the hill it was +2 and on the deck a moment ago it was +1.

As anticipated there were large Saturday crowds, no doubt inspired by the awesome week of skiing that we have just had. We also had a new guest with us on his first day so what with one thing and another we put rather less snow under our skis today than we would have done on a normal ski day.

We started on Cougar Glades which were ok and soft with a transition line just before the exit. Next was Tight Knot/Anaconda/Diamond Leg Trees all of which were soft and easy skiing and just above the crud line. Decline was next on the agenda and it skied very soft and mellow in the top becoming a little crusty about half way down the final pitch. We then tried Gotta Go which was just a little scratchy in the choke but the snow underneath was so soft you could just ignore it and straight line through. Last run before a late lunch was to drop High Saddle which was open for the first time in two days as Corner Pocket had already been trashed by side slippers. The chute was ok and the snow underneath was soft and deep although the light was a bit flat. We then hit across to Spinal Tap which was very soft and gave the first indication that the hill was starting to turn to spring mush.

After lunch things started to go wrong. It started raining and Timber Chair broke down. We cut across to the Old Side only to be told that Timber was back up so we had a very slushy and slow motion drop of Sunny Side. I linked up with some buddies who had never skied the Brian so I took them in. - big mistake. it was ok down to the Megasauraus but after that it turned to pure elephant snot and was hard work to jump turns through the trees. We bailed just before the end in Skydive and no one could blame us.

This only gave me time for a quick hike up to Mitchy's chutes which were ok and soft before finishing on Skydive. We just about made it down Skydive in one with the snow getting heavier all the way down. The line up to get into the Griz was just stupid long so we went to our usual Saturday evening haunt at the Kodiak Lounge down town and had a very pleasant time.

Tonight's forecast is calling for up to 18 cms of snow but who knows. If the hill cools down and the surfaces freeze we will certainly need the new snow as other wise the conditions will be very ugly refrozen crud. On the other hand if things stay warm we may get the precip as rain and then who knows what we will be facing tomorrow. Watch this space to find out.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Day 93 now that's what I call an inversion

Today was a day of weird weather so that will be my main topic for tonight. It snowed hard all night and we fully expected to see and overnight snowfall figure of at least 25 cms so we were very surprised to see and accumulation of only 14 cms. On the way to the hill temps were -15 confirming to us that the snow should be light and fluffy and if anything even deeper than our original estimate. On our first chair up Timber all became clear.

The temps at the base and all the way up the hill was -15. After we passed the White Pass load and before we got to Timber top we hit and inversion line which felt like we had entered a sauna all in the space of about 50 vertical feet. There is no thermometer at the Timber top so I can't be certain of the temperature but as the inversion line drifted down the hill during the day the thermometer at White Pass load went from -16 to zero which I guess is a as good a measure of the inversion as we are going to get.

This of course explained the riddle of the snow. It was in fact snow falling from a very warm cloud with a high moisture content (13 mm of water in the 14 cms of snow) so the snow was heavy and compacted well beyond what you would expect from the cold valley temps. As the day wore on it continued to snow hard with low density snow giving us a significant accumulation and even in the afternoon as things eased off we had repeated grauppel showers.

The resulting skiing surface was quite heavy jersey cream powder on the upper mountain becoming more normal powder lower down - a complete reversal of the usual situation. The accumulating snow filled in and added to the powder and the grauppel gave a fairly grippy feel to the snow even where it was untracked, The conditions were overcast with poor viz above the inversion transition so we had no Polar Peak and even the top of White Pass was a bit of a challenge at times.

We did a White Pass loop and had Surprise Trees untracked on the right shoulder in the heavy powder. With Currie close we did a Knot Chute/Triple Trees run all the way down which had many deep untracked lines. As Currie Bowl had been closed  we lined up for the fence drop which was the usual mad race. Everyone seemed intent on hitting the Big 3 today so I dropped down a little early and grabbed first tracks in Cougar Glades which were awesome with the main problem being beating your own slough on the exit.

After that we spent the day looping around the New Side getting great deep powder. In no particular order we had great runs in Lone Fir, Cougar Glades (again) The Brain, Nameless Trees, Decline, Window Chutes, Touque Chutes, Spinal Tap, Gotta Go, Cobra Rock, Anaconda and Diamond Leg Trees. As I said all were awesome with many untracked lines with the best snow being under Gotta Go and the only disappointment being Cobra Rock which despite all the snow remains scratchy on the exit.

We needed a quick White Pass loop at the end and so hit Slim in the Knot Chutes which was amazingly deep and Surprise Trees that were still pretty good. Last run of course was Skydive which had some variable surfaces on the way down but over all was soft and deep.

It was another good evening in the Griz Bar with everybody pumped by the conditions. The main worry is that today's conditions were not in any of the forecast so if the forecasting models are so wrong what chance of anything else that is being called for turning out to be correct. We are very worried with some major warm ups in the outlook and some precip things could go very wrong in the not too distant future despite the valley temps of -7 as we drove away from the hill.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Day 92 yet another great powder day

Overnight they were reporting 13 cms of new snow and it is a sign of the times that this amount which would usually be cause for great excitement was in fact considered rather disappointing. On the way to the hill temps were -11 and on the way back tonight -10. Temps at the base rose to about -4 in the early afternoon but up at the White Pass load it stayed at about -8 every time I passed through. In other words the snow stayed light and dry all day.

The new snow on top of about 100 cms in the past 7 days made for a super soft deep skiing base and the few people on the hill meant that there were plenty of untracked lines to be had. The day started with hazy sunshine through a high cloud base but as the day wore on it got more overcast and cloudy so that by the afternoon we were getting the usual flurry activity with some minor accumulation. By the evening the snow had set in and it looks like we are set for another dump over night in windy conditions.

We were faced with a dilemma, as they had heli bombed last evening when it cleared so the whole hill was available. We had to choose between the Old Side where Snake Ridge and beyond had been closed from the top yesterday and the New Side where the slide at the top of Currie Bowl had close the top of that bowl all of yesterday afternoon and the Saddles had been closed all day - yes, I know, real first world problems. In the end the New Side won.

We hit Low Saddle which was skiing easy and the right hand cut into the chutes found the snow super deep and untracked. Next loop up we went up Polar Peak and that set the pattern for the day - we did a series of Currie loops but always first hitting Polar Peak - Papa, Grand Papa, Mama and Spirit Bear were all good in the top and very deep lower down.

The rest of the morning was spent in Concussion, Cougar Glades, Low Saddle (again), Spinal Tap, Decline, Window Chutes and Stag Leap, all with a hitch up Polar. The snow was soft and deep everywhere we went and lightly tracked and so we had some great skiing as a result.

After a late lunch I went back to the New Side with only time for a couple of full loops. I tried The Brain which was good in the top and untracked by the time I got to the final pitch which I held all the way to the cat track at the foot of Skydive. As the trees were so good I tried Nameless Trees which if anything were better than The Brain and despite a board slide down the middle of the creek it skied fantastically well with about 20 edge to edge jumps to get through the creek to where the deadfall produced a whole new set of challenges. A really good deep powder run.

We had time for a quick White Pass loop and so dropped a very deep and soft Tight Knot before hitting Anaconda Glades about half way along which were very lightly tracked and deep. The long skate back round Trespass Trail almost made us late for last chair but we just made it and headed for Skydive. The final rip down Skydive was predictably awesome getting better and softer as we went down

With the base having risen to 302 cms we were ready for the 3 metre party and so had a few drinks (OJs and sodas) to celebrate in the Griz Bar. The snow is still falling outside and the wind is starting to move things towards blizzard conditions. We are hoping for another 20 cms tonight with more to come tomorrow, fingers crossed.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Day 91 have I died and gone to heaven

The only explanation I can think of for the awesome conditions that we are getting here day after day is that I have died without realising it just like in the movie (spoiler alert) 6th Sense and I am now in heaven getting my just reward for a life spent in clean living. On the other hand it may just be the Fernie factor which is producing some of the best ski days I have ever had and when strung together what certainly makes the best ski week ever.

Last night they were reporting 14 cms of fresh snow and between the reading and us getting to the hill I guess the figure rose to nearer 20 cms. It was -7 on the way to the hill and overcast with light snow. That soon changed as the snow went from light to very very heavy and stayed that way all morning. At times it was difficult to see more than about 20 metres in front of you because the snow was so thick. Things brightened up in the afternoon and by close it was almost a bluebird day and temps as we drove away were -3. Throughout the day the snow was just awesome with tracks filling in faster than you could ski them and not a particularly large number of people on the hill.

We went to the New Side and were amazed to find Currie bowl open straight away and the Reverse Traverse was also available although the Saddles were closed - they opened and then closed pretty quickly during the day. We worked our way out to the Big 3 and Lynda and I put first tracks down Skydive and then looped back for untracked lines in Cougar Glades, this was all super deep powder, on powder, on powder. We hit Knot Chutes and Anaconda before looping back for Knots chutes and Triple Trees, all good and deep.

Polar Peak opened in very poor viz but as the light came and went we dived in for runs on Papa and Grand Papa Bear where the snow was good and the top and totally awesome in the lower sections with continuous face shots. We continued to loop out along the Reverse Traverse hitting The Brain, Window Chutes, Decline, Touque Chutes, Spinal Tap, Cougar Glades (again) and Easter Bowl. On what proved to be our last loop the guy in front of me was taken out by a slide crossing the traverse just above Down Right and I miss the slide but blew a ski off in the debris it created. After that Currie was closed for the rest of the day at White Pass Top.

We started to alternate Gotta Go/Diamond Leg trees with Knot Chutes/Triple Trees. the snow was all deep with tracks filled in but the best and deepest snow was in Gotta Go (or at least just below the chute) which we hit three times. It was soon time for last run and with Currie closed Skydive wasn't and option. Actually it turns out it was as The Niche was open and you could have traversed hard under that and got to the Big 3, it was just that I didn't think of it at the time. This is the problem when someone switches off the auto pilot on the hill.

I decided to have White Rabbit as the last run and this was a good call. The snow was unbelievably deep all the way down the creek bed a the few tracks that there were drifted off to the left and right so from half way down there was only one other track in there. As this was my third time in there in 4 days I was starting to get some feel of where I was going and managed to put together a fairly well linked run which was way better than the first time I tried it a few days ago. A great way to finish.

In the bar we had unofficial word that the base had passed the 3 metre level and all we need now is official confirmation for the party to begin. More snow forecast tonight, yes, perhaps this is heaven.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Day 90 a shorter day than usual

The reason today was a bit shorter than usual was that I had to drop a long stay guest at Cranbrook airport this morning at 9 so it was 10:30 before I got back to the hill and got skiing. In the event this was not so bad as Timber chair had it's usual powder day break down as soon as the first few chairs were loaded and it was not back up and running until about 10 minutes before I hit the hill. This meant that my mid morning start on the New Side was rather like an early morning start as far as the untracked powder was concerned.

Overnight they were giving  20 cms in the last 24 hours with about 10 of that arriving overnight. Temps at the start were - 5 at the base and -2 at the finish with the temps at White Pass load staying at -5/7 all day. In other words the overnight snow stayed in great shape.

It was overcast when I arrived and the top of the hill was fairly well socked in with not great viz on Polar Peak. During the day we had flurries which were quite strong and times and must have given us a few cms of accumulation before things started to clear in the afternoon. As I said I went to the New Side and stayed there all day.

In order to meet up with Lynda I had to do a quick White Pass loop which I did as the Tight Knot and then down into the I bowl which was all deep and lightly tracked, more or less untracked in the chute.
We went up Polar where the sign on Shale Slope was flipped just as I got there. The upper part of Shale was awesome and untracked but it was hard and icy lower down even in the right hand chute. We had a few laps of Papa and Grand Papa Bear before running off through Spirit Bear where the snow was deep but slabbing quite badly.

I had intended to hit Low Saddle but got too low and had a very mellow run down Stag Leap which was soft and had untracked lines still left. Next loop we had a few more runs in Polar which was getting better with the improving viz and where the snow remained super deep and soft in the main chutes all day. We then finally made it to Low Saddle and it was so worth while. The Saddle skied very easily with no ice or rocks and the chutes to the right had untracked lines in very deep powder. We exited via Spinal Tap which was tracked but skiing about as well as I have ever seen it in the soft snow. It was so good we went back and did Low Saddle again and the chutes were still untracked if you picked a slightly different line. This time we exited to lunch through Easter Trees left and Freeway which both skied very nicely.

After a late lunch we took the High IT out to Gotta Go which had a few tracks in so we jumped the shoulder in to Google earth and had deep untracked skiing into the top of 3's which itself was soft deep snow. I hit the near trees in Bootleg Glades which I have been ignoring this season and found them untracked and deep. A few days ago my buddy Brad and I got hung up on the exit from Diseased Trees and Brad went back and found a better line. Today we tried his better line which was to hit hard left and emerge in tight cut line which was great untracked skiing in deep snow . Someone told me this is called "Little Africa" but I can't find any confirmation on this. When we looked up from the cut line we thought we could see better ways into the cut so this is something we may need to work on over the next few days. Full of confidence we went back to Siberia Ridge and dropped the choke on the left hand side which is something you can't always do. I then took the lead for White Rabbit (the trees to the right of the choke) and followed a creek bed with only one track ahead of us  so we had super deep untracked lines. It all got a bit technical lower down but I think I have spotted some better lines to try just before it spits us out a the bottom of Falling Star - more work in progress.

Last run of course was Skydive which Brad and I agreed to take easy, an agreement that lasted to about half way down the first pitch. Just to show how easy things were I skied some of the lower pitch on one leg - of course some people may think that I nearly lost it and had to pull things back by the skin of my teeth. An awesome finish to a good day.

Just off to the Pub for wings night which we must finish early as it looks like we are getting another 15/20 cms over night and loads more to come.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Day 89 yet another good day's skiing

Overnight they were only calling for 13 cms of new snow (the fact I use the adjective "only" indicates just where we are this season) and the temps had fallen so that on the way to the hill it was -5. During the day temps rose to around zero at the base but stayed well below that up the hill so the snow stayed in great shape all day.

It was overcast all day and snowed to a greater or lesser extent all day until late afternoon when we got a sudden an unexpected clearing of conditions in the last hour of skiing. I would imagine there was an accumulation of around 5cms which when added to the overnight snow gave great skiing conditions. The base was recorded at 287 cms but with the new snow we must be getting close to the 3 metre party. This being a mid week Monday there was hardly anyone on the hill.

We went to the Old Side first. Unfortunately as today was my Irish buddy's final day skiing I had a few beers in the bar (my first for 8 days) so my recollection of what we skied is a bit hazy. I skied all day without a break and my recollection is as follows but there may be a few mistakes -
Snake Ridge/ KC Chutes - all untracked and very soft and deep face shots all the way down
Gorby Bowl - even softer and deeper than Snake, awesome face shots.
Boom Ridge - super deep untracked powder on the ridge by Linda's run which meant only a couple of turns all the way down. Trees to the right of the ridge in the lower section were deep and hardly tracked
Steep and Deep - we hit the mid line which was untracked and then rolled the drop into the left hand chute which was super mellow.

All exits were through Kangaroo which was skiing very soft and mellow, We also used Boom or Bear Chutes which were also very easy soft deep skiing. We headed to the New Side.

Anaconda/Diamond Leg trees -  really deep and untracked in the far Anaconda chutes and the trees as awesome as ever.

I'm afraid I can't remember everything else but I did hit all the tight Knot Far chutes (Slim, Thin and Jim) and they were all awesome. other runs that were absolutely fantastic were Triple Trees, Gotta Go, Cougar Glades and Spinal Tap. Polar Peak had been open in very poor viz and I had skied Papa Bear which was actually rather better viz than you would have expected and totally awesome and deep snow conditions.

Towards the end of the day the skies cleared a little and I went up Polar and hit Spirit Bear which had not been skied much, of at all day - fantastic deep untracked snow all the way down. I hit Low Saddle which against all odds was skiing ok with no ice or rocks, After the right cut into the chutes the skiing was about as good as it gets with deep untracked lines, A cut across Easter Bowl to Spinal Tap which was soft and lightly tracked was a great finish to a great run.

Last run down Skydive was good and fast with Brad, me and Paul all finishing the rip about at the same time (ok I was a turn behind) making for one of the best run offs of the season. More snow forecast so another early night for me.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day 88 a brief report

Tonight's report will be brief as a couple of friends of ours (Dan and Ruth) are having a farewell dinner for our long term (6 weeks) guest from Ireland (Simon) who's last day on the hill will be tomorrow. We also spent quiet a long time in the Griz bar with a big Sunday night crowd as everyone was pumped by the days skiing.

I will focus on the conditions. The cold spell arrived at last but nowhere near as cold as had been forecast and it was -2 on the way to the hill. We had a dusting of snow overnight although the hill reported a zero snowfall figure. Conditions were overcast all day and base temps got to about -1 while up at the White Pass load it stayed in the -6/-4 range all day. Driving away tonight it was -2 and is forecast to get a lot cooler overnight but on past experience I only expect a few degrees drop in the temp from where we are.

It started snowing with light snow as we arrived at the hill and stayed that way all morning. Around lunch time the snow almost stopped and for a few moments it looks like we might actually get a sunny break. In the event the snow returned must harder and at about 3 in the afternoon we were hit with a weather cell which gave us the heaviest snowfall I have ever skied in. Estimates were that the fall rate was in excess of 10 cms and hour and although the cell only lasted for about half an hour the effect when added to the snow we had been getting all day was to give us first tracks all over the hill for the last hours skiing of the day.

The skiing surface was generally good and in the same shape as yesterday having been saved by the cold overnight temps. My impression was that everything was just a little firmer than yesterday but other opinions are available on that point. The crowds were way down from yesterday with no line ups on the New Side where we skied all day. The lack of crowds together with the consistent snow fall and the huge dump late in the day meant that things started pretty good and just got better as the day went on.

As I said not time for details of all the runs but we did the usual New Side loops of Cougar Glades, Decline, The Brain, Spinal Tap, Window Chutes, Touque Chutes etc all of which were soft deep and improving skiing. Polar Peak was a little disappointing as the snow up there was not as soft and deep as I expected although it was by no means hard - we did several loops and run offs.

Special mention has to go to High Saddle which had been closed for the previous three days and we hit it twice. I was soft deep and mellow in the chute and the skiing below was awesome untracked powder. Another special mention must go to two firsts for me. I hit the left hand drop of the choke in Siberia Ridge for the first time ever and negotiated an ok route straight down - things were that good. I also skied White Rabbit for the first time which is a drop off into the trees just to the right of the choke off Siberia Ridge and spits you out somewhere down the bottom of Falling Star. Great tight tree and creek bed skiing which just got a bit technical in the lower section.

Last run was Skydive which was soft and smooth and then drinks. Loads more snow in the forecast.