Saturday, March 25, 2017

Day 108 a full on powder day

As I was saying earlier in the week, just when you think that the season is drawing to a close and the hill has been beaten up beyond recovery by a weather event we get an unexpected turn round and like today have an awesome full on powder day when we least expected it. That is what we all love about living in Fernie.

Overnight the hill was calling 15 cms of new snow and given that it had rained most of the night in town and was +1 on my deck as I had my morning coffee I expected at best some heavy wet elephant snot. As I drove to the hill I noticed that the snow line was very far down, indeed almost at the base and conditions were overcast but the precip had stopped. By the time I had got my boots on in the locker room it was hosing down a wet snow storm at the base which became proper snow almost as soon as we got on the lift. During the day we had repeated graupel storms which had the effect of renewing the skiing surface and repairing some of the lower slopes which were starting to get a bit soft in rising temps.

At no time during the day did the precip at the base come down as anything other than snow/graupel which was a bit surprising given the temps. At the base the temp rose very quickly in the morning to about +5 before falling back around lunch time to +2. At the White Pass load it stayed at or just below zero all day so the snow on the upper mountain stayed in very good shape. Lower down it did look like things were going to soften quite a lot but the repeated coverings in graupel had the effect of keeping the skiing surface in good winter condition.

Saturday is my day of rest as far as treadmill running in the gym goes so it was straight to the hill. We went to the New Side partly because I thought it would be a good idea to get as high as possible and partly because at the weekend the Old Side would have been trashed by the various pay for powder groups who indulge in the immoral practice (in my view) of getting untracked skiing by paying for it rather than working for it. The Griz has away of taking care of those of us who are true to the principles of mountain culture and as we got to the top of the White Pass chair they lifted the fence on Currie Bowl so we skied straight through to claim our reward. That set the pattern for the day which worked out as 10 New Side loops which for the statistically minded comes out as around 34,000 vertical feet of awesome skiing -

Skydive - there were 4 tracks ahead of us at the top of the Big Three but luckily 3 went into Decline and 1 into Stag Leap so Lynda and I had Skydive untracked in 15 cms of fresh snow. We thought it might get a bit claggy lower down but it actually was awesome all the way.
Cougar Glades - there were 2 tracks in front of us so there was plenty of untracked snow in the trees on the left and in the left hand exit chutes, equally awesome.
The Brain - again there were a couple of tracks in the trees but the area is so large that I had untracked skiing all the way down. For a change at the very end I dropped into the creek bed and then worked left to come out at the bottom of Decline. Just a bit of deadfall to negotiate but very good.
Gotta Go - the High IT was in good shape and we were nearly tempted by the Knot Chutes but we pressed on. Gotta Go had a few tracks in so we hopped the left hand shoulder into Google Earth and had great soft untracked skiing where the only problem was to beat your own slough. I exited through Diamond Leg Trees (the trees between Bootleg and Diamond Back) which were mostly untracked and just bit soft and mushy in the final couple of turns.
High Saddle - we had intended to try Lone Fir as the Saddles were closed but as we skied past High Saddle it had just opened so we dropped it and it was as soft and mellow as I can remember. Better still underneath there was soft deep untracked skiing in all the fans and for a change the light was almost ok. We cut across into Spinal Tap which was ok but getting a bit chunky in the final few turns.
Corner Pocket - we had skied past this before assuming it was closed but it wasn't. Like High Saddle the chute skied easy and mellow with no tires showing and the fans were as soft, deep and untracked as before. We exited through Easter which was ok and Freeway which was a bit lumpy.
Low Saddle - after lunch we decided to complete the Saddles with a drop of Low which was easy soft skiing and great untracked lines below after the sharp cut to skiers right. Exit was Easter and Freeway which were as before.
Decline/Window Chutes - although Decline was tracked there was plenty of soft snow and some untracked areas. Windows was untracked through the trees at the top and in the chute itself it was lightly tracked but had a soft surface in the chokes which made them about as mellow as I can remember.
Nameless Trees - these are the trees between Skydive and Stag Leap which don't have a name so I have named them. In the trees there were many untracked lines down to the Megasauraus Trail. In the opening and the creek below there were tracks and I had to work quite hard to stay in the creek bed with about 30 tight turns until I bailed to the left to avoid deadfall. The final few turns to ski out were bit mushy in the trees.
Skydive - in a return to normality we hit Skydive for last run which was obviously rather more tracked up than first run of the day. It was soft in the top but chunked up in the mid section before softening again in the final pitch. An awesome finish to an awesome day.

Tonight there is no significant precip called for and temps on the hill should be -5 or below. I think that tomorrow I will be back in the gym first thing for my daily 10 kms before hitting the hill.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 107 an Old Side day

Yes, it's not often I spend the whole day on the Old Side but today the skiing there was so good that I stayed there right through to the end even though it meant missing the 4 o'clock Skydive rip for the second day running.

Today started more as I had anticipated yesterday would with no new snow overnight and a temp on my deck first thing of -4. By the time I got back from the gym (just for the record the second day of running 10 kms on the treadmill was way more painful than the first) the temps were up to -2 and stayed at that as we drove to the hill. It was overcast and stayed that way all day. Flurries were forecast for the afternoon but they never really materialised so it was just after skiing that the precip started as rain at the base but with the temp as we drove away from the hill +2 it was obvious that up the hill it would be turning to snow quite low down.

We decided to go to the Old Side on the basis that the whole hill would be frozen and with no direct sunlight the hill would soften from the bottom up and the Old Side would give the best skiing. As it turns out this was a totally correct decision for totally the wrong reasons. When we got to the top of Bear we found that the snow at the very top was still soft from yesterday as it had not thawed during the day so the overnight freeze just preserved it. Lower down where there had been skier traffic it was refrozen crud but in the unskied areas it was smooth enough to be ok firm skiing just about taking an edge. The skill was to navigate between the skied areas and find untracked hard snow.

We looped around the Old Side and found that Bear was icy, Boomerang was mostly cruddy but Boom Ridge was nice and smooth as long as you stayed hard skiers left. We did a Cedar Ridge loop which was ok but the drop down Kangaroo was hard icy ugly bumps. About that time we bumped into a buddy and debated what Steep and Deep might be like as the Cedar High Traverse had been closed yesterday. No one was risking going out beyond Snake Ridge but we took the risk and were rewarded. Steep and Deep was more or less untracked but in any event it is such a huge area there were complete faces that remained untracked for most of the day.

That was us for the morning, we just kept looping Steep and Deep and putting tracks down along side our earlier tracks, I don't think anyone else went out there all morning. Exits were through Kangaroo which got progressively softer as the day went on and Boomerang which strangely seemed to stay cruddy in the skied stuff and ok in the unskied all day. The top of Steep and Deep stayed soft powder snow and as the day progressed the harder lower surfaces softened to give awesome skiing taking a nice edge.

After lunch went straight back to the Snake Ridge loops. Every time in the morning we had skied across the top of Snake Main which appeared to be untracked on the left side but we had resisted the temptation to drop it. As Oscar Wilde said "the only way to rid oneself of temptation is to yield to it" so first thing after lunch in we went. It was totally awesome untracked powder skiing all the way down to the Gorby Gap which was also untracked and a very nice softening surface in the rising temp. I noticed that at the Boom load it got to about +2 in the afternoon so I guess it stayed at about zero at the top all day.

Next loop we went back to Steep and Deep and took slightly different lines and found more untracked snow all the way down into the left hand exit chutes. We then chose to stay on the Old Side for the final loop as there was no way that anything could be better on the New and this turned out to be an excellent call. We tried Gorby Bowl and found the upper bowl totally untracked and deep snow. The left/right shuffle through the waterfall was also untracked as was the chute underneath which was by that time soft snow. Once again we were skiing untracked snow at the end of the day.

All exits were through Kangaroo which just got softer all the time and was so mellow by the end of the day that we were taking it in a series of GS turns all the way down which isn't something you can do in the Roo that often. Boomerang stayed quite chunky but did improve a bit by the end of the afternoon. End of the day found us at the top of Boom Chair so we dropped Boom Ridge which was still great soft skiing on the hard skiers left and then hit the trees on the right just above Cedar Trail which were good tree skiing with a couple of hops over deadfall.

I had to curtail our drinks (OJ and soda) in the Griz as a heel binding on the skis failed just as I took them off at the end of the day so I had to get them to Straight Line to be fixed. As always Straight Line fixed everything before they closed so I am back in business for tomorrow. While at the shop we looked at the Griz cam on line and found that there had already been a 7 cm accumulation so it was certainly accumulating up top even if it was coming down as sleet in town. Tomorrow is my rest day from training and it seems to me that an early morning powder start might be in order.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 106 what a nice surprise

Today I decided to shift to my summer routine which for those of you who don't know is to go to the gym each morning and run 10 km on the treadmill in order to get ready for the marathons later in the year. This means that I get to the hill about 45 minutes after first lift but I figured that at this time of the year with the skiing winding down it was no great loss - I was wrong.

Overnight they were calling for 5 cms of fresh but with valley temps of +2 and forecast to go higher I figured that at best we would be getting the same as yesterday with some wet snow on the upper mountain. When I got to the hill I noticed the snow line was about two thirds of the way down the hill. When I got up the New Side for my first run I immediately noticed that the few tracks in Lift Line had not balled or pinwheeled like yesterday but looked like tracks in proper winter snow which is what they were. Of course with so few people on the hill (another very quiet day) seeing tracks of any kind was something of a rarity.

It seemed like we had nearer 10 cms of fresh snow and that was full on proper powder. This held good most of the way down the hill and the surface only got a little soft at the very bottom. During the day we had flurries which didn't amount to much but at least fell as snow over the whole hill. Even as temps rose to +4 at the base and +2 at the White Pass load conditions remained remarkably wintery (perhaps it was the cold wind) and it was odd to have two days (yesterday and today) which were so similar of paper but so different in reality. Indeed during the day in certain places things seemed to be setting up which didn't make any sense in the rising temps.

I have been accused of being a bit of a one trick pony on powder days in that I always go to the Big Three and grab as many first tracks as I can. To prove that this is not true (at least not always) I decided to try something different. I went to the Saddles (Corner Pocket, High Saddle and Low Saddle) and just looped them. They were all soft deep and skiing as well as I have ever seen them although that rope in Corner Pocket did get in the way and had to be avoided. Underneath the Saddles the fans were mostly untracked soft deep snow and just awesome skiing. We usually exited via Easter Bowl which first time round was untracked and then down to a very soft Freeway. Once we cut into Spinal Tap which was soft and untracked and only got slightly mushy in the last couple of turns.

Having had enough of the Saddles I hit Gotta Go which only had one track in front of me and was awesome deep snow all the way to the cat track. I exited through Diamond Leg Trees  which were mostly untracked and deep. Next was Cougar Glades which only had one track in front of us that disappeared after two turns and was great untracked skiing all the way down. Final run before a late lunch was The Brain which unsurprisingly was untracked in the parts I was skiing and I was able to take it all the way down to the cat track below Skydive. Even low down the surface was not slushy and it was great tree skiing.

After lunch we didn't have much time so we hit Corner Pocket/Easter Bowl and then Gotta Go/Diamond Leg Trees both of which were skiing just as good as the morning. We needed a quick White Pass loop to fill in so we dropped the Knot Chutes (the High IT was the most mellow it has ever been) and Surprise Trees where there were still plenty of untracked lines to be found.

Just to show how different today was we decided not to do Skydive as the final run. When we had been out to The Brain we felt the top of Skydive was a bit chunky and setting up and buddies who had dropped Decline felt much the same thing. So for the third time in the day we ran out to Gotta Go and had an awesome final run through followed by an equally good drop of Diamond Leg Trees which still had lots of untracked lines.

Every one in the bar tonight was totally pumped to have enjoyed a day as good as most this year at a time when skiing this good was supposed to be over for the season. Given the poor performance of forecasting this year I have no idea what tomorrow will hold but whatever it is I will be out in it, after running 10 clicks of course.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Day 105 another good day but hard work

Overnight they were reporting 8 cms of new snow although driving to the hill you could see a snow/rain line about half way down so we guessed it would be a case of wet snow up top and rain affected snow lower down. On the way to the hill it was +2 and during the day the base temps got up to about +5 and at the White Pass load it was +2 by mid afternoon. It was +4 as we drove away this evening.

The effect of these temps and the conditions was that at the top of the hill we had soft fresh snow which skied really nicely. Lower down the snow turned to mush in the warm temps but below that where it had rained and not snowed there was a thin soft layer on yesterday's firm based caused by the atmospheric warming which skied very nicely indeed - almost like corn snow.

During the day it started to snow with wet snow but this turned to rain pretty quickly at the base. The rain line went up the hill all day so that by mid afternoon when the precip stopped it had reached a little way up from the White Pass load. I don't think it actually rained at the top of the hill but the snow certainly was very wet.

We went to the New Side to get as high as possible above the rain line (a bit of a no brainer) and immediately saw that in Lift Line under Timber Chair the couple of skiers that had been down had trashed the slope totally in the heavy wet snow - our assessment had been right. We went into Currie Bowl and found the Reverse Traverse was open so we headed for the Big Three. Unfortunately yesterday's closure sign line was still in place at Currie Creek. It was only a timing issue as we were sure that the line would be lifted but rules are rules so we dropped Currie Creek which was great untracked skiing.

Next loop up we dropped into Corner Pocket which was so mellow that we took it in three GS turns and then had a great untracked run underneath in powder which got a bit heavier the further we went down. The exit on Easter Bowl was heavy but by the time we reached Freeway we were on the firm base with a thin soft top coat which was excellent mellow skiing.

We revived our initial plan to hit the Big Three next and found Skydive untracked as were all the Big Three. It was exactly as described in three sections, first great powder, next heavy mush and finally "corn" snow. We continued our loops with Stag Leap (lightly tracked but a bit heavier) and Cougar Glades - only one track which disappeared left so we had untracked all the way down.

After lunch we continued with a Decline (still some untracked lines) and Window Chutes which were untracked in the trees at the top and firm enough in the chute to make for a very mellow drop. Looking for something different I went to Gotta Go as the High IT was about as easy as I can remember. There were only two tracks ahead and the snow was soft but getting heavier in the wet snow/rain but it was a great run down trying to beat your own slough. Bootleg which was the next stage was also good and soft.

Still looking for something different we tried Low Saddle which was soft easy skiing taking and edge and the Chutes on skiers right were soft and mostly untracked. We cut across to Spinal Tap which was trashed as a result of a couple of tracks but still pretty good soft skiing. We needed to kill time in White Pass so looped the Knot Chutes which were soft and only lightly tracked.

Last run of course was Skydive which just as anticipated skied well in the top, mushy in the middle and very well indeed in the final pitch with the snow still soft on a firm base. It was a great day but hard work in to sometimes heavy snow. Worryingly they are calling for freezing temps tonight and given the state we left pretty much all of the hill in tomorrow could be challenging at least to start with.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Day 104 quite a good day

Before we start I have a message for whoever it was ran into my truck in parking lot 2 yesterday and put a dent into the rear corner on the driver's side. The business card or note that you left under my windshield giving me your details must have blown away as there was nothing there when I got back to the truck and obviously you must have left something as only an asshole would hit an unattended truck and just drive off. Please let me have your details asap.

They were not claiming any new snow overnight but on the way to the hill it was -2 and snowing. The effect of the overnight freeze was to put everything back to rock hard boiler plate just like the previous two days. It was overcast all day so we didn't get any softening from the direct sunlight but the freeze line did creep a little way up the hill during the day so we got some softening from atmospheric warming but this was only a the very lowest areas of the hill. All day we had some light flurry activity off and on which gave a cm or two of accumulation on top of the couple of cms we got first thing. The new snow gave us dust on crust for all of the upper mountain which remained frozen rock solid all day.

I headed to the New Side in the hope that the Reverse Traverse would be open which it wasn't. I dropped Currie Powder which was groomed smooth with a thin covering of fresh snow and ran to base via Gilmar Trail in order to try my luck on the Old Side - it wasn't a bad run. Just like yesterday I looped Lizard Bowl on all the runs (Arrow, Bow, Cascade and Dancer) and where possible skied the ungroomed patches in between. It was a bit better than yesterday on the grounds that the new snow did give just  a little bit of fluff to ski on but for the most part it was hard refrozen rain crud.

Late morning I figured that there was no sign line along side Easter Bowl even though it showed on the board as closed and so I traversed in as high as I could. I had four great loops in Easter on a surface that had been beaten flat by the rain and then not subject to skier traffic and finally lightly covered by light snow dust - a winning formula. Just once I traversed all the way out to Spinal Tap which was a bit of an icy experience with some refrozen debris in the lower section. Just before lunch I ran out into Cedar Bowl and found Cruiser to be pretty mellow as was Cedar Centre. Against my better judgement I tried Kangaroo which was marginally less ugly than yesterday but was still hard icy bumps.

After a late lunch I took a New Side loop and found that everything was still closed so just like the morning I ran down a dust covered Currie Powder and Gilmar Trail which were ok. On the Old Side I took over where I left off in the morning and had a couple of loops of Easter which were just as they were in the morning. My exit was, as it had been all morning, through Freeway which was slick, icy and ungroomed. We just had time for a couple of Cedar loops through Cruiser and Cedar Centre which were both skiing even more mellow than this morning and Kangaroo which wasn't.

I had considered trying a side step up to Skydive from Easter for a final run but quite honestly I am prepared to wait until the Big Three open from the top as I don't expect any of them to be that good. We went to the Griz where the usual Tuesday party was well under way and had a great time. It was snowing as we left the hill with the temp at +1 despite all the weather channels saying things in the valley were much warmer. My guess is that we will have a couple of cms more snow tonight and tomorrow will be much like today but I could be wrong.

Day 103 a picture is worth a thousand words

I don't usually put pictures in the blog but this one taken today by my buddy Dan sums up the day perfectly. We had a bluebird day, the hill had a large number of avalanches visible which happened in the wet snow over the past few days and after the hard freezing conditions overnight everything was boiler plate.

Overnight there was no new snow and on the way to the hill it was -5 and unsurprisingly everything had frozen even more solid that yesterday. During the day temps rose at the base to about + 3 but up the mountain things remained at or about zero. Just like yesterday the snow softened but only in the direct sunlight and then only late in the day. For the most part everything else stayed rock hard all day.

We went to the Old Side and spent the first part of the morning running down groomers in Bear, Arrow, Bow, Cascade and Dancer. We regularly tested the ungroomed areas in between the runs but they remained very hard and icy. None the less in the absence of anything else we skied them as best we could on rain dappled ice. China Wall was only semi groomed and was about the most challenging run we could find.

We then dropped over into Cedar Bowl ad tried Cruiser and Cedar Centre which skied ok with some hard ice grooming. Of course I had to try Kangaroo which was beyond doubt the ugliest piece of icy bump skiing I have ever experienced. We looped out again into Cedar Bowl and went to the far side where they had cut a track through some huge avi debris which made for interesting skiing. This time we dropped Wallaby which was actually starting to soften in the sun.

I had to run to base as I had a doctors appointment down town (nothing serious) so we took Sunny Side shoulder which had only just opened and it was softening ok despite yesterday's traffic and was far and away the best run of the morning.

When I eventually got back to the hill there was just time for a very quick afternoon on the New Side. We looped out into Currie Bowl and dropped Concussion which was softened but was just starting to set up. It was not as good as yesterday but on a day of very limited opportunities off the groomers it was ok. We had a couple of loops up White Pass and found that although the Gun Bowl and the I Bowl had softened they hadn't softened much and for the most part we were skiing hard refrozen crud.

With the Reverse Traverse closed at Currie Creek we had no chance of Skydive so went out and did Concussion one last time which if anything was more set up and getting a bit scratchy. Over all things were a bit like yesterday but with the stuff that had softened already having been skied and the surfaces just a bit harder and icier. After skiing the decks were sunny and the Griz Bar was well attended.

Tonight they are calling for freezing temps again and tomorrow we may not have so much sunshine so we could be in for another hard icy day's skiing.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Day 102 the hill fights back

After yesterday's disastrous rain event and an overnight drop in temps you might well have expected the hill to have thrown in the towel and for the next few days to be pretty crappy. Well, actually today the hill made a fight back and if things were not exactly awesome ( and they certainly weren't that) they were at least ok in places which was way better than I expected as I drove to the hill.

Overnight they had forecast a deep freeze in the valley but on the way to the hill it was +2. When we got there it was around -1 up the hill so with the massive water content in the snow following yesterday's rain we had a pretty solid ice block facing us on all slopes. It was a bluebird day for the most part although we had some high hazy cloud around mid day which cleared in the afternoon. Up the mountain it stayed at around zero all day and a brisk cooling wind kept everything rather iced up. At the base temps got to +3 and it was about that driving away from the hill although when I looked out on the front deck a moment ago it was near to zero.

The effect on the skiing was that everything froze rock hard, and I do mean rock hard. The groomers were icy and very slick, where we had skied off the groomer yesterday was ugly rutted ice and where it had been close yesterday it was had smooth rain dappled ice skiing. We hoped for softening in the sun but for the most part it didn't happen mostly due to the cooling wind. By the end of the afternoon there was some softening but only on the surfaces which were directly south facing and in the sun and even then we are not talking about deep mush, only a surface softening.

We went to the New Side and dropped Puff which was ugly icy and rutted. For a lot of the morning we looped White Pass on hard icy groomers and every time we ventured on the none groomed snow we got a tough shaking up. We ran to base through Down Right in order to see the big slide in 2's of 1-2-3's and it was big with trees and death cookies about the size of my truck,

Late morning we slipped in to the Gun Bowl which we thought would have softened, we were wrong it was hard ugly ice. Next time into Currie we noticed the Reverse Traverse was open and risked going out on the hard but smooth icy surface as no one else seemed to be trying it. We were rewarded to find that the surface in Concussion had softened just on the surface and was taking an edge on a hard ice base. We had a great almost corn snow skiing experience and as a result did two more loops which just got better as things softened and then it was time for lunch.

After lunch I went back to the New Side and tried Puff again only to find it worse than before. I then spent the rest of the afternoon looping all of the Currie chutes from Currie Creek to Alpha Centauri and they were rather varied. In some places it was very soft and in others particularly in the shade it was quite hard and in other places still it had been soft and was setting up as the sun went round. So all in all it was varied but just about on the good side of ok.

Last loop I tried Puff again and found it even icier than the two times before which is hard to believe. I dropped back through the Gun Bowl and it was just starting to soften which says it all considering it had been getting direct sun light all day. Skydive was off the menu as the sign line was down on the far side of Currie Creek as I had discovered on an earlier loop so I dropped Concussion as very nice soft surfaced final run to base.

In summary today was a hard icy day which softened only in the direct sunlight and stayed much harder and icier than you would have expected but overall was ok skiing in places. Tonight they are calling for temps of -10 and no great warm up tomorrow so things could be getting very icy indeed.