Saturday, April 1, 2017

Day 115 the worst day's skiing of the season

Yes, I can say that today was the worst day we have had this year so far by a big margin - I even left the hill early half way through the afternoon, it was that bad.

Of course it didn't seem that things were going to be that bad when we woke up this morning and read the day's weather forecast. Although there had been no new snow overnight we were promised double digit plus temps at the base and reasonably warm conditions on top with an overall assessment of "partially cloudy". It seemed that even if things had firmed up they would soon soften and we would be able to ski in ok conditions. I can only assume that forecast was the forecasters idea of an April fool's joke as what we had was nothing like what they called for and the resulting conditions sucked.

Things started going wrong on the way to the hill with valley temps of only +2 and the sky heavily overcast. Almost as soon as we arrived at the hill it started raining hard at the base and was still raining when we drove away mid afternoon. The rain line was just about at the White Pass load where it changed to wet icy snow which with some strong ridge line winds was whipped into our faces causing a lot of stinging. The temp at the White Pass load was -1 but may have got to zero later in the day. The effect on the skiing surfaces was for the groomers to be slick and icy and rock hard. Off the groomers yesterday's super soft mush had refrozen to ugly hard ice death cookies and had become solid mashed potatoes or a ploughed field - either way it was pretty near to unskiable. Just to make things really fun the cloud came down to about half way up White Pass so the viz was just about as bad as I can remember it.

So there you have it, you could have your choice. Either ski low and get soft snow (even so, a buddy of mine said the only ok thing on the Old Side was Kanagroo) but get soaked to the ski in the rain, or stay high and ski rock hard groomers or even harder ugly refrozen crud in poor viz. As I said, it was the worst day's skiing I can remember for a very long time.

We went to the New Side and just looped the White Pass core mainly on the groomers but did cut out into the Gun Bowl and the trees along side the runs all of which had been skied yesterday and were ugly. I guess if there was anywhere that hadn't been skied yesterday it might have been an ok smooth surface but as the whole of the New Side was open yesterday and chewed up in super hot conditions we couldn't find anything that was even ok.

We ran to base with the intention of going out on the Reverse Traverse in search of some smooth snow but found it closed. Probably a good idea as when we looked back up Concussion from lower down Currie Powder it was full of big ugly death cookies and there was no reason to suppose it was any better all the way across the Currie Chutes.

We went back up to White Pass and if anything the conditions were ever more ugly and viz was getting steadily worse. This time we ran to base through Currie Trees which were a bit smoother than most ungroomed areas and the trees helped with the viz. At that stage we were cold, wet and the conditions sucked and showed no signs of getting better - we quit for the day.

The funny thing about Fernie is how everyone knows your business. I only dropped by Extra Foods (or whatever it's called now) and four people stopped me to ask me why I wasn't on the hill - as I said that's Fernie. We did drop into the place on Highway 3 where they are doing chainsaw wood carving and put a deposit on bear that Lynda had been eyeing up for the front deck. At 10 bucks an inch these seem like great value to me.

So let's see what tomorrow brings, it has to be better than today.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Day 114 summer skiing

Yes, we appear to have bypassed spring and gone straight to summer skiing just like we used to do on the glacier at Hintertux. Of course the difference there was that the summer temps warmed a frozen glacier to give good even summer skiing and today what was warmed was a mix of avi debris, refrozen crud and previously untracked deep snow. The result was to give us variable conditions to put it mildly.

The day started with thick fog in the valley and a temp on my deck of +2 with a claim of 5 cms of new snow overnight which quite frankly I failed to detect at any point on the hill. By the time I had run my 10 km at the gym the temp had risen to +4 on the way to the hill and the fog line had risen to about one third of the way up the hill.

I decided to try the Old Side and found that the fog went up to the top of the Bear Chair at which point it was showing signs of thinning. There was also an inversion so that at mid mountain in the fog it had cooled to about zero but at the top it was back to +4. We had a word with a patrol buddy who confirmed that the inversion continued, at the top of White Pass you were above the fog there and that Polar Peak was about to open. With this information we ran down Arrow which was ungroomed and seemed to be both soft and crusty at the same time and then took the cat track to the New Side. The viz in fog was very poor indeed.

Lift Line was ugly refrozen death cookies with some new snow which was turning to mush already. It was also on the top line of the fog so the viz was very poor. We went up White Pass and sure enough found ourselves in bluebird conditions with the fog as a carpet below us in the valley - better still Polar Peak had just opened so up we went.

That was it for the morning, we just kept looping Polar Peak as it was obviously the best snow on the hill. We looped from the Clown Chutes on one side to Papa Bear on the other and all the chutes in between - Shale Slope, Grand Papa Bear and Barely Legal. The snow was soft and getting quite fluid in places but great skiing with great coverage. In the bluebird conditions the valley fog slowly dissipated until it was just a normal sunny day with the odd patch of cloud. Temps were rising fast and at the base it got up to +9 and at the Polar Load it was +8 with the temp in the direct sunlight way hotter than that.

We dropped for lunch through Spirit Bear and then High Saddle which was ok in the chute and excellent soft deep skiing in the fan below. The ski out was a different story with the ungroomed snow being a mix of mush and crust and very testing skiing. Over lunch we heard that the Polar Chutes had closed but after lunch we went back up to check things out. We discovered that the chutes had closed for a time but were reopened and ready for business.

The afternoon was just like the morning with repeated loops of the various Polar Chutes and the skiing surface remaining soft and lively. Once again we dropped High Saddle which was a bit tougher in the chute than the morning but still excellent in the fan. The ski out was just as ugly as it had been in the morning. We had time for a White Pass loop and found that Surprise Trees had more or less turned totally to mush as had most of the rest of the hill in the hot summer temps.

Last run of course was Skydive which looked in much the same as yesterday which was not surprising as I doubt that anyone had been dumb enough to ski it in today's conditions. The upper section was slightly reforming mush and was slightly better than yesterday, the mid section was largely untracked and very tough going, slightly worse than yesterday. The bottom pitch was actually skiing ok but getting very soft towards the last two turns.

We sat out on the deck of the Griz and had drinks (OJ and soda for me) and enjoyed the evening sunshine for the first time this year. The forecasts look rather uncertain for the next few days so I guess we are just going to have to make the best of whatever we get.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day 113 another tough day

Overnight the hill was reporting 22 cms of new snow in the last 24 hours and 15 in the last 12. As the temp on my front deck this morning was +4 and the rain line was so far up the hill that I couldn't see it from the deck I was fairly confident that any new snow would be heavy , wet and limited to the very top of the hill. I was right and in the circumstances heading off to the gym for 10 kms on the treadmill turned out to be a pretty good idea.

When I got to the hill quite a lot was closed and the obvious plan was to go high on the New Side. We found as expected a lot of very deep wet heavy snow at the top of Timber Chair with the top of lift line still closed from yesterday. We looped White Pass and found that the snow at the very top was just about ok but became very heavy after a couple of turns.

Next time as we arrived at the top of White Pass they were dropping the fence to open Currie Bowl but with lots of warnings about the amount of slide debris we would see. The warnings didn't really prepare us as even in the poor viz there were more and longer slides under Polar Chutes and all the way across the Currie Chutes than I had ever seen. Fortunately the warming temps (it got to +8 at the base and +5 at the White Pass load) meant that the debris was not quite as hard and ugly as it might have been.

It was a good old fashioned Currie 500 as we all raced out across the debris strewn Reverse Traverse to try and get to some fresh snow. We arrived at the top of Skydive to find one track in front of us that dipped in and out of the trees on the left so we had the run to ourselves. In the three pitches it went from soft to very soft to unbelievably soft so that by the bottom it was very hard work and slow motion skiing.

For the rest of the morning we dropped Decline (which was softer than Skydive) and Stag Leap which was softer still. All of this was very slow skiing and where it had been skied it was knee deep mashed potatoes and very hard on the legs. The final run before lunch was a hike up to Easter Bowl top. Fortunately Easter is so wide that there were still untracked areas which could be skied ok but as soon as you got into tracked snow it was hard going.

After lunch I did consider going to the Old Side but rejected it. On balance this seems to have been a good decision as when I met my buddy Dan later in the day he had given it a try and said what little that was actually open totally sucked with the exception of Kangaroo which was ok. I went back to the New Side.

First run after lunch was Decline into Window Chutes which went from soft to softer in Decline and actually skied ok in the chute itself. Next was Gotta Go which was tracked but quite soft in the choke. Amazingly below the choke things felt like they were setting up and the avi debris to the skiers left had been re-enforced but some big overnight death cookies which were about the size of my truck. As conditions were so sketchy I finished the drop by taking Diamond Back which actually skied ok as variable bumps.

Ever a glutton for punishment I side stepped up to Lone Fir where by the look of things only a handful of skiers had been previously. Things were really starting to set up in the chute and it was about as challenging as I can remember and had to be hard edge to edge jumps to get through. Below most of the traffic had stayed left by the closed sign line into Lizard Bowl so I moved slightly right and had untracked lines which skied ok with a slight crust starting to form as the conditions continued to set up more firmly.

After a quick ripper through White Pass to kill time it was Skydive foe last run. The top pitch was light crust on very deep snow in which you could almost sink up to your knees whenever you broke through. It's not often that lack of tracks in Skydive at the end of the day is a problem but today was one of those occasions. The mid section was more like normal soft snow and the bottom section was almost normal slow spring skiing.

All in all it was a very hard day in a mixture of deep soft snow and setting up crud. On the way home the temp was +9 so tomorrow could be just as tough as today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 112 from a wintery morning to a soggy afternoon

The rain that started yesterday lunch time continued over night and all through today in the valley - actually I can still hear it coming down on my back deck as I am typing this. The hill reported 15 cms of fresh snow overnight and as I looked across the valley while drinking my morning coffee I noticed that the snow/rain line on Mt Fernie was almost down to the valley floor so this suggested to me that we might have some pretty good wintery conditions on the hill.

My view was confirmed as I drove to the hill and the temp on the truck as I drove up ski hill road was only +1. It was raining at the base but you could see the rain turning to snow only a couple of towers up Timber chair so it was certain that the snow up high would be good. The temp at White Pass load was -1 so the snow was coming down as reasonable winter powder and the 15 cms was indeed great soft winter snow.

During the day the precip continued but the temps rose so that the rain line climbed steadily up the hill and by afternoon it was only just below the White Pass load. The temp at the load had climbed to +2 and it was about +5 at the base and very wet. On the drive home from the hill it was +5 although the forecast is for it to drop below zero tonight - I am not convinced.

As you will have worked out from the New Side references that is where we skied. With a rain line just above the base you didn't have to be a genius to work out that the higher you went the better it would be and the New Side offered the best elevation. For most of the day the viz stayed pretty good although it was overcast and snowing/raining but in the afternoon the cloud base dropped so that anything above the bottom of the Gun Bowl was in thick cloud/mist.

When we arrived in White Pass first thing we were pumped to find that there was at least the 15 cms of good powder snow promised and probably at least another 5 since the early morning measurement. There were a few people around but nothing that you could describe as crowds so there were many untracked powder lines to be had.

Currie Bowl was closed so we just had a couple of loops back through White Pass (Knot Chutes/ Surprise Trees) which were super deep and soft winter snow. As Currie showed no signs of opening we set up laps to base through Gotta Go/Bootleg (three times) Anaconda Glades and Triple Trees. This took up all the morning and gave us some very good untracked powder on top although by late morning it was getting a bit claggy lower down. As far as we were concerned Currie Bowl remained closed all day but I an told that it did open in the morning for 10 minutes during which time it showed some significant signs of instability prompting it's closure for the rest of the day.

By the time we got out after lunch the rain line was well up the hill and the snow even at the top of White Pass was getting a bit soggy. The obvious thing to do was to just loop White Pass staying high for what was left of the short afternoon after a late lunch so we did just that. We did numerous loops linking Knot Chutes (all the way from the Cheese Grater Chute to Simons Crack) with the Surprise Tree area from the near shoulder to the far side of Triple Trees. The skiing was soft and mellow in the wet newly fallen snow although lower down it was rather chunky and wet.

Last run we did one more drop of Gotta Go which was getting a bit scraped out in the choke (not surprising as it was the best skiing available and so nearly every one I know hit it several times) but below it was still soft and deep all the way down to the cat track. Bootleg Glades were very soft and tracked up so that the lower pitch was knee deep mashed potato - if that ever sets up it will be very interesting.

Afterwards in the Griz very few of us gathered to reflect on the day which overall got a big thumbs up for the morning and an "ok" for the afternoon. This is turning into the wettest March anyone can remember and we are all wondering when the current deluge will end - who knows.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Day 111 one very tough day

Last night I was speculating on how things might change up the hill if it got colder, well today we found out and it didn't make for very easy skiing.

Overnight they were calling about 3 cms of new snow up the hill maintaining the base at 3 metres. On the way to the hill it was +3 according to the truck but as soon as we got skiing it was apparent that the temps on the hill were a fair bit lower. When I checked the mercury thermometer at the top of Bear (I always prefer to trust mercury and a vacuum to the dial or digital types) it was -3 and even down at the Boomerang load it was showing zero. It was overcast all day and late morning it started to snow but as the day wore on the snow/rain line moved up the hill to about half way as temps rose a little.

My guess was that upper mountain would be frozen pretty solid which after we trashed up the hill yesterday would mean some rather ugly skiing anywhere off the groomers. In response I decided to stay low on the Old Side and wait for the atmospheric warming to soften the hill from the bottom upwards. In general the plan was good but the problem was that the warming didn't materialise to any great extent and certainly didn't get very far up the hill so whilst there was some softening at the very bottom for the most part on the hill (even on the Old Side) the ungroomed skiing stayed hard ugly death cookies.

I skied around all morning on the Old Side trying Boom Ridge, Boomerang, Cedar Ridge, Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line etc several times over and they were all hard ugly death cookies in most places so you had to look to find the smooth unskied areas to turn as turning in the death cookies was challenging to put it mildly. The only good skiing was in Kangaroo which was firm icy bumps in the top and getting a little softer lower down at first but then as the morning wore on the whole run became softer taking a good edge and was like the skiing I had been hoping for. I returned through Kangaroo about 6 times and it got better and softer every time until it was time for a late lunch. Over all it was very tough skiing.

Late morning it had started to snow even at the base but on the final run down to lunch the snow had turned to rain at the base and the snow lower down was getting sticky even on the groomers. Over lunch the snow line had moved to about half way up the hill so our afternoon strategy was to go high and rely on the new snow (which was coming down pretty hard) to provide cover for the hard surface and death cookies underneath.

We went to the New Side and tried a Knot Chute/Surprise Trees loop which was good and soft although the base was a bit scratchy. Next we tried Concussion which was good, untracked new snow and soft all the way down to the top of the Gilmar Trail although the base remained a bit firm and scratchy. We worked our way out the Cougar Glades which were a bit crusty and chunky at the top but softened with deeper snow lower down so the exits were really nice skiing.

Last run was Skydive which had filled in nicely at the top. The mid section got a bit chunky but the final pitch on the right was softening quite well as the warming daytime temps at last started to have their effect.

It was +3 driving away from the hill and raining in the valley. I am fairly confident that it will be snowing on top but let's see what happens overnight.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 110 full on spring skiing

Today was the first day of this season that could be properly described as full on spring skiing all over the hill. I am no great fan of spring skiing but today we managed to get some ok runs although it got to be very heavy hard work by the end of the day.

The temps on the way to the hill was +3 and during the day the base temp rose to +8 falling only to +7 as we drove away tonight. Up the hill at the White Pass load things started at about zero but by mid afternoon they were +4 so everything was softening fast in atmospheric warming.

Overnight we had 7 cms of snow at the snow plot which raised the base to back over 3 metres again at least for a day or two. The snow line was about half way down the hill and even at the top the snow was wet and heavy and forming sun balls and pinwheels as you skied it right from the first run. As I was in the gym doing my daily 10 km run I didn't make a super early start so things might have been better then but I seriously doubt it. The top of White Pass was socked in with thick cloud which made the viz about as bad as I have ever seen it all the way down the Gun Bowl and meant that Polar Peak was not going to open today. Later in the day the cloud lifted giving some brief sunny periods which just had the effect of softening the snow even more. In the better light we could see the result of ski cutting on the Currie head wall and Polar Chutes and it was very messy with loads of slide debris and not a pretty sight.

It was always going to be a New Side day with all of us trying to get as much skiing above the snow line as possible  We went out to Skydive which skied ok in the top but just got heavier the further down you went. By the final pitch it was very mushy slow motion skiing and the ski out of the groomers below was messy stop, start skiing on a very soft patchy surface - this condition continued on the lower hill all day. Next we hit Cougar Glades which just like Skydive was ok on the top getting softer and turning to mush in the last few turns.

By way of a change we tried Gotta Go which was soft even in the choke and good spring skiing down to the cat track. Bootleg Glades were mushy and by the bottom were pure elephant snot. Last run before lunch was a drop down Corner Pocket where the tires were just starting to show. The rope in the chute was the usual pain and it's annoying to have this always in the way when a bit of shock cord on the end through a pulley block would pull it out of the way every time after use. The skiing under the chute was good but soft and the Easter/Freeway exit was soft to begin with turning to pure elephant snot by the end.

After lunch I had another run through Gotta Go and Bootleg which was just as for the morning but with the slush line further up and the lower parts even softer. Next was High Saddle which showed some signs of side slippers (don't get me started) but was still good enough to ski pretty well. Under the chute and in the Easter/Freeway exit it was also as it had been in the morning but getting softer. The next loop was perhaps not one of my best ideas when I had started with a10 km run and skied all day in heavy snow - I side stepped up to Lone Fir. It actually skied ok in the chute and was only lightly tracked but below it was an even softer Easter and Freeway exit than it had been earlier in the afternoon.

Last run of course was Skydive Which since our morning run had got way softer. The good skiing held to just about the Megasauraus Trail but after that it got mushier and mushier until the last pitch was very slow motion skiing. I just about managed to do it in one but it was a very hard call with all that had gone before in the day.

We are now torn between wanting things to stay warm to which means that we will get more spring skiing and wanting things to cool down to get more snow which may mean a few days of very ugly ice skiing. Whatever happens I will be there.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Day 109 still a pretty ok day

First of all an apology. Sunday is the one night of the week that I drink so I have had a quite a few unaccustomed beers tonight which may mean that the blog is not quite as coherent as might usually be the case.

They called no new snow overnight but when we got to the hill they revised that to 1 cm but when we got to the New Side which is where we skied all day it seemed more like 3 or 4. It was zero on the deck when I woke up and headed off to the gym for my daily 10 km treadmill run and by the time I was heading for the hill about an hour later it was nearer +2.

We had no new snow during the day and although it was forecast to be sunny, for the most part it was overcast with just a few brief sunny periods to soften the south facing slopes. Temps all over the hill rose to around +3 even at the Polar load and +6 at the base which was confirmed by the temp on the truck as we drove away tonight.

The effect on the skiing surface was that we had soft snow on top from yesterday unaffected by anything but skier traffic. Below that (but quite a long way down) we had some chunky stuff that had been tracked yesterday and set up over night. Lower down still we had softening snow in the atmospheric warming which went up the hill to about the half way point as the day progressed.

As I had my usual start of doing 10 kms on the treadmill at the gym first thing our start was delayed by about 45 mins. We went to the New Side on the basis that the snow higher up would be in better condition and stay that way longer. We did loops of Knot Chutes and Surprise Trees which confirmed our view with both the chutes and the trees skiing very soft and mellow and for the most part untracked in the new snow.

We then looped Corner Pocket ( great skiing if you got that stupid rope out of the way) High Saddle (very soft and mellow) and Low Saddle - sensational skiing in the skiers right chutes. Exits were through Easter Bowl which was soft and untracked and Freeway which was a bit chunky. We also took one trip out to Spinal Tap which was actually ok in soft tracked up snow. Last run before lunch was Gotta Go which was ok in the choke and very soft, deep and untracked below. We finished our drop with Diamond Leg Trees which were good soft skiing all the way down. Somewhere in there they opened Polar Peak but on the Coaster side only so we hit the Crusty Chute before starting one of our drops but the skiing was all a bit scratchy and not that good.

After lunch I noticed that Shale Slope had opened on Polar so we went up with the intention of cutting in to Grand Pappa at Tower 8 but found this option blocked by closures. The ski down Shale was predictably scratchy and had I known of the closures I probably would not have gone up although I don't think that Grand Pappa would have been much better than Shale Slope. We dropped Low Saddle which was easy skiing and soft and deep below with no tracks in the chute immediately to the skiers right of the main drop. Easter and Freeway were as before and ok.

We dropped Gotta Go (again, about the 6th time in three days) and found the choke was ok and the skiing below was just sensational soft deep snow. Diamond Leg Trees did not disappoint and were great skiing with many untracked lines. We had time for a White Pass loop through Knot Chutes where I hit Slim which skied very nice and deep but was just starting to set up.

Last run was Skydive which just like the rest of the hill went from winter good snow to re frozen set up to spring soft as we skied down it. Not a bad end to a great day's skiing. In the Griz tonight it was a typical Sunday with some soft live music and loads of staff chilling out after the weekend. It's my favourite day of the week and not just because it's the day of the week that I drink beer.

Forecasts are all pointing in different directions so lets see what tomorrow may hold.