Saturday, March 17, 2018

Day 106 Happy Paddy's Day

And for those PC individuals who think we shouldn't call it Paddy's Day I suggest you have a word with my many Irish friends on the subject who feel pretty strongly that we should. Of course the day didn't start well with England losing the rugby to Ireland and at Twickenham to boot. Never mind my Ancestry report said I was 31% Irish so it was a great win for us. Actually the DNA report also shows my next most significant source of genes was Scandinavian (Viking) which may explain a lot of things.

No new snow and a day that was mostly bluebird with few high clouds and a temp of -4 on the front deck as I was drinking my coffee. I give up with the weather forecasts as today's (published this morning) gave a daytime high of +2. The dogs in the street know that if you have a sunny day at this time of year in Fernie it is going to get way hotter than that and sure enough it was +7 as we drove away from the hill tonight having been several degrees warmer during the day. I know the forecast would have been the "in the shade" (or more accurately "behind the Stevenson's Screen") temp but come on, we all knew what was going to happen.

Although it was a Saturday it was not that busy and the general view was that with Lake Louis having had a big dump a lot of the Calgary weekend traffic headed up there. We decided on yet another New Side day looking to ski in the north facing "winter" slopes and venturing on to the south facing slopes only later in the day after they day softened. It goes without saying that the Timber Top to White Pass Load was through the trees on lookers left on Lift Line which as I said yesterday are in great condition and surprisingly steep and tight in places.

I went out to try the Saddles only to find that the Reverse Traverse was closed, presumably to keep traffic out of the frozen crud on Concussion. Yesterday they relied on education by way of signs to achieve this but I guess with weekend crowds they thought that education might not be the way to go. Lynda (enjoying day 100 for her) had dropped 1-2-3s and was surprised to find me waiting at the bottom for her. Diamond Leg Trees made up for my disappointment and I pushed right into the steeper tighter trees at the bottom all day.

Next loop we dropped the Gun Bowl (Knot Chutes were also closed for frozen crud reasons) which was pretty ribby but just starting to soften. Anaconda in the trees in between the chutes was good winter skiing as was another Diamond Leg Trees drop. The Reverse Traverse was open so we went out to High Saddle which was a bit more worn than yesterday but still ok edge to edge jumping. Below the chute it was rather firmer than yesterday but still good winter snow. Just like yesterday all our exits from that area were via Easter Bowl which was nice firm bumps taking an edge and Freeway which had been newly groomed.

We decided to try the Fraser Tooth and once again it was very good with winter snow on a firm base and great steep tree skiing. Last run before lunch we hiked up Lone Fir and found the chute hardly touched since yesterday. This chute is usually so tough that I have a very fixed line that I ski but now it is so mellow I took the opportunity to ski in all sorts of places I never go and avoided the final gully altogether by staying on the high left shoulder. The fan underneath was of course awesome and Easter remained in good shape.

After lunch Knot Chutes had opened so we dropped a rather slushy Jim Chute before heading to Anaconda. Just for a change I went right across to about Anaconda 5 and found some good untracked lines in the trees - Diamond Leg Trees were the exit again. The had also opened Polar Peak and although I didn't think the skiing would be any good I felt I ought to go up just once to show willing. Only the Coaster side was open and I was right - Crusty was very scratchy with a gnarly entrance and the fans across from Tower 6 were no better than ok but at least they were soft. I took High Saddle and found that since morning it was getting trenched out in the lower section and hasn't got much life left in it. Skiing below the chute and Easter Bowl were at least as good as the morning and were not sun affected as they just about remained in the shade.

With the High IT open Cobra Rock was calling and the entrance and steep tight right hand chutes were probably the best skiing on the hill today. Diamond Leg Trees were still in good shape. I just had time for a quick rip out to Low Saddle which after a couple of bumps and rocks in the top was very mellow and the right/left cut into Perch Chutes was also good winter snow. Easter Bowl continued to stay in good shape and may end up as the last large area of good snow on the hill if this weather keeps up.

Last run of course was Skydive and it was ugly. The bumps in the top were steeper and tighter than they had been and then there were a few good turns. After that the mid section was sun affected and setting up and the lower section was rock hard and covered with death cookies all the way down. Far and away the worst run of the day but in keeping with tradition we ripped it in one with no breaks.

There was line up to get in the Griz Bar but as it was Paddy's Day I made an exception to my rule and lined up. We had a great evening and Lynda celebrated day 100 in much the same way as I had celebrated mine last Sunday. And so now they are calling for some snow (maybe) tomorrow afternoon but I am so disillusioned with the forecast I am ready for anything.

Finally may I say hello to my small but loyal following in Vanuatu. I see I get a couple of hits from there most days so I thought I ought to say Hi and hope that the skiing in Vanuatu is awesome this season.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Day 105 Hottest day yet

Yesterday the weather forecasters were confidently predicting heavy snowfall during the day and more snow overnight. In the event we got about 3 cms during the day yesterday which seemed a bit deeper as it was sifted in the wind and nothing that I could detect overnight. This was all the more galling as reports say that Lake Louis got 31 cms which would have made huge difference to us.

Overnight it didn't cool as much as expected so on the way to the hill we were getting zero degrees as the temp. They were calling for a sun/cloud mix but early in the day the emphasis was very much on the sun although it did become more cloudy and cooled slightly later in the day. Temps climbed and we were getting well over +10 all over the hill and more in the direct sunlight. Even at the end of the day we had +7 as we drove away from the hill and everything was in full spring melt.

We decided to go straight to the New Side and once again every loop dropped from the Timber Top to the White Pass Load through the many chutes in the trees on the lookers left of Lift Line. These trees have been some of the best skiing on the hill of late and provide some surprisingly steep and tight skiing in soft north facing snow.

Bearing in mind what a buddy had said yesterday we tried High Saddle and found it slightly bumped in the chute but good edge to edge jumping. Below the snow was soft, mellow and untracked and certainly qualified as powder of a sort. The exit through Easter was good north facing soft bumps down to Freeway where things got a bit scratchy, in fact it was so good that this was the only exit route we took all day when dropping the Saddles and associated lines. I then did something that I only rarely do, I skied exactly the same run over again, yes, it was that good.

To ring the changes we next hit Low Saddle which had a couple of bumps and rocks in the top but after negotiating them the chute was very mellow. We cut into Perch Chute which was soft and untracked before exiting through Easter. Polar Peak was open so we felt obliged to go up but only the Coaster side was open and the only decent skiing was in the Crusty Chute and then down to the Reverse Traverse in one of the early fans. We then decided to hike up to Lone Fir and were amazed to find that late in the morning ours were the first tracks into the chute. It skied so easily with soft deep snow that we could go anywhere in the chute and the fan down to Easter was deep and untracked.

Final run before lunch I hiked up again and hit Easter Meadow. Actually I hit the chute to the right of it and was tempted to try and find a new line in the trees but in the end I cut back into the usual exit chute which is skiing easier than any time I can remember it.

After lunch they had opened Knot Chutes which had been closed all morning so I went out to try Cobra Rock which was closed which didn't make any sense. Rules are rules so I dropped down and had a great run down Anaconda Chute 1 and the Diamond Leg Trees both of which were good north facing snow. Next time up White Pass I queried the closure with Ski Patrol and went off for another High Saddle loop (yes, it really was that good) while they figured it out.

Next time up Patrol had worked out that someone had forgotten to flip the signs so I skied out with a patroller buddy while he went to do the deed. I never got past Gotta Go which was obviously untracked when the sign was lifted and I hopped over into Google Earth which was really soft and smooth - Diamond Leg Trees remained in great shape. Figuring that no one would be going out on the High IT I eventually made it to the still untracked Cobra Rock and dropped the steep chutes on the right through the trees - it was a case of Diamond Leg Trees again.

Last run of course was Skydive where we were down to just 3 of us. The run skied well down to the final pitch and then it became very scratchy but if you hit it fast enough it wasn't too bad. So a day which had looked like it was going to be a bit of a disappointment actually played out rather well due to spending it in the tight north facing chutes that the hill had to offer. It was made better for me as I had one of those days when I was on fire and anything I tried worked. We all get about half a dozen of those days a season and I have learned to enjoy them while I can because tomorrow will probably bring me down to earth with a bump.

No snow forecast and I am getting the horrible feeling that the season is over and all we are going to get is the leavings for the final three weeks. I hope not but I fear the worst.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Day 104 Grooming, what grooming ?

I can hear everyone saying "what the hell is he talking about groomers for, he never skis them anyway" which of course is true. My attention has been drawn to the state of grooming on the hill by an animated discussion taking place on the FAR Facebook page where a high level of dissatisfaction is being expressed. Of course I ski groomers on the way to a run or on the way down to a lift but with the exception of the odd rip down Bear to get the legs in place in the morning I never intentionally ski groomers unless forced to by closures. That having been said I am not blind to the fact that many people enjoy skiing groomers and for some it is the only skiing that they can actually handle and so grooming should be a matter of major importance to the hill.

What is infuriating everybody is the official response to complaints of the lack of grooming which can be summed up as "we are two cats down". This seems to imply that the lack of cats is due to an act of God or some force of nature over which the hill has no control and they are the victims. If they are two cats down it either means that there are two cats which have broken down and not been repaired or there are two useable cats which can't be brought into service due to the lack of trained drivers. Neither of these cases is an unavoidable accident, it is a case of good old fashioned incompetence and someone needs to be held accountable. This is no criticism of those who are driving the cats and doing a good job in impossible circumstances.

While I am on the subject I have heard a lot of complaints about inaccuracies in the grooming reports. From time to time I draw attention here to frequent inaccuracies in the snow reports but it seems that this problem exists with the grooming report which is much more serious. Only yesterday a group of vacation groomer skiers found themselves at the top of Dancer which was showing as groomed when it wasn't and had to make their way down in ugly icy conditions. No problem to those of us who like that sort of stuff but for vacation groomer skiers it is an accident waiting to happen. I suggest anyone with strong feelings on these subjects joins in the discussion on the FAR Facebook page.

There was no new snow overnight but on the way to the hill it was +1 and light rain. I looked up the hill for the snow line but it was so socked in (and stayed that way all day) that I couldn't make out where the snow might start. In the event it started just about at the Deer top and moved up the hill a little during the day before moving back down just before close. It snowed/rained all day so that above the snow line there was a reasonable (5 cm maybe) accumulation of jersey cream which had the effect of filling in most of the crud and flattening out the skiing surface.

I made a decision which may seem strange to some to stay low on the Old Side this morning to ski what had been the hard icy surfaces softened by the rain. The upside was that it worked and the skiing surface was a slick slightly slushy top layer on a very firm surface which made for good skiing, particularly bumps. The downside was that you were skiing in rain or very wet snow but as I have said so often, there are no bad conditions, only inappropriate clothing - I remained warm and dry in my Canadian Tire plastic jacket and thick rubber gloves.

The bumps that had been left on Bear were great fun and we hit them straight down the fall line several times. For the rest of the morning we made the usual Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line, Cedar Ridge, King Fir, Boom Ridge and Linda's. All of these were as described a slick mushy rain affected surface on a firm base and fun skiing. The returns through Kangaroo were much improved particularly in the lower section which was soft. Third time through we encountered a patrol buddy attending a casualty who had stacked it on the drop to the cat track ( it was always a mistake to put that cat track in) and so we had to take careful avoiding action and move on, after offering help of course.

After a quick lunch we layered up and went up the New Side to see if we could find winter which by and large we did with fresh high moisture snow accumulating all afternoon. The trees on lookers left of Lift Line were still in good condition and as has been the case for a week my only way down to White Pass load. We decided to take good old New Side loops which we did as follows:-
Easter Bowl - soft untracked jersey cream snow all the way down to Freeway which got a little heavy in the lower section but was ok.
Decline - smooth in the top and soft bumps in the final section which only got mushy in the last few turns and had us looking for an early arrival on the groomed area at the bottom.
Stag Leap - much like Decline but softer all the way down. Not sure why it should have been that much softer, could it be some retained heat from the past few days? Last few turns were more or less elephant snot
Lone Fir/Spinal Tap - so much soft snow in the chute that where you used to have to do hard edge to edge jumps you now just sweep through with GS turns. The fan was soft and deep as always. Spinal Tap was ok most of the way and I have now abandoned any thoughts of getting under the log, its a case of going over high on the left. It just got a bit too slushy in the final turns as you came out of the creek bed.
Skydive - usual final rip with 4 of us. The top bumps had flattened bit in the new snow and the run below that was easy jersey cream. Everything turned to mush about half way down the final pitch and that made for some pretty hard work turns at the end of the day.

Overall it wasn't a bad day considering we had rain in the valley all day and the snow even up top was only just about winter snow. It was +3 and light rain as we drove away from the hill but the forecast for tonight is for falling temps and some quite reasonable accumulations. I am still nervous and am hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Day 103 Change is on the way

After an extended period (far too extended in the view of winter skiing fans like me) of hot bluebird days today showed the first signs that things are about to change.

It was -5 overnight which is a fair bit warmer than of late. No new snow of course but as we got to the hill it was sort of blue bird but with some high hazy cloud. The cloud thickened all day and by early afternoon we even got some very light snow flurries in strong gusts of wind, a sure indicator of an incoming weather system. As we drove away the temp had warmed to +4 and we had some very light precip in the form of misty drizzle at the base and we have to hope that it was coming down white up high.

The result was that without the direct sunlight the south facing slopes which had set up over night after having turned to slush yesterday afternoon didn't soften anything like as quickly as had been the case over the past few days. The north facing slopes stayed in ok shape but things had got so hot yesterday that they had been affected and so were not quite the good winter snow that they had been. For the first time this year we started to get atmospheric warming later in the day which meant that the lower slopes softened even if they were not in the sun. The good news on this is that a lot of refrozen crud actually skied quite well, the bad news is that it will all turn to refrozen crud overnight giving us a bigger problem tomorrow.

We went to the Old Side and like yesterday only half of the Bear was groomed so we had several good runs in the icy bumps along side the main bump course. I would congratulate the hill on this enlightened policy of providing some more bump terrain for the public except that I discover the only reason for this is that they are two cats short at the moment.

We did our usual Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line, Cedar Ridge, King Fir North facing loops which skied ok but were just that bit firmer after yesterday. These were interspersed with Boom Ridge loops where the top section was good soft bumps but becoming very hard and icy for the lower half. Kangaroo was big icy smooth bumps in the top section and was still tough refrozen crud (but a bit better than it has been) in the lower pitch.

We dropped a very mellow Boomerang which was soft bumps and headed over to the New Side. The Fraser Tooth has been a bit of a go to run just recently and today was no exception. It was good steep North facing tree skiing on good winter snow and stayed that way all the way through the tight chute by North East Glades. We ran to lunch down a very mellow Decline and then Window Chutes where the snow was deep and the atmospheric warming had made it soft all the way down to the cat track.

After lunch I took the High IT out to Gotta Go and it was a bit slick and crusty. Gotta Go was good in the top but very sketchy in the choke but back to good again below. Diamond Leg Trees still have plenty of soft snow and so much you can now just drop through what was the deadfall zone. Next loop was Touque Chutes which as always were great if a bit chunky low down and then Spinal Tap which skied just like Window Chutes and was very mellow.

We were tight on time for the next loop so I dropped the Knot Chutes (Fraid Knot) which was a weird mix of crust and soft snow and actually skied quite well. Anaconda 1 was soft and deep and Diamond Leg Trees were just as good as before. We were just in time to take the trees to lookers left of Lift Line ( now my favoured line every time) to drop in good snow to White Pass just in time for last chair. Last run was Skydive which was guod skiing all the way down as even the very bottom had softened in the atmospheric warming. It was my buddy Rod's last day of the season so we said goodbye with a good old Skydive rip.

On the way home we had the valley drizzle and the whole town was looking pretty sorry for itself. Over the next few days we have some ok precip forecast but with temps right on the edge it could go either way - lets hope its snow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Day 102 Summer skiing

I thought yesterday was warm but today was way warmer. In fact it reminded me of those summer breaks I took in the 80s and 90s skiing the Hintertux Glacier in mid summer. Things started freezing cold and then got very hot very quick as everything that was not North facing and in the shade turned to mush.

No new snow of course and it was -10 on the way to the hill for yet another bluebird day. Actually as the day wore on some wispy high clouds appeared which are the forerunners of the change in the weather that should start tomorrow. Temps rose and by mid afternoon we had +8 in the valley and nearer +15 in the direct sunshine. Even this late it is still +4 on the deck and not forecast to drop below zero until just before dawn.

Just like yesterday we went to the Old Side and discovered that they had only groomed Bear half way across so we had some good hard bumps all along side the official bump course. We looped this few times and although the Wailers are not the ideal ski for the job had a great time. We spent the rest of the morning on the North facing slopes of Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line, Cedar Ridge and King Fir all of which were nice chalky winter snow taking a nice edge. Kangaroo as always was the return route and as yesterday it was hard ice bumps in the upper section and ugly refrozen crud in the lower pitch.

About 11 we decided to head out to Snake Ridge banking on the fact that the sun would be having a softening effect and skied Steep and Deep and Redtree. Steep and Deep was just getting on the soft side of nice but Redtree was more like winter snow although icy and rutted on the exit. I lost a basket off one of my poles (discovered when the pole plant sunk about a metre into the snow) so we went for an early lunch at the awesome Big Bang Bagels via Boomerang which had become easy soft bumps. We took advantage of the break to get the pole repaired and to drop off a couple of layers of clothing before heading out for the afternoon.

We went to the New Side and once again the trees on looker left of Lift Line stayed as excellent winter snow and good skiing and as such was my favoured starting point every time. We went up Polar Peak which as usual was only open on the Coaster side. I did a few Polar loops experimenting with different lines into the top of Crusty Chute before heading on to Low Saddle. There were a couple of rocks starting to show in the top of the saddle which I managed to clip but after a quick right then an immediate drop into Perch Chutes it was soft deep winter snow all the way. The exit through Easter and Freeway were still good North facing chalky snow with bumps.

Next I hit the Fraser Tooth which once again was some of the best snow on the hill. This time I could hold the line tight in the trees all the way down without having to loop out round the odd tree so the snow must have been good. Searching for North facing stuff next time I dropped Cobra Rock and as I was feeling on form I dropped the steep tight tree chutes to the right which I made with only the slightest of slithers in one place. The snow was deep full on winter snow and was so little used there was still some untracked snow. The Diamond Leg Trees on the right were equally good winter snow all the way down to the Gilmar Trail.

I decided that if this was spring/summer skiing I should embrace it at least once so I hit Concussion which had been in the sun. It was a bit like water skiing in places but a lot of fun pushing big wet sloughs on every turn. The Gilmar Gully was still in good shape with a soft layer on top but reasonably firm underneath. The final run was Skydive with just 3 of us today. The bumps at the top were quite soft and the run is just shaded enough for the snow to be good soft winter snow down to the middle of the final pitch where it went to refrozen crud. Overall it was a good run to finish on.

Drinks on the deck of the Griz and wings night at the Pub rounded off a good day. The forecast is for some wet snow/rain turning to snow over the next couple of days. I am worried that things are so much warmer than everyone expected that the precip when it comes will be very wet indeed - a 100% moisture content in fact. What ever it is I will be out in to tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Day 101 Getting a lot warmer

First of all apologies for last night's blog. Yesterday being day 100 and a drinking day turned out to be a big day in every sense of the word from the great conditions to the lines hit. Unfortunately the evenings celebrations did rather get out of hand - why do shots of J├Ągermeister always seem like such a good idea at the time ?

Yesterday was a bluebird day and today was a straight forward rerun except that it got way warmer in the strong sun shine. On the way to the hill it was -10 but obviously warming rapidly. Since the clocks changed for daylight saving the warmest part of the day has moved back to late afternoon so around 3  we had temps of +6 and a lot warmer (probably double digit figures by my guess) in the direct sun light. On North facing slopes and in the shade the snow stayed in good winter conditions but in the sun everything started to soften and even up top of Polar Peak things were soft if not mushy.

Yesterday having been such a big day things got off to a bit of a slow start and I decided to have a fairly quiet day and concentrate on slower technical skiing rather than just ripping it. We went to the Old Side and started with a warm up down Bear. After that we spent the morning looping the North Facing slopes of Bear Cave Chutes, New Lift Line, Cedar Ridge (several ways) and King Fir. All of these skied much the same with nice soft winter snow which had formed bumps taking a good edge. We interspersed the loops with the odd run down Boomerang Ridge with was lovely soft bumps to just over half way down and then got progressively harder and icier as you got near the bottom. Returns were through Kangaroo which was it's usual hard icy bumpy self in the top but smooth enough to be ok skiing. The lower pitch of Kangroo was just ugly refrozen crud which hadn't had enough traffic to be smooth - rather like skiing a frozen ploughed field but not so much fun.

We drifted over to the New Side and just like yesterday the trees to lookers left of Lift Line provided some great firm skiing and was my route from Timber top to White Pass load for the rest of the day. Of course Polar Peak was open but only on the Coaster side so we dropped Crusty Chute which was nowhere near as good as it had been as it was rutted and variable but was the only interesting line available so we took it every time. Traversing under Tower 6 and dropping down to the Reverse Traverse we found the surface was getting soft and sun affected but was in ok shape. Our run to base was through Easter Bowl which was North facing soft winter snow and very nice indeed.

Lynda decided to swim in the afternoon so I headed out to amuse myself. The Fraser Tooth had been good yesterday and was good again today with perhaps the best winter snow on the hill. Next was a trip up Polar followed by Low Saddle which was still skiing ok and the snow immediately under right cut was as good as anywhere. The exit through Easter was as good as the morning. I did another Polar lap and then hit Touque Chutes all the way down which having a similar aspect to Easter skied just the same. Next I took the High IT which was soft but ok out to Gotta Go and hopped into Google Earth this was good soft winter snow as was the snow in Diamond Leg Trees which we took afterwards and which still had some untracked lines.

I just had time for a White Pass loop so I dropped the Tight Knot which was very soft and mushy in the direct sun. I went out to Anaconda 4 and again had a good drop in winter snow before skating back round Trespass Trail in time for last chair. Last run was Skydive and as none of us had tried any of the Big 3 today it was an unknown quantity. In the event after a few firm bumps it skied as soft and good winter snow all the way down to about two thirds of the way down the final pitch when it went to refrozen crud. Some might have called it ugly but after lower Kangroo this morning it was a stroll in the park.

It was a lovely sunny evening to sit out on the deck drinking (non alcoholic drinks) and watch the sun set over the Lizard. Looks like a couple more days of this then it cools and we get precip. We are all hoping for snow but I am seriously worried that we will be getting some liquid powder before the snow sets in.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Day 100 Sorry

 Sorry as I feared today's blog will be made unavailable due to circumstances way beyond my capacity for alcohol.

An awesome day's spring skiing.