Craig's Report - March 10, 2005

A Visit to Intensive Care

I hadn't been out skiing for over a week, but decided to head up today to pay my last respects to the poor sickly shade that has been this year's season. Suffering from terminal hyperthermia, it has not had a good week and only the heroic life support efforts of the trail crews are keeping it going. While it seems likely that they will be able to keep it lingering on in some state for a while yet, I'm not sure I'll have the heart to visit again unless some major snow arrives. In truth I have few good words for this season and will not be sorry to see it go.

The weather remains very spring like, which means hard icy mornings (so I am told) softening in the afternoon in areas blessed with sun. Despite the high temperatures, serious ice can persist in the shade in the afternoon and caution is definitely needed. There are some reports of a change in the weather patterns next week, but who knows if it will bring the major storms that the bottom of the hill really needs. Conditions are still somewhat better than the nadir after the January rain, but that is definitely a damnation by faint praise.

In my brief visit I did manage to visit all five major bowls. Cedar was guarded by an ominous sign that suggested experts only need apply. I went anyway, but opted to stick near the groomed Cruiser. The shady South side was pretty much bullet proof and even Cruiser was pretty firm although the groomed crunchies did provide sufficient grip. The net result was an undramatic and rather mundane cruising run right down to the Haul Back.

At the top of the Haul Back a sign presented the choices as View Trail with ice and dirt or Cedar Trail with some walking. I opted for the latter and still saw lots of ice and dirt, but the walking portion was pretty much limited to crossing lower North Ridge. The bottom part of Kodiak provided a reasonable path down to the Boom Chair, but clearly the escape from Cedar is becoming very tenuous.

The snow on Sunnyside was sun drenched and satisfyingly gooey, but alders, stumps and even fallen trees emerging from the snow pack provided plenty of obstacles to maneuver around. Even out in the middle of the bowl, Cascade had lots of things to watch out for. There was a snow farmed strip of snow down China Might and another narrow strip on upper Ballet, but the cat track across the top of China Wall still provided a decent way out. Dipsey has hazards, but is still quite skiable and getting down to the Bear chair that way is relatively painless. You can also still make it down Elk as far as the bottom of Bear chair, but it is a definite exercise in route selection. Lizard Trail is the only feasible way to get to the bottom from the old side.

Currie is closed below Trespass Trail, which pretty much rules out any meaningful run on the sun collecting Currie Chutes and the South side of the bowl appeared suicidally hard. Opting for as much sun as possible I took Currie Powder, which was OK, but hardly worth the skate back down Trespass Trail.

They were recommending downloading on the Timber chair when exiting the new side, but friends had told me that in the morning they had no problem getting out Falling Star, except for it being icy near the bottom. This sounded better than a chair ride down and indeed Morning Glory was sun soaked and nicely sticky until you got down into the gully where soft and hard alternated depending on the aspect of the turn. The part below the switch back was remarkably hard, but the modest slope kept things sane and all was well until where it meets up with Timber Trail. Below the hot sun had clearly undone the groomers work and it was just a mess. There was mud and little creeks to jump over and in places I am sure I was just skiing on mud. Amazingly though my skis again made it through the day with no major damage.

This has been by far the worst season of the fifteen odd I have spent here. What I call bad conditions in Fernie might often be considered pretty good in other places, but this truly was bad. It must have been awfully disappointing for folks arriving here this year for their first time, but I am continually amazed at how folks on vacation will make the best of almost any situation and have a good time despite the vagaries of fortune.

At 17:30 it is 10 C at the house and clear.

Looking up Currie Powder with Polar Peak at the right.

Although obviously thin, the beginner area is one of the few places on the lower mountain that still has an adequate covering.

Cedar Trail as it passes below the Elk Chair. There probably is still some snow mixed in that muck, but I don't think you could call it skiable.

The Bear (Bare?) run.

A gates of doom sign greets those contemplating a trip into Cedar Bowl.

Caught! As I was about to take this picture of Cruiser and Cedar Bowl, Robin, the fellow responsible for the outside operations at the ski hill, came zooming out of the bullet proof stuff in the trees behind me. This has to have been a tough year for him and his crew and I can't imagine it gladdens his heart to spot me with a camera, but he was gracious enough to joke about it and let me proceed without any significant pole punctures, despite the lack of witnesses in that deserted bowl.

The sad state at the bottom of the Boom chair.

My but your moguls are shiny! Arrow and Bow from lower Sunnyside.

The gully at the bottom of Morning Glory had an interesting mix of hard and soft turns.

Weather appropriate recreation? In what I imagine must be a welcome bid to provide alternate activities for their guests, the hill has already cleaned up the tennis courts and mounted the nets.