Jay's Report - March 05, 2006

The Week In Rewiew - Ski Hill and Island Lake

I�ve written about the enchantment of Island Lake before on this report. Island Lake Lodge is located just a few bowls north of Fernie Alpine Resort. Fernie Alpine Resort is an awesome ski hill, yet it has only about half of the skiable terrain of the Island Lake operation. On top of that, the base of Island Lake Lodge is located higher than the altitude of the Bear�s Den at the ski hill, allowing a freezing point advantage for those �R� days. Incidentally, that is the only thing the Bear�s Den and Island Lake Lodge have in common. Think Shangra La if you�d like an image of Island Lake Lodge. Think prairie oyster if you�d like an image of the Bear�s Den.

It was an interesting week, commencing with forecasts of a raging snow storm and heavy snow all week � a powder skier�s dream. Unfortunately, at the hill it turned into a bit of a wet dream at the beginning of the week, where heavy snow fall was followed by rain up to above the Bear�s Den. Ski Hill avalanche forecasters were working overtime as conditions caused several large releases to occur. Closures on the hill were necessary, particularly in the Cedar Bowl, where a mid-week overnight slide charged full length down to the bottom of Cedar Ridge. Snow Cat operators on the hill did a speedy and splendid clean, shave and manicure of Cruiser, making it tip top for weekend skiers/boarders.

At the hill, conditions were hard pack for the weekend, blue steel in places. Zooming the groom was the story for the weekend. Runs like North Ridge and Bear were good fun with hard pack skis. Diamond Back is newly groomed for most of the way, making it too a decent cruising run. I overheard some Europeans admiring the grooming. Huh? Was I abducted and taken to another ski hill? Am I still in Fernie?

At the Hill on the weekend, you would be awarded with about 6 inches of soft on steel if you boot packed above the Face Lift or Snake Ridge, but 6 inches wasn�t enough to get me interested. The hill was empty for the most part on the weekend. Many locals stayed home after forecasts of snowfall proved to be ambitious. Conditions were sunny and clear for Griz Days and the Dummy Downhill on Sunday. Sun exposed sides like Concussion offered half soft and half chattered turns. FIS ski racers had hard pack/ice conditions on Lower Bear and Kodiak.

At Island Lake, conditions were a little different. Because the skiable terrain is higher in altitude than at the ski hill, powder snow prevailed, about 50 cm of it. Though snotty at lower elevations for part of our three day tour, cooling temperatures and pure magnitude of �the white� gave us excellent powder conditions. Like the ski hill, snow safety personnel at Island Lake were also working overtime to scope and assess safe terrain in advance of designating areas as �green� or �open�. There was plenty of �red� or �closed� out there. Also like the hill, it�s obvious that a lot happens behind the scenes at Island Lake to keep the margin for safety high. So the boys had to be satisfied with tree skiing on safer terrain. We were. Expert veteran guides Steve Kuijt and John Birrell delivered, as always, sufficient ration of powder to fill our voracious male appetites for powder snow. Though the lines weren�t as gnarly as in past years, the skiing was genuinely grand. This year Island Lake is working with well known professional outdoor/action photographer Henry Georgi. We were fortunate to have him join us for a morning as only Henry has the talent required to make some us look good. Thank you Henry. And thank you also for letting me post some shots. Look Mom, my Report has pictures by Henry Georgi!

It was a wonderful week in the Fernie area. Our sorry butts were wholly satisfied. Speaking of Butts, the annual ButtDarting competition sank to new lows this year as yours truly walked proudly away with first prize in the Butt Off by calmly depositing a Looney into a shot glass. Believe it, I have witnesses. Absent from the competition this year was Michigan �ButtDart� Bob who was last seen singing the Canadian National Anthem at Island Lake last year while awarding the Podium finish to our team.

At 10 pm, it�s just below freezing at the house and snow forecasters are once again being ambitious.

Steve Kuijt at Island Lake. By Henry Georgi

One of us at Island Lake. By Henry Georgi.

One of us at Island Lake. By Henry Georgi

Gary at Island Lake. By Henry Georgi

Here's something you don't see every day. Steve Kuijt caught in a dougle eject. Photo not by Henry Georgi. Steve would never do this in front of Henry Georgi.

Gary at Island Lake. By Henry Georgi.

One of us demonstrating snorkeling technique. By Henry Georgi.

Brad at Island Lake. By Henry Georgi.

Curtis at Island Lake. By Henry Georgi.

Yours Truly at Island Lake. By Henry Georgi. Thanks for capturing one of my few balanced moments Henry.