Fernie winter on my two planks.

Bill Handleys column on the conditions at the Fernie Alpine Resort.

When I left you last it was just before Christmas and we had tough ugly conditions but with some snow in the forecast. Well, since that time as I sit here at the end of the first week in January quite a lot has happened but we have ended up with tough ugly conditions but with some snow in the forecast – so what happened?

Between Chrismas and the New Year we got the snow we were promised but having first fallen as snow it then came down for two days as rain/snow mix with the rain line creeping way up the hill.

This created the “perfect storm” conditions for crowds, a holiday week, fresh snow but skiing only any good in the White Pass area. Lift lines were huge and what powder there was, which was very heavy Jersey cream at best, was tracked out very quickly.

After the rain/snow mix we had some more good snow, which fell mostly in the form of grapple (ice pellets) which pushed the base to nearer 165 cms for the New Year’s celebrations.

The first week of the New Year was almost a rerun of the previous week with snow followed by a rain/snow mix allowing official figures to record almost 80 cms of fresh snow in seven days albeit at the snow plot but some great fresh snow particularly on the Old Side. We were then hit by a warm up which was the most unseasonal I can remember for years. Temperatures soared to +10 at the base and about +3 even at the highest elevations. This gave us spring skiing (some might even say summer skiing) all over the mountain. Everything turned soft and lower down “slush” was the only word to describe it while brown bare patches started to appear on the lower runs.

Finally, just like in the last cycle temps dropped back to minus figures (about 2 at the base and 7 on top) so that we were left with ugly slick groomers of ice, hard icy bumps where there had been skier traffic and boiler plate for most of the rest of the hill. Where we sit now the Old Side is only really good for skiing groomers. Bear has repaired pretty well as has Cruiser and North Ridge but elsewhere ice is a constant threat. Away from the groomers nothing really is nice. Boomerang, Cedar Ridge and the Sunny side shoulder are all rock hard bumps and out to Snake Ridge and Steep and Deep it was breakable crust of the worst kind last time I skied it.

The New Side is a bit better with the best blown in snow on Anaconda Glades, 1-2-3s, top of Easter bowl (the bottom is hard bumps), top of Decline and top of Skydive.

This is one tough season to be on the hill. If you are looking for awesome powder then look elsewhere but if you are looking for challenging skiing that will improve your technical skills, get out there.

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