Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

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Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Feb 26, 2018 11:01 pm

What a grand finale to this year’s Canada trip! It was serendipitous that we missed the connection with Bill Handley on Friday but met him at the Fernie locker room at 9:00AM Sunday. It snowed 8 inches Friday night and the predicted 1-3 inches on Sunday turned out to be 9 inches of nonstop snowfall by the end of the ski day.

Bill and Linda retired from the UK and spend the ski season in Fernie since 2004. The rest of the year they are in England indulging their other passion of sailing. Bill is an inspiration for us retirees. Unlike his predecessor blogger Craig, who tended to cherry pick both days and conditions, Bill skis every day, which is 86 consecutive so far since Fernie opened in 2017-18. Bill also skis bell to bell with just a 40 minute lunch break, and there’s no break on days which are as good as Sunday was. Linda said she was not as zealous, as she has missed about 5 days this season and often only skis to 2PM. But you had better bring your A-game if you want to keep up with either one of them. I managed quite well with all the powder but they would have burned me out much earlier in the day with less forgiving conditions.

Bill details where he skis each day, and here is his summary of Sunday’s skiing: http://www.billhandley.com/2018/02/day- ... e-day.html. I have a few more observations though. Bill remarked that Fernie locals tend to be “Old Side Skiers” or New Side Skiers,” and he is firmly in the latter camp, favoring the New Side for longer steep fall lines and more efficient lift access.

In retrospect it’s very clear Craig was an “Old Side Skier,” and it is probably true that snowfall increases gradually as you move deeper into the Lizard Range, with it eventually being 400+ at Island Lake Snowcat vs. 360 in the upper middle of the resort. The New Side refers to the Timber and White Pass lifts, Siberia, Timber and Currie Bowls that were developed starting in 1998-99. Polar Peak was added more recently. The Old Side refers to Lizard and Cedar Bowls and associated lifts, and Craig favored powder skiing from Cedar and Snake Ridges into Cedar Bowl. He named his website Redtree after the farthest run out Snake Ridge.

Bill and Linda led Tseeb and me on 5 laps out to the end of the Reverse Traverse, which leads from the top of White Pass past the base of Polar Peak (closed both Friday and Sunday). Before Friday I had never been past the Saddles that drop skier’s left into Easter Bowl. The full Reverse Traverse to the top of Skydive is Fernie’s answer to Alta’s High T, and Bill and Linda hit it at warp drive like admin and BobbyD regardless of weather and visibility.

We skied Skydive, Cougar Glades into the bottom of Currie Bowl and Touque Chutes into the bottom of Lizard Bowl from the Reverse Traverse before it closed below Polar Peak. But Bill knew that a lower traverse would still get us to the top of Skydive, so we got two moré runs on Stag’s Leap and Decline/Window Chutes before Currie Bowl closed completely about 12:30pm. The peaks of the Lizard Range are above the lifts and it is inevitable that exposed bowls will be closed for avalanche risk when it’s puking snow as much as on Sunday.

When we exited the top of White Pass the 6th time in wind and blowing snow, I lost track of which way Bill was going. I skied an upper bowl, then trees and a blue run to the base of White Pass, all in the fast accumulating fresh snow. When I did not see Bill, Linda and Tseeb, I realized I needed to get to the bottom of the Timber chair. I expected a long flattish runout, but even here it was lightly tracked powder at least 2/3 of the way down. I guessed right and rejoined Bill, Linda and Tseeb for a 7th lap. It started like their 6th lap with a Knot Chute, then a traverse onto the ridge between Timber and Currie Bowls and finally a drop skier’s right into Triple trees. At this point my hands abruptly became cold and I knew I would have to change from gloves to mittens. Triple Trees crosses 3 catwalks and I bailed on the third one and got down to Timber as fast as possible to get the mittens on. By now it was 2PM which had been discussed as a tentative late lunch, so I went into the lodge but soon got a call from Tseeb that there would be no lunch break.

So I went back out to Timber and joined Bill and Tseeb for their second Siberia Ridge run, White Rabbit. These are steep trees and get a bit tight in spots. This was the point when my legs became less responsive and I remembered Bill’s advice to bear right if I wanted to get out to the Shooting Star groomer earlier.

My final run was another Knot Chute lap to the fourth Anaconda Glade. From there a catwalk leads back to the ridge lower down where Bill dropped into Bootleg trees. These looked as tight as White Rabbit, so I continued on to Diamondback which I learned was one of Liz’ favorite runs. I skied to the car, meeting Liz there at 3:45, having skied 30,900 vertical, about 18K of powder. By my metric of vertical + powder, Sunday ranked #4 lifetime out of more than 1,300 lift served ski days

Liz had been on her own, but was every bit as enthusiastic about the powder as we were, as it was practically everywhere snowing that intensely.

Tseeb took another lap with Bill and finished over 35K. I only ran out of gas late in the day, was pleasantly surprised to last that long at that pace on my 10th straight ski day. But when the powder is that good, effort is reduced, even in the demanding terrain where Bill was leading us.

I’ll anticipate the critique :worthless:
1) The weather was not conducive.
2) Bill skis nonstop runs, so you have a choice. Stop for pics and ski on your own, or ski all day being shown out-of-the-way local stashes. On a big powder day, I thought the choice was a no-brainer.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Feb 27, 2018 3:54 am

How many times per season does Fernie get big rainouts? Seems like I've read equal amounts of TRs like this one with nuking snow and ones with gully washers.

Funny how storm skiing east or west in the U.S. is almost always game-on vs. the Alps, where it's a maybe. I was lucky at my recent storm day in Auron because a good portion of the terrain was below treeline.
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Feb 27, 2018 12:14 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:How many times per season does Fernie get big rainouts? Seems like I've read equal amounts of TRs like this one with nuking snow and ones with gully washers.

Fernie's snowfall is 80% correlated with Mt. Rainier. Fernie and Crystal have similar characteristics as expert oriented areas with tremendous powder potential due to layout as well as big snowfall: lots of Alta-like stashes requiring local knowledge and/or a bit of grunt work to reach. Sunday was my 10th lifetime day at Fernie and probably 80% of the terrain I skied was for the first time. Larry Schick's Powder Alert newsletter has many subscribers in Fernie because most of the storms that hit the Washington Cascades arrive in Fernie about 18 hours later.

As for day by day rain incidence, it's very difficult to get historical data for info like that, especially in a ski area vs. a town. I can ask Larry Schick that question about Crystal, which has been his home mountain for 20+ years. The key attribute of the PNW is drought resistance. If there's a rain/freeze event, the local attitude is probably, "I'll stay home this weekend. It will probably snow again before next weekend." Only in a few rare seasons like 2005 and 2015 are there sustained bad conditions for a long period of time. And only the fanatics like Bill are out there when conditions suck like Feb. 5-11

Fernie's rain incidence is probably somewhat lower than Crystal's. And the powder quality is normally much higher, if all the new snow I've seen at Fernie/Island Lake over the years is any indication. Most winter storms probably run into cold Canadian interior airmasses typical just north of the Lizard Range which probably dries out the snow.

The strongest tropical storms will push though and rain well into Fernie's ski terrain up to 5,000 feet or so. Some of them will push over Crowsnest Pass and hit Castle too. In 2015 Castle was already closed in mid-February because its base had been rained upon too many times and there is no snowmaking. But the Feb. 4 storm hit that cold Canadian airmass at Sparwood 20 miles east of Fernie so that storm was all snow east of there including Castle.

Castle being leeward of the Continental Divide to no surprise gets less snowfall than Fernie even considering its superior rain resistance. Castle got only an inch vs. 8 at Fernie Friday night and 7 vs. 11 in Sunday's storm.

jamesdeluxe wrote:Funny how storm skiing east or west in the U.S. is almost always game-on vs. the Alps, where it's a maybe. I was lucky at my recent storm day in Auron because a good portion of the terrain was below treeline.

I routinely expect that big storm days in the Alps will be no-ski days for me. I have a very strong bias toward the high altitude places for snow preservation reasons, which Fraser and others say is more important in the Alps for snow reliability than having the highest snowfall totals.

The tree line in the Alps is so low that you have to have James' level of luck to have quality powder in the trees. I doubt that there is anywhere in the Alps that is even close to the quality and consistency of the best tree skiing in North America. And Fernie is on the elite short list in that category in North America.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby tseeb » Tue Feb 27, 2018 11:16 pm

I have a couple of pictures taken from the parking lot when I finished skiing. I think I did 6 laps that were a combination of 2,150 vertical Timber Bowl high-speed lift, followed after a quick drop down through powder on Lift Line or trees on either side of it, then 1,234 vertical non-detachable White Pass. I also did 4 laps that were only Timber Bowl. That put my vertical over 35K, my highest of the year and probably highest ever with so many steep powder and untracked powder runs. My favorite comment from Bill was that he took the left and his wife Lynda took the right and we left the (untracked) middle for you two, but you didn't take it. Probably we didn't because the middle had big bumps barely covered by new snow at the time and the edges looked smoother although it kept getting better.

We skied many runs not on the map, some of them into trees that were very dark into thick cedars totally canopied with a long way to any edge. On the Triple Trees runs, I skidded off the steep icy bank onto the first road crossing and lost a ski. I also lost a ski when I crossed them and could not uncross before hitting a tree that knocked one off. But I made it through 10 consecutive ski days in Canada with no falls worse than that.
Attachments
5575Big3andInfiniti.JPG
Our rental SUV in Fernie parking lot. Note that there is a rack under the 6" or so of snow on the roof that fell during day. The 'Big 3' runs, Stag Leap, Sky Dive and Decline are visible off sub-peak at upper left. We got all three nearly untracked after long traverse. We also skied some glades and open areas between and below these runs.
5576FernieParkingLot.JPG
Siberia Ridge is at left. I skied Fraser's Tooth (named after cat driver who cleared path around Sabre Tooth cliff) and White Rabbit, to skier's left and right, respectively, of Siberia Ridge run.
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Feb 28, 2018 4:58 am

Tony Crocker wrote:The tree line in the Alps is so low that you have to have James' level of luck to have quality powder in the trees.

Not to hijack, but I have to push back on this rose-colored view of my luck with conditions.
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Feb 28, 2018 9:06 am

I'll rephrase to say that you need even more than James' level of luck to have quality powder in the trees in the Alps. We have seen lots of powder pics from him, but they have been on quite open terrain, even under less than blue skies.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby tseeb » Thu Dec 27, 2018 8:54 pm

Sorry to have to report that Bill passed away last summer. For details, see post at http://www.billhandley.com/

His last post was a delayed re-cap of last season during which he stopped posting for 70 days after Fernie threatened to pull his pass for his realistic condition reporting. His recap included a report of only one top-to-bottom rain event during a lot of snow in Feb. and that Fernie suffered from a few days of rain that prevented an announced early opening and affected their normal opening. He also posted that "Polar Peak which only open to the public for 12 days this season which is the lowest number I can remember since the lift was first installed." We were there the day before and after it slid. It was closed both days Tony Crocker, Liz and I skied there.
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby baldyskier » Fri Dec 28, 2018 4:01 pm

Kind of surprising that Bill suffered a deadly heart attack, given how active he was. I wonder if he had undetected blockage. That was the case with a very active cyclist whose unexpected blockage was discovered via a stress test. He had to get a 2nd opinion in order to have the test. See link.
https://www.roadbikerider.com/a-cautionary-tale-how-cycling-saved-my-life-d5/
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:06 pm

tseeb wrote:His last post was a delayed re-cap of last season during which he stopped posting for 70 days after Fernie threatened to pull his pass for his realistic condition reporting.

Were they upset about Bill's reality-check on the conditions reports or that he was basically accusing them of negligent lift maintenance? I can imagine that RCR's lawyers probably weren't happy about the latter.
http://www.billhandley.com/2018/
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby tseeb » Sat Dec 29, 2018 11:49 am

From further reading of Bill's Blog from Fall 2017, it sounds like his pass was threatened by Fernie's Risk Management because he posted about skiing closed runs. He commented about many others skiing runs that were not yet open and may have taken advantage of a sign that was changed by someone other than ski patrol.

I also was surprised to hear that Bill died from a heart attack considering how hard (although he made it look easy) and well and often he skied. From my further reading of his blog, he also ran two marathons in November 2017 (Dublin in 4:25 and Porto in 4:15 a week later!!) even though he pulled a hamstring while training in September. (And I thought I was doing well getting in shape for skiing by running a 5K Turkey Trot the last two years with very little training due to injury in 2017 and smoke from N CA fires in 2018.)
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby lono » Sat Dec 29, 2018 5:15 pm

Very sad , I admire the way he lived his life.
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Dec 30, 2018 8:08 am

tseeb wrote:I also was surprised to hear that Bill died from a heart attack

I read the late 2017 (with the poaching discussion) and 2018 blog posts -- he would start the day with a 10km run on his machine at home AND THEN go ski bell to bell, often without a break? The exact opposite of the British/Euro stereotype of getting to the hill at 10 am, skiing nothing but groomers, a copious two-hour lunch, and early apres-ski. I've met UK-retiree hardcores like that in the Alps who left me in the dust.
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Re: Fernie, B.C., Feb. 25, 2018

Postby baldyskier » Mon Dec 31, 2018 9:09 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:
tseeb wrote:I also was surprised to hear that Bill died from a heart attack

I read the late 2017 (with the poaching discussion) and 2018 blog posts -- he would start the day with a 10km run on his machine at home AND THEN go ski bell to bell, often without a break? The exact opposite of the British/Euro stereotype of getting to the hill at 10 am, skiing nothing but groomers, a copious two-hour lunch, and early apres-ski. I've met UK-retiree hardcores like that in the Alps who left me in the dust.

I wonder if he had any symptoms in the weeks before his heart attack. The guy that wrote the article I posted above was likewise in very good condition and exercised regularly. He did have symptoms, but only when exercising vigorously.
Worth looking out for in our own bodies. Check out abnormalities, and push for an answer if medical people try to explain them away. Three people I've known have had heart attacks recently due to blockage. My brother-in-law, who played basketball with coworkers several times a week, died of a massive heart attack due to blockage at the age of 45 awhile back. He had noticed shortness of breath toward the end when walking up hills. Doctors ordered tests (all came back negative), but not the tests that would have shown the blockage.
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