Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ski day 28: Running into my fans

Vert: 6,325 m    YTD cum vert: 152,125 m
Runs: 13    YTD cum runs: 349

More epic powder on the hill today.
Yours truly, lower Rock Ledges
All this snow is starting to grow on me. See my full snow report here.

In at lunch today, we sat next to a trio of fine gentlemen up for their weekly ski (normally Wednesday, but this week, Friday). We got to talking about getting real time, unbiased snow condition information. We discussed Craig's Fernie site, which was the inspiration for a lot of my blogging about Sunshine's conditions. And it turns out one of them is a reader of my blogs.

I'm proud to know that I have at least 5 readers:

  • The gentleman I met today
  • Edwin, from the Netherlands
  • My (may as well be) sister-in-law, who reads me every Thursday
  • The ever lovely Shannon (heck of a Facebook picture, girl)
  • The also lovely (especially in killer red heels and a paper bag) Astrid.
I don't count Karen. She has to read me to correct my typos.

Who knows, one day I may break 10 readers. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Ski day 27: More like Ski day 26½

Vert: 3,640 m    YTD cum vert: 145,800 m
Runs: 5    YTD cum runs: 336

As I explain on my other blog here, we only got a half day in today because the wind shut the Gondola down while we were at lunch, and we went for lunch at the Gondola base, not on the top.

Some days are frustrating when you only get a half day in. Almost exactly a year ago, we had one of those days. Today was not one of those days. Sure, we were disappointed that we didn't get to stick around to continue enjoying the fantastic snow conditions, but we had a wicked 5 runs in the morning -- at least 2 of which ranked up there for me as among the best of the year. I mean, how can you turn this down?
On my way to the untracked on the left
I got a pile of first tracks in today -- some on every run. Better that than leaving because it's miserable as we did a few weeks ago.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Ski day 26: Repetitiveness-sly the same

Vert: 6,535 m    YTD cum vert: 142,160 m
Runs: 15    YTD cum runs: 331

More overcast spoiling the viz. More wind with the resulting blowing snow harming the viz. More falling snow further harming the viz. More being unable to see an inch in front of your nose on Divide.
Lower Angel near the top of Barner's Bowl
See my full snow report here.

While snow quality is on a par with the stellar stuff we had last year, my stats tell me the weather this year hasn't been very good. We've only had 8 sunny days out of 26; the rest have ranged from overcast to downright miserable. Based on the forecast for Calgary (chinooking +8° in a day or so), I'm not expecting it to improve soon.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Ski day 25: Avi awareness days

Vert: 6,295 m    YTD cum vert: 135,625 m
Runs: 11    YTD cum runs: 316

Today was Avalanche Awareness Days at Sunshine. I was SnowHosting, so didn't get to spend nearly as much time with the displays and avalanche experts as I would have liked. But I did get to meet some of the avalanche puppies. Here's Cai, Sunshine's dog, who is in training.
Very sweet, and very enthusiastic
Here's Caz, the Parks Canada dog, with his handler.
Also a sweetie. Also enthusiastic
We saw these guys up on the his yesterday training. They were at the base of the Divide chair, and you could hear them barking clear to the top of the chair.

I got to do a fun hill tour today. My guest, a very nice lady pharmacist from Edmonton, was a bit familiar with the hill, but "always skied the same runs" and wanted some insider tips on new places to go, especially on days like today when the viz was pretty poor (see my full snow report on my other blog here). This was a lot of fun, as she was a pretty good skier, and although I'm not allowed to take her a lot of places, I can certainly tell her about them and show them off.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Ski day 22: Waking up when you want to

Vert: 7,410 m    TYD cum vert: 129,360 m
Runs: 15    YTD cum runs: 305

It has been (weather-wise) a hideous, no good, rotten, very bad week, with daily temps starting at -32° or so and rising to a mere -25°. This has kept us in the house, doing chores, such as finishing hanging art, organizing the basement, unpacking boxes (it's only been 5 months since we moved), closing out basketball stuff, wiring the home theatre room, hanging lights, and chipping off other such items on our to-do list.

However, the word was that it would warm up today, and it did. It was -15° when we left the house this morning, -10° when we hit the Sunshine parking lot, and -5° up on the mountain. You can see my ski & condition report for today here. It was a nice day despite the cruddy viz. So we finally got back to skiing, and almost skied the entire hill.

But we spent the rest of the week "sleeping in." I put quotes around that as I'm not sure what is "normal" wake-up time is. If we're going skiing, it's ~8:00. If I'm SnowHosting, it's 6:45. If KC is coming with me on a SnowHost day, it's 6:30. If we have chores to do, it's ~9:00. But if we're not going skiing, and we're on our own sched, we wake up when we wake up. The cat (photo above) likes to bug us for a play or a cuddle around 8:20 after his automatic feeder gives him breakfast. But just because he comes to say hi, doesn't mean we respond.

So this week's wake-ups were 9:20, 9:40 and 10:15. This is one of the many joys of retirement: you get to wake up when you want to. If you're a dude who's an early riser and thinks the best time of the day is 5 AM, go for it. Like sleeping in? Give up on the alarms, buy black out curtains, and hang in there until you have to.

KC and I are not morning people. Accordingly, I think we have 30 years of sleeping in to catch up on. I, for one, am looking forward to it.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Snow and animals

It snowed Saturday night, and has turned bitterly cold, with the high today of -24°. This was a great opportunity to try out something that came with the house when we bought it: a huge mother of a snowblower.
Hard at work on the driveway
It's certainly faster than shoveling, and less work, too. But it's not NO work; maneuvering that beast was a pain.

On our way home today, we found a coyote sauntering up our road.
Foraging across from my house
He was very pretty and looked pretty healthy, but didn't stick around long.
High-tailing it down my road

Jim Cuddy in Concert

One the list of great things about living where I live: The Banff Centre. A mere 20 min down the road, the place attracts world class talent into its small venues. During the summer, we saw Blue Rodeo in concert in their outdoor amphitheater. Jim Cuddy, one of the frontmen for Blue Rodeo, brought his solo tour through town this weekend. He played the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary last night. Capacity: 2,700. He played the Centre's Eric Harvie Theatre last night. Capacity: 960. We were in the 4th row. The place wasn't full.

Mr. Cuddy & the band 
Colin Cripps: Lead guitar & background vocals
Anne Lindsay, fiddle & background vocals
Jim & Colin 
The whole crew
The concert was great, and Jim played a full 2 hrs including encores. The last encore song could have been best of all. Playing the song Wash Me Down from his new album Skyscraper Soul, Jim, Colin, Anne & supporting act Devon Paisley came out and did an un-miked, acoustic version right at the front of the stage. It was wicked.  
A killer foursome
If that was great, it was even better that Jim hung around after the show to sign autographs.
Right after he shook my hand...
I'm not a groupie, but Jim is great whether he is with Blue Rodeo or on his own.

Ski day 23: More crowds, more celebs

Vert: 5,450 m   YTD cum vert: 121,950 m
Runs: 10    YTD cum runs: 290

I'm late with my posting as on Saturday we had to go into Calgary to watch basketball, and got home really late. We were busy Sunday (more on that in a separate post), so two days after I actually skied it (and reported it on Powderwatch here), here's the fun stuff that happened Saturday.

We were slammed with people at the gondola in the morning. Lines were fierce from 9:15 to 11:00, and I was on "Tokyo Subway Stuffing" duty again. The bright side of this was that EVERY celebrity on the hill had to go past me (as I was making space for them to pass through the crowd), and though I could take no pictures, I did get high fives/fist bumps from Alec Baldwin, Ed Begley Jr., Alicia Silverstone, Cheryl Hines, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Edward James Olmos, Paul Mitchell and others. But I was seriously tired by 11.

At 11 another SnowHost and I were released for a fast dash up to the top, and were cleared to use the VIP access line that the celebs were using. We slid into line behind a celeb (we didn't know who it was from behind) and his handler (Sunshine-supplied staff to ski with). We were content to let the celeb ride by himself but he insisted on us coming with him (he actually took my skis into the gondola with him...).

We spent the 20 min gondola ride chatting about skiing. I thought we were riding with Peter Fonda, but when he started talking about skiing Whistler and living in New Zealand, I started having my doubts. I figured out much later in the day it was Kevin Sorbo, star of the Hercules and Andromeda TV series. Turns out he has a place in Deer Valley, Utah, and since I LOVE skiing Utah, we had lots to talk about for the 20 min ride. Had I known it was him, I might have asked about his aneurysm that led to several strokes.

The powder in the afternoon was great (how can you turn down knee deep shots in my favourite chutes?). The fact that both the Dinos basketball teams lost to Saskatchewan that evening was less fun. And the fact that we had to drive back home from watching the losses in a raging blizzard with no viz and 60 km speeds for part of the drive was really less fun.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Ski day 22: Almost helping celebrities

Vert: 4,500 m    YTD cum vert: 116,500 m
Runs: 9    YTD cum runs: 280

They called in a bunch of extra SnowHosts today to help with the celebrity function happening at Sunshine this weekend. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his Waterkeeper Alliance folks are in town for a fundraiser. 

We didn't have to do that much; we helped out the VIP guests get prepped at the base, and did a few private mountain tours for them. We were also on-call for overflow afternoon guiding, but our services were never needed. But we did get to see the celebrities coming out of lunch as we were waiting.
Ed Begley Jr.

An awful shot of Alec Baldwin
Lorenzo Lamas, Alicia Silverstone, Paul Mitchell (of hair care fame), Marcia Gay Harden, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Kenny Loggins all went past. Probably a bunch more went past, too, but dressed for skiing, people are generally incognito, as KC demonstrates.
Is that a famous person in Bye Bye Bowl?
I did get to take three of the VIP folks through a field of untracked boot top powder, which they liked immensely. Interesting VIPs. Two were from Texas, and one was from Canmore...

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ski day 21: Hardpack express

Vert: 7,520 m    YTD cum vert: 112,300 m
Runs: 22    YTD cum runs: 271

I normally ski at Sunshine, but today was a special day. The second Thursday of every month, lift tickets at Mt. Norquay are only $2. That's not a typo. Two bucks. A single tooney (and GST is included, so it's really $2, not $2.10). I figure I'm worth that splurge, and depending on conditions, I like some of Norquay's runs, and I really like the fact that I can see my house from the top.

The downside to Norquay is that prevalence of two basic conditions:

  1. Icy, groomed, man-made hardpack, frequently on VERY steep terrain.
  2. Monster mega natural snow moguls on VERY steep terrain
My brother is a bigger fan of the former than me. After all, it's what Ontario skiing is all about. Here's an example of the first condition: the top of the Mystic Chair, looking down Giv'er Grandi (named after Thomas Grandi, former Canadian World Cup Downhiller and my neighbour).
A lot of straight down. Cascade Mtn in the background
Here's an example of the latter: yours truly crashing Memorial Bowl off the North American Chair...
Big Bumps
...or here, the lower part of Lone Pine.
1,000 vertical feet of big bumps and small trees.
What Norquay excels in is stellar views, such as these two shots from the top of the North American chair.
Banff townsite. My house is in the trees in the distance 
Looking down Lone Pine
Where else can you get a shot like this?
KC with Banff as a backdrop
They also have tubing, which I understand is VERY popular.
The tube park at the base of Lone Pine
Norquay isn't a place I can spend a whole lot of time. For me, it's too small and lacks the snow quality that I get at Sunshine. But they have certainly carved out some niches and do them very well:
  • Race training. The man made snow coupled with steep terrain makes this a natural
  • Selling hourly lift tickets. Being so close to Banff, visitors can come up for as few as 3 hours.
  • Tubing. Again, close to Banff and very popular
  • Night skiing. See tubing.
And they do $2 Thursdays, a value you just gotta check out.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Ski day 20: Blown away

Vert: 2,230 m    YTD cum vert: 104,780 m
Runs: 3    YTD cum runs: 249

The joy of being a season's pass holder is that we don't have to stick around if we don't like things. Today was one of the days where this comes in handy. Had we driven up and paid full price for the day, we would have stayed to get our money's worth. But as it was, we were home for lunch.

And this was the case because the winds were blowing stink, slowing chair rides, making the traverses tough, blowing snow off things and making them very hard pack, reducing the viz, and generally making life miserable. See my full snow report and more photos here.
The top of Sunshine Coast. Very crowded.
On the bright side, we got work done at home this afternoon...

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Ski day 19: Riding with old friends

Vert: 4,935 m    YTD cum vert: 102,550 m
Runs: 13    YTD cum runs: 246

As SnowHost, I occasionally run into folks I know in the Gondola lineup. Today, I ran into my friends Andy and Shannon with their kids. Andy used to work for me, and has been skiing Sunshine far longer than I have. The whole family are very good skiers. Their kids have even run laps in the Dive.

So this afternoon, having no tours to lead, I hooked up with them, and we ran some fun stuff all over the mountain, including some pretty gnarly pitches I'm not allowed to take tours on.
Shannon attacks Upper OS Pitch 
Rocketing by me 
Joining the family at the bottom
In the afternoon, Andy led me to places he skied as a kid.
Volkswagon sized moguls on Donkey's Tail
No wonder he's better than me.

See my other blog here for a snow report on the day.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Ski day 18: Powder pigging

Vert: 7,710 m    YTD cum vert: 97,615 m
Runs: 13    YTD cum runs: 233

Tons of powder on the hill today after 24 cm overnight and 21 cm yesterday. Here's me enjoying it, too...
Powder on Scapegoat
Watched an interesting situation unfold in the Creekside Restaurant at lunch today. The place was basically empty, as usual. A dad and 3 young kids came in, and dad ordered 2 hotdogs, one with fries and one with poutine, for the kids. About 15 minutes later, he was joined by another dad, and they ordered a beer. They drank their beer, which took another 15 min. Then they decided they had to leave. And yet... their hot dogs never arrived. Twice they asked about them. Twice the waitress said "I'll check" but never got back to them. Finally the manager intervened, apologized, and comped their beer. 

How long does it take to make a hot dog? How about fries? Apparently more than 30 min.

Last year, I gave some reviews of the restaurants at Sunshine. While I still recommend the Creekside, I've noticed the service this year isn't as good as it used to be.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Ski day 17: Drips

Vert: 5,840 m    YTD cum vert: 89,905 m
Runs: 13    YTD cum runs: 220

You can see on my other blog here what kind of day it was on the slopes. As a rule of thumb, if there's a chinook wind warming up Calgary, it's windy and snowing at Sunshine, which is exactly what was happening. The data I look at says that it was downright hot in Calgary today, setting a record at +15° C. Well, that heat made it all the way to the mountains where it is above zero and raining (snowing up at Sunshine's altitude, but rain down where I live in the valley bottoms).

This is making a mess of my driveway (currently a sheet of ice about 2" thick, now so polished you can skate on it). The snow is melting on my roof, and most of it is coming down the eavestrough, though there's still ice partially blocking some of them. Unfortunately, water is also showing up where I don't want it. Like, for instance, my bedroom window.
Drips forming
Now I don't know what the source of the water is, but I'm betting my roof is leaking. I'm betting, too, that there was some ice inside my attic which is melting with the above zero temps, and running down whatever vapour barrier I have up there to the window header, where it's running down both the inside and outside of the window.

Ah well. Yet more work to do in the spring, and yet another problem my home inspector failed to note.

BTW: I rode the lift with two folks from IJmuiden today...

Monday, 2 January 2012

Ski Day 16 Stats, and Visits with my Daughter

Vert: 8,105 m    YTD cum vert: 84,065 m
Runs: 15    YTD cum runs: 207

I don't have much to add to my snow condition report on my other blog here other than to expand further on KC's crash. We had hit some deep snow in the trees attempting to traverse to Gold Gladerunner, and it was "interesting" to cross. KC opted to just drop down through the trees on the top left of the photo below...

...while I continued traversing. I got to the bottom of the pitch and no KC. Finally I saw her way back up the hill waving one ski in the air. She had made 2 turns and then faceplanted into a big powder drift, losing a ski in the process. I skied down, rode back up, then skied back down to help. The first problem was finding her in the trees. The second problem was finding her ski, which was buried 2' down in powder. Only took us 30 min of poking around in the snow. We were glad it was sunny.

I was off-loading photos from KC's camera today and found that she had taken pictures of the day my daughter visited last week. The weather wasn't the best, but we dragged her out for our first ever walk in the forest around our neighbourhood that turned out to be more of a hike than I expected, and longer, too -- probably about 5 km.
My beautiful daughter
Mt. Rundle. My house in in the forest, centre left
We wandered up onto a ridge that overlooks the Bow Valley.
Canmore is below the gap in the middle
We found a wolf track and lots of other tracks that were probably bobcat. We also found lots of trees riddled with woodpecker holes.
My daughter and I, and a tree full of holes
Another woodpecker tree