I posted an aerial photo of Eagle Ridge on Dec. 29, but ER 1 & 2 at the eastern end weren’t visible. This shot, also taken May 10, 2007, shows the same area from a different angle. Even though ER 6 & 7 are hidden from view, you can still see both ends of the ridge – from ER 1 on the left to where Saddleback hits the very bottom of the Chunky’s cornice in Whitehorn I at far right.
When I started patrolling at the Lake in the mid-90′s, ER 3, 6, & 7, as well as Upper ER 5, were permanently closed avalanche areas. This was a remnant of the days when the parks service performed all avalanche operations for the ski area. Since then, the avalanche forecasters have done a great job of learning about and getting open the areas which had previously always been closed.
Upper ER 5 is the closest thing we have to a permanent closure on the back side of Eagle Ridge, and that’s because not only is it steep and rocky terrain, but it’s also huge, consisting of a large number of micro-features, all requiring their own analysis and plan of attack. Upper and Lower ER 5 are divided by a cliff band that crosses the entire slope, with a few narrow chokes that are slow to fill with snow and can be the one thing preventing the terrain from opening, since there must be skiable lines from top to bottom in order for it to open.
Lower ER 5 opens sooner, since it consists mainly of a fairly even scree slope, which is much smoother than the boulder fields that lie above the cliffs and requires less snow to fill in. At far skier’s left of Lower ER 5 is M.G. Gully, a steep, narrow, tree-filled chute with a drop exit, and is a place that gets lots of snow. To get there you need to enter from the Saddleback/Split Rock area and traverse across the top of Kiddie’s Corner, and if you stay high enough you’ll end up right at the top of the gully.
Below is a shot of the top of Upper ER 5, for those hoping to scope out their lines for the Big Mountain Challenge taking place this spring (don’t forget, these photos were taken at the end of an exceptional snow year, and all areas of the mountain are currently much less filled in).