Snow Melting on the Upper MountainPosted: June 9, 2009
As of this week, we’re finally able to drive a vehicle to the furthest upper reaches of the roads at the Lake Louise Ski Area, and after a month and a bit of working primarily around or near the base area, we’re getting ready to venture a little higher to begin the summer clean-up and plan the projects that will take us through to the fall.
The week following the closing of the ski season is spent clearing our mountain roads of snow, since they mostly lie on ski runs that we try to keep covered in snow. We use a GPS to plot the locations of the roads, then scrape most, but not all, of the snow to the side. Leaving a thin layer means we don’t damage the ground with the snow cat, and that only a bit of warm weather is required to take care of the rest, meaning that the roads are the first parts of runs to melt out.
When possible, an ATV is used to travel on roads, since they’re lighter, better on gas, and can better handle the rough surface and large water bars that line the runs. A truck is used much of the time, since crews usually transport tools and supplies to the work site, and are unable to do so with an ATV. Even though an ATV is equipped to handle off-road conditions, we must keep all vehicles on roads at all times, since we can’t damage any of the surrounding ground cover. If this means a long walk to a work site because there’s no road nearby, then that’s the way it is. Any supplies or heavy tools needed at a remote work site will usually be flown in by helicopter, or brought by snow cat while there’s still snow on the ground.
On Sunday we drove to the upper extents of all of our roads, and found that the snow is disappearing much more quickly than last year. On the front side, one road travels up Pine Cone Way to Whitehorn Lodge, where it splits – one fork going to mid-station and up Upper Wiwaxy to the top of the old Olympic lift, and the other going up Eagle Meadows to the top of the Grizzly gondola. This second road has its steepest part right above WhitehornLodge, and a truck coming down it usually elicits looks of amazement from summer visitors who can’t believe a vehicle can travel on such a steep road.
As soon as the ski season ends, our lift maintenance department are busy getting started on their summer maintenance programs, and travel to their lifts via snowmobile, then quad, then truck as the snow melts. Each lift gets a full summer’s worth of attention, so the crews are kept busy right until the snow flies in the fall.
For our summer guests, we have a viewing platform near the top of the summer gondola (Glacier chair in winter) that offer a great view of Lake Louise and the huge peaks of the front range of the Canadian Rockies. The deck was built on top of the foundation for the top station of the old Friendly Giant chair that was torn out a few years ago, and sits right at the top of Bald Eagle.