With little fanfare, Boomerang opened early this morning, and after a brief rush of seven or eight keen skiers, only 20 or so came through in the next half hour. Perhaps it was the white-out visibility that kept skiers away at first, but nevertheless, everyone was treated to excellent conditions on the run, and as the light improved during the day, more and more people showed up. “Fantastic” said one. “Creamy” said another. “I’ve been waiting since May for this!” said a third, and so on. Also opened for the first time on Summit was Outer Limits, which was a great test for those early season legs (mine failed).
On Boomerang, Yves Drouin was first through the gate once it dropped, followed closely by Tom Fry and Will Larooi. Both long-time and enthusiastic Lake Louise locals, Yves and Tom were able to squeeze a few laps in even before others got there for their first run.
Later in the day, the avalanche control team was able to complete the set-up of the avalanche closures in Paradise Bowl, and it too was opened, much to the delight of a hooting and hollering crowd. Conditions there were also excellent, and despite a few rocks being discovered, all seemed to have a great time. I took as many photos as the generally poor light would allow, and once I have a chance to apply a little digital trickery to make them look better I’ll post them.
Stay tuned for more terrain openings, as the avalanche control team moves further down the Corridor and looks to open Bankhead (2/3 Shoulder) and Crow Bowl in the coming days.
For those lucky enough to be at Lake Louise today, conditions did not disappoint, as skiers and riders venturing onto the the upper mountain were greeted with great early-season conditions. Early season in Lake Louise usually means rocks, but for those not too worried about a few new dings in their bases, there were lots of powder turns to be had. While the Snow Safety weather station reported 4cm of new snow overnight, the wind was once again our friend as amounts were often greater, especially on the backside. The following photos were all taken today:
If you feel like you missed out today on some great conditions, fear not – tomorrow marks the day we open Boomerang for the first time, and in case you missed the photos in previous posts, here’s what it looked like today, which is also what it will look like right before we open it Saturday morning. With only a little work to complete before the gate drops, be there early to ensure some epic turns:
While Boomerang is in terrific shape, the approach through Windy Gap is still bare, and will require that skiers and boarders remove their planks and do a short walk to get across the flat rock patch. After that, it’s in great shape all the way to Paradise chair. Also opening Saturday morning will be Outer Limits, which is always a solid early-season performer. The long permanent snow fence has done its usual magic and created a nice wide drift to enjoy, as shown in the photo below, taken this afternoon:
The Mountain Operations team has been working at full tilt getting all of this new terrain ready, and while they may be tempted to pause and enjoy the fruits of their efforts, they’ll continue working to get even more terrain open. Look for Paradise Bowl and Crow Bowl, among others, to open in the next few days.
Reminder: the new Ptarmigan chair is still under construction, so for those going back side, Paradise chair represents the only means of returning to the front side of the mountain. All upper mountain terrain (as the patroller will tell you before loading Top of the World lift) is ‘experts only’, and there remain many marked and unmarked hazards. Tread lightly in places of less snow.
Enjoy the weekend !
Denizens of Wiwaxy – rejoice! The recent snowfall has answered our prayers, and we’re poised to open three more lifts by the time this weekend rolls around.
Our avalanche control, ski patrol and trail crew teams have been working hard to prepare the areas whose openings are iminent. There are miles of area boundary and avalanche area fence to set up, along with all the signs that are placed along them. The trail crew is removing and replacing snow fences that currently block runs. Snow cats are busy pushing snow around and packing what base already exists. And finally, our fearless snowmakers are blasting a few more areas lower down that still need another coat of the white paint.
At the moment, the plan is to open both Top of the World (TOW) and Paradise Chairs on Friday (Nov 21), and the Summit Platter on Saturday (Nov 22). From TOW, you can access Home Run on the front side, and Saddleback on the back side. The only avalanche closure accessible from Home Run is for Flight Chutes, which is east of Home Run. There is also no access to the Sunset Flats area, which is where the World Cup course is being set up.
Going backside, Saddleback leads to Adrenaline (Whitehorn II ‘A’ Gully), Hourglass, and Split Rock. Avalanche closures are in effect for the remainder of Whitehorn II, and for Kiddie’s Corner.
From the Summit Platter, frontside access is via Outer Limits back to the base of the lift, and backside access is via Boomerang, which is in fantastic shape. The photo below was taken this afternoon, and the only visible tracks are those left by two ski patrollers setting up the avalanche closure along the top of Whitehorn III (the tracked section at the bottom was done by snow cats, making for an easier time on the flats). Once the closure line for Brownshirt and points beyond is set up tomorrow, those patrollers’ tracks will be the only others. Our intention is to leave Boomerang in pristine condition, so the lucky skiers and riders who get there at the right time will have a nice long powder run without crossing or seeing other tracks.
A few notes of caution: IT IS STILL EARLY SEASON ! While we’ve received enough snow and have done enough avalanche control work to open the runs listed above, we still have a shallow snow pack, and you should be prepared by bringing rock skis and keeping aggressive skiing in check until you can be certain of the conditions. A face plant in powder can be amusing, but not when you land on a barely submerged rock!
Also, you must obey all avalanche closures as they exist. They are not open to interpretation or negotiation. For example, Boomerang is open, and Brownshirt is closed. While they are adjacent and look to have identical conditions, Brownshirt is closed because it leads into avalanche terrain that has not been sufficiently controlled. Once control work has been completed, it will open, but until then, please stay out.
Remember, we have a long ski season, and a measure of restraint will help ensure you stay healthy enough to enjoy every second of it. I’ll be out there, and I hope to see you, too!
Got a sneak preview of things to come today during a trip to the still-closed upper mountain at Lake Louise. While there hasn’t been enough snow to consider opening any of the Lake’s expansive alpine terrain, the MG’s (Manual Groomers- Lake Louise’s Trail Crew) have been hard at work since September setting up km’s of fence in order to trap blowing snow and begin building the runs. The practice of using fence to control blowing snow is not a new idea, and if you look closely you’ll see it in use along windy stretches of highway to help keep the roads clear in winter.
Lake Louise, as in the rest of the Canadian Rockies, has a continental snowpack, which means the area receives less snow than places like BC’s coastal and interior mountain ranges. Especially in periods of low snowfall, a ski area can use all the help it can get in order to get snow to accumulate in all the right places. Luckily, Lake Louise receives a fair amount of wind, and when it blows strongly enough to transport snow, the strategic placement of snow fence can dramatically increase the amount of snow accumulation.
Snow fence comes in a few different forms, but the type commonly found in use at ski areas is a lightweight yet strong and flexible vinyl/plastic combo that makes for easy deployment and portability. It stands about 4 feet tall and comes in varying lengths, and has holes over its entire surface, usually in a 50:50 hole-to-non-hole ratio. The faster the wind blows, the more snow it can carry (provided there is snow to be carried, called fetch), and the idea of the fence is not to block the wind, but to slow it down enough so that it drops its load of snow in a designated spot. The photo below shows a drift forming on the leeward side of a length of snow fence:
In the background of the photo is a larger wooden snow fence, permanently built into the ground. Standing up to ten feet tall, these fences have the ability to form much larger drifts than their plastic cousins, but must be built so that they do not block ski runs or other rights of way. Plastic fence can be deployed all over a run, since once the run is ready to be opened the fence can be removed. At the same time, any fence is only useful if it is placed in areas that receive wind, and must be placed perpendicular to the prevailing wind direction. The wooden fence also uses the same proportion of holes to non-holes, and with careful attention to height and length, the drift can be formed close to or farther from the fence, depending on the specific needs. The next photo shows a run (Home Run) covered in snow fence:
Between each of the rows of fence in the photo above, you can see that the drifts have been packed down by people side-stepping on skis. This packs down the accumulated snow and allows more snow to accumulate in the same place, and there are a few reasons for doing this. Deploying and moving fence takes time, so the longer they can be kept in the same spot, the more effective they can be. A fence can only build a drift so high, and once that effective height is reached, one must either pack down the snow, or remove the fence. The other reason is that due to the fragile alpine environment, snow cats cannot begin to work the run until a certain minimum amount of snow is in place, and the more it gets packed down, the faster the cats can get in there to work it.
In the next photo, taken from the top of the Summit Platter looking toward Paradise Chair, there are two long rows of plastic fence on the left, and one long wooden fence on the right. The wooden fence has a space underneath, and this results in the drift being formed farther away than the plastic fences, which go right to the ground and have the drifts grow right around them. This area is almost ready for the cats to do their stuff:
There is an amazing effort that goes into building many of the alpine runs at Lake Louise, and I am continually amazed every time I venture onto the upper mountain early season at how much fence there is and how much ground it covers. I skied at the Lake before their MG program was as extensive as it is now, and there’s no question that their efforts pay off!
Finally, to change the topic slightly, here’s a shot of Boomerang taken from the top of Summit, looking as ready as it ever could to be skied:
Last year wasn’t a record-breaker, but there was still great skiing to be found. Here are some photos from last season to get you excited about this year – only ten days away!