Snow Keeps Falling at Lake Louise

Another snowy weekend at the Lake! Between Saturday and Sunday morning, our weather station reported 10-12cm of new snow, with 6cm or so falling overnight Saturday. The wind that accompanied this new snow at first eventually died down, meaning that there was a beautiful and evenly-distributed blanket of powder awaiting skiers and boarders Sunday morning. Snowfall with no accompanying wind also means formation of slab is unlikely, resulting in quicker avalanche control and faster opening of avalanche terrain.

On top of the great conditions that started the day off, it continued to snow all day Sunday, at times so intensely that some estimated a rate of 5cm’s per hour, which is not that common in the Rockies. Snow-forecast.com is calling for a further 10-15cm tonight and into Monday morning (click the link at right, then click on the highest elevation for forecasted snowfall). If this pans out, that means Monday morning will be the start of an epic powder day at Lake Louise.

There’s little question that this past week has been very kind to Lake Louise, with conditions improving hourly and more terrain opening as fast as conditions and avalance control work allow. There’s a lot of great skiing to enjoy before the Christmas crowds show up in a few weeks.

*****

On a different subject, a question was asked about a recent post concerning the replacement of Ptarmigan chair:

Why was this lift replaced with a fixed grip and not a high-speed chair? It seems that at the end of a day, Ptarmigan is the big bottle neck as everyone tries to get back to the parking lot and a high speed could alleviate that. Was it cost? Environmental?

Parks Canada’s Ski Area Guidelines allow replacement of facilities, including lifts, on a like-for-like basis, meaning that as long as what you’re putting in isn’t different from what you’re replacing, the review and approval process is relatively short compared to what it would be like if you were proposing a lift where one did not previously exist. Like-for-like includes the uphill capacity of a lift, and switching from a fixed-grip to a detachable quad would have meant a much longer process, since the two are different beasts. The old Ptarmigan chair needed to be replaced, and the fastest way to do it was to put in the same type  of lift – same uphill capacity, same alignment.

Would a detachable quad help to alleviate the congestion that can occur at Ptarmigan towards the end of a busy day? Probably, but when you consider the fact that a fixed grip lift has chairs mounted closer together on the line than a high-speed, and therefore has more loaded chairs on the line at any given time, the difference isn’t really that big. The ride itself can be faster, but likely wouldn’t put too big a dent in the number of people waiting to ride the lift on a busy day.

When you consider that a detachable lift can cost a few times more than a fixed-grip, the pros and cons should be carefully weighed. For example, are bottlenecks a chronic and constant issue with the lift, and if not, is a substantially more expensive lift the right answer for an issue that only exists some of the time?

As a final caveat, I am not involved in the process to purchase lifts, and my comments above apply generally to this type of  instance. The whole process is complicated, and there are many more factors that determine the final outcome of a proposal than can be included here.

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One Comment on “Snow Keeps Falling at Lake Louise”

  1. Thanks for the response on the fixed-grip vs. detachable question. That make a lot of sense. I’ve often wondered if the high-speed lifts would actually move more people through or if they are just so that the ride time is quicker. In any event, if you just avoid Ptarmigan after lunch and around 3pm it’s usually not an issue.

    -Trevor


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