Terrain Photos – Brownshirt & North Cornice

Here’s another shot taken during a helicopter flight on May 10, 2007, this time showing the Brownshirt and North Cornice areas. Like previous terrain photos, official trail map run names are shown in black, control path names in red, and other features in white.

One thing I like about this photo is that it clearly shows how North Cornice gets most of its snow. While most wind at the Lake comes from the south-west, Mt. Richardson, which is to the right of the area shown in the photo, redirects the wind around and back south to pass through Bare Ass Pass and straight on to North Cornice (you can see the valley the wind approaches through in the background, behind OOB Peak). The easiest way to know local prevailing wind direction is to look at the cornices – they’ll only form on leeward sides of features.

Brownshirt & North Cornice (click for larger version).

Brownshirt & North Cornice (click for larger version).

On the occasions where the wind blows from a different direction, it’s easy to see how that affects the mountain, as you’ll see drifts and cornices where you usually don’t, and runs that you’re used to skiing a certain way change their character. One place for me that really changes after a strong north wind has been blowing is the Corridor, heading over to Crow Bowl or East Bowl. The reverse wind loading is obvious the entire way as you travel along the ridge top.

OOB is a place that has only recently been added to the run inventory at Lake Louise. Up until about 6 or 7 years ago, the boundary line went down the skier’s left edge of Brownshirt Main Gully and along the top of North Cornice. Beyond that was a permanent avalanche closure blocking access to OOB – an area we controlled to protect in-bounds terrain, but was never opened as a ski run. This was similar to a few other places on the mountain, such as Flush Bowl and Lipalian on Larch. These avalanche closures were inconsistent with places like West Bowl, which is also outside the resort boundary but had no restrictions on access – anyone could enter this area at anytime.

After consultations with Parks Canada, our avalanche forecaster changed these permanent closures into area boundaries, sometimes moving the boundary out to include terrain that had previously been closed (but still within the resort’s leasehold) allowing people to access the backcountry from anywhere on the mountain.

Please note that the open boundary is different from the avalanche closures that exist within the resort. Access to these areas are strictly controlled, and are all marked with red stop-sign-shaped signs indicating the area is closed. Only when these signs are yellow and say “Caution – Avalanche Danger” is access permitted. For those who wonder why the sign would say that when the terrain is open, it really means that you’re entering heads-up terrain, which is usually steep and has many unmarked hazards like cliffs and rocks . The sign also means that the terrain can close at any time due to increased hazard, and that each time you should check that the run is open before entering.

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