Blown Away

January came in with a big snow storm and went out with an ever bigger wind storm as high to extreme winds have pounded the mountain for the last two days (Fri & Sat). The winds started after lunch yesterday, and as everything started to blow away it was almost time for the patrol to do their end-of-day sweep of the mountain, leaving little time to batten down the hatches.

We arrived this morning to find out the wind had reached gusts of 140 km/h, and then there had been 2cm of new snow with moderate winds. The avalanche forecaster, after finishing the stability evaluation and planning the morning’s  control work, instructed everyone to expect both typical and atypical wind loading in avalanche terrain. The winds were still gusting 80-100 km/h at the top of Top of the World chair, so we loaded Glacier chair shortly after 8:00am wondering if any of the upper lifts would be able to run in that wind (and knowing they probably couldn’t).

Sure enough, no upper mountain lifts were able to run, but it was important that the patrol and control teams were able to get up high to begin the work of cleaning up and getting the complicated control work done. We enlisted a cat to take ten of us from the bottom of Top of the World chair to the top. When we arrived, the winds were howling, and we got our first glimpse of the destruction, shown in the video below:

A large aluminum recycling and garbage container was found at the bottom of ER7, and a heavy wooden bench ended up a hundred metres from the top of the lift. Fences were scattered all over, and countless bamboo and signs were broken or missing. A member of the trail crew was carrying a large roll of plastic fence and was blown backward uphill. Pebbles and small pieces of shale were everywhere, just like pine cones, needles, and branches (and even trees) littered all of the lower mountain runs.

Hitching a ride from a snow cat.

Hitching a ride from a snow cat.

Fences blew all over the place (and there's a panel missing on the big sign).

Fences blew all over the place (and there's a panel missing on the big sign).

Control teams discuss plan of attack at the top of Paradise chair.

Control teams discuss plan of attack at the top of Paradise chair.


11 Comments on “Blown Away”

  1. daffy says:

    gotta love how the resort ski report said 9 lifts open all day

    • lakelouiselowdown says:


      I guess you didn’t read my response to your earlier and similar comment about lifts closing due to cold temperatures. This is a similar situation, and the ski report can’t possibly say which lifts will be open or not based on how the weather might behave later that day. On Friday, when the wind first started in the afternoon, it was a surprise to everyone, and even though that day’s ski report said all lifts were open, we had to react to the sudden and extreme weather. We must give safety of guests and staff priority over sticking to a report made before the day even begins and which couldn’t have predicted the winds we received.

      Even if high winds had been forecasted by numerous weather services, the forecast covers a wide area, and there is great spatial variability within the forecast area. For example, on Saturday, we were able to open Paradise chair because the wind, while strong, was not enough to affect the operation of the lift or create difficulty for people trying to get off the lift at the top, where the wind can be strong enough to blow people back into their chairs. At Top of the World, the wind was 20-30 km/h stronger, and there was no way that lift could open. This was unusual, since the wind at the top of Paradise is almost always stronger than that at Top of the World.


  2. sumo says:

    Crazy footage Chris! Thanks to you and your crew for all the hard work.

  3. Andy says:

    Got to love the “Kingswood’s” go the kiwi skis…. : )

  4. daffy says:


    I understand exactly what you are saying, I get the safety issue and am impressed at the work the ski patrol does at the Lake. But in this day and age there is no reason for a world class resort like Lake Louise to update the status more than once in a day, and maybe shed some truth on the real situation.

    I think this blog is a great idea and love the stories you put up here!! Thanx for the input!!

  5. yak says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Daffy. There are countless lesser resorts out there who have embraced the internet enough to not only provide live lift status updates on their website but also overnight snowfall totals. I just don’t understand why Louise, which aspires to be world class, cannot give people the pertinent information which will prevent the customers from having a [bad] day.

    • lakelouiselowdown says:

      Hi Yak,

      Thanks for your comment.

      So you know, we’re looking into getting the overnight snow totals and other information available on the website. As for up-to-the-minute lift status reports, I understand the issue is not necessarily the report that’s issued first thing in the morning but the fact that it doesn’t get updated if/when things change. I don’t know much about it yet, but based on your and Daffy’s comments, I’m going to see what it would take to get that to happen, because I also think it’s a good idea.


  6. yak says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you very much for your follow up. As you know Lake Louise is primarily a commuter ski hill, and as such I (and I’m sure a vast majority of customers) find it frustrating when we commit to making the drive based on false, incomplete or inaccurate information. I appreciate that you are taking our comments into consideration and trying to change the situation for us dedicated Lake Louise skiers.

  7. daffy says:

    Well said Yak. I have made that drive so so soooo many times and it even though I typically know what the situation is going to be before I get there, it would be nice to see the status updated a few times a day.

    Chris thanx so much for taking the peoples voice to where it should be taken!! We all want the same thing, great skiing at the Lake!!

  8. Star Carlton says:

    Wow – that is some good footage. That’s enough snow to build the zilla snowman.

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