Cold is ComingPosted: September 24, 2009
Even with this hot weather, the mercury has already dropped below freezing overnight on a few occasions, and as a result, the larch trees that line the Bow Valley along tree line turned their trademark fall yellow in what seemed like a matter of hours last week, and hot temperatures or not, that’s always a sure sign that winter is just around the corner.
The summer sightseeing operation of the Lake Louise Ski Area finishes next Wednesday, and then we enter what is always a busy month in October as we race to prepare the mountain for opening day early in November. While the pounding of steel rails for snow fence continues on the upper mountain, there are other people getting ready in other ways for the arrival of snow.
Looking up Easy St. from the base area, one can see the evidence of another way we prepare runs. This is a result of “mowing the lawn”, or hitting as many lower-angle runs as possible with a tractor-mounted mowing implement, leaving swathes of cut grass and brush. In places where it’s too steep for the tractor, we have a crew on foot using gas-powered brush saws. There are a couple of reasons for doing this.
First, we’re trying to remove any potential air pockets that may form as the first snow falls and remains suspended on high grass or thick brush. These air pockets make it harder to establish a skiing base, and can even accelerate the melting of the snow farther down the road. Also, the lower we can make the top level of growth, the sooner we can have a run that is skiable from side to side, with fewer detours needed to get around clumps of small trees or bushes. In the case of the tractor, it’ll mow down anything in its path. The brushing crews will focus on the bigger items, like bushes and trees, since cutting grass with a brush saw is very slow and would take forever.
While the tractor has been a staple on the slopes for years, we only starting having a dedicated brushing crew last year. With a long list of runs that need brushing, we expect to take a few years getting everywhere. Higher in priority are high-traffic runs like Pika and Larch, and once those are done, we’ll move into steeper places like Kiddies’ Corner and Pika Trees. We can’t start any of this cutting until after Labour Day, to ensure that any ground-nesting birds have vacated their nests.
Does this mean we’re making new runs on the mountain? No, since we’re only permitted to cut on runs that had previously been cleared. We’ll go as long as the weather permits, and once the snow falls (and stays) we’ll hang up the saws and turn more of our attention to the upper mountain snow fencing.