Heli-Bombing December 2009Posted: December 5, 2009
After one of the best Novembers we’ve had for snowfall, much of Lake Louise’s terrain is now open, with further expansions poised to continue. Along with improved ski conditions, lots of snow also usually means a heightened avalanche hazard, especially this season with a crust from October lurking low in the snowpack. The rapid expansion of out terrain in the last month has meant that avalanche control teams have been concentrating on getting these areas open, and they haven’t been able to spend as much time as they would hope in others.
Avalanche control can be a very time -intensive excercise, as teams must make countless laps in avalanche terrain using explosives and ski-cutting in order to ensure the stability of the slope. However, when there’s a helicopter parked right outside the ski patrol building during World Cup, it makes perfect sense to use it and accomplish what could be weeks of avalanche control work in about thirty minutes. And that’s exactly what we did on Thursday.
After clearing the helicopter use with the World Cup race organizers (it must be available for the duration of the race once it starts), the explosives were assembled, and a plan of attack was created. The plan was to use 23 shots of various sizes and composition to hit targets in Whitehorn II, Brownshirt, Boundary Bowl, Richardson’s Ridge, and Skoki Slides. With blue skies and the sun about to rise, I decided to get up on the mountain early and head toward the top of ‘F’ Gully of Whitehorn II with my video camera, since I thought it would be the perfect spot to be close enough to get good footage. While I’m still a few days from having the video ready to post here, there were some great photos taken from the helicopter by Avalanche Forecaster Rocket Miller, and are shown below (click on photo for larger version). Sitting up front, he directed the pilot and the shot placements, while in the back two patrollers took care of igniting and throwing the bombs.