Opening Weekend at Lake LouisePosted: November 7, 2010
Despite efforts by a little rain to dampen the spirits of skiers and snowboarders at the Lake this weekend, everyone seemed to have fun getting the rust out and discovering dormant muscles as they got their first turns of the season this weekend. Even after almost a week of weather too warm for snowmaking, crews did a great job af taking advantage of colder temperatures at the end of October, and were able to make enough snow for the cats to spread into a complete run. Warmest temperatures were seen on the lowest part of the run, so the first order of business once the cold arrives will be to add width to the part of the run visible from the base area. Farther up, the run is side to side, and additional snow will go toward increasing depth, rather than width.
If forecasts are right, this week should see daytime highs not getting above freezing, which means we can make snow twenty-four hours a day, and therefore make good progress in increasing the amount of available runs. Water levels in the Pipestone river are still quite high, so shortage of water is not expected to be an issue. The snowmaking system is also working well, so currently it’s only the freezing temperatures we need to move ahead.
At this time of year, rain on the lower mountain usually means snow on the upper mountain. Accumulated amounts have so far been minimal, since the freezing level was around tree line. The alpine areas look white, but we’re not quite at the point where avalanche control and trail crew teams can move around on skis. As can be the case early season, teams were starting to see faceting around ground level in the existing pockets of snow, and left unchecked these weak crystals can be a concern well into the winter season, and cannot be ignored as further snowfall accumulates on top.
Happily, warm weather has the effect of moderating these crystals and stabilizing the snowpack in general. At the same time, like many things, we have to take the bad with the good. Warm and/or wet weather can moisten the snow surface and result in a crust once the colder temperatures arrive, and this can also be a concern down the road. A crust is not a good bonding surface for snow that gathers on top, and can also provide a smooth bed surface upon which avalanches can run, as opposed to rough, rocky ground which generally provides good anchoring. This is where avalanche control and bootpacking can play such a vital role in building a run in steep terrain. This work interrupts the weaker layers in the snowpack, and breaks up the otherwise smooth surface of the crust, providing the rougher surface that helps to ensure that any snow that falls on a slope stays there.
Right now it’s snowing higher up, and snow is expected over the next few days. Later today (Sunday) temperatures are expected to begin their descent into the sub-zero range, and thoughts can once again return to expanding available terrain.