Snow Arrives at the LakePosted: November 21, 2010
Things are looking (and feeling) a lot more wintry at Lake Louise after the first big storm of the season paid a visit for a few days this week. At the same time, while the new snow may have given the upper mountain the appearance of being ready to open, reality has proven to be a different story. Colder temperatures and little wind helped contribute to low density snow that offers little in the way of support to those traveling over it on skis or snowboards. So, even though things look nice and powdery, a few more things – namely wind and more snow – need to happen before we open upper mountain lifts or runs.
Over two days or so Lake Louise received around 20cm of snow. The first day saw strong sustained winds from the north east buffet north-facing slopes, usually the ones to benefit from loading from the wind’s usual south west direction. North winds result in loading in other than the usual places, and can also scour the north sides of ridges, as they did at Rodney’s Ridge. Avalanche control teams traveling there would arrive at ridge-top, then would have to scurry over a band of rock in order to get onto the slope.
The second day of snow fell with little wind, and ended up as an even coating of light powder over the whole mountain. More than a day later, that snow is still powdery and uncompacted, and is therefore still available to be transported by wind. Until then, avalanche control teams are ski cutting and packing slopes in order to break up the layers of concern, and trail crew teams are packing down the drifts that already exist.
Meanwhile, over on the eastern front side, snowmaking and grooming crews were hard at work preparing for the opening of the Grizzly Gondola on Saturday morning. As elsewhere on the mountain, the recent storm provided lots of snow, but it was low-density and didn’t offer the required support for skiers and riders. We then needed to rely on man-made snow to open that area, and with water levels behaving in the Pipestone river, and temperatures hovering around the ideal for making snow (-15C), crews did a great job of making huge piles of snow in a short time, allowing the cats to spread it all out and have the run from the top of the Gondola ready to go for opening Saturday morning.