Fall ProjectsPosted: October 9, 2011
The final few projects in preparation for the coming winter season are underway at Lake Louise, with all eyes on the target date of October 15, which is the day we are permitted to begin snowmaking. These projects are taking place alongside the usual preparations for winter, which include placing snowmaking guns at their various locations on the mountain, cutting of grass and brush on ski runs, and making sure everything is ready for the influx on hundreds of new staff who will arrive over a period beginning this week and stretching to Christmas.
The first and arguably most important project underway is the replacement of the water supply line that links the ski area to the primary pumphouse, located a few metres from the Pipestone River in the valley below. This line supplies the ski area with all of its water, and must be ready in time for the snowmaking season to begin. The new line will replace the existing one, which is getting old and is becoming more prone to breaks and therefore leaks. The old line leaves the base area and heads downhill close to the old road that accessed the original gondola. About halfway down it veers off and runs parallel to the Pipestone River until it reaches the pumphouse. Shortly after this juncture, the pipe sits in ground a few hundred feet above the river, at the top of a sheer bank. The new line will take a different course, so that it is more easily accessible in the event staff need to expose the pipe for repairs or maintenance. The line also takes a smoother route, which means there are no sudden turns or corners that would have a negative affect on the flow of water through the pipe, and that would also require stronger pipe to deal with the increased forces that result from sudden changes in direction.
The new route required that a section of a few hundred metres had trees removed and a new ditch dug. Part of this line uses a section of the old (up to the 1950’s) ski out that brought skiers all the way to the original gondola base (even after all these years, it’s still visible in the forest). The photo below shows part of this section, with the topsoil and organic layer separated and covered with tarp along the side so that it can be replaced back on top of the ditch once it’s filled in. Much of the material that was cut for this section has been saved and will be also be placed on top once the project is complete.
Related to this project is the replacement of the section of buried pipe that feeds water to the snowmaking system on Deer Run. This is also an older section that has experienced breaks in increasing numbers over the last couple of years. Fixing breaks in the summer, while still a big job, is nothing compared to doing it in the winter, when snow, skiers, and frozen ground make it much more difficult to make repairs quickly. This project does not need to be completed by start of snowmaking, since the section in question can be isolated and repair work conducted without any ill effect in the rest of the system. Still, it’s always an advantage to get the work done while the weather cooperates and access roads remain dry.
Finally, a section of the buried power cable that feeds Paradise chair is being replaced following a lightning strike that ran through the ground and completely obliterated a section of it. The cause of the break in the line was only realised once the damaged section had been located and exposed. This is specialized work, and required that we find a company with the training and equipment to be able to find the break without having to dig up the entire line. Once exposed, it was obvious that lightning was the culprit, as the surrounding ground was charred black and the date of the damage (i.e. when power was lost) coincided with a rather severe thunderstorm that rolled through the Lake Louise area.
These projects, like all others in the national park, are subject to a lengthy process of environmental assessment, public and parks review, and the creation of construction agreements that acknowledge best practices with regards to the project and the rehabilitation that follows, and takes into account site guidelines, which dictate how work can and cannot proceed in various ecological zones. In the end, the goal is to restore disturbed areas back to their original state in as short a time as possible. This happens quickly given our short growing season and variable weather. There are some previous pipeline replacement projects on the mountain that are becoming difficult to see after only a few short years.