Blown Away

January came in with a big snow storm and went out with an ever bigger wind storm as high to extreme winds have pounded the mountain for the last two days (Fri & Sat). The winds started after lunch yesterday, and as everything started to blow away it was almost time for the patrol to do their end-of-day sweep of the mountain, leaving little time to batten down the hatches.

We arrived this morning to find out the wind had reached gusts of 140 km/h, and then there had been 2cm of new snow with moderate winds. The avalanche forecaster, after finishing the stability evaluation and planning the morning’s  control work, instructed everyone to expect both typical and atypical wind loading in avalanche terrain. The winds were still gusting 80-100 km/h at the top of Top of the World chair, so we loaded Glacier chair shortly after 8:00am wondering if any of the upper lifts would be able to run in that wind (and knowing they probably couldn’t).

Sure enough, no upper mountain lifts were able to run, but it was important that the patrol and control teams were able to get up high to begin the work of cleaning up and getting the complicated control work done. We enlisted a cat to take ten of us from the bottom of Top of the World chair to the top. When we arrived, the winds were howling, and we got our first glimpse of the destruction, shown in the video below:

A large aluminum recycling and garbage container was found at the bottom of ER7, and a heavy wooden bench ended up a hundred metres from the top of the lift. Fences were scattered all over, and countless bamboo and signs were broken or missing. A member of the trail crew was carrying a large roll of plastic fence and was blown backward uphill. Pebbles and small pieces of shale were everywhere, just like pine cones, needles, and branches (and even trees) littered all of the lower mountain runs.

Hitching a ride from a snow cat.

Hitching a ride from a snow cat.

Fences blew all over the place (and there's a panel missing on the big sign).

Fences blew all over the place (and there's a panel missing on the big sign).

Control teams discuss plan of attack at the top of Paradise chair.

Control teams discuss plan of attack at the top of Paradise chair.

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