Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What Determines An East Wall Opening?

"A tribunal of wizards go into a tent for four days, meditate, debate and look to the spiritual world for guidance. After four days, if white smoke emerges from the tent, the East Wall shall open."    -anonymous, March 18, 2015

That was the best blog comment ever.

The answer is snow. We need enough snow to make the skiing good. Most of The Wall is a big talus field and it takes a lot of snow to cover the rocks. Usually when the base gets in the high 40's to mid 50's inch range, we open it. Additionally, we have to do enough avalanche mitigation work to substantially reduce the chance of avalanches occurring. That involves a lot of explosives work, ski scutting, ski packing, and other activities. 

Sometimes continued warm weather, like the last few days, may cause a closure. As we get excessive water moving through the snowpack, wet slides are possible and we want The Wall closed when that happens.

Enjoy the photo I took on Little Lenawee Sunday afternoon.


Anonymous said...

Al -- have you ever thought about a volunteer boot-packing program in early season to break up and compact the weak layers that will inevitably get buried as the season progresses? Many other ski areas use this in other avy-prone terrain with much success.

It seems one of the things that happens with East Wall is when patrol starts lobbing explosives up there halfway into the season, large portions of the skiable terrain will slide, often nearly down to the ground or on one of those shallow weak layers. Then we have to wait for yet more snow to re-build back to a skiable base depth. I wonder if a bootpacking program would accelerate the opening? If so, sign me up! The East Wall is a unique place in Colorado skiing terrain and i'd do anything I could to help it open sooner!

Anonymous said...

Is there any chance of the upper (hike to) areas of the East Wall opening back up this season? Or has all of this warm weather made that unlikely?

Anonymous said...

Even if it didn't speed up the opening, the hiking up there is great and I'd be thrilled to have earlier access to the summit even if I couldn't ski down.