Tuesday, December 12, 2017

If It Isn't Snowing.........

We had to endure another stunning, stellar, breath-taking, Colorado bluebird day. If it isn't snowing, it might as well be like this. As much as I like these days, I am ready for some double digit snowfall.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Snowmaking Plan

Our snowmaking is directly related to the flow of the North Fork of the Snake River. We have to maintain a minimum flow and a few other requirements. The higher the streamflow, the more water we have for snowmaking. Interestingly, the lowest flows of the year occur January through March and are much lower than the flows we maintain while making snow.

This season has been a good one for snowmaking. We are allowed to divert water through December 31 each season . By the time we are finished in about three weeks, we will have made about 10-15% more snow than average. For this time of year, the stream still has a good flow. Our remaining snowmaking priorities include Norway, Treeline and High Divide Terrain Parks and The Void. The Void is the shortcut from Ramrod to the bottom of Pali just above Molly Hogan. Once those areas are complete, we will probably fatten up a few high traffic areas.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

High School Yearbook

Someone just shared this photo from Denver's Thomas Jefferson High School 1973 yearbook. Catching big air off the cabin in Cabin Glades back when there was a roof on it. I love the skis, long and skinny and held close with safety straps. Great picture.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pallavicini Preparation

Here is a pretty good image of Pali including East Avenue, 1st Bowl, 2nd Bowl, 3rd Bowl and the top of The Spine. You can see there are lots of ski cuts. Less visible is the fact that lots of explosives have been used. What is new, is the vertical troughs in the snow put in by the Compaction / Disruption Roller. As more snow falls, the Snow Safety Team will continue to travel heavily in steeper areas impacting and testing the snow. Right now we are very well positioned to receive a good storm.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Summit / Zuma Cornice / Loafer Tour

Last night's snowfall was a very kind 4 inches. I did a walking and skiing tour around the Summit that involved a ski down Upper Loafer (and a hike back out) and a peek into West Zuma at Founders' Ridge. Beautiful. Montezuma Bowl is very white. The Loafer fences are fat. The Loafer dozing is outstanding. The rope is on Lazy J. Lenawee Parks, Norway and Cornice/West Wall were all open. The temperature made it up to the teens, the sky was a bright blue and the sun was warm. What a gorgeous day at The Basin.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pushing Loafer

The cat drivers have started pushing out the drifts on the Loafer snowfences. When completed, they will have created a very nice groomer, just below the ridge top, that connects the Summit to Beaver Bowl.

Zuma Cornice and Loafer start from the same spot, but are two clearly separate trails. Loafer provides access to The Beavers and Zuma Cornice provides access to West Montezuma Bowl.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Drive Terminal Set

The final tower, the drive terminal, was set this morning. This photo gives a bit clearer image of how the lift is shaping up. That is the lift operator house on the left. The Lazy J has a speed of 325 feet per minute and a capacity of 1200 people per hour. The ride will be a little bit over 1 minute. For comparison, Lenawee Mountain Lift has a capacity of 1800 people per hour. That said, the Lazy J has the capacity is move 2/3 of the people unloading Lenawee over to Montezuma Bowl. By design, skiers and riders can unload Lenawee, slide forward, grab a hold of the rope and go right to Zuma.

There will be plenty of room to skate to Zuma if you like. Although, it will probably take you longer.

Lazy J

The brand of our new rope tow is Telecorde. The name of the lift is the "Lazy J." All four foundations have been installed. Three of the four towers have been installed. The fourth tower (drive terminal) should go up today. Next steps involve getting the electrician to connect all the wiring and to make sure all the buttons and switches work. Once that is done, the Leitner Poma crew will install the actual rope (critical element of a rope tow). Following that, we will work our way through the final testing and licensing process.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

More Disruption

Members of our Snow Cat and Snow Safety teams had another big day operating the Disruption Roller on Pali. The bottom picture is a little dark, but if you look closely, you can see substantial "disruption" all the way to The Spine. They also made a big impact on The Face not visible in the photo.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Compaction / Disruption Roller

Back on September 7 of last year, I wrote a post about our new "Compaction Roller." The way the snow fell last year, very light to start and then heavy, heavy, heavy, we didn't get much of a chance to use it. This year has been different. This week we have been using the compaction roller on Middle Chute of Slalom Slope and Main Street and 2nd and 3rd Bowls on Pali with lots more to go.

I think we are changing our name of the device from Compaction Roller to Disruption Roller. The compaction component definitely helps and improves ski-ability. We are using the word Disruption because the machine disrupts snow slabs and disrupts the propagation pathways within those slabs reducing the chance of avalanches. So it is both a compaction and a disruption roller.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Moonlight Dinner

Last night Chefs Rybak and Vlass hosted a scrumptious dinner at Black Mountain Lodge. The theme was pork and it stretched from tip to tail. The moon was bright and the skies were clear. This was one of two randonee dinners so there was no chairlift. A packed house hiked, snowshoed or skinned up to enjoy the meal and made their way down under brilliant moonlight.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Poised and Ready

There is a lot of work that can be done prior to a snow event. Our snowmakers have been quite busy spreading snow just about everywhere within reach of the snowmaking system. The cat drivers are dozing and pushing every available pile of snow in preparation for skiers and riders. The ski patrollers have packed and impacted just about every snowfield and line within reasonable access. The lift crew has every one of their machines ready and on stand by. 

Right now, the forecast looks like we will see 3-6+ inches out of the pending Sunday/Monday storm. If that occurs, especially if we are on the high side of the forecast, there is going to be a lot of fine skiing and riding at The Basin.

We are poised and ready.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

95% of the Cornice Run

The cat drivers have dozed and tilled about 95% of the Cornice Run. There is one little gap at the top to finish up. I am always excited to get this run and the West Wall open. It gives skiers another very different kind of experience and gets people out of the main corridor. The West Wall has seen some directed skiing. I suspect with just another storm or two this terrain will open up regularly.

The Cornice Run will be a critical connector from the top of The Beavers Lift to Davis.

Check out the little snowcat made ridge-line in the bottom photo. The Cornice Run already catches good snow, but this extra little ridge acts like a snowfence and catches even more snow. Typically, the width and quality of this trail expands rapidly as the snow falls and the wind blows.

The view isn't  bad either.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

More On Beavers Lift Location

Lots of good comments on The Beavers Lift location. When we started working on The Beavers project more than a decade ago, we initially thought the lift would go all the way to the valley floor. For a lot of reasons, we changed our mind. Here are some of them.

-Our snow surveys indicated there was less snow at the lower elevations (duh). A more detailed study indicated that the lift would be open 60-90 days per season. When we moved the lift uphill, our estimated season length for the lift is 150+ days per season.

-The terrain below the proposed bottom terminal is pretty good, but steep and the snow would not hold up well to ALL of the skier traffic.

-Going down low would have required cutting a lot more trees and, being closer to or in the riparian zone, would have a much bigger impact on wildlife.

-There is no terrain suitable for blue trails down to the valley floor.

-Going to the valley floor (a couple of thousand more linear feet) would have forced the lift to be a longer detachable nearly tripling the cost.

So, we could have gone to the valley floor, but the season would be 1/2 the length, the terrain is not as good or diverse, the snow down low would not be as good, the impacts to the forest and wildlife would have been much greater, and it would have tripled the cost. 

Really, once we dug into the facts, it was a no-brainer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Beavers Lift Location

Below is a map that includes the location of The Beavers Lift. We have intentionally kept this off the website to avoid confusion for the 2017-18 season. There is definitely not a lift in The Beavers this season and hiking is definitely required when skiing The Beavers.  There will be a chairlift for the 2018-19 season.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Which Opens First? Beavers or Zuma?

Yesterday blog's received a great question. Which will open first Beavers or Montezuma Bowl?

For now let's skip this season and move on to 2018-19. Once The Beavers Chairlift is running, The Beavers will probably open after Pali Lift opens and before Montezuma Bowl opens. The Steep Gullies will open sometime later. The Beavers and The Steep Gullies will be managed as two very separate areas. With the lift, The Beavers can open separately from The Steep Gullies and, most likely before Montezuma. The Beavers face predominantly North, receive very good snowfall and have some relatively smooth terrain surfaces.

The 2017-18 season has some unique challenges without the chairlift. The opening of The Beavers will be much more closely linked to The Steep Gullies. All the skier traffic from The Beavers will traverse across the toes of The Steep Gullies. The Steep Gullies don't have to be open for The Beavers to open, but our Snow Safety Team needs to be comfortable with allowing people to cross those run out zones. Without a chairlift this season, the process will be slower. So, back to the original question, for the 2017-18, I am not sure which of the areas (Beavers and Zuma) will open first. We will be pushing to open both of them as soon as we can. 

The Steep Gullies opening will be unaffected by The Beavers opening.

Montezuma Bowl has been open 10 years now. Over time, we have learned many tricks about managing the snow and speeding up its opening. We will take those lessons to The Beavers and The Steeps Gullies and, certainly, learn a few more. Over time, I suspect we will open the terrain more quickly.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Loafer Fences

Throughout the Summer and Fall I posted several pictures of the snowfences we built this summer. A portion of the new Loafer trail goes along a micro bench and is susceptible to the wind. We built several fences on the windward side of that micro bench with the intention of catching big snow piles for the cat drivers to link together. Barely into the season, these fences have caught a tremendous amount of snow assuring good access into The Beavers terrain.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Tour of Davis

A group of 5 of us took a tour on Davis, The Grand Portage, and The Steep Gullies Hike Back Trail this afternoon. As you can see, the snowfence at the entrace to Davis is catching a ton of snow. We will be sending the snowcats out the trail soon. The coverage on all the trails was decent, especially for the time of the year. We either, skied very slowly or side stepped our way down. The Grand Portage is solidly established and we had a nice, fun, little skin back to the base area.

Opening this terrain is still a ways off, but now we do have enough snow to travel in a slow and gentle manner. On top of seeing the Cat Drivers working the snowfences and traverses, you will see more and more Ski Patrollers tossing shots, ski cutting and ski packing out there.

This is why we build snowfences.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Pali Work

The Ski Patrol has been doing extensive work on the North Side, especially Pali and The Alleys. This involves explosives work as well as ski cutting and ski packing. With a little bit of snow forecast this week, they will continue to impact the snow, break up those slab propagation layers and work on improving the ski-ability of the snow. If that sounds like fun, well, it kind of is.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Griz Ridge - Pali Lift

I took a couple of spins on Pali Lift today with Tim and Patio. I was very pleased with the snow conditions up there. The cat drivers have left a superb 3-cat wide tilled surface on Griz Ridge. While not quite ready to open on a daily basis, I suspect we will see some directed skiing and limited openings on West Wall and Slalom Slope before long. Joel Gratz is suggesting a possible change in the weather pattern next week. I don't think it will take too much snow for us to get more terrain and that darn Pali Lift open. Stay tuned.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Humbug Open - Notable

I was expecting sunny skies today. To my surprise, we have had showers falling off and on all day long with a pretty nice squall in the early afternoon. It was snowing hard enough that taking pictures above timberline was pretty much futile.

Humbug is open. The trail is a very cool gully just off the Summit. The skiing in there was excellent today. It is notorious for catching a lot of snow and blowing in with that special, soft, velvety surface. It is not a particularly big or long trail, but it is quite fun. What is especially notable is that this is first real trail to be open full time this season with all natural snow. No snowmaking there. Now with each storm, I suspect more and more terrain will start opening up. This is good.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

More Snow Today

We reported 3 inches of new this morning and have had another 1-2 inches since then. The skiing was soft and carvable all over. The Ski Patrol has done even more ski cutting and several of them side stepped their way down Middle Chute on Slalom Slope. There has even been a little bit of directed skiing in Lenawee Parks. Today felt like the middle of Winter instead of the middle of November.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Ski Cutting

Today was stunning. It snowed all day yesterday and into the night. This morning, we reported 11 inches of new snow and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The day was cold and crisp, but not bitter. Perfect ski weather.

So, the Ski Patrol has been quite busy ski cutting and ski packing all across the mountain. Today, they had a tremendous impact on the Upper Mountain. This was a terrific storm. We will see several trails widened. Lower Wrangler opened this morning. With a little luck, we may get Humbug open. Our key objective is to get the snow packed down and be really poised for the next storm. The place looks fantastic.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Snow Stake

The Flaming A is 18 inches tall. Do you really need a ruler?


I love it. Just after daybreak, it started snowing and has be falling heavily the whole time. WAY more to come. Drive safely and slowly. It is a little slick out there.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


This forecast looks pretty good.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Lower Wrangler Snowmaking

I would describe our snowmaking priority right now as trying to get as much green terrain open as we can by the Thanksgiving weekend. Last week we opened Sundance and Molly Hogan (trail and lift). Yesterday we opened the Pika Place conveyor lift. Currently our snowmakers are blowing snow on Lower Wrangler and the rest of Molly Hogan. We have had several good nights in a row. If we can get 2 or 3 more good nights, we should be skiing Lower Wrangler and we will have substantially increased the teaching terrain on Molly Hogan.

I anticipate our Thanksgiving weekend conditions to be very good.  Shhhhhhhhh........it might snow Friday.