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. might snow Friday.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

First Skin

This afternoon/evening Kay and I took our first skin of the season. It felt great to be out on the hill. The snow was good and the weather perfect. It reminded me to encourage people to be extra careful. The snowmakers and cat drivers are working out there. Stay as far away from them as you can. Wear a headlamp and take it easy skiing downhill. It is always fun. Just be careful.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Uphill Access Open - With Restrictions

After the lifts close today, uphill access will be open. For now, it will be open during non-operating hours. Said another way, uphill access will be closed when the lifts are open to the public. As always, I encourage uphill users to use extra caution keeping an eye out for snowmaking equipment, snowmobiles and snowcats. Stay far away from any equipment. Also, for now, stay out of terrain that is closed for the day. Stick to the groomers.

Uphill access is a great and fun activity, but it only works if users ski, ride, skin, snowshoe and hike in a responsible manner.

This is a great time to remind people that all uphill users need a FREE Uphill Access Pass. That pass is available in the Guest Services building. When you pick up your pass, you will be given a list of the Uphill Rules. Thanks so much for cooperating with this program. 

There are times that uphill access is closed due to avalanche work or other special ski area operations. Check the Terrain Status page on our website to see if uphill access is open or closed.  As a tip, you can expect uphill access to be closed mornings with reasonable snowfall that require avalanche work.

Can't wait to see Kent and Doris and the rest of you. ENJOY.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Rental and Snowsports

We just opened our newly re-organized Winter Sports Center. The project had a lot of objectives, but the biggest one was to make it easier for first time (or near first time) skiers and riders to get into the sport, have a good day and come back for more good days. Some of the new features are:

-Greeting desk at the front to help guests with questions, especially on Snowsports School.
-Boot Bridge to better help our employees help our guests to get a good boot fit.
-Additional DIN station to set boots, skis and bindings.
-Better flow path to accommodate more people in a faster and friendlier manner.
-More staff for more and better contact with guests.

So, if you are reading this, I doubt you are a first time skier. That said, keep us in mind when you are introducing that friend or family member to skiing or riding. Get 'em through a good rental process and into a good lesson. Remember, "Friends don't teach friends skiing (and especially, spouses don't teach spouses). Take a lesson."

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Molly Hogan and Sundance

Molly Hogan opened today giving us three chairlifts and kicking the Snowsports School into a higher gear. Sundance will open Friday morning. We will keep making snow on Molly and Sundance for a while to buff those trails out before heading over to Lower Wrangler.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Rope Tow Update

We are calling the rope tow from the top of Lenawee Mountain Lift to Montezuma Bowl the "Lazy J." The brand of the lift is a "Telecorde." It functions a little bit differently than a standard rope tow. Your typical lift would have a bullwheel on each end. This lift has no bullwheels. It does have a series of pulleys on each end and, instead of the light side and heavy side being side by side, the light side runs several feet directly above the heavy side.  The heavy side hauls the people. The light side has no load.

We are excited to show off the rope tow. Unfortunately, we have had a delay. The container with the lift did not get loaded on its ship in its French  port on time. It is still coming, but delayed. We have built its lift operator house, installed power to the drive terminal and excavated the holes for the towers. Just waiting on the lift to arrive.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ski Patrollers and Patrol Headquarters

If you have spent any time in Black Mountain Lodge this season, you have noticed the Ski Patrollers hanging out in the Southwest corner of the building. Since they didn't have access to their space at Patrol Headquarters (PHQ) on the Summit, they have found a temporary home at mid mountain. 

This year we remodeled and expanded PHQ. That project is done. While the gang has enjoyed visiting with our guests in BML, I know they are anxious to get into their new digs. This week they move into their new home. I think they will miss the BBQ.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Snowmaking and Grooming

The Prism Cam at Snow Plume Refuge caught these night time images of snowmaking and grooming.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Burning Mostly Done

We have been burning a lot of slash piles the last few weeks. For this season we are mostly done with burning. We did this treatment on Loafer, Davis, the lift line, Steep Gullies Hike Back and the Emergency Egress Route. The stumps were flush cut and the slash was piled prior to burning. Our crews will remain out there for another couple of weeks doing the final Fall tidy up. There may be a few more piles to be burned, but for the most part, the burning is done for this season.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Avalanche Work

It was nice to see the good snowfall this morning. And we should see more through Tuesday.

Snow Safety Team members spent some time on Pali this week. Explosives work led to substantial settling and cracking and a few very small slides. Travel in these areas is still very slow, but with each snow storm and wind event they will get out more and more and travel farther and farther. Getting out of Pali this time is a rough and tedious process.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Snowmaking Sequence

What is next for snowmaking? Right now we are really focusing on two areas. The first is to buff out Lenawee Face and Dercum's Gulch, especially the very top. While this has been a good Upper Mountain opening, getting the snow a little wider and little deeper is always helpful. The second focus area is Molly Hogan. We are anxious to get a beginner lift and trail open giving our Snowsports School a chance to create new skiers and riders. Once those two areas are done, I suspect in a few days, the snowmaking crew will move on to Sundance and Wrangler. We like to have those two green trails open by Thanksgiving. After that, probably after Thanksgiving, they will head back to the Upper Mountain and put a bit of snow down on Powerline, Norway, Lenawee Parks, Tower 3 Pitch and The High Divide Terrain Park.

.......And today was another stellar Colorado bluebird day. I love those.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Skiing Off The Top

Yesterday we opened Lenawee Mountain Chairlift with some fine skiing on Lenawee Face and Dercum's Gulch. The snowmakers and cat drivers pulled another beautiful rabbit out of their hat. For me, there are several key bench marks to the ski season. Being open off the top is one of them. There is some snow in the forecast this weekend. Our patrollers are starting to wander around in areas without snowmaking. With each snowfall event, they will cover more and more ground.

I have to admit this is a photo from last November.