Last week, the Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol conducted our yearly pre-season training. For a job that requires plenty of outside activity, the rigors of training include sitting inside when the first snowfall of the season has blanketed the base area and the surrounding peaks are finally pasted in snow. It wasn’t always easy to pay attention inside when the scenery outside was calling. But we managed.
Chair Evacuation Practice
Towards the end of the week, we got outside and practiced evacuating chairs and other rescue scenarios. Fortunately, the weather held for a crisp and sunny first day on “the slopes”.
Higher up on the mountain, the snow-making system has already started pasting glorious base-building snow across the top
It's snowing in Green Valley
of Green Valley. In the evenings after training, my husband and I rode the gondola to check out the progress. After only ten hours
Green Valley gets plastered
of “blowing snow” the top of Greenback is already pasted with two feet of bullet proof base. John plans to open Crystal for skiing as soon as possible. And by as soon as possible, he means about 16 inches of snow.
Looking ahead at the forecast, that 16 inches could happen sooner than later. Take a look at the Extended GFS 12km models from University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences page below for two weather systems moving in this weekend. It shouldn’t be long now. Be sure to follow this page for updates.
Friday into Saturday
- Saturday into Sunday
With the Mt. Rainier Gondola on wind hold yesterday, patrollers practiced our new ZipRescue system which allows us to evacuate the cabins in the very unlikely event of a emergency. With multiple backup systems and engines–not to mention a crack team of lift mechanics–the chances of the new Gondola ever needing to be evacuated are quite small. And since I believe in that strange phenomenon I call “preparation karma”, I figure that the better trained we are, the less likely we will ever need to use our skills.
Since patrollers can only train on the Gondola when it isn’t running, most of our practice has been after hours. Like the postal service, we’ve evacuated the chairs in rain, snow, sleet, hail, and now–wind!. Even at Tower 4, where yesterday I climbed up to attach my ZipRescue to the haul rope, the wind threatened to blow us off the gantry. But at least we had plenty of daylight. I just wish I brought another jacket!
Much like ziplining, the ZipRescue system is quite fun. The rescuer attaches him or herself to the haul rope (aka lift cable) and lowers down to the cabin. From there, the rescuer opens the cabin door, sets up a belay and lowers the stranded passengers to the ground. Afterwards, the rescuer ascends back up to the haul rope and zips down to the next car.
Thanks to the wind yesterday, several patrollers had the chance to train with the ZipRescue, which makes the chance of a real evacuation–as long as you buy into the “preparation karma” theory–that much less likely.
All photos taken by Evan Wang. Thanks Evan!