You might have seen this one on Unofficial Networks. Basically it’s your worst nightmare. The title is Every Skiers Nightmare, but really this is every ski operator’s nightmare too. One big gust of wind and that cable comes right off the line. Scary stuff. Chairlifts in N. America are regulated by a tram board. One of the basic requirements on all chairlifts is that the sheeve assemblies (the little wheels that the cable rides on) have a cable catcher that doesn’t allow this to happen. I’m not even sure how this is possible. But it’s ugly.
This is what it looks like without a cable catcher.
Last week in Slovakia a flood and subsequent landslide destroyed the base area of Vråtna ski area. This one, too, sent a chill down my spine. According to the ski area’s Facebook page, no one was injured. But several million dollars worth of damage has been done to the ski area. Those Dopplemeyer gondolas don’t come cheap.
Gondola cabins inundated with landslide
Vråtna’s Gondola gets destroyed in landslide
Mountain weather is the real deal. Wind, snow, sun, even rain can change a beautiful scene to a pretty darn scary one. I found this video on unofficialnetworks and had to share it.
We often have to shut the upper mountain down at Crystal due to high winds. And sometimes that seems questionable, especially from the relative calm of the valley bottom. Take a look at this video and consider whether you’d rather be riding in this cabin in high wind wishing you were “down there” or standing at the bottom wishing you were “up there.” Yikes.
Tuesday was pretty close to perfect. After a night of winds in the 60s, they died down just in time to load the Gondola at 8:50 AM. The new snow overnight and the cold temperatures created real, legitimate powder skiing in Green Valley and later in Snorting Elk.
The sun even came out
Some hearty souls arrived at 6 AM for first chair on the gondy. The crowd was bigger than we expected, and I heard the line wrapped all the way around and back down to the ticket kiosks. Once we opened Chinook, everyone spread out and had a good day. We patrollers spent most of our day setting up ropelines and raising tower pads rather than hauling injured skiers. It was a good day.
Yesterday we opened Forest Queen and even got High Campbell Chair open before the wind increased. Some lucky skiers and riders had a little more to be thankful for yesterday.
Unfortunately, the temperature has increased rapidly in the past few hours. As of 6AM it is starting to rain, and the snow is dropping from the trees. According to the forecast, this should be a fast “blip” of warm air, then the temperatures should drop again tonight and bring more snow showers. I’m anticipating a do-over of our current snowpack–a rain crust with fresh snow on top. Today’s warmup will increase the avalanche hazard, but once it cools again we hope to open Northway Chair on Saturday. The coverage out there is excellent for this time of year.
See you on the slopes.
I had hoped this season that ski patrol training would be cancelled. Not that I don’t enjoy it. I had just hoped that the ski season would have started by now, and the training would have happened on the job. But no amount of staring at the forecast, refreshing the GFS models, reading the dark specks of coffee grounds left over in my cup of morning Joe, have made any difference. And I have to admit, as I enjoyed a short break in the balmy sun, the weather was nice.
A large chinook helicopter carried the gondola towers into place this week. The crew on the ground appreciated the warm conditions, even if the rest of us dreamed of snow. It was quite remarkable to watch the large helicopter lift those ungainly towers into place. Imagine a train car flying into the air with a steel bridge beam dangling from it.
The ZipRescue system shown here, will allow patrollers to evacuate the gondola cars in the event of an emergency. While that’s pretty unlikely, I have to admit that zipping along the cable is fun, and like they say, “practice makes perfect”. I for one, wouldn’t mind another session with those rescue trollies.
Now all that’s left is the waiting, which brings me back to the forecast models. That and the coffee grounds.