Tag Archives: Snowmaking

New and Improved Chair 6 for 2014-15 Season

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As promised, Crystal Mountain will rebuild Chair 6 this summer. The chair, formerly known as High Campbell, was demolished in an avalanche earlier this year. I happened to see it firsthand since I was on the avalanche team that set off the slide. It was an historic wet slab avalanche that slid well down onto Queens Run, the green circle groomer below the slide path. The avalanche occurred at 4:40pm on March 10th after the ski area was closed. If you’ve been to Crystal in the last month, then you’ve seen the destruction not just on The Throne, but in Bear Pits, Employee Housing and Powder Bowl. (During the same time that these explosive-released avalanches occurred at Crystal, natural avalanches of similar size were happening around us in Crystal Lakes Basin as well as on Governor’s Ridge, both in Mt. Rainier National Park.)

Skytrac to build the new Chair 6 at Crystal Mountain

Skytrac to build the new Chair 6 at Crystal Mountain

The new Chair 6 will be a new double chair made by Skytrac, the only American ski lift manufacturer. Both terminals will be in the same place as the old High Campbell chair. The old concrete footings for the towers will also be used, which will reduce cost and materials. The capacity will be the same as the old one, which means it won’t get tracked any faster.

The chairs themselves will be more than double the weight of the old chairs, which means that the new Chair 6 will operate better in high winds. John Kircher, my husband and Crystal’s GM, expects to run the new chair in higher winds. He says that winds exceeding the chair’s ability to run would be too strong for skiers and riders anyways. In addition, the unload area will be bigger and will ease the double black diamond offload of the old days.

Gazex Exploder

Gazex Exploder

Since we’ve got the helicopters hauling materials to the summit, we might as well make the most of it. Crystal is also installing three Gazex exploders in Powder Bowl to help mitigate avalanches. These exploders, ubiquitous in the Alps and relatively new to North America, use propane and oxygen to deliver a 360 degree blast. The mixing shed that houses the tanks will be at the summit of the Queen and the three exploders (which look like bent-over lift towers) will be spread out on the left side of Powder Bowl.

Another improvement slated for the top of the new Chair 6 is–get this–snowmaking! We won’t be installing the snowmaking this summer due to some necessary environmental work, but we hope to get it going for 2015-16. Gone will be the rock-hopping, ski/board removal and side-stepping of yore.

We are hoping to solve a myriad of problems with this new lift. Moments after that ill-fated avalanche ripped off The Throne over a month ago, I was sick to my stomach. We’d destroyed an iconic lift. We’d cost the company tons of money. An entire pod of skiing was done for the season. My husband wasn’t going to be happy with me.

But as it turns out, the insurance is covering the replacement cost and the new lift will be better than the old one. It will operate at higher winds; the off-load will more user-friendly; and it will give us a chance to install Gazex and snowmaking.

So things are looking up.

 

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Gearing up for Ski Season

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Happy

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

When do YOU think we’ll be skiing this season?

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For those of you starting to place bets on the first day of skiing this year, I thought I should pass on some vital information. I’ve already posted Larry Schick’s awesome prediction for the winter (hint: he’s calling for another good one!) as well as NOAA’s official La Nina advisory.

This could be you

But there’s one more vital piece of information that you might not know about, especially if you live in the PNW. Crystal Mountain has a secret weapon. Snowmaking.

For those of you from anywhere else besides the PNW, this might seem a little ho-hum. Snowmaking, you say? So what.

Well, our new snowmaking system runs along the top of Green Valley, blowing hard, dense snow over the ridge. Since the GV ridge is often the achilles heel keeping us from opening, this blanket of early snow will allow us to open earlier. No one necessarily likes to ski on manmade snow. But it makes a killer base.

So, while we might only be offering a single ribbon of snow for the early season diehards, it will be skiing. And it could happen early. Some of the higher-ups at Crystal (including the one I’m married to) are saying we might be open by Halloween.

Whoa.

I, personally, would love to open before ski patrol training, which is the first week in November. Not that I don’t LOVE the week of training, but it’s always a very good sign if we’re open by then. Just saying.

I’m planning on doing an opening day contest over at www.blogcrystal.com, and I want to give you all the most information possible. Consider this your heads up.

Oh. And you might want to get those skis tuned up. Just in case.