While half the crew enjoyed a second season in AK, the rest of us watched the snow melt as the mountain closed lift by lift, and ultimately, shut down last week for the 2012 season. Good riddance. For the past two months, I had been looking more forward to the sounds of sitars and Thievery Corp than the skiing. Armada Bubbas looking sad and lonely in the corner, maybe next year, friends.
The little bit of last second snow was almost a cruel joke, just covering up fallen trees and dirt patches long enough to get a couple final runs in. And honestly, the first few hours of closing day were some of the best of the year, as sad as that sounds. Why I’m even writing about a 7 inch powder day, I don’t know…other than to summarize the bookend season we had. If last year was the best of times, this was surely the worst of times. Seeing what EV could be on both ends of the precipitation scale told a tale of two seasons.
If anything, a good year to test your snow science skills. If you had none, it was a good year to get some. Silverton Avy School, et al. earned their keep this year, with plenty of examples to show would be snow gurus. EV dictated same, with what seemed like a slide a day. Fortunately, only a few serious injuries in Mushie and no deaths in EV. The rest of Colorado and the ski world as a whole wasn’t as lucky. A constant reminder in skiing, where the crossroads of freewill and inherent risk intersect.
Waxing philosophic aside, a pile of bones was about all that was left to poke at here in Vail. Full on summer now, so enjoy the off season. Get strong, train, ride your bike, go hike, get on the river, get swole, get ready for what will hopefully be a better season next year. If not there’s always the great white North. AK on the mind…see you next year.
It’s been a New York state of mind weekend, if you know what I mean. Took the lead from Deuce and started my lap today with a stop at the beacon park to work on multiple burials. That little SP button is a world of its own and finally after a few practice sessions, I feel solid about using it, although a mark function would be useful.
The procession down the groomed section of Poppyfields to 21 from Two Elk was endless. Our fearless guests ski like they drive, work and live in their home towns, all together, right next to each other, up in each other’s business. I made it through the human slalom, up and out and head back for a Mushroom Bowl revisit.
Wanted to dig a pit in Mushie, albeit far away from the Kitchen, to see what was going on. The tally is now four burials past the gate at the Poma this week as told by the new signs up at the hike. A viable option for EV access might be to install a beacon triggered access gate like ones used around in other resorts in the West, just a thought.
The recent avalanche statistics are sobering, not only for East Vail and Mushie, but for the rest of the state as well. as fatalities and incidents are spiking as new storms roll through, dumping new snow on top of facet world. With another system rolling up on us, the avalanche activity doesn’t seem to be coming to and end anytime soon. Interesting week ahead.
Headed even further up the line than yesterday, as I was solo and not willing to even come close to a unskied tree chute over 30 degrees. Greybird and snow starting to fall, I found a cool low angle stumpline to bound around on. Sunk the tips on the last pillow before the small shelf and a did a spectacular ground flip, stopping on my tails. Looked over to my right and saw my huckleberry, a small unskied patch of snow, surrounded by trees.
Here’s what I saw.
Air temp: 3 C
Surface temp: 3 C
Incline: 25 degrees
0 to 65 cms: 3mm loose facets fist – Depth Hoar
75 to 85 cms: 1 mm rounds 4finger/fist- Old Storm Snow
85 to 95 2 mm stellars fist – New Snow
Cut two columns and did two CT tests.
First column: CT-14 at 35 cms Q1
Second column: CT-12 at 25 cms Q1
No real suprise, but confirmation that with added steepness, snow load and the pressure of a 180 pound person impacting this snow pack off a twenty foot cliff (one incident in the Kitchen area went down this way), there is no way the snow could support it.
The real question is why, after one or two incidents in the same area, people still continue to ski in the same exact spot. A question for forensic psychologists, not EVI.
Last day in Mushroom, back out to EV tommorow to check it out.
I arrived at the village this morning along with all twenty thousand of my closest friends. The transportation center looked like a scene from a zombie movie with bodies slowly moving in all directions, no one really knowing what to do. The scene at the Vista Bahn was not much better so I made my way to Golden Peak to avoid the masses.
Having an hour until my partner was free to ski, I opted to head to beacon basin to do some drills. At the beacon park I was approached by a man in red named Bill who is the individual responsible for maintaning the park. We discussed the great facility that BCA and Vail have teamed up to provide the skiing community with. He was gracious enough to spend some time explaining and demonstrating the proper use of the SP function on my new Tracker 2.
The Tracker 2 is a three antenna beacon, extremely fast in locating single burials. The SP function is used for multiple burials and takes more practice and skill to master.
After a good session at beacon basin, Martineast showed up and we began our jaunt out to the Vail sidecountry. The plan was to go checkout the snow around the Mushroom Bowl area and find a safe line to ski, keeping in mind that if things seemed nasty we would turn around and ski some low angle pow through Outer Mongolia.
Since 21 was closed we started our skin at the back of Two Elk through the lunch crowd, always an entertaining show. The longer skin was welcome, stretching out the legs and getting away from the crowds.
At the Orient Express summit we were shocked to spot a group of five sneaking behind China Wall. With all the action happening lately in the Kitchen area of Mushroom Bowl, I was surprised to see a group entering such a loaded high energy slope. It is very hot in the kitchen and will most likely remain that way for the remainder of the season.
After looking into the slice of the bowl where the travelers’ disappeared and seeing and hearing nothing incriminating, we continued our ski out to the Poma. We were greeted by the pleasant site of an empty back of the resort as 21 and 22 were closed for the day. We took a few moments to enjoy the Gore view and continued our way up.
I reached the crest of the skin Marty waved me over and showed me what is to date one of the most impressive things i have seen. If you look closely you will see the line from a mouse and then the mark from a bird of preys’ wings, a true “sick bird”. After examining the natural art work, it was just a few more strides before we arrived at our decision point.
We were far away from the Kitchen and into the lower angle section of the bowl that lacks the steep open tree chutes The top turns were low angle and we had no indicators in the upper twenty degree mellow section, so we continued our run.
We skied from high point to high point, avoiding extended straight, open fall lines, which were few and far between in this section of the bowl.
Our biggest concern was the low snow and the endless pits, covered logs and traps along the way. Ended the run hooting down the to the track, groomed from the recent rescues and fast.
Had a great day out there as a result of confidence in my skiing, partner, equipment, and decisions. Mushroom Bowl is a large area and the stability of the snow varies from spot to spot. We chose a low angle, heavily treed area and had a decent run. We stayed far away from the steep open chutes and significant cliff drops that have resulted in the two recent accidents and one close call that the CAIC has reported on.(EVI note, the number of caught and buried is up to four according to the temporary info boards set up at the Poma)
With much of Vail’s side country suspect, other avenues of adventure await. Try going for a skin on Meadow Mountain or practice your beacon skills. Read a snow safety book; “Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain” my personal favorite. Maybe ski with your girlfriend. Remember there has been a ton of activity in the last few days, no need for more.
If you go make sure you are confident in not only your skiing but also your partner and usage of your gear most importantly your brain the most important piece of safety equipment. One more thing dont be a dick out there no more yelling its skiing theres no yelling in skiing.
With the holiday crowds closing in, I skinned my way up to Mushie two days in a row to check out the snow on both the West and North aspects in the gladed 20-30 degree terrain for something to do. The ridge top had variable areas of 10 cm wind board on facets to soft wind blown crust over, you geussed it, more facets, to dirt patches. The first five upper low angle turns off the ridgeline were decent, fresh turns on stale cake. As the pitches steepened and rolled toward the cliff band that runs in the middle of Mushroom Bowl, the skiing turned to a barely covered nightmare of no more than 60 cms of 2mm facets on rocks and fallen trees. The best way to describe a weighted ski turn two thirds of the way down is hitting a sandcastle with a baseball bat. The snow looses cohesion, disintegrates under the weight and the facets run to the dirt in a glittering hiss below the turn. A frightening prospect for a basal layer for our snow pack when (think positive) our weather cycle does turn back to snow.
If we continue to get small amounts of snow with long periods of calm weather in between, then avalanche wise it’s really no problem, it will just be a low tide year for the central mountains like most of AK’s mountains had last year. However, if we do see an averaging out of the snowfall amounts in the last two thirds of the season, then I have to imagine we will have a signifigant avalanche cycle with the first large dump. With the depth of snow in EV ranging from dirt to sixty cm of loose facets that on both West and North aspects, a two foot dump would rip to the ground with little effort with any kind of rapid loading of typical cold low density mid-winter snow on such a weakly bonded base layer. Our best hope is precip to come in warm and wet and alot of it. Or a storm comes in with such rapid loading that EV flushes itself out naturally overnight and cleans out what has become a forgettable early season mess on all aspects.
Something else to check out. Noaa has an interesting report on their website on the effect La Nina will have on Colorado weather for the rest of the winter. Much of it is super technical, but it is interesting to read the atmospheric science based precipitation predictions for the next six months. I won’t ruin it for you, check it out and draw your own conclusions.
It was a relief to get out into Mushie and skin far far away from the madnesss happening with the holidays in Vail. Just passing Two Elk helped my personal holiday decompression. The lack of sno, however trying, fails to make the skin up to the top of Benchie any less beautiful. The black, grey and white spattered Gore range, gaunt and bare, stretched into a sky littered with purple and grey clouds streaming in from the Northwest. A few tendrils of snow stretched down to touch the very tops of the Gore Range, but the wisps were wishful thinking for a range that is now feet away from average. I enjoyed standing on the top of Benchie again, wind howling and no one around. Pretty much ski hiked the last two thirds of the run both days to the road, but I enjoyed the taste of the EV experience that I have, admittedly, taken for granted over the last fourteen years.