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Ski Patrol Extreme Terrain Update

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Ski Patrol Extreme Terrain Update

Employee Ski Patrol

The snow that Crested Butte recently received has certainly been a welcome sight! Amazing what a difference a foot of snow can make for skiing at the resort on our open trails. Mountain operations crews have been hard at work to keep the snow groomed, remove the snowmaking apparatuses  (BIG kudos to the snowmaking department for getting the mountain up and running. We are incredibly lucky to have the crew we do, as many resorts are not as fortunate to have the knowledge, skill and dedication that we have here at CBMR), open additional lifts, and drop ropes on new runs as conditions allow. Our team is amazing and it truly shows in a year like this.

The ski patrol was very appreciative to see all the smiles and friendly comments received on Sunday’s first real powder day of the season. As we look ahead to a potential shift in the weather pattern forecast for the rest of January (and beyond hopefully), many are probably wondering the status of the terrain accessible from the High Lift and NFL. As you have that thought, think back to just before the most recent storm and recall what these areas looked like a week ago. There was more rocks than snow cover. The snow that was on the ground has been decomposing for quite some time now, resulting in a very weak and unsupportive base layer for new snow to build upon. Those of you familiar with the topography of the mountain in the summer know that there is a substantial amount of ground clutter (large rocks, deadfall, stumps etc.) in these zones, and this presents a very challenging environment for patrollers and packers to move around in safely, in their efforts to manage the snowpack. Additionally, at the time of writing this, so far this season we are sitting at about 60” of total snowfall for the season and about half that much settled snow on the ground (compared with 160” total snow and 65” settled snow at this time last season). Yes, what a different year we have been seeing thus far.

The good news is that patrol has been able to enter some of these areas and begin initial avalanche control measures. The packing crew has started up this past week as well, focusing on areas where there is adequate snow for them to operate safely.  We anticipate a significant avalanche cycle as the snowpack deepens and exceeds its ability to support its own weight. The reality is that we have the same snowpack structure as the backcountry, surrounding town right now. It is extremely weak and unsupportive. Fortunately, we have additional tools and the resources to help mitigate the problems. Please be patient with us and understand that we will work to open new terrain as quickly as we can.

However, there are a number of steps that we must take to ensure the safety of our guests in this terrain. Once adequate control measures have been completed and we have been neurotically thorough in addressing every problem area, then we have miles of rope to string up and dozens of signs to put in place. It is a time consuming process, but one that we take great pride in completing, and then opening the terrain for our guests to enjoy. We want to get these areas open as badly as anyone, but we take the responsibility of providing a safe experience for the patrollers, boot packers, as well as our guests, very seriously. So please enjoy the terrain that we are able to open, respect our closures, and keep doing those snow dances. Thanks for your cooperation and understanding.

- CB Ski Patrol