As we seem to be in the middle of yet another annual New Year's storm cycle, there was not too much partying by the Park City Patrol this year. Let's see if I can recap my weekend:
Saturday, December 31 2005; a scheduled day off for me. I'm awake by 4am to check the weather and clear a foot of snow from my driveway at the top of Parley's Canyon (elevation 7,300 feet). I'm at the resort by 5:30 to get the patrol snow cat warmed up for the arrival of our crew at 6. We have the patrol loaded in the cat by 6:15 and I drive the crew up the mountain in full (zero visibility) conditions. The rest of the pre-dawn morning is spent organizing the control teams, assembling our explosives, and digging out Summit Patrol. As soon as we get enough light to safely work (this time of year, around 7:30), we head out on our avalanche control routes. On this particular day, we were dealing with tough conditions, and triggering some unexpected avalanches. Despite this, the lower mountain was open by 9am and the Jupiter area was open by noon. I made it home by early afternoon, joined my wife in digging out the house again, and was in bed by 8:30pm.
Sunday, January 1 2006; another "day off." Up again by 4am to clear another foot from the driveway. There was heavy snow, high winds, and even rain through the night. From a snow safety standpoint, rain is a big red flag. Rain adds weight to the snowpack without adding any strength and significantly increases the avalanche control problem. On this morning, progress was hampered by the weather and snow conditions. We needed to concentrate on lower mountain areas and delay opening the mountain. This was unpopular with some, but necessary to ensure the safety of our control teams and ultimately our resort guests. As the morning progressed, news came to us from our neighboring patrols that they were releasing very large slides. We also started to see similar results in Jupiter. So this day, openings happened a bit later; lower mountain at 9:30am and Jupiter around 1:00pm. Some of us stayed on into the afternoon to control Jupiter Peak/East Face area in preparation for a Monday opening. This day off ended at 4:30 in the afternoon and again I had a house to dig out.
Today (Monday, January 2), the "beginning" of my work week brought another early morning and another day of heavy snow and high winds. So high in fact (gusts in the 60's and 70's) that we couldn't even get to the Jupiter and Peak areas. Now, we do occasionally get accused by locals and visitors alike of "working too slow," or "saving the good skiing for ourselves." The truth is, we work as fast as the conditions allow to get the area open to the public while always maintaining the safety of our control teams. It is in the best interest of our snow safety program to get the area open as quickly as possible.
Well, we're expecting another 10-20 inches tonight with continued high winds so tomorrow is another 4am day. It's time for this old patroller to get to bed. I do love this job!
Originally from the Pocono’s of Pennsylvania, Travis found his way to Park City three years ago and is now our grooming manager. When not in snowcat you can find him skiing or snowmobiling in the Utah backcountry or enjoying the skiing here at Park City Mountain Resort.