Park City Blog

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Early Season Exploring

Home by the fire after a chilly snowy day. The first few days of this 2011-12 season are behind us. As of today (Monday November 21st) we're only open to the top of Payday Lift, but we're already looking higher.

bonanza-snowmaking (bonanza-snowmaking)A small group of patrollers started working out of Summit Patrol the last couple days. Snowmakers and groomers too have been hard at it getting upper Homerun well covered and preped for a potential opening later this week. Traveling through this artificial ground blizzard gets pretty interesting at times; a good way to hone our early season snowmobile skills I suppose. We took advantage of over a foot of natural snow over the last couple days and started "ski checking" some of the other runs in the Bonanza zone (I hate to use the 'it's a hard job but somebody's gotta do it' cliche here, but I will). Coverage is not quite there to open to the public yet, but we're getting close.

In the Snow Safety department, we have started looking higher still. This is a fine opportunity to check out how the old snow has changed over time and if the new snow is 'behaving.' A week ago Colin and Tony took a little tour up over Jupiter Peak and into McConkeys. They were able to trigger several small avalanches on the rotten snow from October (see my previous post). Saturday afternoon Andy and I repeated their trip. We had a bit more snow in spots and the wind had blown it down to the rocks in others. In areas Tony and Colin had skied less than a week before we were walking over shrubs and rocks (all of my skis are rock skies). We did find a few decent turns along the way though; first powder turns of the year for me. We also discovered quite a few tracks in McConkey's Bowls from folks who hiked over from the Empire area of Deer Valley. And this gives me a chance for a teaching moment....

It is of course early season. The snow cover is thin and weak, less than 2 feet in most spots below 10,000 feet. Rocks stumps and trees are just hidden under the surface. We are not working in the upper mountain areas yet and this is backcountry terrain with backcountry conditions. As was tragically learned over in Little Cottonwood Canyon a week ago, there is no ski patrol or avalanche control in these areas. Just because you may have safely ridden McConkey's Bowl all season last year doesn't mean it's safe right now. Additionally, as we get more snow we will start working in these areas with explosives. Winch cats and snowmobiles may be running around in these areas as well. If you have been touring on our yet to open upper mountain, you need to be aware of this. Perhaps it's time to move into the true backcountry beyond our boundaries. And wherever you choose to ride or ski, be careful early season. It would just suck to end your season now with an injury before it has really started.

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