It's a sneaky storm - dropping 44" of snow this week. The best of it fell Thursday - when officially we received 13" in the base area. But the top of Star had 21". And the powder runs are amazing. Looking for some SloMo - MoJo? Try Nettie's run, which has a shallower pitch. But the thigh deep untracked powder was so light that you could slowly float down Nettie's. Untracked. Untouched. Just you and the snowflakes. Nice!
Enjoy the slide show - pictures by Krissy Fagan of mComm!
This account and pictures of the avalanche investigation is provided by Tighe Stoyanoff and Paul Klein of our ski patrol. You can click on the pictures to make them larger.
A pronounced fracture line runs across the top of Super Bowl - unlike the January 2010 major incident which started in Wy' East (which is still loaded with snow and presumably has the same persistent weak layering which contributed to the March 2011 Super Bowl slide).
On the morning of March 10th 2011, the Mt. Hood Meadows Professional Patrol conducted Avalanche Hazard Reduction routes and an Artillery mission that included the Super Bowl portion of the permit area. Weather conditions on the morning of the 10th did not allow for any visibility into the upper portions of the Heather or Clark drainages. The Heather Ridge route traveling through the Heather Canyon foothills on the tail end of their route found the deposition from a large avalanche at the confluence of the Clark and Heather Drainages. At that time visibility up drainage did not allow for confirmation of where this large event had initiated from. Debris extended past the bottom terminal of the Heather Chairlift, making travel difficult on skis or foot. The canyon remained closed for the day.
As the sun came up on Friday the 11th, the weather forecast held true and visibility allowed for further Avalanche Hazard Reduction and investigation into the previous days events. Patrol personnel traveled to the fracture line of the avalanche at the 9000 foot level, very close to the top of our permit area. It was determined that the avalanche was triggered during our Artillery mission on the morning of the 10th just after 6:00 am. The slide ran on an old buried and persistent weak layer. Average height of the fracture was 5-6 feet with areas in excess of 12 feet. The hard slab traveled an estimated 3900 feet of vertical and 2.5 miles as the crow flies. Wy’east, the slope directly up hill of Super Bowl did not slide. It is presumed that Wy’east has the same persistent weak layer and similar loading that contributed to the slide at the 9000’ level in Super Bowl. The canyon remained closed for the day.
Saturday Open for "Touring"
Saturday the weather, snow pack, and some grooming near the bottom of the chair allowed Heather Canyon to open for a short time from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. Absolute Magnitude was the only gate open which allowed Patrol to better inform guests of the debris hazards and difficulty of access to the chair. Weather closed in again just before 11:00 am, causing increased concern for the Wy’east Face; resulting in the Canyon’s closure. Wy’east is outside of the Meadows permit area and receives no active Avalanche Hazard Reduction. Historically slides originating from Wy’east face have deposited debris in the lower portions of the Clark Creek drainage. Pictures speak more than these words in describing the magnitude of this slide and the challenges we face with this terrain.
Please obey all posted signs and closures. Heather will continue to be evaluated, at the time of this posting it is closed.
The mountain is the owner, we are but guests…………..
Twilight Bowl. Friday, February 24. We'll have more pictures and video later. Enjoy!
Pierce Hodges from M-Comm, with video contributed by Temira.
Check out the powder shots on our Facebook page
and in the photo gallery
Every night, after the ski lifts shutdown, the slopes are swept, and the night lights go off, something remarkable happens on the slopes of Mt. Hood Meadows. Ski runs that hosted thousands of happy skiers and snowboarders the day before undergo a transformation that takes moguls, ski ruts, chopped pow, ice, and sometimes even bare dirt and turns them all back into wide, flat ski runs, covered in smooth corduroy. The folks that do this work are Slope Groomers, men and women whom are awake when you are not, that ride $220,000 machines that can rumble-and-tear like a bulldozer but also paint-and-finesse like an artiste.
Though it may seem like the people that do this are magicians, the actual work is far from magic. What you see every morning is the result of the combined efforts of over fifteen people per night who are out there from dusk-til-dawn in all weather, pushing, dozing and tilling with their machines until they get the resort back into shape. Each night, all of Meadows' buildings, lifts, parks and pipes, parking areas, race shacks, Nordic trails, and avalanche-reduction tools see the hand of the Grooming crew, in addition to the work the crew does on the ski runs across the resort. Snow is shaped into ramps and takeoffs, bladed flat, track-packed, and tilled into that carveable corduroy surface we all know and love.
Within this crew, there is a smaller selection of operators that take all these standard grooming processes up onto our mountain's steep slopes with a specific grooming machine called a winch cat. This snowcat has a specifically-designed cable winch system built into it that can act as a brake to keep the cat from sliding out of control when dropping into steep runs, but also can act as an assist for when the cat needs to climb back up and out of those same slopes.
For anchors, the 7/16" diameter winch cable is picked (i.e. hooked) to large, healthy, properly positioned trees via a cloth lifting strap that allows the cat to drop into a slope at the proper angle. While most of our steeper runs have handy trees to use as anchors, there are treeless areas on the hill where we often need to use the winch cat. In these areas, a second snowcat is used as the anchor with the cable from the winch cat securely attached.
Operating only after other mountain staffers are off the hill, the winch cat takes over the entire area in which it's working; even other snowcats stay clear of the winch and its cable. In the morning when mountain staff arrives, protocols are in place throughout the various mountain operations departments to ensure a strung-out winch cable is well marked and staff made aware of areas in which winch-grooming operations are underway.
So, how steep is steep? The manufacturer of our machines says, assuming ideal snow providing perfect traction, our model of snowcat can climb and descend up to a 45 degree slope. What's that steep at Meadows? Not much. The Basalts, up above A-Zone hover in that range however they don't get groomed. The top break-over pitch of 4 Bowl at 38 or so degrees is probably the steepest thing we do groom. At this angle, traction is almost never solid enough for a normal cat, so this is where the winch comes into play.
So what's it like to drop a super steep pitch in a winch cat, your kung-fu grip keeping you glued to the pitch? For a first-time passenger, it's somewhat like dropping off a cliff. At the top break-over as the machine teeters above the brink, your heart starts to palpitate and your natural survival instinct pushes you back into your seat. As the machine creeps forward and the operator adjusts the winch tension, the cat tilts forward into the darkness. The cat's lights don't shine down low enough - you can't see what lies below. It tilts more and more. You start to fall forward out of your seat. Now you're standing on the floor - surely this can't be right? But then the cat finishes its forward tilt and the ground below you comes back into sight. It wasn't a cliff after all. Snow rolls and tumbles down in front of the cat as the operator blades and tills his way downhill. It feels like you should be sliding out of control down the slope in front of you, but you don't - the 7/16" diameter lifeline holds you as it should. Down at the bottom, your death-grip subsides as the cat turns around and starts back up the slope. During the climb, as gravity pushes back into your seat, you watch the strung-out cable jump and snap around as it disappears ahead of you into the darkness. Back at the top, as you crest the top of the pitch, you finally notice that you're smiling. Clearly you've begun to realize just how cool winch grooming is.
-- Photos and story by Rob Gayman, Grooming Manager
Viva La Nina! the season of the witch. December 22nd and we’ve been barreled over by Mother Nature who just blanketed us with some 20” of fluffy fresh over the past week. With five solid days of epic powder riding in Heather A-zone down; deep serious fresh lines in Jacks, PR and barrels of fun in Ab-Mag under the belt I decided to push the legs a bit further and go shred up some remaining pow stashes Meadows After Dark style.
As the MComm night reporter I find it my duty to search out the fun lines, and natural hits that exist within our 215 acres of night terrain. Many MHM fans don’t know that when the sun goes down and the stars come out that Meadows pumps under the energized lights. In fact, riders of all levels can have their cake and eat it too, whether you ride from 3pm to close ($29) or race up from PDX and catch some turns from 6pm ($19) on, you’re bound to find plenty of terrain to whet your fancy.
Tonight I found myself fighting through twenty-degree temps and flurries on MHX with a crew of guys who had driven all the way from Vancouver to play in the powder. “We got night passes this year when they dropped to $99”, says Brian, a twenty something boarder from Vancouver who drives almost two hours just to get some turns in “so we all made a pact to come and ride once a week, and man, tonight it’s sick.” We exit the lift and head down to Two bowl where I follow their rooster tail spray off into some trees as they look for hits to throw off. Its 7pm and the snow is
Over in Shipyard the park is full of high school snowboard teams, and night riders who are all out throwing down on the propane tank, jibbin the tire, or practicing hitting the box. I catch up with some daytime liftees and parks crew bros who are out lapping MHX and Easy. They’ve been riding under Face looking for some natural hits, and are now heading over to Shipyard to play in the park, a cure for any day at the office. “Super sick, bro, catch you over at MHX”, they yell out as we part ways, and though I never catch up with them again until later as they’re leaving the Alp I know that
they, like the rest of the two hundred or so night riders, are having a blast under the lights.
Every night I leave the Nick @ Nite pick for the next days riding based off weather forecasts and current surface conditions. But I feel I’ve been robbing my night posse of some of my favorite stashes and so to help you Meadow-cate properly I ran them all tonight in order as I would if I were hitting “first chair” Meadows After Dark.
- 3pm, I head to Shooting Star and pick off lines of fresh near Rock Garden, or pass for clean hits off Gemini, trust me they are there.
- I close down Star chair with some pow covered riders from the day, and I’ve almost got them talked into a night upgrade. “It only gets better” I yell back to them, and believe it or not they are the second to last group of riders out there at 9pm.
- 4pm It’s back to MComm for me to update the conditions, but my doppelganger alter ego is still out riding MHX, hitting One Bowl down though Two, picking off lines around Wee Bee Gee Bee until patrol ropes it off. Hitting dark pillowy line skiers left of MHX chair.
- 7pm it’s time to check out the park and to practice riding switch while taking in the excitement of being surrounded by some pretty sick local riders.
- By 8pm I am super psyched about hitting up Face and the Bowls again, but instead I rip down Ridge Line with some kids out of Tigard who demonstrate the “proper” way to “run the ridge bro” and learn some new things along the way.
- 9pm I catch up with some Acoounting peeps who have emerged from the vault for a closing lap. “We gotta get out and breathe the powder”, one of them says before tearing down under MHX. A guy decked out in his gear circa 1990 riding next to us agrees with a celebratory pole up, and then dives down Face.
And that is what I love about nights. The MHM peeps that drive straight from work as fast as they can just to pack in some turns under the lights. Some are breaking out the gear for the first time since the Clinton years, some are bringing the family up for the discounted rates, and others are driving up after work to suffice their powder fix. If you came up tonight, lets just say it was well worth the drive from Vancouver. Deep skier cut powder with fresh pow stashes still lingering in One and Two bowl. Super fun hits with fluffy landings on Face and in the dark skiers left. And the best part, at 9pm its still snowing.
From the Fall Out shelter, deep in the MComm lair, this is Nick @ Nite reminding you that early season conditions exist, now go out and ride them.
Having skied my legs off the past eight days I took a breather Saturday morning to soak the bones and rest the legs. But egged on by my roommate, and pestered by the nagging thought of being the Heather possibly opening, I decided to trudge up the hill mid day anyways. I am glad I did. By time I got on the mountain, word was buzzing of an opening. I had to know so I hussled down to HQ, and there sitting on my desk in big sharpie bold letters was the note I was waiting for. “Heather open 1:08 pm. Call this the handoff. Phones are updated. Get your a** out to the canyon stat. Freshies await.”
Scroll down to see a video on Heather
So here it is December 4th and we’re already dropping fresh lines in Heather! Hard to believe, but there I was caught off guard and without notice that I had better strap up and ship out if I wanted the fresh lines I had been salivating over for the past three weeks. I raced through the lodge skis flailing, gear shaking, nerves pumping, blood racing just itching to get out and ride. But when I got back to the office I remembered I had a meeting to join up the Pac Rats ski league. It was one of those “yeah, uh huh” kind of meetings while strapping into my boots and pulling my under layers on. With confirmation that I was on the team in hand, the fastest 20 minute turned to eight-minute meeting I have ever had, I was out the door and flying up the mountain eager as a kid on Christmas. The snow did not disappoint.
Already tracked up by the mouth watering, eye ogling riders who like me had been waiting all year for fresh tracks in the canyon, at 1:45pm, I descended in from Twilight hanging skiers right for the steep pow stashes to be found in the trees right of Moon Bowl but somewhere left of AbMag. There stashed away in the wintery wonderland were nice natural features pleading to be hit; steep tree lines that hadn’t been run, nice slot canyons that haven’t been filled in yet by mid winter snows, and tons of powder to be hit if you just knew where to go.
Conditions today were pretty stellar for an early opening. Heavy buttery smooth fresh pow with deep love and forgiveness in the trees, plenty of coverage; just the kind of conditions for a have-at-it fest in the canyon.
I left the Heather today against my will, but agreeing with my burning legs. It was time to go. The conditions had to be reported, the story had to be told. Duty bound, and eager to rub it in to my roommate who took his ride break at noon before the canyon opened, covered head to toe in white, snow dripping from my goggles and packed into my helmet, I ran out Heather Canyon Run Out for a silent meditation and reflection of the absolute beauty the mountain has to offer. That silence didn’t last.
Back at MComm everyone is abuzz with stories from ride buddies dropping by to share the best hits of the day. “It’s going to be the season of the Witch,” I deem it, and someone yells, “Bring it on La Niña, we love you.”
The boot warmers are buzzing here at MComm. The gear drying out. It’s only December 4th, and I’ve already received my Xmas wish. Do your snow dance Meadows, and I’ll see you in the Canyon.
From the Fall Out Shelter, hunkered deep in the MComm lair. This is Nick @ Nite reminding you that early season conditions exist, now go out and ride them.
And now a video shot by Mt. Communications (MComm) team members Temira Wagonfeld and Pierce Hodges - edited by Pierce. Enjoy!
Heather Canyon opened today for the first time this young 2010-2011 season! It is one of the earliest openings of the legendary Canyon ever. The lower Canyon was opened from the Twilight gate down..
With the Civil War game going on, crowds were light when Ski Patrol dropped the gates just after 1pm. Only 25 or so lucky skiers and riders were waiting at the Twilight gate, and they scored fresh powder tracks the whole way down. The Heather chairlift operated today and is on the schedule for the next several days before the next storm system arrives, as conditions in the Canyon allow.
Cold temperatures this week kept the snow from the last storm light and fluffy in the Canyon, and continued cold temperatures the next three days should keep the snow light and carveable. Ski Patrol continues to work on the upper Canyon. If Mother Nature works with them, we may see more terrain open soon, with more early-season black diamond powder turns!
On your way back to the lift, stay to the skier's left of the waterfall rope lines to exit the Canyon. Watch for the bamboo poles marking the snow bridges. Be safe and have fun. Pictures and video are coming!
Happy riders on the Heather Chairlift first day that the Canyon opened!
Forest Park debuts for the season today (Saturday). Parks crew reports that 8 features have been placed on what has become Meadows most popular intermediate park. The rambling nature of the terrain combined with the urban rail features makes for a fun and interesting ride.
Parks crew intalled 8 rails total - initially we have 1 flat box, 1 butter pad, 1 down rail, 1 mail box, 1 down culvert, 1 down box, 1 flat double barrel, and 1 flat single barrel. More features will be added to provide greater intrigue and variety to Forest Park.
Take a first run through Forest Park with video from Temira, Mt. Communications.
That brings our total number of parks to three, Forest Park, The Zoo and Shipyard - not bad for November! Between the three parks Meadows has 20 features for your freestyling enjoyment.
You can send mobile device pix to: email@example.com - we'll post them in our photo gallery.
They were the first runs we ventured on when we were first figuring our how to negotiate down a snow covered hill. Filled with excitement, wonder and awe; heightened by the pure thrill of it all, these green trails hold a special place in our minds and our hearts. We would not have advanced to the blue and black signed runs had it not been for friendly green.
Share your story. What's your favorite beginner run at Meadows - and why?
Fresh off of our first days on the mountain, still filled with the adventurous zeal which attracted us to this sport to begin with, we encounter Blue. Intermediate terrain can be a faithful friend, building our confidence and guiding us to new places. Blue can also humble, throwing a sharp pitch or unexpected curve in our way, reminding us that the mountain still rules. It's this unpredictable nature and surprises that hooked us.
Cruising, reliable, sometimes impulsive Blue. What's your favorite Blue run at Meadows - and why?
Black Diamond - perhaps the most seductive of all the trails a mountain has to offer. From the time we take our very first run we hear about those Black Diamond runs where only experts dare to take on the challenge of the steep and the deep. As your skill grows so does your curiosity, until finally you take the plunge and take your first expert run! The thrill, the chill and the spill - all you proudly share with friends time and again.
Have you mastered your favorite Black Diamond run at Meadows yet? Tell us about it!
Double Black Diamond. It sends a shiver right down your spine. But is that shiver fear or excitement? At Mt. Hood Meadows these trails offer sheer exhilaration and are accessed only through gates because of the extreme conditions. Sustained near vertical pitches breaking over cliff outcroppings too steep to hold snow. Gladed trees holding the fresh snow longer and tempting you for just one more run, and another, and another..
If you dare to share - what's your favorite Double Black Diamond run at Meadows?