Meadows Blog

Heather Canyon Opens Saturday

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!

Heather Canyon Lift @ Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort
Happy riders on the Heather Chairlift first day that the Canyon opened!


  1. Ben

    December 4, 2010

    Has the idea ever come across where the chair is only used on a must need basis? What constitutes 'must need' would be up to those in charge of course. Hopefully it would keep Heather a little fresher for those that didn't mind the runout and walk/skate back to HRM.

    Meadows: A novel idea worth hearing back from others. Should we run the Heather lift, or keep it fresh for those that want to use the run out?

  2. Travis

    December 4, 2010

    I'd vote for stopping the chairs and using the run out, but there are plenty of other areas that are already "reserved" for the run out. They get chewed up quick enough.

    Here's another thought, why not have gated access to Heather requiring beacon/probe/shovel/partner? Just like Superbowl? I don't know how popular this will be with the masses, but you could test it out for a season or two on the top gates. Only allow access from the A-Zone down through Twilight gates with avy gear. Let everybody without avy gear in from the Pluto gate on down.

    It would certainly help make the canyon safer, it should slow down the stampede on a powder day and save a couple lines past 10am, and it might even add to the mystique of the canyon that everybody seems so anxious to be a part of.

  3. Paul Manson

    December 4, 2010

    Hmmm, on one hand I like reducing competition for fresh tracks in the Canyon. On the other, the run out can be a workout. I both board and ski. The run out on skis is no problem, but is a step below torture to boarders. I know it would weed out a couple of my friends, but I would put up with it.

    It would raise a second question in my mind - can you decommission the Heather lift and create another lift somewhere else on the mountain...

    Meadows: Regarding the question, that would involve a revision to our master plan along with the appropriate NEPA processes. There wouldn't be a good reason to decommission the chair, even if it weren't regularly scheduled (such as the service we still receive from the Blue chair as a back up to Mt. Hood Express or to use on high capacity days).

  4. Lift my spirits

    December 5, 2010

    I think Private Reserve really serves the purpose you mentioned Ben...fresh tracks and nice long, flat, scenic cruise and hike back to the lift. Maybe you should considered taking up cross country skiing?

    Thanks for staying true to the 'you gotta earn the turn' motto and for looking out for my freshee Ben.

    Hey Meadows, how about a tow rope from where you hit the HRM lot running back to the lift?

    Meadows: If all Heather traffic had to use the run out, an uplift for the HRM hike would be closely looked at.

  5. Michael

    December 5, 2010

    I vote for avi gear on upper gates!! And a rope tow from the back of HRM lot!! Those two things would make vast improvements to the Heather experience. Please dont mess with my Heather lift though.... I love it!!

  6. SnowRatMatt

    December 5, 2010

    There are a few really terrible ideas floating around on here!

    To Meadows: the heather chair is great, please don't stop running a lift so that laps will take 3-4 times as long and a couple more people will be able to score some fesh lines.

    And regarding the idea of requiring avy gear to enter heather anywhere above twilight is absurd. The point would obviously be traffic-control, as opposed to safety. I for one, especially hate having my access limited "in the name of safety", when safety is not the issue. Patrol uses a howitzer to try to keep things as safe as possible. I question just how many superbowl hikers actually get out thier probe and shovel and dig a test pit. By suggesting that meadows require heather canyon riders to have avy gear, you are really just suggesting that everyone go buy another $400 pass (beacon,probe, shovel, pack).

    I personally don't have a problem with the way that meadows handles operation of heather canyon. I applaud them for an early opening this year. If you are having a hard time finding fresh tracks in heather, you should do what I do: go often, go early, and when all else fails: go ride star...

    Sharing is caring, even when the snow is deep and the tracks are fresh. There is plenty of snow to go around :)

  7. Ben

    December 5, 2010

    I have ventured into the Private Reserve multiple times. It is unique compared to Heather (cliffs, etc) but doesn't have the sustained pitch. The Private Reserve doesn't have the acreage of spacious bowls as far as I know; haven't explored it all yet.

    Wouldn't it be nice to hit an open bowl off S.S. ridge without scouting out where it has been tracked the most and least?

  8. Trayson

    December 5, 2010

    I was one of those lucky 25 yesterday. It was epic to say the least. But I suppose you can judge for yourself with my video of the first run of the 2010/11 season as one of those lucky 25 riders...

    As far as the chair, leave it just like it is. Not using it means that those who are more able to endure a runout have preference. (this puts skiers at a premium). Are we trying to be Alta? Or Deer Valley? Maybe we'd be placing a premium on the people in best shape? What's next, should we put a Heather canyon surcharge on our lift passes so only people that can "afford" to pay extra for it get the privilege? Then we're placing a premium on the more affluent. There's a zillion ways of "limiting" access to Heather, but I think we just let it be.

  9. Prophet115

    December 5, 2010

    Seriously? For years the talk was how to get Heather open sooner so people can enjoy it, now I am hearing ideas of how to restrict it use more. Come on people. Take a deep breath and think about what you are suggesting. Closing Heather Chair isn't going to result in a better overall experience on the mounain. All you're going to do is increase the time to get to the bottem by "skiing on a road", increase the lift lines at HRM and the amount of time you are standing in these (I'm sure the regular users of this lift will be really happy to get all the flow from the canyon), and cut back on the amount of runs you can get in during your day. I don't pay money to spend more time standing in lines and riding lifts so I "might" get another powder run. On powder days, there are ways to get untracked runs well into the afternoon, just learn how to find them. Also, I doubt there would be a huge number of people skipping Heather just because the chair isn't running. Maybe some boarders who would have a harder time with the runout, but they shouldn't be hurt by a change like this (and this comes from a skier) I don't think management would ever be able to "sell the masses" that closing a perfectly good lift is in the best interest of the people who come there. "Hey Joe year, we are going to improve your experience at the mountain by closing a lift!" I don't think that will help increase the number of people purchasing lift tickets/season passes.

    Also, forget the idea of requiring a probe, beacon, shovel, partner for upper Heather. There is probably just as much chance of setting something off in the Private Reserves as the upper canyon, so why make a change. People need to realize we all take a risk when skiing, so stop with the over protection. Besides, if you're going to get the chop in the canyon, it's going to come from a slide starting from the way up the mountain, and I doubt the probe and shovel you are carrying will do you much good if you are caught it that. Just check out the pictures from last year.

    So, I say to management, you are doing as good as job with Heather Canyon as you can. It is a challenging area to open, and we all get that. Is it frustrating somedays when it seems to be taking too long to open, yes, but it is what it is. Do I think you would be making a huge mistake by closing the Heather Chair so people can try to get more powder runs? Absolutely.

    BTW, if you go with this idea, can I suggest closing Mt Hood Express every other hour? I would like to try and get more powder runs on two bowl and I think this may help. Cheers!

  10. TBird

    December 6, 2010

    Completely agree with everything Prophet just wrote. Why on earth would you consider voluntarily closing one of the most popular chairs on the mountain? Getting runs in Heather already requires two or three chairlift rides for a single shot. Adding in a long runout and hike will not in any way improve the skier/boarder experience. We get it that Heather is hard to open because of avy danger. Don't make it more frustrating than it already can be!

    Which brings up the idea of the rope tow from the runout back to HRM. Even with Heather running, there's a need for it. For some folks, it would be an alternative if the Heather line is backed up. And just look at everyone hiking back from Private Reserve. Plus on busy days when the HRM lot fills, it would help reduce those stinky buses hauling people around.

  11. rw

    December 6, 2010

    If you do decided to do something like close the Heather chair, please let me know prior to the season you do so I can buy a Fusion pass instead. Thanks.

    Meadows: This is a great discussion to get and share ideas for future coniseration. Our plans for Heather this season are consistent with previous years and the expectations of our guests.

  12. Old Yeller

    December 7, 2010

    I think we should all have to carry avi gear but instead of a regular probe we should have to bring one of those anal probes. You know, like the aliens use. That way only people that have been abducted by space aliens could ride Heather.

    Meadows should also close all the lifts. Force people to earn their turns, feel the burns and piss in the ferns. Hike the whole freaking mountain like a real man (or women)! And make them do it naked. Well, maybe not naked, I guess a **** sack would be ok.

  13. Robholio

    December 8, 2010

    For those complaining about a lack of fresh tracks and wanting to earn their turns: it's called the Palmer Glacier. It even has a climber's route. I think that complaining about having to scout for fresh tracks just means you're getting there too late. We all pay the same amount to ride the same places, so to suggest some type of filter to discourage certain riders outside of a legitimate safety concern isn't just a little elitist, it would hurt the resort financially by alienating a sizable portion of their patrons. I've summited Mount Hood several times and know the feeling of satisfaction that earning fresh tracks provides, but also know the value that a $74 lift ticket provides, and limiting the areas you can already freely access with it is a BAD idea.

  14. Snowmeltriver

    December 9, 2010

    I think a good trend is to keep opening more runs like Private Reserve and Fright Woods. Marking them as expert and letting folks head into the steep, treed, and more stable snow. These runs keep deep untracked powder later into the day. Here's an idea- How about opening lower lower heather with no lift service on days that it all would be normally closed. Folks could use the run out to HRM. You could access by hiking from the bottom of Star. There's alot of terrain in there that could be ridden more often with less prep for the patrol / lift staff.

    I think meadows has done a great job with yearly improvements in the 9 years that I have had a pass. Keep it up!

  15. Dave

    December 18, 2010

    Dear folks, remember Heather before the Heather chair? For whatever reasons, significant numbers of boarders and skiiers would enter at A zone and then cut across upper Heather to get back to lift served terrain without doing the HRM run out. Opening Heather without running the Heather chair would return us to this scenario, ruining acres of good pow. For this reason opening Heather without running the Heather chair would be a travesty and counter productive for fresh tracks.

    Also, I don't have a favorable view of restricting upper Heather to the beacon/probe/buddy crowd. The whole point of lift service is to open terrain and I don't want to be denied terrain I've previously enjoyed because I'm not carrying a transceiver, probe, and shovel.

    Opening Super Bowl more frequently would give the 'Earn-your-turn' crowd a place to expend their excess energy. When avy conditions do not permit access to Super Bowl proper, the slope above Cascade express's top terminal could still be opened. This terrain has to be controlled to open Cascade Express, so no additional control work would be required, and the 700' vertical to get to the top will abundantly remind us all that lifts are, indeed, a good thing, and are exactly why we come to Meadows.

    Meadows: To all who contributed to this blog - thank you. The discussion is appreciated and it's great to take a reading on where people are and what they think. It also demonstrates the passion we all have for Heather Canyon and how important an asset it is to Mt. Hood Meadows. Thanks for contributing, long live Heather!

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