Meadows Blog

When Will Heather Canyon Open

With the opening of Private Reserve Sunday, and getting Vista Express and Cascade Express lifts running Monday, there is now a lot of attention on Heather Canyon. Prior to last week's storm, Heather was not able to open because there wasn't enough snowpack to build the essential snow bridges, which provides the exit from the Canyon. Well, 9 days and 10 feet of new later, we have enough snow.

But with that storm also came an increased risk of avalanche, particularly when there wasn't much of a base upon which this new snow fell. We won't go into snow dynamics here, but everyone knows the heavy wet snow and 2.5" of rain we received during the storm created slope instability. We just finished a huge storm cycle which left us with weak layers in the snow pack. Our lead groomer was able to get a cat into the Heather run-out to build snow bridges up to "the Narrows" Saturday night - that's why we were able to open Private Reserve Sunday. That terrain is naturally protected from the avalanche danger looming above in Heather, Clark, Super Bowl and higher.

Sunday evening the storm stopped and for the first time in nine days we were able to actually get a visual in the Canyon. During the last several days there was evidence of large slide activity both natural and caused by our avalanche reduction efforts.  We had been unable to proceed with bridge building all the way to the lift because of the avalanche exposure until we could get in there and test the stability. This also barred access to the lift for maintenance to get it turning. We put over 300 pounds of explosives in there Monday as part of our avalanche reduction efforts.

Avalanche Debris from March 30,2012 slide deposited on the skier access trail to the Heather lift.
The deposit zone from this slide last March reached the bottom of Heather which is why we needed to assess slope stability before placing a snowcat in this area for snow bridge, trail access and ramp building. Read about the 3.30.11 Avalanche.

Last evening Ski Patrol felt that avalanche danger was reduced enough to allow our lead groomer to access the bottom of the Canyon, build the snow bridges and cut the access trail to the lift. The ramps at the lift are almost built, and some lift maintenance was performed, however, those efforts have been interrupted due to rapid warming/loading above. We believe some natural releases will occur due to the increased loading (another warning for extreme avalanche danger has been issued for Mt. Hood today by NOAA.) This is a good thing, as hopefully some of the unstable areas will release naturally. Following the current storm we will continue with the steps necessary to open Heather.

Bottom line - we'll open Heather as soon as possible, but only after we have performed and completed the required steps. We know how popular Heather is, and how important it is to you. But even more important is the safety of our crews and our guests. Thank you for your patience - it will be rewarded with some awesome powder plunges into the steeps of Heather - soon.

P.S. Tighe Stoyanoff from Snow Safety wanted to add that we have been shooting that area every time it snows, and we are throwing shots by hand where we can safely get to throughout this last storm. He sent some pictures of fractures in Absolute Magnitude and Silver Bowl (evidence of large slide activity noted above.) Click any image for a slide show.
Silver Bowl 012311 @ Mt. Hood Meadows Silver Bowl 012312 @ Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort Absolute Magnitude 012312 @ Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort Absolute Magnitude 012312 @ Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort

8 Comments

  1. Sam

    January 24, 2012

    Thanks for keeping us posted and all the hard work getting Heathers safely accessible for us to play in.

    Meadows: Thank you for the kudos (and for your patience!)

  2. Joy

    January 24, 2012

    Thank you kindly for the detailed explanation. With patience comes a great payoff. Excited for everything to be open in the same day.

    Meadows: Couldn't have said it better. Thanks!

  3. Old Joe

    January 24, 2012

    Thanks for the update! We appreciate your efforts & letting everyone know. As bad as I want to get in to Heather, safety IS 1 ST. in the meantime we'll shred it where we can and wait for the opening.

    Meadows: Thanks!

  4. Kiel

    January 25, 2012

    Thanks for the update. I have been Wondering.

    Meadows: You're welcome!

  5. Buster

    January 25, 2012

    Thanks for the update. I had a dream last night that Heather will open this Friday or Saturday. Hope the dream comes true! Now I just need Grant to get in place to immortalize me flying off of Silver Bowl cornice ;) p.s. I stuck the landing too.

    Meadows: Ironic you should mention Silver Bowl - which is featured in the pictures that Tighe gave us. Perhaps your dream is what triggered the fracture that brought down the cornice? Congrats on sticking the landing - and may your dreams always come true!

  6. dan

    January 26, 2012

    Thanks for taking the time to educate us about avalanche safety issues in Heather -- I hope that people are more patient once they know the reason why you're holding off opening.

    To be honest, the 3/30 slide last year makes me hesitant to go in there at all -- that slide started above your permit area to perform control, didn't it? What can/does the Snow Safety team do to mitigate that risk?

    Meadows: We are permitted to conduct avalanche reduction efforts within our permit area only. So the areas outside of our permit are limited to monitoring.

  7. Ric

    January 26, 2012

    Thanks for the update, I am looking forward to Heather opening soon. P.S. The picture slideshow was incredible!

    Meadows: Thanks! Hoping for good news about Heather soon!

  8. Park People

    January 27, 2012

    Woo hoo, there is tons of snow now! So that means there are NO excuses left for the fact that there STILL isnt a decent terrian park, and it is the END of JANUARY! PLEASE put some cat time into building some decent jumps and setting some all those rails that are lying around everywhere, we have been waiting patiently.

    Meadows: Snow is good. Rose City is next. Then Park Place. Forest Park has a couple of nice jumps, too.

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