Where We Stand

Brundage Snow Blog
December 9, 2011 by

As the sun rises, we are greeted again today by clear skies and a painfully empty snowbox.

We’re forced to look pretty deep into the forecast for a sign of potential snowfall, and no amount of snow dancing appears to be changing the stubborn high pressure system that’s keeping all the storm clouds at bay.

It’s easy to take all of these factors in and see the situation as half-empty (or worse). But, the half-full side of me has to admit, things could be worse, (and have been).

We were in a similar situation to this two years ago, with even less snow on the ground. Here’s our blog post from Dec. 8, 2009, for those who’d like to compare the photos.

For those who prefer to live in the present, here’s a closer look at exactly where we stand with snow right now:

Brundage Mountain is ready to open for daily operations just as soon as we get enough snow to properly pack and groom the slopes.

Statistics: We have about 14″ of snow at the base and up to 20″ on the summit. There is no ‘magic number’ of inches needed to open, but depending on the type of snow that falls, we’re about a foot short right now. We’re not seeing any real warm temperatures in the forecast, so we’re hopeful that we won’t lose too much of the snow we already have.

Now, let’s take a look at the pictures:

This wide shot of the top of Main Street makes things look pretty good.

Some hikers are finding good lines even up top.

BUT, a closer look shows just how carefully they must pick their turns.

Windy conditions up top have left large rocks exposed.

That’s why we can’t get our grooming machines up there quite yet. Not only does this threaten to damage the groomers, but once these rocks are exposed, the sun begins melting out the area all around them and we see bigger and bigger ‘holes’.

The top of Engen tells a similar story. Doesn’t look too bad from afar.

But the wind has scoured the snow off the top of that run, too.

There’s not quite enough snowpack to move snow from another area to try and cover this up.

The Centennial Lift Terminal has also been somewhat wind-blasted.

Despite all those negatives, there are some positive forces at work.

The snow that’s now blanketing the mountain is more consolidated than in recent years. (You may recall two years ago, we got almost three feet of really powdery snow prior to opening, but there was not a lot of moisture content, so the Opening Day 2008 snow seemed bottomless and we could not groom a couple of our main slopes prior to opening.)

And, once you descend in elevation (out of the wind path) you can see the slopes are actually looking pretty well-covered. This is Temptation Ridge right under the Lakeview Lift, and that is Kickback over to the left. Here, we’ve been able to track-pack the slopes so the grooves will capture the next blast of snow. (The rougher the surface, the better chance the snow has of sticking even if the wind is blowing up that ridge.)

Farther down Temptation, a similar story.

We’ve been able to track pack 45th Parallel, Temptation, North, parts of the Lakeview runs and Griz and Thumper.

Right now, the snow is still too thin to get our 18,000 pound grooming machines on Engen (the bottom of Engen is shown below), Main Street, Alpine and parts of other runs.

A look on the lower part of the mountain shows the other benefits of track-packing:

This shot was taken on Jammer, one of the runs we can’t track-pack yet. You can see the brush looks a little stubborn.

Same situation on Bear.

But, look at what happens once the slopes are tracked:

The brush on the lower part of Alpine has been ‘knocked down’ and should easily submit to the next layer of snow and fold under the snow surface.

Farther up Alpine, you can see how our investment in brush cutting is paying off.

There’s some flimsy brush up there, but nothing compared to what we were dealing with three years ago at this time. Check out this photo from early December 2009.

As I said, things could (and have been) worse. That’s the half-full part of the story. The half-empty part is how it feels to want so desperately to be skiing right now and to still be looking at an uninspiring forecast.

But as we head further in the month of December, we remain optimistic that the forecast will improve and the snow spigot will turn on once again.

And please know, we are primed and ready to spring into action just as soon as that happens.

– April