On the Bright Side…?

Brundage Snow Blog
December 19, 2011 by

It’s been ten days since our last photo tour of the mountain, so I thought it might be a good time for an update.

Sadly, we haven’t had any MEASURABLE snowfall since December 4th. Which, tragically, means we are still not open.

Despite those two undeniable  facts, I did find a few bright spots as I ventured around the mountain today to take photos.

#1) We haven’t lost very much snow in the last ten days. Overall, our snow depths have only dropped by about two inches on average, despite a string of very sunny days. We now have about 18″ on top and about 12″ in the base area.

#2) It actually did snow for most of last Wednesday. While this doesn’t get us any closer to opening, it proves to those of us who are superstitious that it can, indeed, still snow at Brundage Mountain.

#3) The forecast is looking better. Not so much better that we’re expecting a foot of new snow in the next 48 hours, but, it’s looking much better than it did 10 days ago. The chance of snow for Tuesday night just went from 50% to 60%. The extended forecast now contains something beside a string of sunny days, so at least we’re moving in the right direction.

#4) There WILL be a huge gathering of snow lovers here on Wednesday, December 28th for our Light Up the Night Party. Hopefully, we’ll be celebrating after a great day on the slopes. If not, well, doesn’t misery love company? Perhaps the snow gods will take notice if we all come together and express our unanimous desperation for snow after a spectacular fireworks show.

But enough of the speculation, let’s take a look at the slopes so you can see where we stand. There are some bright spots here, too.

Most of the slopes have pretty consistent coverage, albeit not deep enough to groom.

These shots are from mid-Main Street, one of the slopes we have not been able to track pack yet. From these shots, you can see it’s a little bit brushy, but that’s not the real problem here. This is:

Exposed rocks on the upper slopes have prevented us from packing up here. We can’t run the groomers over these for obvious reasons, and even if we did, exposing any more rocks just makes the problem worse.

December 6, 2011

Check out this picture from December 6…you can see how exposed rock attracts heat from the sun and causes more melting than covered surfaces.

Not to mention the nasty job it would do to your bases if you skied over it.

We’ve got the same thing happening on the top of Engen.

December 6, 2011.

The other big difference is in the snow consistency. Today, I saw a lot of crystalized snow, or the beginnings of hoar frost.

And in the spots where we had not packed the snow and the sun has hit it consistently, there is some interesting layering going on, firm on top but softer underneath.

This lower moisture content of the snow is a factor in building our base.

On the positive side, with the exception of those rocky upper slopes, the snow base we’ve been holding on to is hanging tough.

We’ve track-packed Temptation, which you see above, as well as North, 45th Parallel, and parts of Griz and Thumper. The roughed up surface of track-packed slopes tend to hold more fresh snow (especially where it’s windy). They also put us one step closer to opening those runs when we finally get the right amount of snowfall, because each slope must first be packed, and then ’tilled’, or groomed with that nice corduroy surface we’re all accustomed to.

We’ve had some very astute readers write in to our blog with questions. This weekend, Darrell Holden asked us why we don’t open just a couple of runs. I thought that was an excellent question, and the answer is that we have considered that and will continue to do so as fresh snowfall changes our reality.

We do need to offer some groomed terrain for safety reasons. (Including our ability to evacuate someone in the case of an injury.)

As Darrell mentioned, some of our slopes look like they have good coverage, as you see in this view looking up Sensation. But as I mentioned, in order to groom, a slope must first be compacted, then tilled.

Each pass packs the snow down an additional 7 or 8 inches from the unpacked depths you can see on on the mountain.

Right now, our lower slopes do not have enough snow for us to do that without kicking up dirt and rocks, which as we saw further up the mountain, create bigger problems and serious hazards.

Smoother slopes like lower 45th Parallel can be tracked with less snow.

But check out what things look like on the bottom of  Bear. This slope has more natural undulations and is not yet fit for a snowcat.

Shady slopes are also looking better than the sun-kissed ones. That’s one other positive we are looking at in the days ahead….

More clouds in the forecast, and even some snowflakes.

We understand your eagerness to hit the slopes, please understand that we are eager, too. But now that we’ve done what we can to prepare, it’s up to Mother Nature to make the next move.

– April