Not-So-Tropical Depression

Brundage Snow Blog
December 8, 2009 by

120809As we head in to our seventh day of single-digit and sub-zero temperatures, many of us are wondering when Mother Nature will give it a rest!

Hearty mountain folk are accustomed to cold weather, but it’s incredibly depressing when it’s this cold, for this long, and there is not enough snow to start skiing. Ever the optimist, I’ve been scouring the different forecasts for the best outlook as I watch my snow-loving brethren plunge into depression. (Yes, your Facebook status updates give you away, my friends.)

Alas, there is some hope in this weekend’s forecast, and we truly are in better shape here at Brundage Mountain than we were at this point last year. So, restless natives, indulge me as I attempt to look on the bright side…

First off – the forecast. Those percentages next to the pretty snow icons are growing larger…especially starting Saturday night.

Second, we have significantly more snow on the mountain than we did this time last year, so we are ‘closer’ to the holy grail of an acceptable snow base.

120809.4Third, this insanely cold weather has, so far, prevented that base from melting, AND it’s given our skillful mountain crews an opportunity to do some impressive prep-work on the slopes.

So please, wipe away the tears so you can read the official status update:

The winch cat that we invested in last year has done wonders for our pre-season preparations. Because of its unique ability to climb steep slopes, our ever-vigilant mountain crews have managed to track-pack all of our primary runs, with the exception of Main Street, Engen, Bear and the very top of Alpine. 120809.1What is track packing? Track packing is when we run the SnoCat over the slope without engaging the grooming blades.

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Why track pack? First of all, it squishes down the existing snow into a more compact, consolidated base layer. That prevents melting and keeps the surface snow from blowing away to some degree. Second, we have a nifty tool we connect to the winch cat, which we call a ‘flail mower’. This apparatus allows us to mow down whatever brush is left on the slopes after our summer mowing.

120809.5So far, we’ve used the mower on North, middle-Alpine, Beeline, Race Course, 45th Parallel and Dropline.

Here’s a close-up of what a slope looks like after it’s been mowed.

120809.2As you can see, we still need a bit more snow to cover the remains of the brush. BUT, if you look to the left side of this next photo, you can see how tall the brush was before mowing. It’s easy to see how much LESS snow we need to cover the slopes now.

120809.3So now, you’re probably wondering why we didn’t try this track-packing-flail-mowing magic trick on Main Street, Engen and Upper Alpine. Unfortunately, those slopes have suffered more wind effects than the others. A lot of the snow that fell was blasted right off those open faces, so what’s left is not deep enough to support a SnoCat just yet. As for Bear, it gets a lot of sun and has seen more melt-off than the rest of our major slopes.

But rest assured, we are on the case and ready to spring into action just as soon as that next blast of snow comes our way. So before you give up hope, remember, we’ve definitely had it worse. Besides, those tears of sorrow will just freeze your eyelashes together anyway.

– April