The season is clearly already upon us. Alta has already recorded 69” of snow fall and for a time the past week the base was 40”. What’s that mean? You know what it means. It’s time to book an awesome Canyon Services rental and come stay in comfort, enjoy the spectacular views, and start this skiing season off right. In preparation for this year’s downhill sliding pleasure and safety Alta has made additional improvements to the mountain. This time in the form of snow fencing and more Wyssen (pronounced “Wee-sen”) exploders.
Canyon Blog sat down with Alta safety director and avalanche forecaster Dave Richards to get the scoop. Off Supreme lift as you ski down the improved grade along upper Rock and Roll near where Big Dipper turns off if you look up slope you’ll see 19 rather large steel “X” frame structures among the trees. Each panel is an independently anchored snow fence and are there to keep the snow in place.
“It keeps the snow from moving and prevents to separate avalanche paths from sliding which has been a problem for the CAT drivers when they groom the runs at night,” says Richards. “The advantage of this method is it’s passive avalanche control. Explosive mitigation efforts can sometimes lead to large slides or can be ineffectual at other times, which is why we call that mitigation.” The fencing actually controls the slope. They may look simple but are anchored into the mountain to a depth of 50 feet and cost $300,000.
Nearby in East Castle you’ll find the explosive alternative to avalanche control in the form of four new Wyssen exploders. As advertised, these mitigate potential avalanche danger to Rock and Roll but do more than just keep the cat drivers safe when grooming. “They’re incredibly effective at keep the town of Alta itself safe in addition to the slopes,” adds Richards. At a cost of $220,000 each they represent another million dollar investment in all our safety.
While the improvements are much appreciated, like the fencing and exploders, the information for this month’s blog was free. Dave Richards may in many respects be a servant of the public safety but his information wasn’t free. The price? Beers at the Snowpine bar. Never let it be said your faithful correspondent didn’t contribute to public safety. Even if it were only one pint at a time. See you on the slopes!