History: Snow safety | AspenTimes.com

History: Snow safety

Thirty years ago in February 1986, Paul Andersen at The Aspen Times reported on the worst avalanche danger in years. "Weather watchers could see coming a long way off, the storm. No, THE STORM! In California the rain fell for weeks. Rescue workers are still sifting through the rubble and cleaning up after subsiding flood waters. In the Sierras snowfall was being measured by feet rather than inches. … From Colorado we watched it come closer and closer like the inevitable, terrifying monster of a Japanese B grade movie. … Highlands Bowl broke loose and rumbled down with a fury not seen here in 30 years. The massive avalanche went 3,600 feet into Castle Creek, twice as far as most major slides recorded in the deadly bowl. In Snowmass, the ski patrol recorded 150 avalanches within its operating boundaries. One took out the entire headwall above Hanging Valley, leaving Volkswagen-size boulders of hardpacked snow and other debris littering a ski route. … As one of Colorado's biggest recorders of avalanches, Snow Safety Director Hal Hartman of Snowmass Ski Area didn't appear too impressed with the Headwall slide. 'We've seen bigger,' he stated, matter-of-fact. But at Snowmass, where high winds above timberline are common, the avalanches occurring in places like the headwall are hard slab. And that makes them more destructive and more dangerous. 'Windloading is our big enemy out here,' said Hartman. Taking precautions after another snowfall Hartman opened, closed and reopened the headwall area due to high winds. 'The bottom line is safety for our guests,' he said." Image by Rick Lindner in 1976 of patrollers assessing Hanging Valley as an area to open for skiing.

Last week, the Snowmass Sun printed an article about how trails on Snowmass ski area got their names, and it contained some missing or in some cases incorrect information. Thanks to Martin Nordhagen, Steve Sewell and Ray Greiser, we now know that:

Cassidy’s and Willy’s are named for ski patrollers Kevin Cassidy and Willy James.

While Roberto Gasterl was ski-school director for some time, at the time of his death he was a ski patroller.

Cookies and Baby Ruth are the nicknames of ski patrollers Mike Cook and Ruthie Brown.

Sheer Bliss was named for a wood chipper used on that part of the mountain.

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