High Points: Alpine activity

Paul E. Anna
High Points


While the idea of bombs going off is a bad thing in most places, it’s good to hear the blasts from Snowmass as they reverberate on my hillside a few miles away from the slopes. I can’t see the smoke from the explosions, at least not like the photo of the blowing up of a cornice in the Highland Bowl that Kelsy Brunner had on the cover of The Aspen Times this past Wednesday. But I can surely hear the blasts and get giddy with the knowledge that there is enough powder up there that the Snowmass Ski Patrol is using their explosive powder to expel it from the most dangerous cornices and chutes. Oh, and my dog rises with each charge, even if I don’t hear it.

For much of this winter the sound of the avalanche bombs was limited. We didn’t really have enough snow for a while there to even open the more exposed terrain, where bringing down the potential slides is necessary. At least that was the case on Snowmass. But now that we have had a bit more snow — nearly 3 feet in the last three weeks by my reckoning — I can hear the patrol out working again. First thing in the morning after dawn, BOOM. And then another.

And they are not the only soldiers in the ‘round-the-clock effort to keep the mountain in ski shape. Each night I see a nocturnal army of snow cat drivers crafting and shaping the slopes to get ready for the upcoming ski day. They move in unison through the night, up and down the runs, and the lights of their sleek, Italian-made machines reflect off the walls of my bedroom. For much of this winter, the Campground area off of Sam’s Knob seemed to be neglected as the snow needed to fill in on the lower reaches of the hill. But now, with the fresh influx of snow, Campground finally was able to open this past Saturday and it has been sublime since.

The winds this week played havoc with much of the mountain, especially up high. It had been some time since a west wind had blown for that long and that hard. The top of Snowmass was bared by the big blow and there were drifts in places that normally don’t get drifts. But the cats have worked their nightly magic and the mountain is in great shape, not just for skiing, but to accept the incoming snow that has been forecasted for the upcoming week.

When I think of skiing here, my mind’s eye sees nights with 4-5 inches of fresh snow followed by mornings of clearing skies. That is exactly what we may be in for in the coming weeks: Freshies at night and crisp, sunny mornings.

It doesn’t get much more perfect. BOOM.


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