30 December 2010

Ski Day 8: Dumping at the Bowl

Wednesday, I was back on duty as the Hill Captain at Ski Bowl. Most of the crew from Monday's extended patrol day were back, as well as a couple extra folks including one of the guys from my OEC class. It had snowed quite a bit overnight, and the drive up was on packed snow all the way from Sandy. I thought about chaining up, but the Sorento was handling things just fine at 35mph, which was about as fast as anyone in front of me dared to go.

We had a bigger crew today than on Monday, but the previous day's rain combined with all the new snow overnight made progressing through the opening assignments a slow task. Everything seemed pretty well stuck in place, and there was rime ice on every inch of rope on the hill. Things were further slowed by the dud explosive from the early avalanche control (AC) work, which kept us off the upper bowl.

Since things were moving slow and I couldn't get up top anyway, I went down to help the lower bowl opening assignment get their work done. I checked, cleared, and re-set quite a good amount of rope line. It wouldn't have been much work, but the height of all the rope needed to be adjusted for all the fresh snow. Tedious, but important.

We were light on bodies up top when the upper bowl chair was finally cleared to load, so I headed up to help out. I relieved one of my patrollers who was on outback gate duty, explaining to the anxious public that the outback was still closed, and that it wouldn't open until all the AC work had finished. It was pretty cold up top, but I managed to stay warm whilst chatting away with the folks who kept asking when we'd open up the outback. I saw a couple off-duty volunteer patrollers, as well as a couple off-duty paid patrollers - one of whom was the guy who helped us out of the woods on Monday night. He definitely earned his turns today.

I finally got word over the radio that I could open up the outback, and I damn near got trampled to death by the crowd that had amassed. I had told them I would need to pull the rope gate, but as soon as I said, "we're opening 'er up!", everyone started rushing me. I finally got the rope out of the way, and got clear of the Running of the Bulls. Crazy. I can understand it, though - all that fresh snow, untracked except for the 4 patrollers who were doing the blasting to make it safe.

I stayed out of the outback, though. I was going to head out there, but kept hearing that the snow wasn't that great in some spots and that the Log Road out of the outback was still pretty dicey. I guess there was plenty of break-thru crust out there that could kind of mess you up, and it was kind of wind-scoured in a lot of areas. I ended up finding a lot of nice little stashes of sweet pow in the upper bowl area, either around the trees or on certain faces of the bowl. Pretty much anywhere you skied was nice, though. There was enough fresh on top of the groom on Reynolds that I was getting face shots even over there.

My day was largely uneventful, but my patrollers sure got busy. We kept getting radio calls for all sorts of things - dropped ski poles, missing persons, and of course, injuries. The handful of cases we had were fairly routine in terms of the type and severity of injuries, but some of the circumstances of the involved folks made things kind of peculiar. Everyone was handling all the craziness very well, and I'm proud of the crew I had up there.

The missing snowboarders that KGW reported on yesterday was kind of a crazy story. I don't know how much I can really go into detail, but there was a bit more to the story than was reported. One of my guys got the initial call from the tickets booth at the east side of the area I think sometime after 2pm, and after a lot of radio and telephone conversations with the paid patrol staff, we had started to prepare to coordinate a search operation. Turns out the missing boarders' friends had already called 911 and thus already gotten the county sheriff's office involved. Since the missing people were out of bounds, that's ultimately who would be doing the SAR work anyhow.

I coordinated our sweep of the outback and had one of my experienced guys lead it while I manned the radio at Rescue Center and waited to be relieved by the night crew. The radio chatter about the missing 'boarders kept on going after we were relieved, but before we packed up and left the Palace for the evening, it sounded like things were fairly well in hand.

Traffic, on the other hand, was fucking terrible. Going over the bridge over US-26 to get back to Govy, I looked uphill towards the east, and it was a colossal parade of headlights. Good thing I'd been invited to have a beer with some friends staying in Govy. I left there about 7:30pm and while pulling out of Govy was easy, I quickly caught up to the tail of the parade creeping down the mountain at 20mph. It's nights like that one that I wish I had a place up there to stay.