Mirkwood Mitigation

Our team of Cat Skiing guides and Ski Patrollers have been working to mitigate avalanche hazards in Mirkwood and the Cat Skiing terrain.  Getting this terrain ready for public use takes several weeks and we utilize a few different tactics in our approach.

Our first round of efforts involves the use of explosives to test instabilities in the snowpack.  This is followed by disruption techniques that include the use of machines in some zones and personnel in others.  In the trees and tighter areas we implement ski cutting and side-stepping.  This disrupts the various portions of the upper pack while also helping to compact the basal layers.  In the open bowls and in areas where we have snowcat access along the ridgeline, we are able to use our disruption roller.

This machine works in conjunction with a winch cat and 2-3 personnel.  One operates the winch cat, one runs the remote control for the roller, and the third person may be used as a spotter.  The roller has a drive system that helps it to move towards the breakover where gravity can then take hold.  At this point, the winch cat operator lowers the roller down while the remote control helps to steer the roller into an undisturbed area as it drops.  If there are any blind areas below where the personnel on the ridge cannot see the slope, the spotter is able to help relay info via the radio to the remote operator on where to steer the roller.  Once it reaches the bottom of the start zone, the winch cat pulls the roller straight up the slope and back to the ridgeline.  The snowcat repositions itself and the roller with each round.  The process is completed until there is a continuous line of disruption activities across the slope.

We typically aim to open Mirkwood by Christmas.  We are off to a good start out there but could use another storm or two to get a portion of this coveted terrain open.  Stay tuned and think snow!