Thursday, December 28, 2006

Snowblowing at 2am

We finally made it to Kirkwood this past Tuesday. The snow level was at 7000 feet and slowly dropped all day. Caltrans has a real challenge keeping the north-facing cliffs along the Carson Spur (highway 88 right before you drop into Kirkwood from the west) free from avalanche danger. So years ago they mounted two avalanche blasters along the cliffs that set off blasts from a mixture of oxygen and propane. On Tuesday night at 2am Caltrans closed 88 and set off their avalanche blasters, causing our entire house to shake and dog to go into a barking festival. I went out on the driveway and discovered the snow was getting too deep for my dog, BH, to do her business, so I rev'd up my trusty Honda HS1132 snowblower and cleared out a dog walking path on the driveway at 2am. But that's part of the excitement of living in Kirkwood.

I took the above photo last winter when some friends and I were backcountry skiing above Red Lake. Some big cornices built up on the cliffs above the Carson Pass so Caltrans brought in a military gun that they were going to shoot over highway 88 from Red Lake. It was fun watching them do some practice shots before we took off.

We got close to two feet of new snow yesterday. The snow depth is still shallow for this time of year, but there's plenty of good skiing. The groomed runs are all in great shape, and yesterday morning Sentinel Bowl was only partially tracked, and the Palisades was virtually untracked. If you go out to the Palisades make sure to use a pair of old rock skis. The new snow has covered all of the volcanic rock waiting to be exposed by skiers out there. Unless you know the area well and have a good idea of where the underlying rocks are you're better off staying on groomed trails for now. That said, I had some killer runs in great fresh powder conditions out there yesterday.

The entire mountain is on wind hold today. Kirkwood just recently was able to open chair 9, the bunny hill, but until the winds die down it's a good day to hang inside and watch a DVD or take your dog for a walk.

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