Monday was a great powder day. Over a foot of snow fell overnight, and the wind and new snow kept filling in old tracks making the skiing great all day. It was the kind of day that true powder hounds love–the upper mountain is constantly in jeopardy of going on wind hold, skiers wear neck gaitors to keep the wind driven snow out of their collars, and diehards laugh into their parkas about all their sucker friends stuck in their offices on a mid-week day.
NWAC rated the avalanche hazard as high yesterday. During our morning avalanche control, we saw some big results, confirming that rating. During such a big storm, it was remarkable that we could even keep the upper mountain open. But for some, I guess that just wasn’t good enough.
Early afternoon, a patroller saw tracks heading towards Niagras, which as with the rest of Northway, was closed yesterday (and by the way will open tomorrow for the first time since we’ve gotten all this snow). Upon further investigation, the patroller found several poacher tracks and a large, fresh avalanche covering over them. What, pray tell, were these guys thinking?? First of all, the skiing on Rex and Green Valley was fabulous. Second of all, there was no need to go into the backcountry. Third, and most importantly, Northway was closed. Fourth, of all the areas in Northway, Niagras is one of the most avalanche prone.
Patrollers and avalanche dogs searched the debris for almost two hours. A dog alerted on two spots that were perhaps the location of two skiers that were caught and dug themselves out before patrollers arrived on scene. Ski tracks in the area confirmed this hypothesis. The search continued well after sweep, and put patrollers in jeopardy.
In preparation for opening Northway tomorrow, patrollers started avalanche control in Northway today. Several poachers snuck under the rope lines during explosives control. Needless to say, this is an egregious and inexcusable violation. I, for one, am quite angry. What are we going to have to do to get skiers and riders to respect our closures? Do people think that we want to keep things closed? We only close terrain when it is necessary. And closed means closed. Really closed. A ropeline is a closure. A closed disc is a closure. A closed sign is a closure. And if you are caught violating a closure, your pass will be taken. No questions asked. But perhaps it’s time we upped the ante. Maybe violators need more of an incentive to stay within the ropelines.
Perhaps, in this era of fat skis and fatter ski egos, people think they know more than the patrol about avalanche hazard. Maybe "gold fever" is just rampant in a year when powder days are few and far between. Either way, do us all a favor and just follow the rules. There are plenty of true backcountry areas around Crystal, that if you want fresh lines and are willing to earn your turns, you can avoid the crowds and go for it. But don’t go into closed areas within our boundaries. It’s just not worth it. And it really pisses us off.