Thanks to all who have commented on Closures at Crystal. We welcome this kind of dialogue, and your suggestions give us an idea of the vibe out there. Let me just add a few things here:
Ropelines: We use rope to mark hazards, close terrain, and delineate our boundary. Think of them as stripes on the highway, keeping people in their lane and avoiding accidents and hazards. The only rope it is "okay" to duck is the boundary line into Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park. Going under that rope, however, puts you out of our boundary and requires skinning or hiking out, or a long slog on a closed highway. We do not suggest going under the boundary rope unless you know where you are going. There are lions and tigers and bears out there, so don’t venture without a competent guide. The exception is, of course, Kempers. It is not okay to duck the boundary rope at the Kempers avalanche path Permanent Closure. You should all know this by now.
Every other ropeline is sacrosanct. That includes the Frontside ropeline, Bear Pits ropeline, the ropeline at Tower 10 on Rex and especially the Northway ropeline–even when the terrain is open. We want skiers and riders to enter thru the gates only. That means you. Every time. Information about the terrain is posted at the gates: Closed, Avalanche Closed, Avalanche Prone Area, Experts Only, Walking May be Required, Caution, Long Slides Possible. Only by passing through the gate can you get these warnings. I have actually caught skiers at the bottom of Northway, when we were still doing avalanche control, who claimed they didn’t know it was closed because they ducked the rope in the same spot they always do, and they didn’t see a closed sign. They actually blamed me for our lack of signage. This was my response: Are you kidding me? Do you mean to say that when I stood on Brand X with a shot burning on the slope and my fingers plugged in my ears and saw you guys in the run-out, that I was supposed to be understanding? Let me just say this–I was not at all understanding. These guys didn’t even think they were doing anything wrong. And the fact that it was a father-son duo made it even worse. What kinds of values was this father teaching his son? It’s okay to question authority as long as you get face shots in the process, even if you are putting yourself and others in danger? If these guys had gone to the Paradise gate, they would have seen a patroller waiting there to open it. They would have stood for another five minutes, then had a great run down. And they would have been able to keep their passes too.
But I digress.
The left angle ropeline does have an annoying jog in it. We are aware of this. The problem is that without that dogleg, it would allow skiers to traverse under an avalanche area. We need to keep that runout clear so we can do avalanche control, and also to keep people out of that area during high avalanche hazard. The solution would be to put it further skier’s right, eliminating all that good tree skiing up high. So we let skiers get the goods up high, but warn them away from the more-avalanche prone areas below. I’m not sure how we can solve it any other way. Our ropelines need to be visible and user-friendly. They also need to be easy to maintain.
Another option next year will be all the great tree skiing in Northway. This summer a team of sawyers will be systematically limbing trees throughout the Northway area to offer more "left angle trees" types of experiences. So look for a new favorite tree skiing experience near you.
Thanks for all the comments. Keep them coming.