This was actually from CHRISTINA, and I forgot to post it back when it was snowing!
4:15 AM: Ring, ring. My phone wakes me up. “Hullo” I groan, full of sleep.
“Christina, we are out the door at 6,” Says my fellow patroller doing the morning call-outs.
“OK,” I mumble and roll back over; it’s another avalanche control morning so we are in two hours early today.
At 5:45 we’re in the Patrol room and booted up ready to go, all ears for the weather briefing. We receive our route assignments—which could be one of the 23 on the mountain. At 6AM we check our avalanche beacons and head to the bottom of Chinook, headlamps blazing and a tangible excitement for the powder ahead. When we get to the top, we lace our explosives with fuses and wait for first light—which can be as late as 7:20am early in the winter.
Our routes take anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours depending on conditions, winds, visibility, and about a million other factors. If all goes well, this early morning work is completed on time. Some days, however, things don’t always go as planned—lifts get rimed in bad weather, high winds keep us sitting at the bottom, snow drifts make hiking the ridges sometimes waist deep. We have perfected the hurry-up-and-wait technique.
While avalanche control is often considered the best part of our job (who wouldn’t love it?), it is surely not the easiest. We need to be fast, safe, and efficient to get the mountain open on time. In addition, we also need to know that when we call our routes in clear, we did our best to mitigate the hazard for our guests that are chomping at the bit to shred the powder. Once our routes are complete, we must cycle back up to do our daily opening runs—checking boo, rope lines, slow banners, tower pads, medical gear, and other features that are all an integral part of mountain operations.