A few people have noticed that our closure of Powder Bowl–and of Southback from Queen’s Run–don’t really make sense in terms of our normal logic of opening and closing terrain. Unusual circumstances call for unusual measures. Allow me to explain…
First, for this to make sense you have to remember that in addition to being a beautiful expanse of nature, Crystal Mountain is also a business. A business with a permit to operate in its own best interest by the Forest Service. So while there may be sketchy backcountry gnar that I choose to teeter across on my day off to get to something good, that’s a lot different than a company such as ours offering its customers skiing in those same sketchy areas as part of their lift ticket purchase. (That’s why lots of ski resorts have Permanently Closed Areas—You don’t necessarily die the moment you set foot in there, but the hazards are so extreme that closing the area to everyone is warranted!) And we communicate the extent of responsibility our company is willing to assume by indicating which areas are “open” and which areas are “closed”, with signs.
Also for this to make sense, you need to know (if somehow you haven’t heard) that Chair 6 (High Campbell) got destroyed by an avalanche on March 10th. So, we’re not doing avalanche control work in Southback anymore, and with the reduction in compaction created by less skier traffic, it’s even MORE “avalanche prone” than usual–similar to true backcountry.
For the remainder of this season, Southback is CLOSED to lift-accessed skiing. We’re treating it like the true backcountry, and ski-tourers are allowed to travel there under their own power from the Quicksilver trail. (Not to be confused with the Quicksilver lift, which is closed for at least the rest of the season, and probably forever, if it gets replaced!) But we’re PROHIBITING access from the Lake Elizabeth outrun onto Queen’s Run–and similar areas–to reduce “sucker tracks” that lure guests who might not be fully aware of the increased avalanche danger there, into short hikes into avalanche start & runout zones.
Powder Bowl is a little different. We’ll evaluate the skiing, and open it when we think the skiing conditions and visibility will appeal to the average kind of customer who’s likely to hike up there, taking into account any avalanche danger Powder Bowl skiers might create for Lucky Shot skiers passing below. There will probably be times that it will look pretty but the skiing sucks, and you won’t understand why it’s closed. I hope you’ll trust that we’ll open it anytime it doesn’t seem unwise. We put a lot of thought and discussion into these kinds of decisions, and prefer to have terrain open whenever operational concerns allow.