Friday, March 20, 2015

What Determines a Wind Hold?

In the winter, we get weather. Obviously, we all know this. We operate in Mother Nature's element, battling against her tantrums occasionally and it goes without saying that sometimes, Mother Nature wins.

So, what has to happen for a lift to go on wind hold?

The answer isn't as simple as you might think.

The two primary factors in a wind hold are speed and direction. People don't always think of the latter, but it's arguably more a more important consideration than speed. Wind direction is important because that's what makes the chairs swing side-to-side. We don't want wind to be coming in across the line (perpendicular to the cable itself). That's the situation we want to avoid when its windy and why the lifts go on hold in the first place. If the speed and direction of the wind come together to create a situation where the chairs are swaying too much, that's when a lift gets put on hold.

Speed is still important, as gusts of 40+ are capable of shutting any lift down, but direction is the linchpin so-to-speak. The wind could be blowing 30+ at the top of the mountain, but if it's directly up or down the lift line (in your face or at your back when you're riding up), there's a good chance the lift will still run. If it's coming at an angle across the line versus directly across it, there's a better chance lift mechanics will be able to get the lift running at a speed that minimizes chairs swinging. That's also why we sometimes run chairlifts at slower speeds on windy days.

Additionally, different wind directions affect each lift differently. Think of each lift as its own individual entity. We don't put the whole mountain on wind hold at once. Instead, our lift mechanics will check each lift throughout the day and assess it as an isolated situation from the rest of the mountain. If that needs to be put on wind hold, so be it, but it's not a sweeping declaration. That's why Wilderness and Timberline may be on hold one day while Vista and Snowflake can still operate. It's all about the direction the wind is coming in, combined with the speed of the gusts and how that affects each individual lift.

When a lift does get put on hold, it's not a white flag for the day. Our mechanics monitor the wind speeds and direction every 15 minutes while a lift is on wind hold, while also reading forecasts and weather stations to see what weather is coming in over the next few hours. It's a tedious but essential job to keep checking every lift all day, but that's why we're thankful to have the lift mechanics we do. Give those guys a high five next time you see them.

They're fighting the battle against Mother Nature and they, quite literally, are what keep our lifts running.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Five Signs That March Is Finally Here

You know, sometimes winter can get a little dark and dingy. For most of the ski season, it gets dark before 4pm, the sun doesn't come up until after 7am, Mother Nature hurls ice and wind at us and Ullr buries life in deep snow. After six months or so, it's enough to give anyone cabin fever. But, then March comes calling and brings with it the best month of skiing all season. 

Why is March so good? Well, Daylight Savings keeps the lights on later, the snow gods give us a truckload of powder, temperatures rise and the snow softens up. Who doesn't love a little mashed potato, goggle-tanning, no jacket skiing under bluebird skies? So, don't forget to set your clocks ahead this weekend. We'll be waiting for you on the sunny side.

  1. Sun - What is this mysterious glowing ball in the sky, and where has it been all our lives? Because March is the start of spring, it means the Earth is moving through its elliptical revolution around the sun and we're getting closer to summer. That means we get more sunlight than the rest of the season. With the cloud cover we typically get here in New England, the sun coming out in March is a pretty great excuse to punch out of work and do outside things again. And it sure makes the everything look purdy.
  2. Snow - Don't kid yourself. There's still at least 3 more weeks of winter coming our way. March has historically been our snowiest month of the season. Last year we got 7 feet of snow from the end of February through the end of March, so don't get too anxious to trade your fat skis for four wheelers just yet.
  3. Wacky Outfits - When it's warm, people dress down. And when you dress down in ski gear, it means trading facemasks and hand warmers for jerseys, retro snow suits and wigs. And it's 100 percent awesome. If you start seeing your favorite TV show characters flying by you and it looks like iParty just exploded in the base area, you know it's time for spring skiing.
  4. Events - What else goes great with warm weather and longer days? More events! We go absolutely stir crazy with events in the spring. Backcountry festivals, demo days, banked slalom courses, pond skimming and parties every weekend. This is the most fun time of the year to come skiing, no matter what the conditions might be.
  5. Night Skiing Gets More Fun - When DST returns, it stays light out later than usual. We already run night skiing four nights a week, but what's cool about it in the spring is that it's still light outside at 7pm. Ski Patrol only ropes off trails when it's too dark that it becomes dangerous, so that means that in late March, you could be skiing Cobrass, Vermont 200 or even Preacher at 7pm as the sun goes down. There's a reason we have the best sunset skiing this side of the Rockies.
Enjoy the spring conditions!