Winter Snowfall Buries Records
If “La Nina” were the words of wisdom to follow as Mount Washington Alpine Resort entered the 2010-2011 winter season, “snow” was the ultimate understatement.
The Resort had a record-breaking snow year, with a total accumulation of more than 1,840 centimetres, which surpassed the previous record of 1,835 cm in the 1998-99 season.
They had the deepest start in Resort history, with a mid-mountain base of 480 centimetres in December.
The old record fell in April when a significant weather system dumped more than 40 centimetres of new snow on the slopes. That gave the mountain a 500 cm mid-mountain base.
“The snow started early. It came at its heaviest in December,” Resort Director of Public Relations Brent Curtain said.
Snow removal crews were well prepared for a record snow season - but not for the deluge they received over Christmas. From Dec. 20-29, nearly four metres of snow fell. At its peak the snow fell at a rate of 1.5 metres in 12 hours (from 8 p.m. Dec. 23 to 9 a.m. Dec. 24).
“As a result the alpine village and Resort were essentially buried,” Curtain said. No one could have been prepared for such big numbers.
“There were some challenges a couple of days before Christmas when we had three metres in four days.
“It was certainly a full-time job for our snow removal crew but I think they did a great job.”
Crews had to lease more equipment to help them deal with the snow: an articulating dump truck and another loader. They were used to truck the snow off the mountain. “We had nowhere else to push the snow,” Trousdell said. “There was a lot of transferring the snow from lots 2 and 3 down and over the edge of Lot 4.”
In some areas of the mountain, grooming machines and shovelers worked overtime to keep the chairlifts above the snow line. “The snow pack is so high in some areas that we’ve roped off access underneath the chairlifts as a precaution,” Patrol Director Jesse Percival said at one point.
Under the Boomerang chairlift, in the double black diamond Outback, groomers were shoveling by hand in a few places because skis and snowboards were dragging in the snow. “We don’t machine groom other than one access in and out because of the difficult terrain,” Trousdell said.
From a snow perspective, Resort Director of Business Services Don Sharpe said it was a “great year.” But it presented challenges. “It created other challenges by the cost of snow removal and having to work around the snow - whether it was parking or around the lifts,” Sharpe said.
“It created challenges for us, but it put us top of mind for people wondering where to go skiing and snowboarding.”
The record snow year meant extending the regular season into late April, and skiing on Father’s Day - June 19. And the huge amount of snow also spelled a later opening for the Resort than usual: about 10 days later, as staff waited for the snow to melt.
Mike Manara, Resort Mountain Biking Manager, said the end of the season is spent much like the beginning: watching the snow. The only difference is trail crews in June are waiting for the snow to go away. “As quickly as the snow comes here, it also tends to go fast,” he said.