Try Frontside Chutes on a powder day |

Try Frontside Chutes on a powder day

Daily Staff Report

In a pinch, you can also test the snow conditions and depth through a series of tests.

n Standing on your skis in powder, the snow should just about reach to your knees.

n With snow up to your knees, push your pole as far down into the snow as possible. If you are able to push the pole down to half its height, the snow is likely to be deep enough for safe tree skiing and to cover all hazards that might trip you.

n One test is not enough! Test in a grid horizontally across the mountain and vertically down the mountain in 3-foot intervals-as many as 12 individual tests. Especially test bumps in the snow, which may be hazards. As you descend the mountain, watch for any changes in snow conditions, and test again.

You may have heard of the “50-inch Rule,” which says that when the ski area has a 50 inch base of natural snow, the trees are safe to ski. This is not a reliable rule in tree skiing because different snow conditions can make it more or less safe to ski the trees. The snow density in the trees may vary from feather, champagne light (not enough cushion) to heavy, solid powder (which offers greater cushion). Also, the degree of wind erosion and altitude related factors may affect snow depth. Although in general trees shelter the snow from wind, this isn’t always the case. And the approaches and exits from the trees may be greatly affected by wind.

Be cool, be safe. Ask the ski patrol for hints about good tree skiing locations, and test snow conditions often.

9. The Frontside Chutes under Lift 16

(Vista Bahn Express)

Run Rating: HHHH / Don’t go here unless you’re ready to risk it all

(not recommended by Hawk)

With runs named “Been There,” “Done That,” “Mudslide,” and even “Frontside Chutes”-all sporting double black diamonds-you’d better be expecting something a little more caffeinated and challenging than light beer. These runs are frequently closed for safety reasons. You access them from the Gitalong Road, just as it crosses under Lift 16 (Vista Bahn Express). Again, these are not strictly tree runs per se, but you ski steep and deep through trees and cliffs to get to your next chairlift ride. These are short, tough and technical drops if you follow the fall line, and you’ll find 15 or 20 great lines off this ridge, including directly under the Vista Bahn. Get them earlyish (before 2 p.m.), and you ought to find some fresh tracks. Or, make them the first thing you work, since the Vista Bahn is very fast and you ought to make quite a few runs before 10 a.m. if the Vista Bahn lines aren’t too long. The aspen trees in the Frontside Chutes are really tight. They are on the lower part of the mountain where the snow melts faster. This area is more prone to avalanches due to the steepness and exposure. Again, if they’re closed, don’t mess with “em. Take the ropes seriously, since the area is prone to slide.

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