AVALAUNCHER – Dan Molloy and Craig Prohaska taking a shot at Telluride’s Palmyra Peak, elevation 13,320 feet, with one of the resort’s three Avalaunchers. These long-range rocket launchers are powered by compressed nitrogen, allowing the ski patrol’s Gun Crew to test the snowpack from a distance. The Telluride Ski Resort has utilized Avalauncher technology for more than two decades.
SKI PATROLLER'S BEST FIREND – Wiley on the morning commute with Ski Patrol’s Erik Aura.
HOWITZER – Specially-trained Telluride Ski Patrollers manage terrain on Palmyra Peak from afar, thanks to the long-range artillery capabilities of the ski resort’s 105-mm Howitzer gun. Telluride’s two Howitzers are completely refurbished WWII weapons, on lease from the U.S. Army. Installed in 2008, the Howitzers have brought the ski area’s snow safety program into a new era. Thanks to the Howitzer’s long range, reliability, and accuracy, managing Prospect Bowl’s high terrain has become a less daunting task for Telluride’s ski patrollers (whose only option for controlling some of that area’s highest slopes in the past was to run explosives routes by hand). Telluride joins a small number of other ski resorts in the nation, and is the only resort in Colorado, to have been granted a permit to utilize Howitzers in their snow safety program.
HAND ROUTES – Although the boys have lots of toys to choose from, sometimes doing it by hand is the only way to get ’er done. Telluride ski patrollers mitigate avalanche hazard on the resort’s slopes after a storm with hand-held explosive charges. Although the resort boasts Howitzers, Avalaunchers and other avalanche-mitigating technology (like a Blaster Box and an Avi Pipe), much of the work done to open the slopes after a significant snowfall is by hand. Telluride’s professional patrollers like John Gowdy, right, go through rigorous training programs to become certified Blasters, through the Colorado Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
AVI DOGS – Telluride’s snow safety program gets a lift from its canine companions. Here, Jessie and Wiley, escorted by their handlers, Jim Greene and Erik Aura, embark on a training mission in a Helitrax helicopter. Avalanche dogs are taught to search for the scent of a person buried under the snow. Starting as puppies, Telluride’s avalanche dogs go to work just like their human counterparts: riding chairlifts, hitching rides on snowmobiles, and getting familiar with the ski area’s terrain top the priority list for Telluride’s “rookie” avalanche pups. As they grow older, the dogs begin their training in earnest, participating in regular avalanche burial scenarios in which they search for people hiding in snow caves beneath the snow.
ROPELINE MANAGEMENT – No corner of the Telluride Ski Area map is foreign to Telluride’s Ski Patrol, charged with keeping all of the resort’s boundary ropes intact. Telluride boasts some of the highest and most spectacular hike-to-ski terrain in North America, with its majestic Palmyra Peak coming in at over 13,000 feet. This unique terrain, combined with the resort’s recently opened Gold Hill Chutes, make for many miles of ropeline for Telluride’s ski patrollers to manage.
EXPLOSIVE RESULTS – Snow fills the air above Dihedral Chute, on Prospect Ridge.
All photos by Brett Schreckengost.