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Baker Ski Area/ BC policy

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I was reading the avy discussion in another thread and remembered a little run in I had a few days ago at the ski area.

 

My friend and I got up to the area around 6am on Friday (Jan 4th?) for a short dawn patrol ski tour action. The intended route left the upper parking area, paralleled the Blueberry cat track and Bagley creek towards the visitors center above the Bagley lakes, and down into the bagley lakes bowl, then returned. Just a get out and skin type tour. I've done this sort of tour (and it's many extensions) many times and firmly believe the short route is p9ssible and safe in high avalanche conditions.

 

The problem arose when we passed some patrolers loading Chair 1. They told us they were on their way to bomb the chute, pan face, etc. and we were not allowed to access the backcountry. I told them we'd be off the cattrack, and they told us we still couldn't go there because their bombing could set off slides on Mt Herman. They repeated we were not allowed to access the backcountry and left. I didn't want to push the issue, and resigned myself to driving back to town for the late start to work. But as I drove down, I got more and more frustrated.

 

1. I don't think they had any authority telling us were we could ski outside of the ski area. The upper-upper parking lot is a DOT facility and "open to the public."

 

2. They are authorized by the USFS to bomb in the ski area. I talked to a FS employee a few days later and casually asked about the where they were allowed to bomb abd it's impacts on the BC. The FS told me their bombing was not to impact the BC. I'm fully aware it's better to be alive and wronged than dead and right.

 

The general thing that bugs me is that the ski area seems to think they control the bc access (I will conceed that their presence is alot of what makes it possible, but it's not within their "ownership") and that their avy control would have impacts it's not allowed to.

 

Flame on, bitches.

 

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that their avy control would have impacts it's not allowed to.

 

Are you seriously bitching that they are claiming an enlarged safety range for their blasting?

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Don't you see that the ski patrol is trying to do their job and you are disrupting it? The pressure of throwing bombs is hard enough without people who are skinning around and may be in the line of fire. They have a users permit that should allow them to control access in or adjacent to their boundry for this very reason. Put yourself in their shoes and think how you would feel.

 

 

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So consider this scenario:

 

You do your tour, patrol uses one of the BIG bombs, sending a slide off Mt. Herman, burying and killing you and your partner.

 

Headline in Bellingham Herald: Two Slain By Mt Baker Ski Patrol While Innocently Skiing When Avalanche of Death Comes Suddenly From Above

 

The media outlets would have a freaking field day. Baker could lose their explosives license, thus making the mountain impossible to operate.

 

I feel your pain about someone telling you that you can't access the backcountry, but it is a special situation and it sounds like they are really looking out for you on this one.

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...people who are skinning around and may be in the line of fire. They have a users permit that should allow them to control access in or adjacent to their boundry for this very reason.

 

What I'm getting at is they are permitted to impact the ski area, and if their "line of fire" extends beyond their permit area, somethings wrong.

 

Put yourself in their shoes and think how you would feel.

 

I have been (sort of...) I have work professionally falling trees and was constantly irritated by people wandering through my falling area. So I understand they (the patrollers) really are just concerned for my safety but still have a problem with the ski area impacting an area they have no permit for.

 

Are you seriously bitching that they are claiming an enlarged safety range for their blasting?

 

I think this is a troll-like comment, but I'll bite anyways. I consider such "bonus acres" to be something akin to "bonus access" from roads in wilderness areas. No thanks. I'll accept my hazards and manage them on my own terms.

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Since I have not actually done control work at Mt. Baker, I don't know the nuances, but I do have a speculation. I think the reason they say they affect Mt. Herman when controlling Pan Dome is the concussive effect of explosives. Particularly air blasts (hanging charges above the snowpack) and larger (anywhere from a double hand charge ~4 lbs to 25lb or heavier ANFO sacks) explosives. They have no way of limiting the range of these types of detonations without limiting the effectiveness on Pan Dome.

 

Just wanted to be clear that people understand the difference between actually throwing explosives outside the permit area and the effects that controlling the permit area have on adjacent terrain, especially with Mt. Herman's proximity.

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This is the second recent thread related to access adjacent to a ski area. Start a pissing match over this sort of access issue (related to control work and skiing as close to ski areas as possible) and no one will win. Washington resorts are quite kind in allowing people to do things like skin and snowshoe up through the resort while it's open. I believe this is because, in general, people in Washington State are able to take care of themselves. In other regions (California comes to mind), this is generally not allowed because people are too stupid and irresponsible to make sure they will not be endangered by resort operations. I realize you were going to be off the cat track and outside the boundary in this case, so it is different. All I'm saying is that the resorts offer a lot of positives for most skiers, and I am grateful they are there.

 

While it is annoying to be told what one can and can't do, especially when "jurisdiction" is questionable, I have to sympathize with the patrollers in these situations. They really would just like to get the control work done without harming anyone. If you are near where they are doing control work, they have no way of knowing exactly where you are. As general policy, they have to keep people out of slide paths regardless of anticipated activity - eventually the unexpected will occur.

 

The sense of friction between "b/c" users and resorts (especially dominant in the Alpental thread) is disturbing. As more of these incidents come up for discussion, I would anticipate the outcome being greater restrictions on backcountry use, and the wonderfully wild and still somewhat unruly Washington we enjoy living in becoming more and more like other places.

 

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Just so everyone knows, the word I've gotten from the higher-ups at Stevens Pass is that uphill traffic IS ALLOWED while control work is being done. So if you hear bombs going off, don't assume someone will stop you before you wander into a runout zone.

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Washington resorts are quite kind in allowing people to do things like skin and snowshoe up through the resort while it's open. I believe this is because, in general, people in Washington State are able to take care of themselves.

 

If you looked closer and read the contracts, the resorts cannot disallow people on the property whatever they do, unless it endangers other people. Why? The ski resorts are all leasing the land from the National Forest Service. The land is public land.

 

The patrollers can tell you what they want. You can do whatever you want outside of the leased land. It's your life.

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I think this is a troll-like comment

 

Hows it going kettle?

 

 

For someone who's confidant with "avy hazard assessment" your lack of understanding of path dynamics is rather telling. If it pissed you off why didn't you talk to them instead of whining like a little bitch on the interweb?

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I'm pretty sure this thread is the closest I'll get to reading any contracts, but it is common knowledge the resorts are on leased USFS land.

 

I'm also pretty sure the resorts will have an easy case that uphill traffic endangers people, as they have with sledding.

 

All I'm saying is you can choose to have the perspective of being thankful for the access conveniences ski areas provide us in making our "dawn patrols", having easy ascent paths up cat tracks & groomed runs, by respecting a few safety-related requests from their hard-working employees. Regardless of any contract. I don't remember signing any contract.

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Given the near certainty that the families of any potential victims affected by the ski area doing control work (or even allowing access for that matter) would try to sue, patrol would be asking for it if they didn't discourage backcountry travel as much as possible.

 

If you really want to ski, all you should have to do is to let them say their piece, and then continue into the backcountry one way or another. It's not really their job (or right) to stop you if you are determined. (Nor is it their job to rescue you either. But they may try to do both.)

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Leased federal land is rather interesting. Many (perhaps most) times the leasee has complete control over the land they are leasing. In the past ski resorts were unique in that they typically had control only during business operating hours. However, with the larger resorts mountain operations (grooming) often go throughout the night and start early in the morning (grooming and avalanche control). Many have asked for and received permission for control 24/7. (I had my hand in this here in Oootah).

 

In some areas like Alta, UT they could be blasting not only with in the resorts but also for the roads and city. In those cases they do an inter-lodge. More than once the Alta marshall or Alta resorts has let me know that I had 10 minutes to either be out of the parking lot or in a building cause after that the marshall would be ticketing. In those cases I just drove down the road and skied else where.

 

Not knowing all of the specifics I would ask for a meeting with the District Ranger and see what can be learned. If there blasting operations do have an impact on the BC access then there does need to some dialog.

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