Snowfalls

By Beacon Staff

This has been a winter of extraordinary weather patterns and snowfalls. This season, more snow fell in Detroit and Chicago than they have had since 1884. The surf in Southern California was estimated at over 25 feet recently to the delight of every surfer within 100 miles of the coast.

Early last October, Crystal Mountain, about 75 miles southeast of Seattle, was open for skiing. Until early March the snowfall was below normal, but since then it has snowed heavily. So much that in late March a massive avalanche wiped out an entire chairlift.

In my many years of skiing and filming I have seen some big snowfalls and read about others. One year in Zermatt an avalanche wiped out a chalet while the family and guests were eating dinner. That chalet had stood there since the 1500s.

During the mid 1950s there was such a massive snowstorm at Mammoth that it lost a couple of tour busses for a few days. Bulldozers that were digging down to find the road to the base lodge were finally driving around on the roofs of the buried buses and on the roofs of cars.

In 1952, in the Lake Tahoe Basin, it snowed eight feet in one storm and then immediately rained eight inches, making the snow so heavy that it crushed the roofs of cars and blew out automobile tires by the hundreds.

On a weekend in 1943, I skied at Mount Waterman, which is fewer than 50 miles from Los Angeles City Hall. It was a nice spring morning, with bright sunshine and corn snow when the clouds arrived and started spitting snow. We were warned to quit skiing and get our cars out of there as soon as possible.

But the biggest winter accumulation I have ever heard about was on Mount Baker, about 60 miles southeast of where we live during the spring, summer, and fall, on the San Juan Islands near the Canadian border. During that one winter it snowed 99 feet. Try to imagine what that would do to your favorite ski resort? Where would you put it all?

Some political activists are trying to save us from all of this carnage by simply extolling the virtues of carbon tax trades. Maybe there is some way that we could buy and sell snow? That way when one ski area gets too much snow, it could sell it to another resort without enough snow?

I think the idea of selling snow futures has a lot going for it. A one-day lift ticket at most major ski resorts is $100 and when they sell a lift ticket to as many as 25,000 people a day, one extra day of snow is a very substantial amount of revenue.

Since I started skiing full time, as in every day from fall until spring, the traditional day of starting up the ski lifts has been Dec. 15 and the resorts usually shut them off around Easter. The shut-off date is the big variable. That’s because Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal equinox. But you can always keep climbing to make each turn. I did a lot of that the first ten years I made ski movies in the 1950’s and but then I discovered helicopters. Then I hired Don Brolin in 1964 and he did a lot of climbing in the spring with his magic camera while I switched gears and started to edit the thousands of feet of film the two of us had already shot. We were very busy for the next 40 years and totally grateful for all the snow that fell wherever we directed our cameras.

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