Courtesy of Chris Moseley:
While the clear conditions we had expected did not materialize, the plan to perform avalanche control using a helicopter went ahead Wednesday morning at Lake Louise. Shortly after first light, an A-Star helicopter from Kananaskis Mountain Helicopters arrived at the resort and the control team prepared the more than thirty explosive shots that were going to be used in places like the front side of Eagle Ridge, Skoki Slides, the Lipalian chutes, and Richardson’s Ridge.
Most of the shots were “nukes” – two one-pound rounds taped together for extra bang. There was one single shot, and a few bags of ANFO, which is used to get an even bigger bang. One of the rear two-person seats in the helicopter was removed to make room for the shots, and four of us, plus the pilot, climbed in to the cramped cabin and got ready for the flight.
In the front left seat sat the patroller who would guide the pilot to the shot placements and let the one throwing the bombs when to be ready. In the back were the bomb thrower and a patroller next to him assembling the shots and lighting the fuses. Both doors on the right side of the helicopter were removed, and everyone tightened their seat belts and taped the clasps shut for an extra level of safety. It was quite cold in the cabin, but nobody really noticed as they were all focused on the job at hand.
All shots have fuses that burn for two-and-a-half minutes, so there’s usually time to place a few groups of two or three before moving away and watching the results. And, as expected, the results came, and despite poor visibility preventing us from reaching all targets, the mission was considered a success. What would have taken four or five days was accomplished in less than an hour, and control teams can now get back to working avalanche terrain from the ground and getting slopes ready for their eventual openings.
Click here to watch the Heli-Bombing Video or to see other articles by Chris Moseley.