Tuesday, March 11, 2014
CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN, Wash. (AP) — An avalanche that was intentionally triggered by the Ski Patrol brought down more snow than expected and wiped out a chairlift at the Crystal Mountain resort at Mount Rainier.
No one was injured. The area had been closed, and the explosion was set off at 4:45 p.m. Monday after the resort had closed, marketing director Tiana Enger said.
Members of the Ski Patrol threw a 40-pound explosive on unstable snow as a safety precaution on a slope known as the Throne in the High Campbell basin.
"That got a bigger result than any of us anticipated," Enger said Tuesday.
An avalanche 30 feet deep hit the High Campbell chairlift, the highest of 10 chairlifts at the resort on the northeast corner of Mount Rainier National Park.
The slide knocked the lower terminal off its foundation and toppled one of about 10 towers, Enger said.
High Campbell is one of the older chairlifts at the resort. The avalanche has firmed up plans to replace it this summer.
Slopes have been left unstable by recent rain that fell on top of a thick layer of snow that fell at the end of February, Enger said. The Ski Patrol has been reducing the danger to skiers and snowboarders by intentionally bringing down controlled avalanches.
The High Campbell lift carried skiers about 1,000 feet to an elevation of 6,872 feet at the top.
"That chairlift is obviously done for the season and that terrain is closed for the season," Enger said.
The rest of the resort is open normally Tuesday as crews work to remove the avalanche debris.
Crystal Mountain covers 2,600 acres and has 50 named runs. It's also open in the summer with a scenic gondola ride.