The Ice Wall Cometh

By May, summer has come to the deep south with a vengeance. My skis have their summer wax and have been lovingly been put away because when it’s 85-plus with a humidity level to match, it’s very difficult to think about snow. But, did you ever wonder what happens to the snow at the end of the ski season? After all, it doesn’t just disappear instantaneously.

Several years ago, I flew into Boston as soon as they opened Logan airport after a blizzard and witnessed dump trucks hauling off snow to a “snow field” in order to clear the roads. Why? Because so much snow was already on the ground from the previous blizzards that there was no where to push it to the side.

I wondered whether my favorite ski resort utilizes some type of snow removal device. Or  just wait for it to melt. If so, that could take all summer depending on the slope. But then how could the ski resort turn into a summer alpine wonderland of biking and hiking?

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Last year, during my trip to Whistler, I discovered the answer. They create an ice wall by plowing down the middle of a run and forming walls of ice and snow on both sides. When I first heard this, I immediately returned to my New York childhood when my mother was snowed in by the plow that had came down our street and pushed all of the snow up against the car doors. So when my husband suggested we go on a hike to see the ice walls, I really was not expecting more than 1-2 feet of wall on either side of the run. We took the gondola from Whistler Village to Roundhouse–the lodge at 6069 feet (1850 meters) and started out to climb Pika’s Traverse.

So far, I’m pretty unimpressed. There isn’t a whole lot of snow. But we are above the tree line and hiking uphill. As we make our way up the mountain, the ice walls get larger and larger. Turns out, these ice walls are very impressive.

We get to the Symphony Amphitheater, one of my family’s favorite runs.

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The lighting over the black tusk was breathtaking. I could have been up there all day long just taking pictures of the lighting changes. The clouds rolled in half way up the trail and then by the time we made it to the top, the sun came out.

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