During the warm windy conditions on the 29th December, the team removed the old, stored chestnut fencing that is being replaced. Access to locations like the West Wall Poma is very difficult due to steep slopes and needs to be undertaken during the correct time to minimise ground pressures and for the safety of our staff.
Last year our team worked with manufacturers to design implements for our Winch Cat which has improved our ability to remove and install snow fencing on the most challenging terrain within the ski area. This also requires highly skilled drivers using the correct snow conditions to safely conduct the task. The new log grab has allowed the compaction of broken fencing to maximise loads and we now have the ability to reduce manual handling and increase the volume of redundant fencing extraction.
We are working to a fencing plan to renew lines and maximise our potential of catching snow particularly in stormy conditions which often have a very small window of opportunity. The task of replacing and removing broken and redundant fencing should not be underestimated as we have around 32.5km still to be completed. Last summer our small fencing team hand dug every post on the steep section of the West Wall Poma track, down to the elevation where the orientation of the fence is less critical for catching snow as the area becomes more sheltered. The more exposed upper track is critical with snow moving in higher winds. The ground conditions were also a factor at this elevation as peat becomes dominant and posts less secure by hand digging.
The lower section of the WWP track will be completed during this winter as planned, using our newly designed post chapper mounted on our Winch Cat. The scale of the replacement of snow fencing requires concentrating time and manpower on the areas that will make the most difference in the short term and then moving into secondary areas further out. Our primary objective was to renew fencing from the Top station to the Base station which was achieved within the first two summers. The next priority was to renew the fencing from the top of the Ptarmigan tow to the top station and into the Ptarmigan bowl, along with the complete replacement of the White Lady Elephant fence and the White Lady fences which were also all hand dug. Over the past two summers we have concentrated on the Ciste Fairway, the M2 and steepest section of the West Wall Poma all of which have the most exposure to winds within the ski area, they also have the most potential to catch snow which is normally lost in the strongest storms.
Thank you to all the positive comments from our customers regarding our fencing operations and the appreciation of the effort and timescales involved. This project is going to take several seasons to deliver but the benefits for snow capture in the next 15 to 20 years will be vitally important.