AHEM! I interrupt this summer for an important Public Service Announcement! This winter we will see some big changes on the mountain, specifically in the area we call Hellroaring Basin (a.k.a. “The Basin” a.k.a. “West Bowl”). Although most people have not seen it, take it from me, it has been a busy summer down there. One thing is certain about the upcoming winter: Hellroaring Basin is going to be more fun than ever to ski and ride.
Last week I went on a little field trip into Hellroaring Basin. I hopped in a truck with Director of Mountain Operations Bill Cubbage, and the former Director of Mountain Operations, Chet Powell, and Keith Lederman, our Content Specialist and in-house photographer, and we drove down a new access road that Roads Supervisor Doug Yeager built. The road begins at the top of the Swift Creek ski run, crosses under Chair 8, and meanders down the west slope landing near Hellroaring Creek.
Halfway down we stopped to take in the view across the basin of the “Gray’s Golf Course” area and there’s a newly cut line coming down from the ridge that divides Gray’s Golf Course from The Back 9. The lower part of the run takes a dog leg turn to the left and meets the bottom of Glory Hole. This is, for the moment, known as “Run 5.”
Down in the Basin, where the road flattens out somewhat, we step out of the truck, where Hellroaring Creek gently, and pleasantly, flows through a culvert underneath us between two piles of neatly stacked timber. A steep line rises above us where some of those trees used to be, this is the future Chair 8 lift line, or part of it at least. The terminal will sit a few hundred yards below the creek crossing in Grand Junction. Looking up, I imagine linking turns down the lift line this winter before the lift is installed, and I suddenly cannot wait to experience it on a powder day.
Just skier’s left of the lift line is a run, known for the past few months as “Run 4,” that starts at “The Notch” (the bottom of 1,000 Turns where it comes out to Big Ravine) and ends at the new road. Looking down it from the top it looks sweet to ski and make for a fun new option to get into Hellroaring Basin.
On the other side of the lift line, a few hundred feet away, is “Run 3,” a steep run that cuts in just before the top of 1,000 Turns. This run will be accessible from Chair 8 after it is relocated next summer, or by skiing Toni Matt to the top of Big Ravine and taking a right. Chet pointed out that with its northern aspect, it will be good skiing.
While I was down there, I hiked up Hell Fire to where we have been moving dirt to eliminate the uphill part of the run (you’re welcome snowboarders!). As we walked up, we heard dueling chainsaws echoing in the forest. We looked up at the lower section of “Run 6” that will start off the ridge below Hell Fire, and Run 5, and drop into Hell Fire. If you love The Back 9, you will think Run 6 is pretty rad.
I know you would like to know what these runs will be called, and it will be revealed sometime before ski season. Okay, I guess since you are reading this, I can tell you two of the names. “Run Number 1” will be called, “Glory Hole” and “Run 2” is going to be “Connie’s Coulee.” You read it first here!
But seriously, there has been some timber removal creating a defined run in the “area” by the same name. I was always a little confused about where Glory Hole ends and Connie’s begins, and now it will make a little more sense! Still there will be more of “Connie’s” to the left toward “Run 3.” As for where Glory Hole’s “area” turns into Sling Shot, that is still up for debate.
That new road—which also will be a named run and provide another “blue” option into the Basin— will be steep in a couple of sections, and it will offer some picturesque views! With that, and six new distinct runs to ski, plus a new lift line to ski, Hellroaring Basin feels like a new ski area!
For those who like to ski the trees, you know a little glading helps enhance the experience. There are six different zones where crews have thinned the trees so you can find your new favorite routes on several aspects in Hellroaring Basin.
The regrading on Hell Fire will be welcomed by those who love that run. This may be a bittersweet season as it will be the last winter to ski the 3.3-mile Hell Fire in its entirety. Once Chair 8 is moved, the lower third of Hell Fire will go back to the forest (you’re welcome bears!), and Grand Junction will be the new resort boundary.
If this saddens you a little there is a consolation prize—with the lower terminal at Grand Junction, Hellroaring Basin will open earlier in the ski season. We will still close the Basin in April, as it remains Grizzly habitat however, it sure will be fun to ski the new runs and old favorites sooner rather than later.
Thank you for reading this “PSA” and thinking a little about winter. You can now return to summer (but you can still dream of winter! Buy your pass!)