Controlling the Mac Daddy

How the Revelstoke ski patrol runs avie control on the Freeride World Tour venue

Looking at the Mac Daddy from the judges booth during a break in the storm. PHOTO: ROYCE SIHLIS

The 1,600-foot Mac Daddy Face, on Mackenzie Peak, sits just outside the Revelstoke boundaries. On clear days you can see the knife-edge ridge creeping up from the top of the Stoke chair. The resort's ski patrol controls the venue before the Freeride World Tour stop, but it's unskiable and uncontrolled the rest of the year, which means that getting it ready for the comp is a one-off challenge for the patrol. It's steep, cliff riddled and avalanche prone, and this year a weeks worth of snow has made things even more complicated.

"We started controlling the area on the 15th of December," says Revelstoke ski patroller Chad Hemphill, "We were super happy with the stability before the storm, but then it snowed a meter."

They've been ski cutting the terrain, digging pits, and throwing hand charges, which is how they control most of their inbounds terrain, but they are also controlling the venue from the air. Hemphill says that once the storm breaks they'll take three laps in the heli, one to look at the terrain, one to throw explosives, and one to ski it.

Patroller Chad Hemphill using a POWDER spread as a terrain map. (No, really) PHOTO: HEATHER HANSMAN

It's a big undertaking for the Revy patrol, which typically only runs five avie control missions from helicopters a year. Hemphill says their 29 patrollers throw approximately 800 charges on their 3,000 acres over the course of a season. "It's a huge amount of work to take on, especially because we have very little other northeast-facing terrain, so it's different than what we're looking at the rest of the year."

Hemphill says their main concern is sluff management for the athletes. Because stability was good prior to the storm, he says the chance of big avalanches is minimal, but they're still being careful. "The nature of the terrain is really steep, so even small avalanches pose a threat to the riders," he says.