Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

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Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Nov 04, 2009 3:07 pm

Extremely Canadian put me in contact with Jeff Eckland, a new Las Lenas director of mountain operations who formerly worked at Kirkwood.

Here is the summary of our e-mail correspondence. I think it illuminates the challenges at Las Lenas quite well.
1) Marte operates about 40% of the time. This is based upon actual chair loadings during the 2009 season compared to the Minerva and Vulcano lifts and fits the "gut reaction" of repeat visitors.
2) Avalanche control is more complex than in North American resorts, more comparable to Chamonix in France. "We have Catex---Cable Explosives Delivery Systems, basically a small ski lift that spans the top ridges here---very common in Europe, unheard of in the USA. And Gazex---also common in Europe, but typically only owned by Highway Departments in the USA. Every single storm, 5 people are stationed up at the top of Marte in our Catex facility at the top patrol station which is called Bora Bora. We have to carefully watch the storms to get up there before it arrives, and we are trapped up there for the entire duration of the storm, with supplies and diesel and explosives to last up to 10 days. The record thus far is 9 days for one team. 4 of the team are Catex and explosives experts, and 1 is a dedicated snowcat operator who continually digs out the top terminal of Marte and also digs out the Iris Teleski----a huge job to try to keep up with the drifting snow all night. Those teams do avalanche control from above, and we do further work down here in the base, where we fire the Gazex, the Avalaunchers, and the 75mm Howitzers. We protect the faces above Caris, Minerva, and Vulcano with the Howitzers, and they are further protected higher above with the Catex and Gazex. The crew at Bora Bora hardly sleeps---during the storms every 4 hours we must wake up and do a Catex mission to protect Marte." When storms are over, the top of the Vulcano lift often needs to be excavated as well.
3) The top of Marte is wind exposed, could result in closure 25+% of days even when storms and avalanche control are not factors.
4) Why weren't lifts built up the sheltered Apolo Valley rather than in Marte's exposed location? "When they built Las Leñas in the early 80's, they wanted to use this alignment, but the Apolo valley is an old glacial channel, and the surface is 100% unstable permafrost. The engineers chose to put Marte up in the rocks where it exists now because they were discouraged by the lack of stability in the permafrost. But modern lift foundation technology and concrete chemistry are now advanced enough to allow lifts to be in the Apolo Valley, funds permitting."
5) The ideal solution for Las Lenas would be an aerial lift to the top from the frontside base, preferable the more wind-resistant double-cable Funitel design used at Squaw Valley. Unfortunately cost in North America would be similar to the $25 million for the recent new Jackson Hole tram. And in Argentina there would be a 50% import tariff on that. This tariff applies to any new equipment Las Lenas might need, like new snowcats or cheaper lifts in the Apolo Valley.

At my request Admin has added the above to my feature article from 2005: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/News/2 ... ort-Guide/
I'm seeing a lot of hex coding and inconsistent formatting there, which Admin is not seeing on his end.
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:34 pm

I'm seeing the goofy coding/formatting in the new callout box too.
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby EMSC » Thu Nov 05, 2009 5:27 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:I'm seeing the goofy coding/formatting in the new callout box too.


I can triplicate that. Win XP, Firefox 3.5.4

Sounds like a HUGE pain and expense doing Avi control that way. Would it be correct that they get fewer, but larger storms than many places? (aka Colo or Utah, etc...)
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Nov 05, 2009 6:18 pm

Would it be correct that they get fewer, but larger storms than many places? (aka Colo or Utah, etc...)

More extreme in that regard than anywhere, twice as volatile (by monthly standard deviation) as most of the Rockies, 50% more than the Sierra.
Las Lenas snowfall has ranged from ~50 inches in 1998 (the area never opened) to 492 inches in 2002. Average 271, 18% of months over 90 inches, 49% of months under 30 inches
Most volatile North America analogy might be Arizona Snowbowl, ranging from 79 inches in 2001-02 to 459 in 2004-05. Average 251, 12% of months over 90 inches, 36% of months under 30 inches
Contrast more typical Copper Mt.: Average 281, 4% of months over 90 inches, 20% of months under 30 inches.

Portillo snowfall has ranged from 44 inches in 1998 to 739 in 1972.
That 739 may be an outlier but there are 3 other seasons over 450 and 3 more under 100 (out of 38 total), rather unusual when the average is 254.
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby soulskier » Wed Jan 27, 2010 7:48 am

Here are a few pictures of the famous Marte chair, IMO the best double chair (when it's running) in the ski world.

Image

And looking across at the front side. Marte takes skiers to the top of the plateau. The touring options in every direction are numerous. For reference, the valley floor is about 4,000' below the plateau.

Image

And when it was derailed in 2006. They did a great job getting it repaired during the season.

Image
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Jan 28, 2010 10:30 am

And when it was derailed in 2006. They did a great job getting it repaired during the season.

That's a matter of opinion. It was down for over a month (their July high season I might add). Extremely Canadian told them they would stop bringing their tours to Las Lenas in the future if Marte was not fixed by the time of their first tour in late August.
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby soulskier » Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:19 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:That's a matter of opinion. It was down for over a month (their July high season I might add). Extremely Canadian told them they would stop bring their tours to Las Lenas in the future if Marte was not fixed by the time of their first tour in late August.


What I meant to say was it was impressive they fixed it at all during the season. It was actually only open one afternoon over a 40 day stretch, it was painful.
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby Patrick » Thu Jan 28, 2010 4:58 pm

Tony has to remember the TISA factor. Soul has been in SA for a while and is well aware what is normal in NA isn't necessarily the case in the Andes.
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:47 pm

I'm completely aware of the TISA factor. But Las Lenas' market potential for hard core Euro and North American skiers would be tremendous if the area could get its act together and provide access to the upper mountain more than 40% of the time.

This unfortunately requires lift reconfiguation, and $$$ invested which would be 50% more than anywhere else due to Argentine government protectionism, also part of the TISA factor.
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby soulskier » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:32 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I'm completely aware of the TISA factor. But Las Lenas' market potential for hard core Euro and North American skiers would be tremendous if the area could get its act together and provide access to the upper mountain more than 40% of the time.

This unfortunately requires lift reconfiguation, and $$$ invested which would be 50% more than anywhere else due to Argentine government protectionism, also part of the TISA factor.


In my two seasons there, 2005 and 2006, Marte was open only 25% of the time.

Just so you know, I purchased www.BuyLasLenas.com. You have been warned!
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby Powderpatutah » Sat Sep 11, 2010 5:52 pm

MARTE is Worthless even when it is running.
I don't care if Las Lenas gets a 1000 inches of snow. That lift is dangerous and needs to be replaced soon. They are killing their own lift operators there with explosives. Regardless of whether this was an accident or not, it's ridiculous. I'll never go there again. I won't recommend it to anyone with any plans on South America. Yes it's beautiful, the terrain is epic, and there is virtually no one on those lines if you're willing to risk your life skiing them. They need to spend less money on swanky hotels with leaky plumbing, and more money on the only lift that counts for anything at all there. The bread and butter of Las Lenas backcountry is a liability. Regardless of the work involved this 25 million is chump change for someone who just wants water rights that will be worth far more than the resort. Build a lift on the frontside super burly, keep it open. Have more guns more people make it a mission. This mountain needs your help and less whining about costs. It would surpass Bariloche cuz the snow there is horrible anyway. Build a tram please!
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Re: Las Lenas Revisited: Details on Marte Operation

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Sep 11, 2010 9:54 pm

this 25 million
x 150% with Argentine import tariff. I'm guessing that doesn't pencil out with~300K annual skier visits as I was told by Jeff Eckland. Surface lifts up the Apolo Valley are a more realistic objective.

Nonetheless I see some basis for the above sentiment. Marte has been buried, derailed, had tower foundation damage. Eventually one of these megadumps will damage the 27 year old lift beyond repair and it would be nice to have a backup plan.

I'll let soulskier address the water rights. If there's a lot of water runoff to be sold, I don't see why that conflicts with running a ski area.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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