Jul 16

Quarry Makes Major Road Improvements — Summer 2014

All varieties of backcountry travelers, rejoice. Colorado Stone Quarries, Inc. has been spending an immense amount of money and time widening sections of Quarry Road out of Marble, Colorado. They’ve been adding parking, trucking in roadbase and applying chloride to keep the summer dust down. We’ve been watching the work all summer — impressive. This coming winter, provided they push snow out of parking areas, we should have even smoother vehicle access to the backcountry skiing.

Looking NE from Lumber Curve to Windy Corner, new roadbase ,  much wider than before.

Looking NE from Lumber Curve to Windy Corner, fresh roadbase, much wider than before. A new parking area is visible about halfway into the photo on inside of curve, as well as to right. In this area alone, we count additional parking for at least 8 passenger vehicles, as well as an extra turnout for passing.

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Mar 24

Listen to the Hill Truck

One of the famous hill trucks.

One of the famous hill trucks, parked at loadout. Note the huge tires, every one chained up. Those blocks weigh thousands of pounds.

We would not have the Quarry Road for winter use if it wasn’t for the operating Yule Quarry business. Tradeoff is that most weekdays and sometimes on the weekend a huge “hill truck” loaded with gigantic blocks of white marble is making multiple runs up and down the mostly one-lane shelf road. We have to be as nice as possible to these guys while they’re running the truck. It’s dangerous to just blunder up and down the road, expecting to somehow get by the hill truck (or for that matter, other quarry business traffic). If an accident does ever happen, that could be fodder for the road being closed to public traffic.

How to not blunder? Firstly, prepare at home. During snow and mud seasons, you should only drive Quarry Road (County Road 3) with all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive. Your vehicle must have aggressive snow/mud tires that are in good condition, or tire chains on at least one pair of wheels (with a 4×4, you usually chain the front wheels to maintain steering control). Also prepare by calling Colorado Stone Quarries at 970-704-9002 and inquiring for road conditions. The Quarry has posted on their Facebook that they welcome phone calls about road conditions.

When driving Quarry Road, pay attention to all zones where you could pull over to let the hill truck pass on the INSIDE (due to possible soft shoulder on the drop-off side). If you encounter the hill truck, immediately reverse to one of the spots you memorized. The truck has right-of-way in either direction. The need to park tightly on the side of the road to allow the hill truck to pass is the main reason you need all-wheel-drive and good tires. This is serious stuff that involves your own personal safety as well as that of the Quarry employees. What is more, if the road situation becomes difficult to manage, the road could be closed to public use. Thus, driving with care and using the correct equipment is not only a safety issue, but could be an access issue.

Better still: During winter, the quarry avalanche safety plan requires their vehicle operators to radio their locations on the road while they’re driving. This is done using a basic 2-way business radio system that’s easy and legal to scan. Implement a couple of tricks and you can easily know if the hill truck is moving up or down the road, as well as the truck’s approximate location. Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 19

Welcome – Let’s Communicate for Safety

Hello all, Lou Dawson here. As far as we’re concerned, the more people who enjoy backcountry skiing near Marble, Colorado, the better. It’s a wonderful place, and the word is out. Yet unfortunately, over the past few years we’ve seen what we feel is a degradation in friendliness and sharing by backcountry skiers in the Marble area. Specifically off Quarry Road.

As a property owner on the most popular ski hill as well as long-time Marble skier, this trend has concerned me. At best, lack of communication begets the “surfer” mentality of self-entitlement and crude possessiveness. At worst, not sharing information creates danger because shared experience is one of the best ways to know and mitigate alpine hazards.

While we have no wish to be elitist ourselves and “dictate” behavior, we would like to help everyone to be more communicative and friendly. To that end, myself along with others will operate this website during winter of 2013-14 as an experiment. We’ll see if we can lead in the open sharing of information, and promote congeniality.

What is more, many of you know where the WildSnow Field HQ “portahut” is located below the most popular parking area. If we (the Dawsons) are there, feel free to stop by and say hi. Or if in need of assistance, we’re willing. We always have a satphone ready for emergency calls, and we are fully trained in first-aid and rescue.

One other thing. For whatever reason, we’ve seen a remarkable lack of sharing about Marble conditions on the Colorado Avalanche Center (CAIC) website. We’d prefer not to post avalanche conditions reports here at MarbleSki.org. Instead, we’ll push for more of you (and ourselves) to file more conditions reports at CAIC.

Yes, Marble has some of the best backcountry skiing in Colorado. That used to be a secret and many of you did a good job of keeping it. But those days are over. Last winter we had our first avalanche death up on Raspberry Ridge, and the number of near misses over the past few seasons has been alarming. Parking has become a problem, with up to 30 cars counted during peak weekend days.

Let’s try something different. Share place names. Chat up strangers in the parking areas. Seek out local property owners and business people (Yule Quarry) and show your support. Examples: Yule Quarry keeps the road open totally at their own expense. Property owners along the road maintain their access turnouts for summer use, which results in more parking for skiers.

Have a good winter of 2013-14! Lou Dawson

(P.S., some of you may wonder at our .org domain name. Yes, if this website proves effective we’ll consider creating a not-for-profit. For now, this site is simply an un-official volunteer effort, with hosting and technical upkeep costs absorbed by the advertising in the right sidebar. More information on this will be forthcoming as we refine our process.)

Feb 14

Avalanche Cycle Continues — Carbonate Slides Afternoon of 2/13/2014

February 2014
We’ve been skiing off Quarry Road for 25 years and don’t recall a cycle of avalanche instability threatening the road that’s lasted this long. In our opinion it’s been too dangerous to drive the road for almost a week. This is born out by a new slide crossing the road every few days — slides big enough to tear sheet metal off your car if you were caught. Unsurvivable. Today (Friday Feb 14) they’ll be working on clearing the road again, but even if they open it to the public we’d suggest not driving the road until the hang fire has had a few more days to bond.

Carbonate Avalanche Path runs over Quarry Road

Carbonate Avalanche Path runs over Quarry Road, powder cloud is said to have dusted part of the town. The slide is said to have gone ‘full path’ and knocked down some fairly mature timber, meaning was perhaps a “50 year” slide. Click images for larger version.

Carbonate avalanche path is the first path you drive under after you leave the Marble loadout and drive over the Quarry Road Bridge. It’s on your right, just several hundred yards up the road. Word is that Ally, Monument and now Carbonate have all slid over the road within the past 6 days. That leaves quite a bit of hang fire, so even if they do clear the road and open it to the public, driving it could be dangerous.

Main avalanche paths on Quarry road.

Main avalanche paths on Quarry road, looking southerly viewed from Mount Daly.