Skico ready to crank up snowmaking guns Nov. 1 |

Skico ready to crank up snowmaking guns Nov. 1

Snow guns crank out fresh snow last November on the Little Nell run at Aspen Mountain. Skico has already tested the equipment this year and is prepared to fire up the snowmaking guns anytime after 1 a.m., Nov. 1, as temperatures permit.
Michael McLaughlin/The Aspen Times file photo |

Aspen Skiing Co. has tested its equipment and is prepared to start making snow anytime temperatures permit after 1 a.m. Nov. 1, as is standard company policy.

The snowmaking infrastructure that’s been installed on Golden Horn and Thunderbowl at Aspen Highlands over the past two years is ready for action, according to Rich Burkley, Skico’s vice president of mountain operations.

The snowmaking will cover 8 to 10 acres of terrain and will allow racers from Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club to start training earlier than usual, he said. Typically, the Aspen-area racers have had to travel to Summit County to take advantage of early-opening slopes, according to Burkley. Now, the early snowmaking at Highlands will extend to the top of the Thunderbowl lift. The covered trails will be open to the racers only. Aspen Highlands doesn’t open to the public until Dec. 13.

“We’re going to get going as early as we can,” Burkley said, in reference to starting Nov. 1.

Colorado’s ski season got underway Friday when Arapahoe Basin opened an intermediate trail after starting to make snow Oct. 2. The resort and others in Summit County are at a higher elevation than Skico’s four mountains, so they can make snow earlier.

Burkley said it doesn’t make sense for Skico to start blowing snow because inevitable high temperatures would eat up 30 to 50 percent of any piles created in October. The company policy is to wait for a solid block of time when temperatures drop to around 24 degrees anytime after Halloween, he said.

When the time comes, snowmaking will start at Aspen Mountain, with focus on the World Cup courses, Snowmass and the small section targeted at Aspen Highlands. Snowmaking operations will start later at Buttermilk.

Opening day is scheduled for Nov. 27 at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. Buttermilk, like Aspen Highlands, will open Dec. 13.

Skico undertook a variety of projects, from big to small, at its four ski areas this summer. The big-ticket item is a new 7,500-square-foot children’s center at Buttermilk, called The Hideout. It replaces the old Powder Pandas building. It will be the headquarters for ski school for children ages 2 to 12.

The center itself cost about $5 million, according to Skico. Associated work, from utilities to parking to bus and shuttle drop-offs, boosted the project price to about $10 million.

Burkley said the project is on time and will be finished when Buttermilk opens.

At Snowmass, Skico cleared deadfall and a handful of trees on the egress trail connecting gladed terrain on Burnt Mountain to the Long Shot Trail. The old, narrow, singletrack trail, which could be treacherous, was widened to between 25 and 30 inches, Burkley said. Skiers and snowboarders will have “10 to 12 options” rather than one while departing the Burnt Mountain terrain, he said.

At Aspen Highlands, Skico undertook glading in the Lucky Find area of Deep Temerity. The terrain was opened last year because there was so much snow coverage, but trees were selectively thinned over the summer, Burkley said.

The Cloud 9 restaurant received a new windscreen around the deck and new furniture inside and out.

At Aspen Mountain, the summer trails crew cleared up the Magnifico area to create some new lines, Burkley said.

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