Skico’s snowmaking guns will fire in November; Loveland opens Saturday | AspenTimes.com

Skico’s snowmaking guns will fire in November; Loveland opens Saturday

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A high output snowgun sits at the ready on Fanny Hill in Snowmass Ski Area as the snowmaking crew waits for the go ahead to turn it on. Daniel Bayer photo.

The snowmaking guns in Aspen and Snowmass aren’t expected to get going until Nov. 1, but the Loveland, Winter Park and Copper Mountain ski areas have been blowing snow this week.

The Keystone ski area, which usually joins in the race to see which Colorado ski area can open first, has set an opening date of Nov. 8 and is waiting for colder temperatures to make snow.

Copper hopes to open on Nov. 2, and Loveland is scheduled to get the lifts running this Saturday, Oct. 19, and may open earlier if conditions allow.

Despite almost a week of freezing temperatures overnight in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, the Aspen Skiing Co. is waiting to pull the trigger until its traditional snowmaking start date of Nov. 1.

“We need extended periods of cold that will justify the use of energy and water, and that hasn’t been the case so far,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.

Daytime highs have been over 60 degrees this week in Aspen, with plenty of sunshine.

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Keystone is also waiting for colder temps.

“We started our snowmaking guns and tested the system on Oct. 5,” said Dawn Doty, communications manager with Keystone. “But now we are in a waiting period.”

Keystone’s decision to set a target opening date is based on both the goals of using less water and energy and providing skiers a better experience with a more expansive opening day.

“We’re hoping to open more terrain and give people a better experience rather than just be in the race to get open,” said Doty. “It’s a little bit of a change in philosophy. We want to use water and energy smartly. And we want to make sure that it is not warm enough to melt the snow, and I think that is important in the drought year we’ve been having.”

The snowmaking guns have also been quiet so far this month at Arapahoe Basin.

But Loveland, Copper and Winter Park are going for it.

Copper first made snow on Sept. 25 and then issued a press release that the jump start gave it “the coveted position as the first resort in North America to make snow for the second consecutive year.”

Loveland followed suit on Oct. 1 and has been making snow every day this month save one, piling up the snow just above its base area which sits at 10,800 feet.

“We’re operating pretty close to our normal schedule,” said Loveland’s marketing director, Kevin Wright. “And there is a huge early season demand for snow for race training. It has become a pretty big deal for the ski areas that can provide it.”

Teams from nine countries have booked race training time at Loveland this fall, and the area plans on holding the “Nature Valley Alpine Cup” races from Nov. 13-17. U.S. racers Bode Miller, Erik Schlopy and Kristina Koznic are expected to race.

Winter Park has been making snow since Sunday night and hopes to open on Nov. 13. The resort plans on making snow 24 hours a day if temperatures allow.

“It’s cold here,” said Winter Park spokeswoman Joan Christensen. “This is the ice box of the nation.”

Winter Park’s scheduled opening is one week earlier than last year.

“We’re right on schedule in terms of our start date for making snow,” Christensen said.

Loveland, Copper and Winter Park have all taken steps to get the word out that early season snowmaking is not a waste of water.

“In one ski season, Colorado’s entire ski industry (24 resorts) uses about the same amount of water as six golf courses during a typical summer,” a Winter Park press release noted this week.

In the East, the Killington ski resort in Vermont started making snow on Oct. 7 and hopes to be the first resort open in the region for the 42nd consecutive year.

Meanwhile, resorts in the southern hemisphere are closing up after a good season.

The Remarkables ski area near Aspen’s sister city of Queenstown, New Zealand, closed Sunday after some of the best late-season snow conditions in more than a decade.

[Brent Gardner-Smith’s e-mail address is bgs@aspentimes.com]