Snowmaking gives Snowmass hope | AspenTimes.com

Snowmaking gives Snowmass hope

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

SNOWMASS ” Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like Fanny Hill.

The bunny slope at Snowmass Ski Area might be the only place where local ski junkies can get a fix on Thanksgiving Day, but, hey, it’s something.

Before cold temperatures settled into the valley on Wednesday night, Skico officials were uncertain if any terrain would open. Thursday, they were relieved to reveal that Fanny Hill ” at the least ” will likely be ready for the beginning of the season.

“We made more snow [Wednesday] night than all previous nights combined,” Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said. Snowmaking crews toiled at all four ski areas and gulped 2.3 million gallons of water in the effort, he said.

At Snowmass, the crew focused on Fanny Hill. Now they are poised to pump the white stuff on slopes farther up the hill, if temperatures lend themselves to snowmaking.

Aspen Mountain still will need natural snow to open terrain, according to Hanle. The snowmaking system doesn’t stretch to the top of Lift 3, so a storm is needed to fully cover that terrain. Aspen Mountain has the advantage of using the Silver Queen Gondola to transport skiers and riders up and down the mountain when conditions allow for the opening of terrain at the top.

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Skico officials are crossing their fingers for storms to develop next week. As of Thursday, weather.com’s 10-day forecast for Aspen called for a 30 percent chance of rain and snow showers on Tuesday and a 40 percent chance of a snow shower on Wednesday. As dry as it’s been lately, that provided reason for hope.

“It looks like winter starts next week,” Hanle said.

Aspen Mountain has a successful record of getting at least a meager amount of terrain open on or around Thanksgiving. Hanle said Skico records indicate terrain has opened in late November every year since 1981. In 1980, the opening was delayed until the third week of December, he said. And in the disastrous winter of 1976, the slopes remained nearly bare for Christmas. The opening was delayed until Jan. 1.

Dry conditions put a damper on two other Colorado resorts Thursday.

Vail Mountain postponed its opening from Friday to Wednesday, Nov. 21, citing a lack of snow. The Vail Daily reported that little natural snow had fallen in a month and that warm temperatures hadn’t allowed much snowmaking since Nov. 1.

Also on Thursday, Steamboat announced it will open on Nov. 30 rather than Nov. 21.

The bleak news didn’t discourage the folks at Colorado Ski Country USA, where seldom is heard a discouraging word about skiing conditions in the state. The trade association didn’t mention the delays at Vail Mountain or Steamboat in its e-mail snow reports or on its website on Thursday. Instead, it kept churning out promotional material that made the start of the season sound like one of the best ever.

Seven resorts have opened humble amounts of terrain: Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Loveland, Winter Park and Wolf Creek. Crested Butte plans to open terrain on Saturday.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.

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