The appetizer was delicious— Main Street cocktail accented with Barney’s Bumps, a sprig of Midway and a dash of Chute. Come Around sliders served with a slice of Connector and a side of X-ing. Easy Out flatbread. Vista du jour. And a sprinkle of Summit School Hill.
With a short stretch of cook time, we impressed ourselves with a mini feast. The holiday made us hungry. The bustle of excitement, the anticipated challenge, the call to action—this is what we prep for. We are snowmakers, at the mercy of Mother Nature, constantly attuned to the weather forecast and ready to work when the temperature drops.
Nick and crew finish installing shelters for demo guns to prep for snowmaking on Burma Road.
In the snowmaking business, time is crucial. With every available opportunity, we need to make snow. Hence, holidays, weekends, late nights, early mornings, we’re here. On-call. Ready.
Prep for opening day is a prime example of the time and dedication necessary to make snow, open slopes, and maximize snow quality. To recap, the week of Thanksgiving, we experienced marginal temperatures and temperature inversions. Marginal means the temps are just low enough, idling around 32 degrees F (around 28 degrees F wet bulb), to make snow. Inversion means a warm air mass moves over a dense, cold air mass, decreasing temperatures in pockets across the slopes. Both marginal temperatures and temperature inversions create difficult conditions for snowmaking. What makes it possible to produce quality snow in difficult conditions is utilizing our incredibly effective and efficient snowmaking automation system. Plus, Mother Nature gifted us a good 24-hours of mid-20s temps for optimal snowmaking on Thanksgiving day.
It was a big push to open #BlueFriday. Temperatures weren’t the only feat. During gun testing, a main eight-inch pipe cracked and spewed water near the Summit courtyard on Vista, down to Vista chair. There was a significant amount of water and the massive leak delayed snowmaking on the high side of the slopes. Brian, head fabricator, made the repair after twelve hours welding time. Immediately following, snow guns on the high side fired up at 3 am Thursday morn.
Mountain cam view of leak on Vista.
We made snow as temperatures allowed, from Wednesday evening through Thanksgiving to opening day morn. Snowmakers pushed to produce as long as possible, giving only a few hours for both groomers and park crew to set the stage for first tracks. The time crunch left little time for snow piles to sit and cure (to allow water droplets to thoroughly freeze), but our experienced groomer operators did their best to move and groove flakes to corduroy finesse. The park crew created a respectable park on Come Around rocking out with six features in a mere few hours’ time. The following weekend, features peaked at eight.
Ty and Zach made snow for hours, then hopped in their cats to help OD and Kristin groom trails until first tracks.
To date, with only 48 hours of snowmaking on the clock, conditions have been awesome—and it’s all the effect of killer team work.
“Is anyone else excited or is it just me?” Joe, returning snowmiser, asks the crew.
It’s Tuesday night. Our crew is now split in to day and night shifts, working twelve hour days, seven days a week, eight to eight. The boys are suiting up—bibs on, laces tied, jackets zipped—and checking the mental list for helmet, radio, channellocks, gloves. Temperatures are shifting from cold to colder (down to mid-20s) and hydrants are ready to turn, guns aiming to fire.
“For what?” they ask.
Go time is routine. We anticipate maximum snow production over the next two weeks to connect the dots between summit and valley trails. Tonight, we’re set on Lazy Mile, Shuttle, Homestretch, and Tubing. To open slopes for skiing and riding, we start snowmaking west to east, linking trails to the valley as soon as conditions allow. We concentrate on making as much snow as possible for the holiday stretch leading in to the New Year.
“To make snow, brother.” Joe answers. “I could make snow year round. I never get tired of it.”
I can’t help but smile at his enthusiasm. Good energy is contagious. As he slaps hands with Cory, the boys leave the breakroom and join the crew for the shift run down. Ryan, Assistant Mountain Manager, rattles off trail names and groups the crew into pairs.
Day crew snowmakers (from left) Joe, Dylan, Cory, Drew, and Nate help this young skier find his stride down the slopes.
We’re on to the main course, and the taste just keeps getting better.
See you on the slopes,