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Snowmaking is getting going at the oldest continuously operating ski area in North America.
Crews at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs fired up snowmaking guns on Tuesday morning, Oct. 18, ahead of weather next week that could be ideal to start letting the manmade flakes fly.
“We’re just trying to cross our Ts and dot our Is, and make sure the system is good to go,” said Robbie Shine, supervisor at Howelsen Hill Ski Area, which opened in 1915. “We want to make sure everything’s operating properly and ready to go.”
Shine said he was surprised to see temperatures near 22 degrees around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. While that’s cold enough to make snow, Shine said crews are just checking out Howelsen Hill’s dozen snowmaking guns with the hope of having everything ready to go by Friday, Oct. 21.
Crews are also blowing out hydrants that supply snowmaking guns with water to remove any debris that built up over the summer. Howelsen is currently scheduled to open on Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“The snow forecast looks like Sunday night all the way through next Thursday, we can be making snow overnight,” Shine said. “We could make snow for two or three days straight if it’s good weather. … You got to be aggressive with these cold snaps.”
In his weather update at SnowAlarm.com on Sunday, Oct. 16, local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth wrote that an abrupt weather shift was coming this weekend. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction is currently forecasting temperatures to drop into the teens over the weekend, along with several chances for snow early next week.
If that favorable forecast holds up, Steamboat Resort is on track to start up its snowmaking operation next week, said Loryn Duke, director of communications for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Snowmaking crews are in orientation this week and will be ready to fire up Steamboat’s 320 snowmaking guns by the time favorable weather arrives.
“It really just depends on how the forecast pans out,” Duke said.
Steamboat Resort can make snow on 334 acres, which is about 11% of the resort’s nearly 3,000 acres of terrain. When conditions are ideal, Duke said, the resort can blanket 40 acres with one foot of snow in just 24 hours.
“Opening day is scheduled for Nov. 23, but that’s dependent on weather,” Duke said.
Last year, a lack of snow required Steamboat Resort to delay opening day by a week, pushing it back to Nov. 27. Howelsen Hill also postponed the start of the season because of limited snow, eventually opening on Dec. 1.
Resorts in Summit County, which are at higher elevations that Steamboat, started making snow earlier this month, according to Summit Daily News. Copper Mountain started making snow on the upper part of the mountain on Oct. 4 in anticipation of a Nov. 14 opening.
Keystone Ski Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort each started making snow on Oct. 9 and plan to open as soon as possible.
In 2019, both Steamboat Resort and Howelsen Hill opened early. The resort’s Nov. 15 start was the earliest in its history. The Nov. 14 start at Howelsen in 2019 was the earliest start in recent memory, though there are stories of the ski jumps opening in October in the 1980s and early ’90s.
Shine said his snowmaking crew is excited for the season after Howelsen Hill had the longest season in its 106-year history last year.
“We’re ready to go and excited for next week’s forecast,” Shine said. “It’s snowmaking season.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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