After almost 40 inches of natural snow fell in October, Steamboat snow guns kick in this week |

After almost 40 inches of natural snow fell in October, Steamboat snow guns kick in this week

Snow guns sit idol at the bottom of Steamboat Ski Area on Thursday afternoon. The ski area began making snow overnight Wednesday.
John F. Russell

— It would be hard for any snowboarder or skier to not begin thinking about top-to-bottom cruising after Steamboat Ski Area announced Thursday that it had begun making snow the night before on Buddy’s Run high on Mount Werner.

Ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten reported in a written statement that about 20 HKD tower guns began blasting snow at 6:13 p.m. Oct. 30 with another fan gun at work lower down on Heavenly Daze. Add the snowmaking to the most natural October snowfall the resort has seen since it began recording during the early fall month in 1996, and there is considerable optimism for the coming season at the ski area.

The ski area has received a little less than 40 inches of natural snow with Scholarship Day less than a month away on Nov. 27. Not all of the month’s snow has remained on the ground, and although snow that falls in October doesn’t guarantee a big winter, that ski season of 1996-97, when 26.5 inches fell in October, finished up strong with a season total of 447.75 inches at midmountain. It was a record winter until the winter of 2007-08 topped it with 489 inches.

“It’s always exciting when snow covers the mountain, especially this early in the season, and we crank up our snow guns for the first time,” Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen was quoted as saying in a written release.

The average October snowfall at midmountain is 14 inches.

Kasten said low overnight temperatures and moisture in the air Wednesday produced ideal snowmaking conditions, but future snowmaking operations will be weather dependent. The National Weather Service was anticipating overnight lows would dip into the teens Thursday and Friday nights.

The ski area has acquired more modern snowmaking equipment as well as installing new snowmaking lines in recent years, and Allen said those investments are helping his crews make more snow, faster when conditions are right.

“The early season snow product has been significantly improved due to ongoing snowmaking improvements, technological advancement and additional hardware,” Allen said in the statement. “With this technology, crews take advantage of shorter cold-weather windows, cover more of the trail and treat guests to a drastically better early season skiing and riding product in the process.”

Steamboat’s snowmaking system covers almost 375 acres of ski terrain spanning 3,668 vertical feet. And snowmaking equipment is more efficient than it previously was. According to Ski Corp., the HKD tower guns use 30 percent less energy than conventional guns while producing the same amount of snow.

During the past five seasons, the ski area has installed 16.1 miles of snowmaking pipe, including 7,250 feet of pipe this offseason running up the middle of Heavenly Daze beneath the gondola. The new pipeline allows Ski Corp. to deploy 52 tower guns spaced 75 feet apart on the strategically located run. Those guns are able to be swung from side to side to cover the entire trail in white without the need for a complete equipment reset. And that will accelerate the process of getting Heavenly Daze ready for skiers, according to Allen.

The resort is scheduled to open Nov. 27 for Scholarship Day, the traditional opening day benefit, with proceeds from specially priced tickets donated to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Scholarship Fund. The fund provides financial support for youngsters participating in the club’s competitive skiing and snowboarding programs.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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