Ski area prepares for season by firing up snow guns |

Ski area prepares for season by firing up snow guns

— A white strip of snow going down the Steamboat Ski Area Wednesday morning signaled the beginning of snowmaking operations.

It is four weeks until opening day at the ski area. Ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said. Nov. 1 is typically the target date to begin snowmaking, but for the second year in a row, cold overnight temperatures allowed them to start Oct. 28.

“We kicked it off at 1:30 a.m.,” Kasten said.

Seventy-six snowmaking guns were used on Buddy’s Run, Heavenly Daze and at the base area. Snowmaking ended for the night at 9 a.m. but was expected to resume with more below-freezing temperatures in the forecast.

“Turning on the snowmaking system is a sign that winter is almost here,” Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. vice president of operations Doug Allen said in a news release. “The continued cooler temperatures combined with our upgraded snowmaking equipment (allows us) to begin establishing our base for the season.”

Ski Corp. has continued to make upgrades to its snowmaking equipment, which allows it to speed up the process of making snow early in the season. Over the past seven years, nearly 20 miles of water and air lines have been installed.

“With the technology Steamboat has implemented over the years and the newest addition of more tower and fan guns, crews can take advantage of shorter cold weather windows, cover more trails and treat guests to a drastically better early season skiing and riding product,” Allen said.

The HDK tower gun uses 30 percent less energy while producing the same amount of snow.

The ski area opens Nov. 25 for Scholarship Day. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Skiers and riders can begin using season passes Nov. 26.

Natural snow already has covered the upper parts of the ski area, and more could be on the way.

Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs, said a quick-moving storm will move over the area late Thursday into Friday, bringing one to four inches of snow to the upper parts of the ski area. It will be followed by a “complex and slow-moving storm starting around Monday and lasting through much of the next work week,” he said.

Drier weather and average temperatures are expected for the weekend before the next storm arrives Monday.

“Currently, models forecast most of the precipitation to fall as rain in the valley bottom as a relatively stationary front settles over our area, but likely significant snow at the higher elevations for Monday and most of Tuesday,” Weissbluth said. However, it looks like Steamboat Springs will be right on the edge of the rain-snow elevation, and precipitation may switch to snow during the overnight hours before changing back to rain during the day.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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