Steamboat Ski Area, Howelsen Hill start making snow |

Steamboat Ski Area, Howelsen Hill start making snow

Snowmaking crews at Steamboat Ski Area cranked up the guns at midnight and shut them down around 8 a.m. Wednesday. Their targets were Stampede and Right of Way.

— Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., has seen it all in the three decades that he’s worked at the ski resort.

“I’m not going to lie,” Allen said Wednesday. “It’s a lot easier when it gets cold earlier, but I’ve learned that I don’t have a lot of control over that stuff.”

So instead of worrying about the weather, Allen does his best to make sure that the things he can control are in order.

That means making sure snowmaking crews are fully staffed and ready to go, and the equipment has been checked and setup where possible. All of that is done so that when the temperatures fall the snowmaking crews at Steamboat Ski Area are ready.

The elements aligned early Wednesday morning, and the groan of the snowmaking guns filled the air at the base of Mount Werner for the first time this year. With temperatures between 25 and 27 degrees, crews were able to make piles of snow on Right O Way, Stampede and Desperado Magic Carpet.

“Turning on the snow guns is the biggest sign that winter is right around the corner,” Allen said. “Our ability to step in and assist Mother Nature by creating a great early-season snow product impresses me every season, and I’m thrilled for our crews to put into action their snowmaking expertise to begin creating our base for this winter.”

Crews used 30 guns, including a combination of carriage fan guns and land guns to get a jump on this year’s base.

Just down the road, there was a similar scene at Howelsen Hill where a three-member crew also started blowing snow for the upcoming season. Crew members started making snow just after midnight and worked through the early morning hours.

“We brought our graveyard crew in a little early because we were expecting some cooler temperatures,” said Brad Setter, Howelsen Hill supervisor. “We made as much or more snow than we expected.”

But more importantly, he said it was a great opportunity to bring crew members up to speed and to check to make sure the equipment was working properly.

Setter said it has been a warm fall, but that this year is not atypical. He said that Howelsen doesn’t normally make that much snow during the first week of November most years, but if the ski area is still at this point two to three weeks from now, it could be an issue.

“I try not to worry about the things that I can’t control, and I can’t control the weather,” Setter said.

He is confident the downtown ski area will be ready by opening day, and the crews are working hard to get members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club on the hill sooner than later.

Forecasts call for continued cold temperatures during the night for the next week, with a cold front expected in the area beginning late next week.

“Every year is different,” Allen said. “La Nina tends to get started a little later, but normally they are very good snowmakers.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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