Steamboat Ski Area on track for opening day despite warm November temperatures
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Ski Area officials remained confident Friday afternoon that next week’s opening day will go off without a hitch even as the temperatures outside continued to climb.
“We are still scheduled to open Nov. 23,” said Loryn Kasten, public relations manager for the ski area. “Last night’s storm was a huge boost.”
Steamboat Ski Area received 13 inches of fresh snow from Thursday’s late fall snowstorm — the most of any Colorado resort. In a matter of hours, the ski mountain transformed from a gloomy brown to brilliant white, giving skiers and snowboarders a reason to celebrate.
But more importantly, the temperatures outside fell into a range that allowed snowmaking operations at the ski area to shift into high gear — something that hasn’t happened since Nov. 9.
Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said it was only the second time this year that the guns have been able to make snow.
Most of the snow from the first night of snowmaking has melted as unseasonably warm temperatures returned during the daytime. However, Allen said the first round of snowmaking helped crews make sure that equipment was working properly.
When temperatures finally fell within range Thursday, his crews were able to take advantage of the situation.
“What, me worry?” Allen joked Friday when asked about next Wednesday’s opening day. “We had a really good night last night. It’s the first time we’ve been able to pour a lot of water onto the hill, and things went well.”
Allen said crews concentrated their efforts on the terrain serviced by the Christy Express lift, which is typically the first lift to open each season.
He said crews will continue to keep a close eye on the long-range forecasts, and despite Friday afternoon’s warm-up, snowmaking operations will continue to ramp up in advance of opening day.
Another storm is expected to arrive late Sunday evening into Monday, and temperatures are expected to drop. Unfortunately, the storm is predicted to split before reaching this part of the country and will not bring a lot of moisture.
“We are going to do everything we can to get some skiing by next week,” Allen said. “I’m optimistic.”
Allen, who has been at the ski area for 30 years, said he has faced slow starts in the past, and in most years, the early season woes have been forgotten by the time major snowstorms arrive later in the season.
“In the winter of 2007-08, we actually missed our opening but then ended up with 400 inches of snow for the season,” Allen said.
Kasten said slow starts are not that unusual, and she believes Steamboat Ski Area will be able to open on time in a year when Wolf Creek, Telluride, Eldora, Aspen and Vail have pushed back their openings.
If temperatures fall between 18 and 20 degrees, crews can make enough snow to cover the Vogue trail from top to bottom with a foot of snow in just 17 hours. If the temperatures fall below 10 degrees, the amount of time to produce that much snow could be cut to just eight hours, Kasten said.
“As soon as our temperatures start to fall the snowmakers will rock and roll to take advantage of the situation,” Kasten added.
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