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Snow guns piling, snow gods smiling on Colorado ski areas so far this fall

October 8, 2013, 4:23 pm

The weekly weekend snow machine is set to crank up again Thursday and Friday, with another shot of 4 to 8 inches of snow down to about 8,500 feet. That snow will fall on top of about 5 inches that fell last Friday at Aspen.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass don’t open for the ski season until Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, but other Colorado ski areas are inching closer to opening.

“I know I might drive some of you crazy, but we are really close,” Arapahoe Basin COO Alan Henceroth wrote on his blog on Monday. “Looks like the next change in the weather will start Thursday night. If, in fact, we get some good, cold snowmaking weather, it just may be possible…”

fresh snow at aspen

Snow on the aspen leaves in Aspen (photo by Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Skiing Company).

Last weekend’s blast of winter allowed for around-the-clock snowmaking that piled up some big whales of manmade snow at A-Basin, Loveland and Copper Mountain.

“I can tell you there is a very large pod of white whales swimming on High Noon [trail] right now,” Henceroth wrote.

At Loveland, crews shut snowmaking down Sunday morning but were looking to crank the guns back up again at night this week.

“Warm temperatures moved in [Sunday] morning and the snowmaking team suspended activity at 8 a.m. after 50-plus hours of continuous snowmaking,” according to the resort’s website. “The team had a very productive couple of days and made a ton of snow to go along with the 6 to 7 inches that fell on Friday.

“The mountain is looking very good and the forecast is calling for a clear and cold evening, which should allow the crew to fire up the guns again …. Still too soon to tell when we will open, but it’s getting close!”

Loveland and A-Basin race to open first in the state, often starting the chairlifts by mid-October. Copper Mountain started snowmaking last week in order to accommodate the U.S. Ski Team and hopefully open to the public by Nov. 1.

Telluride, high in the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado, has been testing its new snowmaking equipment but is not yet seriously piling up whales, according to resort officials. The San Juans are expected to receive 6-12 inches of new snow starting Wednesday night, but Telluride, like Aspen, doesn’t open for the season until Nov. 28.

“This next storm will be warmer than last week’s storm, so we won’t see as much low-elevation snow, and the snow that does fall up high will be heavier and wetter,” according to meteorologist Joel Gratz.

Copper Mountain started snowmaking on its U.S. Ski Team Speed Center last week to get ready for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team’s annual training. But this season, with the Sochi Winter Olympics only four months away, the stakes are much higher.

Copper now has about a month to make snow before the Nature Valley First Tracks Alpine Team Naming event on Nov. 8 — a free-to-the public pep rally to kick off the ski and snowboard season and introduce gold-medal athletes such as Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso and Mikaela Shiffrin.

“The U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper was a huge step forward in supporting ski racing in North America,” said Ligety, an Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion. “It’s cool to now see that support evolve into a fan event that kicks off our road to Sochi and celebrates the start of the ski season.”

Copper Mountain is looking to take advantage of the colder temperatures and natural snow to open to the public and allow training to begin on Nov. 1.

“Copper Mountain is the early-season location stateside where guests can experience Olympic mania in the days leading up to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi,” said Jesse True, Copper’s vice president of marketing and sales, “We are honored to host the U.S. Ski Team First Tracks event, kicking off the team’s Olympic season.”

The full-day event on Nov. 8 allows fans to catch the U.S. Ski Team training, participate in a parade and official naming ceremony and then catch athlete autograph sessions and headlining live music in Burning Stones Plaza in Copper’s Center Village.

One fan will win a trip for four to Copper Mountain for the U.S. Ski Team First Tracks event weekend, including roundtrip airfare courtesy of Delta Airlines, three nights of lodging at Copper Mountain Resort, shuttle transportation to and from Denver International Airport, lift tickets, four U.S. Ski Team Spyder jackets and a GoPro camera package. Enter now until Oct. 17 on the Copper Mountain Facebook page.

Vonn, a 2010 Olympic downhill gold medalist, is coming off a knee injury suffered in a crash at the World Championships last season. Last week she said she felt good training on snow in South America recently, is ahead of schedule with her rehab and may be able to race later this month at the World Cup opener Oct. 26-27 in Soelden, Austria.

Miller, also coming back from knee surgery in Vail that cost him all of last season, has said he’s on track to return to his full five-time Olympic medal-winning form. The Sochi Winter Olympics are schedule for Feb. 7-23.

If Vonn and Miller both make it back for the opening giant slalom in Soelden, they would then have another month on snow before World Cup races at Beaver Creek in late November and early December.

The women debut the new “Raptor” downhill course Nov. 29-Dec. 1, with the men returning to the legendary Birds of Prey course the following weekend on Dec. 6-8.

Vail and Beaver Creek open for the season on Nov. 22 and Nov. 27, respectively.


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David O. Williams is an award-winning energy, environment, sports and outdoor writer based in the Vail Valley. His work has appeared in publications as diverse as the The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, SKI, SKIING, Powder, People, LA Weekly and the Huffington Post.

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